The sultry and soulful vocals of Alaska-based Singer/Songwriter Chris Watkins/Drunk Poets is unmistakable and after only one listen to his most recent album ‘Lights All Askew’, I was intrigued and wanted to find out more. Since 2016, when the album was originally released, for some reason or other, Chris and I just couldn’t seem to connect. It wasn’t until this summer via twitter had our paths crossed yet again and I finally was able to secure a firm date for our exclusive SMC Spotlight interview (see below).
Since the early part of the 1990’s, Chris Watkins has been blazing a trail for the indie music scene in the north though consistent music releases and live performances and even with the massive changes to media and the introduction of social media, he has adapted seamlessly. Throughout the ‘Lights All Askew’ album, vintage folk/rock influences of Bob Dylan and Lou Reed (the Artists influences) are prevalent. This is a nice transition from his previous album ‘London Can take It’ (2015) which was a ‘comeback kid’ sound stemming from his previous work. It was actually the album title song ‘London Can Take It’ which piqued my interest in 2016 when I began my research on the band. If you are wondering what ‘new music discovery’ you’d like to add to your music collection, Chris Watkins Drunk Poets is THE music to add. With an established discography history, there will be plenty of treasures to choose from. I recommend spending a weekend immersed in the comfort of your living room, make sure your stereo has the best speakers, light some candles, and play loud. I guarantee you won’t want to go to work on Monday…it’s THAT soothing to the soul.
This is our first SMC Spotlight Numbered Series on Chris Watkins/Drunk Poets and it most certainly won’t be our last. This is an Artist we enthusiastically welcome to the SMC Music Family for his primordial and titillating sound that has now earned him a permanent place next to the already stellar talent we support. Welcome to the SMC Family Chris!
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Chris Watkins/Drunk Poets
SMC – Hello Chris! This interview has been a very long time coming! I have been following your music career journey for over a year now. Let’s begin with an introduction as to who you are. Can you tell us about your career and your journey into the music scene?
Chris – Hello Candice. It is an honor to be here, thank you. I started performing and recording music at the age of 16 in South Central Alaska. Since then I have recorded 7 albums and am currently recording the 8th which will be due out sometime between now and Christmas.
SMC – Being a writer myself, and a lover of poetry…. can you tell me about your name Drunk Poets? How did you arrive at that?
Chris – A former member of the band invented it and it was inspired by Dylan Thomas.
SMC – Can you tell me about the projects you are presently working on?
Chris – It is an adaptation of a novel called ‘Derevnia’s Daughters‘, which is a historical novel about the island of Afognak, which was written by Lola Harvey and published in 1993.
SMC – That sounds amazing1 You are SO active and supportive on the Indie Music Scene via social media! Can you tell us which platform you gravitate to most for connecting with your peers?
Chris – Twitter
SMC – Can you tell us which peer you have met on social media who has been influential in your career journey?
In late July, while listening to some new up and coming talent, my ears were treated to the lilting sweet vocals of Russian-born, Los Angeles based singer/songwriter Ada Pasternak. It was indeed her newest single ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ that caught my attention. After the first few chords and verses, I was an instant fan. I always say that it takes a lot to impress me, and in only seconds, this young lady has managed to land on our SMC Editors Favorites Spotify playlist, a place I often go to for inspiration while working on my next big interview.
In delving further into her career, I learned that Ada is a graduate of Berklee College of Music (with a full scholarship might I add!), and has been trained in classical music since she was very young. She is a virtuoso classical Violinist who was trained in her early years by her Aunt, also a professional Violinist, who played with the New York Philharmonic. In fact, from the age of six she was influenced greatly by her parents, also classical musicians, who would often have classical music or opera playing in the home. After listening to some of her back-catalog of music, I am confident that this is a young lady whose budding career is about to blossom fully, and very quickly too. ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ is the transition song that brings Ada from that classical music realm to the unique pop sound laced with her personal touch of violin and charm and it’s just that kind of combo that stands out as authentic and unique.
This is Ada’s first time on the Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Spotlight and we are thrilled to feature the lovely songbird in her first SMC Spotlight Numbered Series. Check out her socials below and be sure to subscribe – this is indeed, a songbird that will not remain caged. We look forward to seeing her soar!
Side Note: “Ada, I have much respect for Artists who take a moment for someone who is broken or going through something incredibly personal in their lives and it seems we always naturally gravitate to special souls like yourself. The fact that you wrote such a lovely song ‘You’re Beautiful’ for a young girl going through so much, speaks volumes about who you are. You are a shining star in the SMC crown and we are blessed to know you.”
-Candice Anne Marshall | Editor
Exclusive Interview | Ada Pasternak
SMC – Hello Ada! We welcome you officially into the SMC Family! We host high caliber artists on this site whose accomplishments are noteworthy and we do this through our SMC Spotlight Numbered Series. This will be your first with us. Before we get into how we discovered you, can you tell us about yourself and your career journey?
Ada – Hi Candice! I am happy to be joining the SMC Family, thanks for having me!
I come from a family of Classical Musicians and Painters, and was Classically trained on the Violin for 10 years growing up.
I attended Berklee College of Music and it was there that I branched out and discovered my passion and ability for singing and songwriting.
Now I am excited and grateful to be living in Los Angeles and working with some of the best songwriters, producers, making new friends and getting closer to my goals and dreams.
SMC – We discovered you through Spotify! It was your song ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ that struck a chord with me. I think it’s because in a world with so much negativity, it was refreshing to hear a song that strikes a chord in so many of us to accept ourselves for who we are. Can you tell us how you came about the ‘theme’ of this song? Also, did you write the song?
Ada – I was in the studio with Producer Stefan Lit, and as he strummed 4 simple chords on the guitar, the melody and words fell off my tongue quite naturally, like most of my songs do.
Yes, I wrote it.
I was going through stuff (and I’m still going through stuff ;)) and this song was a way for me to express myself, show a side of myself that is sensitive, insecure, vulnerable, and even humorous.
SMC – I also saw that the single released July 1st of this year. What has the media and radio response been like for it?
Ada – The response has been great. In less then 2 months, the song has over 200,000 spins on Spotify, and more on Apple Music, Amazon, YouTube, Google Play and Tidal.
Considering I released it on my own with no help from labels, I’m glad it’s getting some ears on it.
Spotify featured the song on one of their Playlists called “Lighten Up” and I’m on the Cover! Thanks Spotify!
People seem to really connect with the song and that’s very important to me. It’s fun to perform the song live, because the first line always makes people smile, or even laugh out loud. “I hate that I’m so lazy when I wake up at noon”
SMC – What has your fan response been like? I can imagine that you have inspired so many young girls today who are struggling with body image issues…
Ada – I definitely aim to inspire girls who may be struggling with body image issues, or any other issues. I have received some responses and hope to reach many more people with my message.
SMC – What has been your personal experience growing up with a music career? How long has music been ‘in your life’?
Ada – Music has been in my life since I was 6 years old. My parents are Classical Musicians so I would hear Classical Music and Opera before I ever even picked up an instrument.
My career changed drastically when I transitioned from being a Virtuoso Classical Violinist to a “Singer/Songwriter” (though I’m not fond of this term cause apparently everyone is a Singer/Songwriter. Lol
SMC – There is a very impressive roster of fellow Musicians that you have performed with! Can you tell us which have been your favorite to date and why?
Ada – Every musician and artist has a unique and wonderful talent. One of my favorites has been performing with Idan Raichel. His music really speaks to my soul, and he sings in Hebrew so I don’t even understand what he’s singing. Ha ha.
I wish I spoke Hebrew so I could sing his beautiful songs with him.
Though I may not know the words, I know the FEELING. Music is the Universal Language after all! 🙂
SMC – What have you picked up or learned along the way in your music career?
Ada – Oh man. Probably more than I can type right now.
To be a successful musician these days, you have to think of your music career as a Business.
Do not be afraid to make mistakes, and do not sit around waiting for someone to help you.
Help yourself and the people who are meant to be on your team will be drawn to your energy.
SMC – I was super pleased to see that you studied at Berkeley! What was that experience like? I have heard so many great things about Berkeley.
Ada – Berklee was a very interesting place and certainly a once in a lifestyle experience. It’s sort of a Musical Playground where you can play with whoever you want and experiment with all types of genres including Jazz, Bluegrass, Salsa, and others. It was really fun. I grew tremendously as a person and as a musician, and I will always be grateful for the Full Tuition Scholarship I received, which enabled me to attend Berklee for free! What a gift! (I guess all those hours of practicing Violin paid off)
SMC – Can you tell us what a ‘day in the life’ of Ada is like?
Ada – My days always include Avocados, Dance and Music. 🙂
SMC – What has been the best compliment you have received from an industry peer so far?
Ada- My friend Blessing Offor (very talented musician in Nashville) called me after hearing “Perfectly Imperfect” and he was genuinely impressed and happy for me. He said it’s the best work he’s heard me do and that he loves the song! 🙂
SMC – You have also done some work with Postmodern Jukebox! I have interviewed Brielle Von Hugel who has also worked with them. Small world! Can you tell us what that experience was like?
Ada – It was awesome. Scott Bradlee is so talented and comes up with arrangements in seconds! I don’t know how he does it!
SMC – I also read about your ‘world-class’ violinist credits – I am a huge lover of the violin! What inspired you to want to learn violin?
Ada – My Aunt is a Professional Violinist and played with the New York Philharmonic for many years, so she began teaching me Violin from a young age. I never complained or put up a fight.
SMC – Are there any other instruments that you play?
Ada – I play Piano a little bit.
SMC – Can you tell us what the family support has been like?
Ada – My parents are very supportive and think it’s great that I’m doing what I’m passionate about.
SMC – You were born in Moscow! How lovely – I have always wanted to visit Russia…can you tell us what the music scene is like back in your home country?
Ada – I haven’t been back there since I left as a little girl, but I know that Russia takes their Music Education very seriously, so there might be little Ada’s practicing the Violin right now! Hehe
SMC – What does the term ‘successful’ mean to you personally and professionally?
Ada- To me, the term “successful” means happy. For me to be happy I have to reach more people with my music and message. I need to write, record and release more music and make a comfortable living being a songwriter and performer. To have the ability to have my artistic freedom, help and inspire as many people as possible, support my current family and future family and for those I love to have a great life. I have watched my parents struggle financially my whole life so one of my goals is to be able to help them so they no longer have to worry about their bills.
SMC – You almost have that ‘theatre-esque’ sound too…have you ever considered working in theatre?
Ada – This is true, and I have considered it indeed. I think it’s a possibility perhaps in the future.
SMC – In going into your back catalogue, I absolutely love your song ‘You’re Beautiful’…you have such a charming voice and it pairs well with the violin. This song is a perfect example of that. Can you tell us what the story is behind the lyrics of that song?
Ada – A few years ago when living in CT, I was working at a Music School giving a music lesson to a young girl, about 10 years old. We were chatting and she mentioned something about being bullied at school and her parents fighting at home. It broke my heart. As soon as she walked out of the room, I sat on the piano bench and came up with the chorus of the song. “I think you’re beautiful, I think you’re smart, I think you’re everything that they should want, I think you’re wonderful, I think you’re brave, and there’s nothing they can do to take that away”
SMC – What do the next 3-6 months look like for you in terms of live performances and music releases?
Ada- I have a performance coming up in LA September 18th at The Mint. It’s at 9:00, No Cover and all ages are welcome!
I do Live-Streams on ConcertWindow.com
People can purchase Personal Videos of me singing and playing on Serenade.me/ada
It’s a nice gift for someone you care about, perfect for a Birthday, holiday, etc.
I am releasing a new version of “Perfectly Imperfect” soon and will have T-shirts available for sale on my Website; AdasMusic.com
I am working on what will be my next single and can’t wait for people to hear it!
SMC – Okay, final question: Can you tell us five things about yourself that no one knows anything about?
Thank you Ada!
Ada – I hate goat cheese.
My favourite Disney movie growing up was Aladdin
I’m a bit obsessed with the show AND the movie “Sex and the City”- I think it’s wonderful!
I used to have my nose pierced.
I once gave myself a haircut in Sam Ash. My split ends were annoying and I saw Scissors, so snip snip. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy. Maybe I am. 😉
Tony Crown is not new to the scene. He made his debut appearance as part of the lo-fi jazz/folk duo, Jane & Anthony, in 2012 with their album, Lounge Noir. It featured a couple songs that went on to be featured on ABC’s Brothers & Sisters & AMC’s Hell On Wheels. Despite the sudden success of their debut outing, the duo disbanded and Tony went on to perform under the moniker, Lawrence & The Lion, and later, Living Room Lava, under which he released an EP in 2013.
2017 finds Tony Crown sailing under his own flag as he embarks on a new adventure with his brand new solo album, Distant From The Universe. When listening to this new record and then revisiting his past material, one can be sure that, despite different musical vestments, Tony Crown is still writing in the same universe as he was with Lounge Noir. While the moods shift from raucous to reflective throughout, he has put together a recor full of songs that talk of conflict, confusions, and self-recognition.
The listener will easily find themselves driving a little faster if they dare start this album while driving as the opener, “Black & Blue” lays out a self-destructive relationship’s details laced with just the right amount of keyboards. “I & The Only” plays like a great 1980s new-wave opus and is all too brief, but that’s okay because it gives way to the gorgeous keyboard opening of “Pretty Little Thing.” The arrangements of “Pretty Little Thing” and “Hang On”, in fact, come out of the 1970’s playbook of David Bowie, or even circa 1975 Bruce Springsteen. As the intro to “Pretty Little Thing” ends it then erupts into the most brain-invading keyboard riff laid over a quasi-reggae vibe. It then takes off during the bridge when Tony Crown’s voice is joined by sweet harmonies.
As of late, the big attraction of this record is “Killing Machine.” This song has been carried to more ears as it was recently featured on AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead. Even without the promotion on the TV show, “Killing Machine” is quite easily the most catchy song of the bunch as you’ll find yourself singing, “good old fashioned killing machine.”
The biggest surprise on the album is Tony Crown’s cover of Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle.” He has taken an anthem of idealistic optimism and made it more high & lonesome. He has succeeded by making the song his own and while his original songs are worth the price of admission, this cover should easily gain recognition.
After listening to Distant From The Universe, I was fortunate enough to meet up with Tony Crown and have a conversation about his album, his art, and his plans for the future:
TONY CROWN: TELEVISION. MUSIC. ART and DISTANT FROM THE UNIVERSE
SMC: You’ve created four distinctly different sounds in four distinctly different acts. In 2012, as JANE & ANTHONY you released the album Lounge Noir, which I believe is also descriptive of that sound. You had the blues/rock outfit, Lawrence & the Lion, then, with Living Room Lava, you released a self titled EP which was more guitar driven rock. Now, you’ve released your brand new solo album, Distant From The Universe, which is more focused on melody and has more complex arrangements. Tell me a little bit about how you arrived at the sound we hear on the new record.
Tony: Mostly I just wanted to do something different. I wanted to think out of the box and push myself into making some real polished material.
Jane and Anthony was an act that was purposefully rough around the edges, Lawrence and the Lion relied on pure emotion, and Living Room Lava is complex rock which can be throwback at times. I wanted to explore sounds and ideas that had always been in my head but never got put down. Some of these songs had been around for over five years and some had steamed from new ideas. Once these ideas were recorded I whittled down nine of them that fit together as well as a cover that seemed appropriate. “Distant From The Universe” is over two years of work in and out of the studio. Over that time I recorded probably over 30 songs. Having no time constraints really helped the process. I was allowed to not burn a ton of creative energy all at once. Kind of like a painting, where an artist might come back to a work several months or even several years later. Working with producer Andrew Stephens was also a huge part of developing the sound on the album. He has helped me take the ideas in my head and bring them to a new level.
