You Sing, I Write: February 2009

Friday, February 27, 2009

Song of the Week: "Did You Miss Me"

I recently received the MP3 for Tortured Soul's first single, "Did You Miss Me" off their upcoming release in an email. With a blend of R&B, house and soul, the single is bound to have your feet stomping along to the beats throughout the track. While it brings about a danceable 70s vibe, the song is undeniably catchy and after just one listen you'll be forced to hit that repeat button.

To listen to a stream of "Did You Miss Me" click here. Love to know what you think! If you like what you hear, be sure to pick up the album, Did You Miss Me, due in stores March 24.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Introducing Tinted Windows

Take Taylor Hanson from 90s pop brother trio Hanson, former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos, and Fountains Of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger and you have new power pop group Tinted Windows.

Rolling Stone debuted their first track, "Kind of Girl" earlier this week and you can listen to it on their MySpace. Definitely a strong blend of pop-rock with Hanson on lead vocals and catchy "oh-oh-whoa-whoa's," the song is bound to be in heavy rotations on radio stations soon. What do you think?

Their self-titled debut release drops in April. In the meantime, they'll be performing at Austin, Texas' South By Southwest music festival as well as New Jersey's Bamboozle festival in May. Will you be attending?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Joshua Radin Interview Featured on!

I'm so happy to report that my past interview with Joshua Radin was posted on yesterday! Feel free to read it here and leave comments!

The audio of the interview is also available here. You can listen to a stream of his first single off recent release, Simple Times "I'd Rather Be With You" here and if you like it, be sure to visit Radin on MySpace and catch a show when he's in town!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Q&A with Bernard Baur

An active member in the music industry for over 20 years as a journalist, A&R reporter, creative consultant and instructor, Bernard Baur has watched the growth and demise of many bands. Whether it was working with Guns N' Roses or appearing in documentaries, he has seen enough to know what works for bands and what doesn't.

Baur was nice enough to talk at great lengths to me about his love of music and how he has made a career out of it. "Music has always affected me in a very strong way. I just found a way to make money with what I’m passionate about." Read below for my interview with Baur as he discusses the constantly changing industry, innovative ideas that have created success for some musicians as well as his advice for up-and-coming bands and those looking for a career in the music business.

You’re a man of many hats; you’re involved in A&R, a writer, photographer, and consultant for bands as well as teach music business. How did you get involved in each position and how do you manage to balance everything?
The best way to really learn how to do something and be effective in it is to try to do and get involved with as many aspects as you can. So, I tried to get myself involved with as many areas in the music industry as possible and I’ve been fortunate enough to do that. Once you start in one area, if you manage to get a good and solid reputation in that you do get other opportunities. That’s one thing about the entertainment business in general and music in specific, is that once you are somewhat known other people want to work with you on different things and so you start going into different areas. And one thing I’ve always done in my career is I rarely say no when someone asks me to do something and that just led me to one thing after another.

You’ve been in the industry over 20 years. How do you feel it’s changed since when you started?
Years ago, it used to be that the only way an artist was going to be successful was to be signed to a deal on a label. They needed a label to market them, develop them and get them out there. Nowadays that’s not so anymore. In fact, the independent area of both independent artists, artist run labels and indie labels, have come on very strong and in the last few years that trend has really taken hold in the market place. So, being signed to a label is not necessarily required or even an advisable goal for some acts.

Secondly, the other thing involved and this one may not be as positive, is that it used to be simply about the music and musical skills. If you had great songs and really strong musicianship you could probably do very well. But that’s not enough anymore. If just having great songs and being a great player were enough, all we would hear would be great music and that’s not so. There are other factors that come into play. Nowadays artists and managers both have to be pretty business savvy in order to accomplish anything.

Is it necessary for bands to hire publicists? What can they do for themselves?
You should only hire a publicist when you have something to publicize. In fact, I advise artists to work backwards, to first figure out what it is they want to accomplish with that publicity. There is a first phase and that is just simply establishing name recognition. That’s getting your name out there as much as possible so when people hear the name they go, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of that or I saw that somewhere.” But that doesn’t really result in much other than name recognition. Most of the time artists can do that themselves by asking for reviews. Reviews of albums, reviews of live shows. There are a lot of people you can approach in that regard.

If they’re looking to hire a publicist where they are actually going to spend money they need to know what they hope to achieve. Also, a lot of times starting out you may not know who you are as an artist or as a band, what your identity is, what your image is. By image I mean things that are much more than visual. Image encompasses everything you do, from your visual appearance to your music, to your message, to your package — it’s everything. It’s helpful if you have identified that and the publicist doesn’t have to do that for you. So before a band hires a publicist I think they should have developed themselves to a point where the publicist has something to work with and a goal to shoot for.

What do you look for in an up-and-coming band as an A&R person?
Everybody in this industry has a wish list, some are longer than others. In fact, most people that I know who are in A&R or in management, have a list that’s anywhere from three to six points long.

If you’re talking about major labels they want pretty much all of it. They want a complete package, they don’t want any weaknesses in any areas, they want an accomplished, already developed act because they don’t do much development. If you’re looking at indies, they will take an act a little bit earlier. But even at indies, not so much. They want acts that are somewhat developed, have accomplished at least a couple of things. At an indie, the biggest difference is that they’ll give the act more time to be successful. At a major you have very little time to be successful.

As far as me and acts I work with, it depends on a couple things. I will take on what a lot of people call baby bands just starting out if I think there is potential that they could achieve something. I’m not talking about giant success and making millions of dollars and being all over MTV, although that would be wonderful. As long as I think they can achieve something and I can help them do that, I will take them on. The acts I really like and get excited about are ones that I hear great songs, I know that I can tweak their live performance if it needs any help and they have the right attitude. Attitude with an artist is very important because artists can no longer rely on one person or couple people to do everything for them. In fact, artists should not expect anyone to make them, break them or shape them. They are going to have to contribute themselves to that result. It’s important that the artist have the right attitude, the right work ethic and also have the talent and the material to back them up.

