music

MISS TESS

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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.


MARK ERELLI

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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

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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 AnatomySupergirl 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

THE MOWGLI'S

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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.

LETTERS TO CLEO

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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!” 

MATTHEW MAYFIELD

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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.

HEATHER MAE

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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

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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. 

 

ALO

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“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.”

JAMIE MCDELL

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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 Band

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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."

Kezar

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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.


Peter Bradley Adams

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No matter the form, when it comes to art, there are a number of different tacks to take. Some artists continually push their work across new horizons. Neil Young, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Joni Mitchell come to mind, in that regard. Others —Claude Monet, Jason Isbell, and Bonnie Raitt, among them —stand a bit more still in order to continually refine the capturing of their vision. Singer/songwriter Peter Bradley Adams falls into the latter category of perfectionists chasing their own perfection. With A Face Like Mine, he may well have caught it.

There's a confidence, a completeness in the song cycle that listeners have gleaned throughout Adams' illustrious career, but A Face Like Mine, his sixth solo effort, brings it all into sharp focus. As Adams sees it, “On the long plod of finding my voice as a singer and a writer, the singing has slowly developed from the sound of a scared guy to someone who believes what he's saying and the writing, I hope, has become less rigid —both in the lyrics and the phrasing.”

Less rigid, indeed. Adams' brand of Americana nestles his often delicate, always heartfelt voice in the warm embrace of gentle guitar, tasteful dobro, subtle banjo, supportive bass, and unhurried percussion. The result is a sonic scape that, in turn, wraps itself around the listener like a soft blanket on a cold day. With A Face Like Mine, Adams further refines the simple musical sophistication that has become his trademark.

Throughout the self-produced set, Adams tells tales of love and loss, homes and hearts. The territory he mines is a deliberate mix of fact and fantasy. “I feel like I'm, firstly, a storyteller, but it's inevitable that my own stuff gets in there deep. And it's funny how, sometimes, I don't realize it until the song is done,” he offers. “At the same time, there are times where I take very directly from an experience or a relationship, but I try to be very careful when that happens. I don't want to ever sound like a journal entry.”

Regardless of the details, there's always a philosophical bent that is often more under than on the surface, firmly grounding Adams' songs even as they stretch outward. By his own admission, Adams is a seeker who spends considerable time wrestling with matters of faith, though he's the first to admit he doesn't have any real answers. “I honestly don't know what the hell I'm doing... nor do I have the language for any of this stuff,” he says with a laugh. “But there is a constant tug on me in that direction and, the older I get, the more present it becomes. Music can often be the most direct way to step into that river.”

That seeker's heart is the tie that so often binds these songs together. Whether the search for place and purpose is of a spiritual or geographical nature, few writers capture the journey as thoughtfully as Adams. An Alabama native, Adams says he feels most comfortable in motion and doesn't have a strong sense of being Southern, even though his music is rooted in that world in so many ways. The first verse of the album's mesmerizing lead track, “Good Man,” exemplifies his plight: “This old house is falling down. Every step I take makes a hollow sound. Should I walk away? Should I push on through? What in the world can a good man do?”

Even as Adams goes on to sing of “laughing eyes with a touch of grey” and walking “a mile across the kitchen floor” in order to set various scenes, he leaves room for the listener to crawl inside his stories and make them their own. Striking that balance is the songwriter's eternal struggle, but one Adams seems to have mastered after years of toiling on his own and collaborating with co-writers like Kim Richey, Caitlin Canty, and Todd Lombardo.

“I don't think I'm very good at co-writing because my process seems so weird and long and tedious to me,” Adams confides. “It's hard to allow someone into that space, but there a few folks where our sensibilities are aligned and we're not just trying to bang out a song in a day. I want to feel as close to the songs I co-write as the ones I write alone. Writers like Kim Richey have such an economy and depth to the ideas that come out of their mouths and hands —there's wisdom there. I want to be more like that.”

In addition to this release, Adams is currently putting his classical composition studies to work on a piece for violin and piano —an aspect of his craft and education that got set aside somewhere along the way to now. “I've wondered a lot why I spent all that time studying music in school and how my composer that fits in with or hinders my songwriting,” he says. “Some of it was definitely useless to me, then and now. But some of it has left its mark on how I listen, and how I think of arranging songs, and how I communicate with players who are playing on them. Also, writing in such an extremely simple and constrained musical language makes all your choices much more delicate, so I spend a lot of time crafting even the simplest melody.”

