You Sing, I Write: July 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Q&A with Jason Reeves

Singer-songwriter Jason Reeves is perhaps most known for his co-writing efforts on MySpace sensation Colbie Caillat’s debut album, Coco. But not for too long. While Colbie's radio hits “Bubbly” and “Realize” were co-written by Reeves, his major record debut will surely earn him a reputation of his own. Being released digitally August 12 and in stores September 9, The Magnificent Adventures of Heartache (and other frightening tales) is sure to impress. If you haven't yet, be sure to check Jason out on MySpace and to learn more on the singer-songwriter and his upcoming album, read below for my email interview with him. I'd love to hear what you think!

Tell me about your album, The Magnificent Adventures of Heartache (and other frightening tales). Did you go into the studio with a certain concept for the album?
I didn't go into the studio with a direction at first. I was just writing about what was happening to me in my life and in my imagination and it all came together like a strange unorganized puzzle.

I love your single, "You In A Song." What was the inspiration behind it? (To listen to it for Windows click here, for Quicktime click here.)
“You In A Song” was inspired by me always having to leave wherever I was. It's a song about somebody you love being stuck in one place, while you are stuck on the move. With the sentiment that you can take them with you wherever you go in a song.

What is your typical writing process like? Do you carry a pen and paper wherever you go?
There is no certain way or process to writing for me. Every song comes out of somewhere else in a different way. It's random really. And I do carry around pens and paper though. I wish I had a typewriter that fit in my pocket though, because they're much more fun to write with.

Do you have a favorite song on your album?
I don't have a favorite song because to me they're all one big song telling the story that is the record. Without the others, each song would not be the same.

How was the recording process different, if at all, on this album than your previous albums?
This is actually my fifth album, if you count the Hearts Are Magnets EP as one. And the last two have been very different because they were made in California at Revolver with Mikal Blue. Before that I was making them in a basement in Iowa. There's a limitless feeling now because of all the incredible musicians I'm lucky enough to play with. With the new one though, I was getting a lot more comfortable in the studio. It takes a long time to learn how to record your music the way it is in your head. I feel like I'm getting closer to the two being the same.

I love that one line in "Never Find Again" — "You still say that love is nothing like it should be/Isn't like the movies where everything goes right..." What were you thinking when writing the song?
That song is about the fear of falling in love and how one person is always more afraid than the other. I wanted to make it an argument between the two people. One scared as hell and one completely fearless, or at least on the surface.

Two of your songs are a bit shorter and different from the others:
"Sunbeam Lights" and "The Fragrant Taste of Rain," where you talk throughout, almost a slow rap-like part of the song. Both seem like they end with an open ended question. How did these two songs come about and how do they relate to the rest of the album?
Those two songs are transitions of sorts in the story. Just as every song is, but they are specifically meant for that. To bridge the stages I guess. And they came out randomly in the studio, just messing around and capturing accidents on the microphones. “The Fragrant Taste Of Rain” is simply a one take of me singing/saying a poem I'd written while playing an extremely old piano from the 1800's. I had no idea what I was doing and I like that about it.

Your songs are very optimistic and relatable and just have so much honesty. I read a quote from Colbie Caillat talking about co-writing with you on her last album and she said, “Jason is a total, hopeless romantic. So he’ll have an idea for a song, and it’ll be about love.” Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I think I'm more of a hopeFUL romantic. But inspiration comes from every little thing. Everywhere and always. Mostly falling in and out of love.

Do you draw more inspiration for lyrics by being in a relationship or after a break-up?
Both situations are amazing for writing because they're opposite highs. One being very up and one being very down. The heaviest songs come from the break-ups though.

Tell me about working with Colbie Caillat. You helped writing on much of her album, Coco, including current radio hits, "Bubbly" and "Realize," what was that like?
Writing with Colbie is my favorite. She was my first friend when I moved to California and we started making music the first night we met. It just feels so natural and easy with her.

MySpace and iTunes have spread quite a buzz about you, how has that affected your career?
Myspace and iTunes have been incredibly important in getting my music out there. And they've both been great to me. It's so overwhelming how quickly the internet changed the whole music game. There are completely different rules now, and they are continuously changing.

What is your advice to aspiring singer-songwriters?
My advice to anybody is that you cannot be impatient with your dreams. It takes a great deal of time and work to get to where you want to be. And you have to give all of yourself to it.

Have you always wanted to be a singer-songwriter?
I didn't want to write songs until I was 17. I got an acoustic guitar for my birthday and was just discovering Bob Dylan and James Taylor.

What would you be doing if it wasn't for music?
If it wasn't for music, I'd be building ewok villages in the woods and taking and painting pictures for the overwhelming grace of the world.

How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
I would say it's new folk. And that it's honest.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lights Resolve Tear Up the East Coast

I’ve been to many concerts over the years, and you can usually tell right away whether or not the band onstage loves what they’re doing. Saturday night was no exception. Within seconds of taking the stage, it was clear that New York-based band Lights Resolve love every aspect of playing music and that didn’t falter throughout their entire set. Whether it was guitarists Matt and Sherman jumping around the stage while playing, or drummer Neal smiling continuously all while hammering at the drum kit, Lights Resolve’s passion and exhilaration definitely had fans clapping and singing along during most of their performance.

I caught Lights Resolve’s show last Saturday at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, and afterward they gave away tickets to their concert this past Saturday at the Blender Theater in New York. From jumping into the crowd while playing guitar in the middle of their set to bringing fans onstage to help out with a song, Lights Resolve kept Maxwell’s enthused throughout their nearly one-hour, intimate set. Obviously, I couldn’t help but see them again and brought along a few more friends this time.

Though their set in Hoboken was a bit longer, Saturday’s set didn’t disappoint. In fact, I think the bigger stage and venue only helped their performance. Starting out the night with guitar-driven song, “The Hills and Michael Jackson” off of their most recent EP Currency, Lights Resolve brought their soaring energy and prowess to the stage in New York. At times, bass guitarist Sherman played his red guitar high in the air with more enthusiasm than any bass guitarist I’ve ever encountered.

While their set mostly included previously released material such as fan favorite “Lost and Jaded,” Lights Resolve showcased some relatively new songs – which fans seemed very receptive toward – often starting out much faster with their percussion and guitar features. “You’re making us feel like we’re at home,” Sherman told the crowd. Songs like “This Could Be the Last Time” and “Another Five Days” had strong instrumental features either in the intro or middle of the song, sometimes both.

The night started out energetic with three faster paced songs before the band began “Another Five Days,” a relatively slower track compared to their previous. The slow guitar and bass accompaniment in the beginning of the song flowed well and segued nicely into frontman Matt Reich’s vocals while the eerie blue and green lighting surrounding the three bandmembers greatly helped the ambiance throughout the song.

While the guys of Lights Resolve explain their music as being atmospheric and theatrical, the band also encompasses a strong rock sound that cannot be disguised. For a three-piece, they are as solid a band as they come – the intensity and energy never wavering or fluctuating throughout their set. Native New Yorkers, Lights Resolve will be playing gigs around the city within the next few weeks, and I think I just might have to see them one more time.

Be sure to check out Lights Resolve on MySpace if you haven't yet, catch a show when they're in town and let me know what you think!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Song of the Week: "You In A Song"

Ever since I received a copy of Jason Reeves' upcoming album, The Magnificent Adventures Of Heartache (and other frightening tales...) for review in the mail I cannot stop listening to it! Especially song, "You In A Song" — his first single to be released from that album. His honest lyrics and acoustic guitar playing just make me keep the song on repeat for hours. You may recognize Jason from some of the songs he has co-written on Colbie Caillat's debut album, Coco such as radio hits "Bubbly" and "Realize." Check out a stream of his song "You In A Song" below. And check back in a week or so for my interview with Jason!

For Windows click here.