I was reading your blog and on one of your posts you said:
“The most successful acts work on their careers EVERY SINGLE DAY. They’ll come home, after hours of menial labor, and spend 2 to 4 hours on their computer, contacting people, updating their websites, and generally taking care of business. No matter what… Are you willing to do that? Are you willing to do whatever it takes? If so, you’ll get a jump on 90% of the wannabes.”
For some artists that’s very difficult to do and some artists don’t like to get involved with that. But they certainly have to have somebody involved with it. Also, it is important that artists have communication and contact with their fans or potential fans. Fans don’t want to talk to me, they don’t want to talk to management, they want to talk to the artist. Artists have to take some time to do that and if they’re not willing to do that, they shouldn’t complain about what lack of results they’re getting. It is important that everyone work together and they be a team. In fact, I just did an article speaking with people at labels, both indie and major, and across board they expect everyone to work like a team. They don’t want acts or management that expect them, at a label, to do it all for them anymore, it’s just too much.

The plus is that artists and independent acts have been empowered. They have a lot more tools available to them, a lot more options they can take in order to achieve success. The downside is that the empowerment requires responsibility. They’re actually going to have to do something. They’re going to have to exert time, effort and money into their career. One person can’t do it all anymore. If you were to try to upload your music to every music site on the Internet, you would be uploading music until the day you die. One person can’t do that and you have to decide what’s important for you. Who’s going to take care of MySpace and all the friends on there, who is going to deal with the email, who is going to promote the shows properly? There is so much to do now that it's impossible for any one person or even a couple people to do it alone. I have coined a new term. Because there used to be a movement, called DIY, Do It Yourself. I now call it DIT – Do It Together because I don’t think one person can do it themselves anymore.

Do you feel it’s easier for bands to breakout today?
Today there are very few rules. In fact, we all know a lot of the old rules don’t apply anymore; they don’t get the results they used to. You can practically make up your own rules. I encourage my students at the Musicians Institute to be as creative and innovative as possible. It’s the people who are going to think of a new way to do things that are going to get attention.

I would really recommend any artist [to] be as creative in their promotions and marketing as they are with their music. Don’t just follow the same old template. If you can think of something unique and new and exciting, you might get the attention and actually break out. Some of the bands I’ve seen break out have had opportunities presented to them because they created those opportunities. They’ve done something unique and different that stands out enough and sets them apart from everything else.

Is there an act that has stood out to you over the years with their creativity?
Radiohead comes to mind immediately. Not because of their music, but their approach to what they did less than a year ago — offering an album to their fans and their fans could pay anything they wanted, including nothing. That’s one of those innovative creative things.

Trent Reznor and Lil Wayne especially, who offered tracks to their fans to remix on their own. Lil Wayne was particularly interesting in that he offered, over a process of one year, almost 77 songs online for free before he ever put out an album. When he finally put out an album, his fans rewarded him for that. They were so devoted and loyal by that time that he had the biggest and fastest selling album of last year. But before he had that biggest and fastest selling album, he had given fans 77 songs for free. That’s the sort of thing that impresses me. These are acts that are thinking outside of the box. When you treat your fans right they will respond and reward you for it.

What advice would you give to writers, label executives and people wanting to work in the music industry when everyone says the music industry is dead?
For anyone wanting to get into it, there are various ways you could do it. Before I get into that, I want to tell you about an interesting observation we discovered at the Musicians Institute.

The Musicians Institute is two different schools. One is a creative school that deals with musicianship and vocals and engineering and all of that stuff. The other one is the school that I am part of, and that is the music business program. We discovered that almost 30-40% of students that graduate from the creative part of the school then take the music business program. They have the skills, now they want to learn how to make a living with those skills. So you have to know business to a certain extent.

Anyone who wants to break in has to decide if they’re breaking in on the creative side or if they’re breaking in on the business side or if they want to know about both sides. The way you do that is you acquire some knowledge initially. However you’re going to do that — reading a book, going to school, whatever you need to do. Going to conferences, workshops. Then you start networking and meeting people and seeing if you can work under someone who may be more experienced. Get yourself a mentor if possible. Or, you could just jump in and try to be a manager and learn by trial and error. A lot of people start out that way, managing up-and-coming acts that are local and are brand new. What you have is to actually do it and get out there. Networking is so very important. This whole business is about relationships. You have to deal with other people, no one does it alone. It’s a very collaborative business, there are always other people involved in success so it’s important that you nurture and establish as many relationships as you can.

Is there any more advice you have?
I just wrote a large article about the music business today and where it’s going and if it’s turning the corner. I think there are a lot of opportunities right now. I think artists should certainly look at them seriously. I do believe that artists should set up their own labels. Once you have music and you are playing a show and you’re trying to promote yourself and sell something, you’re already doing what a label does. So, don’t be afraid to call yourself a label and give yourself a label name.

Additionally, it has a benefit because in this business perception means a lot. If somebody thinks you’re on a label, even if it’s just you on a label, they will treat you in a more professional manner. What artists have to get over is the fact that they may be the only act on the label; it’s still the real deal if they want to have a career. There is nothing wrong; I have no problems with artists who are just doing it for fun. I think for the love of the music is the purest reason to do it in the world. But we’re in LA, and in LA almost every artist wants some sort of a career, some sort of success.

I see a lot of acts and talk to a lot of artists and 99% of them have a very simple wish, which is to make a living with their music so they don’t have to have another sucky job. That, today is very possible. Artists need to look at that. The ones that want to be superstars and on MTV and an international success, yeah they’ll probably have to hook up with a bigger company because that’s very difficult to do on your own. But if what they’re simply looking for is to play their music, do something they love, and make a living doing it, today is the best time for doing that. They couldn’t have done that in the past, but today you can do that.

For more on Bernard Baur, be sure to check out The Composers Corner and Music Connection and read his articles. You can also follow his blog here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Artist of the Week: Matt Wertz

Lately, I've gained an extreme fondness for acoustic singer-songwriters. So fond, in fact, that I'm trying (rather unsuccessfully) to teach myself guitar.

