You Sing, I Write: April 2009

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Introducing MTV's "$5 Cover"

I just found out about MTV's new show, "$5 Cover" and I have to say, it's about time there's a legit reality show about musicians. Premiering tomorrow, Friday, May 1 at midnight, the series, directed by "Hustle and Flow" writer-director Craig Brewer, captures the lives of Memphis musicians. Part reality show, part indie cinema, "$5 Cover" will be aired on MTV and on the Web site

The show follows five Memphis musicians and their respective bands including Craig Brewer, Al Kapone, Amy Lavere, Ben Nichols and Clare Grant. Watch as lives collide, drama ensues and the everyday struggle of a musician is brought to light.

You can watch an exclusive preview of "$5 Cover" below and head over to for interviews with each artist. I don't know about you, but I'm hoping this one sticks around for a while. You can read more on the show in a great LA Times piece here.

What do you think? Will you be watching? Follow along on the show's blog here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Shiny Toy Guns Bring Energetic Show to NYC

I don’t think I’ve witnessed a concert as versatile as Shiny Toy Guns performance last Thursday at Webster Hall. A blend of every musical genre you can possibly imagine — dance, rock, electronica, indie, even some Hip-Hop thrown into the mix — Shiny Toy Guns surely impressed all in attendance.

Their explosive sound is indisputable as the floor of Webster Hall shook continuously from the beginning to the very end of their performance. (So much so, that a few times I literally thought it may cave in.) In fact, their 13-song hour-long set didn’t seem long enough for die-hard fans as the show closed with continuous screams for a second encore.

Surrounded by fog and bright lights, the LA-based band started off with “Starts With One” from debut album, We Are Pilots. Their performance was stellar and the intensity never faltered. Shiny Toy Guns were spot on as they segued from electronic songs to more rock based tracks with keyboard accompaniment. Whatever they were playing, they did no wrong.

It’s hard to determine which song was the crowd favorite. While high energy dance track “Ricochet!” brought the hands in the air, “Le Disko” switched things up with its heavy bass and percussion elements. And I can't forget to mention the sing along choruses encompassing hit single “Ghost Town” from most recent release, Season of Poison. With its soaring guitar and keyboard features throughout the track, “Ghost Town” had the crowd screaming for more.

Currently on tour with the All-American Rejects, Shiny Toy Guns were clearly in their element Thursday headlining Webster Hall. “It’s good to be back,” co-lead singer Chad Petree said. “We have a lot of pent up energy.”

And he wasn’t lying. Fellow co-lead singer, Sisely Treasure’s energy was contagious and her constant jumping around onstage only enticed the audience to do the same. Highlights included the band’s cover of Depeche Mode’s “Stripped” as well as last song of the night, “You Are the One.”

While they’ve been opening up for the All-American Rejects, there is no denying the need for Shiny Toy Guns to be headlining their own shows. Definitely a band I recommend catching live if you have a chance, as I would see them again if the opportunity arises.

For more on Shiny Toy Guns be sure to visit their Web site and MySpace where you can download a song for free!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Artist of the Week: Will Dailey

Reminiscent to Gavin DeGraw with that slightly raspy yet longing voice, Will Dailey is perhaps most known for single, "Rise" having performed it on hit television show, "CSI: New York." In fact, you may have heard of Dailey's music before without realizing it as many of his songs have been featured on various television dramas.

There is something so classic about Dailey's voice. Rooted in rock with hints of that acoustic singer-songwriter vibe, his music has a timeless quality to it. While "Peace of Mind" talks about troubled times, rock centric track "Never Be Your Baby" confronts a failing relationship. Stand out number, "Love On the Way" has that old 60s feel with a hint of jazz and soul making the listener wonder if this is in fact the same singer.

"Allston" has more of a folk and at times, country feel to it demonstrating Dailey's versatility and ability to successfully switch things up. A darker song, he sings "In a dull smile and parted heart/Time won't fix what yesterday starts." The slow, eerie guitar accompaniment suits the song perfectly.

What makes Dailey stand out from the numerous up-and-coming bands today is the fact that he'll be releasing EPs all year in three-month periods. Every three months he'll give fans the latest material he's been working on. Unlike a typical album, the process will allow fans to receive music with such immediacy that is unheard of in today's recording industry. The final product, Torrent is expected to be released June 9th. With featured cameos from members of Letters to Cleo, The Cars, Dropkick Murphys and the Byrds, each EP is surely something to look forward to.

Be sure to watch Dailey perform on CBS’s "The Early Show" June 11th. For more on Will, visit his Web site and give his songs a listen on MySpace. I think you'll like what you hear. You can watch the video below of Will performing "Rise."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Poll of the Week: What Do You Enjoy Most on You Sing, I Write?

I've been receiving more responses from the poll questions lately, which I'm always excited about! It seems that while most who answered last week's question, How Did You Stumble On You Sing, I Write? seem to be a friend or family member, I received many votes for "Other."

From the comments I found out that some readers stumbled on the blog from popular music network MOG while others did by searching for artist interviews. Always good to know. Thanks to everyone who participated and left their response in the comments, as I'm constantly trying to serve you, the readers, better!

Now onto this week's poll question: What Do You Enjoy Most on You Sing, I Write?


Concert Reviews

New Artist Features

Album Reviews


I'm interested to read your votes, as this will help me get a better feel as to what I should feature more on the blog. If you love the artist interviews, I'll make sure to have a new one up each week or if you like show reviews, I'll be sure to catch as many as I can! Thanks again for participating, I look forward to reading the results! As always, if there is something you want me to post more of that's not an option, feel free to mention it in the comments!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Top 10 Songs of the 1960s

Last night I went to a tribute concert for the Rat Pack and it got me thinking. Surprisingly, I knew most of the songs performed throughout the night thanks to my parents' music selection growing up. While the majority of the songs featured were from the 60s, I started wondering about all the hits from that era and others I might like.

