You Sing, I Write: November 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

Artist of the Week: David Ryan Harris

A friend and former colleague suggested that I might like David Ryan Harris. So, when I found out he'd be performing at Rockwood Music Hall November 20th, I decided to check him out and was truly blown away. The venue was packed to capacity and a line formed outside with eager concertgoers hoping to gain a coveted spot inside. When they couldn't, they went next door to watch the show broadcast live via video screen.

Harris is well known for lending his guitar skills and vocals to John Mayer, Dave Matthews and Santana on tour. Perhaps it was only fitting that one of the songs he briefly covered during the night was Mayer's "Your Body Is a Wonderland." While he has shared the stage with many notable performers, Harris demonstrated his prowess as a singer-songwriter throughout his set.

With a distinct and soulful flavor, Harris brings to mind classic Motown and R&B performers. Tracks like "Yesterday Shutting Down" showcased his powerful vocals while "Still Be Loving You," a moving ballad written for his mother, touches the listener on a more personal level. While performing "Yesterday Shutting Down," Harris led a slow buildup within the tale of the song before belting, "I wanna move on with the rest of my life." With appropriate musical accompaniment and groove, the listener couldn't help but tap his foot along.

"Sweetest Berry" pleased concertgoers as Robbie McIntosh took the stage and wowed the crowd with his impressive guitar chops. Always the versatile musician, tracks like "Slow Train Moving" showcase Harris' soulful side while "Crocodile Lake" is more of an upbeat jazzy number with fitting percussion and electric guitar.

With simple guitar finger picking and intimate lyrics, "For You" is a beautiful ballad that brings reference to fellow up-and-coming artists like Tyrone Wells and the likes of the more legendary Marvin Gaye. Truly an artist to witness live, Harris' MySpace doesn't do him justice. Catch him live and see for yourself.

Recommended: For fans of Marvin Gaye, Tyrone Wells, Usher.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Album Review: Laura Meyer's "Miles From Nowhere"

Laura Meyer's Twitter bio describes her best: Globe-trekking folk-rock poet. The New York-based folk-rock artist recently completed a 38-day, 34-show tour across the US and will be back on the road in early December. It seems the tour bus is truly her home and she's at ease at any locale — whether it's performing in Dublin for over 10,000 fans at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival or in New York at the intimate Rockwood Music Hall.

It is perhaps no wonder that Meyer's latest release, Miles From Nowhere was inspired by her time spent on the road. The 20-track album takes the listener on a journey throughout the 40,000 miles Meyer has traveled. With detailed scenic description and continuous alliteration, Miles From Nowhere grabs the listener's ear and takes him to a new destination.

It's not often that an artist can transport the listener to another time and place, but on Miles From Nowhere, Meyer succeeds. Whether she is singing about New Orleans on the rustic opening track, "Katrina, Katrina" or her beloved home on the colorful "Back In New York," each song is distinctly different from the previous.

An old soul, it is easy to envision Meyer performing at folk festivals, for it is her lyrics that stand out most. The way she imparts constant emotion and vivid imagery throughout each track is remarkable, bringing to mind Joni Mitchell with her vocals and distinctive guitar style. Additionally, the occasional angst shown in edgier tracks like "Miles From Nowhere" and "Chelsea Hotel" exemplifies Alanis Morissette circa her Jagged Little Pill era.

Miles From Nowhere progresses naturally from song to song, despite obvious differences in tone throughout each new track. The softer "Katrina, Katrina" transforms into the edgy title track extremely well while the dark and somber "Chelsea Hotel" and it's faster guitar picking segues equally fittingly into the love story of "New York, New York."

Recorded in one session, Miles From Nowhere alternates solely between acoustic and electric guitar and Meyer on vocals. The album is simple, and not overproduced. In fact, it's as if you're receiving a private concert by Meyer in your living room. Her songs are incredibly honest as she opens up her diary to the world. "I trust the universe takes care of me/But sometimes my trust is just so hard to believe," she sings on "Night Drive."

Much of the album deals with the uncertainty of love. "The Ocean" embodies a spoken word segment on love and is a welcomed change while "New York, New York" speaks of the uncertainty in relationships. "I've always felt like New York is a yo-yo/Tied round my finger I can't throw her away/But now I see after coming and going/New York's the only one who ever stays/I'm just the toy in her hand/Like a boy who thinks that he's a man/I'm just the toy in her hand/She throws me away and I go back again and again/I've always felt like love is for strangers/Soon as you know it, it goes away/I've tried to love him despite the danger/And in the end only love remained," she sings.

Whether it's her intricate finger picking or moving lyrics, Meyer is one folk-artist who deserves your attention. Visit her Web site and if you like what you hear, be sure to catch her on tour in December and January.

Recommended: For fans of Norah Jones, Joni Mitchell, Ingrid Michaelson.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saturday Song Addiction: Swedish Musician Edition

Swedish band The Sounds have debuted a new video for "Beatbox" off their album, Crossing the Rubicon. A suspenseful chase through the jungle, "Beatbox" is a five-minute intriguing adventure. Watch it below.

I had the privilege of interviewing Swedish songstress Theresa Andersson last year during CMJ and caught her captivating one woman show where she played multiple instruments with the help of two loop pedals.

Andersson recently made a video for catchy single "Birds Fly Away" in her hometown of New Orleans. Watch the video here.

Related Links:
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Friday, November 27, 2009

Artist to Watch: Mike Posner

Mike Posner has been making waves in the music scene. Garnering attention from music fans and record label executives alike, the Duke University senior has had quite a year. After releasing his debut mixtape, A Matter of Time, in March he was scouted by numerous labels, eventually signing with J Records.

Not your average college student, Posner spent most of January in his dorm room where he wrote, produced and recorded every track on A Matter of Time. On the weekends, instead of unwinding at the typical college party, he spends his time touring. Posner's MySpace bio provides a glimpse into his busy schedule:

“Thursday and Friday I performed in Detroit. Saturday I performed at the University of Dayton. I had three finals on Tuesday, a show at Duke Wednesday, did a song with Wale and 9th Wonder Thursday, and Friday I had a meeting with Jay-Z.”