For Quicktime click here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Q&A with Lights Resolve

Back in April I met the guys of Lights Resolve while touring for a few dates on the "Get A Life" tour. After winning Samsung's "Unsigned Battle of the Bands" contest, Lights Resolve opened up each night of the national tour followed by Street Drum Corps, Army of Me, Straylight Run and headliners, the Used.

I caught up with Matt, Neal and Sherman of Lights Resolve this past Saturday when they were playing at Maxwell's in Hoboken and learned more about the three-piece band, their music and tricks of the trade in getting concertgoers to remember them. Their set Saturday was incredibly energetic — one of the most lively I've seen in a while — at times Matt and Sherman even jumped off the stage to play in the crowd.

Afterwards, they gave tickets away to their show this Saturday at Blender Theater in NYC, which you can still get tickets to (for free!) by emailing Lights Resolve here. I'll be there covering the show so look back for a review next week and, if you haven't yet, check out their tunes on MySpace, I think you'll dig. Read below to learn a little more about the band.

Here are the names and instruments they play so you get a better idea of who is answering:

Matt — vocals/guitar
Neal drums/percussion
Sherman bass guitar/piano/vocals

Tell me a little about Lights Resolve. You were all in another band together, right?
Sherman: We were in another group, been around the block, had fun, got to travel to Southeast Asia, East Coast, the States. We were a four-piece and then one day we came to the bridge where we needed to downgrade to three and Matt started singing lead vocals, Neal stayed on drums, I was still rockin’ bass and we’ve been Lights Resolve since two years, since 2006.

You guys were just on the “Get A Life” tour with the Used. How did that come about?
Matt:
We saw that Samsung was running a contest for a band to open up for the Used and being Used fans, thought it was a good opportunity so we just posted a song called “Lost and Jaded” on the site and ended up getting more votes than anybody. It was something like 200,000 votes or something crazy and then we won. They ended up giving us a nice, fat check to go on the road with them and we got to go on the whole “Get A Life” tour with the Used, Straylight Run, Street Drum Corps and Army of Me and we just had a blast.

That was the first big tour as Lights Resolve. We had done two national tours before, they were each a month and a half or two months each so we had a good bit of real touring experience, but this was more luxurious touring. The venues actually had people in them and we had catering and all that stuff and we were playing with really good bands as opposed to before, we had to work our asses off to get 10 or 20 people in the room to play for them. It was really good that we had that experience beforehand because we knew a lot more. Once we got on the Used tour we knew what to expect and now we know even more so what to expect after being on that type of tour. So, we kind of covered it all besides the Rolling Stones tours or anything. We haven’t done that, but that’s next. [Laughs].

What did you learn from watching the other bands on the “Get A Life” tour?
Matt:
Just learned how to perform a little better, learned how to function on the road a little better, learned what not to do, learned what to do, learned what works when trying to get people into your music and trying to get them to walk away with a t-shirt or a CD or just something from the band. Some interesting stuff. One of the things we saw was when we put up our gobo, which is a light shining through a little cut and our logo shows up as a background for our set, we ended up selling 50% more merch then when we didn’t have it. So we learned that a logo does something, it gives people something to remember. We were the first out of five bands on that tour so we really had to make our mark on them because there was a circus after us with Street Drum Corps. So, we had to make our mark and we found that that was one way to do it. Another way was we were out there peddling our stuff and working our asses off to try to get people into the band. Dedication.

Neal: I think the biggest thing for us was, when you’re playing bigger rooms it’s very easy to only play to the people in front of you, but I think we learned how to play to the entire room. That means, if kids are in the back or to the side you’ve got to basically play to everybody. I think playing with enthusiasm and excitement really rubs off to the other kids so when they see that you’re putting your all into it, it’s kind of like cause and effect. I think that was really important, learning how to perform on a big stage especially because we’re only a three-piece so we have to cover a lot more ground than maybe a four-piece. We definitely learned a lot about performance.

Is it harder being a three-piece?
Matt: It’s way harder. Every note that you hit is an obvious note and if you hit a wrong one, you’re fucked. It’s the generic thing to say, but there’s more weight to pull for each member being a three-piece. The way we try to fill that out is we try to . . . at least I try to use a lot of delays on my guitar and try to fill out the sound. Sherman plays the bach organ on his bass, Neal hammers the drums. We try to leave as little space as possible unless it’s warranted for what we’re playing. It’s all about filling the space.

Neal: If your guitar breaks a string, you’re in deep trouble. If your bass player cuts out, it’s two people.

What do you do differently during a show being the opening act vs. the headliner?
Matt:
Say the headliner’s name a lot.

Neal: Yeah. I think your job as an opener is to get the crowd warmed up and ready to go, so I think you just have to go out there with no fear and just have to lay it out on the line and have fun and be exciting. I think that’s what translates. You can’t think of yourself as the opener you just have to say, “You know what, I’m about to play. Let’s do it! Let’s have fun and kick ass.”

How much does the audience’s vibe affect you as a performer?
Neal:
Well, I think it’s a lot better when the audience is into it. You feel a certain type of energy that you can’t really explain it, it’s just there and you can’t help but feed off it. Sometimes when the crowd isn’t into it, or they could just be into it but maybe they’re just not as animated, you still have to do the same thing and look past it and play. Play for yourself, play for whoever you can, it’s the best thing you could do.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Neal:
We’re definitely working on new material right now. We’re taking the summer to do just that, we have a bunch of new songs. I think our plan is probably in the fall to do some kind of tour, whether it’s either September do the Northeast and branch out in October and do something, possibly a national tour. We’re focusing on new songs right now and just getting those ready and possibly recording soon as well.

Matt: The reason that we’re playing so many shows right now is because we want to test the new music that we’ve been working on. We never went into a studio and just recorded a song that we haven’t played live yet, so we’re hoping that we can get all the songs that we’re writing and play them live and see how they translate on a stage because that affects what we think of the song a lot of the time. So if you’re doubting a song and you bring it out there it could work and its great, or you can bring it out and it can fail miserably. We only want to do stuff for the stage, because we have more fun playing live on a stage than in a recording studio, that’s just how this band works.

What is your writing process like for each song?
Sherman: Well, we have a cool process. Every song sometimes will take a different toll, but typically we’ll have a melody in mind or some sort of progression, like an order of chords on the guitar where we’ll bang it out in our rehearsal space, in Neal’s basement. We have all our gear down there and the kit and we just build off of simple progression. Vocals tend to be . . . would you say later, Matt?

Matt: I usually end up using the first thing that comes up, just because that’s the most pure and untainted. Not all the time, but that’s my favorite thing to do — just use the first thing that I come up with, just because it sounds more natural and unforced. We haven’t had the best recording experiences thus far. Our first CD we’re not that happy with, the actual recording process that we went through. And we learned from that for the second EP that we did.

Our friend Ryan Siegel, who is now in a band called The Urgency, he recorded that for us with a guy named Brian Chasalow and the two of them just helped us on that as well as Alex Ferzan helped us. That one we came to the table with a little more knowledge of what we wanted with this band and the certain energy that we wanted to capture. At the same time it was limited because it was in Brian’s house. We just set up in his house and went for one weekend and we took three days to do it so that was also limited. So this next recording we kind of know exactly what we’re looking for and we’re hoping to get into some kind of, I don’t know about real recording studio or what, but we know what vibe we’re looking for and we know we want to capture the energy of our live show, which I don’t know if we’ve fully done yet. This one we will definitely do that, there are no questions, we’re not compromising.

I really like your latest EP, Currency and the first track, “The Hills and Michael Jackson.” How did you come up with that title?
Matt:
It does go along with the song if you listen to the lyrics and you think about it for a little bit, it will make sense. The title came to me when we were in California and the song . . . I think the song came after the title, so I think that maybe the title influenced the song somehow.