Low and behold, I present to you my Top 10 list. I realize this barely scratches the surface of the amazing music that came out of this fruitful decade, but thought I'd share with you some of my favorites (in no particular order). What songs did I miss? Which artists should I have showcased? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

1. "Everybody Loves Somebody" by Dean Martin

2. "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" by The Beatles

3. "My Way" by Frank Sinatra

4. "Daydream Believer" by The Monkees

5. "Wouldn't It Be Nice" by The Beach Boys

6. "Like A Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan

7. "Walk On By" by Dionne Warwick

8. "Build Me Up Buttercup" by The Foundations

9. "Baby Love" by The Supremes

10. "Mrs. Robinson" by Simon And Garfunkel

These are only a few of the hits from the 60s. What did I leave out?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Song of the Week: "Fly Me To the Moon"

While I'm sure many of you music lovers out there have heard of the Rat Pack, which featured prominent musicians Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford, there may be some who have no knowledge on this talented quintet. The Rat Pack played predominately in the early 1960s, appearing together onstage and in films and it would definitely behoove you to check them out (there's plenty of videos on YouTube).

I can't tell you how many CD's by the members of the Rat Pack I've bought my parents over the years, so when they told me about a show tonight focusing on the music of these immensely talented artists, of course I said I'd go.

This brings me to this week's song of the week. One of my favorites from Ol' Blue Eyes aka Frank Sinatra. Watch the video below of Sinatra performing "Fly Me To the Moon" at the Kiel Opera House in St. Louis on Father's Day 1965. The words just seem to roll off his tongue with such ease. What do you think? Do you have a favorite song from the 60s?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Q&A with Will Anderson of Parachute

From performing New Years Eve in Times Square with the likes of Lionel Richie and Taylor Swift to having their song “She Is Love” placed in a national ad campaign, the five-piece Virgina-based band is doing pretty well for themselves. Hard to believe that just a year ago the now college grads were traveling to LA during breaks to record their debut album.

Frontman Will Anderson’s smooth vocals, combined with the band’s radio friendly pop rock sound (often compared to Maroon 5 and The Fray), is sure to make the girls swoon, if they haven’t already. Not to mention, having toured with the likes of Jon McLaughlin, O.A.R., Switchfoot, Duffy and Matt Nathanson, Parachute is well on their way.

With debut album Losing Sleep hitting shelves May 19th their lives are only getting busier. Read on for my interview with Will Anderson as he chats about the recording process, stories behind the romantic songs he has penned, and what it’s like being in a band with his four best friends.

What can fans expect from Losing Sleep?
It’s a lot of new songs they haven’t heard yet, new material that we’ve been playing live but never had a recorded version of. It’s the same sound they’ve heard live, but it’s finally put into recorded mode. We have 10 great songs that we’re all definitely really proud of.

How was the recording process? Was it everything you hoped it would be?
It was a little tough because we were in school so it took a while. Once we got out of school we really got into it this past summer. It was good to work with the producers that we did. John Shanks (Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow, Jane’s Addiction, Stevie Nicks) and John Fields (Switchfoot, Jimmy Eat World, The Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus), to see the body of work that they’ve worked on. They took our view of recording and helped us shape what we wanted it to be and what kind of record we wanted it to be as it went along. It taught us a lot about the art of making a record.

What’s the story behind first single, “She Is Love?”
I wanted to write as straightforward a love song as I could. It really just came to me and took 10-15 minutes to write. We didn’t think it was going to be anything and it really took on a life of its own. A couple of people heard it, our manager and friends, and said we had to put it on the record so we did, not thinking there would be a reaction. Then Nivea picked it up for their ad campaign and it was a great opportunity. The reaction was so incredible that it segued into being our first single. It was a pleasant surprise and the song definitely had a journey that I did not expect it to once it was written.

What is your typical writing process like?
I have a really weird sleeping pattern so at midnight I’ll start writing songs. Ninety-five percent of the time it’s stupid stuff that I write and I usually give up after about a half hour. But on a night that something good does come up it’s one of those all-nighter things where at 5 ‘o clock in the morning I’m banging on our drummer’s door, screaming, “I got a good song! Listen to this!” and wake him up and make him listen to it. It’s usually an all night sort of trance where I go into the zone and knock it out as quickly as possible.

Often, I’ll come back and rewrite all the words in a few weeks once I realize how terrible the idea was. Usually the music comes first and lyrics come later. But you definitely know very quickly if it’s a good song or not. I’ll have the entire song laid out, the lyrics and the melody and then the guys will add their opinions to it. It’s just a matter of they add their little twist to it eventually.

I really like your song, “Under Control.” What was going on in your head when writing it, what inspired it?
That’s a funny song. I used to do this thing where I’d advertise for shows and I would go into sororities and sing to the girls. I wrote that song with the melody and I had this crush on this girl for probably about three years all through college. She had no idea who I was. So, I wrote that song in the off chance that she would hear it and realize it was about her. But unfortunately, she did not and she still does not know who I am. I don’t think she has any idea that she has that song written about her. It was definitely for that one girl who I met at that one sorority.

How much are your songs inspired by real relationships vs. fantasy?
It goes both ways, it depends on the song. Certain songs are very true to something that’s happened to me and other songs I think of something or make a story based off that. For me, it really comes down to a song and the individual. It depends. Sometimes it’s about me or it’s about someone I know or about a fictional thing if I happen to think of a good story.

Would you rather someone hear you first live in concert or your new album?
I think live is always the pinnacle for us. That’s what we want people to know us from. We want people to see us. We want to make a great record, but I think in the end, if you can come see us live I think that’s where you can get hooked. Anyway is fine in the end. We’ll definitely do anything to make sure people hear the music and connect to it in some way. For us, it’s more fun at a live show. To be with people and to be listening to the people and hanging out with everybody and just having a good time, you really can’t beat that.

You performed in Times Square for New Years Eve. How was that experience?
It was insane! It was unbelievable. We got a call two weeks earlier saying, “Come to New York and play Times Square.” It was really random. We were like, “Okay. Are we playing the side stage?” And they said, “No, you’re playing the main stage.” For us to sit there, this little college band of guys rolling up in a van and playing with Lionel Richie, the Jonas Brothers and Taylor Swift. Love them or hate them, those are just huge names and to share the stage with them was amazing to us. We were very fortunate and it felt surreal when we were up there. It was probably one of the most amazing experiences in my life, playing for that many people.

