I interviewed Jonny Lang for The Daily Herald on July 7. He’s playing the Stillaguamish Festival of the River to be held Aug. 12-13 in Arlington. I typed up our conversation because I’m a fan.

I actually managed to stretch our interview to 21 minutes, which means I basically asked 21 questions in 21 minutes.

Jonny Lang: Hello?

Sara Bruestle: Hi, Jonny?

Jonny: Yes, it is.

Sara: Hi, this is Sara Bruestle with the Everett Herald.

Jonny: Hey, Sara. How are you doing?

Sara: I’m good. How are you?

Jonny: I’m good. Thank you.

Sara: I made a list of questions so that I can use my full 15 minutes really well. (laughter) But I first wanted to tell you that I’m actually a fan of yours.

Jonny: Oh!

Sara: I’ve been listening to your music since I was in high school. The first concert that I ever went to was yours in 2004. It was my graduation present to myself.

Jonny: Oh my gosh.

Sara: Keb’ Mo’ opened for you.

Jonny: Oh my goodness. No way!

Sara: Yeah!

Jonny: That’s so cool.

Sara: It was an amazing — amazing — concert and it was just a great graduation present.

Jonny: Thank you for telling me that. That’s awesome.

Sara: Where are you right now? Because I know you’re playing on Kent Stage tonight, right?

Jonny: Yeah, we’re in Ohio.

Sara: Are you on a tour bus or in a hotel room?

Jonny: I’m in a hotel room.

Sara: In Kent?

Jonny: I don’t know if it’s right in Kent. It probably is. They dropped us off here early this morning in the middle of the night, so I’m not exactly sure where I am.

Sara: OK. (laughter) While I can look up your beginnings story online, I’d really love to hear it from you because I still think it’s crazy that you started playing so young and were a frontman of your own band at like age 13. Could you tell me about that?

Jonny: Yeah. Basically, I had never seen live music before, even though I loved music. I always wanted to be a singer. My dad took me to see a band play in my hometown and he was friends with all the guys in the band, so they got me into this place and it just blew my mind. Especially the sound of the guitar. And I was like, “Man, I’ve got to learn how to do that.” My dad knew the guitar player and I was able to take lessons from him, and during one of the lessons he, like the second or third lesson, he said, “I know you like to sing. You should come sing for the guys.” So I did and then they hired me as their singer, too, so I was just playing rhythm guitar and singing in their band at first and then just got better as time went on. That’s how I got to join the band.

Sara: You were 12 and playing with them? And then the frontman by 13?

Jonny: No, I was 13. I started playing the guitar right around turning 13 and then, it’s hard to remember, but sometime during that year I joined their band.

Sara: And they made you drop the “seth” on “Langseth”?

Jonny: They didn’t make me, but it was an idea somebody had. I can’t remember. It’s easier to say. (laughter)

Sara: Yeah, I guess so. (laughter) How did you get so good so soon at the guitar?

Jonny: I don’t know. I guess it’s all relative. (laughter) I got good enough to just, like I said, play rhythm guitar and some solo stuff pretty quickly. I spent all day, every day with it. I would listen to my favorite guitar players or whatever. I would hit pause and rewind and play again and try to learn all of their solos in 5-second increments. I just spent a lot of time doing it and just got better.

Sara: Were you always a fan of the blues? Or how did you get your start in blues? I mean, besides the blues band that you joined.

Jonny: Well, when I got to take lessons from — Ted was his name — he gave me a couple of records. I think it was his Albert King record, and I can’t remember what the other ones were. He gave me a few. I just took those home and listened to them and got into it and started really getting into that kind of music.

Sara: Could you walk me through how your sound has evolved over the years? Because it’s been really interesting to follow. What I picked up was that you went from blues to this soulful rock to gospel, and then your newest album, “Signs,” is a mix of all of the above.

Jonny: Hmm. Yeah, I don’t know. I think it’s just the fact that just I like so many different kinds of music and am inspired or influenced by so many different kinds of it, it naturally comes out when I try to write songs. I try not to — I don’t know, maybe I should more — but I never try to funnel a variety of music that I write into one kind of category or try to make it sound more blues or more rock or whatever. I’ve always just let it take shape the way it wants to. Sometimes it can be a little, “Whoa, what you doing way over there?” But it’s just the way I’ve always done it.