By the looks of it, Posner won't be slowing down anytime soon. While he embodies a certain Justin Timberlake quality, Posner is as versatile as they come. He is able to mix and sample tracks from acts like John Mayer (listen to video below) and The Fray to older classics like Rickie Nelson's "Traveling Man" effortlessly, all while putting his own unique spin on each.

"Still Not Over You" samples The Fray's hit single, "Over My Head (Cable Car)" from the soft vocals to light strokes of the piano before Posner adds his lyrics and club beats to the track. Featuring Eric Holljes, "Still Not Over You" is smooth and emotive while Posner sings, "You were my first girl/So won't you be my last girl."

Featuring guest appearances from Kid Cudi, Bun B, Big Sean, GLC, 3Oh!3, Freddie Gibbs and XV, Posner's upcoming 2010 release, One Foot Out The Door, is sure to please listeners. Check out his song, "I Don't Trust Myself" below and be sure to visit Mike Posner's MySpace or Web site where you can download the album for free.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Q&A with Greg Holden

I sat down with singer-songwriter Greg Holden right before his set at Rockwood Music Hall during CMJ. The UK native recently moved to New York to pursue his dream and has been impressing audiences everywhere with his honest lyrics and onstage banter. Music fans aren't alone in their admiration for Holden, turns out Ingrid Michaelson hand-picked him as her direct tour support this fall after catching him live at Rockwood.

A true inspiration to aspiring musicians, Holden booked a flight to New York on a whim to pursue his dream. His advice: "If you take a risk, it does happen. I’m living proof of that. It’s not like I succeeded to the mass, but I’m happy and doing what I want to do. My advice is go ahead and just try it. What’s the worst that could happen? You end up back at square one. So what?"

Always the innovative performer, when Holden had some downtime in the UK he booked his own tour, titled the “Living Room Series” where he performed in fan’s living rooms for their families and friends. Read below for more on his "Living Room Series," touring with Ingrid Michaelson and the stories behind some of his songs. Lucky for New Yorkers, Holden is back from tour and you can catch him perform at many NYC venues in the upcoming months.

Do you prepare for a showcase like CMJ any different than a typical show?
No, not really. I kind of forget it’s a CMJ show and just play. I think the more pressure you put on yourself with labels and stuff being there, it’s just pointless.

You did a tour in fans living rooms, called “Not My Living Room Tour.” How did you come up with that idea?
I have two series on YouTube. One is called The Living Room series and the other is the Not My Living Room series. When I got home from America in the summer I needed something to do. So, it just came naturally. I was going to tour people’s living rooms and called it “Not My Living Room” tour. I made a video asking people if they wanted me to play their living room. We put a contract together and sent out a bunch of emails and got a great response back. The whole month of July I toured people’s living rooms. It was fun. It was interesting.

Any crazy experiences?
Not crazy, but it was a lot harder than I thought to just knock on someone’s door and walk in and play for them. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be. It was kind of bizarre, actually. It’s definitely a cool concept, but I wish I had my manager with me. A lot of time I went on my own and it was kind of weird. But it was a good experience and I definitely gained some good fans out of it.

Would you do it again?
Honestly, I would have to be a little more organized. It was pretty well organized, but next time I would have a crew with me, or at least one or two people. I would never do it on my own again, that was kind of scary.

You just got off tour with Ingrid Michaelson, who reached out to you to open for her.
Yeah. She saw me playing here, actually at Rockwood. A couple months later, when I was back in England, she invited me out on tour with her for a month. I had to get a visa, which is not as easy as it sounds. The tour was great. She was amazing. The whole tour was sold out. She took good care of me. She got onstage with me, her band got onstage with me and they just welcomed me. It was the best tour I could have asked for.

I’m sure it was a huge difference going from living rooms to sold out venues. How did you adapt?
It happened completely naturally. I was working myself up about it, thinking, “How am I going to do this? I’ve never played in front of this many people before.” The first night in Toronto it was 800 people and it was fine, I just walked on and it felt like any other gig. If anything, it felt better than a small gig because you can control the crowd better. It seems like you have more control the more people there are, it’s weird. I honestly thrived in it.

You just released your EP, Sing For the City. It sounds like New York had a big influence.
New York had the whole part. I lived in New York in the spring on a non-working visa, a three-month thing, but I had to go home. It was heartbreaking to go home because I had no real idea how to get back without finding five grand. For me, it was like trying to write for New York and hope that it would bring me back. So, I made this EP and then funnily enough as soon as I finished recording the EP, that’s when Ingrid contacted me. It’s kind of like this magical story. So yeah, that EP is basically all about New York.

“You’re Scaring Me” is my favorite song on the EP. What was the inspiration behind the song?
I wrote that song last year, when it was my first visit to New York by myself. I’d been the year before with my ex-girlfriend and I came to New York the second time by myself and it was terrifying. The first time I came it was magical. I’d been looked after by someone, I always had someone with me, I was being driven around by someone; it was easy. The second time I arrived at JFK I had to get the subway on my own. All of a sudden this magical New York wasn’t very magical, it was terrifying. So, the song was saying New York is this amazing place, but when you’re in New York it can scare the crap out of you.

I wanted to ask about another song off your album, A Word In Edgeways — “The Art of Falling.”
That seems to be the song that everyone loves. Every artist has that one song. It’s my oldest song, so I can’t stand playing it. I do play it, but it’s one of those songs that I’ve played for two-and-a-half years now, so I’m completely over it.

I love the lyrics, “It’s better to make your mistakes then live without knowing/It’s better to fall on your face then to stay on your feet.” Was there a certain experience that inspired the song?
Yeah. That was actually written about the first time I went to New York. And also, the first time I went to New York I moved to London as well from where I was living. I took these two huge risks. A lot of people fell out with me for one of my risks because I was in a band and I decided I wanted to be on my own. So, I quit my band and moved to London and a lot of people didn’t see eye to eye with me. I lost a lot of friends it seemed, people just disappeared out of my life and I was really heartbroken by it. I wrote this song and it was more like, I’m going to do what I want, I don’t care what goes wrong. I’m not going to let people hold me back kind of sentiment in the song.