You all grew up together playing in high school and college. What is the band dynamic? Has it changed at all since you started?
You know, in the end it’s so funny because it really is almost exactly the same as it was. We’re all the same people and same guys and we’re all still the same friends. If you knew us back then and you know us now, it’s very similar. Obviously we’ve grown up and things have changed a bit. But, in the big scheme of things we’re the same guys and we know a lot of stuff about each other that we probably wouldn’t know if we hadn’t known each other for that long. For better or worse, it’s definitely the dynamic of five best friends who have known each other forever. I can’t imagine doing it with people who weren’t your friends. It’s weird for me to think about that.

You can watch the Nivea commercial featuring Parachute's song "She Is Love" as well as the full version from their performance New Years Eve below. Be sure to visit them on MySpace where you can pre-order a copy of their album, due out May 19th.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Album Review: Dead Poets' "Starving Artist"

Having met in college, Bronx, New York natives Mark-uz MidKnyte (Knyte) and Lazarus (Laz) provide listeners a glimpse into their lives with catchy rhymes and moving tales on their debut album, Starving Artist. The duo, naming themselves Dead Poets, prove to be just what Hip-Hop needs today — MC’s rapping about the everyday struggle of an artist and how to overcome hardships through patience and positivity.

The diverse 12-track album blends well structured beats and lyrics, never leaving the listener astray. In fact, it’s often hard to believe this is Dead Poets’ debut release.

The listener quickly realizes this is not an ordinary Hip-Hop album. “Too Many Mics” brings references to politics, the music industry and humility. With catchy phrases like, “We cover more grounds than FedEx,” Knyte and Laz keep the listener hitting the repeat button in constant search of additional lines missed upon first listen.

Tales of difficulties in black society intertwined within funk, soul, R&B and what will most likely become club hits, the variety on this album is impressive and never falls short. “On the Grind” talks of drug culture, the workforce and poor treatment by cops. In the midst of a song that seems hopeless, Knyte and Laz rap about redemption and how “progress is based on advancement.” The talent and emotion within this song is undeniable.

Tracks like club-centric jam “Tickled Pink” have the potential of Top 40 radio while “Step Up,” is a slower R&B number encompassing a softer vibe with light percussion. Rapping, “Anything is possible from diplomas to degrees” later continuing, “Step up to the plate and be a man,” the positive outlook provided by Dead Poets is inspiring.

Stand out number is “Irresistible” featuring Denae and L’Monte on vocals. A catchy club hit, the infectious chorus is bound to be stuck in your head long after the song is over. Whatever genre of music you may enjoy; Dead Poets’ Starving Artist satiates every music lover’s appetite. Each track is fresh with varied guest vocalists bringing their own style and flavor to the table.

Ending the album with, “Uncomplicated” Dead Poets rap, “Follow your heart in a moment of truth.” Summing up the ideas behind Starving Artist — having respect, patience, serenity and humility towards each other, Knyte and Laz leave an impact on the listener. Not often an easy task for a Hip-Hop artist to accomplish, Dead Poets succeed and never come across as presumptuous or overproduced. “You can’t break the spirit of a true starving artist,” they sing on the title track. Luckily, for Knyte and Laz, this proves to be true. Hip-Hop world take notice.

For more on Dead Poets be sure to visit them on MySpace.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Artist of the Week: Griffin House

I received an email recommendation a few weeks ago from fellow blogger Suze (you can read her blog, My Life is Like a Song here) suggesting singer-songwriter Griffin House. While the name sounded familiar, her and I both couldn't remember if I blogged about him in the past. After doing a quick search I realized I hadn't, and proceeded to listen to his music.

His voice sounded so familiar that I'm sure I've stumbled upon his music before, whether it be on another blog, in a movie or perhaps a television commercial. The first song on Griffin House's MySpace page is "The Guy That Says Goodbye" (see video below) and right away pulls at your heartstrings. The light guitar strumming combined with gentle strokes of piano peaked my interest and the emotional lyrics only left me more intrigued. The sincerity he puts forth is inspiring.

"You don’t need to change a thing about you babe/I’m telling you from where I sit you’re one of a kind/Relationships I don’t know why they never work out and they make you cry/But the guy that says goodbye to you is out of his mind," House sings throughout the chorus.

I thought "The Guy That Says Goodbye" would be my favorite, but each song gets better and better. The honesty and pure beauty of his lyrics move the listener and House's talent is undeniable.

With lines like "You hold my hand and it’s better than love" in "Better Than Love" and the older, laid-back country vibe of "Live To Be Free," each song is a new surprise. "Never Again" brings forth his brutal honesty when singing, "Never again am I gonna give my heart to a bullshit cause/I’ve had enough of lies and dark/Never again am I gonna waste my time on a bullshit road/It’s never been a friend of mine/Simple words from a simple man/Take me as I am ‘cause there’s no guarantee I’ll ever change."

My recommendation: Listen to the lyrics closely or play the song while reading along word for word on MySpace.

Griffin House's bio states that he wrote his first song for his high school sweetheart with whom he’d parted ways after graduation. When she came for a visit House played it for her and it brought her to tears. "Then I was hooked," he said, "I thought, 'Oh, man, if I can make people cry, I’m gonna keep doing this. I’m gonna make as many people cry as I can!'" After laughing at the memory, he put the experience in perspective: "What I was drawn to was the power of the song, how it could affect people emotionally."

I believe it. Having continually refreshed his MySpace page after listening to the six-song selection, the emotion heard throughout each song never falters. Griffin House is well on his way. For the latest on Griffin, be sure to visit his Web site or listen to him on MySpace. You can watch the video for single, "The Guy That Says Goodbye" below.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Poll of the Week: How Did You Stumble On You Sing, I Write?

I was explaining to my sister the wonders of Twitter this past week and how I've noticed more traffic on my blog since joining. While I don't think I was too convincing (she hasn't joined yet), it got me curious as to how you first heard about You Sing, I Write and what keeps you coming back.

I'm sure there are more reasons than the five selections I'll post in the poll this week, so feel free to leave anything I may have missed in the comments. I'm really curious to see how you found my blog and if there's anything I should be doing to get it more notice.

