MAAVVEN is a creative agency that breaks the molds of what management, production and creativity are to provide open and supportive ground for artists to thrive. The company celebrated two years this February, as the perfect vision of the artistic world founder Coleen Haynes has worked tirelessly to create over the last 20 years.
GynoTalks is a new health education platform that uses social media as well as webinars and personal workshops to further educate today’s women about their bodies. Our current healthcare climate is such that physicians have less and less time in the office to teach patients about their various medical conditions or preventative care measures that will improve their health outcomes. As a result, patients are left to learn for themselves. This in turn leads to more illness as women grapple to separate fact from fiction on their own. We hope to provide a solution to this problem by allowing women to learn directly from a board certified gynecologist and expert in the field.
When most people think of defiant music, they think of punk rock or outlaw country. But defying genres while transcending eras and resisting clichés is hard to pin down when it comes to artistry—unless you’re talking about Miss Tess, who does all of that and more on her new release, The Moon Is an Ashtray. Swinging for the fences and from the branches of jazz, country, blues and old school rock and roll, she has employed all of her influences and talents on a tour-de-force, while cleverly taking standard perspectives and ideas—like the definition of a love song—to task.
To help capture and shape her own unique sound, Miss Tess enlisted not only her trusty 1930s Weymann archtop, but also heavy input from co-producers Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff) and Thomas Bryan Eaton, her full-time bandmate and musical partner. Tess elaborates, “I think Andrija’s indie leanings were pivotal in taking these songs into a transcendent space, while still supporting my initial vision. He definitely pushed me in new ways and the three of us found a very interesting mix between bold experimentation and a more traditional approach.” Combining Thomas’ arranging ideas and skilled instrumental work with Andrija’s studio full of vintage mics, tube amps, keyboards, and tape machines, the resulting record has a rich, buttery warmth well-suited to Miss Tess's voice and authentic, retro-contemporary songwriting style.
The album starts with the stinging bite of “The Truth Is,” a Dave Godowsky tune that Miss Tess delivers with an insouciance that simultaneously betrays and belies its kiss-off content. The only cover on the record, Tess has no problem making it her own. “I love the unexpected meanness of it,” she confesses. “He originally wrote it as a happy early Beatles-sounding tune, but I changed some of the chords and the melody a bit, then slowed it down to make it darker and way more crushing.” Saccharin sweetness need not apply.
Lake Street Dive's Rachael Price joins in the fun for a duet on “True Flood,” which kicks open the old soul gates with its deep, rolling groove. Mid-way through the New Orleans-style rollick, Miss Tess steps up for a slyly swaggering guitar run showcasing her instrumental prowess. From the rapid-fire country-rock of “Gamblin' Man” to the laid-back jazz-blues of “Riverboat Song,” Miss Tess shows both the pluck and poise to fold a multitude of styles into her own. That's what happens when you grow up in a musical household giving the blues greats, big bands, and Chuck Berry equal weight.
The idea of defiance parlays itself into the tongue-in-cheek metaphor of the album’s title track, “The Moon is an Ashtray.” It’s not about what we look at necessarily, but what we see that matters. From our earthbound vantage and oft storied lore, the moon is a romantic and mystical entity; though as one looks closer, the moon is dusty, barren, and empty. Here, Tess breaks from the moon’s typical cliché to deliver a much more cynical, yet whimsical point-of-view, conveyed with her smoky vocals set against a swaying backdrop of bright guitar licks and yearning pedal steel. She sings, “The moon is an ashtray, catching dreams that have burned away / They couldn’t stand up to the flame, so they flickered and died.”
After over a decade on the road, now making her home in Nashville — by way of Baltimore, Boston, and Brooklyn — Miss Tess has found a creative community that encourages and embraces wide artistic exploration and expression as much as she does. Alongside Thomas (who’s been a full-time band member for seven years), local heavyweights like Dennis Crouch, John Pahmer, Jimmy Lester, Jack Lawrence, and Larry Atamanuik fill out the album’s liner notes, but the songs belong to Tess.
Throughout the record, Tess uses many of these songs to look at love from every angle she can think of, except the usual. There is the mysterious thrill of “One Little Kiss,” the quiet havoc of “If You Don’t Know How to Love Me”, the uncomfortable exhilaration in “Take It Easy,” and the deceptive psychedelic darkness of “Sugarbabe.” Of the latter, which initially takes the form of a traditional Piedmont-style blues, she says, “It might sound sweet at first, but the song actually speaks to an underlying intense sexual desire and yearning for someone who is either spreading their love around to many, or is simply gone. Despite these frustrations, you are still deeply obsessed.” The song then shifts into psychedelic overdrive with a swirling instrumental section that leaves the listener unsure of which way is up, or where the journey began.
As Miss Tess shows in every moment of The Moon Is an Ashtray, questioning the status quo while maintaining her unique identity and challenging our ideas of perspective, well, there's nothing more defiant than that.