A Face Like Mine's songs were composed all over the world, from Alabama to India, and they dig into topics are disparate as the desperation of addiction (“Lorraine”), the grappling of self-image (“Who Else Could I Be”), the vitriol of politics (“We Are”), and the genetics of suffering (“A Face Like Mine”). “We Are” and “Who Else Could I Be” were originally written for a dance piece that Gina Patterson choreographed for the San Angelo Civic Ballet. Even so, Adams made sure the songs could stand alone in their own world no matter what else was swirling around them —confidence and completeness in action.

As a work of musical art, A Face Like Mine fulfills the promise of Peter Bradley Adams. And rarely has an artist's standing still sounded so divine.

THE SILENT COMEDY

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For a few years, Joshua Zimmerman couldn’t bring himself to listen to his band’s most recent album. Enemies Multiply – the Silent Comedy LP he and Jeremiah, his brother and longtime bandmate, had written and recorded several years ago – felt too personal, too raw to engage with. Born of a rough patch in the Zimmerman brothers’ personal and professional lives, listening to it felt like rubbing salt in healed wounds. Despite the brothers collectively viewing the album as some of their best work in the decade-plus they’d been a band, the project was shelved.

Then the 2016 election happened.

 “And suddenly, at that moment,” while living in New York City and feeling bewildered and frustrated at the country’s new reality, “I realized the feeling of this moment was what we wrote this music for,” Joshua recalls. A certain pall and desperation had settled over the country in the days and week after the election and, in Joshua’s estimation, the album now had widespread cultural resonance. “At this particular moment in U.S. history I felt like a lot more people could take comfort in the songs than ever before,” Joshua notes of the 11-track LP that at long last is set for release on October 19th. Jeremiah concurred: “For the first time ever I just want people to hear it and have it.”

Recorded in Austin, Texas, Enemies Multiply is sonically a big-boned, bruising affair. The brothers channeled an admittedly confusing time of conflict in their lives — as well as the previous perilous years leading up to it, characterized by what Josh describes as “being jerked around by the music industry” — into their most impassioned, hard-hitting, and thoroughly engaging album of their career. Standing at the center is “Sharks Smell Blood,” all bluesy strut, spooky choirboy harmonies and sing-along hook. Likewise, “Avalanche” is framed around a searing guitar line and squelching church organ. Like the album itself, and the band’s own views on it, “that song evolved over time. I’ve loved it in every incarnation it went through, but when I listen to how it ended up I really feel that’s the pinnacle of all of that work,” Joshua explains. Even “No Saints Forgiven,” which begins as a back porch delta-blues confessional, quickly explodes into a Van Halen-esque sing-along at the chorus.

But it’s the messages in the songs  – namely combating malevolence by banding together with likeminded people – that compelled the Silent Comedy to finally release the album. As children, after traveling the globe with their missionary parents only to return to the United States, meander some more, then settle down in San Diego in a house with literally nothing but an upright piano, the two brothers looked to musical collaboration in their mid-teens as a cathartic outlet. “Jeremiah started writing songs, “Josh recalls. “That was kind of his way of processing everything that we’d been through. That’s really when we started writing together.” It was their traveling that also colored their worldview which, when compared to some of their peers, was decidedly darker. “It skewed our perception to see how much suffering there is in the world and how fortunate we are in the United States by comparison,” Joshua explains. “We have always had a little bit more somber view of things.” Enemies Multiply, he then adds, “is a distillation of that worldview.” Jeremiah admits the album “has a lot of stuff in there about people backstabbing each other” which caused some record labels to initially balk at releasing it. And even now, as he wishes that subject matter weren’t so applicable, “I think people are more sympathetic to that idea,” Jeremiah offers. The album, he adds, “is a journey in context.”

