Tuesday, June 30, 2009
This Thursday 1iota is allowing Jewel fans the opportunity to see an hour-long performance for free on the U.S.S. Intrepid. All you have to do is sign up here. 1iota.com is every music lover's best kept secret and now I'm letting you in. (You can thank me later!) The site offers many free television and award show tapings and continuously has new bands and secret shows to catch, so be sure to check it often.
I'll be live Twittering the event so you can follow me Thursday. And who knows, maybe I'll wind up on your television screen when the concert airs Friday. Let me know if you decide to go, it'll be a fun time for sure with guest appearances from the cast of West Side Story! Come on, what better way to celebrate Independence Day than a concert on the U.S.S. Intrepid?
Monday, June 29, 2009
Cannata's album, Blame It On The City, is a diverse mix of emotional ballads like "Tonight" and radio friendly tracks (see title track "Blame It On The City"). With catchy hooks and infectious melodies, Cannata is well on his way.
While piano-based track, "Post High School Years" switches gears up a bit from his previous pop-centric tracks, the album never loses it's flow. Cannata's deeper and darker vocals bring a welcoming change. Singing with the ease and grandeur of Josh Groban, "Post High School Years" is one of the album's stand-out tracks.
Segueing quickly to "Other Side," Cannata continues to take a different approach. His heart-on-your-sleeves lyrics stand out to the listener: "And still I wonder/If you will work it out/And that's just insecurity/Making castles out of clay/I wanna be your everything/I still get embarrassed when I sing/I need a promise from you/That I will be your other side/And not another you confide," he sings.
"Sounds of Summer" is another surprise track. An edgier sound than previously heard, Cannata proves he can change things up and still sound fresh and unique, not always an easy feat for a musician. With such a solid debut release, I can only imagine hearing much more of Cannata in the future.
Watch Eren's music video for "Blame It On The City" above or give him a listen on MySpace and if you like what you hear, be sure to see him on tour. If you're in New York this Wednesday you can catch him opening up for Ryan Cabrera at Sullivan Hall.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
One of the most comical musicians I've interviewed, Jake Owen sure knows how to make those around him laugh. When asked about his dog touring with him, Jake informed the press room that his dog was just neutered, adding, "I realize I need to get neutered. I would probably chill out a lot if that happened." Coincidently, the room erupted in laughter.
While his debut album, Startin' With Me has garnered much success, recent release, Easy Does It isn't too far behind. With first single, "Don't Think I Can't Love You," winning praises from critics and fans alike, Owen is sure to be following in the footsteps of country's great legends. Whether it's his heartwarming ballads or edgier, rowdy tracks like "Eight Second Ride," Owen brings his diversity to the table, always leaving room for the unexpected.
After he hurt his shoulder wakeboarding, Owen picked up guitar during rehabilitation and the rest, as they say is history. Performing this year on LP Field, Owen talked about the thrill to perform on a stage, where two years ago he didn't even have access to, the songs on his latest release Easy Does It and what he thinks about while onstage performing. Read on for more and stay tuned for video footage of my interview with Jake!
How do you feel the recording process was different on your latest release, Easy Does It than your debut album?
I think it was a lot more fun this time around making the record, because while I was making it I was out on the road. I was able to play a lot of the songs I was writing for the record live for people so I got that fan interaction that I didn't have on the first record because no one knew who I was.
Being on tour, do you feel you had a lot more stories to share? Did the writing come easier on this album?
Yeah. I don't really write for records. I just write what I feel like writing. I had a lot of songs to choose from and I felt like it was a really good test out there on the road. Almost a little test ride of songs. People are so honest and truthful and if they don't like songs, you can see it written all over their face. And, if they love it their face lights up and people let you know too.
What's your typical writing process like? Do you carry a notepad everywhere you go?
No. I always keep it up here in the noggin.
A lot of your songs are about relationships. Do you feel a song comes out better if it actually happened to you?
I don't know. I tend to write about the things I know about. But at the same time, I find it a lot of fun sometimes to sit down and completely make up a story and write about it. It's like when you're a kid, you can just make up a story. That's what a love about music. As long as you have a melody, you can put anything to that melody.
Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
Yes I do. I think it was just a silly song I wrote about a girl I hadn't seen in a while and I believe it was called, "It's Been A While," ironically enough.
I wanted to ask about your song, "Who Said Whiskey (Was Meant To Drink a Woman Away)." Was that about a specific person that you always see in the crowd?
Yeah. When I was in college I used to sit on the bar stool and it [the song] says, "Oh boys, you all see that girl in the back standing with the bachelorettes." Any girls that were going to get married would always come in with their bachelorette party and they would always start way in the back, toasting and wearing that thing around their neck saying what they were supposed to do.
In all the old country songs everyone sings about how they would drink whiskey to get a woman off their mind and keep them away from them. But as I've come to notice, whiskey, when mixed with women, they just tend to get closer and they become more friendly. So that's where that came from.