New England-based multi-instrumentalist Mark Erelli wears many hats--singer, songwriter, sideman, producer--but approaches each of these varied roles with a belief in the transformative power of paying attention. Bearing witness to small details and fleeting moments is what dignifies our everyday stories, rendering the mundane profound. This principle governs Erelli’s approach to his craft, and is uniquely evident on his latest release, Mixtape, which features revelatory reinterpretations of songs by the Grateful Dead, Neko Case, Roy Orbison and others.
Erelli’s two decade career highlights include 11 solo albums, stints accompanying Josh Ritter, Paula Cole and Anais Mitchell, and a pair of records he produced for GRAMMY-winning songwriter Lori McKenna. Ever since Billboard magazine heralded the “simple, atmospheric grace” of his Signature Sounds debut, Erelli’s belief in the sacredness of an examined life has driven him between the ostensible extremes of lullabies and murder ballads, western swing and protest anthems. It has propelled him from the hallowed stages of the Newport Folk Festival, Grand Ole Opry and Royal Albert Hall, and beckoned him back home, to better nurture his 16-year marriage and be a father to his two young boys.
Whether he’s holding a pen or a Telecaster, Erelli’s music welcomes even the casual listener, but those who choose to dig more deeply are richly rewarded. Perhaps that is what Folk Alley hears in Erelli’s songs, when it encourages people to “listen close; there's sure to be something in there to break your heart a split second before it leads you straight to grace.”
Bootstraps is Jordan Beckett, an American musician, singer and songwriter from Portland, Oregon. Under the moniker Bootstraps, Beckett has released two studio albums, Bootstraps and Homage, and one EP, To Each His Own. Critics have compared Bootstraps’ music to The National, Bon Iver, Ray LaMontagne, Band of Horses, and Coldplay. Bootstraps produces and records out of Harmony Studios, in Hollywood, CA, home to notable records by Adele, Miley Cyrus, and Sia.
Beckett grew up in the fertile Portland music scene, spending his teen years going to Elliott Smith, Death Cab For Cutie and Modest Mouse shows. A friend gave him Lucinda Williams’ Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, which influenced his writing style, though it wasn’t until college that he became serious about music. A college baseball player, Beckett was injured, and while sidelined, he learned to play guitar. The Pacific Northwest’s rich indie landscape provided the backdrop for Beckett’s first steps into song writing and recording.
Beckett eventually moved to Los Angeles in where he was approached by friend, actor/screenwriter Sam Jaeger, to write music for the film Take Me Home, which went on to win Best Music In A Film at the Nashville Film Festival in 2011.
Beckett recruited old friends Dave Quon and Nathan Warkentin of We Barbarians, to play on his self-titled debut album. The songs “Guiltfree," "Forty-Five," and “Revel" were placed on TV show Parenthood, and “Guiltfree" was also featured on the show Suits.
This led to him being named Amazon’s Rising Star and playing Way Over Yonder Festival in Santa Monica, California, with Lucinda Williams and Local Natives. He was then featured in Rolling Stone and performed on Ben Lovett’s Communion tour.
His 2016 offering Homage, an album of re-interpreted covers, saw Bootstraps further his reach into film and TV placements. His version of Whitney Houston’s "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" was featured in Grey’s Anatomy, Supergirl and in an ad for the Venice Film Festival. His version of Ben E. King’s "Stand By Me" was placed in the Lionsgate blockbuster film Power Rangers, Lethal Weapon on Fox, and Hawaii 5-0 on CBS. His cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere" also appeared on Supergirl.
Formed in 2010 by the coalescing of a Venice music collective, The Mowgli’s began as a 10+ member group playing house parties and warehouse gatherings.
The release of their first major-label LP Waiting For The Dawn in 2013 saw immediate success with the hit single San Francisco. The record - which focused on the joy of bringing people together -immediately connected in a cynical world. The band quickly found themselves playing to sold out crowds in clubs around the US and inundated by requests for press, sponsorships and partnerships. Appearances at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Firefly, Osheaga, Bottlerock and many other festivals followed as did performances on The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, CONAN and a stint as the SXSW House band for Andy Cohen’s Watch What Happens Live (Bravo) The follow up LP, 2015’s Kids in Love (which spawned the feel-good single "I’m Good") saw the band explore personal relationships including their own inter-band ones, and their third LP Where’d Your Weekend Go? which came in the fall of 2016, often found the band working on songs together from their very inception - giving much of the record a relaxed and communal feeling. Always with a mission to bring hope and positivity into the world, The Mowgli’s have been involved with numerous charities including The IRC, Heal The Bay, Happy Bottoms and many food banks and homeless shelters.
When Boston alt-rock band Letters To Cleo split after 10 years, 3 albums, and thousands of tour miles together, it was at the behest of a pact that singer Kay Hanley and guitarist Greg McKenna made with each other when they started the band in 1990.
“We said that we’d stop doing it when we weren’t having fun anymore.” says Hanley. “I had just had a baby, (lead guitarist) Michael Eisenstein and (drummer) Stacy Jones were recording and touring with Veruca Salt’s Nina Gordon, (bassist) Scott Riebling was crazy in demand as a record producer, and I know it was frustrating to Greg to be in the shitty position of doing all the work to try and keep the ball rolling. It felt hard all of a sudden, and I hated that feeling.”