With that said, this brings me to this week's artist of the week installment — Matt Wertz. His laid-back music and moving lyrics have left an impact on me so I wanted to share his music with you. I'm hoping to set up an interview with him soon, so be sure to stay tuned for more details!

You can listen to an acoustic version of "5:19" below.

Watch Matt perform one of my favorite songs, "Everything's Right" for a local radio station below.

If you like what you've heard, be sure to visit Matt's MySpace page and catch a show soon, as he's currently on tour!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jamie Leonhart Keeps Standing Room Only Crowd Singing

Rockwood Music Hall was packed Thursday night for Jamie Leonhart's set while the crowd only seemed to get larger as the night progressed. Performing songs off her latest release, The Truth About Suffering as well as some covers, Leonhart had all in attendance laughing along with her onstage banter and occasionally forgotten lyrics.

With husband Michael Leonhart playing piano throughout the night, Jamie blamed her lyric mishaps to being pregnant, later telling the room, "This is the first outing for the Leonhart trio at Rockwood."

I first witnessed Leonhart live back in December when I covered the "A Holiday Benefit" concert. Of her performance, I wrote: "Leonhart's vocals are heavenly as she blends jazz, pop and soul together, making for a truly impressive set. Comparisons to Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin can be heard throughout Leonhart's classically elegant tunes."

After seeing her nearly hour set Thursday night, my previous thoughts haven't changed. If you get a chance to see her perform, definitely jump on it!

Beginning the night with "Hush," Michael Leonhart's light piano accompaniment blended perfectly with Jamie's beautifully soft vocals. Mid-song an impeccably fitting piano interlude only strengthened the performance.

Next song of the evening was "Who Says Words," another moving track from The Truth About Suffering with lyrics from a poem by Persian poet Rumi. About the song, Leonhart has said, "'Who Says Words,' is kind of a meditation about noticing your own 'bad' behavior but not doing anything to change it. There's a passive struggle in it that I am very attracted to. I set the poem to a melody, and then sat down with Michael and constructed all the chord changes around it."

The rest of the night involved strong covers of some of Leonhart's favorite songs including, "Lucky To Be Me" originally written by Leonard Bernstein and performed by Blossom Dearie. Truly a stand-up number, I could picture myself at a jazz club while listening to Leonhart's performance. With soft crescendos and her own take on older songs, Leonhart made each song her own, always with refreshingly unique style.

Deidre Rodman accompanied a few songs on vocals as well as melodica (a musical keyboard played by blowing air through a mouthpiece in the side of the instrument) — truly a sight to see. With many solid melodica interludes, Rodman wowed the crowd with her expertise on the instrument.

Song favorite of the night was definitely "Control Freak," where many — if not all — in attendance sang along word for word during the chorus. With catchy lyrics, "I am a control freak/I want everything to be neat/And put it all in little boxes/I never will enjoy surprises/I just want control," Leonhart had the song stuck in my head long after it the show was over.

You can download "Control Freak" here.

For more on each artist, be sure to visit their Web sites for upcoming concerts and music.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Chris Brown + Rihanna, What's Your Take?

I try to stay away from celebrity gossip on my blog and focus solely on the music — the inspiration behind the artist, their passion, accomplishments, etc. but all everyone has been talking about lately are the allegations behind the pre-Grammy incident with Chris Brown and Rihanna.

What happened?

No one really knows exactly what took place, but everyone sure has an opinion on it. With the recent leak of Rihanna's photo to the media, I'm curious to what your take on it is? Do you feel it's good to be discussing the situation as a means of bringing light to the subject of domestic abuse? Or, should we simply be giving both parties their privacy and stop interviewing family members and making our own allegations? What does this mean for both of their careers?

I'd love to hear what you think on the situation and what this means to the music industry.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Song of the Week: "Be My Baby"

Being that Estelle Bennett, one-third of 1960s girl group the Ronettes, passed away last week it is only fitting to feature one of their hits, "Be My Baby" as this week's song of the week. Watch below as Estelle and the rest of the Ronettes perform "Be My Baby" and "Shout." To learn more about her life and the band, read The New York Times' recent article here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stay Tuned: Interview with Bernard Baur

A few weeks ago I spoke with Bernard Baur, a journalist, A&R reporter, creative consultant and instructor for the Music Business Program at the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, CA. Having worked in the music industry for over 25 years, Baur's client list includes Guns N’ Roses, System of a Down, Butterfly Boucher, Matchbox Twenty, Rob Zombie, P Diddy, Lil Kim and many, many more.

Additionally, Baur was named one of the “Top Music Business Journalists” in the country by the National Association of Record Industry Professionals. Pretty impressive.

Bernard was nice enough to talk to me at great lengths about the constantly changing music industry as well as advice for up-and-coming bands and those looking for a career in the music business. Here's just one of his answers:

Do you feel it’s easier for bands to breakout today?

If there was a blueprint or a simple map everyone could follow then everyone would be successful. Obviously there isn’t one because everyone isn’t successful. The beauty of it is that today there are very few rules. In fact, we all know a lot of the old rules don’t apply anymore; they don’t get results they used to. You can practically make up your own rules. I encourage my students at the Musicians Institute to be as creative and innovative as possible. It’s the people who are going to think of a new way to do things that are going to get attention.

I would really recommend any artist that they be as creative in their promotions and marketing as they are with their music. Don’t just follow same old template. If you can think of something unique and new and exciting you might get the attention and actually do break out. Some of the bands I’ve seen break out have had opportunities presented to them because they created those opportunities. They’ve done something unique and different that stands out enough and sets them apart from everything else. That’s another problem nowadays, there are so many other artists and you have to make yourself stand out somehow and the only way you can do that is to find what’s unique about you and think of some creative and imaginative way to let the public know you exist and hopefully once they know that and take a look at you, that you have goods to back it up.