Do you have a favorite song you like to perform?
Matt:
Right now my favorite recording of what we have is “The Hills and Michael Jackson.” We all love playing “Lost and Jaded,” we love playing “This Could Be the Last Time.” I don’t know; all the new stuff. Whenever you write a new song, that’s all you want to play. You don’t want to revisit all the old stuff. It’s all about the new stuff every time you come out with something new. We want to rework some of the old songs. We found by playing them on the stage that some stuff doesn’t work because we’re a three-piece. We tried to record as a three-piece and in some cases it worked and in some cases it didn’t. So we’re going to end up reworking some of the songs to make them fit how we play.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge for Lights Resolve?
Matt:
Not killing ourselves. Everything. Everything about being in an up-and-coming band right now is a challenge. I don’t know how to expand on that, there are too many things.

Sherman: For someone who has no idea about being an unsigned group — packing our own van, paying for the van every month, sometimes playing some odd gigs, it’s all a part of what we do. Every now and then we get a bone thrown to us where we get something prestigious and then packing the trailer right after. It’s a lot of different duties. We also have to be really good about being on the computer and stuff like that, as much as we may not like to because we’d like to focus more on the music, but we have a really great time communicating with all of our fans. They’re kind enough to send us messages and bake us cookies and whatnot. We have some very sweet fans, very thoughtful. Having really supportive fans makes us think really positive about this crazy business.

Matt: I remember when we were playing South by Southwest this past year back in March. We had a couple of shows that were not part of the South by Southwest festival and they were on the other side of the tracks at a place called Pete’s Bar which was smaller than this room and it was the Mexican part of Austin. It was all, probably first generation Americans, their parents were Mexican I think, or maybe some of them were Mexican. I don’t know, whatever it was, these people weren’t the normal people that would go and see a show with all the dyed hair and everything. These were just people going to have a drink or whatever and they didn’t know what to expect, they were just hanging out. We ended up playing and the people just were having a ball, they were just having a good time.

That’s when I realized it’s so great to just play music and have people enjoy it and it made it all worthwhile because I had been bummed being as SXSW and seeing so many bands and so many people’s noses in the air. SXSW this past year just wasn’t my vibe and then when I crossed over the tracks and met these “real people” and we had a good time with them, it kind of made it all make sense to me. It was funny because the drummer that we played the show with [in the other band] said the exact same thing so we had a similar experience.

What is it about Lights Resolve that makes you stand out from other bands out there? What would you say to convince people to come check you out?
Sherman: The tightest pants. [Laughs].

Matt: We just have fun. Not a lot of bands do. We have fun onstage, we’re all somewhat proficient in our instruments. We’re very tight as a band because we’ve been together for so long, through the other band and this band so the tightness is there. Maybe our only goal is to put on the best show that we could possibly put on. All the other stuff goes with it — writing songs and having a hard copy so that people can go home and listen to it. But, we want them to live for seeing the live show. I guess word of mouth gets that out. I know on the Used tour a lot of people had checked us out for the first time and were impressed and even the other bands that we were on tour with were really excited that we were on the tour and we would walk into their dressing room and they would be singing our songs and it was just a cool vibe. It’s just about that. Right now, Will from Straylight Run is working on some demos with us and Quinn from the Used played guitar for “This Could Be the Last Time” with us at some of the Used shows, I got to sing “Box Full of Sharp Objects” with the Used. Why would anyone want to see us? I don’t know. If they want to see tight, white pants. Maybe Sherman. The smiley drummer.

How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
Neal:
I think it’s very atmospheric, somewhat anthemic. For the three-piece that we are, we try to produce this big sound that’s meant for, hopefully someday a big arena. There are a lot of dynamics. I think it’s really this big rock sound is what we are.

Matt: Its cinematic alt-rock I think. It’s a bit theatrical.

What are your hopes for the future?
Matt:
We hope to become rich and fat. [Laughs]. We hope to just write the best music we can write and come up with the best show ideas that we can come up with, be on as many tours as possible, reach as many people as possible. I mean, it seems like the pretty standard thing for any band to say. Try to figure out something in this changing industry right now that could be cool to do that nobody else has done. We’re still working it out.

Do you feel that a band needs to have a record contract to be successful?
Matt:
I think at some point it’s necessary for a band to have some kind of funding or some kind of promotion behind it. That’s usually a record label, whether it’s an indie or a major, just somebody financing the band. Money does play an important role because you can’t do a lot of the stuff that you want to do without money and you can’t accomplish a lot of the things you want to accomplish without somebody pushing your material and it’s hard when it’s just the people in the band pushing your material. I don’t know whether it’s a label or whether it’s money or what it is, but at some point you need to step it up and have somebody else take the business reigns out of your hands.

Sherman: I would agree with Matt completely, but being unsigned thus far, we’ve had more success then a good percentage of cats out there. So, we’ve been really, really lucky so far without the big bucks behind us.

What keeps you going?
Matt:
Every time somebody says they like your band or they like your song. We just came across a video of a girl on YouTube that a girl sent us, actually there were a bunch. First, there was a girl from Bakersfield, California, who played beautiful guitar and sang beautifully, she did a cover of “The Angel Sings,” one of our songs, and she did her own version of it and just did it really, really cool. I didn’t expect it to be so amazing, but she did and that was really cool to see. The other one was this girl, she filmed it in her garage with her cat on a leash, and she was just dancing in her own world, loving it. I would never even be able to dance that way if I wanted to try, but she had her own thing, so that was cool. Really cool. It’s just the little things. It’s people saying hi. I also sometimes snoop around on the net and read people’s blogs and stuff about their experience at the show and you never realize, you never think what people do in order to make your show. They have to take the train and the cab and do all this stuff just to see you. That made me appreciate it more.

Neal: I think playing live is just the best thing anybody could do. If you can make a living out of it and performing, it’s the most incredible thing. It’s so raw and real and that’s what we love doing the most. Having people you like to play with helps too. It’s doing what you love with people you want to be with.

If you checked Lights Resolve out on MySpace and liked what you heard, pick up a copy of their EP's on SmarkPunk.com and catch a show when they're in the area! Below is a live interview I found of them talking more about their music and influences as well as clips from various shows and performances. Let me know if you're planning on attending the Saturday show! And be sure to email them if you want tickets!


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Q&A with Mick Quinn of Supergrass

While out in California last week I caught U.K. band Supergrass' incredibly energetic live show — chock full of solid guitar riffs and catchy choruses — at Avalon in Hollywood. (You can read that review here.) Bass guitarist Mick was nice enough to sit down with me for a bit before their sound check for the night. He talked about their current tour with the Foo Fighters, their new album, Diamond Hoo Ha and American fans: “We do have a really big cult following in America. That’s the weird thing; we seem to get good reaction, that’s why we keep coming back." Read on for the rest of the interview and check them out on MySpace if you haven't yet!

You guys are on tour with the Foo Fighters. How’s that going?
It’s great. We’ve done two nights so far, really big gigs. I think this is maybe our third tour we’ve done with Foo Fighters. We toured with them, maybe in ’97; I think was the first time, which is nearly 10 years ago. We’ve known them for years and they’ve always been really into our band and dragged us along a few times. It’s great, we played Wembley Stadium with them in London last month and that was maybe one of the biggest gigs we’ve done. They said it was there biggest gig; it was like 86,000 people which was astounding and really fun.

How is it different from touring with Foo Fighters vs. doing your own headlining show?
You have to get scientific about what sort of set you want to do. We’ve got maybe five, six albums worth of stuff to choose from. The set for the Foo’s, we’re onstage for a lot shorter so you want to try and make your point quite quickly whereas you can stretch out in your own gig. You’ve got your own fans coming and they might want to see different elements of the band and slow songs and want more obscure tracks from our back catalog. And also have a bit of fun and try and mix it up a bit.