Soul searching done and tough decisions made, Letters To Cleo called it quits. The band members moved into new careers in and out of the music business, with Hanley, Eisenstein, and Jones migrating to Los Angeles. They all remained friends and sometimes even colleagues, collaborating on a host of movie, TV, and touring projects.
Now, for the first time in 17 years, Hanley, Eisenstein, Jones, and McKenna have written and recorded five brand new songs for “The EP”, are poised to launch a Pledge Music campaign, and will play club dates in Boston, NYC, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles in the Fall. So why reunite now?
"Because we’re good and stuff”, laughs Jones. “To me, the question isn’t ‘Why are we doing this now?’, the question is, ‘Why didn’t we do it sooner and why aren’t we doing it more?’’
McKenna adds, “It’s a blast. I mean, we spent our formative years learning how to do this stuff together. When it was done, we went out and lived our lives and now everyone’s bringing their experiences back to this at a new level of musicianship, but writing with these guys still feels effortless.”
The new material reflects McKenna’s sentiment. All 5 songs are instantly recognizable Cleo concoctions that fans will devour. From Eisenstein’s fierce, angular guitars locking horns with Jones’ roaring locomotive rhythm on “Hitch A Ride” to McKenna and Hanley’s signature melodic ESP on “Good Right Here”, the Cleo bandmates are in prizefighter form.
Staying true to the chemistry that defined their muscular pop sound throughout the 90’s was key to Cleo’s new venture. “It feels completely unforced. It sounds like classic Cleo. But at the same time, there’s nothing nostalgic about it.”, says Jones.
In addition to playing guitar, bass, and keys on The EP, Eisenstein also handled the lion’s share of production at Death Star Studio in the Koreatown section of LA, where he and Jones are current and former partners, respectively. Eisenstein is hesitant to pick any favorites from the new batch of songs but offers, “I really like “Four Leaf Clover” because it’s so in line with who we are as a band. It could have been on any of our records. The emotional content of “Back To Nebraska” is impossible to deny. It’s beautiful and powerful.”
According to Hanley, the opportunity to re-unite with her former band and make new music came almost from out of nowhere. “I didn’t have time to think up reasons to say no, so I just said yes. We didn’t have a plan. We just jumped in and everything unfolded really quickly. We all love the new songs and can’t wait to start playing them. It’s really fun!”
From haunting acoustic ballads to gritty rock and roll songs filled with swagger and attitude, Matthew Mayfield has spent the past decade releasing music that has changed the hearts and lives of his listeners. His latest LP, Gun Shy, is a collection of songs as varied as the emotions each of us feels. If his previous release, RECOIL, was the fruit of an intense effort by Mayfield to depict the good, the bad, and the ugly in the world he inhabited, Gun Shy is a look into all worlds – those full of darkness and hope.
To connect with listeners and draw them into these worlds, Matthew created Inside the Song with Matthew Mayfield, a podcast dedicated to telling the stories behind the songs of Gun Shy. According to Mayfield, “I grew up with songs in such a deep way that I wanted to be inside them. I wanted to know how this artist could articulate the things I was feeling better than I could myself. The lyrics, the sonics behind the music, everything. I just craved to know more. Growing up with music when I did meant that I looked to liner notes. I think of the podcast as liner notes for your ears.”
Listen to any of the podcast episodes, and you’ll hear what makes Gun Shy Mayfield’s most introspective and personal record to date. “Our Winds” speaks of true love and hope in the midst of pressure from external forces while “Broken Clocks” finds Mayfield accepting a relationship that is doomed to fall apart. The riffs and hooks found in “Gun Shy” and “Best of Me” show Mayfield as the rock and roller he is.
While Mayfield is known for crafting both gripping ballads and eclectic rock songs, Gun Shy’s greatest triumph lies somewhere between those two styles. “S.H.A.M.E.,” the album’s third track, touches on what is currently Mayfield’s deepest concern – a world full of people that feel as if they are alone.
“Shame is something that no one wants to talk about, but we’re all ashamed of something. We all have demons and things that prevent us from seeing our self-worth. The song is about connecting with people and letting them know they are not alone,” says Mayfield.
Gun Shy was produced by Paul Moak, who Mayfield describes as, “one of the most gifted producers, players, songwriters, and overall artists I’ve ever met.” This is the fourth full-length album the two have recorded together, and Moak’s talents played a major role in making it special. Mayfield and Moak also happen to be great friends, which Mayfield says, “helped us push each other along through the process.”
With each new record, Mayfield has grown in his ability to evoke a broad range of emotions in his listeners. “I want to create melodies and lyrics that move people, that make them feel something. Connection is everything, and music has a unique way of helping people connect to others and to parts of themselves that they might otherwise be unable to access.”
Gun Shy is now available on all digital platforms worldwide. Physical copies are available on matthewmayfield.com.