For more of my in-depth interview with Bernard, be sure to check back next Tuesday!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

So Long, Virgin Megastore

It's official. Virgin Megastore in Times Square will be closing it's doors in April. Tomorrow marks the beginning of their "biggest sale in music retail history."

According to an article on, Simon Wright, CEO, Virgin Entertainment Group said, "This sale will give our loyal shoppers one last chance to browse the world's largest music store. We'll be offering discount prices on items that might be difficult to find in the days to come, and we hope our customers have a lot of fun shopping this final sale."

Located in the hub of Times Square since 1996, Virgin Megastore is an American icon and tourist hot spot. I can't even count the number of times I've been there. Whether it was catching a glimpse of a musician on my lunch break or trips to New York in high school for album signings and instore performances, Virgin Megastore is a place I'll definitely miss.

The official Virgin Megastore Web site describes the Times Square location as:

"not only one of the Big Apple's biggest attractions, it's also the largest entertainment store in the world! Here you'll find the largest music, games, video and DVD inventory in the world ... plus 600 listening posts, 100 video viewing stations, live music, a one-and-a-half story music video screen and more. Often host to impromptu appearances from artists appearing on MTV's Total Request Live (filmed directly across the street), the Megastore has enjoyed hosting the first-ever instore appearances of Michael Jackson and Nine Inch Nails in the last year, plus many other cool events with acts like Eminem, 'NSync and more."

If you're in the Times Square area, stop by before another major music location becomes a part of history. I'll be going myself tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Album Review: Dan Freedman's "Art Attack"

There is a quote I recently came across that read, “Music is what feelings sound like.” This couldn’t be a more perfect explanation of Dan Freedman’s debut album, Art Attack. Entirely instrumental, the listener feels the emotion produced throughout each track — words not needed.

Freedman, an accomplished jazz pianist and composer, shows listeners the true power of music on his release. Full of emotion, Freedman fills the 10-song disc with graceful and moving piano interludes, having the listener easily hear the pure joy he has playing with each stroke of the keys. While only two songs are Freedman originals, you wouldn’t have guessed it as he brings new life into eight of the remaining jazz standards. The album is a nice mix of piano, piano duo, piano/bass duo and piano/bass/drum trio settings.

Perhaps the liveliest track on the album is first track “On Green Dolphin Street.” A jazz infused song, Freedman demonstrates his prowess at the piano in this jazz trio format. A great way to start the album, “On Green Dolphin Street” is one of those songs you can listen to repeatedly and never get tired of. It’s easy to imagine it being played at a fancy restaurant or concert hall. His improvisational skills only heighten the listener’s regard for him throughout, never letting the listener down. Light percussion and bass accompaniment soon enters, only helping the beauty of the song. Second song, “Very Early” transitions well from the first track. In fact, most of the album runs incredibly smoothly into each other. While “Very Early” is mellower, “Solar” follows with a slightly faster and jazzier vibe.

“Wheatland” and “Chopsticks” bring much variation, but never stray from Freedman’s skilled piano playing. In fact, I don’t foresee a non-likable song on this album. “Sweet Georgia Brown” is edgier and livelier than previous tracks while “Lives At Stake” brings much desired percussion accompaniment closing the album. Any way you look at it, Art Attack is a solid debut album that shows much promise and a long musical career for Freedman.

You can also read the review here, originally posted on

Monday, February 16, 2009

Artist of the Week: Jem

Starting off sophomore release, Down to Earth with Brazilian percussion and soft, yet beautifully seductive vocals, Welsh singer-songwriter Jem catches the listener's attention right off the bat. Track after track, Jem continues to leave her distinct mark, whether it is assisted by Detroit Gospel choirs, hip-shaking beats or introspective lyrics.

Truly an artist to watch, you probably have heard some of Jem's music before. While her songs have been featured on hit television shows like, "The O.C.," "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives," "CSI Miami," and "Six Feet Under" perhaps it is her song, "It's Amazing" that's most familiar — having been included on the Sex and the City movie soundtrack.

"I Want You To..." begins with Spanish dialogue and quickly segues into a catchy song with Latin beats, urging the listener to break out some salsa moves. Next up is "It's Amazing," an inspiring song with uplifting lyrics, "Patience, now, frustration's in the air/And people who don't care/Well it's gonna get you down/And you'll fall, yes, you will hit a wall/But get back on your feet an' you'll be stronger and smarter."

The versatility throughout Down to Earth is incredulous at times. While diversity on an album is a strong attribute to any musician, Jem manages to change things up while staying true to herself. A mix of ballads, danceable Latin tracks and a foreseeable club hit in "Aciiid!" where she sings in Japanese, Jem is truly an artist to pay attention to.

Watch Jem's video for "It's Amazing" below and if you like what you hear, be sure to check her out on MySpace for more music!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Introducing Audrye Sessions + MP3 Download

I don't know about you, but Sunday always seems to be my lazy day of relaxing around the house and checking out new music. One band that seems perfect to listen to on days like this is Oakland quartet Audrye Sessions. With laid-back vocals and fitting musical accompaniment, playing their music is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Take a listen to "New Years Day" here and watch the video for their first single, "Turn Me Off" below. For more on the band, be sure to check them out on MySpace or pick a copy of their self-titled debut in stores Tuesday, Feb. 17th.

Audrye Sessions - "Turn Me Off" from Black Seal on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Blast From the Past: What's Your Get-Ready Song?

I completely forgot about this quiz I put together last year for It's more geared to girls prepping for prom, but could be relevant to getting ready for Valentine's Day today perhaps? If you're in the mood to take a quiz and find out what your "get-ready" song is click here. Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Song of the Week: "Love Is a Battlefield"

In the spirit of Valentine's Day I decided to feature Pat Benatar's 1983 hit, "Love Is a Battlefield." I heard it on the radio just the other day and couldn't think of a more perfect tune for this week. Turns out, Benatar won a Grammy from it in 1984 for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. Watch the music video for it below and enjoy the dance segment mid-song. Gotta love the 80s! What's your favorite 80s track?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Album Review: Maia Hirasawa

Maia Hirasawa's music video for "And I Found This Boy" first caught my attention a few months ago. Not your everyday music video, it definitely jumps out at the viewer. (Watch it below). Since then, Hirasawa has been keeping busy putting the finishing touches on her debut album, due out this spring. She'll be performing for the first time in the U.S. tonight at the infamous Hotel Café in Los Angeles. So, be sure to listen to her MySpace and if you're in the California area stop by for her show!