This past week's poll winner for question, What festival are you most looking forward to? was a tie between Lollapalooza and Warped Tour. I received a lot of great comments on Warped Tour which only convinces me to attend this year!

Now to this week's poll: How Did You Stumble On You Sing, I Write?



Word of Mouth

You're a friend/family member badgered to read about my latest posts via Facebook messages, Gmail statuses or curiosity.


You have until next Sunday to post your vote before the poll closes. If I left any options from the list, feel free to leave them in the comment section!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Record Store Day Today!

Founded in 2007 as as a day to celebrate independently owned record stores throughout the U.S. and internationally, many music lovers are participating in Record Store Day today. Highlights of the third-annual Record Store Day include live in-store performances, record reissues and free give-a-ways.

Both Pitchfork and Prefix-Mag have in depth write-ups of the many re-released albums expected for sale today so be sure to check out those articles as well as visit for a list of participating stores.

As someone who enjoys going to record stores to purchase a copy of an album instead of downloading it from iTunes, it's good to know people still care about their local record shops. Are you planning on attending Record Store Day today? If so, which record(s) will you be buying?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Song of the Week: "Ghost Town"

I've been hearing a lot about Shiny Toy Guns lately, so I decided to check them out for myself. While I only had maybe a minute glimpse at their set during South By Southwest, I've heard wonders about their live performance. After taking a listen to their MySpace and some songs on YouTube, I stumbled on their single "Ghost Town" and liked what I heard.

While the song itself sounds more like it'd be played at a club, it has been a hit on the modern rock charts. Charts aside, there's much more meaning behind the song. On their Web site, a fan asked the story behind the track to which Shiny Toy Guns wrote, "Ghost Town is anything that holds you back, that puts a ceiling on your life or your goals. Its an anthem for any and all who want to get out of the 'ghost town' in their lives and want to move forward and progress to become the people they always wanted to be."

They continue, "The song is sort of our anthem about how you can and very much will be able to do anything that you want to do, whenever you want too, with the right motivation and the desire and will to break free from whatever is keeping you living in a ghost town."

Can you relate? You can watch the music video for "Ghost Town" here. Be sure to visit their Web site as well as give their tunes a listen on MySpace. I'm hoping to catch a show of theirs soon, so I'll be sure to let you know how they are live!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The RS 100: Agents of Change

About a month ago I was freelancing at Rolling Stone, building and compiling research for The RS 100, or "The 100 People Who Are Changing America." Reading the mini biographies on each person puts your own life and accomplishments in perspective, making you wonder what more you can do to make a difference.

From Bono to Dave Eggers, President Obama and Taylor Swift, each person has a story to tell. The opening page on states, "We've ranked 100 artists and leaders, policymakers, writers, thinkers, scientists and provocateurs who are fighting every day to show us what is possible — whether it's engineering a new electrical grid, reinventing the way movies are made or challenging us to let go of our illusions and face the brave new world that stands before us. This list is not necessarily about power in the old-fashioned sense but about the power of ideas, the power of innovation, the power of making people think and making them move."

Read all about the top 100 here and be inspired.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Introducing The Vespa Experiment

Those who are friends with me know about my obsession with Vespas. Imagine my excitement then, when I heard about The Vespa Experiment — three musicians traveling throughout California on Vespas while bringing music and environmental awareness to the forefront. Pretty inspiring.

Here's the official description from MySpace:

"THE VESPA EXPERIMENT'S primary mission is to send a message to stop global warming by using the power of music. Co-founders Jason Reeves and Brendan James will be joined by their friend and ally, Amber Rubarth, on this purposeful journey. Supported by Greenpeace, the three musicians will ride Vespas up the California Coast, honoring the natural beauty of the West and performing at traditional (club) venues, as well as on mountaintops, beaches and town centers. For two weeks they will engage their fans in thought-provoking ways, through music and honest dialog, while living as simply as possible by camping along the way. In a modern twist, they will film a documentary as they travel, posting daily footage to the web so fans at home can follow along. Fans will be able to communicate with the artists in a communal dialog as they seek to change the world together."

Their first time doing this type of tour, the musicians need your support. If you'd like to help write to They'll hook you up with promo material, tickets to shows, CD's and more! Man, I wish I lived in California right about now!

See tour dates below:

4.30 (CARLSBAD, CA) The Museum of Making Music
5.01 (COSTA MESA, CA) Sutra Lounge
5.02 (HERMOSA BEACH, CA) Saint Rocke
5.03 (LOS ANGELES, CA) Roxy
5.05 (VENTURA, CA) The Lodge At Zoey's
5.07 (SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA) Downtown Brew
5.10 (MONTEREY, CA) Monterey Live
5.12 (SAN FRANCISCO, CA) Cafe Du Nord

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Band of the Week: A Moment's Worth

My friend and fellow blogger Monica Perry (you can read her blog of commentary and criticism on television, film, and music here) introduced me to Bronx, New York-based band A Moment's Worth last week, thinking I'd like what I heard. Boy was she right. Playing a mix of pop punk, the band blends gritty guitar with infectious vocals.

Combining fitting emotion throughout each track, AMW's sing along choruses recall early Yellowcard and The Ataris. With lyrics, "You know I used to be that guy who'd stay up with you all night/And the next day write a song to save his friends/And we used to live our lives in our cars and Friday nights/But today it gets so easy to forget" throughout track "Zero. Four. One." nostalgia of high school and endless summer days abound.

Song after song, each track gets catchier the more listened to. A Moment's Worth is one of those bands that gets stuck in your head, but you really don't mind.

If their sing along anthems are any testament to this band, AMW is well on their way. Switching gears from previous tracks, "Unsound" encompasses fast guitar with more angst-filled lyrics while "Catalina" is a slower ballad, reminiscent to that of a fairytale love song with it's beautiful and poetic metaphors.

While it's easy to picture A Moment's Worth headlining festivals like Bamboozle and Warped Tour in a few years, my bet's on this band. What do you think? Listen to 10 tracks on MySpace and see for yourself.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Poll of the Week: What Festival Are You Looking Forward To?