Sara: Well, with your new album, were you trying to get back to your roots, so to speak? Or is that just another thing that just happened?

Jonny: Well, yeah. There’s some songs on there that are — yeah, I guess so, from what I started out playing. Because when I was growing up, when I was a little kid, I was always listening to Motown and soul music, so that’s really the stuff that I would consider my roots. For music, anyway. Motown and soul singers and stuff like that. As far as blues goes, on this record, there’s a lot of Howlin’ Wolf influence on a few of the songs, and I was trying to make a lot of the songs a little bit more guitar-centered than the past few records.

Sara: Is this what you wanted? A big, long 20-year career now, where you’re playing everywhere and touring? (laughter)

Jonny: Well, yeah, it is. I don’t know what else I’d do. (laughter) I feel pretty lucky to be able to still do this and make a living out of it. Doing what I love for a living? It’s pretty amazing.

Sara: How do you fit it all in with your wife and kids? Do they see you very much?

Jonny: We see each other quite a bit. It’s weird. It’s a weird schedule. I’m usually gone for 10 days to two weeks and then back home for a coule of weeks. That’s loosely our schedule, how it works from being home and on the road, but sometimes it changes. I’m gone longer than that or not gone quite as long, so we all just adjust to it. It’s a hard thing to balance, but we do it.

Sara: What do you think when people mistake you for an old black man when they hear your singing? What do you think of that?

Jonny: (laughter) I laugh. I think it’s funny.

Sara: I’ve always wondered: Are you ever going to record “Irish Angel”?

Jonny: I don’t know if we will. I hadn’t thought about that in a long time.

Sara: Because I love that song and I tried to track it down and I was like, “It’s not on any album? How can this be?” (laughter)

Jonny: Yeah, it’s such a great song that Bruce wrote. It was the guy who wrote “Lie to Me” and a couple of other songs for me. He wrote that song as well.

Sara: What’s your favorite album of yours?

Jonny: I don’t know if I have one, but I’m really proud of this last one and the last few. I don’t know. They all have felt good when I’m done with them, so I’m pretty happy with them. No huge regrets where I’m like, “Ugh, I wish that never would have gotten released or recorded that.”

Sara: Well, that’s good. Mine is “Long Time Coming,” but that’s pretty obvious because that’s when I discovered you.

Jonny: Oh, that’s cool.

Sara: And my favorite song on that album is “Get What You Give” because you sing with your guitar. I love it when you sing with your guitar like that. I think that’s probably why I like the title song on your new one, “Signs,” because you do that again.

Jonny: Oh, yeah! That’s cool. (laughter) Yeah, I do that from time to time. I do a lot of that when I’m doing a show.

Sara: Yeah, I like that. Do you have a favorite song of yours? One that you’re really proud of?

Jonny: I wouldn’t know which one to cite, but there’s a song on the last record called “Seasons.” I remember being really proud of that one, especially as a writer. It’s pretty different for me. I write songs that are really, really different than are on my records a lot, but they never get recorded, but that was one of those songs. Even though it’s pretty different, we recorded it anyway, and I’m pretty proud of it.

Sara: Is there a certain set up or method that you have when writing your songs?

Jonny: No, not at all. I have absolutely no method. Ever, for anything. (laughter) It comes when it comes and, hopefully, there’s a guitar nearby or I can just record the idea quickly in my voice memo thing. But I never really have had a song-writing ritual or anything like that. I have a little recorder that I use.

Sara: Well, is there a story behind “Seasons”? The one that you really like?

Jonny: Not really. It’s so funny, the songs that I love from the people who inspire me the most, what I think they mean, they probably don’t mean that. (laughter) It’s all in the intention of the writer to have it mean what I think it means, but that’s the cool thing about music. It can relate to anybody. So I always shy away from saying exactly what I meant when I wrote a song because I don’t want it to ruin it for anybody. (laughter)

Sara: What about the story behind you actually writing that song?

Jonny: Oh, I see what you’re saying. Oh! I thought you meant what is the song about. I don’t know. I honestly don’t even — I remember just a couple of things about coming up with the idea, but I don’t really remember enough to give you a story about writing the song. I’m sorry. (laugher)

Sara: Do you have a fun story that you would like to share about being on the road, or writing a song or performing?