SMC: So, it sounds like you went in having a bit of an idea of what you were going for and had a support system there to throw ideas around with, is that right?
TONY: I had the songs already written entirely before I went into the studio. However, once you do actually start the recording process things can take an entirely different turn. Sometimes I would record stuff and hear it on the big studio speakers and not really like the idea as much as I first thought. That’s where Andrew would come in say, “Maybe do it like this” or “Sing this Way.” I would always record my own material or go into studio and be ridged about one part or the other. Being able to let go and just play and sing parts took a lot of weight off my shoulders.
SMC: The album is full of different atmospheres. There’s a lot of darkness like in “Dust To Dust”, or “Killing Machine”, but you also have a little touch of reggae in “Pretty Little Thing”, a dash of pop in “In The Now”, even a little vaudeville in the title track “Distant From The Universe.” Is this how these songs all started out? Tell me about your writing process.
TONY: I was in the studio for two years and in that time I recorded a bunch of different material. I learned music by learning other peoples songs so I guess when I’m writing my own I’m not coming from a particular angle. Mostly, ideas or melodies pop into my head and I’ll try to scribble them down or sing them into my phone. The cell phone is a huge tool in my writing and I allows me to revisit so many ideas I would have forgot. I’ll hear something and try and base a song around a certain phrase, so I do keep a written journal as well. My creative spurts are usually late at night or right after I wake up and drink coffee.
BRIAN: Do you sit down with discipline and say, “Today I’m going to write this song and it will sound like this when finished”? Or do you have a line come to you here and there and over time it all coalesces?
TONY: It is kinda both. Some stuff just seems to come out and other ideas I will beat to death or just move on. I just depends.
BRIAN: I know you’re a fan of Bob Dylan. Is his influence hidden in Distant From The Universe?
TONY: I’m sure somewhere
BRIAN: I hear a little Tom Waits, perhaps some Velvet Underground. Do you feel anyone who has influenced you surfaces in any of these tunes?
TONY: David Bowie.
BRIAN: Oh yeah, I definitely can hear that now that you mention it. Speaking of legends, you include a cover of Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle” on the album. Was that something you had already in mind when you recorded?
TONY: I actually worked on a series of covers before I started recording my own songs. “Fly Like An Eagle” was one of them, but it seemed to fit in Distant From The Universe.
BRIAN: It’s a great performance, and you did what many artists fail to do which is successfully making a cover song your own. How long have you been performing it?
TONY: No idea. Covers are tricky things. However people relate to them a lot more than original music sometimes. I really haven’t been playing the song that long.
BRIAN: A lot of newer artists are not shying away from including covers on their albums now. Veterans are even recording entire albums of covers. Ryan Adams, in fact, recorded a track-for-track cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989. You’re now one of the former. What do you think has affected this change?
TONY: I think at some point, most successful performers or bands play covers to get people listening. It’s a really good strategy. Playing original material is noble, less relatable. I think Ryan Adams is smart, Taylor Swift’s 1989 album was huge [and] his interpretations were relatable to Taylor’s fans.
BRIAN: Are there any songs that you feel are off limits as far as being covers?
TONY: None that I can think of…
BRIAN: Let’s talk about the big news now. “Killing Machine” was recently featured on AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead. Congratulations on that. You must be very proud. How did you get connected with the show?
TONY: Thanks! It’s awesome, a good moment for sure. Jane and Anthony had a few great T.V. spots too. I maintained positive relations with those people, plus I signed with a publisher (Synchaudio) late last year. Everything just [kind of] came together.
BRIAN: Did you write the song for the show or did they hear it and say, “that’s perfect, we have to use that one!”?
TONY: The song was already written. I guess it just worked out.
BRIAN: This isn’t your first foray into television. As you just mentioned, a few years back, under the JANE & ANTHONY moniker, your song “Waiting For My Baby To Come” was used on ABC’s Brothers & Sisters. Have you found that having a boost like that attracts more attention than conventional independent promotion like indie radio, live performance, etc?
TONY: It definitely helps. Its kinda like a shot in the arm. A bunch of people now discover you from all parts of the world. Still, it doesn’t equal universal notoriety.
BRIAN: How about touring? Can we expect Tony Crown on tour in support of Distant From The Universe?
TONY: For sure.
BRIAN: What does a Tony Crown live performance look like now?
TONY: I do a lot of solo acoustic stuff however the full band thing still happens too.
BRIAN: One question about your website (www.tonycrownartmusic.com). You showcase not only your music, solo and LRL, but also photography. You are really dodging a specific label that every artist seems to get hit with. How do you want people to know Tony Crown? As a singer/songwriter? A frontman for Living Room Lava? A photographer? A renaissance man?
TONY: I’m just trying to be a great artist. Having multiple sources for artistic expression keeps things fresh and ultimately boosts creativity, at least for me.
BRIAN: Distant From The Universe is a great album, Tony. I think you’ve done some great work here. What can we expect for the future? More Tony Crown solo artist? A return with Living Room Lava?
TONY: Living Room Lava is about to release a few songs. We had a drummer change and things are finally back on track. I have a bunch of other songs to release so I’d expect some single releases as well as another album. I have another exciting T.V. placement coming up and I’m about to shoot some music videos. I’m pretty exited.
*NOTEWORTHY: As for that exciting TV placement he’s speaking of, Tony Crown’s cover of “Fly Like An Eagle” appeared on Showtime’s Ray Donovan August 27th, 2017. Go visit him right now at his website: www.tonycrownartmusic.com and make sure to check out his album Distant From The Universe, available on iTunes, Spotify, and other popular outlets. Be sure and keep an eye and ear out as Tony Crown certainly has a bright future. (see all socials below)
In late early August 2008, I was introduced to the sounds of Juno Award winning Canadian Country band The Road Hammers and little did I know that my first encounter with Music Journalism would be inspired by this band, but you know what they say about first impressions…and these boys left such an impactful one, I ended up pursuing music journalism into what is now known as Starlight Music Chronicles. Their passion for their music and their enthusiasm on stage through stellar performance left be spellbound.
In the last 9 years, I have followed the bands’ career and in 2013, I reconnected with Clayton Bellamy, guitarist for The Road Hammers, just outside of Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta prior to a Taylor Swift concert. It was then we struck up a friendship apart from the band and is where I first learned he had also pursued a solo music career. He handed me his album ‘Five Crow Silver’ with the promise to review it (which I did eagerly), and since, I have been a massive supporter of his solo and band projects. His attitude, work ethic, and personable approach to his peers in this sometimes very tough industry is like a welcome breath of fresh air.
Since 2013, I have watched Clayton work with Canadian Musicians like Dan Davidson, and FKB producing and penning songs that have now made major strides on Canadian Radio and being recognized by the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) and Edmonton Music Awards. To say the least, everything Clayton pours his heart into has that Midas touch and that is evident in the accumulation of awards he has earned over the last several years. He and The Road Hammers have been nominated for yet another Canadian Country Music Award for 2017 (for Group or Duo of the Year) and have already four CCMA awards under their belt. In addition, he has won a Juno Award for Best Country Recording and SOCAN Songwriter of the Year award to name a few. Clayton has performed at the Grand Ole Opry and even for President Carter. His work credentials from his Five Crow Silver album include working alongside industry peers such as Garth Hudson (The Band), Bobby Keys (The Rolling Stones), Ian McLagan (The Faces), Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton from Stevie Ray Vaughn’s legendary backing band Double Trouble, Gordie Johnson (Big Sugar), Tom Wilson (Blackie and the Rodeo King’s), Audley Freed (The Black Crowes), Chad Cromwell (Neil Young, Joe Walsh), Kelly Prescott, Mike Plume and his old buddies from The Road Hammers, Chris Byrne and Corbett Frasz.
We are looking forward to his new project with The Congregation (as mentioned in the below interview) and his Career journey is officially now part of the SMC Spotlight Numbered Series roster of high caliber Artists we have been profiling in both the music and film industries and welcome Clayton to the SMC Spotlight!
Exclusive Interview | Clayton Bellamy
SMC – Clayton! We are so thrilled to have you on our SMC Spotlight! This has been a long time coming my friend! I met you back in 2007 when you performed at Grizfest in Northern BC. I was that deer-in-the-headlights reporter for the local newspaper Jason brought on the bus…. I remember you boys were so laid back. It was my first interview. You know, I got in a lot of trouble for that! LOL Let’s begin with your work with The Road Hammers – I saw there’s a video in the works….and I saw you in a jailbird costume…what’s up with that? LOL
CB – Well first off, I never kiss and tell so I can’t give away all the details but that picture was on the set of a video for a song called Haulin’ Ass on the new Road Hammer record “The Squeeze”.
SMC – What has the fan response been to The Road Hammers new music?
CB – The response has been overwhelming with a Top 6 single on Billboard it is really overwhelming to see Hammer music still doing so well after 12 years on the road!
SMC – How do you feel you have personally evolved as a Musician since 2007 when we first met?
CB – Well I hope I have gotten better lol, I have learned so much being with this band and touring the world. I think we have really, as Musicians, refined what the band is and taken our live show to a whole other level.
SMC – I did a review of your album Five Crow Silver (I still listen to that all the time!) after we connected in 2013 outside Rexall Place at the Taylor Swift RED Tour. Are there any more solo projects coming down the pipe? That album is fabulous!
CB – Thank you, I was very proud of that record. YES, in fact I am working on a new solo project now, a band called The Congregation! It is a mix of RnB, Gospel and Rock n Roll!
SMC – I also saw that there was some pretty stellar talent that collaborated with you on the Five Crow Silver album. Can you tell me which experience was most memorable for you?
CB – That album was not easy to make with all the guests involved but I would say being in Willie Nelsons Studio with Double Trouble and Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar and Ian Maclagan of the Faces all in one room was something I will never forget!
SMC – So let’s get into some of the song-writing you have been collaborating on for local artists in the Edmonton community…Let’s begin with Dan Davidson – Can you tell us how that collaboration came about?
CB – Dan and I have known each other for years thru his work with Tupelo Honey, we got together when he called me about co writing for his new solo project! Together we wrote Barn Burner and Found which was a GOLD selling single! It still BLOWS MY MIND!
SMC – FKB, can you tell us how you that collab came about?
CB – I first saw FKB playing a Chilli cook off in Bonnyville AB. Then like the same week I saw them playing at the Car show in Bonnyville, I thought these kids are too good to be real! We got together and started writing for their first record they were 17 and 18 years old! Now here we are on album number two five years later and they are touring North America with songs on the radio and kicking ass! I am so pumped for them!
SMC – Can you tell us if there are any other artists local to Edmonton that you will or have worked with?
CB – I am always interested in collaborating and creating music. Weather at the local or national level it only matters about the quality and passion of the artist I am working with. If I am going to write or produce with an Artist it first has to feel right. There are so many great Edmonton bands out there right now but I would love to work with ‘Scenic Route To Alaska’!
SMC – Have there been any other Canadian artists that you have collaborated with outside of Edmonton?
CB – I have been so blessed to work and write with many great artists like Jason Blaine, Big Sugar, Matt Anderson, Chad Brownlee, The Trews, Derric Ruttan, Blackie and The Rodeo Kings and many others who have let me into their worlds.
SMC – What about US artists?
CB – As a Band the Hammers have played with many great acts like Loretta Lynn, Lynard Skynard, Jason Aldean, Dwight Yoakam, Twisted Sister, the list goes on and I often have to pinch myself knowing that all this started as a dream from a small-town farm kid in Alberta.
SMC – What has been your greatest accomplishment to date in terms of your personal career?
CB – I think Playing the Grand Ole Opry. We played it twice and it was a feeling like no other…I got down and kissed the stage.
SMC – What has been your greatest accomplishment in terms of your personal life?
CB – By far my kids…they have given me so much joy in my life and hope for the future, and the continue to challenge me as a Dad and as a Human being to be better.
SMC – It seems that everything you touch turns to gold! Dan Davidson’s song ‘Found’ and ‘Barn Burner’ have had some serous traction on radio and among fans. Can you tell us what you like most about writing for others?
CB – I love that there are no expectations, only open roads to go down to create!
SMC – How many of the songs on The Road Hammers new album ‘The Squeeze’ you have written?
CB – I was a part of 3 songs on the Record including the Title track! But it was a group effort to make those songs. I am only a part of making those great. Chris Byrne and Jason McCoy are amazing writers in their own right so it’s easy when you get in the room with them!
SMC – You boys always seem to have a ton of fun in everything you do from making videos to live performances. Can you tell us what you enjoy most?
CB – what I enjoy most is that nothing is ever the same, as soon as you get tired of playing live you’re in the studio recording or your writing its always changing and that works good for me!
SMC – Let’s talk about your career working for 103.9 CISN FM Radio in Edmonton…what was your role on the station?
CB – I was the host of the Drive Home show with Chelsea Bird.
SMC – What inspired you to get into Radio?
CB: That was serendipity mostly lol. The good folks at CISN including Chris Scheetz approached me about the opportunity and I said YES! The rest is history.
SMC – How would you say your time on CISN FM has helped enhance your own music career or that of The Road Hammers or the others you write for?
CB: I think it helped me become more of a household name in Alberta, it also helped hone my radio skills interviewing and being interviewed! It also opened up a whole new world of opportunity for the future in Music for me. And for that I will always be grateful.
SMC – What has been your greatest accomplishment to date in terms of your career?
CB – The JUNO (award).
SMC – What has been your greatest challenge?
CB – Breaking out into new markets around the world.
SMC – I saw something a while back about you supporting causes like the Diabetes Foundation. My mother had diabetes, so this is a subject I am passionate about. Can you tell me what other organizations you have supported?
CB – Yes, I was involved with The Diabetes Association at the CISN I went to Scotland and ran the Scotland Marathon with them it was amazing!
SMC – We are halfway through the summer and with festival season drawing to a close, what do you have planned in terms of live performances in the upcoming months?
CB – The Hammers are full on baby! We have a huge fall coming up with our new single “YOUR LOVE IS THE DRUG”
SMC – I feel confident that you will walk away with something at the CCMA’s this year! What categories have you or artists you’ve worked with been nominated for?
CB – Well don’t get too confident lol, if it’s one thing you can never count on it’s awards shows lol. But seriously it is always amazing to be nominated and recognized for your work. To me that is the best.
SMC – What do you place most of your energy into during the creative process of making an album with The Road Hammers or even with others?
CB – THE SONGS! with out them you have nothing…
SMC – Can you tell us what your song-writing process is? Which instrument do you use for this process?
CB – My process is secret… my instrument is my BRAIN! LOL
SMC – Which artist in the industry would you like to collaborate with and why?
CB – I would love to work with Eric Clapton or John Mayer!
SMC – With so many affected by the recent passing of Chester Bennington and even Chris Cornell, what are your thoughts on the demands of the music industry and the importance of keeping balanced?
CB – Listen, mental illness is nothing to be taken lightly and until we lift the stigma and get it out in the open and attack it head on we will continue to lose people. Celebrities or not, our families all need support so love up on each other because you never know where someone is at…
SMC – What is a typical ‘day in the life’ of Clayton Bellamy like?
CB – BUSY>>>
SMC – What has been the most memorable live performance for you to date?