I just posted this week's poll of the week on the sidebar: What festival are you most looking forward to?

I know there are tons of festivals going on from now through the end of the summer so I picked the five most prominent ones as options. If I left one out that you think should have been considered, be sure to add it in the comments! Your options are:



Vans Warped Tour


All Points West

You have from now until next Sunday night to vote, so get on it! Can't wait to see which one's the winner.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Q&A with Dlugokecki

Their first trip to the States, Southampton, England-based sextet Dlugokecki gave Americans a taste of what’s to come on their recent performances in New York and Austin, Texas. While they realize their band name isn’t the easiest to pronounce (Der-loo-go-ken-ski), they’re hoping the music will speak for itself. With their debut album, Let This Be Right, released in March and a tour on the way, the band has no plans of slowing down.

Dlugokecki filled me in on their music, to which they refer jokingly as “rocky poppy” as well as discussed why they’re President Obama’s favorite band, among many tangents, which is only a glimpse into just how fun this band is to be around. While they explain they’re the least rock and roll band in the world, “We drink tea and have biscuits,” keyboardist Andy Wild said. “There are no televisions thrown out of windows,” Dlugokecki are truly a band worth checking out. Read on for plenty of laughs from the band who will prove to be the difficult name on everyone’s lips in no time.

How did Dlugokecki come together?
Ben: Well, I was a singer-songwriter on my own. Writing songs and singing into a mirror and hoping one day I’d be famous and have lots of women screaming. That wasn’t working out for me because I wasn’t a very good guitarist and didn’t have much confidence. But then I met Andy and we formed the Dlugokecki band. There was a lot of synergy and it all came together. Then we created the Dlugokecki sound, which is a bit rocky poppy. [Laughs].

Andy: On the plane, we hadn’t slept for a long, long time and someone was asking what style of music we were playing. It’s always so difficult to say, “Oh it’s that style or that style” and for some reason I said rocky poppy, which is rubbish. We did another interview today and I said we are rocky poppy and he took it completely seriously and was like, “So what’s rocky poppy?”

Ben: So now we’re our own genre, rocky poppy. We’ll be on iTunes. You know how they have all the different genres? Rocky poppy, there’s just one.

Boyd: Right in between rock and pop. And then someone will come up with poppy rocky.

Ben: Oh, I don’t like that. They’re scumbags. Sorry, we digress. So, yeah, the band formed in Southampton and we’ve just seemed to have lots of luck. It seems like every year something happens and it just gets bigger and bigger. Now we’re in Austin, Texas playing with The Proclaimers. It’s a bit of a dream.

Aidan: It doesn’t feel real.

Ben: We were in a limo two days ago riding around New York. Times Square. Just loving it.

Andy: We did pay for it, though.

Ben: No, it was paid for by Barack Obama. He knew we were coming. He thought, you know; smooth over relations with the British. If you can get in the interview somewhere that we are Barack Obama’s favorite band that might go down well. [Laugher].

Boyd: Let’s not do politics.

Ben: No, okay. Let’s keep out of politics. But Barack Obama rocks. We think he’s brilliant. We need a Barack Obama.

Is this your first time in the U.S.?
Ben: Yes. This is the beginning of our assault on America. We are going to take it by storm, bit by bit, state by state.

Aidan: This is the calm before the storm.

Ben: I like that. This is the calm before the storm. This is our relaxed, “Ahhh, there’s Dlugokecki. What’s that all about?” Then we come back and they’re like, “Wow, look at them. They’ve got a really weird name. And they’re Barack Obama’s favorite band allegedly.”

Why should we see you in concert?
Ben: We write positive love songs, which not many people do anymore. It’s very negative. A lot of the music around is, “You broke my heart, you stole my cat,” that sort of stuff. [Band laughs]. Well, maybe not cat. Maybe car or corn. We tend to write nice things of love and why it brings us all together. And every now and then throw in one that does rip your heart out.

Aidan: And cause tears.

Ben: Literally. We made people cry tonight.

Aidan: At least two people.

Ben: That’s sad. I feel really bad.

Andy: They were tears of joy.

Ben: No, they weren’t tears of joy. We want people to hear us. Every band wants people to hear them. We think we have something else. We write real songs, little bits of poetry. Come hear the difficult name on everyone’s lips. We should put that in fliers. That’s an idea.

What’s different from American music and the scene in England?
Aidan: The audiences are different.

Andy: The audiences out here have been amazing. Like, in there today they were so quiet. They were very respectful. Back home you have people chatting away. Sometimes you’ll have it complete silent. Really, really nice audiences that listen and think about what we’re trying to put out there.

Boyd: They want to hear the stories behind the songs. They want to know what it’s all about and Ben’s very good about telling people what they’re all about.

Ben: It’s all about the music really. All of us are big musicians, we love music. We are one band, but we’re also loads of different bands. The guys in Dlugokecki are in their own other bands as well. We live music. If I’m at home and I’ve got a spare minute I’m writing lyrics on the wall. I’m writing all the time. Instead of cooking the fried eggs or washing up, it’s all about the lyrics.

Would you rather someone hears you first live or on iTunes?
Andy: To be honest with you, I don’t think I would mind just as long as people are listening.

Ben: The best thing is when you’ve moved someone. They’re affected by the song. If someone says, “Your music’s good” and you go, “Which song do you like?” and they say “Ah, all of them,” you know they’ve got the CD and they’ve put it in the fridge. [Band laughs]. But then if they say, “This song really touched me or really moved me in some way” that really gets you. I quite like it when someone sees you live and they get the CD and then they come back again and again.

Boyd: It’s always good when somebody sees you live, gets the CD, plays that to a friend, the friend likes it and then they see you and they’re blown away. For me, that’s better than a CD. There’s nothing worse than seeing a band that are amazing and then getting the CD and it’s like “Ehhh.” Either way, you’ve got to work at. You’ve got to knock them dead both times.

What is your ultimate goal as musicians?
Ben: I don’t think we’re dreaming of much. All we want to do is change everybody in the world’s lives forever. [Band laughs]. I know that sounds like a bit of a challenge, but if you don’t set your sights that high, you’re going to flounder in the sea like a stone skimming across the waters. We’re not just a stone. We’re a rocket flying to space.