Though, as Joshua explains, it’s the album’s most hopeful track, the closing “Peace of Mind,” that he says now connects with him on an intensely personal level. One of the most collaborative songs he and Jeremiah ever wrote, the harmonica-drenched folk lament, on one hand, “is really about being in a desperate place and a hopeless place, but also about taking comfort in banding together.” It especially spoke to him in the past two years, particularly as the world seemed to slip further into chaos. “It still is a really emotional song to listen to and to sing,” he adds.

“All of what we have been through as a band is wrapped up in this new project,” Joshua notes of the Silent Comedy’s realization that conflicts and challenges often reveal themselves as the best source material for artistic expression. The years spent writing the material that became Enemies Multiply, according to Jeremiah, “were exhausting and it was really taking a toll on us. We were in a legitimate struggle. But all the songs started to take on a new meaning. This entire process was saturated with so much frustration and conflict. So to see something like Enemies Multiply rise out of that is awesome.”

 While not always visible in plain sight, rock music has always formed the foundation of the Silent Comedy. The brothers, who were fanboys for bands like Rage Against The Machine and At The Drive-In during their teenage years, first delved into band life via joint membership in a punk and post-hardcore act. But after forming the Silent Comedy in the mid-2000’s, their early albums, including 2010’s Common Faults,, began to incorporate the folk, Americana and the blues they picked up from listening to a healthy dose of Cat Stevens and Simon and Garfunkel. Still, all throughout, their live show was centered on its rollicking, over-the-top, energy. To that end, the Zimmerman brothers felt their studio efforts needed to better match up with their live persona.

“In a way it was only a matter of time before we fully embraced our rock n’ roll roots,” Josh says.  Adds Jeremiah: “The farther we kept going, we realized the stuff that was more interesting to us was the more energetic and rock-focused material. Our energy has been our biggest asset. We wanted to put that on the record.”

If the journey has felt long and at times painful, the Zimmerman brothers feel that with Enemies Multiply now set for release the ends truly do justify the means. “There’s a certain freedom to whatever happens now,” Jeremiah says. “After a while in life you start to look at the bigger picture.”

 

 

 ”

LIZ VICE

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Liz Vice has always had a love for storytelling. The Portland native who currently resides in Brooklyn, started her  career working behind the scenes in the world of film and video, only to accidentally find herself behind the mic.  Liz Vice’s sound is a fusion of Gospel and R&B,  with dynamic and soulful vocals,  and lyrics, deeply rooted in spirituality, that give her work a   timeless feel.

Vice got a knack for performing early. She was raised by her mother as the middle of five children. Every morning growing up, she was awoken by her mother’s voice singing “rise and shine and give God the glory.” She also found herself frequently stealing away to the basement  to dance and lip sync songs from the radio, and soundtracks from her favorite films.  Liz taught herself how to play piano, marking the notes on the piano using blue painter’s tape on the notes of a keyboard, placed by her friends who were taking piano lessons.  Her aunt bought her headphones, that she would make young Liz sit with on her head in the living room for hours mimicking the notes she would here from an instrumental CD.

At the age of 19, Vice’s health declined, and she found herself on hemodialysis for the next three years. Her illness left many scars on her body including those from surgery on a fistula (abnormal connection between an organs). Vice received a kidney transplant in December 2005, which marked the beginning of a time of great healing and perspective.

A year later, Vice became a member of a local church and felt a nudge, that would not leave her alone each Sunday to sing background vocals on the worship team. Suffering from stage fright, Vice knew that fear could never overpower this unknown “call”. She said yes to the nudge and sang her first solo during a Sunday evening service, “Enfold Me”. The rest is history. 

For the past four years, Vice’s music and live performances have put her on the map as an artist to watch. She has been praised and featured by Oregon Public Broadcasts’ One Song, NPR’s World Cafe, Mountain Stage, eTown, NPR’s Weekend Edition, Relevant Magazine, and more. Vice has also been a featured artist in Portland for such events as Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival, Moon River, Forecastle, Portland Soundcheck, Soul’d Out Music Festival, Siren Nation Music Festival, Music on Main Street and more. 