You just released your sixth studio album, Diamond Hoo-Ha. Tell me a little bit about it; did you have a certain concept going into the studio?
Yeah, we did. The album before was kind of a very reflective, kind of quiet, acoustic record and we wanted to go back and play heavier stuff. A lot of people have said in reviews it’s a return to former stuff. But, I think it’s a new direction again. There are no slow songs on the album whatsoever. Usually there are quite a few stylistic changes, but we wanted to have the focus of the last record and just go in one direction. We did it quite differently. We spent a lot more time writing the songs and a lot less time in the studio. We just got very prepared and went in and recorded it very fast.

We traveled out to Berlin into Hansa Studios, which is a really famous studio where David Bowie recorded Heroes, Iggy Pop recorded there, U2 did Achtung Baby there, David Hasselhoff has recorded there. It’s just got loads of history to it and its right near where the old wall was in Berlin, in the center of Berlin, and it’s just such an amazing city.

So did that experience play into the album itself?
It’s difficult to know whether it played into this album. It did on the surface of things. It’s more when you were there, you took onboard the whole city and that will probably go into the next record. When you’re in the heat of making the record you go off looking out into the city, but when you get your days off you’re wandering around, taking stuff in and it takes a while for that to absorb into your psyche and come out in the next record.

You’re also having a DVD out in August.
Yeah, well there was a side project. I had an accident about 10 months ago where I fell out of a window and broke my back. In the middle of the night, I had gone on holiday with my family, and I was looking for the bathroom, I was looking for a glass of water and I just took a wrong turn and went out a window, hit the ground. I really did myself in. I was lying up in the hospital for two and a half months. I couldn’t go out and do some of the touring at the beginning of the record so the lead singer and our drummer, Danny, went off and did this little side project to tie things over and launch the first single basically. They did a few really small gigs around England to 500 people, to really bring it down to basics, just drums and guitar. They took Gaz’s younger brother and they all, for some strange reason, probably lack of sleep, they took on these alter egos and ended up filming themselves and this is what’s being released, three hysterical people with not enough sleep.

You guys have been around for a while, since 1994. How do you keep your music fresh and new?
Too long. [Laughs]. We still inspire each other. Everybody in the band writes. I think if there was one songwriter everyone would get a bit tired, but we’re all checking things in from different directions. We always try and not repeat ourselves. Case and point is our last two records. Even if you’ve done something that has been successful or worked out really well, it’s good not to try and repeat that because you get less in returns the next time around. I think we learned that quite early on.

What keeps you motivated?
I don’t know, its rock & roll really. We still really enjoy playing, it’s a bit of a cliché, but when we do stand up in a room you end up forgetting about having to go to the supermarket later or doing some ridiculous thing or whatever. You just start playing and the music excites us and that’s always what has kept us going. It’s quite easy to get ground down by the music industry because it can be difficult to be artistic, but there’s still always room to do it and that’s kept us going.

You have had some of your music featured in movies over the years. How does that go about happening?
Well, just the offers come up. We’re always a bit reticent about releasing songs out to advertising in some ways because they’re your babies and you want to express them. Then again, you have to reach people and have them hear the songs. If it’s a harmless product, then it’s not a real problem.

Have you always wanted to be in a band?
I don’t know. I’ve just always have been in bands. Even before Supergrass, I’d been playing in bands for 10 years. I never looked at it as being in bands or playing gigs, it was just making music. We used to just play in the living room. You’d come back from the pub and you had about five pints. We used to live out in the sticks, so we had no neighbors to annoy and we used to just play in the living room for our own amusement and that’s how we learned to play. Even when I went out to college, all through college I’d play in bands and when I came back from college I didn’t do much, but I had always played in bands throughout the whole period without even trying, without even thinking about it. It’s something that just won’t go away, I have no choice.

Was the original name of the band Theodore Supergrass?
Yes, probably for about two months. We had about five different names before that, but then we played this one show in Oxford and it got a write-up in the local magazine, a really good write-up, and we thought if we changed the name again people weren’t going to turn up because they wouldn’t know it was the same band so we ended up being stuck with Theodore Supergrass. And then we realized that Theodore was a bit rubbish so we took that off.

You basically got started in the U.K. and then branched out to the U.S. What’s the difference between your fan base?
We seem to get a more honest reaction in America. I think, in some ways, because we’re a British band and we started off in England. I think every band gets hyped in the beginning and the reality of what the band is, is slightly skewed. But when we came to America people really didn’t know about us and still a lot of people don’t really know who we are. So you get people turning up to the gigs and they just have to react to what they’re seeing on the stage. We used to get bikers showing up to our gigs and really weird people that you wouldn’t expect to show up to a Supergrass gig and they were really into it. Coming in today, a family of five, the parents and three little kids had driven hundreds of miles to come and see us and you don’t get that anymore. Maybe because you don’t have to travel 200 miles to get anywhere, but you get more devoted fans and people that really do get into the band in a really strong way in the U.S.

How would you explain your music to someone who has never heard it?
I usually just say we’re in a rock & roll band. It’s usually too difficult to explain. What’s the point? You wouldn’t want to. Once you start defining what you do you instantly want to break out of that.

How do you feel this record is different from your previous ones?
Certainly, we wanted to make a record that didn’t dip really. We wanted to make it very hard and very energetic, kind of the laidbackness of Road to Rouen previously, it was so focused in that direction, although it had some diverseness as well. We wanted to really focus on just being energetic on this record. Also the speed of it, we wanted to get the energy of recording very fast and doing lots of over dubs and making the production complicated and that was achieved by getting Nick Launay to produce and limiting ourselves with time and bringing a lot of energy to it.

How do you feel the music industry has changed over the years from when you started?
It’s really interesting right now because no one knows what’s happening and all the major record companies are really freaking out. They don’t really know what’s going on and that means there’s a huge vacuum for what could go on. Also, you can go to the Internet and find all sorts of people who don’t have to worry about record distribution in the same sort of way or marketing in some ways. The Internet is such a massive market where you can reach so many people and you can do that from the comfort of your own bedroom. And again, just bands coming out of nowhere that people weren’t expecting to do well and it’s an honest reaction. It’s people hearing our music and wanting it, there are no middle men and that’s really interesting.

What is it about Supergrass that has made you guys stick around for so long?
We haven’t let our quality control drop yet. We still invest a hell of a lot of energy in making those records. We spend a good six months where we don’t sleep for ages. We put a lot of effort into them. We’re not aiming to make a record that will last six months for our promo campaign, you want to go back and listen in three years time and listen to a song. It’s tricky, it’s difficult, but I think we’re putting in the energy. Other bands have tried to survive for a long time. There are good examples out there; a band like The Kills and they have managed to do it on their own terms and still keep going. It’s going to end one day though.

When do you feel will be the time that you’ll think, “Alright, I want to retire”?
I don’t know if I’m going to retire. You could come to the end of Supergrass and what you could do with that, it’d be interesting to branch out and try other things and then maybe come back to Supergrass late in the stage. I’ve always been interested in listening to music certainly, and still very interested in music generally. You get pissed off at things and then you go and see someone else play an amazing gig and it just makes you happy about being alive.

Do you have a favorite song out of the entire Supergrass catalog?
It varies. I tend to go for the really unusual ones. There are a few B-sides that we’ve done. The thing that I like about the B-sides is that they’re always very relaxed and there is no pressure when you’re making a B-side so you’ve got really spontaneous songs coming out. There was a track, the B-side to the “Kiss of Life” and we took the reels off the tape machine and put it upside down so the tape played backwards and then we rerecorded the whole song backwards and it just became this other song that was really unworldly, just really strange lyrics as well because we had to rework what he was singing backwards as well. It was cool. It was called “We Dream of This.”

