You Sing, I Write: June 2010

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

You Sing I Write Adventures: Why I Love Taylor Swift, June Recap

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

Last month, I posted my first "Day In the Life." A first person article about my music adventures, I received an overwhelming positive response and my poll of the week informed me that you, the readers, would like to read similar posts on a weekly basis. I'll try my very best to keep up-to-date!

June has been a whirlwind of CD release parties and concerts. Last week alone, I attended five shows in a row. An exciting first for me, I was introduced to quite a few new bands and genres of music.

Tuesday night I made it to the Studio at Webster Hall just in time to catch New York favorites, Lights Resolve. They debuted a few new tracks from their upcoming release to a packed crowd. Definitely a more aggressive feel than their previous material, between their gritty guitar riffs and unwavering energy, it is sure to be a success. You can download their latest EP for free here.

Wednesday night I covered Dion Roy's EP Release Party at the Living Room. Earlier that day he debuted at No. 16 on the singer-songwriter iTunes charts and throughout the week he charted to No. 8. Pretty impressive!

Being a Jersey girl, I've heard of the infamous Stone Pony in Asbury Park, but surprisingly never made it to a show there. This all changed when I saw Tor Miller Band open for Quincy Mumford Thursday. You may remember Tor Miller Band from my TWLOHA benefit concert back in December. I'm in disbelief that they're only in high school. Their song, "I'm Alright" is still stuck in my head. (Video below)

Friday and Saturday I covered shows for Hoboken Patch. Good Old War, Yukon Blonde and Audra Mae quickly became new favorites of mine. While waiting for Good Old War to take the stage at their sold-out show at Maxwell's Friday night, I learned that I was standing beside Circa Survive frontman Anthony Green. Pretty cool, no? You can read my full recap of the show here. Saturday night I witnessed my first heavy rock show when covering Chambers' record release. I've never seen fans jump on vocalists and guitarists before at a concert and it was an experience I will never forget. Read all about it here.

Earlier this month, after writing an article for Lemondrop, I learned it was featured on AOL's homepage. I received an overwhelming response (nearly 300 comments) and learned that my piece struck a chord with many readers. That's the main reason I decided to pursue journalism — to make an impact. Unfortunately, my family was less than pleased as they feel I portrayed them in a bad light. Read the article here and let me know what you think. If I at least made a few people smile and realize they're not alone, then I'm satisfied.

A journalist's job is not always an easy one, but at least I can live with knowing I was 100% "honest and unmerciful" (cue one of my favorite "Almost Famous" lines). This whole experience really made me curious as to how songwriters do it. Artists like Taylor Swift display their inner most thoughts and feelings for everyone to hear. Not to mention, name their ex-boyfriends! Don't they ever face resistance and shy away from it? I've always loved Taylor, but this month really put things into perspective.

Perhaps, subconsciously this is why one of my favorite questions to ask artists is if they're ever afraid to reveal too much in their songs. I asked Taylor Swift this very question last year at the CMA Music Festival and this is what she said:

"For me, writing a song, I sit down and the process doesn’t really involve me thinking about the demographic of people I’m trying to hit or who I want to be able to relate to the song or what genre of music it falls under. When I sit down and write a song the only person that I’m thinking about in that room is the person that I’m writing the song about and what I want them to know and what I wish I could tell them to their face, but I’m going to say it in a song instead. So, for me, music is really more about a diary and a confession. I love it. I love getting to say things to people that I wouldn’t say to them if I was standing face to face with them. Music is a way of verbalizing those things that I feel that I can’t say."

For Taylor's complete press room conference interview from the 2009 CMA Fest, click here.

Insightful answer, no? In fact, every time I've ever asked a singer-songwriter this question, they've pretty much said the same thing, adding that when they have held back in songwriting, they've regretted it. While I definitely still have a lot to learn, I think I'm on the right track.

 Updates from last month's post:

I FINALLY got to chat with Benny from Gaslight Anthem (photo above) and am working on setting up an interview with the band. You can read my review of their sold-out New York record release show on Venus Zine.

My Hanson interview was posted a few weeks ago on Lemondrop. Check it out here. I'd love to know your thoughts!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chambers Celebrate Record Release at Maxwell’s

Photo Credit: Robert T. Huber

As Chambers took the stage late Saturday night, it was evident this would be a record release party like no other. A mosh pit soon formed a few feet from the stage while frontman Dan Pelic told the crowd, "Come closer. I promise I won't hurt you."

Together for just more than a year, Chambers' debut album, Old Love is aggressive rock & roll with heavy vocals and ear-grabbing guitar riffs. With the goal to make a record that captured the band's live sound, after witnessing their performance Saturday it was obvious this was accomplished.

For the complete review, visit Hoboken Patch. Stay tuned for my interview with Dan of Chambers in the upcoming days.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Good Old War, Yukon Blonde and Audra Mae Impress at Maxwell’s

It was evident on Friday night that Good Old War, Yukon Blonde and Audra Mae don't want their current tour to end. With two shows remaining, the bands couldn't get enough of each other. Whether it was Audra Mae calling members of Yukon Blonde and Good Old War onstage during her performance or a nearly five-minute jam between members of all three bands during Yukon Blonde's set, their excitement permeated into the sold-out crowd.

Good Old War began with "My Own Sinking Ship" complete with accordion accompaniment. As the trio alternated instruments they continuously danced around the stage. Circa Survive frontman Anthony Green surprised concertgoers at the end of second track, "Weak Man" when he jumped onstage to sing along with the band.