The Swedish-Japanese singer's debut, Though, I'm Just Me, is an eclectic mix of lively songs and ballads. In fact, she's already been compared to Regina Spektor and Lykke Li, even Bust suggested her similarity to Feist and a "less-angsty Bjork." While some tracks sound incredibly theatrical, others tell moving stories of seemingly real-life relationships. Having written and played almost every instrument on the 14-song disc, Hirasawa takes the listener on a journey on her debut release.

Beginning with beautifully light vocals accented by soft guitar picking on "Still June," Hirasawa's voice sounds familiar at first listen. The familiarity soon changes at the start of next track, "Crackers," which has that Big Band feel with horn introduction and further musical accompaniment.

"Parking Lot" is a slower ballad showcasing Hirasawa's soft, yet at times, wavering voice while "Star Again" features male backing vocals from fellow singer Anders Goransson, who sounds slightly reminiscent to Bono.

Stand-out track is “And I Found This Boy.” With fast-paced horn and piano interludes, this song will undeniably become stuck in one's head all day long. Hirasawa's fluctuating vocals throughout the track keep the listener intrigued and the upbeat musical accompaniment only adds to it's catchiness.

"You and Me and Everyone We Know" differentiates itself from the album with a children's choir accompanying Hirasawa during the introduction of the song which then quickly segues into a string feature. Another emotional track is "Roselin," a sad story of a girl who can't bear to be alone. Hirasawa sings, "She's been abandoned by her family/Didn't know that life could be that hard/But she never complains."

For anyone looking for a new musician to add to his collection, Maia Hirasawa is one artist that deserves a listen. Not your typical album material, Hirasawa switches gears tastefully and has much to offer on her debut disc, Though, I'm Just Me.

Watch Maia Hirasawa's video for "And I Found This Boy" below. If you like what you hear, don't forget to check her out in concert tonight at the Hotel Café in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Q&A with The Canon Logic

With the craziness of CMJ week back in October, I just realized I never posted my full Q&A with the guys of the Canon Logic. Originally, I intertwined my show review and interview for my CMJ festival write-up, (which you can read here) but thought fans might want to read the interview in its entirety. Be sure to check TCL out on MySpace and if you like what you hear, catch their show this Friday at Southpaw in Brooklyn!

The Canon Logic are:
Mark Alu
Sean Enright
Josh Greenfield
Tim Kiely
Michael Mignano

To hear more about their upcoming album, live show and how they define their music (at one point, jokingly as "a mint-scented breath of fresh air") read below.

Is this your first time at CMJ?
Tim: It’s our first time playing at CMJ, yeah.

I loved your set, how was it for your first CMJ performance?
Tim: It was unbelievable. The fans were great. We had a blast; we always have a blast onstage. We felt pretty tight.

Josh: I could only really see the first two rows of people. It wasn’t until the very end that I went up front and realized there was a pretty packed house, so that was cool. Our fans are great.

Mike: It’s pretty cool to know that we can get a good group of people out at 7 p.m. on a Tuesday night and they’re acting like its 11 p.m. on a Saturday; dancing, screaming, singing along. So, it was cool, it was a good feeling.

Is this what you expected CMJ to be?
Tim: I think it was everything we expected and more.

Josh: It was really a great show; a lot of people were there. It was really nice to have our fans come out and support us. It felt like an awesome Saturday night show at a bar.

Tim: It’s fun to be a part of the madness, it’s exciting

You just released another EP and you’re working on an album also, right?
Mark: We just released our EP. It’s a collection of unreleased material just to give people a little something until we’re finished.

Josh: It’s sort of showcasing some of our other stuff. We have a live sound going, but we have some other music that we write that probably won’t make the album, but we still want people to hear it.

What should fans expect from your full-length album out in 2009?
Tim: We’ve dwindled the list from a couple hundred songs down to hopefully 10 to 12 songs.

Mark: It’s the best of the best that we’ve got.

Josh: We’ve finished instrumentals on four tracks and the production is ridiculous.

Tim: It’s the best sound we’ve had.

Mike: Expect a refreshing kick in the face.

How do you feel you stand out at CMJ vs. all the other bands around?
Tim: I think something that we do, which is the toughest aspect of our music, is having five people singing while also being able to handle the rock attitude. I don’t see many bands do it. I don’t know if I’ve seen a band do it and pull it off well. We’re really confident in what we’ve got going and I think that’s what separates us. And we’ve got great songs.

Josh: You can also expect a little bit of everything; some dancing, some singing along. We have a lot of songs that our fans come to shows to see and they’ve been learning the lyrics; they’re really easy to sing along to so they really enjoy getting into the songs and dancing and also head banging and rocking out too.

How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
Mike: Our corny catch phrase is a mint-scented breath of fresh air. Realistically, I’d say it’s a gritty blend of harmony driven pop.

Josh: I think that it hits on anyone from your grandparents to your parents, to my sister who’s in high school, she really likes it. I think we have a wide range of fans. We like to try and bring everybody together. We’re trying to pull from so many different influences. We really like the classic rock stuff and we also like what’s going on now. I think we have a good balance of the two, which allows everyone to really get into the music. We enjoy that aspect of it.

What else do you want fans to know about you?
Tim: Our blog, If you want to be up-to-date about what’s going on with the album. We post pretty much everyday. We’re writing songs every day. There is so much music to show people, we want them to hear it. That’s why we released this EP.

