In late summer, while doing my research one of our SMC Spotlight Artists progress through the music festival summer circuit, a video of Frankenmuth, Michigan-born and based powerhouse Rock band Greta Van Fleet caught my eye. It wasn’t just the fact that the bands stage moves were the only enthralling thing to watch, it was that they were clearly enjoying every second of their live performance before thousands of fans. I have seen many live performances and for me, a live performance should be super-charged, engaging, and compelling. This can only be accomplished when you visually see the artists so engrossed in having a great time, they forget they actually are in front of thousands of eyes watching, singing, and fist-pumping to every one of their songs. With Greta Van Fleet, that’s exactly what you can expect.
In researching the bands discography, I was blown away with how ‘on-point’ they were with absolutely every song that I listened to with everything from production quality to instrumentation, strong lyrics, and heart-pounding vocals. There wasn’t one song on their new double EP ‘From The Fires’ (released November 10th, 2017) where I was left feeling iffy, and I think after listening to it in its entirety, I had to pick my jaw up off the ground. For a band so new to the music scene to release a double EP of this quality and magnitude where they hit the mark in every aspect I mention previously, it can only result on one thing: fast-track to fame. This is exactly where the band is headed too – they have been given a serious nod from Rolling Stone Magazine touted as one of ‘ten new artists you need to know’ and have back to back tour dates and interviews that began snowballing faster and faster from this past summer well into 2018. We were very fortunate to have been able to secure this interview with the band and are proud to add them to our Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) music family and Spotlight roster of greats!
If I had to sum up Greta Van Fleet it would go something like this: You will play their album once, and then once more, and once more after that. In fact, you may even play it for a whole day on repeat just to completely take in its euphoric, acid-trip, dreamy excellence. If you are a child from the 1970’s (like I am), then you will be brought back to a very special era where music was making massive changes in both style and composition. This band is taking that era, adding their own flair and dynamic and owning it. Greta Van Fleet is the cure for anyone wanting to sink themselves into a two-hour bliss. ‘From The Fires’, get it, listen on repeat (as I did), and get lost in its beauty.
You can hear the band on my radio show #Viral with Candice Anne Marshall on Limehead Radio in the UK, and they have been in heavy rotation on the radio station since!
*See the press release for ‘From The Fires’ at the end of this interview*
About Greta Van Fleet
Greta Van Fleet is four young musicians, brothers Josh (vocals), Jake (guitar) and Sam (bass/keys) Kiszka, and best friend Danny Wagner (drums). Josh and Jake have just turned 21, Danny and Sam are 18. They’re all from the tiny Michigan hamlet of Frankenmuth known for its family-style chicken dinners and the world’s largest Christmas store. All four were raised on their parents’ extensive vinyl collections (shared influences are Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins, The Who, Jimi Hendrix), and were encouraged to be creative, daring and innovative. Each band member has killer musical chops and Josh has a voice that is simply jaw-dropping. The band is making some of the most exciting, high-energy, sweaty, sexy rock’n’roll heard in a long time, and are bound and determined to bring real rock’n’roll back to the mainstream.
With their debut single “Highway Tune” spending five weeks as the #1 track at Mainstream Rock radio, more than 5.7-million YouTube views for the companion music video, 8.8 million Spotify plays, their first-ever tour of the U.S. completely sold out, and spectacular praise from the media, Greta Van Fleet is – in just a few months – as hot a developing band as one can be.
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Greta Van Fleet
SMC – Hello gentlemen! We are thrilled to have you featured on our Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Spotlight! I first discovered you when I happened to be checking up on our SMC Spotlight Artists’ Palaye Royale. I believe you played the same music festival. I saw some photos of you all and I quite liked your ‘look’. Then, upon researching some more, had a listen to your music. I became an instant fan! What has been the reaction from most people who hear you for the first time?
Sam: It’s been overwhelmingly positive which has been a truly humbling experience. I think the type of music we’re creating is recognizably different than most sounds in the current musical climate of the rock genre.