Boyd: Space is the limit.

Ben: I’ve got another goal: First band on the moon. To be honest, no one has ever done it. Lazy, lazy, lazy. Yeah, first band in space and change everyone’s lives forever.

You can also read this interview posted on here. Watch the video for "Save My Soul," Dlugokecki's first single off album Let This Be Right. For more on the band, be sure to visit them on MySpace.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Song of the Week: "Delia"

I absolutely love this song by The Canon Logic. I also think this record player is the coolest thing ever. Come on, click the red play button and it plays their song? Pretty clever. If you like what you hear and you're in the Jersey area come check them out at Maxwell's in Hoboken tonight as they play with Plushgun and Nightmare of You. If you do make it out, be sure to find me and say hi!

If you like what you just heard, be sure to visit The Canon Logic on MySpace or read my interview with them from CMJ here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Blast From the Past: What A Sugar Rush!

I just stumbled upon one of my old show reviews featured in the entertainment section of my daily college newspaper. Intertwined was my interview with Sugarcult guitarist Marko DeSantis that I wrote about yesterday. You can read the article here, where it was originally published or below. What do you think? Has my writing progressed at all over the years? Curious to know what your take is.

With a new album out, a new tour, and a new sound, Sugarcult continues to keep things fresh.

Annie Reuter
Targum Staff Writer
Published: Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sugarcult's latest album Lights Out gives fans a different sound than they're used to. Guitarist Marko DeSantis describes it as loud and sexy, dealing with "escapism and the guilty pleasures people indulge in that bring temporary happiness but are ultimately self destructive; casual sex, drugs, pop-culture."

The band has just wrapped up the first leg of its Lights Out Fall 2006 Tour with opening acts The Spill Canvas, Halifax, Maxeen, and So They Say.

Sugarcult played an hour set of 15 songs at Starland Ballroom in Sayerville. Their first song, "Lights Out," got the crowd pumping. One of the crowd favorites included their radio hit, "Memory" while many in attendance could be heard singing and seen crowd surfing throughout most of the concert.

"It's very good to be back here at the Starland Ballroom," said lead singer Tim Pagnotta.

Perhaps the best guitar sound of the night came from Sugarcult's performance of "Los Angeles," one of the deeper songs from the band's new album which talks of casual sex.

DeSantis explained how each of their records stands up on their own.

"We don't want to be redundant and puke up the same old same old," DeSantis said. "On Lights Out, we broke new sonic ground, we nearly killed ourselves in the studio trying to make sure the music and lyrics were the best they could be."

While some songs on the album deal with casual sex and guilty pleasures, other songs sound like anti-radio anthems.

On the song "Explode", Sugarcult sings, "The radio is here to stay/Turn it off and walk away."

"I guess after five years of doing this professionally we've had our hearts broken enough times to see that there's a reason it's called the 'music business' and not the 'music friends,'" DeSantis said. "It's all so political, but at the same time we can look on the bright side and be happy that good music is getting a fair shake: the White Stripes, the Killers, U2, Tool. It's just sad when places like Philadelphia and New York City don't even have a station that plays rock music anymore."

So where does DeSantis and others find out about new music if they don't listen to the radio?

"Growing up it was all about going to shows, word of mouth, mix-tapes, magazines, hanging out in indie record shops and digging through the racks," he said. "Today it's not much different, but things like iTunes, websites and file sharing just make it easier to get turned on to stuff. My favorite way to discover a band is to see them play live and unexpectedly be blown away by undeniable greatness."

DeSantis explained that he likes bands that are "rooted in the tradition of rock n roll, but update it and push it forward."

The energy by the end of Sugarcult's set was intense. As they played their last song for the night, "Bouncing Off The Walls," singer Pagnotta told the crowd, "I wanna hear you bouncing off the damn walls!"

So does Sugarcult ever get tired of performing some of the same songs over and over again?

"Not really, because you're feeding off the energy of the crowd, and it's either a new song or an old song that brings back fond memories of the old days. Hearing 1,000 people scream along to a song we wrote six years ago in a tiny practice space in our hometown when nobody cared about us is always a thrill," DeSantis said.

With the start of a second leg of their fall tour, DeSantis also wants to play in all the countries Sugarcult hasn't yet been to.

His plans for the future: "Basically keep making good music, becoming a better band, and chasing new adventures... Fuck it, while we're at it, why not sell a million records too!"

For more on Sugarcult, be sure to visit them on MySpace.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Top 10 Interviews

While I've been taking suggestions on revamping my blog, some advised cleaning up the sidebar and deleting older interviews to make it easier on the eyes. After much thought, I really can't just weed out certain interviews because each has a life of its own. Maybe its the frank musician that discussed exactly what's wrong with the label executives, or the bass player that told me just how "gross" groupies are, regardless, each artist I've talked to needs to be showcased. So, when you're bored at work or just surfing the Web, you have plenty of reading material on your hands.

While going through each interview I came up with my "Top 10" list of interviews that have surprised me or left an impact. Here's my Top 10 list, in no particular order.

1. Jon Foreman of Switchfoot (photo above)
I've been listening to Switchfoot since high school. I'd buy tickets with friends and we'd travel to NYC together at least once a year to see them live. One year, when covering the show for MTV's concert blog, I was able to meet the guys, and interview frontman Jon Foreman. To meet one of your favorite musicians and talk to him about life, his fears of being a songwriter and pretty much anything else you'd want to know was truly one of the best moments in my music writing career. Read the in-depth interview here.

2. Colbie Caillat
I remember my cousin from California mentioning Colbie Caillat on his visit to New Jersey right after her debut album was released. A few weeks later "Bubbly" exploded on the radio and I just had to buy myself a copy of her album. The next summer she was going on tour with one of her biggest influences (and mine) — John Mayer. I was able to set up an interview for the blog and was surprised at how humble and down to earth she was. Talking about her stage fright before performing and thoughts on just why "Bubbly" took off, Colbie shared insight into her life before and after her music invaded the airwaves. Read all about it here.