You all take part in the writing process. Where do you get your inspiration from?
I can’t talk for the others, but me personally, I listen to a lot of music and hear interesting chord changes. Or just little bits you like and you try playing it on guitar and you play it wrong. You try and cover somebody else’s song and you end up fuckin’ it up and it makes you go somewhere else, and you start hearing interesting changes, which drags me in. Part of it is ripping off the other two — if Danny or Gaz have written something interesting I’ll try to work it out my way and it will lead me somewhere else and so we get inspired by each other. It’s always just a small thing that gets you in first and leads you to something else. Lyrics, just living every day, you might hear an interesting phrase or someone says something in a conversation that’s the inspiration for the lyrics. In the visa office, when we were getting the visas for America, some guy said he’s technically classed as an alien with potential on his visa. That kind of phrase, you could write a song called “Alien with Potential” just stuff like that really.

Special thanks to Jennilyn Lazo for these photos.

If you haven't yet, be sure to check out Supergrass on MySpace and see a show when they're in town!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Song of the Week: "All Summer Long"

Maybe it's because it has Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" featured throughout the song, or it could be the light piano and guitar playing in the background. But I can't deny it, Kid Rock's "All Summer Long" is such a catchy song. It's just one of those perfect summer songs that take you back in time. Listen to it and see for yourself.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

John Mayer, Colbie Caillat and Brett Dennen Impress in New Jersey

Shortly after 9 p.m. the lights flickered and PNC Bank Arts Center went dark amidst incessant screams and flashing cameras. A guitar could be heard in the distance and within seconds John Mayer walked onstage starting the night off with a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire." It seemed only fitting, being that he was playing in Springsteen's home turf. However, many in attendance weren't familiar with the song as a confused hush rose throughout the crowd.

Clearly in his element Tuesday night, Mayer told the crowd, "This doesn't get old at all. There's nothing like playing a show and knowing I can sleep in my own bed tonight" before he rattled off each television network in the tri-state area adding: "I like playing the places where I know the TV stations." Mayer played a nearly two-hour set while opening acts Colbie Caillat and Brett Dennen thoroughly impressed the crowd.

For those hard-core John Mayer fans, his current summer tour is different than previous tours. His set was made up of three segments — his more popular songs, some blues numbers and covers as well as an encore where the fans pick which song is played by voting on his Web site. Mayer's set did not disappoint as he changed up his more well-known songs with varied guitar riffs and instrumental features, slowing down or speeding up the tempo from time to time. When introducing hit single, "Daughters" Mayer told the crowd, "This is a song called 'Daughters 1974'" before playing the song slowly and breaking into a cover of Billy Joel's "She's Always a Woman" while cleverly singing, "She's always a daughter to me."

The night included impeccable covers of Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'" as well as Van Halen's "Panama," which got the girls swooning as he took off his shirt and jumped around the stage releasing his inner Eddie Van Halen while playing guitar. Mayer made a 10-year-old birthday girl's night when he serenaded her in a round of "Happy Birthday" before segueing into "Waiting On the World to Change."

Despite the various cover songs he included in his set, crowd favorites seemed to be his better-known material. Bluesy number "Gravity" as well as current single "Say" from movie, The Bucket List, gained much excitement from the crowd while older songs such as radio hit "No Such Thing" and "Bigger Than My Body" garnered much attention as well.

Brett Dennen opened the night and had an impressive set featuring many songs from his most recent album, So Much More. His music encompasses a blend of folk and blues and is thoroughly enjoyable. Songs like "She's Mine" and "Ain't No Reason" demonstrated Dennen’s versatility and craft as a singer-songwriter.

Colbie Caillat followed Dennen with a solid 40-minute, nine song set. Her light, airy voice had the crowd singing along throughout most of her performance, especially radio hits “Bubbly” and “Realize” off of current album, Coco. Before introducing “On the Wire” she told the crowd, “This song is about overcoming your fears and I’m trying to do that every day,” referencing her stage fright. Alternating between the mic and playing guitar, her performance was strong, both vocally and instrumentally.

Caillat prefaced “Bubbly” by saying, “This song goes out to anyone out there that’s in love right now.” Teasing the audience by starting the song at a much slower pace than fans were familiar with; her performance sounded like a remix of the radio hit at first. Soon after, she picked up the tempo everyone was used to hearing. Highlight of the set, and crowd favorite, seemed to be Caillat’s soulful Jackson 5 cover of “One More Chance.”

While at some shows, opening acts seem to be less highly regarded than the headliner, Dennen and Caillat definitely impressed, and Mayer's 16-song set did not disappoint the packed crowd at PNC Bank Arts Center either. "We hope tonight is a night you can forget all your problems and think about the best time in your life and revisit it for the next two hours," Mayer told the audience early on in his set. And for most, I think he succeeded.

Special thanks to Deana Koulosousas for taking the photos from the show Tuesday night.

For more on Brett Dennen check out his MySpace.
To listen to Colbie Caillat's music check her out on MySpace.
For more on John Mayer's tour check out his Website or MySpace.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Supergrass Heat Up Hollywood

From the moment Supergrass took the stage the energy skyrocketed throughout the venue. Whether it was lead singer Gaz Coombes making his way to the edge of the stage while serenading the crowd or motioning the audience to clap along during their performance, U.K. band Supergrass had a spot-on set filled with non-stop intensity. The energy permeated from the stage into the crowd while practically all in attendance were dancing or singing along word for word.

On a day off from touring with the Foo Fighters, Supergrass played a 70-minute headlining show at Avalon Saturday night in Hollywood. Very eclectic, the crowd varied from parents and children to college students and older, die-hard fans who have been following the band throughout their 14 year tenure. Supergrass started out the night with a solid guitar riff leading into opening track "Diamond Hoo Ha Man" off album, Diamond Hoo Ha, released earlier this year. As the opening guitar riff began and the brightly lit backdrop emerged spelling Supergrass, the intensity rose and did not falter.

While most of the 18-song set included songs from their latest album, some older Supergrass favorites were played as well — one from their second album, In It for the Money and their encore performance of first single released as a band, "Caught by the Fuzz." While the older hits were often followed by screams of excitement from the crowd, most in attendance seemed familiar with the newer material just as well as the older classics.

The night was filled with catchy choruses and guitar riffs as well as solid instrumental accompaniment provided by drums, keyboards, tambourine and even a cowbell. "We love it here!" frontman Gaz Coombes told the crowd. "We've been going for quite a long time — 14 years or something. We love coming to the States; it's beautiful."

Many of Supergrass' songs have strong instrumental features either in the beginning or middle of each song, some reminiscent of almost electronic club-like mixes. "Rebel In You" started off slower than previous songs, but their catchy chorus throughout the song didn't stop the crowd from dancing along. As the night continued, fans in the audience screamed song requests as frontman Coombes jokingly yelled back, "I told you no requests or you'll have to be removed."


The energy from Supergrass' set didn't waver for a moment and neither did the audience's. With their catchy choruses and guitar riffs, Supergrass had the audience singing their songs long after the concert was over.

For more on Supergrass check out their MySpace and be sure to catch them on tour this summer with the Foo Fighters! Below is their fun music video for first single, "Diamond Hoo Ha Man" off of their latest album. Check back next week for my interview with bass player Mick Quinn!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Song of the Week: "Californication"

I'm in California for a few days visiting my friend who moved out here last September and what better song to feature this week than the classic Red Hot Chili Peppers' hit, "Californication?" I'll be covering a show tomorrow night with UK band Supergrass as well as interviewing them, so check back sometime next week for that once I get back to Jersey! 