For the complete review, visit Hoboken Patch.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

One Day Left to Vote for You Sing I Write as MTV Twitter Jockey

Last week, I told you about MTV's search for a Twitter Jockey. They're currently looking for a social media enthusiast who will act as a liaison between the public and staff at MTV.

If you feel You Sing I Write should be a contender vote here. There are two spots still open, so if you enjoy reading music news and interviews I provide and think MTV can benefit from my help, feel free to nominate me! The voting ends tomorrow, June 27. Thanks for your support!

Here are the rules:

1) MTV selects 18 candidates.
2) You, the audience, selects two (2) candidates through open nominations.
3) The 20 candidates compete in a series of Twitter-based challenges.
4) Five candidates move on to the final challenge round in New York City.
5) You, the audience, votes for the final MTV TJ during a live televised show on August 8, 2010.

To find out more about the contest, and how to enter visit

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dion Roy Showcases New Songs at EP Release Party

Wednesday night, singer-songwriter Dion Roy performed new tracks off his latest EP, The Nearest Light to a packed crowd at New York's The Living Room. As he showcased his emotion-filled songs with a full band, Roy proved he is an artist to watch. Midway through his set, he informed the crowd that his EP debuted at No. 16 on the singer/songwriter chart on iTunes. A day later, The Nearest Light, peaked at No. 8.

Roy started his EP release party with a few songs from his full-length album, Gallery, including "Wants It" before he performed The Nearest Light in it's entirety. When I interviewed Roy earlier this year, he told me the track is a collection of different relationships he has been in.

"At first glance, ['Wants It' sounds like] I’m heartbroken. If you listen or read the rest of the lyrics it shows how I was heartbroken but when she decided to come back into my life it was like, 'See you later.'" A personal track, Roy says it's a song he plans to play throughout his career.

"I'm so humbled you're all here tonight," he told the room before introducing first track off his EP. "The Wave is kind of a love song," he said.

With Roy's descriptive lyrics combined with Peter Roessler on guitar, Ed Marshall on bass, and Boots Factor of Stephen Kellogg and The Sixers on drums rounding out the sound, the song struck a chord.

Next track, "Dirty Hotel Scenery," showcased an edgier sound with heavy percussion and bass accompaniment. One of the first songs he ever wrote, Roy said it's one of his favorite tracks. The set concluded with the beautiful haunting ballad "Of Grey" and the upbeat "On the Way Down." The room fell silent throughout each song, as Roy captivated the audience's attention.

The Nearest Light has remained within the Top 20 singer/songwriter position on iTunes throughout the past three days. Additionally, it has been licensed for use in the upcoming seasons of "The Real World" and "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." With a U.S. summer tour in the works with "American Idol"'s Josiah Leming and Todd Carey, Dion Roy shows no signs of slowing down.

Be sure to visit Dion Roy on MySpace and you can read my interview with him here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Artist to Watch: Jaron and The Long Road To Love

A few months ago I was introduced to Jaron and The Long Road To Love while watching country music videos on CMT. (Yes, I love country THAT much). Jaron looked extremely familiar so I did my research. Remember twin brothers Evan and Jaron from the 90s? Their hits include "Crazy For This Girl," "From My Head to My Heart" and "The Distance," many of which landed in major films like "Runaway Bride" and "Serendipity."

When Evan decided to take a break from the music business to start a family, a decade later Jaron chose otherwise. His MySpace states that in March of 2009, after growing tired of hearing the bad news about the economy, he took out his guitar and wrote a song to feel better.

"I felt selfish. I felt like I had this gift that I was keeping to myself. A friend of mine had told me years before that someday I would realize that my talent belonged to all of us and not just to me. He said I had a social responsibility to share but it took a decade for those words to make sense to me."

Fast forward to 2010. Quirky current single, "Pray For You" is a staple on country music countdowns and Jaron released his debut country album, Getting Dressed in the Dark, this past Tuesday. The LP features 10 songs about Jaron's journey to love. Of the album's theme, Jaron says, “Why do I choose to write about love? Because that’s where I am right now. I’m not interested in writing stories about doors, or blue skies or whatever. It’s not interesting to me right now.”

While “Pray for You,” is a revenge ballad, “Meantime Girl” tells the whimsical story of a fleeting infatuation at a traffic light and “Kill Me For Loving You” is a vulnerable song about the pain of a break up. With his return to music, Jaron says he wanted to do things differently.

"I wanted to write the songs that I felt were being left off other people's albums. I wanted to talk about the little details that get overlooked but that I think are really the biggest issues. It was also important to me to be very candid in my lyrics and make sure that I was honest in not only my frustrations towards others, but also when discussing my own failings. If honest was going to be the foundation of this album, I had to be willing to start with me."

For more on Jaron and The Long Road to Love, visit him on Facebook and MySpace. You can watch the video for "Pray For You" below as well as download the album on iTunes here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Thank You for Supporting Girls Who Rock!

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

Nearly two weeks ago, Girls Who Rock took over New York's Santos Party House. What started as an idea among three friends turned into a four-hour party with nearly 400 guests. Raising just under $5,000, the benefit concert partnership between She's the First and AfricAid resulted in sponsoring three girl's four-years of high school education.

The money raised will help sponsor the girls two-year program of the Kisa Project via AfricAid, which is one of the many partner programs that She’s the First supports worldwide by encouraging fun, affordable grassroots fundraising among young women and men. AfricAid was chosen as the beneficiary because the organization recently piloted The Kisa Project, an initiative that enrolls girls in leadership training and digital storytelling workshops, where they learn to share their lives with sponsors through rich, vivid videos.