CB: Still the OPRY
SMC – Who are your greatest allies in this industry?
CB – My friends, it’s hard to explain but I never approach this as business and needing allies and leveraging ext… may be to my detriment but I always came at it as a FAN! I LOVE Music and I want to be friends with these people and be involved in their lives and their music!
SMC – What plans do you personally want to accomplish in the next 5 years?
CB – World Domination! LOL. Honestly my new project The Congregation and my songwriting are taking front seat for a while and I hope to be busy making music with that!
SMC – Where do you think the future of music is at in terms of platforms: Spotify or Pandora?
CB – There will always be room for vinyl and CD’s on the fringe but mass music is now consumed online and that is our reality.
SMC – Do you think that with platforms like Spotify or Pandora, radio will become obsolete?
CB – No not as long as there is internet this is how music will be consumed from now on.
SMC – What does the term ‘success’ in the music industry means to you?
CB – I think I am living it, I get to make a living playing and creating music that is what I set out to do. And Every day I wake up excited about my day…you can’t ask for more than that.
SMC – What is a deal-breaker for you in terms of what you aren’t willing to do for your career?
CB – I think anything that goes against my Moral code, or would affect my family or children negatively, but luckily, I have yet to run into that.
SMC – Who would you say are your go-to team?
CB – My manager Ron Kitchner at RGK or my Publishing team at OLE Nashville. But creatively Scott Baggett my production Partner and The Hammers band are my go to guys!
SMC – What do you do to ‘unwind’ after a hectic day?
CB – I love to be on the Water, or on my Motorcycle.
SMC – Who is your favorite Rock artist? Country? Alternative? Folk/Americana?
CB: Right now, I would list Chris Stapleton, Rival Sons, Tedeschi Trucks Band
SMC – Okay, final question: What ‘other’ career path would you have chosen if you had not chosen music?
CB – Banana Salesman, because I am sensitive just like them…I bruise easily!
SMC – LOL! Fair comment – Thanks Clayton!
*Featured throughout this interview are songs that Clayton has written or produced with the Artists featured.
Clayton Bellamy & Road Hammers Social Media Links (click to view)
The newest storm to land on the SMC Spotlight is being touted by us to the world as a turbulent catapulting meteoroid direct from New York City – they are known as Victory Dance. The five-member band comprised of Kenny Collette (vocals/guitar), Bobby Kay (bass/vocals), Jason Krebs (keyboards/vocals), Chris Tsaganeas (drums), Are Jay Helton (guitar), come from separate established career backgrounds and have now combined forces to make up the resounding boom sound you hear today. Their past credentials have earned them major label deals with Universal Republic Records, sharing the stage with prestigious bands like The Roots, and a string of Vans Warped Tour dates. Indeed, this is a band that we predict going the whole distance with their music career and we are thrilled to bring them to our prestigious SMC Spotlight platform. Their sound is completely addicting complete with a stage presence that commands immediate attention – it will knock the socks off anyone watching. Legit.
Only days ago, the band released their new video ‘Memphis’ (see video below) off their album The Spectrum and it’s a true reflection of the combustible energy-type sound we feel these boys are capable of bringing to a packed stadium during the Super Bowl. Upon first listen, you’ll understand exactly what I mean. The vocals remind me of a mix between Owl City and Imagine Dragons and when combined with melodies that are upbeat, thunderous, and impactful, it becomes the audible magic that makes this dynamic band come alive.
In addition to the sound, the Memphis music video reflects the well-crafted vision in the creative minds of these exceptionally talented artists. Filmed primarily in a spacious stark-white warehouse in Keyport, New Jersey and various areas throughout Brooklyn and Jersey City, it offers a glimpse into the kind of intense energy these boys create together during live performances. In addition to the band’s accomplishments, I was happy to learn that personal pursuits outside the band are of environmental and mental health nature. In light of the recent passing of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, Kenny Collette has been actively engaging in public speaking events for suicide and mental health awareness. With our own involvement with Morgan’s Mission, an organization formed around this very subject, we have much respect for Collette’s passion on this subject.
If SMC is the first place you are hearing Victory Dance, just remember you heard them here first. We have been consistently showcasing high caliber talent on our Spotlight for the last 2 years since its inception and having Victory Dance on our platform supports this statement. We look forward to also following this bands’ career journey through our rapidly growing SMC Spotlight series, a signature that SMC readers have come to expect when we begin showcasing exceptional bands like Victory Dance.
Be sure to subscribe to the bands’ socials below and subscribe to our SMC Spotlight to stay informed on when we will be showcasing the band again!
SMC Spotlight Exclusiv Interview | Victory Dance | August 2017
SMC – Hello gentlemen! We are thrilled to have you on our Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Spotlight! Since this is our first time profiling you on our site, can you tell us a few things about yourselves in relation to your music background?
Bobby: We get around! Chris and I go the furthest back. We played in a heavy alternative band in high school. We crossed paths with Kenny on the NJ band circuit while he was in some progressive, post-hardcore bands that saw some bigger tours. Chris later joined a country band that Jay was in, and they eventually started a pop band they brought me into. That saw some major label success, until we disbanded and the 3 of us started Victory Dance. We were linked back up with Kenny through a mutual friend. Then Are Jay had been around the Nashville music scene since he’s from Tennessee, and he moved up to New York to start fresh. We connected through social media and the band took form.
SMC – Today, your single ‘Memphis’ has launched – can you tell us which platforms fans can find it on?
Bobby: Spotify, itunes, SoundCloud, BandCamp, and YouTube.
SMC – I was blown away by your sound! I also loved the teasers you gave leading up until the release of ‘Memphis’. Can you tell us what is most important to convey in your branding?
Bobby: Thanks! The thing about the Memphis video is the plot is pretty subtle. We wanted the promo of it to expand on the plot. I always liked how 30 Seconds to Mars uses video as an extension of a song or record. There’s a twist at the end of the music video, and all the teasers allude to that. We’re also a sucker for theatrics so it was fun to build some suspense.
SMC – Where was your video for Memphis filmed? (actual location)
Bobby: The bulk of it was filmed at a warehouse in Keyport NJ. Then some other shots at apartments in Brooklyn and Jersey City.
SMC – Who was the creative team behind the video creation?
Bobby: You’re looking at it. We developed the concept and I directed the video. We worked with a good friend and really talented DP, Anthony from ANS Studios in Dumont, NJ.
SMC – Can you tell us what you have been doing career-wise from your last release to the new music released today?
Bobby: We’ve been working with a producer, Oliver Straus at Mission Sound in Brooklyn, on some music that we’re really excited about. We’ve also been making some changes to our live show to kick it up another notch.
SMC – I read in your (website) bio that you all possess a ‘give no shits’ attitude…can you embellish where that is applied?
Kenny: Ha ha. Yes, the “give no shits” attitude has to do with where we derive our musical influences, and apply them to our sound and live show. We all come from a very diverse background in music and sometimes applying that to your music can either result in a cluster fuck or in beautiful chaos. I think we’ve managed to implement all of that into our sound and live setting without being too critical on if we are “over doing it” or blending everything together perfectly.
Bobby: I just think we were giving away far too many shits in prior projects and we all felt it was time to keep our shits for ourselves.
SMC – I have seen that there has been much success for each of you individually prior to becoming Victory Dance. Can you tell us which experiences are most memorable for you and why?
Bobby: How much time do you have? There are a ton of war stories, but the first one that comes to mind for me is from a prior band Chris, Jay, and I were in. We played a festival in Philly with The Roots, and then they invited us to join them down in Birmingham, Alabama for an outdoor festival. We take the stage in 100+ degrees and like 7,000% humidity. Jay’s laptop wouldn’t work because of the heat, the sound guy blew our monitors on stage so we couldn’t hear anything, and the air was so thick we couldn’t breathe by the second song. But we were in front of a few thousand people and we did our thing. It was a real lesson in work ethic and definitely a standout moment.
Kenny: Yes. In between touring/writing for Victory Dance I set out to release a solo record that tackled mental health issues, a subject in which I’m very passionate about. To my surprise an interview I did with Florida State University was picked up by USA Today and featured on their site. That was a memorable moment for me…
SMC – I saw in your One sheet that there is a fall tour scheduled….do you have any dates lined up yet?
Bobby: We could tell you but then we’d have to…you know. Follow us to stay tuned.
SMC – Will there be an album release in 2017?
Bobby – There won’t be a full album release, but we’re really excited to release a few singles through the rest of the year. No two are similar and we’re psyched for everyone to hear.
SMC – What do you think defines being truly successful in the music industry today?
Bobby: I think holding people’s attention is a measure of success in any industry today. In music, artists that keep fans engaged and interested for the long term are the successes.
Kenny: I think everyone’s definition of success is measured differently. For me success in the music industry is having my music heard, recognized and used as a therapeutic outlet for someone who may not have the ability to communicate their emotions to a doctor, but is able to allow my words and our music guide them through their life journeys. If I can have some monetary success out of being a musician as well…great. If not, it’s not the end of the world. If you have to remind yourself why you’re making music to begin with every single time then in my opinion you’re doing this all wrong.
SMC – You have been compared to Imagine Dragons and Jack White, yet I hear ‘Owl City’ – have you ever been told that before?
Kenny: Yes, I’ve heard Owl City mentioned a couple times, more recently though.
Bobby: Yea, we’ve been compared to some artists that are so vastly different it’s almost unsettling. Our EP the Spectrum was named that because it covered a wide range of sounds and human emotions. We have our faults, but no one has ever accused us of being a band where every song sounds the same.
SMC – What would you say is your signature style?
Bobby: It’s tough to come up with a definition of our style/sound. We’re best known for having a high energy show that’s more than just a list of our songs. You’ll have to come see for yourself!
SMC – Who does all the song-writing for your music?
Bobby: It’s a full band effort. Most of the lyrics come from Kenny, and the music often arranged by Jay and myself, but the entire band gets their hands dirty on every song.
SMC – What is the song-writing process like – which instruments do you create on?
Bobby: We have a pretty modern writing style in that we trade a lot of ideas through the computer. It’s a game of telephone a lot of the time where you send an idea out and it comes back completely different. It’s a fun unpredictable way of writing collaboratively.
SMC – What has been the greatest hurdle in getting ‘Victory Dance’ kickstarted?
Bobby: The man holding us down! Just kidding. The music industry landscape is always changing now, so navigating it is more complicated than ever. Luckily now we’ve aligned with the right team who have more foresight for that than we do. We’re lucky.
SMC – What has been your greatest triumph so far?
Bobby: One time at a show Kenny and I stopped everything and had a yoga competition to see who could hold a crow pose longer. I won…
SMC – What plans do you have for creative projects in the near future aside from music making?
Bobby: We’re getting tour dates locked down. We have videos coming along with our next few singles and so we’re developing those ideas and getting production rolling while we continue to write.
SMC – Are you involved in any charities or are there any causes that are close to your heart?
Kenny: I’m very passionate about suicide prevention and awareness. When I’m not with Victory Dance I’m usually participating in speaking events for mental health awareness. And Chris is also active with To Write Love on Her Arms which is a charity working on the same issues. And he’s also one of those dudes growing an awkward ‘stache for Movemeber, which is a focus on men’s health and prostate cancer.
Bobby: I’m largely focused on environmental issues. Any downtime from the band I’m working on sustainability efforts.
SMC – What is a deal breaker in terms of what you aren’t willing to do when it comes to the success of your career?
Bobby: We’d never kill a unicorn.
SMC – Ha Ha! Fair comment! What are your thoughts on the recent passing of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington? What do you think is the most important thing a Musician can do to gain balance in their lifestyle?
Bobby: We’ve lost so many beloved artists in the last year or so. These two were the biggest impact on me, and I think I can say for most of us in the band. Everyone’s situation is different and I don’t think there’s a blanket answer to finding balance. We hope that from the horror of these losses comes some awareness to the issue of suicide.
Kenny: Unfortunately, being in the music industry can be very brutal and impactful to one’s psyche. I think in order to sustain a healthy mental state, musicians need to prioritize allowing themselves to be with family more, and give themselves the opportunity to have personal time. The music industry sets standards that make it hard for an artist to have that work/life balance, and it really can affect the artist drastically as we’ve seen and are continuing to see. Music will always be here. Creativity will never die. Let’s take this one step at a time, stop going 100 miles/hr and getting lost in this vicious cycle.
SMC – What is a fond memory that sticks out in your mind that was the ‘AH HA’ moment when you knew you were destined for a career in music?
Bobby: I think there are ongoing moments that reinforce your passion. I’ve always liked provocative art. My first album I bought myself was ‘Doggystyle’. That exposed me to a world I didn’t know. Nirvana taught me how to lose inhibition. I saw Muse live and was simultaneously inspired and humbled. And then there are the moments on stage where you connect with people. All these things keep us going. Plus, AI is going to rapidly put everyone out of jobs and for the first time in history music might actually be the safe career!
SMC – Which Social Media platform is your favorite?
Bobby: Instagram. Pretty sure that goes for all of us.
SMC – What is the most daring or badass move you’ve ever made in terms of your career?
Bobby: Hmm. Chris slept with a leprechaun. I’m not sure if it helped our career at all in the long run though.
Kenny: Joining Victory Dance after being known for being in post-hardcore bands ha-ha
SMC – Can you tell us about a memorable fan experience?
Bobby: We met a girl in Baltimore who fell in love with the band. She was so upset our next tour didn’t have a Baltimore date that she threw a party, booked the venue and had us come play the party on our off day.
SMC – Where are most of your fans located?
Bobby: We’re homegrown. We’re picked up many fans/friends along the way but the bulk is in NJ/NY.
SMC – Which country has been most supportive of your music?
Bobby: We’ve got some love out of Belgium I think, but US for sure.
SMC – Who would you like to ‘shout out’ or thank for being supportive of your careers?
Bobby: Thanks to everyone who’s been open to a band they hadn’t heard yet. Thanks to our families for support. Thanks to our Manager Stephanie Rachel for her unparalleled hustle. And thanks to SMC for your support!
SMC – How about family? Have you all gotten a lot of family support?
Bobby: Absolutely. A career in music is challenging for a family, but we have great ones who make that easier.
SMC – Okay, final question: Can you tell us what career you would have all chosen if it weren’t a career in music?
Kenny: I would’ve gone into the veterinary industry. I love animals and that line of work.
Bobby: Well, Chris is a legit attorney. So, we are not a band to mess with! Jay has a degree in music composition and still writes for commercials so that’s an easy one. I’d probably be hanging with Elon Musk working on some bad ass tech to save the world. AreJay’s been in school for film so maybe he’d be a director, or maybe a spokesman for hair products.
Victory Dance Social Media (click to view & follow!)
If I had to capture the kind of magic in a bottle that would equate to Ogden, Utah-based Singer/Songwriter Sammy Brue, it would go something like this: you can’t. There is only one Sammy Brue and the kind of magic he creates stirs the deepest of human emotions through intrinsically written lyrics and harmonies that you will never hear anywhere else. Even his very persona has a calm, casual presence offstage but turns into a guitar shredding flurry on stage completely unaware of the alluring effect he has on his audience. In that moment, it’s just the maestro and his guitar: all this – within minutes. I’ve never seen anything like it.
I have carefully observed Brue on social media and he is extremely interactive with his fans, gracious with media, and completely down to earth even when performing alongside his idol Justin Townes Earle (son of music legend Steve Earle). In fact, I am confident that it is this very persona combined with exceptional talent that impressed Earle when Brue asked to ‘play a few songs for him’ at one of his shows. ‘We stayed in touch ever since,’ he said to me in a recent discussion. It’s things like this which lead to Brue win a recording deal with New West Entertainment, home of such Americana icons as Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle and John Hiatt.