Is there a song you’ve written that holds more meaning now than when first written?
I think my song “Serendipity” is a powerful song for me now. I wrote that almost two years ago. That was about New York again, my first visit there and coming home to England and realizing I had to be there. At that point I had a girlfriend, I had jobs, I had everything — commitments in the UK. The song came out as if I’m ready to go to New York. It was only two years later that I actually moved here. Now that I’m here, when I sing it, it’s got a lot more meaning. All my songs are very honest; I don’t really bullshit any of my lyrics.

I agree. They’re very honest and tend to be about a relationship, whether with a person or a place. Do you ever hold back a bit because you’re afraid your girlfriend is going to hear it?
Not anymore, because I’m single. I write what I want now. But, yeah, I actually used to hold back. When you have a girlfriend it’s very difficult to write a song about how your relationship is failing because they’ll be like, “What?” Now that I’m single, I just write what I want and I’m planning on throwing more out there.

Do you feel a song comes out better when it’s based on your life or fantasy?
Yeah. Well, I don’t make any songs up generally. I find it a lot easier when I’m thinking about the situation. Sometimes I’ll exaggerate it, but generally they’re all based on true events.

I stumbled on your blog on Tumblr and your last post is about writer’s block. What do you do when you have writer’s block?
There’s nothing really you can do. Generally if I have a block, I’ll ride it out and wait. It’ll come back eventually. It’s just one of those things where you can’t write all the time. The worst was where I had writer’s block for a year and it really affected my confidence in everything. Generally I just wait it out.

What’s your typical songwriting process?
It’s always different. I have a notebook with me. I never write on a computer. This morning I was on the train just writing, and that’s the lyrics. Tomorrow maybe I’ll go home and try and work out some music around it. Other times I might be playing guitar and hear a nice riff and throw the lyrics on the top of it. It works different each time. “Alright Sir?” was written in 15 minutes and “Serendipity” took two months. Ask any writer, it’s never a standard process. There are days you’ve got other things to do and other days you feel so inspired that you can just sit all day and write.

I read that you decided in January to move to New York.
Yeah. I split with my girlfriend in October and I started to hate my job and London was really dragging me down. Come January I was completely miserable and I was in my living room one night and literally the light bulb just went off in my head: “I don’t care anymore. I’m going to move to New York for three months.” I knew I could only go for three months and thought, “I’m just going to go and give it my best and see what happens.” Literally, that night I booked a flight and three weeks later I moved. In those three weeks I quit my job and sold everything I owned. It’s kind of a crazy story. At the end of those three months, it was hard to leave but at the same time I knew I definitely made an impact. I had achieved what I had set out to achieve at the end of the summer. I’m so glad I’m back now. I bought a three year visa so I’m here for a while.

A lot of people don’t pursue their dreams. What is your advice?
Do it. Obviously, that’s what I say. I always tell the story before I play “The Art of Falling” because I want people to understand that it works. If you take a risk, it does happen. I’m living proof of that. It’s not like I succeeded to the mass, but I’m happy and doing what I want to do. I’m in the place where I want to be and things are just getting better. My advice is go ahead and just try it. What’s the worst that could happen? You end up back at square one. So what?

You produced your albums on your own.
I didn’t produce them myself, but I had producers doing them. But, yeah, I paid for them myself. My first trip to New York was because a producer had seen me playing in the UK and invited me out and he did the record on spec, which means he did it and basically I pay him back. The EP I did in my friend’s basement this summer. He had a good microphone, but literally we did it in his basement in three days.

Do you feel a musician needs to be on a label? Is that one of your goals?
Well, I would prefer to be than to do it on my own generally. I think even a label would agree. It depends on the terms of the deal and everything. My ideal situation would be pay for the record so I own it and then distribute it through a label, which is kind of what I did with these last few records with Original Signal. But it’s so expensive to make a record. You either figure out a way of making 50 grand and making a record or you go through a record label. There’s good and bad sides to doing both of those things, I think I’ll just wait and see if a good deal comes along.

Your song is going to be featured on “Private Practice.”
I don’t know what that’s going to do. It’s either going to blow up or it’s not going to do anything that I expected. So I have no idea what to expect from that. I’m kind of not expecting anything and am just happy that one of my songs has been recognized and put on a TV show, that’s amazing. And it’s going to help me pay my rent for a little while, so that’s nice. I don’t have any great expectations of it and if it takes off, then great.

Have you learned any tips from being on tour with Ingrid Michaelson?
Yeah. She’s taught me that just because someone’s doing well and selling out crowds, they’re not assholes. She’s a really nice person. It makes me glad because I’m a very humble person, I don’t feel like I’ll ever get to that point where I’m a rock star and I’m pushing people aside. I’m not brought up that way, so it makes me feel good when there’s other people out there like that. I just learned that being yourself onstage is a totally good thing. Ingrid is completely the same person onstage and when she gets on the bus, and I am too. I don’t see the point on going up there with some fake self.

What do you think about when you’re onstage?
I don’t know. It’s really weird. You generally would think that when a singer is singing, he’ll be thinking about the words. What goes through my head is sometimes what I’m going to eat afterwards. Sometimes I’m singing and I’m not thinking about the words, I’m thinking, “My God there are a lot of people here.” I’m just wondering random thoughts. Sometimes you come back and you’re like, “Ah, shit I’m playing a song” and you have to find yourself again and that’s generally when you forget the words.

Do you remember the moment you decided you want to be a musician for the rest of your life?
The first time I started playing guitar.

Do you get that thrill every time you’re onstage?
It gets stronger. It hasn’t faded. The more I do it, the more I enjoy it.

How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
My music is more like folk, but it’s also got a poppy edge. I have no idea. Folk rock. Folk pop. I’m not going to make up a random word. That’s what it is I guess. Honest folk pop.