Unfazed by what a typical pop artist today is “supposed” to look like and how the typical pop artist is “supposed” to sound, Heather Mae, an award-winning songwriter whose evocative vocals and rhythmic piano style call to mind artists like Stevie Nicks and Sara Bareilles, creates intoxicating music that tackles complex topics surrounding mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, self-love, racial injustice, social inequality, and women’s rights. Inspired by her own personal experiences and identities - a queer, plus size woman living with Bipolar Disorder - and those of her multifaceted fans with whom she has forged connections throughout her many years of touring across the United States, Mae crafts powerful lyrics and unforgettable music about life’s moments--from the quietly chaotic to the explosive.
In 2016, after an eight-month period of silence to recover from vocal nodules, Mae made a vow: she would dedicate her career to solely write music that made the world a better place. Her independently-released debut EP I AM ENOUGH, which reached #58 on iTunes Pop Album charts, was her announcement to the world. Mae, who was dubbed “the new queer Adele” by L-Mag, envelopes her audience with a message of hope.
Her newest project, GLIMMER, is a collection of nine songs supporting one central theme:” Feel To Heal.” Within the grooves of the new album,Mae wrestles with the complexities of existing as a human with mental illness. From her #MeToo-inspired feminist anthem “Warrior,” featuring a choir of 100+ female vocalists, to “You Are My Favorite,” a love song written for her wife inspired by her own wedding vows which will surely be the 2019 wedding soundtrack for LGBTQ+ couples, Mae shows she’s nothing less than a powerhouse. She has examined her struggle with Bipolar Disorder from every angle in order to create her most sonically adventurous set of recordings yet--and to remind us that we aren’t alone.
Speelburg (né Noah Sacré) is in a good mood. Having spent the last few years living in England writing what he calls “pop music for important people,” Speelburg relocated to Los Angeles seeking the kind of weather he grew up with in the south of France. He made quite an impression during his time in Great Britain, earning BBC Radio 1’s Chillest Record of the Week for his single “Headlights” and praise from Clash magazine who described his sound as “startlingly unique electro pop.” Pigeons & Planes took it a step further: “Speelburg...is a force to be reckoned with.”
In recent months, the Belgian-American musician has completed work on two solo albums, the second of which will confusingly come out first, but only he will ever know the difference. Character Actor (coming late summer 2019) is a sunny collection of ten songs to be accompanied by Arcobaleno, a (very) short film he directed himself, drawn from Instagram and beyond.
Whether it is paying homage to three Sofia Coppola films in his music video for “Screener Season,” hand-drawing and animating the video for the aforementioned “Headlights” (which Clash called in true English fashion “a corker”) or showing off his fondness for short-shorts and watermelon in the video for his upcoming single “Oxy Cotton Candy,” Sacré is as much a compelling visual artist as he is an innovative musician.
Having just completed a short tour of the West Coast and with a European trek on deck this fall, Speelburg’s good mood looks like it is going to stick around for awhile.
411 Music Group was founded in 2012 for writers by writers and has grown into an international music brand. 411 provides synchronization licensing, custom music, music directors, curated playlists, online and offline databases, and publishing services for music rights holders. The team strives to raise the bar within the audio/visual community by adding unique artists to the roster and developing forward-thinking models for brands and production companies. The 130+ genre-specific composers write music for brands, TV shows, films, trailers, video games, and interactive media.
“We’ve never fit into any quickly digestible category,” says ALO’s keyboardist/singer Zach Gill. “It’s just a different kind of experience.”
With its delightfully vibrant blend of inventive musicality and genre-blurring reach, Sounds Like This sees ALO operating with fresh verve and vitality, their always-kaleidoscopic funk pop ‘n roll aglow with exceptionally ebullient songcraft and deliriously danceable grooves. The California-based band’s fourth Brushfire Records release showcases their unfettered passion, wit, and imagination while simultaneously exploring hitherto uncharted musical terrain. Invigorated by an unstructured approach to the studio process, ALO have accessed new avenues of resourcefulness, resulting in a truly distinctive collection of songs that adroitly captures all the glorious ingenuity and adventure of the band’s legendary live sets.
“There has always been a division between the fans that get to know us through our live shows vs. the fans that get to know us through our albums,” guitarist Lebo says. “This album is going to bridge that gap.”
Long acclaimed for their deft musicianship, potent songwriting, and astonishing on-stage interaction, the members of ALO have played together for more than two decades, with the current permutation now in its 10th year and counting. The band followed the release of 2010’s Jack Johnson-produced Man Of The World by doing what they do best: playing live, with highlights including the Halloween-themed “Haunted Carnival of Traveling Freaks & Frights” tour and their annual Tour d’Amour benefitting public music school programs.
In April 2011, ALO convened at San Francisco’s Mission Bells studio with no plans other than to make some music together. With studio owner/longtime collaborator David Simon-Baker assisting behind the board, the band opted to take the same improvisational tack towards recording as they do on stage. Any distinctions between pre-production and real recording would be shed, allowing for ALO’s instinctive spontaneity to make it to track.
“We thought, what if we started recording from the get-go,” Gill says, “instead of rehearsing, making songs, and then going into the studio. We decided to start the whole process all at once, with the intention of wanting things to feel really live.”