The meaning behind your song, "Green Bananas" is very moving. I was curious as to what inspired it.
I had a friend of mine who had a boat called Green Bananas growing up. A friend of his passed away of cancer. Needless to say, he named his boat Green Bananas because his buddy told him in the hospital, "Don't ever buy green bananas because you never know what tomorrow is going to bring." And I thought, what a great way to look at life.
What's your favorite song to perform?
I like "Don't Think I Can't Love You." That was my first, big, big hit. It went to number two on the chart. I just love singing that song. It takes a lot of effort and I like putting everything I have into music.
Do you have a favorite song that you've wrote?
I really like "Tell Me," which is the first song on my record. I think it has a really cool melody and it's very mysterious, I like that a lot. I didn't write "Cherry On Top" but I like that song. It's got a very sexual connotation to it.
What do you think about when you're onstage?
Depends who's in the front row. [Laughs]. I mean, if there's a guy in the front row with an unbelievable mullet, I'll get on the talkback mic and tell my band, "Wow, that guy has an unbelievable mullet." If there's a girl that's in the front row and she's pulling her top off, I'm probably going to think about that. It just depends on what's in the front row.
Tell me about "Eight Second Ride." Why'd you decide to re-release it?
I don't know what it is about that song. I really don't. I wrote that song when I was in college, which was almost eight years ago. When I wrote it, I was tired of playing "Sweet Home Alabama" and I wanted to play one of my own songs on the bar stool that people didn't get up and get a drink when I put in an original tune so I had to write something rockin' and uptempo. At the time, my brother and I both had big trucks and Jarrod does a lot of spittin' tobacco and he always had a cup that sat on the console and I'd climb in his truck and he'd say, "Hey man, watch out. I've been spittin' in that cup."
So, there's a line in the song about, "Climb on up, but honey watch the cup where I've been spittin' my dip inside." But, people tend to get the connotation that I'm saying, "I'm sticking my ...." but they don't pick up on the fact that I wouldn't stick my dick in a cup. [Laughs]. I think it's just the fact that people let their mind wander. Anyways . . . I don't know what it is. It was on the first record and people loved the song so we put it on the second record and here we are. We play it at all of our shows and before we get to the end of the show people are already chanting, "Eight Second Ride." I'm excited that it's a song that's lived that long.
How does the Nashville music scene differ from the rest of the country?
Well, definitely for country music, it's Music City. It's the birthplace of country music. I love how the city is filled with other people who have the same emotion and passion for music, not just country music. There's a brotherhood here. Whether you are a so called "star" or whether you are someone trying to make it, people embrace you and they want to help you. Everyone here is great people. It's very comforting to live in this town.
You've been pretty creative using Twitter to invite people to dinner, to hide backstage passes. Are you constantly thinking of ways to use Twitter or do you happen to be going somewhere and think, "I'm going to hide a pass under a trash can?"
For a while, before everyone caught on and began Twittering nonsense, I was using it for things like that. I got away from it for a while and I realized how people were really upset. They thought I died or something because i didn't Twitter in three days. I think anything, especially now with the electronic world and to be able to keep in touch with folks, it's a great way to do that. I think the first major Twitter that I did was, I was flying into Dallas and I was hungry and I said, "The first person to get back to me wins dinner with my tour manager and I." And sure enough, we took her out to dinner and it was a great time. It just spreads. I'm doing anything I can right now to gain fans and friends and popularity and I think that's a great way to do it.
What's the coolest thing a fan has ever said to you?
This goes to show you the power of a song, especially one like "Don't Think I Can't Love You," which is probably my favorite to date that I've released. I met Tony and Terri in Phoenix, Alabama, just the other day. I noticed they were standing outside of the bus for quite some time, so I finally walked out and introduced myself and Tony introduced me to his wife Terri and [told me] they had been married for 28 years.
There are stages set up all over town. What's it like to play LP Field?
You don't understand the happiness and joy that I have to be able to play on this stage tonight. Just two years ago was my first year playing on the River Stage and my mom and dad were in town. We came over and I really wanted to go backstage because Hank Jr. was playing and so was Skynyrd. My dad was with me and he's a huge fan, being from Florida Skynyrd is a huge deal. Obviously so is Hank Jr. We tried to sneak down and the guy was like, "Sorry you can't get down." And I was like, "Man, I played the River Stage earlier, seriously, I'm an artist." And he's like, "I don't care. You're not getting down there" So, somehow we snuck around him and got backstage. Well, we get backstage and I run into Newman from WSIX and he's like, "Hey man, you want to introduce Hank Jr. with me?"