SMC – What has been the media feedback so far on the new music?
Sam: We haven’t heard anything too bad about it yet (laughs). Most of the feedback has been positive and we’re glad that everyone’s in enjoying the music we’ve put out there.
SMC – You new album ‘From The Fires’ literally just launched. What song is your personal favorite on it and why?
Sam: My personal favorite is ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’. The song is so well written that it would be difficult to mess up. It has as much pertinence today as it did almost 60 years ago. It also harkens to the roots of the music that inspired us to start making some of our own.
SMC – I will include my review with this interview for ‘From The Fires’ – what I would like to ask is what the songwriting process is like for you? What instrument do you create your songs with?
Sam: There is no real song writing template. A song can spark from anything between a guitar riff and a simple melody. Whenever we bring something to the table we like to have it in as primitive a form as possible so we can all shape the attitude of the song.
SMC – I know that three of you are brothers – which is really cool! How long have you been this creative together musically?
Jake: Josh and I, early in life, were performing as a duo for our family. We would always sing in the car together, as far back as my memory will lend me. We’ve all grown up in the same household and shared the same influences, we were listening to the same music and on the same musical page. As we got older, we’d split off to find out own voices as musicians and that is where the alternative influences made our way into our music. Once Sam learned to play the bass around age 13, we finally found all three of us performing together.
SMC – Your music video for ‘Highway Tune’ (see below) is gritty and very theatrical. Who is the creative team behind this video?
Sam: Thank you. The team behind the music video for ‘Highway Tune‘ is a company based in Nashville called FoCo Creative. We wanted the first video to be relatively simple with the appropriate amount of attitude. I think they got the job done.
SMC – What is your signature move on stage – better yet, what makes you all mesh together well when performing live?
Sam: I like to feel the bass vibrating through the stage, so that’s the reason behind not wearing any shoes. The one time I’ve worn shoes on stage in the recent past, I fell. I slipped on stage and landed on the end on my butt. All the photographers started taking pictures of me so I played it off as part of the show.
SMC – What has been the best live performance experience you have had to date and why?
Sam: The best live performance experience has been opening for Bob Seger. Growing up in Michigan, if we were ever listening to the radio we were listening to classic rock radio. And on Michigan stations, Bob Seger is played every other song. So, having the opportunity to open for Seger, someone that we listened to, probably before we were even born, was surreal.
SMC – In terms of summer festivals this year, which on was most memorable and why?
Jake: Not so much performance wise, but in shock factor value, Shinedown at NCF (National Cherry festival) in Traverse City was the most memorable summer festival. We were shocked at the sheer volume of people in attendance. Not only the volume but the amount of people singing along to our songs. It was sort of memorizing to see people participate like that.
SMC – What radio stations have been spinning your new album – who would you like to give a ‘shout out’ to?
SMC – Which media platforms have you been featured on to date? Also, have there been any sites or magazines that stand out for you as one of your favorite reviews of your music?
Jake: The Rolling Stone feature was incredible. To have a magazine of that caliber praise our music was just tremendous.
SMC – Where are you most popular internationally?
Jake: We’ve been receiving a lot of attention from Canada, the United Kingdom, and Poland. Playing in the UK was extraordinary because we had the opportunity to see how our music has transcended continents. We’re looking forward to being able to play in countries all over the world.
SMC – What is the general age range of your fanbase?
Jake: As far as we’ve seen, there is always a large variation in age group. We like to say 8 to 80, people of all ages and backgrounds. For the older portion of the group, it’s something familiar and similar they’ve heard before. In regard to the younger people in attendance, it’s a brand new sound.
SMC – What social media platform are you most active on and why?
Jake: Probably Instagram. We feel like it’s the easiest platform to reach our fans and communicate with them. We love the simplicity of sharing photos and videos with our fans.
SMC – I saw that next year you are heading to Europe for tour. Is it a headline tour?
Jake: Yes, the European tour will be a headlining tour. We’re definitely looking forward to playing in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, and back to the UK.