This doesn’t surprise me, Earle being an exceptional Musician himself, would want to enlist exceptional talent for his ‘Kids In The Street’ tour. Brue has left enough of an impression on me that I am confident in saying: there will never be another like him. In fact, I am 100% confident he will go the full nine yards with his music career and I honestly don’t see that taking long either. He has already laid some serious touring tracks with Earle and has also appeared on his album ‘Single Mothers Absent Fathers‘. His penchant for bringing back a true ‘Americana’ sound through his music and live performances complete with his unique look sire true showmanship that is impossible to replicate.
I review and meet many people in the music industry but the last time I can recall ever spending more than three days researching an indie band or Artist this in-depth was Palaye Royale. My standards are high – It’s rare that I will spend more than a day researching a subject before their interview. However, with the kind of impression this young Artist has left already in the relatively short term of his career, it would be a disservice not to.
On June 16th, 2017, Brue released his debut album ‘I Am Nice’, a 12-track assortment of beautifully crafted songs that are guaranteed to blaze the trail for his future in the industry. The harmonies throughout are smooth – bringing me back to a time when the likes of Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, and Elvis were blazing their own trails bringing the house down on the Ed Sullivan show and the Grand Ole Opry. The beats and guitar rhythms are unforgettable but it is truly Brue’s voice that is the unique element here – just when you think the first few beats of each song can’t get any better, enter the bewitching vocals of Sammy Brue. Yeah, that’s the kind of magic I am talking about.
Sammy Brue isn’t just a Musician, he’s an out of this world experience.
Exclusive Interview | Sammy Brue | July 2017
SMC – Hello Sammy and welcome to the Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Spotlight! I have had a chance to research your background and I see so many impressive accomplishments in a relatively short period of time. Let’s begin with your most recent: touring with Justin Townes Earle – what was that experience like for you?
Sammy – Touring with Justin has been something I wanted to do for a long time. He has been a huge influence in my music and a constant support, so have this be my first tour was an honor.
SMC – Can you tell us what one of your best memories was while touring with Justin?
Sammy – Justin plays a lot bigger venue than I’m used to. So, I think being able to play those stages made a big impact on me. Also watching Justin handle his business was great. Learned a lot from him.
SMC – The connection with fellow artist Justin Townes Earle came after you played for him at one of his shows, correct? Can you tell us which songs you played for him and what his reaction/advice was to you after that?
Sammy – I remember him being pretty enthusiastic the first time I played him one of my songs. I think he was just stoked I was writing instead of doing covers like every other teenager on YouTube, but he also doesn’t hold back when he thinks I’m going in the wrong direction. I’m not sure what the first song I played for him was, but it was probably about Woody Guthrie.
SMC – Listening to your music is a genuinely moving experience – your songs are authentic and well written. Do you do all the writing of your music?
Sammy – Yeah, so far, I have had limited co-writing experience. My writing style is so abstract that writing with someone else is tricky. I do have some writing sessions in LA coming up so I hope I can pull it together.
SMC – Can you tell us how you can about the ‘theme’ of your album? Did the ‘theme’ come first or was it the songwriting that lead to the theme?
Sammy – I’m not sure there is a particular “theme” to the album other than I wanted it to sound like it was recorded in Muscle Shoals. It feels like we got that. We were choosing from about 25 songs that could go together. In the end, I wanted to have a mix of songs that weren’t all the same and showed a bit of diversity.
SMC – I found it really interesting to read in your bio that you gravitated to an acoustic guitar more than the electric guitar your father gifted to you. Can you tell us what you feel the acoustic has brought to your songwriting more than the electric guitar did?
Sammy – First, I’m not an acoustic snob. I love the electric and the legends that play them. There are about 5 different ones hanging in my studio that I use to write with. That being said, the acoustic guitar feels more honest to me. I can’t get away with as much on an acoustic so I have to really work hard for it. The sound it gives takes me to a different place artistically too. The hollow notes that won’t sustain make you work more.
SMC – I saw that you recently lopped off your locks for charity and you plan on continuing to do this. That’s very impressive – I have a true appreciation for people who aren’t afraid to change their personal image for the sake of humanity. Can you tell us which charity this was for and why it is dear to your heart?
Sammy – I donated my hair to Locks of Love through my mom’s salon she works at. They treat the hair and send it off to people free of charge when they donate. I just wanted to do something for someone else. I see a lot of people around that are going through chemotherapy and I just felt like as a human, I should do this. My grandmother Mary died of cancer long before I was around and it would have been cool if I could have done it for her, but I can’t. I did write the song “Once a Lover” for her though.
SMC – Let’s go back to your songs – they are very relationship based. Have you ever been told that you write from the perspective of someone, say, 20 or 30 years older than you? I am blown away!
Sammy – I’m influenced by the lives of the people around me. I really didn’t hang out with kids my age until just a little while ago, so most of the time I was around people 20 or 30 years older than me. Their stories are fascinating too. They’ve seen way more pain and struggles than I have. Reading about people like Woody or Leadbelly living in their time seems more interesting than 2017 where we contemplate what movie to go see, or where should we eat tonight. Watching someone go through a divorce or losing their job and home has more emotion to it.
SMC – I saw your live performance/Vlog on your YouTube channel for your performance at the Red Butte Garden Show. You seem to immerse yourself completely when you are performing live. Can you tell us what exactly you are feeling when you are performing live? You seem to be in a little bubble all your own and it’s rather impressive to see this!
Sammy – You have one shot to get through to a crowd when you play your songs. They feel if you are scared or don’t want to be there. This means you have to let it all out and get to your soul in your songs if you want them to feel it. I write these songs and they mean a lot to me so they deserve my best. It also hurts more when you put it out there and it’s rejected too. If I see people just talking or on their phones I feel like I didn’t do my job and I let those people and the song down. That’s the hard part. I know if I’m present or not during a performance and I’m my harshest critic. So, I try.
SMC – I am guessing that you are not shy about getting out in public and performing but which do you prefer more: recording and songwriting or being out on the road?
Sammy – It depends. Recording with incredible musicians and producers in Muscle Shoals is going to be tough to beat, but the right venue with the right crowd, it just becomes a spiritual experience. When you can feel their eyes on you and the only other thing is maybe the clink of glasses from the bar, and everyone is present, that touches my soul.
SMC – How did you win your recording deal with New West? I saw this in your bio and wondered if this was a contest thing or if it was a word of mouth thing….
Sammy – I don’t think “win” is the word I would use. I earned it by sacrificing everything to chase a dream. I had a goal written down for several years that I wanted a record deal before I turned 15 and was dedicated to it. I wrote the best songs I could and when I had the opportunity to play those songs, I didn’t waste it.
SMC – Which song off your new album ‘I Am Nice’ is your personal favorite and why?
Sammy – I don’t know that I have a favorite. I always gravitate to “Once a Lover” because it’s personal to me. It was for my grandmother. Going to be tough to beat that.
SMC – What comes easiest to you: the words or the melodies?
Sammy – Depends on the day and depends on the song.
SMC – Can you tell us what success means to you personally?
Sammy – Not really. I know that I’ve had success than a lot of artists in this business already, but I’m not ready to stop pushing for more ground. I get to make music and play all over the place for money. That’s a cool thing and sounds a lot like success.
SMC – What is a deal-breaker for you professionally?
Sammy – Making souls music just for profit. I want to make what feels like something to me. It has to move me in some way or another.
SMC – What brand of guitar is your go-to when songwriting?
Sammy – I’ve been playing guitars made by The Loar for years and have a nice collection now. The company has been so supportive for a long time and I love their instruments. I have a couple of Fender electrics too, but when I signed my record deal I went and bought a vintage Martin 00-18 that fits me like a glove. It just depends on the mood I’m in really.
SMC – What will you not part with and why?
Sammy – My very first Load guitar. I carried that thing around everywhere when I was starting out and had everyone I loved sign it. It hangs in the studio now so I don’t rub the signatures off. Justin was the first person I had sign it.
SMC – How do you feel you have evolved personally from your previous recordings to your latest?
Sammy – I’m more open to criticism about my songs and listening to other people’s ideas on how to improve them. Especially when it comes from some of the artists I’ve been able to work with.
SMC – What ‘sound’ do you gravitate to personally?
Sammy – Is Etta James a sound? Because that captivates me.
SMC – I saw that you grew up listening to the greats (I did too!) – What do you feel you have extracted from each in terms of cultivating your own sound?
Sammy – It’s authentic. Everything starts there and leads you to areas of possibilities. I was looking for Leadbelly videos and found Kurt Cobain. That’s why I start there.
SMC – Can you tell us what your family’s thoughts are on your music career and how they have supported you along the way? Tell us about a memory that stands out for you….
Sammy – My dad is the one that taught me how to work hard and strategize a plan when it comes to music. He has done everything in his power to help me reach those goals too. He believes in me more than anyone and picks me up when I need it. My sisters and mom have sacrificed so much to help too. At one point, we sold our house and moved to Nashville to make this happen. Everyone believes in me and I can never repay them.
SMC – In terms of your peers/friends – I have read that you are a still a typical ‘teenager’ and enjoy things like video games and skateboarding. Have you been able to remain grounded and personable with your peers while still killing it in the career aspect of your life?
Sammy – I think one feeds the other. The more time with friends, the more life experience I get. The more success in music, the more fun me and my friends have. It’s a good balance.
SMC – What impresses you in the music industry?
Sammy – Artists that grind. When I see an Artist who has great songs and just can’t catch a break, but they keep going I love it. A lot of them don’t have a team of people helping out so they do their own booking and are their own manager. Those guys blow me away because of their love of it and dedication.
SMC – You were born in Oregon but now live in Utah – Where do you feel the music scene is strongest?
Sammy – Portland Oregon has had a great music scene for a long time now. Some of my favorite acts like Portugal The Man and The Shins live up there so I absolutely love it there. Utah just hasn’t had the light shining down on them like that. I’m pretty sure that will change pretty soon though. Too many good acts just in my home town of Ogden for it to stay hidden.
SMC – Can you tell us what the next 3-6 months look like for you in terms of your music and tour?
Sammy – Not really. I don’t get too involved in that. I just wait for them to tell me where we go next. I’m sure it will have a lot of writing and playing songs. I know I have Americana Fest coming up and a week in LA doing some co-writing too.
SMC – Are you already working on more music?
Sammy – I’m always working on new music. I think I have about 30 some songs to choose from for my next album already. There’s a lot of half written songs too. I can’t not write when I’m home or have time off.
SMC – How long did it take you to write ‘I Am Nice’?
Sammy – Well the first 2 songs that came out as single are “I’m Not Your Man” and “I Know” one of them was the second song I ever wrote and the other I wrote 2 weeks before we went in the studio.
SMC – You have a vast range of sounds on this album – in terms of a genre, which do you gravitate more to?
Sammy – It depends on the day. Sometimes I write something like “I Never Said” and then that afternoon I’ll be writing something like “Covered in Blood”. I don’t think I gravitate one way or the other. I did them both.
SMC – Who would you call your ‘go-to team’ in terms of production?
Sammy – I’ve only been produced by John Paul White (The Civil Wars) and Ben Tanner (Alabama Shakes) so for now, they are my go-to guys. I can’t thank them enough.
SMC – Who is your go-to team for the creation of your videos?
Sammy – I’m always looking for creative video people.
SMC – Have you received radio play? Which stations would you like to give a shout-out to?
Sammy – I know that some of my songs are getting radio play, but I don’t know which ones or where unfortunately. Here in UT our local station KRCL has been spinning me so I thank them with all my heart.
SMC – We have many influential industry peers watching our site and sourcing out new Artists all the time. We have seen some seriously talented Artists receive radio play globally as a result of being discovered on our platform. Who can these peers reach out to for radio play?
Sammy – New West Records has done a great job with this. They handle all of that.
SMC – We would like to begin an SMC SPOTLIGHT Numbered Series on you as we have with many of the Artists that we work with. This means we will chronologically follow along with your career in a documented series of interviews. Are you open to this?
Sammy – Sure. If you don’t get bored of me.
SMC – Okay, last question: Can you tell us where your focus is in terms of your career in the next year?
Sammy – I’m just going to tour this album and hope it does good enough to get me back to the studio for a follow-up. Thanks for the interview.
There’s a new King in town and he is known as Los Angeles-based Writer/Director/Special FX mastermind Stephen David Brooks. I mean this quite literally. After watching the 2-hour sci-for thriller ‘Flytrap‘, a film that was well received on the film festival circuit, I am convinced that Brooks is the next creative film genius of our time. I spoke at length with Brooks a few days ago about some of his upcoming projects, his views on the film industry and his time working with horror book Novelist Stephen King. This is truly one of the most unique individuals I have met thus far, and it is apparent in this most recent film – its script is inventive, dynamic in visuals, and strong in composition. It comes as no surprise to me either that King elected Brooks to be the screenplay writer for his film adaptation of the book ‘The Mangler’. This earned him a place on King’s short list of “King Approved” Screenwriters.
‘Flytrap’ is full of humorous, chilling, and edge-of-your-seat dramatic performances delivered byJeremy Crutchley, Ina-Alice Kopp, complete with epic creepiness by ‘whistle blowing’ Jonah Blechman. Overall musical score is by Simon Boswell with dance sequence and end titles by The Tearaways which add a unique balance between paranoia (the synopsis) and normalcy. The film is directed by Brooks and produced by Tamara Sayiner (Ellen Degeneres Show) and is a true reflection of this sophisticated and audacious film prodigy. I can not even compare him to any other because there absolutely is no comparison – Brooks walks to the beat of his own unique drum and it is this that will make his films a truly memorable work of art.
You can catch the thriller on most major media platforms since it has already circulated the Film Festival scene throughout 2016 earning Brooks several prestigious awards. Stephens films have screened & won audience & Jury awards at: ECU The European Independent Film Festival, The Chelsea Film Festival, Worldfest Houston, Dances With Films, The Monaco Independent Film Festival, The Idyllwild Festival of Cinema, Ramsgate International Film & Television Festival, Festival du Film de Strasbourg, and The Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.
In speaking about future projects, the idea of SMC being involved in a ‘behind-the-scenes’ editorial came up and Brooks was all for it, ‘Do that for my next film, sounds fantastic!’ We look forward to continuing our journey by documenting his career through our SMC Spotlight series and we begin with our exclusive interview today.
Enjoy this Director’s reel below and ‘Flytrap’ preview, sit back, grab a coffee and enjoy. We guarantee this IS the beginnings of a genius at work!
By Candice Anne Marshall
SMC – Hello Stephen! Welcome to the SMC Spotlight! We were thrilled when our friend Mr. Mike Rogers connected us. This interview has been a long time coming and we are so excited to dig into the questions here. First, can you tell us what your connection is to Mike?
Stephen – Happy to be here. I met Mike through John Ferriter. Mike was playing some Tearaways songs on his Japanese radio show and had questions about film festival strategies and sales for his film Ghost Roads. So, John turned him on to me.
SMC – Mike also informed me that you are a multi-award winner at some of the most prestigious film festivals! Can you tell us which was most memorable for you and why?