Mike: Can we tell a funny story? We definitely want everyone to visit our blog, we post very regularly to our blog multiple times a day. A quick funny story about that blog is, this morning I was picking up my badge for CMJ. I took a picture of the CMJ thing and I immediately uploaded it to our blog and I titled the post, “CMJ Badge Pick-up.” Well, somehow throughout the day anybody that ended up Googling CMJ Badge Pick-up was directed immediately to our site over So, our site trumped theirs.

How did you pick your set-list?
Tim: We wanted to start off quick and really give everybody a kick to the face while also trying to show our versatility. But really, we were just trying to rock people out for 45 minutes to an hour. We like everyone dancing.

Mike: We like to keep people moving.

How do you react on nights when the crowd isn’t moving or interested in your performance?
Tim: We’ve been together long enough where there’s no one standing there. We try not to let whatever the audience is doing affect us. We’re always trying to be the best we can be. The audience definitely motivates us, but if they’re not kicking it, we still will.

Mike: The bottom line is, whether or not there is one person in the room or 100, we’re still going to give everybody that came the best performance we can give. We don’t get bummed by low numbers if we ever have them. We just rock out.

Did you prepare for your CMJ showcase differently than other shows?
Not too much differently than our normal shows, other than the fact that we’re giving out a lot of free stuff. We’re giving out our EP and hopefully you’ll see people around Manhattan wearing The Canon Logic sunglasses. Otherwise, no. Same kind of thing, coming out and playing our best.

Josh: We have enough loyal fans that every show, even though not everyone can make it to every show, the amount of people we’re pulling from ends up giving us a pretty packed house. A lot of our shows are similar in the sense that people are there, really getting into the music and enjoying themselves. We try not to change it too much.

What is the writing process like between all of you?
Josh: We all like to write. Generally Tim will bring a song in or someone will bring a piece to him and we’ll just throw out ideas. It’s rare that we ever have a finished song that one person brings and does. Maybe we’ll have a bridge and a chorus or a verse and a bridge and then we’ll expand and we’ll try different things. Our songs are rarely ever complete. We’ve been playing this one song, “The Run” for three or four years. It’s probably one of our first songs and we’re still changing it and trying to make it better. Nothing is ever really finished. We’re always trying to change and stay ahead of the curve and keep things fresh.

You were on Warped Tour and MTV2 recently. So your music is definitely getting out there.
Both of those were great because we rarely get to touch upon the teenage demographic. Usually we’re playing at bars so we’re lucky if we can sneak some 18+ in on a good night. That’s a huge crowd playing 13 through 18. We really take advantage of those; we either have give-a-ways or practice extra hard. I think the MTV2 thing was the perfect example. We made a point to be on point and grab as many fans as we could when we had a chance because those opportunities are, at the current time, few and far between.

Do you feel like a band can survive being independent or are you looking for that record deal?
Sean: We don’t feel any immediate pressure for our careers to get a record deal. We know plenty of bands who have gotten low-level indie with major distribution who have just gotten screwed over and they’re on the shelf for three years. We know better than to make a stupid move, but we can sustain ourselves if we put out a really good CD just on MySpace and grassroots. We’re smart guys; we have plans all the time, different marketing schemes.

Josh: The Internet has really been a great tool. We all work and during the day, probably about a few hundred emails in a given day might go back and forth so we’re always in contact. Sure, we have our jobs, but this is what we want to do. We try to do as much as we can on the Internet. I think we’ve gotten a lot of younger fans from the Internet because they’re the ones that go on the Web sites, comment and check things out. That’s why we like to try and get a few all-age shows, 18+. Sullivan Hall is a great venue because it’s 18+, so a lot of the kids from NYU come, a lot of college kids. In the end, that’s the loyal, dedicated people that come out. Once you’re out of college it definitely gets harder to come to shows. The Internet’s been wonderful to us.

Be sure to give the Canon Logic's MySpace a listen and check out their Web site as well. Watch a live performance of fan favorite, "Avenue of Criminals" from their performance during MTV2's "Battle of the Bands" below.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Band of the Week: The Jim Ivins Band

I received an email a while back from frontman Jim Ivins of the Jim Ivins Band, telling me about their recently released EP, Back To Reality. Produced by Ace Enders (formerly of The Early November), the band has opened for a few musicians I've covered, including The Ataris and Sparky's Flaw. So, I decided to give them a listen and liked what I heard.

The songs on Back To Reality are well-produced tracks both musically and lyrically. Begging references to The Ataris, Yellowcard and even New Found Glory, the Jim Ivins Band's mix of pop-rock and emo-punk pulls the listener in. In fact, while listening I felt as if I was taking a trip down memory lane vividly picturing myself waiting in line to get front row at a Good Charlotte or New Found Glory concert.

When checking out their MySpace, one hears the progress from older and guitar heavy songs to the band's latest release. First song off the EP, "The Chance" is a stand-up track that tells the story of unrequited love. With catchy choruses and light, soft vocals that recall fellow pop-punk band Yellowcard (whatever happened to them anyway?) and early New Found Glory, the Jim Ivins Band are well on their way.

The band's sound is reminiscent to many emo band beginnings with those wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve type lyrics (see "Stages of Your Life"). However, the versatility is what branches them out and distinguishes the Jim Ivins Band from inhabiting just one genre of music. An example is "Two Hours Two Days Two Weeks," which demonstrates more of a punk attitude than heard on previous tracks.

"Two O'clock Wake Up Call" is another must listen with solid guitar accompaniment and sing-along choruses while "Stages of Your Life" is a ballad that begins with soft vocals and guitar strumming.

Originally a solo project, Ivins recorded his debut full-length album in 2007. Soon after the band came together with the goal to make "catchy, accessible music with honest lyrics that are easily relatable." And they're doing just that.

Hard to place into one genre, the Jim Ivins Band is a promising Virginia-based band who have a bright future on the music scene. Just listening to the growth on their two EP's is impressive. I'm excited to see what's in store for them.

What do you think? Give them a listen on MySpace and let me know!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Grammy's Tonight!