Jonny: It was embarrassing when I was 17 or something and we were having this big show, we were on a big tour with Aerosmith, and I was so excited and we played in Minneapolis, which is pretty much hometown for me, and so I had friends and family there. Halfway through our show I ended up slipping on some water and falling flat on my back (laughter) in front of 20,000 people or whatever it was. That is my most exciting rock story.

Sara: Oh, no! You were opening for them? (laughter)

Jonny: Yeah. Then I got up, took a bow and kept playing.

Sara: You kind of have a new look now. I’m so used to seeing you with short hair. It’s been a long time since you’ve had long hair. I used to describe you as the fourth Hanson brother if there was one. (laughter) What made you want to grow out your hair and take on this ’90s grunge look?

Jonny: (laughter) Is that what it looks like?

Sara: Kind of, kind of!

Jonny: I have no idea. I’m terrible with interviews, I guess, because there’s no real deep reason why I did it. I decided to let it grow a little bit. We’ll see. It might come off tomorrow. Who knows.

Sara: It’s just that when I saw your pictures, I’m like “Whoa, he looks different!” (laughter) So tell me about you. Tell me about something about yourself that you don’t get asked a lot because I’m sure ever single question I’ve asked you, you’ve already heard. Tell me something nobody knows.

Jonny: Folks have asked me that before. I really don’t know if there’s anything. There’s nothing for me that’s like that I can think off the record that I’ve been wanting to say. No, I think you’ve covered a lot. You’ve done a good job.

Sara: Thank you. Do I have any more time left?

Jonny: I have another interview coming in two minutes.

Sara: OK. I know that you’ve found Christianity, but I don’t know why. Can you tell me about that?

Jonny: I had an experience. It’s a long story, but basically I grew up despising going church and Christianity and the whole idea of it and then I basically had an encounter with God one day and it changed my life. That’s the story in a nutshell. In an interview, that would take a long time to explain, and it’s also a little personal.

Sara: But you stopped using drugs and stuff after that?

Jonny: Yeah, it brought a change in my life. It was like starting over again in a lot of ways.

Sara: I wish I could keep talking to you (laughter), but I also want to take some time to say that it’s been really, really nice talking to you, and I feel very fortunate to get my 15 minutes with Jonny Lang.

Jonny: Aww, well that’s very sweet of you. Thank you for saying that.

Sara: And you sound so sweet on the phone!

Jonny: (laughter) Well, I do my best.

Sara: Thank you, Jonny.

Jonny: Thank you. Thank you very much.

Sara: All right, enjoy your next interview.

Jonny: All right, you take care.

Sara: All right, bye.

Jonny: OK, bye bye.


Because I like making lists:

  1. Joe. He was my first kiss. He’s now engaged to be married. With marriage, he will become a stepfather to a boy. He’s as handsome, silly and courteous as the day I met him. I’m happy to know him and call him a friend.
  2. Jeff. When we dated, he was known to my family as The Tow-Truck Driver. He’s still driving for his job, but not tow trucks. As far as I know, he’s single. We plan to have coffee together soon to catch up.
  3. Cliff. He was my best friend while in J-School. I hate that I hurt him. He’s married now and has a son. We’re Facebook friends, but that’s about it.
  4. Stephen. He was my first boyfriend. He didn’t treat me well, so we don’t talk. However, he does reach out to me through the internet every 2-3 years. He’s asked me to give him a second chance, or go to a concert or whatever. I’m not interested.
  5. Alex. He was the first man I ever loved. I don’t see much of him anymore, but we’re both happy to know each other. He continues to impress me with his intelligence, creativity and sense of adventure. He’s in a committed relationship.
  6. Aaron. I had a crush on him for a long time before we started dating. Apparently, he had had a crush on me, too. Funny how that works out. As far as I know, he’s single. We’ve met up a few times in Seattle over the years to catch up. He can never make it to my parties because the bus system from Seattle to Everett is crap.
  7. Steven. My sister set me up with him. Oh, how my mom loved Steven! He’s very handsome and his family is wonderful. We tried to be friends after the breakup, but it didn’t work out. He’s married now.
  8. Amir. He was the first man I dated where we weren’t exclusive. It wasn’t any fun. Even though we realized we weren’t meant to be together, we agreed that our friendship was meaningful. He’s married now. We’re still good friends.
  9. Tyler. I’ll admit, I was falling in love with him when he broke it off with me. He moved to Virginia not too long after that. Before he left for the East Coast, we had one last day together. He also invited me to his going-away party. As far as I know, he’s single. We’re still friends on Facebook.
  10. Jim. At 6 feet 5 inches tall, he is the tallest man I’ve ever dated. Ours was a mutual breakup. He was my best friend for the better part of a year, even after we were no longer a couple. He’s single now. We don’t see much of each other, but we’re still friends. I met up with him in Edmonds not too long ago.
  11. Doug. Though he was my fifth boyfriend, ours was my first relationship where I loved and was loved in return. We broke up because I wanted to have kids and he didn’t want to have any more. He’s married now. As far as I know, he and his second wife have a child together. He doesn’t talk to me.
  12. Ivan. We have a fun how-we-met story. Though we dated for a short time, it was serious. He’s in a relationship now. We’re still good friends.
  13. Yoshi. After he broke up with me, I swore to myself I’d never date another 25-year-old again. We’ll see how that goes. I thought he was perfect for me. He told me he’d still like to be friends. So far, that just means Facebook friends.