Stephen – I have four festivals that stand out, each with a unique set of wonderful memories. ECU The European Independent Film Festival in Paris, The Chelsea Film Festival in the heart of New York City, the F.A.S.H. festival in Los Angeles, and the charming Ramsgate International Film and Television Festival in Ramsgate UK. ECU screened my first feature HEADS N TAILZ so I have a special place in my heart for festival founder Scott Hillier and everyone there. That’s why I chose ECU to be the site for the World Premiere of my second feature film FLYTRAP. The people running it are top notch film lovers and are very supportive of independent filmmakers. Plus, the festival is in Paris in early April. Nice time to be in Paris!
SMC – Your credentials as a Director/Writer are astounding. I have read that you have also worked with Horror Novelist Stephen King – can you tell us how that came about?
Stephen – That was my first professional writing job. I was hired to adapt Stephen King’s short story THE MANGLER. And Stephen King had script approval. So…no pressure.
I had supervised Visual Effects for director Tobe Hooper. He and I had a great working relationship so when he and his producers obtained the rights to Stephen King’s short story he called me to see if I’d like to pitch him my take on the adaptation. Tobe loved my pitch and called Stephen King. Next morning, I get a call from Tobe informing me Stephen King loved the pitch as well. So, I was hired to write the first draft. Six months and 44 drafts later we were in Johannesburg South Africa shooting. I went along as the Screenwriter/2nd Unit Director/Visual Effects Supervisor.
SMC -What was your experience working with King like? Can you tell us of one that is most memorable?
Stephen – It was actually a dream working with him. He understands the psychological aspects of horror better than anyone. We went back and forth on dozens of drafts of the script until he gave it his stamp of approval. He’s a perfectionist but one who knows exactly what he wants. Brilliant mind.
The most memorable moment happened when Stephen King screened the film. The short story is 5 pages long so I had to add a lot of detail that needed to be Stephen Kingesque but wasn’t actually in the original work. As he was watching the film he kept asking “Was that me?” and oftentimes Tobe would say “No man. That was Brooks.” No higher complement than that. Stephen King couldn’t tell what I wrote from what he wrote.
SMC – You then went on to seek your own adventures in Directing and writing – can you tell us what kinds of themes and stories you gravitate toward most?
Stephen – I gravitate towards characters who are out of their depth, in a situation they couldn’t have imagined and when we first meet them, have no idea how to extricate themselves. Then again, I think that’s the basis of all drama. That sense of being out of our depth and unsure how to proceed to make things right. We’re all imperfect creatures and exploring that imperfection through drama is how we discover who we are as human beings.
SMC – As a writer myself, I know that we writers are a very eclectic group and our imaginations are pretty intense at times – tell me, are you also an insomniac too? Most of us are…. if so, what keeps you up?
Stephen – I have never had insomnia. I can sleep anywhere. On a plane. On a train. In a moving car. And some of my best ideas have come to me in dreams.
SMC – You and I have tried so often to connect by phone to no avail – our schedules are intense! Can you tell us what project you are working on at present?
Stephen – Well I’m quite superstitious about announcing anything too soon. Waiting for all the pieces to be forced into place. Let’s just say one film is intended to be an iconic holiday classic, like LOVE, ACTUALLY and IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. This film has a heart. A big heart. Another film will bring a beloved character back to the big screen. And another is the beginning of a Young Adult mega franchise…When I can say more I’ll let you know.
SMC – Before we get into discussion on your film ‘Flytrap’, can you tell us what it’s really like being among some of the world’s greatest screenwriters in Hollywood? Have you collaborated with any?
Stephen – I know some of those writing greats but have not collaborated with any of them. We screenwriters tend to be solo creatures.
SMC – Your bio on your website says that you have been ‘mentored by Oscar winners John Dykstra & Richard Edlund’ (Star Wars) – can you tell us what that experience was like and what the most important thing you absorbed in your experience being mentored by them?
Stephen – John Dykstra taught me to always have a backup plan for any specific shot or scene. He was so right! Things oftentimes go wrong during the intensity of production and having a ready backup plan has saved the day more than once.
Richard really taught me how to view dailies with a critical eye. That man sees absolutely everything. It’s astounding.
I also had a third mentor in my Visual Effects days…Harrison Ellenshaw. Harrison taught me another valuable lesson…one I have dubbed “The Harrison Ellenshaw Rule.” That is…everything will change. Go with the flow. Filmmaking is as much about reading the tea leaves as it is turning adversity into an advantage.
And in the end. IT. WILL. ALL. CHANGE. Sage advice.
SMC – What, in your opinion, makes a film ‘great’?
Stephen – For me it all comes from the characters. Do they have identifiable problems? Do they deal with those problems in a realistic way? Are the characters driving the story? Are there some larger more universal thematic issues being explored? Is the film well executed? If the answer to all those is “yes” then you probably have a great film. Ultimately, it’s the test of time. If we’re still watching a film 50 years later. It must be great.
SMC – I see you have also shot music videos as well. Can you tell us which projects you have worked on past or present that are most memorable and why?
Stephen – Back in my Visual Effects days I worked on an Ozzie Osbourne video. “No More Tears.” That was a blast. Ozzie, what a character.
I directed a couple of videos for The Tearaways: ”Bash” and “Hello Isla Vista.” I loved capturing the exuberance of The Tearaways sound.
I’m now working with Rochelle Vincente Von K on a new video for her song “Deal Me In.” Rochelle is an Austrian Australian recording artist from London now based in LA. Very exciting stuff. We’re exploring an amplified cinematic visual style not usually seen in music videos.
SMC – What do you think makes your art stand out among the rest in your field?
Stephen – I’m just true to my point of view. I trust my gut. I have a very specific idea how the universe works and I use that as my guiding light when creating.
I don’t over think what I’m doing. Rather I feel my way through it. When I’m writing I can feel when a situation, or line of dialog is right. When directing Actors, I can feel when a moment is right. All I can say is…Everything I do is very “me” as those who know me well can attest. My sensibility. My sense of humor. My sense of irony.
SMC – Let’s get into your film ‘Flytrap’ – I watched the trailer on your website – wow! It’s intense! Can you tell us where you conceived the storyline for this film?
Stephen – FLYTRAP came to me like all my ideas…BOOM. There it is. A complete concept just pops into my brain. There’s no method to it. The initial idea is pure inspiration. Then I have to craft the idea into a story and a script. That’s where the hard work comes in.
SMC – As for the Actors in your film, can you tell us whose performance most blew you away in terms of final result?
Stephen – I had worked with Jeremy Crutchley before. He was in THE MANGLER. So, I knew he’d be great. Although Ina-Alice Kopp and I knew each other we hadn’t worked together. But having discussed another project at some length I had a good idea what she could do. And she did not disappoint!
Billy ‘Sly’ Williams and I have worked together on three films. He is my Robert DeNiro. So, I knew he’d knock it out of the park.
The big surprise was Jonah Blechman’s portrayal of Gilligan. I had met him once. I thought he seemed perfect for the role but I didn’t really see his genius until the first day of shooting. His look. The creepy whistle thing he did. He absolutely blew me away.
SMC – Can you tell us where the public can see this film in the film festival circuit?
Stephen – We’re finished playing festivals. FLYTRAP is in wide distribution and can be seen on Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon Japan, Google Play, iTunes, and Fandango Now. And we recently sold the film to China so it will be available on various platforms there in the very near future.
SMC – Your bio states:
‘Stephen’s films have screened & won audience & Jury awards at: ECU The European Independent Film Festival, The Chelsea Film Festival, Worldfest Houston, Dances With Films, The Monaco Independent Film Festival, The Idyllwild Festival of Cinema, Ramsgate International Film & Television Festival, Festival du Film de Strasbourg, and The Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.’
Can you tell us which award ceremony/win stands out to you the most and which film it was for?
Stephen – I hate to pick and choose. Every festival award is a gift and a special moment. But the win at The Chelsea Film Festival was quite memorable. It was the end of the ceremony and they had given out all the awards. FLYTRAP was nominated but didn’t win. Fine you can’t win them all. And as everybody got up to leave the theater the lovely Ingrid Jean-Baptiste, founder of the festival, steps up to the podium and announces there is one more award. And the Special Jury Prize goes to FLYTRAP. I was floored. What a great moment!
SMC – I also noted that there’s some ‘Tearaways’ music included in this film. As you are aware, we recently interviewed John Ferriter for our SMC Spotlight. Can you tell us of your connection to John and what projects you have worked on together?
Stephen – Well that’s no coincidence! I went to high school with Greg Brallier of The Tearaways. So, I see most of their Southern California gigs. I had also seen John Ferriter’s band The Stingrays back in the day. So when John re-joined The Tearaways John and I re-connected.
I needed 3 songs for the dance sequence in FLYTRAP. John said he’d send me the new Tearaways CD’s The Earle Mankey Sessions Volume IV and VII. I got the CD’s at 8 am the next morning. Played them and found two absolutely perfect songs on Volume VII: “Keep Your Knickers On,” “I Love The Blues,” and then on Volume IV I found “The Last Goodbye.” I mean it is as if they were written for the film. They were thematically and rhythmically perfect.
Then I discovered the song “I Love My Life” on the Volume IV CD and realized it is the perfect end titles music. Sometimes when it’s meant to be it just works out. And this was the perfect marriage of film and music.
SMC – What do you feel is the most important thing to be ‘equipped with’ in terms of pitching an idea/concept to potential investors for your art?
Stephen – Passion. Period. Yes, you have to know the structure of a pitch and you have to have a compelling story. But if you don’t go into the pitch absolutely convinced it will be the best film/tv show ever then you’ll get nowhere. And you have at most 30 seconds to make an impression. If you fail in the first thirty you won’t last the next couple of minutes.
SMC – I saw that you shot this film in California in a matter of only 12 days! In my personal opinion, some of the greatest films or projects that I have seen have been produced in a very short time-frame. What are your thoughts on this?
Stephen – There is something to be said for working fast. I think the energy level you create on set having to shoot 10-12 pages a day shows up on the screen. There’s an intensity there that translates.
SMC – Can you tell me who your ‘dream team’ is or who you would like them to be?
Stephen – John Ferriter, Jamie Angelise and Rana Joy Glickman…I’m already working with them!
SMC – What do you want to aspire to?
Stephen – I’d love to make a cinema classic. A CASABLANCA. Or LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. A timeless story set against an epic struggle. Intimate and sweeping at the same time. I’ve got a few ideas…
SMC – Which of your other projects are you particularly fond of and why?
Stephen – My first feature HEADS N TAILZ stands out. I mean it was my first! And making a feature is infinitely more complicated than making a short. I’m very proud of that film. It did play festivals and win some awards. And there seems to be renewed interest in it…
I’m also proud of my short BINKY which I shot before FLYTRAP. It stars two of my actors from HEADS N TAILZ: Billy ‘Sly’ Williams and Lucy Jenner (Lucia Ballard). That film also won some awards including a Best Actress accolade for Lucia. BINKY is being distributed by Shorts.TV and can be seen online, via Amazon and iTunes as well as on select cable and satellite channels.
Last year I directed a short called IRIS. I didn’t write or cast the project which is a first for me. But it turned out really nicely. And has already won a Remi at Worldfest Houston. Other film festival screenings are in the future but we can’t announce anything specific just yet.
I recently directed a short called BURN BABY, BURN with the Irish sensation Emma Pyne. The film was an experiment in minimalism. Emma wrote it, produced it, and stars in it. I directed and shot it. No crew. We’ll be screening at a festival in LA this November…stay tuned.
SMC – If you had a chance to do anything in your career over again, what would that be and why?
Stephen – I don’t dwell on the past. I learn from it. Learn from my mistakes then move on. I’m always moving forward. Never looking backward.
SMC – What do you measure success in the film industry by?
Stephen – There are two parts to my answer. First, how your work effects the audience. You can make them feel bad or make them feel good. Make them feel afraid or make them feel loved. I’d rather go for the positive emotional response. Have them walk out of the theater feeling better about themselves and their fellow human beings. That’s success to me on a creative level.
On a professional level, success it’s all about box-office. If you make the industry a lot of money then you will earn the clout to get more projects off the ground. That’s a win/win for me.
And I don’t think the professional and creative definitions of success are mutually exclusive. You can have both.
SMC – What is the greatest compliment you have received to date from an industry peer?
Stephen – “I want to work with people who know what they’re doing. Like you.” Producer Rana Joy Glickman September 17th, 2015
SMC – Let’s go way back: what was the pivotal point in your youth which lead to or was a result of where you are today in the film industry?
Stephen – When I was very young my parents took me to a re-release of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I had seen films and TV shows before, of course, but that film made me keenly aware that there is a vision behind what is on screen. I started to make movies, read about movies, and think about movies. It became my obsession.
SMC – Where do you think there are difference between the music and film industries? What do you think there are similarities?
Stephen – Both are tough but I think the music business is much harder. Touring is brutal. Much more exhausting than being on location shooting a movie.
Artists in both industries are judged by the amount of money they make for the business interests. In that sense, both are quite similar.
SMC – What is a ‘deal breaker’ for you?
Stephen – That’s an interesting question. Showbiz is a full contact sport. Everyone gets knocked around and kicked to the carpet from time to time. That’s business as usual. For me I’d have to say a personal attack on my team or an attempt to subvert the team would be a possible deal breaker. I’ve been personally attacked but have a heavy-duty Teflon skin. So it doesn’t bother me. But to try to attack or attempt to influence me by attacking a member of my team? That’s way over the line.
We live and die by our working and personal relationships. It’s all about teams and allies. You have to defend them to the bitter end even if it means walking away from a project. There will always be another opportunity. But there will never be another core team. A truly broken relationship can never be repaired.
SMC – What five things impress you (this can be in relation to anything and includes the film industry)?
Stephen- Loyalty. When a person chooses an individual relationship over personal or professional gain…to me that’s golden. And in my experience very, very rare. Relationships are permanent. Or at least they should be. Professional gain is temporary and fleeting. The personal capital of a relationship is worth more than all the gold in the world.
Unfettered intelligence. By that I mean someone who can always view a situation with an open and analytical mind. Think outside the box and find a unique understanding of a problem. Every day something (or many things) will go wrong and it takes an unusually agile mind to keep everything on track.
The ability to say: “I was wrong.” You’d be amazed how many people there are inside and outside of the industry who simply will never admit a mistake. They’ll deflect. Blame others or simply double down on the error. I do say to people when I first start working with them “I don’t care if you make a mistake. We all make mistakes. Just let me know when and what happened and let’s find a solution.” For me the cover up is always worse than the crime.
I am impressed with anyone who can take criticism at face value and not take it personally. There is nothing absolute in the creative world. There are an infinite number of ways to tell a story or define a moment. And all of us, writers, directors, producers, actors, and musicians need to be able to accept a note or a comment and not become defensive about it.
I’m impressed by superstars who stay grounded. Very easy to be a movie star or rock & roll icon and lose yourself and your sense of humanity. Easy to lose themselves in their public persona. I’ve met both those who can and cannot handle stardom. The ones who can are rare gems.
SMC – What is the most positive experience you have had in your career where you felt like it was an ‘Ah Ha’ moment?
Stephen – My first 2nd Unit Directing job on SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION. Usually 2nd Unit is just establishing shots of buildings, car drive-bys, shots that do not involve the principal actors. In the low budget world 2nd Unit also involves finishing scenes when the director has to move on to another location. Or shooting entire scenes when the schedule requires it.
This was my first opportunity to direct professional actors. And my first two actors where Academy Award Nominees…So, again, no pressure! I had to direct Melinda Dillon who was nominated for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and Brad Dourif who was nominated for ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST.