What would you be doing if it wasn’t music?
I dread to even think. Music has brought me to all sorts of other places. Probably working in a retail store somewhere, which terrifies me. So far, so good. Let’s just hope this carries on.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Up Close with Norah Jones

Norah Jones, the Grammy-award winning songstress, is back with her fourth studio album, The Fall. Released just last week, Jones says The Fall has more grooves and heavier beats than the past.

Jones has sold more albums than any other female jazz artist this decade. While popular tracks like "Come Away With Me" and "Don't Know Why" stormed the charts, The Fall is sure to reach similar success.

Watch the video below as Jones talks about her latest album and to hear her perform tracks off The Fall, click here.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Artist of the Week: Jacob Vanags

Unlike many breaking singer-songwriters, Jacob Vanags' weapon of choice is piano. Hailed as a talented piano rocker by some critics, Vanags provides much needed diversity in today's music scene. Accompanied by strings, horns and percussion on many tracks, it's his catchy vocals and strokes of the piano that continually stand out.

Jazzy songs like "All That You Have" quickly grab the listener's attention. Extremely energetic, Vanags' music is different than anything else out there right now. While the piano-infused "Toss Up" brings to mind that of fellow singer-songwriter-pianist Brendan James, "Stuck" holds slight resemblance to Jason Mraz with his rap-like banter throughout the song.

Additionally, "Antarctica" showcases an eerie string accompaniment and piano feature at first listen. While at times his vocals overpower the track, when paying close attention to the tale within the song, this only seems fitting.

It is no doubt that Vanags attempts to break the mold with his second EP, Pulses are Pluses. In fact, it's releases like this that are needed to shake up the music scene and introduce something new to music fans and indie lovers everywhere.

Of his EP, Vanags has said, "The title Pulses are Pluses really captures the heart of this EP. I hope the concept of understanding how we all have so much to be positive about in this life, even in the lowliest of times, will really come across with this new, energetic sound."

I couldn't agree more.

Recommended: For fans of Death Cab for Cutie, Augustana, Owl City, Brendan James.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Poll of the Week: Which Movie Soundtrack Is Your Favorite?

By now many of you have either seen the second film in the Twilight series, New Moon, or have heard the constant gossip about Team Edward and Team Jacob. All this Twilight talk has made me wonder about movie soundtracks and which soundtrack you can't live without. Below, I have a few options so feel free to add whatever you think is missing in the comments.

Which Movie Soundtrack Is Your Favorite?

Almost Famous

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday Song Addiction: Dance Edition

Weekends are the time to break free of the everyday 9-5. This week's Saturday Song Addiction provides some energetic music you can dance to while getting ready for a night on the town and unwinding from that repetitive routine.

The Ting Tings broke into the music scene this summer with their hit, "That's Not My Name." The English duo is back with latest single, "Great DJ," bound to reach similar success. Watch below as The Ting Tings invite fans in LA to their indie-rock paint party.

By far one of the most intriguing artists I've interviewed, Sia is known for her energetic stage show and free spirit. In fact, she recently leaked “You’ve Changed,” a new track from her upcoming album due out spring of 2010, on her Twitter. Listen to the catchy single, "You've Changed" here.

The press release for Lights' video, "Ice" explains the music video best. "Check out the brand new video from our favorite keytar-weilding, comic book-writing, video gaming, graduate from the Warped Tour school of badass: LIGHTS. Like the heroine she plays in Audio Quest: Captain LIGHTS Adventure, it's once again a battle between good versus evil, but there's a twist — she's both! Does good prevail? See for yourself below."

LIGHTS - "Ice" Official Music Video

LIGHTS | MySpace Music Videos

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Buy a Record, Save a Life

Music plays such a major part in my life, it's always inspiring when an artist goes out of his way to make a difference. One band, Georgia-based The Goodfight, is making their impact on the world by donating their record sales to charity: water.

The Goodfight will give away 100% of the revenue generated by their latest album, Good & Evil, to provide thirsty people with access to clean water. The goal is to sell 10,000 records for charity:water which will help build wells, provide clean water solutions and save countless lives.

Their plan is simple: Buy a record, listen to it, tell all your friends and change the lives of people around the world.

Good music for a great cause, it's not too hard to convince you to participate is it? For more information, watch the video below and visit The Goodfight's site here to purchase a copy of their album.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

You Sing, I Write + The Jew Spot Present A Benefit For TWLOHA

You Sing, I Write and The Jew Spot are happy to be hosting a benefit concert for To Write Love On Her Arms on December 19th.

We invite you to join us as we celebrate our 2-year blog anniversaries and raise awareness for To Write Love on Her Arms. We've asked a few of our friends to join us in this worthy cause, with performances by Hotspur, The Ramblers, Tor Miller Band and Love Automatic.



Buying a ticket online will automatically enter you into one raffle of your choice: autographed cd and poster packages from artists like John Mayer, Mat Kearney, Jack's Mannequin & Ingrid Michaelson!

To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery. | | | FACEBOOK

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

John Mayer Debuts Tracks Off New Album at Secret Brooklyn Show

On the eve of John Mayer's album release, hundreds of fans lined up outside the Music Hall of Williamsburg for a secret show presented by MySpace and Citi Forward. Starting the night with first track off Battle Studies, the room erupted into screams. A mix of new and old songs, the two-hour and fifteen minute set proved Mayer to be in his element as he displayed his killer guitar skills and comical side, continually joking with fans (one of which threw her bra at him). "They say I'm a womanizer. I say I haven't met enough women," he quipped.

A bluesy "Vultures" followed "Heartbreak Warfare" which segued nicely into "Crossroads," by far the most soulful track on Battle Studies, showcasing Mayer's guitar chops well. Replying to screams of "I love you" Mayer said, "I love you too. It's great to be back onstage with a guitar."

A standout performer, Mayer improvised continually throughout the night. On "I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You) he slowed the beat down mid-song, telling his band, "Feel it out. Do what you guys feel." A nice glimpse into the John Mayer world of music, the song was sultry and soulful with a slight edge you could never witness from just listening to the album.