This list is my way of reflecting on the men I’ve dated over the last 11 years. Sort of a where-are-we-now blog. Of note, there’s a difference between “dates” and “dating” to me. I dated these 13 men for at least a month. Joe may be the one exception because our dating timeline wasn’t clear.

Haiku for Adam Bly, the artist with a capital A:

All of the books were
a peculiar shade of blue.
This room is for Lou.

Rainmaker or no,
it poured before our first kiss –
Benjamin style.

At half past midnight,
I left for the mainland on
the ferry of shame.


I was dumped on Oct. 12.

That was the day before I left for this year’s Washington Newspaper Publishers Association convention in Wenatchee.

He decided it was better to break up with me before my trip rather than after I got back. The day I got back, on Oct. 15, I found out that my grandpa was on his deathbed. He died on Oct. 17.

But this blog isn’t about the timing of the breakup – it’s about how he dumped me. I didn’t realize it until now, but he was practically quoting the movie “He’s Just Not That Into You.”

I saw the movie when it was new in 2009. It’s about how men and women can and do misinterpret each other’s words and actions while in or pursuing a relationship.

I was telling my cousin about the breakup yesterday, after my grandpa’s funeral, when she interrupted me with: “That’s ‘He’s Just Not That Into You.'”


“That’s a line straight from the movie ‘He’s Just Not That Into You.'”

The following is the movie scene she – or he – was referring to in regards to our breakup. I have bolded the lines the heartbreaker gave me. They were almost quoted word for word back to me.

Woman 1: I used to think that I had never been dumped.

Woman 2: Yeah, and then we started comparing notes, and then we realized – wait a second – we’ve both been dumped by every man we’ve ever been with.

Woman 1: Every. One.

Woman 2: Yeah!

Woman 1: They do it so skillfully.

Woman 2: Mmm-hmm!

Woman 1: So sneaky. That you think that it was your idea.

Woman 2: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know. You’re sitting back, and you’re like, “Oh, oh, oh, yeah, this is my idea, but then, wait a second. Why am I alone?”

Woman 1: “Why am I unhappy? Why have I gained 20 pounds?”

Woman 2: Mmm-hmm!

Woman 1: They genuinely mind trick you.

Woman 2: Yes, they do!

Woman 1: You know what I’m saying?

Woman 2: Yeah! And they got those lines that they like to tell you.

Woman 1: Yeah, like, “Oh, I don’t want to stand in your way.”

Woman 2: Oh, or, “You’re perfect. It’s just I have to work on myself.”

Woman 1: Or, “I’m just thinking of your happiness.”

Woman 2: “Oh, I don’t deserve you.” That’s my favorite.

Woman 1: You know what line that I don’t like?

Woman 2: Hmm?

Woman 1: “I’m so jealous of the guy that gets to marry you.” Well, that could’ve been you.

Woman 2: Yeah!