The title track for her first album “There’s a Light” received over one million streams on Spotify. The success of the record led to performing and/or sharing the stage with artists such as Joss Stone, Blind Boys of Alabama, Boz Scaggs, The Temptations, Rodriguez, Lake Street Dive, Lecrae, Cody Chesnutt, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Eric Early of (Blitzen Trapper), John Mark McMillan, Sandra McCracken,  Josh Garrels, Tunde Baiyewu (Lighthouse Family), Luz Mendoza (Y La Bamba), Eshon Burgundy (Humble Beast), and more.  No matter how large the venue, her genuine approach to her work and playful interaction with the audience makes everyone feel like their sitting at home on the couch watching a friend sing their heart out. Vice is very passionate and has overcome many personal obstacles; she credits her adventurous life to not forcing anything and being willing and available to wherever it is that the lord leads. "It's all about risk, and taking a risk is never regretful...well, most of the time.”

WILL DAILEY

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"Then what of the national throat?  Will it not weaken?"

These emphatic words of protest appeared in a 1906 essay written by John Philip Sousa. The patriotic American composer found himself standing before a dramatic threshold in music. Faced with the advent of the recording of music and an onslaught of innovation, all of which he deemed, “the menace of mechanical music,” the composer feared the sacred creative entity he had dedicated his entire life to serve would be forever ruined. Sousa passionately lamented that singing would be replaced by a "mathematical system of megaphones, wheels, cogs, disks … all matter of revolving things."  More than anything, he feared that the introduction of new contraptions of innovation would serve to water down his cherished artform, all in the name of commercialism. More than a century later, treading upon a similarly fragile fault-line in music, singer-songwriter Will Dailey asks these very questions in his upcoming release. His record is aptly entitled:  National Throat. 

Will Dailey has chosen to deviate from that predestined path of cogs and commercialism.  He willfully parted ways from one of the world’s largest record labels to produce his latest full-length album.

Now independent, Dailey feels liberated. National Throat tells the story of that journey. 

People have been complaining about change in the music industry for centuries but artists make art because they have to,” Dailey says. “I write songs because they happen to me; it fuels my life and I see it fuel other people’s lives… Nothing can disrupt that. This album of songs is about doing this because you have to.

Featuring 11 new tracks, National Throat is a thriving embodiment of an authentic American Dream. It is a registry of a national reverie, one brought to fruition through a musician’s pursuit of art in its rawest form. It is music felt, not contrived. It is fresh soul untarnished by the grease of cogs or disks, left pure in the midst of a virulent commercial world.

Though fortune and fame have never been of main concern, Dailey’s music has been amplified by acclaim: He is a three-time winner of the Boston Music Award for Best Singer/Songwriter and his songs have been featured on more than 50 shows and films. Critics agree that he holds his ground performing next to artists like Neil Young, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, and John Mellencamp. He was unfazed by the call from Oscar and Grammy-winning producer T Bone Burnetts to join Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crowe, and Rosanne Cash in the studio. All this from a man who has never, ever been anything but a musician.

But with National Throat, Dailey risked the potential to obtain an even broader reach by parting with a major label after realizing his goals and theirs were out of whack. This time he counted on a solid fan base to save him from a failing partnership, the inspiration for one of the album’s most talked-about songs. “I’m jumping overboard /And I’m swimming back to shore,” Dailey sings over a Burnett-inspired tune in “Sunken Ship.”  Somewhat stranded but never alone, he took charge and involved his fans in a communal creative process through Pledge Music. “It will be a unique experience,” he wrote to his fans, “a one of a kind process. When the day is done, you will have elevated my music to a whole new level. A true artistic community will be built here.”

And build it they did. Dailey’s fans’ admiration feeds National Throat from the inside out – like gas to an engine. The album’s closing song, “We Will Always Be A Band,” reflects the timelessness of the special kind of relationships sewn together with sonic filaments. Its lyrics draw Dailey’s audience in close, wrapping us in a warm familiarity that lingers beyond silence:

Am I in your headphones
Am I on your mind
Is there a tune that’s stuck in your head
That comes from a song of mine?


Indeed, listeners will hear his dynamic voice echo around the naturally catchy melodies that replay themselves effortlessly in our minds.