Surprisingly, the crowd knew most of the tracks off Battle Studies and sang along word for word during many of the songs. The optimistic tongue in cheek, "Perfectly Lonely" seemed to be a favorite from audience reaction.

Always the comedian, when a fan held a professionally designed sign that read, "Battle Studies: Warriors" he joked, "This is one of those school projects where your father is a genius . . . this gives a new standard to poster board and 3x5 signs." Before beginning, "Why Georgia," he told fans, "If you were afraid of me evolving away from you and if you were afraid that I could never be the guy who is still wondering what the hell is going on and think that I have it all, I play this for you as the kid in his mother's 1991 Plymouth Voyager living in Atlanta, Georgia."

Definitely a crowd favorite, "Why Georgia" took the audience back to where it all began: 2001's Room For Squares. A special surprise performance of "Comfortable" drew additional excitement. A song he hasn't played in a while, Mayer stated, "I'm going to try it." When failing to find the right note during the song he confessed, "I didn't know it then. I don't know it now."

The band left Mayer onstage solo for "Free Fallin,'" "Belief" and "War of My Life," a new track off Battle Studies, and a song he has yet to perform live. "Since this is a fan show and I know anything goes, I'm going to try a new song from the record we haven't played yet as a band." A slower ballad with moving lyrics, Mayer addressed the crowd mid-song. "Everyone is figuring out what their problems are in the continuum from bad to good. Whatever your problems are, big or small, all problems feel the same. For the things you're trying to get over, sing it with me," he said before singing the chorus: "I'm in the war of my life/At the core of my life/Got no choice but to fight 'til it's done."

And, what is a John Mayer concert without an intriguing rant? Known for garnering attention from the tabloids, Mayer said, "When I'm doing all this press and they say, 'What do you say to people who say you're a monstrous cad or a douchebag?' You know what I say? Here's what I say, (breaking into song) Let a man be lost for once in his lifetime/To sit in his own mind/To stare at the skyline/To live out his life all in the night sky/Let a man be lost."

Highlight of the night was Mayer's moving and incredible improvisation of "Gravity." The emotion transferred from Mayer to guitar was ethereal as the band accompanied with a long intro and instrumental interlude mid-song. The show could have ended right there and it would have been a solid two-hour set, but an encore was still in order. Coming back onstage for current single, "Who Says" and the gospel infused "Friends, Lovers or Nothing," Mayer closed his performance by taking pictures with fan's cameras and shaking the hands of those closest to the stage. For a man with such versatility and respect, I couldn't imagine a better way to end the night.

For those of you who weren't able to make the show last night in Brooklyn, Fuse will be broadcasting Mayer's Beacon Theater performance tonight at 9 P.M. I'll be watching, will you?

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John Mayer, Colbie Caillat and Brett Dennen Impress in New Jersey
Blast From the Past: John Mayer Concert Review on

Monday, November 16, 2009

Book Review: "Cassette from My Ex"

Do you remember your first mixtape? Whether you made or received mixtapes in the past, Cassette from My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves will surely strike up some nostalgia. Edited by Jason Bitner, Cassette from My Ex contains a collection of 60 essays about relationships and mixtapes from musicians, magazine editors, VJs and more. Packed with comical and poignant tales of first love, friendship and heartbreak, the stories are relatable and at many times, bittersweet.

At the New York launch party, Bitner informed the audience of the origins of the project. After finding an old suitcase filled with 60-70 cassettes in his basement, one tape stood out. It was a mixtape he was given junior year of high school by his first girlfriend. Instantly transported back to January of 1991, Bitner realized if he held onto the tape for so many years, he surely couldn't be alone. Thus began Cassette from My Ex.

Joe Levy (editor of Maxim), Claudia Gonson (pianist/drummer of The Magnetic Fields) and Michael Hearst (musician and writer) provided insight into their mixtape days. The panel debated the mixtape process with Bitner, who hosted the evening. Whether it was spending countless hours tracking the tape to perfection or delicately designing the artwork to accompany the tape, all agreed that nothing was more satisfying than sitting on the floor with their record collection and crafting the perfect mixtape. Move over iTunes playlists; let’s bring back the mixtape.

From the hilarious hand-me-down tale of a woman who discovers two of her boyfriends dated the same woman, Melissa, who made them both the same mix (a huge don’t in the mixtape world) to the heartbreak of learning of an ex’s suicide, each story is written from the heart and begs the reader to turn the page and discover the story behind the next mixtape.

“We made each other tapes because we believed that music articulated what we could not otherwise express,” Ben Greenman wrote in his essay, “Sorrowful, Standing.” Vincent Chung seemingly agreed in his write-up, “Snowball’s Chance in Hell.” “To me, receiving mixtapes isn’t about discovering new music expertly mixed with sweet transitions. They simply have to encapsulate the author’s personality, and the cassettes were always ideal in their imperfections.”

Cassette from My Ex will surely find you laughing and when finished, in search of your old mixtape, or possibly inspire you to make one for someone else. Either way, Jenny Reader said it best. “Times change, people change, but the tunes that become entwined in the fabric of your life? That’s as gritty and real, and as unchangeable, as it gets.”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Poll of the Week: What Song Gets You In the Holiday Spirit?

It's that time of the year again. The stores are playing holiday music and it's not even Thanksgiving yet. I watched maybe 30 minutes of TV today and already saw four Christmas commercials. All of the holiday music I've been hearing has inspired this week's poll:

What song gets you in the holiday spirit?

"The Thanksgiving Song"

"The Chanukah Song"

"Winter Wonderland"

"Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"


I know it's a bit early, but I couldn't help but wonder what songs you've begun to hear and what songs you're most looking forward to listening to this holiday season.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday Song Addiction

From 70s inspired rock to acoustic pop ballads, this week's Saturday Song Addiction provides a little something for everyone. You can watch two of the music videos below and download Colbie Caillat's latest single for free. Love to know your thoughts and what songs you can't stop listening to!