I went from not even being able to get onstage to introducing Hank Jr. All the guys that were up in the suite who were from my label and said that I would never be able to get down there because I didn't have a pass, got to see me walk onstage and introduce Hank Jr. So, it's pretty cool tonight that I'm getting introduced to play my own show. It's a really big deal so I feel flattered.
For more on Jake Owen, be sure to check him out on MySpace or follow him on Twitter.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Earlier this week, Reba McEntire talked about the music industry and people in country music she looks to for inspiration and she mentioned you.
Wow. That’s the coolest thing I’ve heard in a really long time! It better be true! Reba is absolutely one of my favorite people on this planet. I think that when you’re making your way up in the music industry you have all these heroes and the reasons why they are your heroes are one thing. As soon as you get into the industry your guidelines change a little bit. For me, my heroes now are great people first and great artists second. People on that list for me are Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire and Faith Hill — people that I just feel strive to be great people and kind people first before anything else gets factored in. To hear something so wonderful from one of those people on that giant, huge, amazing list, that’s awesome. I love Reba!
It seems like you’re going 100 miles an hour right now. Is this too fast or just right for you?
This is just right for me. I’m loving it. I played Atlanta last night and got in at 3 a.m. this morning and then went straight to the Convention Center to sign autographs for five-and-a-half hours and that’s the way I want to live my life. This is absolutely my favorite time of year. I remember when I was 14-years-old and was holding a clipboard interning at the CMA Music Fest, just feeling like if there was ever a chance that one day people would line up to have me sign something of theirs, then that would be a really, really good day for me. I’m really happy to say that today was that day and it’s so wonderful to get the chance to do this.
What role does faith play in your life and your career?
I definitely know that there is someone looking out for me. And, for me it’s just wonderful to know that all of this has happened. There has to be someone up there holding all the cards because I could have never done this on my own.
Thanks to Twitter we know that you may be doing something with John Mayer and T-Pain. Could you talk about working with those artists, the freedom, and what’s that like for you creatively?
I love making new friends and I respect people for a lot of different reasons. For me, great music doesn’t just have to fall into one category or one genre and I love appreciating all kinds of music. Country music is obviously my favorite and that just goes without saying. But, I’ve always loved John Mayer and I think T-Pain is brilliant. Getting to work with people like that has been really, really fun for me. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do and the fact that country radio has been so wonderful to me and has remained so true to me despite the fact that I’ve gotten to go and do all these things that I’ve dreamed about doing. It’s just been a really, really cool thing.
Your music is so personal; it’s almost like writing in a diary. Do you remember the first time you performed and were you nervous that the person you were singing about was in the audience?
For me, writing a song, I sit down and the process doesn’t really involve me thinking about the demographic of people I’m trying to hit or who I want to be able to relate to the song or what genre of music it falls under. When I sit down and write a song the only person that I’m thinking about in that room is the person that I’m writing the song about and what I want them to know and what I wish I could tell them to their face, but I’m going to say it in a song instead. So, for me, music is really more about a diary and a confession. I love it. I love getting to say things to people that I wouldn’t say to them if I was standing face to face with them. Music is a way of verbalizing those things that I feel that I can’t say.
What country song do you relate to most?
I have favorites. My top favorite country songs are “Run” by George Strait or “You Were Mine” by the Dixie Chicks or Faith Hill “Breathe.”
What was the craziest thing you’ve had to sign?
I’ve had a lot of interesting things like a turtle shell with my face painted on it. That was the winning touch. But today, my fans know me so well and they get me awesome presents. This girl brought me this bracelet [that I’m wearing] and I really like it. A lot of the jewelry that I wear and that you see me wear are fan gifts because they’re so awesome and they give me great presents.
Thousands of girls are running around in sundresses and cowboy boots. Is this a fashion phenomenon for you?
Yes! That’s awesome. I wasn’t trying to start anything. I wasn’t trying to make people dress a certain way, but seeing girls coming to my shows wearing sundresses and cowboy boots and curling their hair is one of my favorite experiences ever because I remember when I was weird for dressing the way that I dressed and I was weird for having curly hair. It’s really fun to see that I’m not that weird anymore.
What do you do to keep from burning out?
As far as burning out, I get tired a lot, but I never get tired of it. Because for me, I remember when I was a little kid and I used to sit there and think about how lucky I would be one day where people cared about the words that I wrote or how lucky I would be if someday I was just walking through the mall and saw some little girl walking by with my face on her t-shirt.
You can also read this interview on MarieClaire.com here.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
The highlight of CMA week for many fans was Taylor Swift signing at the Nashville Convention Center Sunday morning. While hundreds camped out 18 hours for a chance to meet her in person, Swift showed her appreciation to each and every fan in line. Introducing herself with a welcoming hug and talking one-on-one before signing everything from a photograph to a fan's guitar, Swift demonstrated just why fans are so receptive to her, signing for well over five hours.