Though unified by Dailey’s characteristic plaid, rootsy charm, each song on National Throat vibrates with unique personality and showcases his dramatic vocal range. Each is a knockout delivered through a triple threat talent for singing, writing, and playing guitar. Listeners are already addicted to “Why Do I,” a rollicking shout-out to a promise-filled night of debauchery in his hometown, Boston. The epic, beautifully melancholic “Castle of Pretending” contrasts sharply with the sexy and demanding “Don’t Take Your Eyes Off Of Me.” Dailey is not afraid to spike his songs with attitude, nor to expose a naked softness, typified by the folksy “Higher Education” and the romantic spoken French quote (“Nous devrions tous avoir la chance de connaître l’amour…”) that closes the McCartney-esque “Once In A Century Storm.”

John Philip Sousa was wrong to preemptively mourn the loss of “songs that stir the blood and fire the zeal,” of “songs of home, of mother, and of love, that touch the heart and brighten the eye.” These songs flourish and surge with vigor in National Throat. The 2014 album makes clear that Will Dailey’s zeal for art, for music—for life and love—is unhampered by time and liberated from the contemporary materialism Sousa so wisely presaged. When Dailey sings, “My last dollar will be spent keeping these lights on/Doing the only thing that I can” we better believe him. He’s unstoppable.

Today, despite the persistence and further development of all matter of revolving things, the National Throat is alive and well in Will Dailey. 

NELS ANDREWS

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Although he was born by the sea, it wasn’t until he moved to the desert that Nels  Andrews began writing songs. He sang them alone in a house constructed of mud and tires on the sage-brushed mesas of Taos, New Mexico where he spent his 20’s, airing them occasionally around campfires. It wasn't until a move 90 miles south to the dusty yet curiously eccentric city of Albuquerque that he began to play them in front of strangers, and from there, to start collaborating. Andrews enlisted the talents of some inventive indie musicians he met at the Red Door, a creaky second-floor respite and practice space (and former railroad brothel) on historic Route 66 in the center of downtown. That initial collaboration began to shape his desert-infused folk/rock sound, pairing literary narratives of curious high desert outsiders with the psych-rock palate and electro-fuzz of his then band, The El Paso Eyepatch, and resulted in his debut album Sunday Shoes.

After his band dissolved, Andrews and his new wife moved back to her native east coast to set up a home in the freshly-blossoming bohemian enclave of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. There he crossed paths with bass virtuoso/composer Todd Sickafoose (Andrew Bird, Ani DiFranco, Anaïs Mitchell) who offered to produce Andrews’ sophomore record, Off Track Betting (Reveal Records UK/Lucky dice NL). Sickafoose brought with him a whole new palette of musicians from NYC’s downtown experimental/new music scene, which lent new textures and shapes to Andrews’ increasingly impressionistic story songs. Third album Scrimshaw was gleaned from his time working as a chauffeur in Manhattan; he followed his literary heroes Melville and Yeats, as the songs drew on an earthy mysticism and a romantic look to the past.

Now, happily stationed near the sea again in Santa Cruz, Andrews has gracefully woven the morning fog, redwoods, and oceanside into his forthcoming record Pigeon and The Crow, produced by traditional Irish flutist Nuala Kennedy (Gerry O’Conner, Will

Oldham). A songwriter’s record in the spirit of Van Morrison’s Veedon Fleece with a breath of the texture, rhythm, and longing of Milton Nascimento’s Club De Esquina 1Pigeon and The Crow brims with literary wordplay, mixed with some sway, some shimmer, and some sand between your toes.

The bones of this soon-to-be-released fourth studio record was tracked live over three days at Whispering Pines Studio in Los Angeles.The studio was originally built for Sam Cooke in the 60s, turned into a funk/soul palace in the 70s, abandoned when the owner found religion in the 80s, and later rehabilitated by Indie rock outfit Lord Huron.

While recording, Andrews slept on the tracking room floor every night and dreamt in technicolor born of the vibes steeped into that well-worn musical space. Andrews, along with Kennedy, Sebastian Steinberg (Iron and Wine, Fiona Apple , Soul Coughing) on bass, and Quinn on drums/percussion (T-Bone Burnett, Eastmountainsouth), breathed life into the songs together in that one room—and then the international collaboration began. Producer Kennedy headed back to Ireland with the tracks in tow, and beamed them across the globe to the rest of the players—from the UK to the Azores. The album boasts a mix of traditional players from Kennedy’s past to some of Andrews’ newest old friends like Stelth Ulvang of The Lumineers, as well as some older old friends and collaborators from New York, including guest appearances by fellow songsmiths Anaïs Mitchell, AJ Roach, and Anthony Da Costa.