“Without a clear roadmap, we hit a lot of dead ends,” says drummer Dave Brogan says, “which forced us to create our way out of the morass. I think that helped us look to within ourselves – rather than outside influences – to bring the music to life.”
The band – all based in the Bay Area, bar Gill, who resides in sunny Santa Barbara – were also able to utilize a lifetime’s bag of tricks in a way the previous album’s sonic scope only suggested.
“The previous record was done in Hawaii, so we simply couldn’t fly with much,” bassist Steve Adams says. “Doing this one in San Francisco definitely made it easier to bring anything we wanted from home – Dave set up a more elaborate drum zone, Lebo had more guitars and amps, Zach brought up more keyboards. I had all my basses and a keyboard rig as well. Having a broader palette of sounds definitely had an influence on how the record turned out.”
In the past, ALO felt compelled to adjust their expansive songs to better suit the recorded format, trimming tracks to a more easily consumed length. While this certainly honed the band’s songwriting skills, ALO were now eager to let it all hang out, marking tracks like the bombastic “Dead Still Dance” with collage-like structures, deep dance grooves, and inventive, intricate solos. The inclusion of longer songs on Sounds Like This epitomizes “ALO being more comfortable with who ALO is,” according to Lebo.
“The truth is, longer songs come more naturally to us,” he continues. “In the past we've spent more time whittling the songs down because we felt that we needed to do so in order to ‘fit in.’ This time around, we let the songs be what they wanted to be, and sometimes that meant a long song.”
“There was a part of us that went, ‘Are we being a tad too indulgent?,’” says Gill, “but in the end we decided that we wouldn’t say we were being indulgent – we were being generous.”
ALO let their imagination run free, both musically and lyrically, resulting in such larger-than-life highlights as the Old West flight of fancy, “Cowboys and Chorus Girls” or the self-explanatory glitterball workout, “Room For Bloomin.” Where prior albums featured songs penned individually and then arranged by the band, this time out, ALO were determined that their collective spirit inform every groove.
“With collaborative writing, everyone’s personal stamp is in the DNA of the song,” Lebo says. “That makes these songs definitively ALO.”
At the heart of the album is ALO’s raucous reverie for days past, “Blew Out The Walls,“ as well as its more subdued sibling, “Sounds Like That” (included exclusively as an iTunes bonus track). The track reverberates with the excitement and passion of a rock ‘n’ roll band in its nascent stage, that magical moment where four friends first get together in someone’s basement for the sheer joy of making music together.
“I think we all were feeling the dream again,” Adams says, “remembering back to where it all started.”
All four members of ALO agree that a similar sense of excitement is currently spurring the band forward. Sounds Like This has imbued ALO with an audacious energy that is certain to infiltrate the band’s already spirited live shows, not to mention their next studio outing.
“Like all ALO albums, the next one will be a culmination of all the past albums and everything that happens in between,” Brogan says, “I don't know if we'll be so bold in our lack of planning next time, but I'm sure we'll find some other way to challenge ourselves.”
“I love making records,” Gill says. “With this one done, now there’s the excitement of, what about the next one? Those juices are already brewing. I feel like we just cracked the ice so it’ll be exciting to see what happens next.”
Noah C Lekas is a poet, essayist and journalist. His first book, Saturday Night Sage (April 13, 2019) is a collection of narrative prose exploring mysticism and menial labor in contemporary America. After calling all four corners of the country home, his work is as uniquely American as his perspective. The first literary release for San Diego record label Blind Owl, the collection gives voice to an often overlooked and undervalued, working-class experience. Hailed as “A punk séance for the beat spirit,” Saturday Night Sage weaves the unwavering ethos of post-industrial Wisconsin with the poetic tradition of New York City and the eccentric Rock ‘n’ Roll soul of San Francisco.
Even before its official release, the collection inspired other artists to take Lekas’ words beyond the page with audio recordings and visual art. San Francisco artist Alan Forbes, best known for his work with The Black Crowes, Mars Volta and Patti Smith, brought the title piece to life with original cover art. Saturday Night Sage is the first poetry collection to feature Forbes’ work. Six recordings were also made featuring Lekas reading with accompaniment by members of Mrs. Henry and Taken By Canadians. Those recordings were then interpreted by film makers Scott Rosenbaum (Sidemen: The Long Road to Glory), Shelby Baldock (North Mississippi Allstars) Joshua and Jeremiah Zimmerman (The Silent Comedy), Blake Cook (Visual Artist), and Elizabeth Lekas (Visual Artist) for a series of promotional short films.
In a time when spirituality is often confrontational and nuance is trivialized, Saturday Night Sage fearlessly digs into American culture. In its unique rhythm of Thoreauvian romanticism and punk contrarianism, Lekas defines the poetic voice of blue-collar mysticism.
Saturday Night Sage pre-order begins March 2nd with an official release on April 13th.
Adult(ed) is a show all about the things that we are expected to know as “grown-ups” that no one ever taught us. Each episode, we will tackle a new subject with the help of an expert on the topic. From throwing a fancy dinner party, to figuring out taxes, we’ll learn something new together and have some fun along the way!