Woman 1: That’s what I was leaning toward.

Woman 2: Yeah! And let me tell you something. The second that you hear that, you just run to the store, get yourself some roms and a tub of ice cream, because you have been dumped.

Well, shit. I guess he just wasn’t that into me.

My last words to my grandpa were: “I love you.”

My dad and I visited him in the hospital on Oct. 28. That was day 2 of 21. He was obviously very sick, but still in good spirits.

He had asked the nurse to turn up the thermostat in his room, but 45 minutes later, she still hadn’t done it. He was cold – and annoyed – and planning to give the nurse a hard time about it when she finally showed up.

He wouldn’t let us remind any of the nurses.

The nurse had told him it would be “just a minute,” so he planned to pretend he had been holding his breath until she arrived. He would exhale and then say: “Oh, has it been a minute already?”

When we left, we said our goodbyes as we had done for years:

“I love you, Grandpa.”

“I love you, too, Sara.”

He is my greatest loss. He was the best grandpa we could have ever asked for. I am thankful to have called him mine for 30 years – so very thankful.

He hugged us and kissed us. When he would tell us that he loved us, it was often followed by the story of how his grandfather didn’t even know who he was, much less tell him that he loved him. Then he would tell us how fortunate he was to have granddaughters like us.

He played with us. He had this game we’d play called “Frankenstein.” The best way I can describe it is a mix of don’t-wake-daddy meets hide-and-seek. He would lay down and pretend to sleep. Then Kelsey and I would mess with him until whatever we did finally woke him up.

One time we put M&Ms in his hand. He didn’t wake up. He ate them, but he didn’t wake up.

We wanted him to wake up, but we didn’t want him to wake up. The anticipation was crazy. When he finally woke up, that’s when we had awaken the monster. He had mastered Frankenstein’s zombie shuffle and throaty moan. It would make us scream! Then Kelsey and I would run upstairs to hide from him. When he found us, we’d go back downstairs and do it again. It was scary, exciting and tons of fun.

(He even played “Frankenstein” with his two border collies, after we had outgrown the game. The dogs loved it, too!)

Grandpa also included us in his day-to-day activities. If the green beans needed picking, we were the ones he assigned to pick them. If he was preparing dinner, he would have us wash, slice or chop for him.

He was tough on us when we shared the kitchen, though. When I was younger, I didn’t know how grip a paring knife while trimming or peeling fruits and vegetables. Heck, I still don’t. It annoyed him. He exclaimed: “Haven’t you ever used a knife before?!” and sent me out. That was Grandpa. Although, he softened with age. He was easiest on Kevin, Sofia and Yashar.

He taught us how to play classical guitar. He picked up the guitar as a hobby in retirement. After he learned the basics, he decided he would teach all of his grandchildren how to play. He even bought Kelsey and I our own guitar. I was in high school, Kelsey was in middle school. We took three months of lessons with him, but we were too busy with school to continue after summer vacation. We were not allowed to teach ourselves chords. He also kept a close eye on the position of our left thumbs on the neck. He wasn’t supposed to see it.

He would have deep conversations with me. It wasn’t very often, but he would. I remember one talk we had (with Grandma) about the religions of the world. When I said I wasn’t sure if there was a God, he responded: “Don’t say that! Of course there is a God.” Then Grandma added: “If there is a God, she’s a black woman.”

He shared books with me that he enjoyed reading. Most recently, he was reading books by Erik Larson. He had me read “The Devil in the White City” and “Isaac’s Storm.” I finished “Isaac’s Storm” about two weeks before he was admitted into the hospital. When I returned it to him, we chatted about hurricanes in Texas and Erik Larson’s writing style. It was like we had our own book club, just me and him.

He would tell us how fortunate he was to have granddaughters like us, but we were just as fortunate – if not more – to have him as our grandpa.

After I returned to work from bereavement leave, I received a call from a reverend at a local church. She told me: “As your grandfather’s granddaughter, you will always carry him with you, and you will pass him on to your children, his great-grandchildren. He lives within you.”

She’s right. Grandpa isn’t gone because he’s right here, with me. In my heart.

Joel McHale is my best friend.

Let me explain.

I attended “An Evening with Joel McHale” at the University Temple United Methodist Church tonight. The event promoted the comedian, actor, writer, television producer and television host’s new book and TV show.