Through the Kisa Project, young women in Tanzania will finish their schooling, go through a powerful 2-year leadership training program, start their own service and business projects, and build meaningful relationships with students and sponsors in the United States through and

The night was a success with impressive performances by Kat DeLuna, Shontelle, Lenka, MoZella, Vita Chambers, Cara Salimando, Kelli Pyle and DJ Kalkutta. Kat DeLuna even taught the audience the official "Push Push" dance.

Online donations can still be made here. The girls sponsored through Girls Who Rock will be communicating to all of their co-sponsors on the She’s the First blog throughout the year. Thanks so  much for all of your support and for helping promote the importance of girls education! Stay tuned for updates from Girls Who Rock and ways you can get involved in the future.

If you missed the show, you can still watch it on livestream here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Gaslight Anthem Celebrates New Record Across State Lines

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

From the moment the Gaslight Anthem took the stage at New York City’s Irving Plaza last Tuesday, the energy in the room skyrocketed. The day of their record release for new album American Slang, the New Jersey quartet demonstrated what a rock show should be. As fans clapped along at the right moment on every song, singing word for word and creating havoc by dancing and crowd-surfing in a mosh pit on the floor, the excitement of the sold-out show was evident.

For my complete review with additional photos, visit Venus Zine.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Stream Griffin House's Latest Release on AOL Music

Just over a year ago, I featured Griffin House as artist of the week. A colleague introduced me to him and I haven't been able to stop listening since. His honesty and sincerity are evident in each song and he is one singer-songwriter to be on the lookout for.

Tomorrow, he releases The Learner but you can listen to the album in it's entirety on AOL Music here. House blends the emotional with humor on his upcoming disc. Complete with songs about following your dreams ("Gotta Get Out") and chasing an unobtainable girl ("She Likes Girls"), The Learner has much to offer listeners. Taking a step away from past albums, his LP has a much edgier feel.

"Feels So Right" is an upbeat track that's bound to get your feet tapping with heavy musical accompaniment including piano, percussion, horn and guitar. Though the album is definitely a step in a new direction for the Nashville singer-songwriter, longtime fans will be pleased that his meaningful lyrics and deep vocals never falter as tracks like "Let My People Go" and "Native" can attest.

Be sure to give Griffin House's new album a listen here and stay tuned for upcoming tour dates on his Web site. You can download "She Likes Girls" for free below.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Contest of the Week: Win a Copy of Pat Benatar's Memoir

This past Tuesday, Pat Benatar released her memoir, "Between a Heart and a Rock Place." You can read my thoughts on it here as well as peruse an excerpt of the book here.

One lucky reader can win a copy of it this week! Just add You Sing I Write on Facebook or Twitter and tell me why you want to receive "Between a Heart and a Rock Place." I'll pick a winner next week. Good luck!

For more on "Between a Heart and a Rock Place" watch a synopsis below as well as Benatar performing "Hit Me with Your Best Shot." What's your favorite Pat Benatar song?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Song of the Week: "Push Push"

Last Thursday, Kat DeLuna impressed the packed crowd at Santos Party House for Girls Who Rock with her catchy beats and seductive dance moves. This week, she debuts the new video for latest single, "Push Push" featuring Akon.

Sure to be a summer hit, she even picked a fan from the crowd to teach him and the entire audience the official "Push Push" dance. Watch the videos below and learn it yourself!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pat Benatar Reveals Her Struggles and Successes In Memoir

Earlier this week, Grammy-winning singer Pat Benatar released a memoir, titled "Between a Heart and a Rock Place." Well known for hits including "Heartbreaker," "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" and "Love Is a Battlefield," the book takes the reader on the road and behind the scenes throughout Benatar's 30+ year career.

A compelling read, Benatar is completely honest about what it was like dealing with record label, Chrysalis, and the obstacles she faced as a female artist throughout her career. Having paved the road for numerous female acts today, it is uncertain where women would be without Benatar's contributions.

"Between a Heart and a Rock Place" begins in Benatar's childhood and the reader is introduced to the start of her career and classical voice training. We learn the history behind every album she and her band made and the meanings behind many of the songs. From an encounter with Frank Sinatra to taking the stage when she won her first of four consecutive Grammys for best female rock performance, the reader is in Benatar's head witnessing each accomplishment with her.

Additionally, Benatar takes us on the set of her first music video for MTV in 1981. "You Better Run"  was the second video to be played on the network, (right after the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star"), making Benatar the first woman to appear on MTV. This marked the start of a new outlet for musicians and Benatar takes the reader along for the ride. She talks of how the early VJ's were music lovers.

"They weren't the pretentious music journalists you sometimes see today; they were music fans who happened to be journalists. It was all very good-natured, no probing for deep dark secrets, no expose about your personal life. It was all about music," she wrote.

Watch the video below for Pat Benatar's description of "Between a Heart and a Rock Place."

As her memoir ends, Pat Benatar forms an independent label and is finally able to call the shots. While she continues to perform today and her musical legacy is far from over, "Between a Heart and a Rock Place," offers fans and music lovers a behind-the-scenes look at what exactly goes on in the life of a rock star. Throughout the memoir, she gives beneficial advice for up-and-coming artists and stresses the importance of girls to stand up for themselves.

"Rock and roll is really about following your passion with no apologies. Following that sound in your head that only you can hear," she writes.

You can read an excerpt from the book below. Stay tuned for my upcoming contest to win a copy of Pat Benatar's "Between a Heart and a Rock Place."

Browse Inside this book
Get this for your site

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Vote For YSIW to Become MTV's First Twitter Jockey

Earlier this week, friend and colleague Tammy Tibbetts informed me of MTV's current search for a Twitter Jockey.They're looking for a social media enthusiast who will act as a liaison between the public and staff at MTV. The voting started this past Monday and ends June 27th.

