Kimberly Junod

There's something extra special about going to visit an artist in the place where it all began. On our recent trip to Dublin, Paul Noonan, lead singer of beloved Irish band Bell X1, took us on a walking city tour to show us some of the spots that have been important to the band over its 20-year career.

When Paddy Moloney formed The Chieftains in 1962, he wanted to take the sounds he loved from his Irish upbringing and share them with the rest of the world. Little did he know things would go so well that eventually, The Chieftains would help take the sounds of Ireland to outer space.

We had a blast visiting this Irish four-piece band Pillow Queens at the iconic Windmill Lane Recording Studios in Dublin. Pillow Queens has a delightfully DIY approach to pop punk and the band's songs are sneak-attack catchy. We found ourselves singing them long after the last amp rang out. Plus, the members sing clever lyrics in loud and proud full-on Irish accents.

David Keenan is a young singer with an old poet's soul and wardrobe. His acoustic guitar is adorned with pieces of poems, love letters and photographs.

Amanda Palmer has made a living out of delivering emotionally sobering strikes. From her early street performing days dressed as an 8-foot bride handing flowers and intense eye contact to passers-by through her current album cover, where she stands completely full frontal naked wielding a sword overhead, Palmer has always demanded we see her and feel something. You don't get to call yourself "Amanda F****** Palmer" for nothing.

On his latest album, Gold In a Brass Age, David Gray's voice still sounds as glorious, distinct and beautiful as it did when he broke through the mainstream with 1998's White Ladder. But the sounds surrounding Gray's voice, both natural and digital, have grown like ivy winding over bricks, adding depth and color to his songs in new ways.

After eight years of playing cello and singing with The Lumineers, Neyla Pekarek left the band this past fall. In January, she struck out on her own with a solo album called Rattlesnake. It's a concept album based on the true story of Colorado's Rattlesnake Kate, who rescued herself and her 3-year-old adopted son from an attack by killing more than 140 snakes in 1925.

We're being treated to a special kind performance from a tight-knit group of friends.

It's been 40 years since Steve Forbert released his debut album, Alive on Arrival, and he's marked the occasion with a new album and a new memoir. The new album is called The Magic Tree, a collection of songs, all but one of which have never been released before and some of which he started writing back in the '80s.

Known for putting on raucous shows and turning Scottish traditional music on its head, Elephant Sessions won Live Act of the Year from The Scots Trad Music Awards and were shortlisted for Scottish Album of the Year in 2018. The band is a festival favorite that has earned accolades from Rolling Stone and its third album comes out later this year.

Explaining Christmas to someone who's never heard of it is a strange proposition. As our guest and old friend JD McPherson puts it, there's a tree in your living room, a strange man's walking around your house at midnight eating cookies, and then you get clothes.

I imagine it's an even stranger proposition to write an album of modern Christmas originals. Christmas means so many different things to so many people, and the differences matter: Is your audience children or adults, religious or not? Are they jaded? Feeling humorous? Maybe sentimental? You've got a lot of options.

"Odds are the people that love you are just dying for you to tell the truth." When Kiley Lotz, who records as Petal, says this, you believe her. Kiley made her second full length album, Magic Gone, while she was coming to terms with seeking help for major depressive and panic disorders and subsequently going through treatment. She also came out as queer at that time.

The first thing I remarked after finishing my conversation with Marcus King: "This guy doesn't act or sound like a 22-year-old at all." He's incredibly perceptive, and thoughtful, and the music he's making sounds like it's coming from someone who's been working at it for decades. But I mean, he's been playing guitar for audiences since he was 11. I should have seen this coming.