Pictured above is one such fan, Shannon Calley from Birmingham, Alabama who drove three hours and slept outside since 8 p.m. Saturday night to meet Swift. "It was crazy. There were so many people, but I'm so glad I got to meet her," Shannon said. "She is one of the nicest people ever. I'm so happy she got to sign my guitar because I started playing because of her. The fact that she got to sign it is awesome."
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
"All I Want To Do" by Sugarland
The chorus just won't leave my head. "All I want to do-o-o-o-o-o." Give it a listen on YouTube, I think you'll agree.
"Chicken Fried" by Zac Brown Band
Zac Brown Band blew me away during their performance Friday night at LP Field. I haven't seen a band with that much energy and diversity in a while. (See about 4:15 minutes in). Love the lines "You know I like my chicken fried/Cold beer on a Friday night/A pair of jeans that fit just right/And the radio up." Come on, don't you?
"Don't Think I Don't Think About It" by Darius Rucker
Hootie & the Blowfish fans have followed frontman Darius Rucker embrace a solo country career and his debut album was praised by critics and fans alike. I took a personal liking to Rucker the first night of the press conference. Still new the the press conference setup, I kept raising my hand and trying to ask him a question when everyone else talked over one another jumping in over me.
What do you think? Do you like any of the songs? I'll be introducing you to some musicians with my upcoming interviews and I'd love to hear of your favorite country musicians.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
This past week's annual CMA Music Festival reminded me of why I'm so passionate about music. The energy, the excitement, and the thrill of meeting your favorite musician is an experience everyone can relate to. Despite a few technical snafus (including a five hour flight delay due to a failed electrical generator and my laptop crashing while attempting to live blog the festival), the behind-the-scenes access to CMA week and determination to bring you the most intriguing interviews and festival coverage is what kept me going.
Growing up, I was a huge music fan, always researching the latest news on my favorite band, in constant hope to one day meet them. CMA makes this dream come true for country music fans. Whether it was waiting in line for an autograph (in Taylor Swift's case hundreds of fans camped out over night) or attending an exclusive fan party where a band debuts new tracks off their upcoming album and takes questions from those in attendance, the CMA Music Festival is unlike any other music festival out there. The entire week is solely dedicated to the fans and thanking them for their continued support. After all, a musician wouldn't be anyone without his fans.
Over the course of four days I interviewed some amazingly talented up-and-coming musicians (David Nail, Jake Owen, Holly Williams) as well as some of country's legends (Martina McBride). Additionally, I learned how to be more aggressive in the nightly press conferences and ask your question recommendations suggested in last week's poll. While I'm more a fan of one-on-one interviews, the first night was a learning experience as press conferences are often a free for all with everyone jumping in and talking over each other. While Thursday was an adjustment, by Friday I was a pro and able to get in many questions to some of country's hottest talent. Thanks for submitting them!
I traveled to Nashville with two friends, Wendy and Deana who helped me out with photos and video footage during the festival, so I'm psyched to include their coverage as well within the next few days. Be on the lookout for tons of interviews, photos and trip highlights, including a stop at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Studio B as well as Memphis to visit Elvis Presley's infamous Graceland estate.
Being in Nashville for CMA week really opened up my eyes into the country music realm and I was so glad to be a part of it. Somewhat of a newbie to the genre, what I saw this week were some of the most down-to-earth, appreciative and welcoming people in the business and it's so refreshing to see the stars so receptive and engaging with their fans. I just may have to make a yearly trip to Nashville from now on!I'll be working hard to get all my coverage up for you asap, but in the meantime feel free to visit my Twitter account for my daily festival footage.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
With hit single “Closer To Love” climbing the charts from latest album release, City of Black & White and a headlining tour on the way, Mat Kearney will be spending the next few months on the road. Not that being on tour is anything new to him. Having played with the likes of John Mayer, Sheryl Crow, The Fray, and most recently Keane, Kearney has been perfecting his stage show and acquiring many fans along the way.
When recently interviewing Kearney, I learned of some intriguing tales, which he suggested to describe as “the thrill of songwriting.” Surprisingly enough, Kearney doesn’t own a piano but instead, finds ways to utilize one when late night writing sessions deem it necessary. “I found that institutions had the best pianos sitting around and would find ways to get into them. I don’t think the University of Oregon figured it out. I had to use a credit card and scale a wall. There was a balcony involved.”
Kearney, your secret is out. Although, I don’t think the University of Oregon would mind too much as long as they receive some writing credit. City of Black & White is sure to follow in the footsteps of previous hit album, Nothing Left to Lose. Read on to learn more about Kearney’s writing process, struggles of being an opening act and the album, which he describes as having a visceral quality, something he hopes “hits you in the chest like a fist.”
You can read the full transcript of my interview below, as well as listen to the audio. To hear Mat talk about the new album, his writing process and stories behind his songs, click here. For his view on writing about personal relationships, being an opening act and advice to aspiring musicians, click here
You’ve been on tour non-stop the past few years. Do you feel that experience helped out with writing the new album?