Do you think You Sing I Write should be a contender? If so, you can vote here.There are two spots still open, so if you enjoy reading music news and interviews I provide and think MTV can benefit from my help, feel free to vote!

Here are the rules:

1) MTV selects 18 candidates.
2) You, the audience, selects two (2) candidates through open nominations.
3) The 20 candidates compete in a series of Twitter-based challenges.
4) Five candidates move on to the final challenge round in New York City.
5) You, the audience, votes for the final MTV TJ during a live televised show on August 8, 2010.

To find out more about the contest, and how to enter visit

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Q&A with Hanson

Over a decade and five albums later, Hanson is back with their latest, Shout It Out. They're not quite the boys you remember. They've got a grown-up look and a few twists to their sound -- piano-driven arrangements, a more soul-oriented feel -- but the band never left its summer-pop roots.

I chatted with Taylor Hanson about the new album, life as a husband and dad, and whether he's tired of playing "MMMBop." His answers may surprise you.

Is a song better when it's based on something specific in your life?
The quality of a song does not depend on the subject matter. It depends on what subject matter gets into the song, but it doesn't depend on whether that subject matter actually happened. As little kids, we would write songs about betrayal, relationships that had gone bad and the cheating woman. Where did that come from? You don't know exactly where stories come from necessarily, but that's what a song is. It's a relatable story. The songwriting process is about never turning off and always being aware of what's around you and not being afraid to be inspired by things.

For my complete interview with Taylor Hanson on Lemondrop, click here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Band of the Week: Hypernova

Iranian rock band Hypernova have risked their lives to play music. In Iran, simply holding a rock show could mean arrest, large fines or even a public flogging. Hard to believe? The fact that Hypernova have put their lives in danger by playing secret gigs in Iran gives you an adequate indication of their passion for music. It also makes me wonder just how many American bands would do the same.

"The underground scene in Iran is pretty intense," explains frontman Raam. "There are many amazing musicians driven by a burning passion who are literally putting their lives on the line for their music, just like we did. There's nothing more beautiful than raw and sincere music."

The band made their way to the U.S. in 2007 and released their debut album, Through the Chaos this past April. Rock & roll at their core, Hypernova blends gritty guitar and percussion, Raam's deep vocals and moving lyrics for a truly unique experience. While they have been compared to New Order, Interpol and Franz Ferdinand, the quartet is well on their way to making a name for themselves in the West.

Many tracks off their album sound autobiographical. On "American Dream," Raam sings, "I know that I'll never go back home/To the life I had, the life that I had known ... All I wanted was the rock & roll/All I wanted was to see the world." While rock is at their core, tracks like "Universal" and "Viva La Resistance" have an underlying catchy dance vibe. 

A song about living in the moment and not knowing which day could be your last, Hypernova prove their point on "Viva La Resistance." "The boys, they are shouting and the girls, they are dancing/'Cause it ain't no fucking crime ... So dance like you've never danced/Scream like you've never screamed/'Cause this one might be your last," Raam sings with powerful guitar and drums behind him.

First single "Fairy Tales" has garnered much buzz and was recently nominated for mtv U's "The Freshmen." With Raam's baritone vocals and the band's equally gritty beats, the raw emotion is evident. Hypernova kick off their summer tour tomorrow at Bowery Ballroom in NYC with Kashmir. Be sure to visit  MySpace to hear their music and watch their video for "Fairy Tales" below. You can read more about the band from a recent interview with NPR here.

Related Links:
Artist of the Week: Lenka
Artist of the Week: Sahara Smith
Artist of the Week: Billy Currington
Band of the Week: The Spring Standards

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Song of the Week: Country Edition

Lady Antebellum Fan Club Party, 2009 CMA Music Festival
Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

Being that just around this time last year I was in Nashville covering my first country festival (and first country concert for that matter), I found it fitting to pick a few country songs to feature this week. Keith Urban is one of the first acts I discovered back in college and I'm excited to post a video from his CMT Crossroads performance with John Mayer. I think you'll love it!

My next track is by an up-and-coming band that is starting to make waves in the country scene. Indiana based Shakin' Bake will share the stage with country superstars Luke Bryan, Justin Moore, Randy Travis, Bucky Covington this summer. Listen to current single, the emotional "The Underdog" a listen here.

Nashville based country artist Chelsea Rae has a powerful vocal style that brings to mind Carrie Underwood with a rock side that recalls Miranda Lambert. Having garnered an audition for the coveted Sunday Night Writer’s Night at the famous Music City Bluebird CafĂ©, Rae is well on her way. Give her a listen on MySpace.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Join Eric Hutchinson and Barefoot Beach Rescue Project This Summer

The Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue Project is a partnership between Barefoot Wine and the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches. About to kick off its fourth year, the Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue Project is partnering with singer-songwriter Eric Hutchinson to bring awareness and create a "barefoot-friendly" coastline.

The first cleanup of the summer will take place 4 p.m. on June 12 in Rockaway Beach, New York. Additional stops throughout the summer are listed below. Hutchinson will join volunteers on the beach during cleanups and perform live at special celebrations afterwards.

“I never pass up a trip to the beach. East Coast, West Coast – it doesn’t matter,” Hutchinson said. “I’m thrilled to be touring with Barefoot Wine this summer and playing for the awesome volunteers who give their time to clean up their local shores.”