"A Whole Lot Better" by Brendan Benson

"The End Is Where We Begin" by Our Lady Peace

The End Is Where We Begin from Our Lady Peace on Vimeo.

"I Never Told You" by Colbie Caillat

Listen and download the track for free until December 1st here.

Related Links:
Saturday Song Addiction: Halloween Edition
Saturday Song Addiction
Sunday Song Addiction
Q&A with Colbie Caillat

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Taylor Swift Wins Entertainer of the Year

The youngest country star to ever win Entertainer of the Year and first female solo artist to do it since Shania Twain a decade ago, Taylor Swift took home the CMA award beating out her all-male nominees, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban and George Strait.

"I will never forget this moment because in this moment everything that I have ever wanted has happened to me," Swift said in between tears during her acceptance speech before bringing her band to the stage.

Kanye West was the bud of many jokes last night, and after what went down at MTV's VMA Awards earlier this year, it was expected. "Mama's don't let your babies grow up to be Kanye," sang co-hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood at the start of the show.

Swift even cracked a joke about it. While making her acceptance speech after winning Female Vocalist of the Year, she said, "I want to thank every single person in this room tonight for not running up on the stage during this speech."

For a complete Taylor Swift run down of the night, watch CMT's video below. Did you watch the show? What do you think is in store for Taylor after winning Entertainer of the Year?

Related Links:
Q&A with Taylor Swift
Hundreds of Fans Camp Out to Meet Taylor Swift
CMA 2009: Six Artists To Watch
Artist to Watch: Taylor Swift

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

CMA Awards Air on ABC Tonight!

Taylor Swift will kick off the CMA Awards tonight with her performance at the Sommet Center in Nashville. Hosted by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, the awards show will air tonight at 8 p.m. on ABC. Will you be watching?

Swift is up for Entertainer of the Year award along with Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, George Strait and Keith Urban. Who do you think will win?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Stream John Mayer's Upcoming Release

Earlier today, Rhapsody launched a new artist promotion supporting John Mayer's upcoming release, Battle Studies. Due to hit stores Tuesday, November 17th, fans can listen to the tracks in their entirety a week early on and VH1's "The Leak."

While I'm sure many of you have heard latest single, "Who Says" and debated the truth behind the lyrics, "Who says I can't get stoned," you'll be happy to know the rest of the album is far less questionable. Emotive "All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye" has that acoustic folk feel reminiscent to last release, Continuum while "Half Of My Heart" is more uplifting. Featuring Taylor Swift on backing vocals, both singer's voices blend extremely well. "Crossroads," a song familiar to Eric Clapton fans, showcases Mayer's blues side well. A refreshing surprise amongst numerous ballads, it is on this track that Mayer truly shines.

What do you think? Will you be picking up a copy of Mayer's Battle Studies next week? Be sure to check out and VH1's "The Leak" for a complete album stream. Which song is your favorite?

Related Links:
Song of the Week: "Who Says"
John Mayer Tells All At Z100's Z-Lounge
John Mayer, Colbie Caillat and Brett Dennen Impress in New Jersey
Blast From the Past: John Mayer Concert Review on

Monday, November 9, 2009

Album Review: Switchfoot's "Hello Hurricane"

Their first album in nearly three years, Switchfoot have said Hello Hurricane has been the hardest record they have ever made. The band tracked over 80 songs out of 150 written, the end result being 12 remarkably cohesive tracks. Between the aggressive rock numbers and powerful ballads, Hello Hurricane is a solid release embodying tales of struggle and loss intertwined with the overlying theme of hope and love. Their seventh studio release, Switchfoot prove their music is as important now than ever.

A press release explains it best: “Where the multiple-Platinum selling The Beautiful Letdown became an anthem for a generation of fans to leave a life of complacency with songs like “Dare You To Move,” “Meant to Live” and “This Is Your Life,” Hello Hurricane takes the message a step further, encouraging fans to live for something beyond themselves.”

Energetic tracks like current single, “Mess of Me” and opening song, “Needle and Haystack Life” reassess this message. “Don’t let go/Don’t give up hope/All is forgiven/You breathe it in/The highs and lows/We call it living/All is not lost/Become who you are/It happens once in a lifetime.”

Frontman Jon Foreman further explains the record’s concept. “Hello Hurricane acknowledges the storms that tear through our lives. This album is an attempt to respond to those storms with an element of hope, trying to understand what it means to be hopeful in a world that keeps on spinning.”

Known for their introspective lyrics and heartfelt ballads, the heavy rock entrance on the record may surprise longtime fans at first. High-energy, arena-friendly tracks can be heard early on Hello Hurricane, something the Switchfoot concert buff will enjoy but the average music fan may take a few spins to appreciate. In a four-minute album trailer Foreman provides clarification while talking of the difficulty in tracking the album. “They didn't feel like the type of songs you wanted to die singing. For Hello Hurricane, that became the prerequisite for the song. If you're not crying, why are you singing it? If you don't believe it with every ounce of you, then there's no point in singing it.” It is this quote that best describes the album.

Hello Hurricane takes the listener on a journey. The upbeat start of the record eventually takes a turn midway through, ending with three fitting ballads. Let me be clear, this is not an album of singles; it is an album that rewards those who listen to it in its entirety.

Slower track, “Your Love Is a Song” recalls earlier Switchfoot track, “Let Your Love Be Strong” and “Your Love Is Strong" off Foreman’s solo EP while “Bullet Soul” is a welcomed rebirth. Opening with excessive guitar fuzz in the speakers, it’s as rock as you can get. Listeners can easily picture Foreman jumping off the drum kit while screaming the lyrics at a live show.

Switchfoot thrive on their ballads and the emotional “Enough” is just one example. With soft guitar accompaniment and percussion, Foreman’s voice blends well as he sings, “Do you love me enough to let me go?/To let me follow through/Let me fall for you my love/Do you love me enough to let me go?” Possibly the simplest track on Hello Hurricane, the depth behind “Enough” is immeasurable.