Yeah. I got to take last year off, so I got a little break. Nothing Left to Lose was an album that I wrote just in my bedroom and you don’t know who is listening or who cares. This record is 500 shows later so there’s definitely the live thing that helps inform what you’re doing. You just get better playing live. You find what kind of players you want around you. You end up writing songs that are a little more tense and you picture how they’re going to interact with people. The live thing just totally influences how you make the record.
You collaborated with Nashville artists on City of Black & White. How was collaborating different from writing a record by yourself in your bedroom?
I think some people have a lot of success and they want to do it all themselves. For me, I just wanted to do the opposite thing. I think the history of Nashville, the songwriting community, and all of the people that are my heroes – Johnny Cash, Elvis, and Bob Dylan even came through town – they invited all their friends. It wasn’t that I got the industry; I just really got my friends involved in the record. Some solo artists that probably nobody’s ever heard of that I just really respect, we sit on the front porch and drink coffee together or people that I know really well, I just invited them. We’d be sitting around the living room and someone would be writing a song and we’d join in and then I’d actually record those songs. A lot of it I still wrote, but I just opened it up to a little broader group of people.
Do you have a typical writing process?
No. It’s always different. You never know what’s going to happen. Sometimes there are songs, sometimes it’s a movie, sometimes it’s your friends, sometimes it’s a book, sometimes you’re laying in the bed in the middle of the night and you hear this idea going through your head and so you have to get up and write it down. It’s very different. Sometimes I’m breaking into schools and writing on a piano because I really wanted to write on a piano. It’s very varied. It’s elusive the writing process.
Do you have a certain track that sticks out most for you?
I think “City of Black and White,” the album title, is a good one. I was writing it with a friend and we were far away. We were in the city of Istanbul of all places. We wanted to get away and I wanted to go where my cell phone didn’t work. We were sitting overlooking the river in this really hectic city and we were just messing with this idea, this black and white idea of these colors exploding into this black and white world. It just seemed like a good song to anchor the record on.
Did you feel pressure recording the album since your last album was so successful?
Yes and no. I wasn’t that nervous because I had all these other bands like The Fray and John Mayer and people who had these massive successes to compare myself to. I was like, “Well, I’m not dealing what they’re dealing with” so that’s nice. Nothing Left to Lose was literally 12 of the first songs I had ever written. I was so excited to keep creating. Even now, I’m really looking forward to recording again at some point because I haven’t been doing it my whole life and I’m so excited about it. From that process, it was really fun.
So, I tried not to think too much about it and just keep my head down and write songs that I really loved and believed in. I think that somehow got me through any pressure I would feel. But, it definitely is different knowing there are people that care and are waiting for something. Its different then you and your buddy making a record in your living room. As much as you try to pretend you don’t know that, you still know that and you care about what they think and whether they want to buy it or not. At the end of the day, music is about self expression but it’s also a communal thing for me. I write songs to be shared with other people and for other people and I have other people in mind when I write them.
Writing, at times, is very much like a diary entry. Do you ever hold back because you don’t want to share too much?
You find your ways to say what you need to say. But no, I think there are those things where if you feel like you’re supposed to talk about them and they’re really freaky a little bit, I think those are the things you really need to talk about if they’re scary.
It’s more the people that are close to you that freak you out. Like the people that know you’re writing about them. Something like, my asshole brother, you know? Even though my brother isn’t an asshole, but if he was those kind of moments when you’re like, “Well, Johnny’s gonna hear this and he’s not going to like this.” Mrs. Bower in the third grade, she was terrible. That kind of thing. Just joking.
Did they find out that you broke into your college?
It wasn’t my college. I made a habit of that. I never owned a piano, so all the songs I write on the piano, I never owned one and I always wanted to write them at odd hours of the night. So, I found ways to find pianos. I found that institutions had the best pianos sitting around and I [would] find ways to get into them. But, I don’t think the University of Oregon figured it out. I had to use a credit card and scale a wall. Not really scale a wall, there was a balcony involved. Maybe add it to the thrill of the songwriting.
Tell me about “Lifeline.” I love that song, the lyrics behind it.
I wrote it with some friends, Trent [Dabbs] and Matt [Matthew Perryman Jones]. We were just exploring this idea of losing something and finding the end of yourself. It’s pretty simple in its desperation. It’s one of the more desperate pleas for something. It’s like someone at the end of their rope, looking for some help and some guidance. It’s a desire to fit in or maybe they’ve tried their best and there’s this foiling of all their plans that they’ve created. Sometimes it’s a good place to be, being completely humbled in a sense that your plans are frustrated in a good way.
Of course I have to ask about “Annie” because it’s my name also.