The result is 10 ethereal yet substantial tracks that assess life “mid-game,” a time that is less straightforward than youth imagined, where our strategies and gambits are yet unresolved—stories from a place past innocence but perhaps still before wisdom. These are songs written about that place: an actress in her sunset, a husband folding now-soft wedding sheets, a father meditating on love and selfishness, and the ghosts of former relationships. Pigeon and The Crow contains wistful resolve, a steady backbone, and a late afternoon light reflected off the sea.

Pigeon and The Crow is set to be released August 9, 2019.

OGINALII

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Emma Hoeflinger of Oginalii refers to their debut album Cause & Affection as a story of the plight of having empathy, and the endless journey to understanding both one’s darkness and one’s light. Hoeflinger shares ideas of the existential self and how the root of good and evil are one in the same. This theme is recognized through hauntingly beautiful vocals that entangle themselves in dirty guitar riffs and breakdowns, echoing the complexities of the human experience all throughout the band’s first full-length record.

Born into a family of musicians, Emma describes her childhood as one that allowed her to deeply explore and express her emotions from a very young age. She was taught that the best thing a person can be is raw, authentic ... human. This experience and outlook permeate through Cause & Affection, an album that cuts its heart open and bleeds itself dry.

Oginalii is comprised of Emma Hoeflinger on vocals and guitar, Ryan Quarles on guitar, Simon Knudtson on drums, and Emma Lambiase on bass and vocals. Together, they create a sound that can’t be pinned down; sludgy-psyche-rock meets technical talent that surpasses initial expectations.

The ethos of Punk and Desert Rock music has obviously permeated the band’s upcoming album deeply as an influence. Not only the song but more importantly the unexplainable feeling, the intangible energy and gritty passion that reverberates through the air at Oginalii’s live shows. Headbang to your heart’s desire, but the message of the music is something much deeper. Cause & Affection is the beginning of the focused, forward motion of the band: where they’ve been, where they are, and what is yet to come. As Hoeflinger says “I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t say this... There and back again, an Oginalii tale, that is Cause & Affection. The record is about growing up, losing yourself, finding yourself again, and wishing you were elsewhere - all while learning to love who you’re looking at in the mirror and understanding that the greatest gift we have as humans is empathy”.

Emma describes the writing and recording process with her bandmates as one that is not JUST collaborative, butcelestial, a feeling that surrounded them as soon as they joined forces. The most important factor in this is an environment that allows both vulnerability and honesty. When their perspectives and influences collaborate, something new is born.

Cultivated in a bedroom and recorded in the same house, Cause & Affection was created and engineered in the neighborhood of Crieve Hall just south of Nashville, TN, where the band met and currently resides. The serendipitous meeting of Ben McLeod, of All Them Witches, with Oginalii was one that was meant to be, a stepping stone on the way to honing in on what Emma calls “the sound and feeling we’ve been chasing from the start”. The combination of Ben’s direction and the sonic connectivity among the band-shaped a record that gathers all the mountains and valleys the Tennessee landscape has to offer, but the sound created is one much more ethereal and reminiscent of what Emma says “was the beckoning of the mountains of Mordor.”

At its conception, every band is on a journey to discover what their creative mission is. The start is full of mania and the need to scream everything you can into the airwaves. Over time the push, pull, and progressive movement on this mission caused the seed to bloom and realize its potential. For Oginalii, songwriting is at the core, and as Hoeflinger puts it, “you don’t know what you’re looking for until you find it.” A band is about the songs, yes, but what really matters is HOW they are heard. In reference to the sentiment, “It all starts with a song,” Hoeflinger thinks differently: “It may start with a song, but it ends with a sound and feeling you’ve created collectively.” Oginalii has found their voice, one that is uniquely theirs in origin, blossoming into a true picture of their creative mission. 