Now at age 25, New Zealand singer/songwriter Jamie McDell has achieved a prolific amount for someone so young. Being signed to EMI at age 16 sparked the beginning of a successful musical journey, making Jamie McDell a household name across the nation. With the release of her debut album ‘Six Strings and a Sailboat’, she went on to achieve Gold album sales, receive three NZ Music Award nominations, winning Best Pop Album of 2013. Her sophomore record ‘Ask Me Anything’ gained global attention, seeing album track ‘Moon Shines Red’ featured on American TV series Pretty Little Liars. A lot was going on for the young songwriter throughout her formative years.
2018 marked McDell’s return with an independently-released record that celebrates her musical roots and the sounds of her upbringing. This new recorded project came together between Auckland, New Zealand and Nashville, Tennessee where she recorded the tracks with Australian award-winner producer Nash Chambers. The record features a hearty cast of country music legends including Kasey Chambers, Bill Chambers and Tami Neilson.
It was the music of her childhood that would form the fundamental elements of what excited her about songwriting the most - an honest vocal, lots of acoustic guitar and deep storytelling.
It was at age 7, while living aboard a yacht in the Mediterranean, when McDell wrote her first song. On that yacht lived a small collection of her parents’ favourite tapes, including albums by Jimmy Buffett, John Denver and James Taylor, which the young McDell formed a particularly strong bond with. She fondly remembers watching her parents perform Jimmy Buffett duets - and occasionally chiming in, learning how to harmonise vocally with her mother. An eager learner, Mcdell picked up the guitar after studying her fathers’ John Denver chord book collection and has never looked back.
In March 2017, McDell booked a trip to Nashville for a change of scenery and to connect with the environment that birthed the country/folk music of her youth. There she wrote the songs that would make up the fabric for her upcoming record.
Later that year, twelve songs (written solely by McDell) were recorded in two days with full band at House Of Blues, Studio D in Nashville, with Chambers at the helm. Recording this way would boil up feelings of nostalgia for McDell, who’s very first recording experience took place at Auckland’s York Street studios in the same vein.
“This is the closest thing I’ve done to a live record,” McDell says. “I enjoy playing and singing in the same room as everyone, recording full takes, celebrating the liveliness of the players and accepting mistakes or imperfections as a special and important part of the body of work.”
On this new record, McDell’s vocals are the most raw and vulnerable they have ever been - powerful and honest - and reflect her core listening inspirations which include Patty Griffin and Alison Krauss. Her Margaritaville-infused childhood sneaks through in humorous lines like “scared of looking crazy, she opens up a bottle of wine, forgets about her baby and looks to have a hell of a time.”
This new album also marks McDell’s second independent release since going independent from 2016 - the first being a debut album, written/performed with her younger sister Tessa as Dunes. This record has been personally hand-crafted from the ground up, with McDell overseeing everything from the writing, creation, promotion and release. She also creates the visual artwork herself, as a graphic designer by day.
Putting the overall feeling of the album into words isn’t easy, but McDell reflects on the personal challenge of leaving the comfort of home to write something that was honest and true.
“Nashville was me getting out of my comfort zone and finding my way back to it. I like to write songs quickly and alone and quite frankly when I feel like it, and I think being away from home helped me get back to that headspace,”
“The listener is getting a sincerely true collection of stories that haven’t been tampered with since they were written. They are exactly what I felt like saying/singing at the time - raw, unpolished and deeply honest.”
Taylor Scott is an international touring guitarist and singer/songwriter based in Denver, Colorado. He has consistently toured all over the US, Canada, and Europe with both the Taylor Scott Band and trance-blues legend Otis Taylor. In 2015, he played alongside the likes of Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers, Gov't Mule) on Otis' critically acclaimed release, "Hey Joe Opus: Red Meat." The Taylor Scott Band, based in Denver, is an original rock & roll band heavily influenced by funk and soul music. 2018 will bring the release of a new album from the band featuring Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) as producer and guest appearances by Henry Garza (Los Lonely Boys) and others. Here is a word on the music:
"Heavily influenced by soul, funk, blues, and rock & roll, Taylor Scott's music is gaining a reputation for transcending the limitations of a single genre. His diversely influenced rock & roll group, The Taylor Scott Band, is a high-powered extension of this mélange of sounds."
After I was dropped from Warner Bros Records in 2016, I was faced with an unexpected existential crisis; How was I, Greg Holden, — the artist with enough gall to write his own press-release — any different from the thousands of cliché-ridden white male singer-songwriters out galavanting in the world today?
My knee-jerk reaction was that I wasn’t, and I started preparing myself for a life-shattering return home to England, tail between my legs, armed with a few good stories to tell my mates on Quiz night back in old Blighty.
So I did what any self-respecting artist would do and Googled myself for some positive reinforcement. I realized that what has and always will separate me from the pack is that I am breathtakingly handsome. Okay, maybe that’s not it. What I realized is that the most successful songs in my career to date were written either for a special cause or ended up being used in a special cause. They were the songs I’d written without ever considering how well they’d sell, or in 2019 language how many Spotify streams they would garner. Forgive the outlandish arrogance and cringe-worthy Zuckerberg-esque tone, but I realized that my best songs had quite literally helped people. The ironic part was, I hadn’t actually meant to do that at all.