“Annie” was a song I actually wrote about this girl. She used to work for my label and she worked in Indianapolis. She told me her story about her family and having to leave. So I was driving home on the way back from this really smoky, dirty venue called Birdies. We were in the back of the van on the way to the hotel. I think we were listening to some weird ambient music, and I just remember writing the whole song, word for word almost. Just trying to think about that idea of those difficult moments where leaving is really hard, especially when it’s people you love, but you know it’s what you need to do.
Do you feel a song comes out better when it’s based on a real relationship vs. writing from fantasy?
Well, I don’t think that anything is entirely real or anything is entirely fantasy when you write it. It’s like “Schindler’s List.” The movie is incredibly real, but it’s not real on one level. Those dialogues, no one recorded them. That’s a really bad example. But yeah, it’s bits and pieces from real life. Some of it is stories or characters interacting together in your head. Sometimes it’s the movies, sometimes it’s the books, sometimes it’s a friends life, sometimes it’s so painfully specifics of my life that I wouldn’t even want anybody to know that they’re that specifically honest.
When was the moment you realized you want to be a musician for the rest of your life? Do you want to be a musician the rest of your life?
I don’t know. I just feel lucky to be able to do what I’m doing now and keep doing it. I was in high school and I was this kid that didn’t know my place and got terrible grades, but everyone was like, “This kid is creative. He's smart.” I wrote this poem and I remember the teacher read it and she sat me down. I thought I was going to get in trouble. She told me, “You’re really, really good at this. You need to write.”
So I had that little nugget that I was carrying with me in my heart and I went to college and became a literature major. Just writing and reading and being super moved by stuff. I remember sitting down with a guitar and I started writing songs and I felt like the whole world fit. This thing this teacher told me that I could write, and this world of music I grew up completely moved by, it just came together. And I was like, “Okay, this makes sense and I want to do this.” It wasn’t like I want to do this the rest of my life, it was like, “I want to do this now.” Then I want to do it tomorrow and the next day and every day I would wake up and I still want to do this. This is still something I’m really passionate about. The rest of my life is a scary term anyway.
As an opening artist, do you feel it’s still hard to win over the crowd?
It’s the fun challenge of opening. I feel like it makes you better, opening for people. It’s like, if you’re telling a joke to your mom everything is funny, but if you tell a joke to someone who doesn’t care about you, you learn where you stand and if it’s funny. Opening, I love it, but it’s challenging. The Keane fans have been amazing, but I think we’ve brought our own share of fans out. I think we’ve held our own.
On “Undeniable” you freestyle for a bit at each show and add a line or two about the city you’re in. Do you actually visit the places you mention in the song? Do you research the lines?
No, it’s whatever comes to my mind. There’s definitely no researching those moments. I think we had gone there the night before, hung out, got some food down on Queen Street. I’ve traveled a little bit so I have a little love for each town, a plethora of experiences to draw from. A little stock pile of every city I go to. So no, I don’t research. I do research, yeah, but it’s me getting off the bus and walking around towns and I’ve been doing that for four years.
Earlier tracks you had more of a Hip-Hop spoken word feel, and this record not as much. Are you going to go back to that?
I don’t know. For this record, I met with this producer named Rick Rubin, and we talked about that and I said, “I’m struggling writing this way.” And he said, “Just write all the songs you’re supposed to write and the songs that are supposed to be together will and they’ll make sense.” And that’s what I did. I wrote almost 30 songs for this album and the songs that I felt strongest about were these 12 on City of Black & White. As far as a particular style, I have to keep moving for me and I have to be excited about what I do. I don’t want any part of what I do to become a shtick for someone for what I have to do.
It’s like a joke that’s really funny that everybody wants you to tell every night and you don’t want to tell it, you want to tell a new one. I’m just on a journey. I don’t think I’m done with any certain particular style. For this record, I’m really excited about. I wanted it to be more refined and more to the point and more classic pop record and not as much Jack Kerouac stream of consciousness. It’s a little more heavy, more up-tempo. That's 500 shows later too, me just wanting to connect with the audience. You play every night and realize, “Man we can turn this up a few notches” and then you start writing that way and it’s cool.
How do you feel the Nashville scene is different than other parts of the country?
It’s a city that’s built around community and it’s a city that’s very much about the collective. Creatively, fashion comes a distant second to the song. The song is God in Nashville music. It’s a city that doesn’t put up with a lot of fluff. It values humility. In the history, you feel like you’re walking around in the shadow of these humble giants. These people that were great, but were hard working people from rough farming families. The Woodie Guthrie’s and the Johnny Cash’s and those kinds of people. It’s just not very fashion driven. Nothing’s wrong with that. It’s just very substance driven. Production and the fashion side comes second to the heart and the song. It’s very much written driven around the traditional song based music.
What’s your advice to upcoming musicians?