 

LIP SYNC MUSIC

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Lip Sync Music Inc. is a prominent music licensing agency started by founder and current owner Lauren Harman. Since the inception of the company in 2009 Lip Sync has worked with an impressive array of artists both established up-and-coming, including Au Revoir Simone, Cults, Hanni El Khatib, Rhye, Local Natives, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Mayer Hawthorne, Snoop Dogg, Bloc Party, Digitalism, The Naked and Famous and more. The labels they have represented have included some of the most prestigious tastemakers in the world including Delicious Vinyl, Daptone, Innovative Leisure, DimMak and more.

At the core of the company is Harman’s philosophy of having a small focused roster of diverse and talented artists. This philosophy has propelled Lip Sync into into being one of the top film & tv/music representation firms in the US, generating millions in sync revenue every year for their artists through an impressive flow of placements in  films, television, commercials, trailers, video games and online & industrial videos.

The company has worked with marquee brands such as Target, Nike, Windows, Amazon, PlayStaion, The Gap, Miller Lite, Honda, Audi, Lexus and more. Their clients music has been heard in major motion pictures and television shows such as Magic Mike, the Scream franchise, What to Expect When Your Expecting, Showtime’s Shameless, The Newsroom and Californication, HBO’s Girls and Entourage, Netflix’s hit show Orange is the New Black, ABC’s Nashville and Grey’s Anatomy, Fox’s Glee, AMC’s Breaking Bad , CBS’s NCIS and CSI and many, more.

JACK MOSBACHER

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“There’s something really brave…about being unabashedly happy.”  

Hearing Jack Mosbacher’s voice for the first time is like stumbling on a sunflower in the middle of a city sidewalk. At first, you’ll wonder if it’s real (it is). Then you’ll want to take it home (you can). His thoughtfully crafted traditional hooks and cheerful Motown vibes have drawn comparisons to The Temptations, Hall and Oates, and Otis Redding, exuding the old school power of Alabama Shakes with the pop sensibility of Andy Grammer and Ed Sheeran . Mosbacher revives the best of past eras with timeless warmth and modern charisma. In a world of confusion, chaos, and division, he is determined to make you smile. 

Jack’s music is his means of “accessing a higher joy” passed down from traditional greats of bygone eras. And at first listen, one can see why. His old-school style and joyful lyricism bear a uniquely innocent power. Invoking the past with an eye on the present and future, Jack Mosbacher’s original music is an uplifting delight for old souls of all ages.  

“I had a teacher once tell me: ‘You’re either in the lighting business, or the heating business. You’re either doing something new, or you’re bringing forgotten warmth to people who need it. I’ve always wanted to be a combination of both.”  

His journey into the ‘heating business’ began in early childhood, upon finding The Temptations in an old cassette drawer. It was an “unbelievable, mind-exploding moment” that ignited his spirit with fervor. But Jack hadn’t yet been exposed to the painful adversity his idols faced, or the turbulent era that he would himself enter as an adult. Today, Mosbacher harbors no illusions about what it means to honor their work.  

“So much of American music and popular culture…was driven by heroes and geniuses of color, or from some kind of background that is not like mine,” he says. “The things I’ve seen, and my faith, have taught me that you really run into trouble when you’re not acknowledging who your influences are, and all the systemic injustices and hardships that inspired artists before me to write a lot of this music in the first place.”  

Jack underwent a rigorous period of education – in school and in the real world - that would inform and empower his perspective. He eventually graduated from Stanford University (while playing on the baseball team and writing for the school paper) with Honors in Political Science. He credits this education for laying the bricks of his platform and social awareness. “The vast majority of people whose art has significantly shaped my life have looked different from me, and have gone through things I’ve never had to deal with,” he says. “There’s a huge sensitivity there. Everything white artists have done has been influenced by artists of some kind of ‘other.’ And the main thing that really strikes me about all of it is that I fell in love with this music before I knew what any of that was. There was an innocence there that I’m trying to retain while also being mindful of my own place in all of this. And a sense of purpose in being an ally, in respecting and advancing the message.” 

Mosbacher is vividly aware of the dichotomy between innocence and struggle in music, particularly in regard to race and identity. “There is such a cultural importance, and a continued relevance, to acknowledge and respect. But music is also the one place where we can all come together, where we’re able to shed these differences and presuppositions in a way we can’t in any other part of our lives and our world.” 