2010 Dates with Eric Hutchinson

New York, NY (Rockaway Beach) Saturday, June 12

Austin, TX (Lady Bird Lake) Saturday, July 10

Portland, OR (Willamette River) Saturday, August 7

Miami, FL (North Miami Beach) Saturday, August 28

For more information on the Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue Project, click here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Watch GIRLS WHO ROCK Live Tonight On You Sing I Write!

After two months of planning, Girls Who Rock is finally here. Featuring performances from Kat DeLuna, Lenka, Shontelle, MoZella, Cara Salimando, Vita Chambers and Kelli Pyle, tonight Santos Party House in New York will showcase an all-star lineup for a great cause: funding girl's education worldwide.

All proceeds from the concert will go toward sponsoring a girl in Tanzania via AfricAid. If you haven't purchased your ticket yet, you can here. If you're not able to make it to New York, you can still donate to the cause and watch the show live right here on You Sing I Write!

Watch Girls Who Rock live below. The concert starts at 8 p.m. and streams live until the show is over. Enjoy!

Watch live streaming video from girlswhorockny at

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wishing You Were In Tennessee This Week?

Me too.

With Bonnaroo and CMA Music Fest going on, I'd do anything to be at both. Alas, I'm not. But that doesn't mean I can't pretend I'm there, right? Thanks to Paste and SPIN magazines, I can listen to free tracks from their Bonnaroo samplers and envision myself in a sweaty crowd, packed like sardines with my fist in the air. Download each sampler above and join me, won't you?

If that's not good enough for you, WFUV is broadcasting Bonnaroo live. Tune into 90.7 FM this Friday from 7:00 p.m. - midnight for performances by The National, The xx, The Temper Trap, Diane Birch, Mayer Hawthorne and more. On Saturday, from 7:00 p.m. - midnight, the music marathon continues with performances by Norah Jones, LCD Soundsystem, Jimmy Cliff, and The Gaslight Anthem. If you're not in New York, you can stream WFUV online here.

Country music fans need not make the trek to Nashville to CMA Music Festival to listen to free tracks from up-and-coming acts. Just click here for your 10 free songs. If audio tracks don't cut it, tune into CMT tonight at 8 p.m. for the CMT Awards with live performances by Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Zac Brown Band, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, LeAnn Rimes, Keith Urban and (my favorite) John Mayer.

I'll have some more tracks for you Saturday so stay tuned. Here's to being in Tennessee next year!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Q&A with Val Emmich

Last week, I covered New Jersey based singer-songwriter Val Emmich's acoustic set at Turtle Club in Hoboken. Before and during the show he took fan requests. Emmich said with six albums, it's often difficult to teach his full band each individual song. "For these acoustic shows, I feel like I need to pay back my fans and play what they want to hear."

Afterward, we chatted about his songwriting process, life at Rutgers, and how his acting roles on hit television shows like "Ugly Betty" and "30 Rock" influence his life. Read on to find out how the former American Studies major got his start in music and advice he has for you. Be sure to visit Val Emmich on MySpace and stay tuned for a new album in the upcoming months.

What is your songwriting process like?
The songwriting process for this album was a lot different. Previously, I would usually find myself in some mood. Frustrated, sad or hyper, I would pick up a guitar or set up a piano and it would come out in some way. Then, I would sing a melody that came to me naturally and work on lyrics. It usually happened in that way; music, melody, lyrics. In this case, I worked with this production team called Near Records. We just sat there and co-wrote together. I’d sit at the piano or someone would play guitar and I’d sing. It was fun for me because it got me out of my own head. Being a solo artist can sometimes have its limitations. It’s also very freeing because no one’s saying no to you.

You went to Woodstock by yourself to write a few albums ago. Do you find it better to be by yourself?
I guess it’s an ongoing search. At that moment, let’s call it a bad breakup with my record company. So, I needed to find what I loved about music again and find a rebirth. I really did feel like a child going away to learn from square one. It was really liberating. I would just sit there. I woke up in the morning, drank coffee and wrote whatever came to me. I know I wrote songs alone there with no distractions that I would have never written anywhere else and couldn’t write today because I was putting myself in that situation. I was lonely. I was isolated. I had a big beard. I was unkempt and I just feel like I had nothing to do but write, and it made me feel safe to write.

I think it’s about finding new challenges and new ways to get you out of your habits because I think you could become predictable. Often, people like first albums of people and then they think they went off. I think it’s hard to keep it fresh. This new album was the same thing. I tried to come up with a new process.

You’ve been in a bunch of TV shows including "Ugly Betty" and "30 Rock." Do any of those experiences find their way into your songs?
Into the songs, no, but into me as a person. Anytime you can meet new people. Today I met this guy who was talking like he had a frog in his throat. I was just obsessed with his voice. Maybe a year down the line, some voice lyric will come. Or a character in fiction I write. I just feel like you should be open to life. The TV stuff, it puts me in touch with fear because I’m always scared when I do those things and I’m meeting new people and they’re used to what they’re doing and I’m the newcomer. But it’s a challenge. It makes me feel alive.

Some of your songs come across as being sad, but the music is often upbeat. Why is that?
On my last record, I wanted to try to do it all by myself with literally no one else. The Woodstock stuff, Sunlight Searchparty, I wrote by myself but then played it live for the band. For Little Daggers, I did it by myself in my bedroom. I wanted no one else to get in my head. I sent a bunch of songs to a producer friend of mine, Jason Cupp and he said, “What I like about these songs is that they sound happy, but they’re kind of sad. The good ones. You should get rid of these and focus on these other ones that have that weird juxtaposition.” He pointed it out to me. That was intentional, but it was something that came out naturally.