I always go back to my uncle’s statement and it’s maybe why I love Nashville. He said, “If your vibe outweighs your substance, you are destined to be a novelty.” I’ve always sought to get after something that’s foundational in people. That comes through my faith, through my belief in life, through trying to hit something that’s true every time. I think that’s really where you move people, when you touch on something that’s true, that’s not based on fluff or based on a moment or a movement. It’s based on something that’s real that you acknowledge people.
You can also read this interview on MarieClaire.com. For more on Mat, be sure to visit his MySpace to listen to some tracks off the new album and catch a show when he's in town!
Monday, June 8, 2009
Songs like "This Girl" are upbeat and fun, the kind you have the windows and sunroof open while driving to the beach. In fact, most of her MySpace tracks have that same quality. Ballestrini's music is fitting for her age. She never tries to be someone she isn't, whether she's singing about boys, not knowing what she wants or unrequited love.
Current hit "Amazing," is blowing up the Country music charts and debuted No. 6 on CMT's fan-voted "12 Pack Countdown," above Taylor Swift’s new video "You Belong With Me." A pretty impressive feat for an up-and-coming artist.
It's remarkable that just a few months ago, Ballestrini introduced her new music to fans on MySpace and Facebook. Since then, she’s met with an overwhelming welcome, her MySpace page views soaring to more than 8 million.
You can listen to her song, "Amazing" and watch behind the scenes of her music video shoot below.
For more on Ballestrini, be sure to visit her on MySpace and, if you're headed to Nashville for the CMA Music Festival check out her appearances listed. I'll be interviewing Veronica this Thursday, so if there's anything you want to know about her, leave your responses in the comments.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
I'll post a few of my favorite questions as options for the poll, but please leave comments of things you want to know. Thursday will be here before we know it and I want to make sure I ask what you most want to know. So, if you could ask any artist one question, what would it be?
What is going through your head while performing onstage?
What is your typical writing process like?
When was the moment you realized you want to be a musician?
Do you feel a song comes out better when it’s based on a real relationship or fantasy?
Saturday, June 6, 2009
What are some of your favorite country songs? I'd love to hear your recommendations!
Friday, June 5, 2009
Over the past 18 months or so, I've had the pleasure of covering and interviewing some extremely talented musicians. Many, of which I've seen live multiple times and keep in touch with, whether it be on Twitter, MySpace, etc. And, it's always a thrill to see a band that I've featured take off, get a record deal, or be featured in a prominent music magazine.
There are a few bands previously featured on You Sing, I Write who have some exciting news as well as free downloads (legally of course) that I wanted to share with you. Whether it be catching a show, buying an album, or listening on MySpace every little bit helps and I think you'll enjoy at least one (if not all) of the bands featured below. I'd love to hear what you think!
A Moment's Worth
I featured AMW a few weeks back as an Artist of the Week and was psyched to learn that they have recently been signed to In-n-Out records in Japan (home to bands like New Found Glory, Finch, Allister, Home Grown, etc). Check out all the info on their blog.
The Jim Ivins Band
The Virgina-based band just released their brand new EP for free to anyone who signs up for their mailing list. Sign up and get your free download at the band's MySpace.
Lights Resolve and Ace Merrill
I've featured both bands on the blog in the past and was impressed to see them featured on Alternative Press' Battle of the Band contest to play Warped Tour along with a third band, Van Atta High. Listen to a song from each band and read their bios on Alternative Press and vote for your favorite here.
A fellow Jersey native, Brindley has a lot of exciting things going on and is in the process of recording his new album. He's decided to go the self-released route and is enlisting the help of his fans through donations, providing them with some cool perks. For more information and to help him out, click here.
So glad to see these bands taking off! It's been an exciting journey following them and I hope to only continue to learn of each artist's increasing success. Any bands you think I should give a listen? I'm all ears.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
A few weeks ago in Zootopia's press room, Momsen revealed her surprising passion for music (over acting) as well as the behind-the-scenes scoop on what it’s like on the set of “Gossip Girl.” Read on for more.
How would you explain the band’s sound? What’s your live show like?
It’s a lot of fun. We just started touring. We just had our first leg of our tour with The Veronicas. The sound is rock ‘n’ roll. It’s a lot of fun. I wrote the whole record and we’re just tweaking all the production now. There should be stuff up online really soon. Check out theprettyreckless.com. Rock ‘n’ roll. Let’s bring it back.
What does being in a rock band give you that acting doesn’t?
Acting, I have been doing for a really long time and I love it. But, music feeds my soul. It’s what I live for.
Would you prefer to be a major movie star or a major rock star?
I love them both so much. I’ve been doing them both for as long as I remember. Music is what I live for. I’m so passionate about it and it means so much to me personally that if I was to have to give it up in any form, that would be really bad. I don’t want to say that I would choose one over the other. But, music holds a special place that acting doesn’t.