For Jack, authenticity is key. Audiences are more educated, connected, and responsive than ever. He trusts that they know when it’s real. “Regardless of how I look or the differences I have from artists who wrote this in the past, this music is my heartbeat. It raised me.”  

His radiant sound has evolved to exude the old school power of Alabama Shakes and Leon Bridges, with the pop sensibility of Andy Grammer and Ed Sheeran. Today, Mosbacher aims to add happy elements to the next generation of soul. “There’s a lot of darkness out there,” he says. “Joy isn’t what you regularly see on the front page of the paper, or on your Facebook feed. I’ve been so incredibly fortunate, and it seems like the least I can do is to try to spread some light.”  

Prior to pursuing music, Jack was an accomplished athlete and student. International affairs and human rights were (and are) deeply important to him. At Stanford, Jack played on the nationally ranked baseball team and was awarded a special grant to write a thesis on income inequality and oil politics in East Africa as part of an international development program. He has since traveled to 13 African countries and published pieces in Foreign Affairs and The Washington Quarterly; with that, a career in journalism and policy seemed like a foregone conclusion. But Jack’s family, friends, and mentors pushed him to follow his heart, and it called him to music and entertainment. Once he listened, he never looked back.  

He dove headfirst into musicals on the east and west coasts, dazzling audiences in cabaret shows and Off-Broadway hits such as Sondheim’s ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ and ‘Napoleon.’ But as Jack prepared for his first headline cabaret show in San Francisco, one of his oldest friends was killed in an accident.  

In the wake of unthinkable loss, mourning friends and loved ones still came to the show, looking for an evening of relief. Being able to raise the audience’s spirits redefined the concept of entertainment for him. “The purpose of my music became solely to lift everyone in the room out of whatever darkness they are fighting and join them in the light, even for a fleeting moment.”  

Since recognizing his true purpose, Jack’s songwriting has been unstoppable. The San Francisco Chronicle heralded the young talent as “a star on the rise.” But Mosbacher stays rooted in his craft and the responsibility he feels to his listeners. His only goal is for people to leave his shows happier than when they came.  

“Music has never been my means of justifying myself, to myself or to anybody else,” he says. “It’s simply my way of giving something back.” 

Mosbacher’s recent collaboration with Nerf Herder’s Linus of Hollywood and Letters to Cleo’s Michael Eisenstein resulted in over a dozen new songs, set for release in 2018. His inaugural single, “The Second Time Around,” debuted on December 1. “These songs are full of energy and an almost naïve innocence,” he says. “They’re the best representation of what I’ve wanted my music to be to this point, and I hope that the trajectory is only upward as we continue to write, record, and perform.”  

Mosbacher fell in love with music by hearing The Temptations, but he never could have guessed that his future would bring them front and center. David Ruffin, the band’s original lead singer, was forced to abandon a solo record following struggles with addiction and a tussle with Motown Records. 30 years later, an independent label acquired the album and quietly released it. Mosbacher jumped at the chance to honor his late hero’s forgotten work. In collaboration with Michael Eisenstein and an eclectic array of musicians, Mosbacher covered four of Ruffin’s previously unreleased songs in a classic Motown session: all of the instruments in one room, making music until they got it right. 

“I’ll never be David Ruffin,” he says. “That was never the point. It was just incredibly exciting and fulfilling to pay my respects to the guy I grew up trying to be.” 

In early December, Mosbacher closed out a home-run year by performing new songs at the Peppermint Club in LA. He’s scheduled to kick off 2018 with a springtime tour of the West Coast, appearing with Train, Michael Franti, Robert Randolph, and more on the fifth annual Sail Across The Sun cruise.  

But even as big breaks roll in, Jack stays humbly nonchalant. “Exuding unapologetic joy and happiness has never really been ‘the cool thing,’” he says. “Fortunately, I don’t really care about being that cool.”  

Given his unique talent and authentic drive, Mosbacher’s rise to musical prominence seems almost inevitable. But whether good fortune comes knocking or not, Jack is too happy to care.  

“…I know what I love, and I know why. And I want to bring just as much of it into the world as I can before I’m through.”  

We’re listening.