I love your song “Hurt More Later.” What was the inspiration behind it?
I think it’s so joyous to get into a relationship even when you have a feeling, “I don’t think this girl is the right one for me ultimately. But it feels good now. I kind of feel like she’s a cheater maybe or she’s not being totally honest. But, we have a good chemistry and the sex is good.” So, you let yourself go even though you know you’re going to hurt more later. That was the feeling I was trying to capture. Throw caution to the wind.

What’s going through your head when you’re performing? I noticed you close your eyes a lot.
Not always. This was a peculiar situation where people are right there and I didn’t have a stage. Usually when you’re on a stage and the lights are there, you’re shielded a little bit and you see nothing and that helps to open up. I did go into my own shell today.

My thoughts wander and I try to follow them if I feel like a lyric hits me and I’m angry I go with it. Or, if I feel hyper I let my body do it. I’m just trying to find a new way of enjoying it. This sounds so crazy, but I just thought [performing] does remind me of sex where someone will do something and you’re like, “Oh wow. Woah, I never thought of that. Let me do that,” and you follow the feeling just because it feels good. Same thing onstage. You’re like, “I’m going to go over here. Woah.” It’s about being open to that and I think some people are too scripted and they get into routines and they don’t feel spontaneous onstage.

Do you feel a song comes out better when it’s based on real life, or do you draw from fantasy as well?
Both. There are literal songs where this literally happened. “Shock,” a song about deceit literally happened and I just wrote what happened, my blatant feelings. There are other ones that I take an emotion and I let it wander. I find that the ones that aren’t bound to truth are usually more interesting. It’s just like acting. If you go for a role as a killer, do people assume you’re a killer? No. You just feel like, “Oh, I’ve felt anger before. I’ve felt out of control before. I can imagine taking the next step and killing. If I could just think there.” It’s the same thing with songwriting. If I feel sad I can sometimes make myself feel sadder in songs. Who wants to hear a lukewarm song? You want to hear the most extreme feeling you can and the most potent.

I went to Rutgers also so it’s always nice to see fellow alumni succeed at what they love. What was your background there?
Sometimes I wish I went to the Fine Arts school there, Mason Gross. Part of me is artistic and part of me is really cerebral and I like factoids and more scholastic stuff. [My major was] American Studies. It’s a focus on America in all different facets. So it’s history, literature, economics, politics. So many people just get a narrow focus. They only major in politics or only major in economics. I get it all, so it’s probably a metaphor of me as a person just trying to be well rounded. Someone important in my life always tells me I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none. Which, she doesn’t really mean as a compliment I don’t think. But, I do like to dabble. Maybe I’d be better off just focusing on one thing and being excellent at it. At Rutgers I did the same thing, I minored in English and minored in Philosophy because I just wanted it all. I still want it all.

What’s your advice to aspiring singers?
I followed what I wanted to do. Luckily my parents weren’t the kind of parents where I came home and they said, “American Studies. What job are you going to get with that?” They supported the music I wanted to do so I was fortunate in that way. If you have a bunch of people telling you “No,” it’s a lot harder. Another person in my life found me in college and said, “I really think you’ve got something here,” and it made me believe I could do music. I really believe the nurturing of art and artists is important, which is why I always try to talk to people and answer emails because you never know when your email might be the thing that they go, “Maybe I could do this.”

My inspiration: surround yourself with people who make you believe. A friend from Rutgers was here tonight who I haven’t seen since Rutgers and he said, “It makes me feel comforted that you’re still doing what you love.” And I got what he meant. I’d be upset if some of my friends stopped doing what they love. I would lose faith. I feel like you just take examples from other people and if I’m an example to someone, then that’s an amazing thing.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Artist of the Week: Lenka

Australian singer-songwriter Lenka crafts catchy, upbeat pop songs that are bound to get stuck in your head after just one listen. The former actress got her start taking acting lessons with Cate Blanchett, but it wasn't until a role in a play required  her to sing that she became passionate about music.

Since then, Lenka's 2008 debut album has garnered rave reviews and many of her songs have been featured on commercials and hit TV shows including "Ugly Betty" and "Grey's Anatomy." While many of her songs deal with broken hearts and failed relationships, the music behind each track is uplifting.

Songs like "The Show" feature energetic horn and piano accompaniment. "I'm just a little bit caught in the middle/Life is a maze and love is a riddle/I don't know where to go, can't do it alone/I've tried, and I don't know why," she sings. If the song sounds familiar, you may remember it from an Old Navy advertisement. 

The beautifully delicate, "Don't Let Me Fall" embodies her angelic vocals with a moving string arrangement. Conducted by composer/arranger David Campbell (Beck's father), the track is light and airy, sounding reminiscent to a lullaby.

Lenka is currently working on her sophomore album, due out later this year. If you're in New York this Thursday, you just might get to witness her debut a few songs live at Girls Who Rock! For more information, visit the Facebook invite here and be sure to give Lenka a listen on MySpace.

Watch the music video for "The Show" below.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Poll of the Week: How Often Do You Want to Read About My Adventures?

On Monday, I debuted the first installment of my new column, "You Sing I Write Adventures." I've received an overwhelming positive response and definitely know this is something I will continue to write. While the week I wrote about was definitely jam packed with events, not every week in the life of a music blogger is that exciting. I wish it was!

Regardless, I plan on keeping you filled in on who I'm interviewing, anecdotes about meeting bands and whatever else I think you might find interesting. If there is anything you're curious to know, definitely reach out! With all that said, here's this week's poll:

How Often Do You Want to Read About My Adventures on YSIW? 