First up was Melinda. She played a ghost-like character who came back from the dead. So, there was a supernatural element to the scene. I setup the shot. And we did Take 1. It didn’t work. So, I walk over to Melinda and made a suggestion. I don’t’ remember what I said. I walked back behind camera and did Take 2. It didn’t work either.
I remember the next moments very clearly. As I walked away from camera towards Melinda the world slowed down and I was hit with a horrible realization: This is my moment. I want to be a director and I can’t get a performance out of an Academy Award Nominated actress? What the hell am I going to do…?
Then just as I reached Melinda it hit me like a bolt of the blue. I said, “You’re the wicked witch of the West.” Her eyes lit up. I knew she got it. I hurried back to camera and called action. Take 3 was perfect. “Ah ha” I thought. I can do this…
SMC – We would definitely like to begin a well-documented and chronicled SMC Spotlight Numbered Series on your career journey – what are your thoughts on this?
Stephen – Let’s do it!
SMC – Okay, final question:
Can you tell us what the next 6-12 months look like for you in terms of wrapping up current projects and new ones?
Stephen – FLYTRAP is in the rear-view mirror so all my energy will be projected forward. I’ll be moving one of my film projects from the development to the production stage. I just don’t know which one yet…Such is showbiz…
In the latter part of June 2017, I was introduced to one of the industry’s most notable, influential peers and music inspirations Mr. Chris Craker. Undeniably, Chris comes from a distinctive background: he was General Manager and Senior Vice President of the International Division of Sony BMG Masterworks, Producer of the soundtrack for Director Christopher Nolan’s movie “Interstellar”, with the Oscar nominated score composed by Hans Zimmer, as well as producing the 2017 Annie Award Winning score for “The Little Prince” for Paramount, directed by Mark Osborne (of Kung Fu Panda fame). In April 2008, Chris resigned from Sony to set up Karma Sound Studios and devote more time to his own creative endeavors and management of a select group of uniquely gifted artists. Karma is now recognized as the number one luxury residential recording studio complex in South East Asia who’s first guests included three iconic global bands:Placebo, Jamiroquai, and Bullet For My Valentine.
Chris Craker has won numerous awards and received acclaim for his activities as a performer, recording artist, composer, arranger, producer/engineer, record label founder, artist manager, author, critic, industry commentator and strategic advisor. So, it doesn’t surprise us that he has plunged right into his projects at Karma Sound Studios with successful results (see our interview below). Karma, located among the luxurious sand and waterways of Thailand located just outside Bang Saray, provides a picturesque fishing village on the coast and surrounded by beautiful countryside which is perfect for inspiration.
The accommodations at Karma boast 6 bedrooms which are all ensuite, four with private balconies overlooking the 60 sqm swimming pool and extensive gardens. All rooms have an in-room private safe and are supplemented by a massage room, small gym, and a private bar situated around the swimming pool and BBQ area. The outdoor dining sala doubles as a live stage area for al fresco pool-side concerts and the ultimate “unplugged” video shoot location. TVs/DVD/Games Console and full broadband internet access and a table tennis table are all available.
Studio One provides spacious recording areas (200 sq metres), consisting of the main live room plus a very large drum booth / isolation area that can contain up to a twelve-piece horn or wind section, as well as a large vocal and guitar booth, and two further guitar amp / speaker isolation areas. The control room’s centrepiece is the SSL 4056 E/G Series console, supported by a 32/56 I/O Pro tools 10 & 11 HD system, complemented with outboard by BAE/Neve 1073s, Millennia, API, Great River, Emperical Labs, Teletronix, Universal Audio, dbx, Thermionic Culture, Avalon, Lexicon, Eventide and many more!
Studio 2 at Karma provides the ultimate ‘Swiss-army-knife’ set-up for the modern songwriter/producer. Designed with simplicity and flexibility in mind, it runs Pro Tools 10 & 11 HD Native, Logic Pro X and Reason 5 running on a UA Apollo Quad with D-Box monitoring and summing. Both studios have access to a comprehensive sample library and the latest 64bit plugins. Mastering grade ATC monitoring is an unusual but welcome provision, along with Yamaha HS8s & NS10s, B&W 805 Nautilus and Aurotones. Outboard provided by AMS Neve, API, SSL, Universal Audio, Teletronix, GML, SPL, Radial, dbx, Empirical Labs Inc. and more, mean very few studios can compete for the price.
*A full GEAR list of equipment in both studios can be found (here)
I hopped on a call with Chris last week and we spoke about some of the future projects coming up at Karma, his collaborations with some of the worlds’ top Artists (whose songs are written at Karma), and the projects which SMC will be in support of by way of press releases, interviews, and video content on the SMC Spotlight and Starlight Music Chronicles website. We are excited to share the content over the next few months and begin with our press releases on Karma Sound Studios Songwriter Retreat 2017 (click here) and the Superstar 101 for Aspiring Pop Stars (click here). Needless to say, when the website says ‘If James Bond had a recording studio it would be Karma…’, they were not kidding!
There will be much more to release over the course of the next six months on our SMC Spotlight so be sure to subscribe to our site and the Karma Sound Studios website (here)
Settle back for a few moments and enjoy this glimpse into the studio.
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Chris Craker
SMC- Hello Chris! We are happy to have you on our SMC Spotlight! I’m going to get right into it – I have read your bio (here) and it goes without saying that you are THE man in terms of the music industry. Your career history timeline includes that of being Former Senior Vice President of Sony BMG (among many other exceptional accomplishments!). I am certain that you have hundreds of amazing experiences that you are proud of. Can you tell us of a few highlights in your career(s) that have stood out most prominently for you?
Chris – Probably the biggest highlights we working as the Producer of the soundtrack to Christopher Nolan’s incredible movie ‘Interstellar’ and the Composer (my friend) Hans Zimmer. It was nine month of my life that then cumulated in me also being engaged as the Executive Producer for staging ‘Interstellar Live’ at the Royal Albert Hall in London – a sold out show which we screened the movie with a live, 90-piece orchestra playing the score, and speakers before the show including Stephen Hawking, Chris Nolan, Matthew McConaughey, Michael Caine, etc.…
SMC – I could probably sit and listen to your story all day (laughs), and I have so many questions that I am sure I will think of later, are you open to SMC continuing to support you by way of our SMC SPOTLIGHT Numbered Series? This is a chronicled history and timeline of your career accomplishments via interviews, ongoing support for new and current projects, and press releases.
Chris – I would love to be a part of this…thank you for asking.
SMC – You have worked with some of the world’s finest Composers and Musicians, which have you developed a kinship with and why?
Chris – Composers I’ve worked closely with include Hans Zimmer which has been inspiring; working with Lang Lang the Chinese classical Pianist was amazing and needless to say, it was a real pleasure having Jamiroquai at my Studio. Recording Leona Lewis was incredible too – watching how someone takes their artistry so seriously and setting super high standards for themselves…we all found her an inspiration.
SMC – Can you tell us what a typical day is like for you? Pick a day, any day will do.
Chris – Ha ha…I get up at 5:30 or 6 am and in the gym by 6:30 am the latest. Work starts around 8:00 am and continues all day with a mixture of either creative work or business/management issues with my Artists and colleagues. A normal day will include half a dozen overseas Skype or Facetime sessions too – which, by default, means that the working day is long so that I can coincide with multiple time zones…
SMC – I do know that with anyone in the entertainment industry, there is never a dull moment so I look forward to hearing what your thoughts are on this: is there any moment in time that stands out to you as an ‘ah-ha’ or ‘pinch me’ moment?
Chris – That’s a great question because it is odd sometimes when I think back to being in serious discussions with Christopher Nolan, Lang Lang, Benny & Bjorn from Abba, Hans Zimmer, Jimmy Page, and Actors like Dame Judi Dench, Michael Caine, and Christopher Lee – surreal really…
SMC – I heard you juggle between Europe, Thailand, and the US. Can you tell us where you feel most ‘at home’?
Chris – Actually, I feel most at home in Thailand since my studio is there – but I have family in London and always enjoy being in Santa Monica too…they are three amazing locations to spend my time.
SMC – Have you ever met an industry peer who was difficult to deal with? If so, how did you handle the situation?
Chris – Some Artists and Managers are more challenging than others and without naming names, I find the best approach is simply to be incredibly polite, friendly, and always do my job and try to exceed expectations. Then, if people are still difficult to deal with, it’s clearly them that has the problem! I try to surround myself with like-minded spirits and most of the time, working relationships are very cordial.
SMC – What are your thoughts on the music that is being created today as opposed to, say, 20 or 30 years ago?
Chris – I love what’s happening now – it’s just very different in content and the methods of creating are so different now. Also…the method of delivery to fans and the engagement with fans is so different from 20 years ago. I actually think the Music Industry is an incredibly vibrant place to be right now, and one of immense opportunity if one is prepared to think and act differently from the past!
SMC – Are there any other ventures you are involved in currently that you will be announcing at a later date? Obviously, I realize you can’t divulge full details, but perhaps even a hint at it….
Chris – I am expanding my Management and Label Activities. I am heavily involved in the field of Music Industry Education and have set up a new joint venture to forge that ahead – and later this year I will be rolling out a program that aims to help Musicians and Artists who have suffered at the hands of drug and alcohol addictions and giving them ‘Music therapy’ and a second chance at making it back into the industry.
SMC – What was your personally most rewarding experience from any one completed project?
Chris – Seeing Karma Studio open for the very first time and to see albums being created here that then have global success which changes people’s lives.
SMC – Who is your go-to team? Are you a solo thinker/doer, or do you like to bounce ideas around with your peers?
Chris – I have a small team of trusted Advisers but do most things on my own…the team at Karma is amazing – great administration and creative and technical support.
SMC – Which of your awards are you most proud of being a recipient of and why?
Chris – The award that brought me most satisfaction was winning the gold medal at an international music competition when I was just 18 years old. It was the first time I’d won anything of consequence and it really boosted my confidence to then go on and try to achieve great things in the music industry.
SMC – I read that you have been behind successful Artist projects in the USA and Asia. What draws you to Asia and where do you see the difference in the style of Pop Musicians between the two countries? Would you say Asia is more advanced?
Chris – we have amazing acts all over the world and the best ones are all unique. Styles and flavors change from country to country but I would say that I am excited at the prospect of breaking Asian acts into the west and western acts into Asia. That’s always fun to see cross pollination and true global success…
SMC – Where do you think ‘it’ is in terms of the future of music platforms supporting Artists – Radio, or alternative platforms like Spotify and Pandora?
Chris – I see Spotify dominating globally before too long. It’s an easy to use and very functional platform. I listen to the radio in the car, but more and more, I am enjoying having control of what I listen to on Spotify and then being surprised by playlists that others have created.
SMC – We often hear from industry professionals that the music of today ‘isn’t what it was’ 20 or 30 years ago in terms of quality. What are your thoughts on what the Millennial generation of Artists are creating? Do you share these same opinions of your peers in the industry to a degree?
Chris – I wholeheartedly disagree – there’s loads of great music being made now and 30 years ago, there was also great music and a lot of terrible music being made! Nowadays, everyone has access to very affordable simple technology to record and create which is a wonderful thing…then, as people develop their skills, they use the more sophisticated platforms on which to create and truly amazing music is flowing from Artists from all over the world.
SMC – Have there been any indie Artists who have wowed you in the last few years? If so, who?
Chris – Adele started out as an Indie Artist and caused a massive response from being truly authentic. I have also loved watching the rise to fame of Dagny – a Norwegian Pop Singer who has now been snapped up by Republic, but she started from grassroots and evolved as an Artist and is now wowing people all over the world.
SMC – For you, what do you find personal satisfaction in?
Chris – I love bands like Muse and Radiohead. I’ve really enjoyed live shows from Queen featuring Adam Lambert, and the Chainsmokers we fun in Los Angeles earlier this year.
SMC – When an idea comes to the forefront of your mind, do you act quickly on it or do you take the time to research and develop it?
Chris – I like to move quickly whenever possible! But I make sure to research too. That can be quick these days with access to everything we ever need to know online!
SMC – What was the most rewarding or memorable moment in your role as Senior Vice President of Sony BMG?
Chris – It was always great to see the younger acts coming through and making their mark. But, from a corporate point of view, seeing the end of the year financial reports always showing growth and always above target – that, as a result of making great music with our key acts. Also, ensuring that the back-catalogue was always being stimulated and refreshed and presented in new vibrant ways to the public.
SMC – Aside from Artists/Musicians/Songwriters, what kinds of initiatives or individuals professionally are you most likely to support or which you are most passionate about?
Chris – I take a strong interest in supporting mental health practitioners who help Musicians. Our industry is so demanding physically and emotionally and often, Musicians end up in difficult places. We need to look after them and ensure they are supported when the going gets tough, for whatever reason…
SMC – Last question before we head into the Press Release questions: What do you personally feel your greatest accomplishment is to date? Professionally?
Chris – Producing the soundtrack to ‘Interstellar’.
KARMA SONGWRITING RETREATS
SMC – When Mike (Rogers, mutual industry friend) had introduced me to you, he sent me a link to your website (here) and I was blown away! You are the owner of this venture – can you tell us what inspired you to get this project going? (for our readers, the press releases will be included with this interview below)
Chris – Having been working in London and New York for Sony, I really wanted to do a project that would get me back to making music and making records. I had always wanted to do build a strong studio and I thought about what the ideal studio should be. Naturally, there were palm trees and a beach location springing into my mind (laughs) and I liked the idea of being away from the real world in a tropical paradise – Thailand! We have subsequently developed these songwriter retreats for writers from all over the world to come and enjoy the vibe here. Fifteen writers from all over the globe, congregate and write together in the most exotic and inspiring location imaginable. Great songs flow!
SMC – What is the kind of work that goes into the planning process of these retreats? Do you have a team that organizes this for you or do you prefer to be hands-on?
Chris – I am very hands-on but we have an Administrator who looks after all the accommodations and logistics as well as amazing Producers working with the writers and programming them up, ready to pitch to major label Artists all around the world.
SMC – I feel that a studio in the middle of paradise is probably every musician or songwriters dream. As a writer myself, this inspires me to get the creative juices flowing just looking at the video of the studio (laughs)! Do you feel location for this project when you initially came up with the idea was essential to getting the creative juices flowing for the Songwriters/Artists? If so, why?
Chris – Choosing this location was all about the vibe. It was all about what would inspire Musicians. The world is full of studios in cities, and most Musicians have a set-up at home. We needed to be different and it seems to have worked! We are constantly full.
SMC – Can you tell us a little bit of history on the studio in terms of who has attended and whose music has been picked up by major label Artists?
Chris – One of the first bands to come (to Karma) was Placebo recording their album ‘Battle Of The Sun’ and since that time, we also have made records for Jamiroquai, Bullet For My Valentine, The Libertines, Enter Shikari, Young Guns, Heat, Hellions, Trophy Eyes, and amazing bands from Japan, Russia, Australia, Scandinavia, and of course, pretty well every major Thai act has been here too!
SMC – Is there one (or a few) Songwriters who have attended the retreat whose music has stood out to you or impressed you greatly?
Chris – There are a number…a young guy called Syps (Alex Sypsomos) really stands out and you will be hearing hits from him in the next none months, I guarantee. Also, Gia Koka from Holland was amazing. Also, Jackson Dimiglio Wood and Rich Craker have done some pretty awesome things too for major label Artists.
SMC – Can you tell us about some of the Artists who have had some hits that originated from the Songwriters in this retreat?