Sometimes the media can be difficult to handle. How do you deal with it?
Well, the kiss of death is to read about yourself online. Don’t do it and you’re cool. You just have to have a strong head, be smart about it and not listen to what anybody says about you because no one’s going to say nice things.
How is the crowd responding to you on tour? Being an opening band, do you have to win them over?
Yeah. It’s funny. The Love Willows is a band that opens before us. They’re cool, but they’re so different and they’re really happy and colorful and totally not rock. Then we come on and I think we shell shock the audience a little bit. So, it takes a second for them to warm up. Everyone just stares at us. It’s a lot of fun.
What’s it like on set of “Gossip Girl.” Tell me about the chemistry.
The chemistry is great. We’re like a family now. We’ve been together for two years; we’re in the third season. It’s awesome. Everyone loves each other. It sounds so contrived, but it’s nice.
For more on The Pretty Reckless, listen to a track on MySpace. What do you think?
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Here's your chance. You can enter to win a trip to All Points West by visiting one of the stores on this list, or signing up online here. Prize includes a pair of tickets for all three days of the festival (July 31 - August 2) as well as travel and hotel accommodations. Good luck!
For more information and a full festival lineup click here.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
A mix of folk, Americana and blues, Time & Materials is a versatile release that offers much to its listeners. Whether it’s an eight minute instrumental song or a bluesier track (aptly titled “The Blues”) featuring multiple harmonica interludes, the album has that laidback, personal and at times campfire feel.
“Even though I’ve written a great many rock songs, there’s an intimacy that seems to feel so natural in a song composed and played on an acoustic guitar. You feel like your song expresses exactly the profound experiences and passionate feelings that inspired you to write,” Burnham said. I couldn’t agree more with his sentiments.
Starting off Time & Materials with “Better Dream,” the listener quickly feels the emotion in Burnham’s longing vocals. “Clock is tickin’ there upon the wall/Sunset scatters long shadows in the hall…I hear whispers and screams/Maybe there’s somethin’ better/Maybe there’s a better dream,” he sings with fitting finger picking as the questioning of life and its adequacy is displayed. In addition, a confused edginess is felt mid-song throughout the more somber lyrics.
“Carey Won’t You Sing For Me” is a more uplifting track with the man in the story requesting a beautiful song from his lady, Carey. “Carey won’t you sing along/You put such magic in a song/Your notes are never wrong,” Burnham sings. Obviously, the title says it all.
Time & Materials encompasses many instrumental tracks. While on any other album this may seem peculiar, Zan Zone proves to be the exception. Each song allows the listener to decipher as he wishes, making up his own story as the guitar or banjo plays along. The flow between each track seemingly provides the album’s own tale. Case in point: “September Rain” segues nicely after instrumental “Charles O’ Connor” so well in fact; it seems that both songs belong as one.
Whether it’s providing self introspection on “That Flame” or jamming throughout eight minute track “Skydog Salute,” Zan Zone demonstrate their prowess on each instrument. The variation keeps the listener on his toes, not quite sure what to expect next. While solely instrumental tracks are often hard to sway the listener, Zan Zone manages to keep the audience engaged, and that for any band is an impressive feat.
For more information, check out Zan Zone on MySpace. You can read this review, originally posted on ReviewYou.com.
Monday, June 1, 2009
What perhaps is most striking about Emmich is the deep and at times melancholy stories behind his songs. At first listen, many tracks have that pop feel, but after paying more attention his tales don't always end well. Take, for instance, "Hurt More Later." The words tell a narrative of the beginnings of a seemingly fruitful relationship, but when paying closer attention you soon realize that this is no fairy tale:
"Conversation comes naturally/He holds your hand real carefully/Butterflies are fluttering/Your courage is sputtering/Cuz you never win/You're finally there/When your heart starts to wear/Cuz you know how this ends/Passion fades, you pretend . . . It hurts now but it will hurt more later/Hurt more later/Much more much later."
While "Hurt More Later" develops it's almost as if a choir of school children are singing along with tambourine features, despite the obvious unfortunate end to a relationship. However depressing the song may seem at it's close, the listener can't help but to hit that repeat button and listen once more.
Emmich's MySpace page includes a solid cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker's "American Girl" as well as some softer ballads, like "Snowy Day." At times his emotion filled songs bring comparison to that of Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba. (See piano-based track "The Only One Lonely").
Whether it's his screaming throughout "Shock" ("You've got one chance to complain/Just one chance to complain/Then I'm leaving") or longing in "Just To Feel Alive Again," one thing is certain — Val Emmich continues to grab your attention. And, with guest roles on "Ugly Betty," "Third Watch" and "30 Rock" the current indie artist will be sure to win over more fans.
For more on Val, be sure to visit him on MySpace.
Recommended: For fans of Dashboard Confessional, The Ataris, and an angsty John Mayer.