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Song of the Week: "You and I"

Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Jenna Bryson sent me  her new single last week and I instantly fell in love with it. Her airy vocals sounds familiar and beg reference to fellow Californian Colbie Caillat, but with distinct personality. Her music has been described as, "If Kelly Clarkson and Sarah McLachlan had a baby and then sent it to be raised by Jewel."

Bryson's voice soars over the music beautifully on "You and I" and switches gears midway through the song with edgier percussion and more forceful vocals. It's unexpected and puts her in a category of her own.

You can listen to "You and I" on MySpace, Facebook and Take your pick, and let me  know what you think! You'll be hearing much more from Bryson in the upcoming months as a new record is on the way.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Val Emmich and Kate Rockland Share Their Talents In Hoboken

Last night, music and fiction came together at the Turtle Club with a performance by singer-songwriter Val Emmich and reading from "Falling Is Like This," by Hoboken-based writer, Kate Rockland.

Both Jersey natives and Rutgers alumni, Rockland's father was Emmich's American Studies professor. When Emmich asked him to read a novel he had written, he suggested the two connect. "We saw each other at Starbucks and started up a friendship and had an idea to do this event together," Emmich said. "I think it worked out well. I am a fan of fiction. I read her book, and although it's definitely chick lit, I enjoyed it. It was very much my world and it was really authentic."

Emmich kicked off the night with a powerful performance of  "Absolutely Still," a song he co-wrote with Better Than Ezra's Kevin Griffin. Alone on acoustic guitar, he captured the audience's attention. "Hurt More Later," off 2008 release, Little Daggers followed suit with deep vocals and emotion filled lyrics.

For my complete review, visit Hoboken Patch. Stay tuned for my interview with Val Emmich in the upcoming weeks.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Girls Who Rock: Meet Vita Chambers

Vita Chambers is an artist to watch. The 16-year-old singer hails from Barbados and is making her mark in the music scene with infectious singles, "Like Boom" and "Young Money." Be on the lookout for Chambers this summer on the Bamboozle Roadshow and Lilith Fair. But, before that, she'll be performing next Thursday at Girls Who Rock, a benefit concert hosted by She's the First. To learn more about Vita Chambers, read below and for all the details on Girls Who Rock, visit the Web site.

What first sparked your decision to pursue a career in music?
I knew it's what I wanted since I was a very little girl. It started with all the school plays I was in. I never cared which character I played, as long as I was singing the entire time I was happy. The more plays I did, the more I fell in love with performing!

What inspires you?
My fans, always. From reading their tweets to seeing them in the audience, everything about my fans is inspiring to me. They keep me going!

What are some of the obstacles you've faced? How did you overcome them? 
Not being able to be in a normal high school setting has been difficult. I definitely miss being able to fool around in class with my friends. But my tutor is chill so he makes up for it! When I'm faced with an obstacle, I'm a glass half full kinda girl. I try to always have a positive outlook on life no matter what.

What's your songwriting process?
Honestly, I don't really have a formula! I carry around a little journal with me and when ideas pop into my head I jot them down. At the end of the day I review my notes and try to make sense of them through a song.

What was your favorite subject to learn in school, besides music?
My favorite subject in school has always been biology! I can't explain why, it's just all cool to me.

What were you the first to do or what will you be the first to do?
I will be the first 16 year old musician to use my music to stress the importance of educating girls all over the world.

What the next big thing happening in your career?
I'll be touring on the Bamboozle Roadshow. I've already done some shows and its been so much fun! I'm one of the only girl acts so I've been hanging out with all guys the entire time, its great!

What's your favorite "girl power" song?

"Just a Girl" by No Doubt.

Why did you decide to get involved with She's the First?
There are three things that have always been very important to me; Giving back, education and girl power. These are the exact three things that define She's the First. It's an amazing campaign with a message that I will always back up. Every girl in the world deserves an education.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Q&A with MaryAnne Marino

I chatted with New York singer-songwriter MaryAnne Marino last year as she was boarding a flight to New Orleans for a performance. She filled me in on her new EP, A Little Something, the transformation from being in a band to a solo artist and songwriting.

While she has garnered comparisons to Carole King and Joni Mitchell, Marino explains her music as Sarah McLachlan meets Aimee Mann. "But not as ethereal as Sarah McLachlan and not as alternative as Aimee Mann. If they were to have to have a child, maybe [I'd be] somewhere in between," she said.

Read on to learn more about MaryAnne Marino, and give her a listen on MySpace.

Tell me about your EP. Was the recording process any different from a full record?
It was. I initially had gone into it thinking I would be a doing a full record. I had enough material to do a full record. My first solo record was done in one shot. It was a little more on schedule, whereas with the EP it moved in different phases. I recorded 9 or 10 songs and I just thought, “You know what? I’m just going to stick to doing an EP right now.” More importantly, just getting it out and having new material out. With digital distribution, I don’t know how many people are buying records these days unless you go to a show. I still go and buy records, but not as much as downloading digitally. So, I thought if that’s what people are doing, it doesn’t really matter.

You recorded nine songs. How do you decide what fits on the EP?
It just felt right, as far as the arrangements and what was coming together naturally, and that was really important for me. Sometimes when you record songs, if it doesn’t feel right you don’t want to push it to make it something. That’s the pace I was in. Although, the songs I put on the EP I really like. It made sense to wait and I think I’m probably going to do another EP, or maybe I’ll do a full record. It’s to be determined at this point. It’s what came together that felt right and natural and made sense.

You were originally the vocalist of the November Project and then you decided to go solo. What sparked that decision?
You know it’s funny; I was solo before I was in the November Project. And, actually going into a band was really different for me. I was nervous at first because I had always thought of myself as a singer-songwriter on my own. But, it was such a great opportunity and I loved the material. It was a good way to break into a scene that was new to me. It made sense at the time and that’s why I did it.

