‘Mixtape’: Executive Producer Natalie Barandes Discusses Infectious New AXS TV Series

One of the coolest, and most revealing, classic rock series has got to be AXS TV’s new star-studded “Mixtape,” which airs Thursday nights at 8:30pE/5:30pP.

Dubbed the story of a musical artist’s life through the songs that they love each of the eight-episode series shines a light on a different rock icon as they sit down to discuss some of their favorite songs of all time. In doing so, they not only share a personal playlist of music that shaped their lives but also tell stories of how the songs impacted their own musical trajectory. They also reveal things about themselves you may never have heard before.

The debut season includes appearances by such legendary artists as Mick Jones & Kelly Hansen (Foreigner), Kevin Cronin and Dave Amato (REO Speedwagon), Rick Springfield, Don McLean, Robby Krieger (The Doors) and Micky Dolenz (The Monkees). For fans of the classic rock genre this is a series and musical celebration that is not to be missed.

I recently spoke to executive producer and Natalie Barandes (Founder/Creative Chief Joy Factory) about “Mixtape,” her career and much more in this exclusive new interview.

What inspired the new AXS TV series, “Mixtape?” How did it all come about?

Natalie Barandes: I have a friend from high school who I used to trade mix tapes with. She’s always been a collector and one day she brought me over a stack of them. They had so much great music on them. I remember listening to them and seeing the variation of how it went from one song to the next to the next. It was a story of my life. That’s when I thought this could be a great format to profile a musical artist and the songs they grew up with and loved. We could understand them on a whole different level.

What’s the format of the show?

NB: Every episode has the same four-chapter format: Influences, The Rise, then the Deep Dive, which is a defining moment that usually has a nugget you may not know about. It ends with Today and Tomorrow, which is what’s going on with the artist right now and what they’re listening to. 

What were some of the interesting things you discovered while working on the show?

NB: When you look at the artists in the series as a whole you see a lot of similarities in age and musical influences, but then you realize how different their career trajectories became. For example, Mick Jones [Foreigner] talks about Buddy Holly and then so does Don McLean. They both had a lot of love for the same guy but had very different careers. On the classic rock side you can see The Beatles were a huge influence, but there’s also a lot pre-Beatles music that was important to their careers, like Cliff Richard and Gerry and The Pacemakers.

Photo courtesy AXS TV – Joy Factory

What were some of the challenges of putting together the series?

NB: I had to do an extensive amount of research and we were tied to a tight budget, timeline and turnaround. Once we booked the artist I had about ninety minutes to take a journey into their lives and the music that inspired them. It was a challenge but once we were in the room together it was amazing.

Was having a career in entertainment something you always envisioned?

NB: Absolutely. I grew up in New York and my family was in the entertainment business. My father and uncle were both involved in Broadway Theater so I saw everything when I was growing up. In the 80s I had the opportunity to work for MTV and did weekend promos for a few years. That formulated my background. Then when I moved to Los Angeles in the 90s a lot of my early work was doing video profiles for record labels where I did a lot of amazing interviews.

Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?

NB: One of the things we’re working on is taking the concept of “Mixtape” and playlist and expanding it into multiple genres, like “Mixtape Country,” “Mixtape RnB, Hip-hop.” There’s even interest in “Mixtape Gospel and Christian” as well as “Mixtape Comedy,” where comedians tell stories about their lives through the comedy that they love.

What satisfies you the most about “Mixtape” and what would you like viewers to take away from watching?

NB: I remember after we finished filming the episode with Kevin Cronin and Dave Amato from REO Speedwagon, I came out with tears in my eyes and told someone that I have the best job in the world. I got to sit five feet away from a band I loved growing up and talked music. The same goes for Mick Jones and Kelly Hansen from Foreigner, or getting to listen to Don McLean sing “American Pie.” These are songs that were my favorites growing up. “Mixtape” is an absolute gift for anyone who loves music and my hope is the show opens your mind to how much wonderful music there is in the world. Some of which you may never even knew existed.

 “Mixtape” airs Thursday nights at 8:30pE / 5:30pP on AXS TV.

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