Wednesday, July 9, 2008

John Mayer Tells All At Z100's Z-Lounge

I don't want to call myself an "unlucky" person, per say. But as far as winning anything throughout my life — whether it be carnival games, slots in Atlantic City or free vacation getaways, I'm never dealt the best hand. So when local radio station Z100 was giving away John Mayer tickets two weekends ago I thought I might as well try — one call can't hurt. To my shock and amazement the phone on the other line rang and someone answered. Here's how the conversation panned out:

Me: Hello?
DJ: Hey, who's this?
Me: Hi, it's Annie.
[really long pause]
Me: I'm calling for John Mayer tickets.
[another really long pause]
Me: Do you know what number I am?
DJ: Yeah, I do.
Me: What number?
DJ: You're caller 100, Annie!
Me: Are you serious?
DJ: Yes. I'm serious!

As luck would have it, I actually signed up to be a ZVIP literally the day before I won the tickets. So, in addition to winning a pair of tickets to John Mayer's show at PNC Bank Arts Center in New Jersey, I also won a pair to his Z-Lounge performance at Spotlight Live in Times Square. Pretty sweet! I guess I'm not too unlucky anymore.

For the half hour John Mayer was onstage at Spotlight Live Tuesday night, I learned a lot more about him than I ever could by just listening to his albums. For one, he informed the crowd that yes, he has in fact slept with a fan before. When asked about his next album, he jokingly told the crowd while he has no idea what his next album will be like, it could possibly be club hits. His sense of humor is a bit eccentric. If you read the full Q&A from last night's event below, you'll get the picture. In between the interview, John played an impeccable version of latest single, "Say" as well as a solid cover of Tom Petty's "Free Fallin,'" "Belief" and "Waiting On the World to Change" from his most recent album, Continuum. Read below for the full Q&A.

Tell me about writing “Say.”
They sent me the script for The Bucket List, said that it was for a Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman movie and I said, “Let me read it” and I read it and cried like a baby bitch on the couch. You can say bitch if it’s a baby bitch. [Laughter from crowd]. Because it’s hyphenated, it’s not really the B-word . . . well, it is a B-word, nevermind. So yes, I wrote this song for this beautiful movie and it just happened to really strike a chord with me and I was really lucky to have the script as the sort of jumping off point for a song I probably wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for that, so it’s cool.

So now, I actually love the process so much I’m actually writing songs for movies I wasn’t asked to write for. I’ve written myself a song for WALL-E. It’s called, “Will Somebody Please Say Something!”

Tell us how you got involved in the music business. Is this something you wanted to do as a little kid or did you sort of fall into it?
I did, I did. I won a contest, no I didn’t. I’m lucky enough to have gotten a record contract before they handed them out with oil changes. I just worked. People ask me all the time, “How do you make it happen?” You just practice. You don’t even have to be a guitar player, but if you’re out there and there’s something that you love doing. I don’t mean just like clicking a mouse ball, a real trade. There really is a difference between being famous for playing a song and being famous for tripping. That’s the only way you make it. Just commit yourself and dedicate yourself to something and I’m lucky enough to have done that.

What is your favorite part about being an artist in general?
You know what it is, its total mental freedom to know that whatever song or record or project I want to work on, can happen. And that’s why every day I have a new brainstorm, like “That would be the coolest thing to put out on the radio” or “That would be the coolest thing to put on a record” and I can do it. So that mental, sort of creative freedom, to know that I can do whatever I want to do musically, and not to have to ask for permission. That’s the coolest thing in the world.

You’re not especially known for being a guitar maniac. You’re known for the whole package. It’s like John Mayer, he’s a singer-songwriter.
Thank you. I’m not excellent at any one thing. But if you put it all together in some sort of, like a nice stew, it makes . . . Thank you, I do think that is sort of when I really shine. That if you just take all of it together and go, "That’s a lot of things to do at once."

Have you guys heard the Fall Out Boy cover of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It?” [asks crowd who then scream incessantly]. I mean, its no “Your Body Is a Wonderland.”
Neither is “Your Body Is a Wonderland.” I don’t even know what that means. Yeah, though, that was cool. Pete asked me, would I come in and play a guitar solo on “Beat It.” And I just think that their skewed sort of sense of humor was perfect. ’Cause it’s kind of tongue and cheek, but it’s also a cool track, so when they asked me would I play on it, I actually went out and found the Eddie Van Halen replica guitar and I learned how to shred in like three hours and put it on a record.

What inspired you to be a writer and who is your greatest influence?
I make a lot of observations, a lot of strange . . . I seem to sort of avoid obvious things to want to talk about. I have always, since I was a kid, made very slight, strange, twisted little observations that I don’t really feel happy unless I have at least tried to make other people understand the way that I see that and writing is a really great way. Writing is really good for people who get told all the time. . . like I’m sure there’s more than a couple people out here who meet new people and they say to the friend they’re with, “Where did you find her?” or “Where did you find him?” And the answer is, “Well, in a good place” because if you can write and get that out, then that’s what’s always drawn me to writing.

The influence, is just, I guess violence in the media and video games. [Crowd laughs]. Smoking in movies. I don’t know. Yes for smoking in movies! I don’t know what I’m talking about again. You guys put me in this situation where it’s like, “Let’s talk to the guy who can’t talk very well and writes songs to make up for it.” But yeah, I’m inspired by people who have a whole lot of control in what they do. You know what it is that I’m inspired by? I watched this Wimbledon match and I was more inspired by the championship Wimbledon match then I’ve been by some music in the last couple of months. I mean just watching greatness or listening to greatness happen. I’m inspired by anybody with really great control.

Is the next album going to be a Trio album or the full band in the studio?
I don’t really know. The thing about art for me is that you tour on something or you get known for a certain group of songs and you even know yourself through this certain group of songs. So, I need to go home and forget about all the music I worked on and go back to, sort of ground zero and just start from scratch again and find out what moves me. Maybe that’s the Trio, maybe it’s a new quartet. I don’t know, but that’s the fun part of going off sort of a record cycle and deciding what the next type of music is going to be. I would like to do a record full of club hits. [Starts beat boxing and singing Rihanna’s “Please Don’t Stop the Music”, then tying in some guitar and plays “No Such Thing”]. Because man, when those lights go on and that beat starts goin’, and those glow sticks are turning. That’s what a John Mayer club remix sounds like.

I did hear there’s going to be a special edition re-release of Continuum. Is that true?
I don’t know. They keep re-releasing that record so many times, who knows. Now they’re just going to be like, “Yeah, but we didn’t put gum in it yet.”

There is a new DVD in stores though, right?
There is a new DVD in stores. It’s called “Where the Light Is” and it’s this live performance that transpired back in December in LA and its cool.

Have you ever hooked up with any of your fans from a concert?
I can tell you this, I might have hooked up with people, but as soon as I hooked up with them, they weren’t fans anymore so technically no. Listen, do you respect me for my honesty? The answer is yes I have! Not in a really long time. Not since the camera phone. That camera phone will get you, even if you’re sleeping. Your doughy frame all laying in the bed, dead like. And a picture of that, I can’t deal with that. I’m not trusting enough to really open up to anybody I don’t know very well anymore, which is good for my immune system.

Why are you the only celebrity that TMZ does not make fun of?
No. They do! Well, because TMZ is made out of the same garbage I am. It’s like; you can’t kill what you’re made of. I can’t be killed by garbage because I’m made of garbage. You can’t get trashier then me. No, you can’t. So I just out TMZ everyday and then after a while they just couldn’t get around it and went, “Alright. Truce. Let’s be friends.” But they still like to catch pictures of me when I’m blinking, but that’s the game that’s fine, I’m okay with that. I just want to roll with the punches. It’s not like it was, there’s no TRL, there’s no . . . if fans are saying, “The way that I want to see my favorite artist is walking out of a port-o-pottie or walking down the street to the gym,” that’s the new way to communicate, then I’m going to communicate that way. Especially if I don’t have a choice and it’s in my face. I’m not going to hide from it. I’m going to show my lovely personality and my giant brain.

