Widespread Panic’s John Bell kicked off another semester of classes for the University of Georgia’s Music Business Program on Tuesday. He spoke a bit, sang a bit, and tolerated one slightly stunned Athens Music Junkie at dinner afterwards. If you got to be at the Chapel, you know that it was a great event. If not, read below for some insights into what he spoke about.
Widespread Panic, if you didn’t know, was inducted into the GA Music Hall of Fame, closed down Athens with 100,000 of its fans, and is seriously into working for charities like Hannah’s Buddies, The Make It Right Foundation, and Tunes for Tots. Here’s five things you should know about Widespread’s lead singer, JOHN BELL.
1) He likes anchovies. No. Seriously. The dude likes anchovies. I discovered this at dinner. We then talked about anchovy and pineapple pizza.
2) He used to watch American Idol. After being asked a question about the current suckiness of popular music and the phenomenon that is A.I., Bell admitted to having watched the show a few times, though not recently. He made a point that “some talent and music DID come out of it,” at least in the form of Carrie Underwood.
3) He took a Music Business class long before he taught one. Prof. Bell revealed that while a UGA undergrad, he took a music business class, complete with a hip and jiving professor that smoked Virginia Slims. It should be noted that the class had nothing to do with the current MBUS program but he recalled that he did learn quite a bit. According to him, it took away a lot of naivety about the business, something that helped quite a bit when it came time to sign his own contracts. Bell promised to carry a version of the current MBUS textbook with him on tour for reference.
4) He likes to keep the peace. Bell seems a very laid-back fellow so it’s no surprise that he got a question about how to keep a band of six egos from falling apart. The secret? Knowing your ego, knowing your bandmate’s ego, and being willing to talk it out and compromise. Also, they share all the songwriting credits as a band in order to cut that potential beast off early. Bell said they took the idea from R.E.M. I swear I saw Bertis Downs smirking in the back of the room…
5) He really digs the current Athens music scene. After the lecture, we chatted about Athens music past and present. “I really dig the scene now,” he said. “How do you figure that?” I asked, a bit surprised. He went on to recount how there was a period once of two weeks when there wasn’t a single music venue open in Athens. Inconceivable to me, I pressed him further. He explained how there’s so many opportunities for bands to play now and how that wasn’t really so back then. Tons of bands exist now because of the support and infrastructure that was created earlier. And much of that came from bands like his. So thanks Prof. Bell and Widespread Panic.