Chris – Well it’s early days, but we know that a new Artist with Avex in Japan (Momo) is about to break with a brand new single written at Karma. We also have songs on hold with Rhianna and Leona Lewis currently.
SMC – Can you tell us what kind of feedback the Songwriters who have attended the retreats have to say about their experience?
Chris – We have such lovely feedback – people absolutely love being here and they do their best work but I get looked after so well too…our staff tend to everyone’s every need and the whole thing is pretty idyllic.
Karma Studio & Superstar 101 for Aspiring Pop Stars
SMC – Was the studio built from scratch? What kind of details can you give specifically about the studio equipment and the studio itself?
Chris – Yes, I bought the land and built the entire complex from scratch. We have three studios – one equipped with a 56 channel SSL G+ Console and the other two are very sophisticated production and post-production studios with a mixture of state of the art and vintage equipment from all major brands.
SMC – Is this your first time hosting the Superstar 101 for Aspiring Pop Stars program?
Chris – Yes, it is. We are the perfect ‘destination studio’ for this kind of project. We can make such great footage here and shoot great pictures to accompany songs from hit songwriters.
SMC – Can you tell us a little more about the program and where it was incepted and why?
Chris – This is a program that enables a young singer with some financial backing to fast track into the business and to work with amazing people within a concentrated period of time. At the end of the one-month program, the Artist will have an album and all the video and image assets required to be marketed internationally. And with my connections at the major labels, we can introduce them to senior A&R teams in London, Nashville, Berlin, Los Angeles, and New York as well as release direct to market via our own label linked with iTunes and Spotify.
SMC – Although at first glance of the costs for this program seem high initially, when one looks at what is offered to an Artist in terms of career advancement, I feel this is a valid and wise investment! Can you tell us if there is any other program out there which offers what you do or is this a first?
Chris – I don’t think there are many programs out there quite like this and when one knows that quite commonly top Writer/Producers are charging $10,000 – 20,000 a track, $100,000 for an entire album with two videos and two photoshoots plus all the other ancillary help is an amazing value!
SMC – You seem like the kind of man who is an innovator in terms of unique opportunities for the music industry. Can you tell me what the vision for the next five to ten years is for Karma Studio Artists or the Studio itself?
Chris – I do indeed like to develop new things, you’re right. In the next five years, we will have a very strong and innovative management company linked to the studios, as well as the label, which has already started but we are also very attentive to the ways that the market changes and so, right now, we are making it our business to work closely with Spotify, Snapchat, Facebook, and numerous other emerging platforms. We keep on top of the latest marketing techniques and ensure our Artists benefit from these…
SMC – What determines a successful candidate for this program? What are you and your team looking for in terms of qualifications/skills from the Artists submitting their music to you for this program?
Chris – It’s simple – a unique voice and a passion for success that matches our own hunger!
SMC – In your experience, what do you think makes up the components of a truly successful Artist?
Chris – Someone who has a genuine, authentic talent, who cares a lot about every single detail ad who works incredibly hard…there is now substitute for hard work and I love it when I see young acts really giving their all and matching our own drive and enthusiasm.
SMC – What do you and your team(s) hope to do in terms of having the Artists attending your program ‘stand out’ in mainstream music?
Chris – Again, in one sense, the answer is simple: we move heaven and earth to write and produce hit songs. One song can change people’s lives…
SMC – I read in your press release for the Superstar 101 program that ‘“There’s no real substitute for working with top class, writers, producers and engineers in a high-end studio environment” said Chris Craker. “Yes, we live very much in a DIY environment for most young musicians, and amazing results can be achieved with just a laptop, a microphone, a great idea and a lot of hard work at home in your bedroom. But, really, none of the top stars are working in their bedrooms on their own… they all have a support network around them, with amazing cowriters, talented producers, skilled musicians and engineers to help make the end results truly compelling and chart-worthy! And that’s our aim with the Superstar 101 program – to give young artists the opportunity to really have the best chance of success from day one…”
How do you feel your program is superior to that of one who writes, records, and produces music in their own personal space/environment? I do see that you have a lot to offer and I know that really, $100,000 isn’t much to ask for what you are offering in terms of services and the ability to get the Artist who attends this program the ‘established’. What do you think is the main benefit of the Superstar 101 program?
Chris – Along with the exceptional Writer Producers that we have on the team here, the other main benefit is the incredible links to industry that I offer. Yes, the old adage that ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ does ring true and If we have the right Artist here, I can have them in front of the right people in any major city with the very best assets to ensure they fast track to the top.
SMC – Can you tell us of a time you have had an Artist come on too strong and it was a turn-off? How did you handle it?
Chris – Well, naming no names, we did have one act that had a lot of drive and very little talent, but was not aware of this fact. I love people with passion and I always try to help, but there does need to be a base level of talent at all times!
SMC – In relation to the last question: Can you tell us of a time where there was an Artist who you felt was grateful for all the hard work you and your team did in establishing them and how did they reciprocate this gratitude?
Chris – The studio name is ‘Karma’ and actually, whenever we give our all to people, they always reciprocate in some way. We’ve built up amazing relationships with acts from all over the world, and the best way anyone can reciprocate is by recommending us to others…that’s the greatest gift.
SMC – Where do you think this kind of program becomes personal and about the Artist and their talent/art as opposed to the business aspect?
Chris – We will connect with the Artist from day one. That’s when it all starts. We need great chemistry and we work hard to develop the best environment and conditions for a healthy stimulating personal relationship.
SMC – What has been the best collaboration with an Artist from Karma Studios you have experienced to date?
Chris – Wow – there have been so many! I guess we have been instrumental in bringing a young Australian band ‘Hellions’ into the mass market but working with the new guy ‘Syps’ has been amazing. Watch this space…. he is destined for the top!
SMC – Okay, final question: Can you tell us about some of the dynamic or insightful experiences an Artist has shared with you about their time at Karma Studios?
Chris – The one thing that reoccurs from most of our most valued clients is simply, their gratitude that ‘we care’ and that we go the extra mile to make sure they have the perfect environment in which to create. The Libertines were especially grateful because we took our duty of care to the n’th degree looking after Peter Doherty (Lead Singer) for six months before he was ready to record. That’s an example of how our care and attention to detail pays off for people. They are now back playing major festivals all over the world, rising up from a long period of dormancy. It may well not have happened if they had not spent time at Karma….
Karma Studio Contact information & Social Media (click to view)
Canada has a new reigning Country Music Queen and she resides deep in the heart of Nashville. Ontario-born Meghan Patrick is her name and she is proof that Canada can ‘bring it’ to the country music industry in terms of originality, creativity and exceptional talent. The latest video release from her album ‘Grace and Grit’, ‘Be Country With Me’(see below), is a deeply romantic return to this songbirds’ roots and intense love for the lush Countryside. No doubt, with lyrics like ‘Baby let’s take a ride, down to the countryside, where crickets sing a lullaby and make it our song and leave behind the city lights’…sung so sweetly and with depth, who would not want to imagine themselves being swept away to the countryside? The lyrics are solid in this one supported by profound, unique vocals that cannot be compared to anyone in Country Music History.
We interviewed Patrick last summer when her album was just about to launch and we predicted then that this was just the beginning of the trail she would blaze in Country Music. Since, she has relocated to Nashville, and just recently completed another album which we anticipate will take this lovely nightingale to superstar status. She was recently asked to perform live with Keith Urban on Canada Day onstage at the Timmins, Ontario “Stars and Thunder” International Fireworks Competition & Music Festival for a duet of his hit single “We Were Us.” (see press release below our interview). We are not surprised in the least: Patrick is unique and incomparable and that is just what will make her remembered in the Country Music hall of fame history right up there with the likes of Shania Twain, Terri Clark, and Beverley Mahood.
Recently, we caught up with Patrick in a phone interview just prior to a show and here’s what she had to say:
SMC Exclusive Interview | Meghan Patrick | July 5th, 2017
SMC – Hi Meghan! Let’s get right into this – Congratulations first of all on your CMAOntario Awards!
Meghan – Thank you!
SMC – I’m looking at a photo of you with all of these (awards) and it looks like you have your hands full! (laughs) What was your reaction?
Meghan – It was pretty overwhelming. I just kept trying to remind myself to just live in the moment and enjoy it.
SMC – I saw your fourth of July post – have you moved to Nashville now?
Meghan – Yes, I’m living here full-time now.
SMC – Good for you!
Meghan – Yeah, it’s great. It’s the place to be for me.
SMC – And you brought your dog of course?
Meghan – Yes of Course! She’s my girl!
SMC – What do you have plans for in the next three to six months now that you are in Nashville?
Meghan – Well right now, my time is pretty occupied. I am really only here during the week because I have a lot of festivals going on. (see tour list below with press release) Most weekends I’m flying in to festivals. When I am here, I’m either sleeping or writing (laughs). I just got out of the studio with my new record so I’m finished recording. We’re working on mixes right now so I have some new music coming soon which I’m very excited about.
SMC – Yeah, that is exciting!
Meghan – Yeah! Other than that, I’m just going to keep writing and playing my festivals this summer.
SMC – Which festivals are you performing in this summer?
Meghan – I will be in Kingston next weekend playing with Rascal Flatts and Aaron Pritchett. There’s a bunch, I don’t know them all off the top of my head but they are on my website www.meghanpatrick.com if anyone wants to find out.
SMC – Wonderful. We will definitely check it out and post it with this interview. I know you have been to Nashville many times, but what is your experience actually living there now?
Meghan – I love that I’m surrounded by creative people, Musicians, just everything…..my life here revolves around music which I love.
SMC – True! Now, you mentioned new music…when can we expect that to be released?
Meghan – We haven’t set a released date as of yet, but I can say that we will have something out (whether it’s the album or a single) by the end of the year.
SMC – ‘Be Country With Me’ is absolutely stunning. I fell in love with it.
Meghan – Thank you so much!
SMC – I can really feel that you put a lot of heart into that song. It brings me to my roots here in Alberta and growing up in the country. What was the premise for it when writing the song?
Meghan – It was the idea of introducing someone who doesn’t really know much about the country or living out there. It’s like kind of introducing them with the thought of ‘This is where I’m from and this is why I love it and if you just give it a chance, you’re going to love it too.’ I think there’s a lot about being out in the country that’s very romantic, so it’s a very romantic song. It just feels good to sing it.
SMC – The video is astounding. Who can you credit to your team for the making of it?
Meghan – The Edde Brothers. We filmed that in Nashville – they produced and directed it. They were great – it was a really fun day.
SMC – Just touching briefly again on your new album – ‘Be Country With Me’ – can we expect a lot of the same kind of tone throughout the new music?
Meghan – Yes. I definitely think that sonically and musically speaking, a lot of the new stuff will be similar to that. You’re going to hear some new sounds and deeper into things…it’s not a huge departure from what I was doing on the first album. I just think I’ve grown a lot as a writer and an Artist. I’m excited to see what people think about it.
SMC – I can see that too. Even from the last time we interviewed which was about a year ago, I can see the evolvement. You’ve definitely gone a ‘step up’. What kind of feedback have you gotten from your peers in terms of that?
Meghan – It’s been great because the songs on the record that I had hoped the audience would love were the ones that the audience really took to. One of the best complements that I have gotten is that ‘there’s nobody out there that sounds like you right now. You’re doing something different and something unique’. That’s been really important to me because I’m always true to myself and to know that other people recognize what I’m doing – that’s great!
SMC – Someone had asked me the other day what you’re like and I said, ‘She’s our new Shania Twain!’
Meghan – I’ll take that! (laughs)
SMC – I am really proud to say that it’s nice to see something new in Nashville from Canada….we are all super proud of you here.
Meghan – Awe thank you, I appreciate that.
SMC – Do we have any duets coming up on the new album?
Meghan – Nothing like that on this album. It didn’t work out that way but I’m sure there will be in the future.
SMC – Speaking of duets…I received a photo of you from your management team of you with Keith Urban. What was that experience like for you (performing live with Keith)?
Meghan – It was amazing. He is a super inspiring and talented Artist. It was a great crowd, it was Canada Day, so…it was awesome!
SMC – So Keith was one of the Artists participating in the Canada 150 event?
Meghan – Yeah – I was the opening Artist with Johnny Reid and Keith Urban. I was asked prior to the event to do a duet with him.
SMC – So who has been the most memorable duet live performance for you?
Meghan – That would be it for me.
SMC – In terms of tour, are you looking at opening for others or headlining?
Meghan – Well, I’d love to be an opening act on some bigger tours but eventually I’d like to headline my own tour.
SMC – Well I honestly see you headlining fairly quickly…
Meghan – Well, thank you.
SMC – Are you looking at touring mainly in the states or will there be some dates up here in Canada too?
Meghan – I’m going to be doing a little bit of both. I’m actually just doing a show in Georgia tonight so I’ll have to get going for that but yes, there is a little bit of both.
SMC – Can you tell us a few things about yourself that no one else really knows?
Meghan – Well I am ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of girl…I can’t really think off the top of my head…I’m pretty open on what I’m about really….
SMC – Well thank you for your time girl, I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat!
Warner Music Canada Press Release | July 4th, 2017
July 4, 2017 – Warner Music Recording artist Meghan Patrick celebrated Canada Day by joining country superstar Keith Urban on stage at the Timmins “Stars and Thunder” International Fireworks Competition & Music Festivalfor a duet of his hit single “We Were Us.” Meghan was personally invited by Urban to perform Miranda Lambert’s part of the hit song. Earlier in the day, she warmed up the crowd with a string of her own hits. Fans who missed the performance can check out a video shot from the side of the stage (see below).
Of the opportunity to perform with Urban, Meghan Patrick says “It was one of those perfect moments. Keith was so kind and down to earth, and to be able sing such a great song with him in front of 25,000 people on Canada Day as the sun set was about as good as it gets!”
In addition to the big performance in Timmins, Meghan also performed to festival crowds in London and Dauphin this holiday weekend. She will spend the rest of the summer continuing her run of Canadian festival performances. Please see below for a full list of tour dates, or keep up with all things Meghan Patrick by following her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and YouTube.
MeghanPatrick Tour Dates
July 14, 2017
Country Thunder Music Festival
July 15, 2017
July 22, 2017
Hagersville Rocks Music Festival
August 11 2017
Little Current ON
Manitoulin Country Fest
August 19 2017
Havelock Country Jamboree
August 20 2017
August 24 2017
Lucknow Country Fest
Meghan Patrick Bio
Born and raised in Bowmanville, Ontario, Meghan Patrick has dedicated her entire life to music, wanting it to be more than just a passion. “I was drawn to playing guitar so I could start writing music to go along with the words I was writing. I wanted to be self-sufficient as a creative artist.” It wasn’t long until Meghan had mastered both electric and acoustic guitar as well as the banjo.
Prior to setting out as a solo artist, Meghan was the lead singer of the popular roots act The Stone Sparrows. A newgrass/bluegrass band, The Stone Sparrows released an EP and a full-length album before the members parted ways amicably in 2013 after playing their second Boots and Hearts Festival.
Meghan has quickly made a name for herself since signing to Warner Music Canada. She has recently signed a publishing deal with Olé Nashville. Her debut album, Grace and Grit is set to be on April 29th. To make this album, Meghan traveled to a number of studios in Canada and America, including the capital city of country music, Nashville. On the way, she worked with producers Justin Niebank (Vince Gill, LeAnn Rimes), Vince Gill, Chris Baseford (Nickelback, Avril Lavigne) and Carly McKillip. To add even more star power to her debut Meghan brought in a few more big names, including multiple Grammy nominee Joe Nichols who duets with her on “Still Loving You,” and fellow Canadian Chad Kroeger, who co-wrote and produced her forthcoming debut single “Bow Chicka Wow Wow” along with several other cuts on the album.