Which is your favorite song that you’ve ever written?
My favorite song I’ve ever written is “Gravity.” I learned how, if you put too many words in a song, then you diminish the opportunity every day to put your feelings into it, no matter what your feelings are. “Gravity” is so open as a song that I can either lose a wicked game of Halo or have my heart broken and I can still, sort of put that into the song.

Do you do anymore stand-up?
You know, you lose too much focus. If you do stand-up, a lot of the stuff that you talk about isn’t true, it’s just reference to sort of, help illustrate the overall truth. And I really can’t get away with getting onstage and talking about poop or something because then it’s gonna make . . . you know, I’m aware that there’s a certain focus on the things that come out of my mouth. So I have to be really careful. When you get onstage and do stand-up you really are supposed to be allowed to say whatever comes to your mind if it is really thoughtful overall. So I can’t do it. Plus, I wasn’t funny. I don’t know if that’s a prerequisite. But I actually wasn’t funny either.

Listen or watch to the full interview as well as John performing "Say" on Z100. Check out John Mayer's Website for more on his summer tour and latest news.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Artist Profile: Colbie Caillat

Colbie Caillat has had quite a year. Just around this time last year her first single, "Bubbly" hit airwaves and her debut album, Coco, was released. Previously, Colbie was known more as a MySpace sensation. She was MySpace's No. 1 unsigned artist for four consecutive months acquiring over 100,000 friends, eventually landing her a record deal with Universal.

Fast forward to 2008, "Bubbly" and second single, "Realize" continue to be played in heavy rotation and Colbie boarded John Mayer's Mayercraft Carrier cruise ship to join him and other musicians and fans for a fun-filled music cruise. Apparently all this didn't keep the California native busy enough, as she just penciled into her calendar a US summer tour with Mayer as well.

Colbie took some time out for a phone interview while driving from Nashville to Iowa City right before the US leg of her summer tour began. Having just wrapped up filming in Hawaii for "The Little Things" — her third single picked by fans on MySpace — Colbie talked a bit about her stage fright, how she became a MySpace phenomenon and why she thinks "Bubbly" resonates with so many people.

To listen to Colbie talk about how her life has changed in the past year, writing songs in the bathroom and advice from John Mayer click here. For more advice from Colbie to aspiring musicians, MySpace and why she thinks "Bubbly" is such a hit, click here. Feel free to read the full interview below and check out Colbie's MySpace for when she'll be playing in your area!

It’s been just about a year since your debut album came out. How has life changed for you?
So much. A year and a half ago I was just working at a tanning salon and I was recording my album. Now, I’ve been to . . . I can’t even count how many different countries playing my music all over the word, living on a tour bus. It’s a lot different, but it’s fun.

Did you ever imagine MySpace would have had such a huge impact on your career?
Not at all. No, I had no idea. I didn’t even know what MySpace really was or could do. My friend made the page for me and told me about it and he helped me upload my songs and everything so I had no idea.

How did the whole process on getting your record deal come about?
Well, because I was on MySpace and was eventually on the top of the unsigned artist chart. I was No.1 and I was easily noticed by people and the record labels would notice me easily and that’s how they found me and then offered me a record deal.

You pretty much had your songs written before the record deal happened, right? Did you have a certain concept for the album?
Oh yeah, the whole thing was written. The label came into it a month and a half after we were already into recording the album. I wrote these songs and every time we’d go into the studio we’d add instruments up until when we felt like they were complete. I just wanted the music to sound good, laid-back and really pretty and uplifting and sunny and that was the concept I guess.

I read that you write songs in your bathroom.
Yeah. I do. [Laughs]. It sounds good in there. Usually when I was at home in my bathroom, I felt like no one could hear me because I was in my own little world. It echoes in there so it makes your voice sound pretty and your guitar has some reverb on it. And now, on tour, being in my hotel room I go into the bathroom and close the door because if I sing really loud, people can hear me down the hall. It’s my comfort zone.

Do you remember the first time you heard “Bubbly” on the radio?
Yeah. Well, the first time I heard it I didn’t really count it because we were on our way to that radio station. But the first time I heard it randomly, I was back home on a little break from tour and my family and I, we went out to lunch at this restaurant we always go to. Halfway through lunch, we were outside and “Bubbly” came on and my family of course started freaking out. My mom got up and started dancing. It was really exciting.

Are you tired of playing “Bubbly” yet?
There are times when I am. Usually it’s for TV performances because I get so, so nervous on TV that I always mess up the song and then I just dread singing it the next time. Lately, we just went back on tour a week ago, so now I’m actually excited to sing it again. I just need little breaks from it.

You're starting up a summer tour with John Mayer, you must be so excited!
Yeah. I’m kind of freaking out. [Laughs].

Has he given you any words of wisdom about the music industry?
Yeah, he has. I met him six months ago and we were talking. I told him I have stage fright and lots of fears. So he just told me to have fun up onstage and not worry because anything you do up there, people laugh at. Even if you mess up they kind of appreciate it more. As far as making decisions, like business decisions, he just said to do what you feel and go with your gut so I do that and it works.

Has your stage fright gotten better over the past year?
It has gotten a little better, but it’s honestly different depending on the situation. If it’s not as big of a deal TV show I’m fine. If it’s Leno or The Today Show I freak out completely where I cry right before I go on. I do vocal warm-ups with my band before and breathing techniques and I have to remember to smile. Sometimes, depending what time of day it is, I will have a cocktail before I go onstage just to calm me down a little bit.

Your debut album, Coco, is approaching it's year mark later this month. Are you working on another album?
Well, the third single comes out in August for “The Little Things.” We just shot the music video for that in Hawaii a couple weeks ago. But yeah, I’m working on the next album. I’ve been writing for the past year and we’ve already recorded some of the songs. We’re not recording the full album until January and it won’t come out until next summer so we have a while to work on it still.

I know you worked with Jason Mraz on his most recent album. Are you hoping to collaborate with anyone on your next album?
I’m not sure. We haven’t talked about it for my album. I’ve done a song on Taylor Swift’s new album and Jason’s album and then a couple artists from different countries. I’m not sure about doing any on mine yet, but I would like to for sure.

Your fans have been included a lot on your MySpace, often picking the next single you release. Are you planning on continuing this for the new album?
That’s what I’m trying to figure out how to happen. I definitely want that, but I’m not allowed to put the songs up on MySpace. So now I’m trying to see, maybe having my band learn all the songs first and then we’ll start playing them randomly at shows, but that’s still not the best way to do it so I’m trying to figure out a way to do that.

Your songs were taken off of MySpace for a while.
There was some disagreement with MySpace and Universal. So everyone from Universal had to take either their songs off or put shorter clips. I was trying to fight that because as much as I want to respect my label, MySpace was what got me started and my fans, I felt like that was being disrespectful to them. There was a lot of negotiation, so I was able to put my original demos up for the meantime until the lawsuit passed.

What is your advice to aspiring musicians and singer-songwriters?
I would definitely recommend learning your craft, whatever it is. Take vocal lessons if you sing or piano lessons or guitar lessons, whatever instrument you want to play. Practice all the time because I didn’t and I wish I would have more now. I can play guitar and I can play up onstage, but I’m not a great guitar player so it kind of makes me nervous. So if you just practice your craft well so that you just have it in the bag. Write your own songs that mean something to you and just be in control of your career. As far as MySpace, make your page look all cute and post bulletins, keeping people involved in what you’re doing. That’s mainly the best thing, to keep them involved.

Do you have a favorite song on the album?
My favorite is “One Fine Wire.” Every time I hear that one come on I just like the melody and the music behind it, it’s just very uplifting. I wrote that song about my stage fright and how to overcome it, so that song just means a lot to me.