His book “Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be” is part tell-all memoir (that’s not all fact) and part how-to guide (that’s actually a joke) filled with Hollywood gossip, get-rich tips, and lots of illustrations and charts.

Joel also stars in CBS’s newest show, “The Great Indoors,” a comedy about a Gen X reporter who must adapt to the times when he becomes the boss of millennials in the digital department of a magazine. It’s a timely and insightful show about the clash of the two generations.

(Interestingly, the theme for this season of “Survivor” is Millennials vs. Gen X, which separated castaways into tribes by their generation.)

The evening featured an on-stage interview with Joel McHale about his television career. Although he is most known for hosting “The Soup” and starring in “Community,” he also was in the cast of KING 5’s “Almost Live!” It was a Seattle-style “Saturday Night Live” that aired from 1984 to 1999.

In the interview, Joel mentioned how “The Great Indoors” received a lot of media attention because a reporter at a press conference about the premiere of the show was offended because millennials were portrayed as too sensitive in the pilot. Yeah, I know. The irony.

After the interview followed a Q&A with Joel’s fans, including a back-and-forth with yours truly.

Here’s what I can remember of our convo:

Me: Hi. I’m a millennial journalist. I haven’t saw “The Great Indoors” yet…

Joel: You haven’t saw my show?


Me: I mean, I haven’t seen “The Great Indoors” yet…

Joel: You say you’re a journalist? Aren’t you supposed to have good grammar?


Me: I’m sorry, I’m just a little nervous. I can’t talk none good.


I haven’t seen your show yet, but I promise I won’t get offended by it.

Joel: How can you be offended by a show you haven’t saw yet?


Me: Oh my gosh…

Joel: Which newspaper do you write for?

Me: The Mukilteo Beacon.

Joel: The Mukilteo Beacon? The Mukilteo Beacon. What’s the news in Mukilteo?

Me: Well, a junior at Kamiak High School just found out he aced the computer science AP exam. He’s one of only 10 in the world to do so.

Joel: Wow.

Me: Yeah. My question is, since you’re playing a journalist in the show – you do play a journalist, right? – did you prepare for the role?

(My fellow journos: I know, I know. I realize I didn’t ask an open-ended question. I think I was just nervous.)

His short answer to my question was no. While I don’t remember all of what followed here, at one point Joel likened preparation for his role as a magazine reporter to Ted Danson’s role in “Cheers.”

Joel: “Just like Ted Danson didn’t need to learn how to bar tend to play a bartender on TV, I didn’t need to job shadow a reporter to prepare for my role.”

Then he genuinely apologized for saying so.

Joel: “I’m sorry, that was offensive to journalists.”

Although his apology can read as very tongue-in-cheek – after all,  I initiated our conversation based on his story about an overly sensitive reporter – it was genuine.

When I met Joel while in line for the book signing and photo op, he asked me if the friend with me was my husband. I told him no, he’s my best friend. He then asked which one of us was gay.

The questions didn’t stop: He asked how long we have been friends. “Since 2004. That’s when I graduated.” From where? “From high school.” Did you go to college? “Yes.” Where did you go to college? “The University of Washington.” Oh, I’ve heard of that place.

That was a joke. Joel also attended the University of Washington. The church where we were is practically across the street from the university.

Then I saw what he wrote in my book: “Sara – I’m your best friend. (heart) Joel McHale”

I had the best time.

Update: I posted the following on Joel’s official Facebook page today: “I tried to open my question at “An Evening with Joel McHale” last night with a joke, failed miserably, and enjoyed every minute of our back-and-forth at the church. Thank you for making fun of me. If you ever want to job shadow a journalist or humor me with an interview for the Mukilteo Beacon, look me up.”

I lost my grandpa, Ken Bruestle, to pneumonia yesterday. He was 77.

He was in the hospital for 21 days; most of them were in the ICU. His body, as strong and healthy as it was, couldn’t fight the infection.

My heart is broken. I go through bouts of normalcy, but then I’m crying and yelling “Grandpa!” over and over. He was so special to me.

I am proud to be his granddaughter and to carry his last name.

Grandpa, I love you all to crazy. I miss you more than I can bear.