Talia Schlanger

"What inspired this song?" That's one of the most basic questions we ask artists when they share new music. Sometimes that question leads to an interesting answer, sometimes it leads to a cryptic answer, but rarely does it lead to a flight across the country to spend a day at the zoo with a remarkable nearly 9-year-old girl and her family.

Today's guest made me cry in a church and I'll never forgive him. Dermot Kennedy was performing a showcase for SXSW. It was super dark, Kennedy was standing up there at the altar wearing this black sweatshirt and holding a guitar, and from the moment he opened his mouth, it was like hearing someone drag their own heart through their vocal cords and send it right up to the heavens: relentless emotion. It was like time stopped.

Normally when a guest sits down for a World Cafe interview, our producers or I help them adjust their microphone to the correct distance and angle. And if a piece of technology is misbehaving, we'll sort it out and hopefully our guest will be none the wiser. Not Vanessa Parr. On the day she visited the World Cafe studio, Parr couldn't resist adjusting her own mic to absolute perfection and helping us troubleshoot some finicky recording software. Call it an occupational hazard for someone who is used to making other people sound their very best day in and day out.

It is overwhelming and profound to imagine just how many molecules and how many mountains Aretha Franklin has moved with her music. From the deeply personal, private moments of listening she has summoned in every individual listener, to the church choirs who have sung her arrangements, to the collectives that have raised their voices to the gospel of her songs, and stretching all the way up to the divine.

I'm sure you've had this experience at some point: You hear the voice of an artist who was important to you at a particular time and all of a sudden, the sound of it sends you tumbling back through your own memory right to where you were – that college dorm room, those bleachers on that football field, that cross country road trip with your first love — the first time you heard that voice.

To my ear, serpentwithfeet's debut full length album soil is one of the most intriguing albums of the year. serpent blends his classical music training with his church choir upbringing and swirls it all together with ideas about love, sexuality, identity and honesty in a way that is devastating and uplifting at the same time.

No matter what you listen to in your life right now, no matter how far your musical tastes have come, the music you grew up with will always be special. Today's guest, Boz Scaggs, can tell you that firsthand. He played with the Steve Miller Band in the '60s and became a household name in the '70s thanks to songs like "Lido Shuffle" and albums like Silk Degrees.

"They'll blow your socks off if you have any on," reads a fan's Facebook post about the live capabilities of Rainbow Kitten Surprise. And it's true. This undefinable five-piece band from the small town of Boone, N.C. boasts a blend of charisma, musical chops, sing-along harmonies and breakneck creativity that's made it a nearly instant favorite among the nation's sandals-wearing music festival crowd.

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