By accident, “The Lost Boy” raised €80,000 for The Red Cross and ended up helping to — if in just a small way — build schools in Africa. I wrote “Boys in the Street” for Everyone Is Gay, an organization supporting the LGBTQ youth community, a creation that Tom Hanks of Turner & Hooch fame dubbed “the perfect song”. An unbelievable compliment that pulled me from the depths of hell in 2016 and provided me with a very obnoxious name drop opportunity in times of insecurity. “Home”, made famous-enough by Phillip Phillips after he won American Idol with it, has been used by countless organizations and charities over the years. There are more examples, but I’m sure I’ve sufficiently annoyed you with my excessive hubris.
So, after 10-minutes of Googling myself, I decided my intentions were pure enough to make me somewhat unique and would give my 4th studio album a go after all…
‘World War Me’ was inspired by the Great Existential Crisis of 2016, and written during the Great Existential Crises of 2017 & 2018. The songs came during a time where I was quite literally at war with myself, and to an extent, those around me. I had moved my entire life from New York to Los Angeles for my label/career, and months later it was falling apart. Now what? What was the point in making another record after I was just crowned the most anti-climactic signing in Warner Bros history? Can I really go through all that again? I am even good at this? Do I even want to do this??
I decided to make matters worse and record ‘World War Me’ myself.
I recorded all but “On The Run” — recorded by legendary producer & singer-songwriter Butch Walker — in my home studio in Los Angeles, and wrote most of it with one of my best friends, the incomparable singer-songwriter Garrison Starr.
I realize now that the record was born the day after Donald Trump was elected. We were both crushed. Myself as an immigrant, and Garrison as a gay woman, we were like the triple threat of Trump’s worst nightmares. I felt Garrison’s pain so much more though, as she felt like her own country had just abandoned her.
We sat in a cold Green Room in eastern Germany, practically in tears, and hummed out the melody of what would become “I’m Not Your Enemy”. We finished it hungover the next afternoon and played it to an arena of 10,000 people that evening. We were off to the races…
Upon our return home we immediately wrote “Chase The Money”, “Nothing Changes” — the song that seems to encompass the central theme of the record — and “What I Deserve”, based on my acquirement of a beautiful house in Los Angeles, and perhaps my overall disbelief that my life was actually happening.
I wrote “The Power Shift” to liberate some of my extreme anger towards the maddening news I was voluntarily injecting each morning, and then “Temptation” was birthed from the residual anger left over from “The Power Shift”. The unidentical twins of the album if you like…
“Something Beautiful” manifested itself when I realized I was putting way too much negative energy out into the universe, and that was the last thing the world needed more of. My co-writer and friend Richard Harris helped coax out the 3rd single from the album, and what would be the voice of reason on a pretty humorless set of songs.
I am incredibly proud of what I have achieved personally during the making of this album. Despite the fact that I am still a cliché-ridden, male singer-songwriter, I believe that people will be able to at least relate to ‘World War Me’. I have no idea if it will help them or not, but I turned the vocals up pretty loud so at least I know they’ll hear me.
“I wasn’t trying to help people before, and I’m not trying now. People can only help themselves, which is what I realized in the making of this record.”
- Greg Holden
‘World War Me’ comes out through BMG on March 29th, 2019. The day The United Kingdom is due to divorce the E.U. Coincidence? Absolutely.
Do you suck at piano?
Is there someone you know who just isn’t as good as they say they are? Do you wish that there was an instructional piano book for adults that pulled no punches, told it like it is, and wasn’t afraid to put you in your place?
This, my piano flunkies, is your book. For all of you people who used to take piano lessons and are thinking of “getting back into it”, You Suck at Piano is your jam. For those of you who wish you could crank out a simple tune… You Suck at Piano will get you there.
The key is honesty. Learning to play the piano is difficult, folks. And most piano books lie to you. They say “you can do it!” when in fact you’re not so sure you actually CAN do it.
You Suck at Piano takes a different approach. It’s a brutally honest and fun method to improve your piano skills, complete with 50 arrangements of famous piano pieces, irreverent comic strips about the composers and the terrible lives they led, and cocktail recipes to drown all of your piano related frustrations.
Dr. Joel Pierson
Composer and jazz pianist Joel Pierson has worked with artists of great repute (The Kronos Quartet, The Houston Symphony), & artists of not-so great repute (Wayne Newton, Ke$ha). As a pianist, Joel has performed on all seven continents (yes, even Antarctica) and has shared the stage with the New York Philharmonic. As a songwriter, Joel was signed to Warner Brothers Records and has written and performed with artists like Linkin Park, Father John Misty, and My Chemical Romance.