“Free” follows “Enough” and is a song many can relate to. In a tale of the struggle breaking free of our own vices be it debt, greed, or our past, Foreman sings, “I’ve got my back against the wall/But I still hear the blue sky call/The chains that hold me back inside/Are the prisons of my mind . . . I try to live the light of day/Why would I do what I hate.” With dark guitar tones and percussion the song leaves an impact on the listener.

Produced by Mike Elizondo, (Eminem, Dr. Dre, Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor) Hello Hurricane is a new beginning for the band. While certain tracks rock harder than others, it is the stories within the songs that leave the greatest impression.

The title track is said to have been inspired by a woman who lost all she knew in Hurricane Katrina. Last year, with Habitat for Humanity, the band helped rebuild a woman’s home who relocated to Baton Rouge. As she learned to walk as an amputee, Foreman explained her mantra: “I walked out of my house and my life in New Orleans on my own legs; I'm going to walk into this one the same way." Of “Hello Hurricane,” he explained, “This is the spirit that I wanted to capture with this song, and moreover with this record. The storms of life might take my house, my loved ones, or even my life- but they cannot silence my love.”

After learning the story behind the song, the track hits home. “Everything I have I count as loss/Everything I have is stripped away/Before I started building/I counted up these costs/There's nothing left for you to take away/Hello hurricane/You can't silence my love.”

The beautifully emotional ballads, “Always,” “Yet,” “Sing It Out” and “Red Eyes” close the album on a high note. Last track, “Red Eyes” brings the album full circle with Foreman singing the chorus from “Needle and Haystack Life” to the fadeout of the song: “We are once in a lifetime…” It is within these songs that Switchfoot truly shine. While the faster paced rock anthems introduce Hello Hurricane, it is the ballads of hope, love and yearning that end the album, leaving the listener with newborn faith, freedom and strength. Foreman explains it best:

Hello Hurricane is an attempt to sing into the storm. Hello Hurricane is a declaration: you can't silence my love. My plans will fail, the storms of this life will come, and chaos will disrupt even my best intentions, but my love will not be destroyed. Beneath the sound and the fury there is a deeper order still- deeper than life itself. An order that cannot be shaken by the storms of this life. There is a love stronger than the chaos, running underneath us- beckoning us to go below the skin-deep externals, beyond the wind, even into the eye of the storm. Hello Hurricane, you're not enough- you can't silence my love.”

Hello Hurricane hits stores Tuesday, November 10. Are you planning on picking up a copy? I'd love to know your thoughts!

Related Links:
Q&A with Jon Foreman
Q&A with Chad Butler of Switchfoot
Audio Interview with Tim Foreman of Switchfoot
Switchfoot Raise Over $67,000 on Tour Benefiting Habitat for Humanity

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Switchfoot Album Preview

I'm typing this blog as I'm working on an in-depth album review of Switchfoot's forthcoming release, Hello Hurricane, due in stores Tuesday. (Hoping to get the review up for you tomorrow!) In the meantime, take a look at the album trailer and their latest single, "Mess of Me" below. Their first album in nearly three years, the band proves they're still alive and rocking. What do you think?

Related Links:
Q&A with Jon Foreman
Q&A with Chad Butler of Switchfoot
Audio Interview with Tim Foreman of Switchfoot
Switchfoot Raise Over $67,000 on Tour Benefiting Habitat for Humanity

Friday, November 6, 2009

Song of the Week: "Under Control"

I couldn't go anywhere this week without hearing Parachute on the radio! Whether it was at my birthday dinner with friends in New York or the radio on my drive home from a show, Parachute have been taking over the airwaves. While current single, "She Is Love" is heating up the charts, I stumbled upon their latest music video for catchy track, "Under Control." I think you'll find the video amusing.

When interviewing frontman Will Anderson nearly two years ago, I asked him about "Under Control," to which he said:

"I had a 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."

Related Links:
Q&A with Parachute
Parachute Lands No. 1 Album on iTunes
Q&A with Sparky's Flaw
Audio Interview with Will Anderson of Parachute

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Night With Clive Davis

It is indisputable that Clive Davis is one of the most highly regarded music executives in the business. The man behind chart-topping artists including Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson, Leona Lewis and Whitney Houston, not to mention rock legends Carlos Santana, Aerosmith, Janis Joplin, and Bruce Springsteen, Davis proves his passion for music with every artist he takes under his wing.

Davis spoke to a packed room at New York University last night. The talk, sponsored by SoundCtrl, was moderated by Billboard's Editorial Director, Bill Werde. Entering the room to a standing ovation, Davis thanked the audience for attending despite the World Series game, which he said he TiVoed.

Known as a versatile producer, Davis said when he started Arista he didn't specialize and instead would frequent Broadway shows on a nightly basis and Carnegie Hall twice a week scoping for new talent and music trends. "To pour yourself into it, you learn and try to permeate yourself. You learn not to specialize."

Before attending the Monterey Pop Festival, Davis didn't know he had an ear for music. The festival was an epiphany, he said. "Monterey was a different culture than I had ever seen before. A different attitude, different music. I just knew from every fiber of myself that this was a cultural movement, a revolution and I was very fortunate [to be there]." Davis quietly bought Janis Joplin's contract as well as Earth, Wind and Fire shortly after. "I felt this would be the new sound for music to be heard around the world."

Highly regarded in the music industry as not trying to fit in and look like the artists he represents, Davis said, "Over the years you learn you have to be yourself. Once you try to purposely be trendy you lose respect." He continued, "I've also found that artists want a manager who's an expert. Artists want to be protected. They don't want you to be one of them. I don't try to talk in the jargon of Hip-Hop. It's always best to be yourself."

A firm believer in listening to his gut, the music industry veteran knows what a hit song is. In fact, he told the audience that Kelly Clarkson didn't like many of her hits originally. "It's not easy to come up with a hit. I work very hard at not going over the hill and making sure my ears stay current. You've got to be on top of your game."