3. Marko DeSantis of Sugarcult
This was my first impromptu band interview. Before catching Sugarcult's set at Starland Ballroom, I noticed a group of fans by the stage door talking to someone. My friend found out it was Sugarcult guitarist Marko, so I asked to interview him. Why not? He wrote down his email address in my notebook with the casual, "Just don't show this around" and I emailed him questions a few days later. My first nationally published interview, it was featured on Jane Magazine's Web site. I still can't believe I did that, but it paid off. Read the full email interview here.

4. Kris Roe of The Ataris (photo above)
I lucked out being able to interview Kris twice — first for Rutgers University's entertainment section, Inside Beat, and last year for my blog. Having listened to The Ataris growing up, I attended a performance of theirs at Rutgers and was able to obtain an interview after talking to his manager. After interviewing him with my friend Monica, I remember leaving the room with the realization and determination that, “This IS what I’m going to do the rest of my life.” Haven't looked back since. Read the full two-part interview with Kris from his performance at Maxwell's last year here.

5. Joshua Radin
Incredibly honest about the music industry, Radin bought himself out of his five record deal with Columbia and put out his most recent release independently. Not to mention, it hit No.1 on the iTunes folk charts. Not too shabby. A class act to follow, Radin even performed at Ellen DeGeneres' wedding. Read on for more of his take on the music business here.

6. Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind
I was extremely nervous for this interview. 3eb was one of the most recognized bands of the 90s and having read up on past interviews with the band I was a little worried how mine would pan out. Luckily, it went extremely well — good enough to be used as my first interview feature on! You can read it on Marie Claire here.

7. Vince Scheuerman of Army of Me (photo above)
Possibly the most open singer-songwriter I've interviewed, my chat with Vince revealed many of the stories behind his songs, the struggle of making it in the music business and a typical day in the life of a musician. Read on for more here.

8. Tyson Ritter of the All-American Rejects
Oh, Tyson. Brutally honest and never afraid to hold anything back. Though it was a quick 3-question on-the-spot interview outside his tour bus at a concert, it's one that will always stand out in my memory. Laugh about it here.

9. Jeph Howard of The Used
Okay, I must admit interviewing Jeph on their tour bus was definitely a highlight of the interview. Possibly the longest interview I've had, he chatted with me for nearly an hour about life on the road, groupies, and struggles the band has faced. Read all about it here.

10. Sia
Australian singer-songwriter Sia was definitely the most captivating and lively phone interview I have ever had. With her infectious laugh and refreshing take on the music industry, it's interviews like these that make me continue pursuing this crazy career. You can read the interview featured on here.

That's my Top 10. What's your favorite? Did I miss one that should be added?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Artist of the Week: David Berkeley

It's hard to keep track of all the great music coming out these days. How does an artist truly stand out from the crowd? Sometimes it's a quirky viral video or their mysterious Twitter ramblings. In David Berkeley's case, it was his song featured on CBS show, "Without A Trace."

It's remarkable how a song could be so fitting within the plot of a television drama. For Berkeley, his song "Fire Sign" was used at the climax of the show, when a young boy whose life was made a living hell at school decides to commit suicide. The cops rush to his rescue as Berkeley's song is playing softly in the background. Watch a clip of the episode featuring "Fire Sign" here.

His delicate fingerpicking and gentle vocals throughout this track embodies most of his music. Each song has a telling tale, sometimes sung over light horn features (see "The Blood and the Wine" on MySpace) or simply accompanied by acoustic guitar. While comparisons allude to that of David Gray and Jack Johnson, it's his emotional and honest lyrics that leave the biggest impression on the listener.

Currently on tour with UK sensation Katie Melua, Berkeley is bringing his music across the country in anticipation of his May 26th release of third studio album, Strange Light. Listen to "Willis Avenue Bridge," one of the tracks off his upcoming album here.

For more on his tour and to listen to some tracks, be sure to visit Berkeley on MySpace.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ray LaMontagne Plays Sold-Out Jersey Show

Ray LaMontagne took the stage at Wellmont Theatre Thursday night to screams shortly after 9 p.m. Known for his shy demeanor, it was still a shock that he said little to the audience, except the occasional “Thank you” throughout the first 10 songs of his set. Playing track after track, the crowd didn’t seem to mind as they proved to be ardent fans, continuously yelling, “New Jersey loves Ray!”

Beginning with lively number “Henry Nearly Killed Me (It’s A Shame)” LaMontagne grabbed each concertgoers attention right off the bat at his sold-out show. With his rustically raspy and captivating vocals, it’s these attributes and his constant fluidity that sets him apart. While some songs played were dark and somber ballads of heartache and loss like older tracks “Trouble” and “Jolene,” others were more romantic and upbeat. Singing praises to Meg White of the White Stripes in, aptly titled song “Meg White” (“Meg White, I saw you on the big screen/Old Jack was keen/But you stole the scene”) or a lover as heard in “You Are the Best Thing,” LaMontagne kept all in attendance anxiously waiting on the edge of their seats for the next song.

Playing many tracks off his most recent critically acclaimed album, Gossip In the Grain, as well as some old fan favorites, it was hard to grasp which song was the audience favorite as screams echoed throughout the venue at the beginning of each song. Textured guitar and pedal steel accompaniment infused with his emotional lyrics was truly an experience one can only witness live.

His nearly 90-minute, 17-song set was interwoven with beautifully descriptive and moving lyrics. On soft, emotional ballad “Empty” LaMontagne sang, “And of these cut-throat busted sunsets, these cold and damp white mornings/I have grown weary./If through my cracked and dusted dime-store lips/I spoke these words out loud would no one hear me?”

In addition to LaMontagne’s solid performance on vocals and guitar, his band — consisting of electric guitar, bass, drums and pedal steel — impressed the crowd with colorful interludes on tracks like “Henry Nearly Killed Me (It’s A Shame)” and country number, “Hey Me, Hey Mama.”

LaMontagne’s music can be described as a fitting blend of folk and country. In fact, he told the audience about his keenness of country music. “I love country song structure; the simple hook and telling a story. It’s really nice and it’s really fluid.” From the look of it, LaMontagne’s song structure is well respected by many as he received a nearly five-minute standing ovation before his encore performance.