Joel’s symphonic arrangements have been performed by over 20 symphony orchestras, including Atlanta, Toronto, Cleveland, & The Philly Pops. Joel has been commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, and won second place in the New York Philharmonic’s New World Initiative Composition Competition. He wrote additional music for the 2013 film The Internship, and is Musical Director The Queen's Cartoonists (www.thequeenscartoonists.com), a jazz band dedicated to the preservation and performance of music from classic cartoons. Joel has been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, McSweeney’s, The Chicago Tribune, and the CBS Evening News. He has a doctoral degree in music composition from the University of Maryland, a masters degree in jazz piano from New York University, and a bachelor’s degree in classical piano from Westmont College. Joel lives in Queens and maintains an active performing and teaching schedule in New York City.
Jack Mosbacher has always had music in his heart, but it took enduring one of the most painful experiences of his life to begin writing his own.
A veteran of the jazz and cabaret scenes in New York, Jack was preparing for his first headlining show in San Francisco when one of his oldest friends was killed in an accident. He was inspired to write his own music for the first time, hoping to provide something for the community affected by the unthinkable loss. He quickly realized that his sudden urge to write songs was just as much for his own healing as it was for others. It was the only way he could cheer himself up.
“I started making music in earnest in some really dark moments in my life,” Jack explains. “For some people, that might manifest into songs about pain and loss. For some reason, I instinctively wanted to make music that would cheer people up, make people happy; make people dance; make people hopeful.”
In the years that have followed, the singer-songwriter has been living up to his goal of being a beacon of light in a dark world. His brand of retro soul is uplifting and joyous. He’s had his music played at weddings and at wakes, but now he’s ready to begin a new chapter in his career. And with a new chapter comes a new name.
Although Jack is still the mastermind behind this project, he wanted the focus to be less on him and more on the music he was making. Hailing from the Bay Area, he searched for a moniker that stood for his hometown and came up with Kezar, taken from San Francisco’s iconic Kezar Stadium in the Haight-Ashbury district – the original home of his beloved 49ers that still stands today, and a music venue that played host to some of Jack’s favorite bands, including Led Zeppelin, Santana, Tower of Power, and the Grateful Dead.
As Kezar, Jack wanted to take his music in a new direction while staying true to the uplifting nature of his sound. And there’s no better feel-good music than pop, a genre Jack’s always wanted to tap into but never felt he possessed the right resources and tools to do so. One fateful day, he met manager Brad Margolis, who introduced him to a couple of producers that specialize in pop: Nitzan Kaikov (K-Kov) and Jeoff Harris.
With K-Kov producing Grammy-nominated albums for Keith Urban and sharing producer credits with Justin Timberlake, Jack knew he was in good hands. From the first day in the studio, the California native made his vision clear: he told the producers he wanted to find a sound that Berry Gordy would sign if he was starting Motown today. He wanted to make hook-dependent, danceable, fun music. He wanted romance, he wanted joy. He wanted to make music that could help people escape their worries, even if just for a few minutes.
“I’ve always tried to pack as much joy into every measure of my music as I can,” Jack admits. “I didn’t want to lose that by going in a new direction, but I knew for some reason that I really wanted to make a true pop record. I finally met people who were willing to bet on me and give me their time and talent to help make it happen.”
While soul is still the backbone of Kezar’s music, it incorporates a wide array of sounds. Using state-of-the-art synthesizer technology, he and the producers added throwback elements from hip-hop’s glory days, like the big 808 drum machines on Run-DMC and NWA records and stacked backing vocals and bass synths reminiscent of the 2000’s Hyphy Movement – homages to Mac Dre, Mistah F.A.B., Keak da Sneak, and Traxamillion. On top, he injected the tracks with the rock-leaning pop sensibility of his hometown heroes Train and contemporary pop influences like Bruno Mars, Sam Smith and Shawn Mendes. The result is a collection of songs that range from sensual, slow-burning R&B jams to funk-laden pop earworms. Partnered for live performances with drummer James Small (Fantastic Negrito), it is obvious that the duo’s sound is defined by the marriage of Jack’s sunny San Francisco pop and Small’s heavier-hitting Oakland rhythm and blues.
“The possibilities of what you can do with people who possess this kind of technical skill and composition talent is really limitless,” Jack says of K-Kov and Harris. “It’s like a sculptor looking at big piece of marble and realizing, ‘I can literally shape this into anything.’ And you have to figure out a way to carve out something that feels both new and true to you.”
Although the way in which this project was created couldn’t be more foreign to Jack—he’s used to writing a song and then recording it with a group of musicians in a big studio, rather than creating everything in a studio between two people—the process has made him more open-minded to new sounds and, quite frankly, a better songwriter.
“This feels as much like me, if not more so, than the music I’ve made in the past,” the singer-songwriter says without hesitation. “I love pop music, I just never knew how to make it. What I’ve found is that if you know who you are and what you’re trying to do going in, then regardless of your influences and methods, the result will sound like you. That’s the thing I’m most proud of with this music: it’s a completely new sound for me, but it feels genuine to who I am, and I think it is a big step forward for me as an artist and as a human.”
With these new tools, the sky’s the limit for Jack—as Kezar or otherwise. And this is just the beginning.