Was there a change when you decided to go solo again?
It really wasn’t because at the same time I was still continuing to play gigs [as a solo act]. I continued to do my own thing. That never stopped. November Project was just my main focus at that time. It felt really natural because in my mid-teens I was in bands. I think if the chemistry is right with the people, then it feels good.

You’re focusing on your solo career now. Do you think there will ever be a time you’d want to go back to a full band setup?
I try not to say never, but you never know. I’ve been playing with a lot of the same players for a long time. Actually, the drummer of November Project and I still play together. In a way, I always feel like when I have a band that it’s a band in my mind. It’s always nice to have the support so you don’t feel so alone. There are times when you’re trying to move your career forward and it’s so hard to do it by yourself.

What are you thinking about when you perform?
It changes. Depending on the audience or even the room, sometimes you just go off the energy of a room. That’s what I think is great about music, it always changes. Even when you play the same song, it always changes because the audience changes, the energy, or how you’re feeling or how the music is feeling. I always try to focus on what I’m doing at the moment but of course sometimes you think, “Is this right?” But you try to stay in the moment and play the music.

You’ve been compared to Carole King and Joni Mitchell. How do you feel about that?
I don’t know. I don’t think these people are...its like are you sure? Are we talking about the same people here? I’m pretty modest so I find that over the top flattering. Those are people that I completely admire. I hope to be at that level some day.

I know artists hate this question, but how would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
I have to do that all the time. Right now, I’m at the airport and the security was like, “So what do you sound like?” You’d be surprised how many times that comes up and you never seem to find the one-liner. Maybe I should come up with that. When people ask, I always say its singer-songwriter, folk pop but with an organic and almost a tinge of ethereal. I always think Sarah McLachlan meets Aimee Mann, but not as ethereal as Sarah McLachlan and not as alternative as Aimee Mann. If they were to have to have a child, maybe somewhere in between.

Your songs all have moving tales within them. Do you feel a song is better when it happened to you?
You write from all kinds of places. It could be your own experience, somebody else’s experience. If you write from an honest place, no matter whose experience it is, if it’s coming from an honest place and you’re not forcing it, then those songs always feel personal and good.

Do you find you get responses from songs that are more personal to you?
Sometimes. There are a few songs that always seem to go over really well. My song, “Conversation,” which is funny because [the lyrics are] a stream of consciousness, people really gravitate to and seem to like that one. “Dear Mom and Dad” is pretty personal and people can relate to it, for the obvious. I think certain songs do resonate with people more than others. Probably the ones that I also feel closest to translate better. I have songs that I don’t play live because I don’t feel connected to them, so I guess that makes sense.

Do you ever hold back because you don’t want to be so revealing in your songs?
I guess there’s a way to be personal, but not be revealing. There’s a fine line and it’s better to have a little bit of mystery in my opinion.

You’re headed to New Orleans to perform. I’ve heard they have a great music scene.
It’s unique to be here during this time. I’ve never been in a place that you can feel change and feel like you’re contributing to rebuilding something. It’s hard to explain because the city’s different since Katrina happened. A lot of natives left and people that remain there, it’s almost like they want to recruit people to their city to rebuild it.

It’s very different from New York. There’s no business there. That’s what it feels like. It’s more that they just love music and they love a certain type of music and that’s what is really important to them. When you go to New York or LA it becomes a hustle bustle of “Let’s get songs placed and let’s be famous." You can’t forget the business part of it. In one way, it’s great because it’s how you grow your business and do the things you want to do as an artist. On the other hand, it’s interesting. I’m doing shows in New Orleans with some of the local musicians and they have a very different perspective. It gives you a whole other perspective.

What is the biggest struggle you face as a singer-songwriter?
There is so much out there. It’s really being heard and with the business part of the music industry changing, it’s hard to get out there and find your place. With the industry changing so much, it’s very challenging for female singer-songwriters. I think of Lilith Fair and how wonderful it was and there was a movement with great female singer-songwriters. I don’t know what happened with that, they’re not as valued as much or there’s so much else with pop music that it’s easy to get lost in it.

What is it about the music that keeps you motivated?

I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It keeps itself going in a way. Even if you’re down about it, it’s something that you do. I couldn’t imagine not doing it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Artist of the Week: Sahara Smith

Texas-based singer-songwriter Sahara Smith's vocals are a unique blend of rustic and angelic. An old soul, the 21-year-old's lyrics are descriptive and well beyond her age.

While tracks like the twangy "All I Need" relax, others, like seductive "The Real Thing" intrigue the listener.

"I used to think that happiness was hiding in the dark/I believed in everything but love," she sings emotionally on "All I Need" with light guitar and percussion accompaniment.

Born in Austin, Smith started performing locally at 14. She garnered national attention at 15 after she was selected to compete in A Prairie Home Companion's 'Talent from 12-20' contest and took home second place. Since then, she has been pursuing a career as a singer-songwriter and hasn't turned back.

Smith will be making her New York debut June 14-16th supporting her upcoming August release, Myth of the Heart. Overseen by the legendary T Bone Burnett and producer Emile Kelman, the album will feature many of Burnett's first-call session players including drummer Jay Bellerose, guitarist Marc Ribot and bassist Dennis Crouch.

To hear more from Sahara Smith, visit her on MySpace

Related Links:
Artist of the Week: Billy Currington
Band of the Week: The Spring Standards
Band of the Week: 6th Street
Artist of the Week: Ari Hest


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