Before opening the floor to questions, Davis demonstrated his listening process to the audience with three early demos of Carlos Santana's hit, "The Game of Love." The first demo highlighted the instrumentals of the song with a male vocalist. It didn't sound right, so Davis suggested adding a female singer — Macy Gray. Powerful, but not what he was looking for, Davis eventually chose Michelle Branch as lead vocals. However, there is an interesting back story to the song. The original choice was Tina Turner, who refused to do a music video for the song. Davis insisted that a video was necessary for mass appeal, but Turner declined, leading to the hit as we know it today featuring Branch.

While the future of today's music industry is unclear, Davis remains optimistic. "I do believe that there will be new labels and companies formed today. There still is that hunger for music. There still is that role music plays in people's lives. Music is as important, if not more today, than it has ever been."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Anya Marina Debuts "New Moon" Music Video

Yesterday Anya Marina released the music video for "Satellite Heart," a new song which will be featured in the upcoming Twilight movie series, New Moon. With her mousy vocals and seductive musical accompaniment, "Satellite Heart" is sure to be a hit.

Already hailed a key track by Rolling Stone, take a listen, I'm curious to know your opinion. For REAL click here. For WIN here. Watch the video below.

'Satellite Heart' Anya Marina

Anya Marina | MySpace Video

Related Links:
Q&A with Anya Marina
Anya Marina Covers T.I.
Anya Marina Heats Things Up At Record Release
Artist You Should Know: Anya Marina

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Michael Jackson's "This Is It" Breaks Records

This Is It is a must-see for music lovers and above all, Michael Jackson fans. The film showcases rehearsal footage for Jackson's upcoming dates at The O2 arena in London, to which he hailed as his "final curtain call." What was quickly regarded as being his comeback performance, 40 shows were added to the initial 10, all of which quickly sold out. Dying less than three weeks before his first show in London, This Is It is a glimpse into what could have been Jackson's most electrifying performance yet.

For nearly two hours, the movie theater is transformed into the stage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles where backup dancers, musicians, and concert directors prepare with The King of Pop. The viewer is taken backstage as the dancers audition, Jackson instructs the musicians down to the last chord of a song and the pyrotechnics and backdrop is revealed.

The film showcases Jackson's showmanship and attention to detail, even having one band member state, "Michael is a perfectionist and you don't really find that in pop music today." I couldn't agree more. Throughout the film, fans watch the production of MJ classics transform on the stage including "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin," "Smooth Criminal," "Thriller" as well as Jackson 5 hits such as "I'll Be There."

While the box office numbers report $101 million on its worldwide opening, the US failed to perform at the level Sony wished for, bringing the domestic total for this past weekend's run to $21.3 million, Rolling Stone reports. US outlook aside, since being released Oct. 28, This Is It has become the highest-grossing concert film of all time.

A fitting tribute to The King of Pop, This Is It brings the fan up close and behind the scenes of a music legend after his tragic death. Although he is gone, the film and his music will live on and continue to break barriers. No one can state it better than Jackson himself: "That's why I write these kind of songs. It gives some sense of awareness and awakening and hope to people. I feel so blessed that I can give the world that."

For an in-depth review of the film, read Peter Travers' take in Rolling Stone here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Poll of the Week: What Fall Album Release Are You Looking Forward To?

This fall is jam packed with album releases from many established artists, as well as hot up-and-coming bands. The next few weeks I'll be making multiple trips to the record store (Yes, I still buy albums — does anyone else?). My question for you in this week's poll is:

What Fall Album Release Are You Looking Forward To?

Alicia Keys
John Mayer

Above are some albums I'm looking forward to, but I really want to know which release you're most excited about. Leave your answers in the comments!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Song of the Week: "Twenty-Four"

I still remember the first time I listened to "Twenty-Four" on Switchfoot's album, The Beautiful Letdown. I was 18 at the time and 24 seemed far in the distance. However, as 25 creeps closer and closer (now, a few hours away) the song has grown deeper in meaning.

Of "Twenty-Four," frontman Jon Foreman has said, "I wrote this song near the end of my 24th year on this planet. Wherever we run, wherever the sun finds us when he rises, we remain stuck with ourselves. That can be overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like my soul is polluted with politicians, each with a different point of view. With all 24 of them in disagreement, each voice is yelling to be heard. And so I am divided against myself. I feel that I am a hypocrite until I am one, when all of the yelling inside of me dies down. I've heard that the truth will set you free. That's what I'm living for: freedom of spirit. I find unity and peace in none of the diversions that this world offers. But I've seen glimpses of truth and that's where I want to run."

It was just two years ago tomorrow that I was scheduled to interview Switchfoot drummer Chad Butler — on my birthday. I always dreamed of interviewing notable bands, but never imagined it becoming a reality. I'm grateful the first band I interviewed for You Sing, I Write was Switchfoot.

In an interview I had with Foreman two years ago, I asked him about his songwriting process and his answer stuck out to me:

"My inspiration for each song is the specific place where I’m at in life. I’ve heard that books come from locations and I think songs are the same way. Songs can be a little bit more ethereal. So maybe it’s a little bit more of an emotional, spiritual place than a physical location. For me, most of my songs come from the problems in my life. When I’m happy I hang out with my friends and go surfing. That’s not when you write a song. You write a song when you’re depressed, angry and bitter and you’re trying to figure out the world."

I guess what I'm saying in this lengthy blog post is, I never expected all the things I have accomplished by the age of 24. While my "job" isn't the typical 9-5 and took a while for family members to accept, life is never what you originally thought it would be, it's even better when you follow through with things that give it meaning. For me, it is writing about music and I'm just lucky I've been able to meet some of my favorite musicians in the process. As the hours close, in Jon Foreman's words: at the "end of my 24th year on this planet" I find comfort in 25. Only bigger and better things can develop from here, right?

Watch the video for "Twenty-Four" below and take a good listen to the words.

Related Links:
Q&A with Jon Foreman
Q&A with Chad Butler of Switchfoot
Audio Interview with Tim Foreman of Switchfoot
Switchfoot Raise Over $67,000 on Tour Benefiting Habitat for Humanity


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