While some concertgoers may prefer a performer with quirky onstage banter prefacing each song, sometimes no words need to be spoken. Ray LaMontagne proved Thursday night that truly good music speaks for itself.

Watch below as Ray performs "Empty," currently one of my favorite songs by him. What do you think? Listen to him on MySpace.

You can also read this review posted on here.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Academy of Country Music Awards On Now!

I just realized the Academy of Country Music Awards are on tonight! Tons of appearances by Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood and more! Tune into CBS to watch or follow me on Twitter as I update you on the show. You can also vote for Entertainer of the Year on Who is your choice?

I'll be heading to Nashville in June for the CMA Music Festival so I'm making a list of what country bands I need to brush up on. Suggestions? Leave them in the comments!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Song of the Week: "Lucky"

I just heard "Lucky" on the radio last night on my drive home by Jason Mraz, featuring Colbie Caillat and realized how much I love this song! Watch the video below and I think you'll see why. Enjoy!

"Lucky" Official Video With Colbie Caillat

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Q&A with Anya Marina

Sassy and comical singer-songwriter Anya Marina chatted with me right before her acoustic afternoon performance at Cedar Street in Austin, Texas. With a cup of tea in hand and a pre-show meal of goat yogurt and a bag of mixed nuts, Marina spoke candidly about being told she’d never make a career singing, recording shirtless and having a breaking feature in Rolling Stone: “I was so shocked when I heard. I just got an email one day that said, ‘Rolling Stone wants to do a breaking feature.’ In the words of Rachel Zoe, I died.”

I love your song “Move You” and was curious to the story behind it.
My Dad’s a psychologist so Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell and Freud and people like that were always discussed and studied in our house. There’s this Carl Jung quote that I’ve talked about a lot that inspired the idea behind that song. The quote is, “Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.” I love that idea. When you can’t wrap your mind around something and you can’t figure it out, whatever Rubik’s Cube issue you’re struggling with, sometimes it’s best just to put it on the shelf and go do something physical. I just like the idea of not over analyzing, which I’m guilty of all the time.

What’s your writing process like?
I don’t really write on a regular basis, especially now that my schedule is so unpredictable. I just write when I can, but I’d like to have a regiment. Wake up, have a cup of tea, sit down and sort of woodshed and tool away at it. But, it becomes so difficult to do that when you’re on tour or you’re playing festivals and you’re in a different city everyday. I just try and do it whenever I can. Usually, I come up with a melody when I’m walking or driving or doing something and then I’ll come home or record it on my phone and try to remember it that way.

I read in an interview that you recorded one of your songs topless in the studio.
Shirtless! I was wearing a bra. [It was] “Afterparty at Jimmy’s.” I did that song with Brian Karscig and Mark Maigaard from Louis XIV. I couldn’t get the right vocal take, so there’s another example of going into your body when you can’t arrive at the right place or the right answer -- take your shirt off, sometimes it helps. And that’s the take that we got on the record and I think you can hear the rawness and dirtiness of it.

Would your rather people see you live or hear your album first?
I can’t really be objective of myself. I am so proud of the record that I would love for people to have it and hear it and get into it. I think it has a lot of legs. You can listen to it over and over and over again. I still find things in it that I’m surprised by or I’ve forgot about or even that inspire me. I really love my album; I’m so excited by it! At the same time, I think the live shows are a totally complementary experience. At least for the most part, the shows are not necessarily your typical straight ahead, “Let’s do eight songs in a row show.” I like to engage the audience and connect with people and tell a story or two. So, both.

Your doctor told you that you’d never make a career out of singing.
That was a silly little anecdote, but yeah, I have had a doctor tell me that. “You have a very tiny larynx, you have the larynx of a 14-year-old adolescent boy,” that’s what he told me. Oh well, I guess he was wrong. I think I’ve surpassed that. I’ve had a lot of people in my life urge me not to go into music or radio or acting because I had a very strange, sort of unique voice growing up. Now it’s come into its own. But, I was teased for a lot of years about my voice; that it was scratchy and high and nasally and all that stuff. I don’t know why I pursued it.

Don’t you find that when somebody tells you that you can’t do something you either sink or swim? You either get angry, which is a great motivator, or you get even, or you don’t and you just cower and shrink in the corner and not do anything. The secret is -- just do it. Everybody talks about, “How do you break into blah blah blah? How do you do this?” Just do it! You make no money for a while and you just do it. You just get a gig doing open mics.

Is that how you started?
I was in a band back in college. My friend was like, “Will you sing for us?” That’s how I started. I was like, “You’re crazy, I can’t sing.” Pretty soon I’m writing their songs, which was really fun.

Where do you find inspiration for your music? Do you carry a notebook everywhere you go?
No, I have napkins and pieces of paper. I get really inspired by everything from fashion to comedians to; I just listened to this Patton Oswalt CD the other day on tour and that was really inspiring. For the content of my songs, it could be anything. It could be a friend telling me a story of some drama that happened in their life. I really do get inspired by anything. It’s really important for me to travel and go see films and constantly be reading and connecting. I really need to get a good book, I’ve been slacking.

How do you stand apart from all the bands out there?
I’m way taller. I’m 5’3”. I’m prettier and taller; my voice is louder. I have stripes on my face, that sets me apart and I’m funnier than 90 percent of these assholes. Also, I have a bag of nuts and I don’t think anybody else here has that so they can go suck it [laughs]. I’m just happy to be here.

For more on Anya, be sure to visit her on MySpace and catch a show when she's in town! She'll be touring with Jason Mraz and The Virgins this spring.

You can read this interview originally posted on here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Stay Tuned: Interview with Anya Marina

I'm in the process of transcribing my interview with Anya Marina so I will definitely have that in it's entirety for you tomorrow! I met up with Anya right before one of her SXSW showcases where we talked about breaking into the music industry, her music and how she felt when her voice doctor told her she'd never make a career out of singing.

Below is her new EPK video with snippets of an interview and some performances, so feel free to watch that in the meantime and check back tomorrow for the exclusive interview!


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