Tonight is the most important night of the year for many musicians — the 51st Grammy Awards! Who do you think will walk away with the most awards? Here's a list of all the nominations.

One of the most anticipated award each year is Best New Artist, this year's nominees include:

* Adele

* Duffy

* Jonas Brothers

* Lady Antebellum

* Jazmine Sullivan

Tough choice! Be sure to tune in tonight on CBS at 8 p.m. for the results as well as performances by U2, Radiohead, Coldplay, Paul McCartney, Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Katy Perry, John Mayer, B.B. King and many, many more! I'll be updating the results throughout the show on Twitter, so be sure to follow me if you're not yet!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Blast From the Past: Q&A with Baby Jay

Last year Tammy, my friend and editor of, was launching a Web site that focused on teens and preparing for their quinceañera. She asked if I'd be willing to help out and interview a 16-year-old rapper who has been making a major impact in the rap world. Truly an inspiration to others, I couldn't say no! Read below for my interview with Baby Jay.

Have you been to many quinces?
I’ve been to and performed at a few. Once I was the chambelán of honor for my cousin’s quinceañera. At first, I was nervous — all eyes are on you and the quinceañera. But once we started dancing, the nerves went away. It’s kind of the same feeling I get when I perform in front of large crowds.

Has anything funny every happened at a quinceañera you went to?
I think it’s funny and cute to look at pictures of the quinceañera that are shown on the projector, 'cause some of the photos are from when she was a baby and the guests laugh.

Is it true that you answer all your MySpace messages?

Yes, I do it every day. I gotta keep the fans. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here. I love my fans.

How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
I would describe it as positive. It’s good music but it’s not cheesy. We have different songs about non-violence, saying no to drugs, and anti-bullying. I just want to change rap by proving we can still be good rappers by keeping it real, and keeping it clean. People will see rap a whole different way.

In five years, where do you see yourself?
I do want to give back to the community a lot. I still want to rap positive. Five years down the road I still want to be the same way I am now. I know it’ll be different, I’ll be traveling. But I still want to be good with the fans.

You turned 15 only a year ago and your debut album will be released in stores later this year. It seems like all your dreams from 15 are coming true. What message do you want to send your fans about dreaming big?
I thought everything would go wrong with me. I just want to make a difference in this world, send a positive message. Show the kids, “look at me, my parents are divorced, I thought I’d be another teenager out there on the streets. I keep my mind straight, I’m not gonna quit.” Don’t give up on your dreams. You have time. When you’re down, you can’t let that keep you from your dreams.

For more on Baby Jay, be sure to check him out on MySpace. Feel free to read the original article here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Song of the Week: "Peggy Sue"

This past Tuesday marked the 50th anniversary of Buddy Holly's death. Songs like "Peggy Sue," "Not Fade Away," and "Maybe Baby" were staples of the 1950s rock 'n' roll scene. Holly has been said to have inspired Keith Richards, Bob Dylan as well as the Beatles' band name

I grew up knowing his name and specifically "Peggy Sue" being that one of my sister's best friends was named Peggy, alas my Mom would always sing "Peggy Sue" when she was around. It's funny how some things just stick with you. Watch Holly's live performance of the song below on "American Bandstand."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Introducing Asa

Paris born and Lagos raised singer-songwriter Asa's debut self-titled release is a record that begs the listener's attention. With poignant lyrics intertwined throughout each song, Asa is the most brutally, yet beautifully honest record I've heard released in 2009 thus far. Every song on her album is a new gem with moving lyrics mixed in with Afro-beats and soulful reggae influences. In fact, she has already been compared to Bob Marley and Erika Badu and it is no wonder that she has most recently opened up for Femi Kuti on several of his tour dates.

That's not all either. Asa has had great success in Africa and Europe, most recently being awarded the Prix Constantine for the Best New French Artist of 2008. Things have been picking up for Asa in America as well. While her album was released last week in the US, first single "Jailer" has caught much attention throughout the airwaves as well as recently appeared on NPR's "All Songs Considered."

Asa begins the album with "Jailer" and lyrics, "Am in chains you're in chains too/I wear uniforms, you wear uniforms too/Am a prisoner/You're a prisoner too Mr. Jailer." With light guitar strumming and keyboard features, the story within the song jumps out to the listener. She continues her tale, "Life is not about your policies/All the time/So you better rearrange your philosophies/And be good to your Fellow man."

Her one-sheet described her as a "culturally conscious singer-songwriter" and I couldn’t agree more. Tracks like "Fire On the Mountain" and "No One Know" are fitting examples of Asa's cultural consciousness. Lyrics such as "I wake up in the morning/Tell you what I see on my TV screen/I see the blood of an innocent child/And everybody’s watching" and later, "Tell me who’s responsible/For what we teach our children/Is it the Internet/Or the stars on the television?" within track "Fire On the Mountain" demonstrate this.

During "No One Know" Asa sings, "Tell me what’s the need to go to war/All the killings just to settle some one else’s score/When the victory isn’t even sure/No one knows tomorrow." Seemingly fitting for today's world issues, Asa continues to leave an impact on the listener track by track of her debut album.

From the look of it, Asa is not just another emerging musician, but one who is here to stay. She brings a much needed awakening to what the music industry as well as the media have been lacking — truthful lyrics with real emotion and sincerity.

Watch Asa's music video for "Jailer" below. For more on Asa, be sure to check out her MySpace.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Artist to Watch: Findlay Brown + MP3

I recently received a MP3 of Findlay Brown's song "Holding Back the Night" in an email. The song has that classic oldies feel — a mix of doo wop of the 50s and 60s. In fact, I can't help but hear his resemblance to one of my Dad's personal favorites, British-American pop singer Engelbert Humperdinck (don't worry just his stage name, unique I know). And, after reading Findlay's bio I realized my comparisons of his music weren't so far-fetched.