In addition to Kroeger, Grace and Grit features an impressive list of co-writers, which includes Rodney Clawson (CMA Songwriter of the Year, ACM Song of the Year and Grammy Nominated), Gord Bamford, Chantal Kreviazuk, Marty Dodson, Patricia Conroy, Bruce Wallace, Buddy Owen, Steve Smith, Anthony Anderson, Phil Barton, Phil O’Donnell and Andrew Allan. What’s more, superstar engineer Justin Niebank, who has mixed for the likes of Taylor Swift, Blake Shelton and Hunter Hayes has mixed the entire record.
The songs Meghan writes are about real-life situations and are both personal and autobiographical. They are story songs, but they are her stories which infuse the material with an authenticity and sincerity that is palpable.
“I have to feel connected to the music, especially when I am playing live. The emotions I write about are real and audiences know when you are being true to yourself. Performing my own music and forming a bond with my audience is what I do this for. And that’s the most enjoyable thing in the world.”
Just as I suspected, Country Music Rising Star, Edmonton based Dan Davidson has launched yet another gold single today with his newest single ‘Say We Did’. Let’s start with that video though…. once again Davidson manages to stretch the traditional ‘country music video’ boundaries by going completely left field with this latest production. The cast and crew assembled in blistering 31-degree Celsius heat among the Hoodoos of Drumheller, Alberta fully prepared to melt their faces off (literally) for the sake of running around in polyester costumes, playing instruments and living out their love for Star Trek. This might seem like a wild choice for a Canadian Country Musician considering most have videos filmed in wheat field/tractor variety, but I assure you, this isn’t a wild choice for Dan Davidson whose wicked sense of humor and personality shines through here. In fact, the last several videos have seen Davidson in a moose costume performing live with his furry friend creatures or walking the streets of Tokyo in an all-white Cowboy ensemble unabashedly playing his guitar for an unsuspecting crowd of Asian onlookers. There isn’t anything like this on the planet and fans have come to expect this originality as a Dan Davidson trademark and staple and it’s a wild ride. For this alone, I feel the man is genius.
We have had several Spotlight features with Davidson going back to June 2015 where his very well-received debut single as a Country Music Artist was ‘Unkiss Her’. This was followed by ‘Found’ in March 2016, and ‘Barn Burner’ in October 2016. Although the single releases have been spread out, all the traction and attention they have received on radio and press, (including radio tours and live performances) there really hasn’t been a slack moment for this up and coming Country Music Legend.
In addition to his own thriving music career, Davidson is responsible for shaping the music careers of many well-known Artists in the Edmonton community via HandsUp Music along with his partner in crime Mr. Ari Rhodes. I have personally seen Davidson behind-the-scenes at many live performances for his Artists such as Bryan Finlay and Lexi Strate making sure that their equipment is running smoothly for their shows or even helping to orchestrate video shoots for them. He is a mecca of knowledge within the music community in Edmonton and has even written several successful grants for many Musicians in order to complete many of their own video projects. The man wears many hats and for those who don’t know and are just discovering him for the first time today, Davidson has also fronted the Canadian Rock Band Tupelo Honey for several years prior to his recent success in his solo project. You will want to check that out too!
With the new single ‘Say We Did’ out today, I am confident that this is going to be yet another well-received, unique feel-good hit we have come to know from this Artist. Klingons and Borgs in polyester suits aside, this truly iconic, fun, ‘Dan Davidson’ sound in its instrumental composition and lyrical strength. When we look at his work with Tupelo Honey, this song has shades of that ‘Halo’ grandiosity with a Country Music twist and I am very happy to hear it. This translates to a truly original sound that cannot be emulated: legendary. While Davidson is presently sowing the seeds in the music industry with hit after hit, he is simultaneously leading up to a full-length album (fall, 2017) which we are confident will blow the lid off this combustible musical force making Dan Davidson a global household name.
Be ready world, the Dan Davidson storm is coming!
SMC SPOTLIGHT Exclusive Interview | Dan Davidson | July 2017
SMC – Dan! We are thrilled to have you on our SMC SPOTLIGHT again! We have been following your career since June of 2015 when our contributor Randy Wayne Belt interviewed you for our platform. Since, we have had you featured three times in our Spotlight Numbered Series. What are your thoughts on us chronicling your career journey as Dan Davidson?
Dan – I really appreciate all the support! Its nice to have you guys on board from the start 🙂 Hopefully I can keep giving you something to talk about!
SMC – We have always been tapped into your new releases and with the release of ‘Say We Did’ today, can you tell us what you are most excited about with this release?
Dan – Well this song is something that was really strategically complicated from a creative standpoint. I wanted to give radio something familiar (the upbeat front porch sound of Found and Barn Burner) yet something new and different to show I’m not just a one trick pony. I’m really confident that my producer and I nailed it on this one. I’m happy to get material out that really sounds like me. I feel that most of my songs aren’t just tunes that could be interchangeable with other artists, its something I’m proud of.
SMC – All week prior to the video launch of the single, we saw some pretty wicked sneak peeks of a Start Trek clad cast and crew…. can you tell us how the idea for this video came about?
Dan – Its just another worst “best idea ever”! Travis (the director), Russ (the assistant director) and I had some really crazy concepts planned for this. More travel related videos but thought, again, we should switch it up. Be spontaneous and unpredictable. We all love Star Trek and somehow got on the topic of buying costumes as a joke. Then it all kind of clicked in for us – we needed to do a spoof in the most DIY possible.
SMC – It was all shot in your garage and your wife couldn’t park in it for a week…. did she at least get flowers or a nice dinner out? (laughs) All kidding aside, your videos have become quite personal and homegrown… can you tell us why you have continued this trend?
Dan – Haha well, she gets a cameo in the video and hopefully her sacrifice helps to bring about a successful single and some sales money haha! Yea I think there are FAR too many riverbanks, dirt roads, wheat fields, and bars in country video. Videos are a real chance for me to communicate my personality and set my self apart. I’m definitely not one to fear straying from the norm. I think it’s a major strength of mine. I have the indie freedom to really do whatever I want – so I’m going to ride that out!
SMC – All your music videos are pretty epic to be honest. Epic and quite funny! Is this the signature ‘Dan Davidson’ style we can come to expect in future videos?
Dan – 100% I love it! Its fun for me. Its also great to hang out with all my creative friends and make some memories as professional grown up children.
SMC – Who is the creative team behind the video?
Dan – The video and concept was written by Travis Nesbitt, Russ Dawson, and myself. It was all shot by Trav and Russ as well.
SMC – The song itself is a genuinely pretty song with that classic upbeat sound we have come to know. Is this another co-write with Clayton Bellamy?
Dan – Nope, this one was co-written by Dave Thompson (remember Wave in the 90s? Yea him. We call him Dwave), and also with Travis Wood (Tim Hicks, James Barker Band)
SMC – What would you say is your unique Dan Davidson ‘signature’?
Dan – I’d say just honest music, with a little personality, and an indie DIY touch.
SMC – When you are about to embark on writing and production of a new single, what is your process?
Dan – Well for this one, I headed down to Nashville to write for a week. Landed a pretty good tune with a co-write, then looked at a list of about 30 songs with my publisher, radio team, and producer and narrowed it down. From there, I sent the demo to my producer and we began to fumble with the keys and tempos. Then we starting working on the arrangement. From there I began tracking a guide vocal. After that we started getting all the instruments in place, then I recorded my final vocals from my studio in Edmonton and sent them to my producer Jeff in Toronto.
SMC – I read recently that your previous single ‘Found’ is only 1000 streams away from being a Canadian Gold single! We are thrilled to see this happening for you! Can you tell us which song has been receiving the most attention so far (aside from ‘Say We Did’ today)?
Dan – Not 1000 streams, but 1000-unit single sales (150 streams = 1 sale). So a combination of streaming and sales equaling 1000. Yea its pretty crazy – basically unheard of for an indie artist to land a gold record. Its definitely a career milestone for me! Well Found definitely was the song that broke through. Other than that, Barn Burner is really the only song out! (Which also was top 20 and a major success for me!)
SMC – When we look at having a successful ‘summer release’ when, in your opinion, is the perfect time to launch a new single, EP, or full-length album?
Dan – There is never a good time in Canada anymore – but that doesn’t stop me. Found went out during ratings and Barn Burner went out before Christmas…both terrible times to go. Right now we are competing against more great CanCon than I’ve ever seen. Space is limited but I think we will see some great support out there J
SMC – What has been your best social media strategy so far?
Dan – Make great content, and keep giving people something to talk about.
SMC – Which social media platform is your favorite to interact with your fans on?
Dan – Instagram.
SMC – Do you always launch a video at the same time the single is released to all major music platforms?
Dan – Not really, Found and Barn Burner came out a few months after the song was out. This time we are trying to use the video to leverage attention for the single so we decided to go at the same time.
SMC – Can you share with us what the outcome was for the ‘Dan Davidson’ guitar contest and what it was all about….
Dan – It was a contest to help spread the word about MusiCounts (an organization that helps to bring music and music education to kids across Canada that couldn’t always afford it). I talked to people and radio stations all across the country and raised some great awareness for the cause! A kid from Stony Plain AB won the guitar last week.
SMC – You have recently won Country Recording of the Year for your single ‘Found’ at the Edmonton Music Awards last week! Congrats! With the Canadian Country Music Awards around the corner, do know yet if you have been nominated?
Dan – I’m still in the running in the 2nd ballot, we find out if I’m a nominee in any category on July 12th I believe!
SMC – I read somewhere that 2017 will be the year of ‘Dan Davidson’ – what are your thoughts on claims like that? (see: Canadian Beats year in review (here)
Dan – Well I sure hope so! I try my best to keep my head down and keep doing what I’m doing without worrying about what everyone else is up to. I think that’s the best strategy for success!
SMC – Speaking of Awards ceremonies and the awards themselves, what are your thoughts on the decisions of the Country Music Association in terms of who wins, etc.? Do you think there is a trend among different awards ceremonies as in: of one gets chosen for one category in one award ceremony, they are likely to get chosen for the others in the same category for other ceremonies in the same year?
Dan – Hmm id never really put any thought into it. I think the CCMA has a great reputation as an organization that really focus’ on credibility and accountability. Hard to find a better award organization that that. The good thing is nominees are essentially selected by their peers – so If I was picked for multiple categories I would just consider it a major honor.
SMC- Do you think that Country Music today is evolving to a new sound or do you think there will be a resurgence of a classic country sound?
Dan – I think the country scene makes room for every kind of country artist. There are trends that will come and go, but for the most part the awareness of country music and the breadth of the fan base is bigger and better than ever. I just hope that continues.
SMC – I know that I have asked you before why you chose a career in Country Music – now that you have progressed further into your career, can you tell me what your feelings are on making this career decision today?
Dan – Never once looked back. It was the best musical decision I’ve made in my 13-year career so far.
SMC – Again, I would like to talk a moment about your band Tupelo Honey – I saw that the Edmonton Oilers have supported your single ‘Can’t Stop’ – LOVE the tune! Is there anything coming down the pipe new music-wise for the band? SMC- How have your Tupelo Honey band members been supportive of your solo career?
Dan – Nothing new coming down the pipe. We have a bunch of B sides recorded that maybe well release to fans one day – but no plans just yet! The guys have been amazing. That’s the thing about making music with your best buds, there is nothing but support. 2 of the guys (Greg on drums, and Tyler on guitar) that are playing with me now. My show has evolved in such a positive way because of their contributions.
We were all so surprised and pumped up to see that we were the pump up music for the playoffs! All of our phones were exploding with texts.
SMC – I have seen so many Artists keeping consistent with their music and social media yet some never seem to make it to radio or get the support they deserve at the best of times. What do you feel is the disconnect on issues like this?
Dan – Radio is a tricky animal. There are tonnes of cool artists that don’t get radio play – sometimes its about the style, sometimes its about the song (often cool music isn’t ‘hit’ music), sometimes its about politics and team. Radio can’t play everyone, its very competitive. I don’t really have the answer to tell you the truth, I’ve found something that works for me after doing this for well over a decade but there is no real “right way”.
SMC – Where have you felt you have made the best career decision so far in your solo career?
Dan – Just doing what I do, having fun, making music with people I love and trust.
SMC – Indeed you have also been involved in the careers of so many up and coming and currently popular Artists in the Edmonton area – have you been still able to maintain grant writing and production work via Hands Up Music/Studio?
Dan – I basically hate grant writing, so I only do it for me and a few other artists I’m involved in BUT I still work tirelessly with Hands Up! Music. Ari and I have produced a tonne of great records this year (Ill have to tell ya about a few!). Hands Up! Is going strong and growing rapidly!
SMC – Which of your current Artists would you recommend for an SMC Spotlight next?
Dan – Lexi Strate is always amazing. She’s the real deal, such a cool sound. As for other production gigs – my fav EP we’ve produced lately is The Sissy Fits – its like a gritty Spice Girls meets punk rock.
SMC – We have seen you do sooooo much hard work behind the scenes for other Artists…. where do you find the energy for it?! (laughs)
Dan – I don’t know! I guess I just like to be busy and help people connect the dots that I was able to connect. Passing that karma down the line!
SMC – In terms of your Music Peers, who has been the most supportive of your career strides (aside from your management team)?
Dan – Jeff Dalziel my producer has been with me for 13 years and has produced essentially every professional recording attached to my name. We do whatever we can to continually help and support each other’s businesses. Also Bill Miller who I talk about often. Bill goes the extra mile, well beyond radio promotion. He’s a great sounding board and work horse. My publishers Red Brick Songs are so fully invested in this with me as well. The outpouring of support from my industry friends is paramount to my success.
SMC – Which radio stations have been quick to promote and support your new music?
Dan – Country 93.3 in Fort Mac, JRFM in Vancouver, KX96 in Oshawa, Real Country 95.5 in Red Deer, Country 94 in St. John, and CFCW have been great for early support!
SMC – What are your thoughts on other music platforms (for promotional purposes) like Spotify and Pandora as opposed to traditional radio playlists and shows?
Dan – It’s amazing. Its listener driven, no advertising. Its about organic trends and tastes. To me its not one or the other though. Artists should strive for both if their music fits.
SMC – I have enjoyed seeing your vlogs! They are pretty entertaining (laughs) – where can your fans find them posted and can they subscribe to them?
SMC – Will you be performing at Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose, Alberta again this year?
Dan – No, I wish! I played 2 years in a row. They need a break! Haha
SMC – What is your favorite live performance so far as Dan Davidson?
Dan – London Music Hall W/ Chase Rice earlier this year. It was like an ACDC video. There were people hanging off everything and everyone was screaming the words!
SMC – Are we going to see a full-length album soon?
Dan – I’d say shortly after CCMAs in September we can expect a release!
SMC – Alright – last question: (I don’t think I have ever asked you this on before either)
Can you tell us one thing about yourself as a Musician that you feel sets you apart from your music peers?
Dan – That’s a tough one. My peers are pretty diverse! I’m not sure if I have a good answer. I’m hoping that fans don’t have the answer either. I don’t want what I do to be a gimmick – I’m hoping there is a music brand and a certain something that no one can quick put their finger on that sets me apart. I think that’s how you know its real.
Thanks Dan! It’s always wonderful when we can connect! Keep up with the awesome!