With MySpace, do you feel it’s more important to get fans that way rather than TV show appearances?
Well, it’s just different. My MySpace fans are the original ones that know everything about me. They know when I had all my original pictures up of me playing guitar in the bathroom, they were the ones from the beginning that heard all the demos. They’re different kind of fans than the ones that see me on TV. They [TV fans] become more of, I guess the screaming fans and the MySpace fans are the ones that are like, “I want to say that I’ve been listening to you forever.” They’re both different, but they’re both appreciated.

Why do you feel "Bubbly" has had so much success?
I think it’s because the song is about love. Well, it’s about having a crush on someone and all the things that I wrote about in that song, everyone has either experienced before, they’re feeling it right now or they’re dying to fall in love or have a relationship. I think by people being able to relate to a song, I think that’s what does it.

What would you be doing right now if it wasn’t for the music?
I was really into photography, so I would have tried something for that or I would have gone to school for interior design. I had fun with that, I was going to school for that a couple years ago. Otherwise, I’d still be singing and writing songs, maybe for other people.

If you haven't yet, to listen my interviews with Colbie click here for part one and here for the second half of the interview. Check out Colbie's MySpace for more info. on upcoming tour dates and music!

Photo: Don Flood

Sunday, July 6, 2008

New Artist to Listen For: Jaymay

With her light, soft vocals and honest lyrics, Jaymay's debut full-length album Autumn Fallin' has the versatility to keep the album on rotate all day long. While many of the tracks are ballads, (some more somber than others) jazzy songs like "Hard To Say" have catchy choruses and instrumental accompaniment, often putting the listener into another time period. The first half of Autumn Fallin' starts slower, but track six segues into almost another album entirely.

New Yorker Jaymay starts off Autumn Fallin' with "Gray or Blue," a lyrically honest song with light guitar strumming while tambourine and xylophone can be heard in the background. If you listen closely to each song, they all tell a story — whether it be about crushing on a friend or wishing to find love. The underlying theme on Autumn Fallin' seems to be heartbreak and unrequited love while three of the ten song titles include the word "blue." Coincidence? I think not. Lyrics such as, "Don't second guess your feelings, you were right from the start/And I notice she's your lover but she's nowhere near your heart" get the point across.

On "Gray or Blue" Jaymay tells the story of two friends in love, who ironically both have significant others. She sings, "You haven't written to me in a week I wonder why that is/Are you too nervous to be lovers?/Friendships ruined with just one kiss." While the title of another track, "Blue Skies," sounds like it might be more of an uplifting song, the listener can sense the angst. "Faith brings me back to the place I met you/I bet you miss me sometime . . . sometimes," she sings.

While tracks one through five are mostly somber ballads, nearly 10-minute track "You'd Rather Run" has background music reminiscent of a carousel ride at a carnival, seemingly in opposition to the more serious story within the song. Stand-out track on the album is "Hard To Say," a more upbeat, fun jazzy number featuring Jaymay's higher vocal range. "Hard To Say" segues nicely into the next track on the album, "Big Ben," a slower song, almost sounding like a song right out of an old black and white movie. Despite the stories within each song being somewhat of a downer, Jaymay's debut album has the intrigue to keep the listener wondering what exactly she's trying to get across throughout the album's entirety. By the last track, I think she's given us all the answer.

For more on Jaymay, listen to an audio stream of her song "Gray or Blue" here or check her out on MySpace.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Song of the Week: "Check Yes Juliet"

Happy Fourth of July! I thought it'd be cool to feature a new song each week on my blog. Maybe a song I've been hearing on the radio a lot, or just a blast from the past. My first song of the week is Florida-based band We the Kings' "Check Yes Juliet" — a catchy pop-rock song with an entertaining story book music video. If you like what you hear, be sure to catch them this summer on Warped Tour! Here's their MySpace for some more music and check out their video for "Check Yes Juliet" below.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

You Sing, I Write Hits 10,000 Views!

A few months ago I set up something called Google AdSense which basically calculates how many page views I get per day, giving me a certain amount of money per click on the ads on top of the blog. It seemed like a good idea at the time, just to get an idea of how many viewers I get and make a little money in the meantime. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought this blog would have become so successful!

I originally started "You Sing, I Write" back in October as a writing outlet, since my current job wasn't writing related. I just assumed my family and friends would read it and leave comments and that was good enough for me at the time. It all began with my Switchfoot concert coverage and interviews which were eventually posted on the band's homepage. Other blogs and websites linked to my blog and I began setting up interviews with more bands, practically covering a show every week or two. Eventually, that led to living my own version of Almost Famous when I spent a few days on tour with Army of Me.

I've come a long way over the past few months, but there's definitely a lot more I want to do with my blog — set up a MySpace, branch out to more genres of music and update it more often. I'm always welcome to suggestions, so feel free to leave comments or e-mail me bands you'd like to see featured! It means the world that I can actually do what I love and you all enjoy reading it so much! Now on to finding a full-time job doing what I do now with my blog for a living...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

New Band to Listen For: Starving For Gravity

Bass player Brett Lindenberg describes Starving For Gravity as being "one of the only bands I know that can pull-off ballads and hard rock." I have to agree. While some of their songs are a bit more edgy, others start off slower and almost ballad-like. The guys of SFG were nice enough to send me a few songs to post on the blog for you to listen to, (I'll post them below the interview) so check their songs out and decide for yourself. If that's not enough for you, visit their MySpace. Below is my interview with Brett and singer Lucas Holter of Starving For Gravity.

Tell me about Starving For Gravity. How did it all begin?
Lucas: SFG basically rose out of a personal depression due to lack of music in my life. I had been in bands for a couple years, from [age] 17-20, and then I just stopped. It all started as just an outlet. Something to be creative. We did mostly cover shows for a long while, saving money to record an album. The rest is history.

You moved to California to record your latest album and worked with producer John "JR" Ryan (Santana, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Baha Men), how was that experience? Was it what you always imagined it would be like?
Lucas: Nothing like I thought it would be. It was much more personal, and much more business, all at the same time. If that makes sense? It was definitely one of those experiences you're glad you had. It will hopefully come in handy in the future.

The California music scene I'm sure is entirely different than North Dakota. How was the transition?
Lucas: Well, the scene isn't so much different as it is more diverse and large. It's the same anywhere you go, musicians trying to play for people. The difference here as opposed to North Dakota is that the audience is much more receptive to originality, whereas back home, you were pretty limited to what the people wanted to hear. The transition was awesome, but slightly difficult at first. Mainly because we never had any experience putting a "show" together. We just got drunk and played classic rock tunes.

How would you describe your music to someone that's never heard it before?
Lucas: I would say that our music is quite simply just a culmination of human emotion and stories of communication. Every song we write has a meaning behind it. Some of our stuff is very melodic and chill, and some will tear your head off, especially live, but it is all truth.

What makes Starving For Gravity different from other up-and-coming bands out there?
Brett: We are one of the only bands I know that can pull-off ballads and hard rock. Too many bands end up becoming one trick ponies by sticking to a specific style of song writing. We've made a conscious effort to write a collection of songs that cover a broad scope of human experiences. We want our music to reflect these different experiences.

You sent me three songs to post on my blog, tell me a little bit about each one.
Brett: I think these songs do a good job of showing diversity in our songwriting. "Shot Down" — a song we wrote about a former manager — is aggressive and melodic. "The Gun" features some great harmonies alongside a bridge that is one of the best we've ever written. Finally, "Urgency," while it's not a heavy song per say, has great tension. You can feel the tension being built in this song all the way to the bridge where there is an abrupt release.

What are your plans for the next year and hopes for the next five years?
Brett: Playing music, touring, writing, making a living. Maybe owning a condominium in an upper-middle class community.

Listen to some tracks from Starving For Gravity and let me know what you think!
"Shot Down"
"The Gun"
"Urgency"

If you like what you hear, check them out on MySpace and catch a show when they're in the area.

Photo: Mike Cavanaugh of All Access Magazine

BlogPlay

Share your links easily.