Findlay's upcoming release, Love Will Find You, came together when he was stuck on his sister's couch with a broken leg after being run over by a cab driver. Of the album, he's explained:

"I'd already started going back and listening to a lot of records I'd grown up on, like Elvis Presley, soul music, doo wop, Phil Spector, The Righteous Brothers and the like," Findlay said. "I had an idea about making a modern record influenced by the songwriting of the late 50s and early 60s. I just started writing, trying to work out what made a universally great song, like 'Stand By Me.' These new songs are the first part of that process."

Listen to "Holding Back the Night," a track off his upcoming spring release here.

For more on Findlay be sure to check out his MySpace and if you like what you hear and are in NYC tomorrow, catch his show at Pianos! Be on the look-out for a full album review in the upcoming weeks.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

PT Walkley Impresses at Album Release Show

On the night of his album release, PT Walkley entertained a packed Blender Theater audience by playing his debut album Mr. Macy Wakes Alone track by track in its entirety. With a full band – at times reminiscent of an orchestral arrangement — Walkley conducted the band with the simple nodding of his head. From backup singers to string arrangement, Walkley’s showcase was one not to be missed.

Perhaps the most versatile musician I’ve seen in concert, Walkley’s voice changed drastically from song to song. One example is the mere difference from second song “Why,” where he exercised a softer, more angelic voice complete with fitting string and horn accompaniment, and then made the shift to the deeper and edgier track “No One Needs To Know” — and that was just in the first 10 minutes of his set.

What makes Walkley stand out from other up-and-coming musicians is the content of his album. He has said in interviews that he hopes to bring back cover-to-cover listening and seemingly does so, as the characters and themes on each track intermingle throughout Mr. Macy Wakes Alone. His publicity is doing pretty well, especially after being hand picked by Coldplay frontman Chris Martin to open their Madison Square Garden show.

Not your average singer-songwriter, Walkley has also composed music for several Ed Burns films as well as had his music placed in numerous commercials including MasterCard and GE. With so much varied musical exposure, his diversity in concert no longer seems all that surprising, but continues to impress concertgoers as heard from the screams and applause after each song's end.

With string, horn, percussion and continuous guitar and backup vocals, Walkley’s set did not disappoint. Slower ballad “Coming Over” showcased his deep and trance-like vocals. With the complement of a harp, the concertgoer had the relaxed vibe of being on a tropical island, easily picturing palm trees swaying in the background. Always quick to change the mood from song to song, next track was energetic “The Lucky Ones.” The song featured Walkley’s wife Michelle on infectious backing vocals. Their voices blended beautifully together, and the light musical accompaniment fit well, never overpowering the song's main vocals and narration.

While “Evolution” sounded almost planetary at times, “Calvin the Coroner” had a carnival-esque feel to it. With a faster piano introduction and crescendo of Walkley’s vocals at the end of each line, the song is quirky with lyrics, “When Calvin was a boy there was a lot to comprehend/A high imagination but he never had a friend/His father bought the funeral parlor just around the bend from the Macy’s/He helped around the basement and he swore he’d never tell/He couldn’t stand the bodies but he grew to like the smell/Formaldehyde and suicide were words that came too well to a young boy.”

Before playing upbeat track, “Audrey Macy” Walkley introduced the song by saying, “This song is about a murder and a girl named Audrey Macy.” A captivating tale of a trust fund girl who is never satisfied, she eventually kills her father to inherit money he already has spent, thus forcing her to work the rest of her life. Yet another example of Walkley’s versatility, with fitting electric guitar and percussion, the music only assisted him to tell the story effectively.

With rave album reviews and having recently opened for Coldplay, PT Walkley has definitely been making a name for himself. Setting the bar well beyond most musicians these days, Walkley begs the listener to pay attention to every detail of his performance and album as the recurring themes and characters only make sense when listening cover to cover. Definitely an ambitious musician, Walkley is breaking the mold of the music industry as we know it today, and it would behoove every music lover to give him a listen.

You can read this review, originally posted on Filter here. For more on PT Walkley, be sure to visit his MySpace.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Band of the Week: The Weepies

In the past few weeks many friends and co-workers have been mentioning The Weepies to me, asking if I'm familiar with their music, which I wasn't until today. A relaxed vibe, the band has an undeniably laid-back acoustic feel. My favorite song is the title track off their second and most recent album, Hideaway. A bit soporific at times, their music is the type that makes listeners sit back and forget their problems. An escape from everyday life is something every musician can only hope for.

And, their music must be highly regarded since publicity has been phenomenal for the band as of late. From their music being featured in President Barack Obama's election ads to having a guest spot on hit television show, "Dirty Sexy Money" husband and wife indie-folk pop duo Deb Talan and Steve Tannen are doing well for themselves.

Perhaps what stands out most for the listener is their unique and unexpected harmonies.

"We want to make music that comes from that place where tears come from. Tears for joy, tears for sorrow. It's where we write from and where we hope to connect with other people who listen to our music," said Deb Talan in an ABC interview.

Be sure to check The Weepies out on MySpace, and if their music sounds familiar, below are a few reasons why:

-Deb Talan and Steve Tannen’s music appeared in more than a dozen TV shows, as well as several major motion pictures
-Their iTunes sales topped the folk charts in eight countries
-Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol nominated them for a Short List Music Prize
-Mandy Moore asked them to write with her and sing on her album
-They were invited to open for the Indigo Girls and invited onto the Hotel Café Tour
-They played the Oxegen Festival in Ireland, the Hurricane Festival in Germany, and T in the Park in Scotland
-JCPenney and Old Navy used their tunes as the theme songs for their major holiday TV campaigns

Watch the clip from "Dirty Sexy Money" below to hear The Weepies' featured song "Somebody Loved."

Listen to "Hideaway" below.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Third Eye Blind Interview Featured on Marie Claire!

Head over to to read part of my interview with Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind! I'd love to know what you think. If you haven't yet, be sure to read (or listen) to the full transcription with Stephan here. You can also hear "Non-Dairy Creamer," one of the songs off their upcoming release Ursa Major here.


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