SMC – I also saw that you have been touring already throughout the USA as well and will be right up until just before Christmas. Which city is your favorite to perform in and why?
Jake: It’s so hard to choose your favorite city. There have been so many incredible places and the fans have been phenomenal in every venue. There are a lot of elements that go into each show…location, fans, experiences in the city. It’s like picking your favorite song of all time.
SMC – Will there be any Canadian tours planned? We would love to see you boys perform live!
Jake: Yes, we’re looking forward to the dates in next years schedule. We’ve been wanting to go to Canada and are aware there’s a large demand for our music and there is a large fanbase. We’re looking forward to being able to play for you some time next year.
SMC – I noticed on your Facebook page last week (November 15th, 2017) that you posted about ‘Leading off the Breaking Rock playlist on Apple Music’. What a rush! You are a fairly young band to accomplish something like this – have you always had the confidence that you ‘could bring it’ as far as your success goes?
Jake: We didn’t really anticipate the amount of attention we’re received but it’s truly been a humbling experience.
SMC – Our readers have been excited for this interview to launch – some have been bugging us DAILY to see when it will launch actually. What has the demands for interviews been like for the band? Is your schedule packed?
Jake: That’s awesome! Well, we have been receiving quite a few interview requests. We’re honored to have the privilege to play music as a career, so having the opportunity to talk about what we love is a pleasure!
Jake: We’d just gotten back from the last leg of a run and were home. In hearing the news, we were all very shocked and grateful. It’s an overwhelming feeling to see something like that. If that’s any ode to how they feel about us in Canada, then we’re on our way!
SMC – What is the one thing that you feel music is missing today and needs resurrecting in terms of production, sound, or even branding?
Jake: The element of soul and human nature is what’s missing from today’s music. Emotion and truthfulness is what music is supposed to communicate. Although there are a lot of groups out there that are accomplishing this, they’re not as well known as they probably should be.
SMC – What would you say your signature fashion ‘style’ is – which trends do you all naturally gravitate toward?
Jake: We don’t particularly follow any fashion trends. Most of our clothes have come from thrift stores or vintage shops. I’d say our style is just wearing what we like.
SMC – Are there any charities or organizations that are close to your heart which you support?
Jake: We haven’t specifically chosen any charities or organizations to donate to yet but we definitely plan to.
SMC – Which instruments are you all proficient in besides the ones you currently play?
Jake: We all dabble in each other’s instruments, but things people would guess like mandolin, ukulele, banjo, harp, autoharp, sax, French horn, flute, trumpet, clarinet. Actually, that’s more instruments than we thought!
SMC – What is a cool tid-bit of music history behind the band that not many people know about?
Sam: Not many people know we come from a musical family. Our grandfather is actually in the Polka Music Hall of Fame and our father is in two bands.
SMC – Okay, final question: are there any projects that any of you are involved in currently besides music? If so, what are they?
Jake: Josh is really interested in film making. He’s written, directed, filmed and produced quite a few movies of his own. Other than that, we’re mostly dedicated to playing music. It’s where our hearts truly lie.
SMC – Thank-you Gentlemen!
Greta Van Fleet Bio
Jake Kiszka – guitars Josh Kiszka – vocals Sam Kiszka – bass/keyboards Danny Wagner – drums
Frankenmuth, Michigan – Michigan’s “Little Bavaria” – is known for its scenic farmland. Crispy chicken dinners. The State’s best indoor water parks. Picturesque wine and chocolate boat cruises. The world’s largest Christmas store.
These days it’s also home to one of the most exciting rock ‘n’ roll acts to come from the heartland, or anywhere, in many a year.
Greta Van Fleet – which took its name from one of the close-knit community’s town elders – is a hard-rocking quartet whose creative ambitions and achievements reach far beyond the ages of the four band members, not all of them old enough to have voted in last November’s election. On its debut EP Black Smoke Rising, the group deftly straddles the line between timeless and future, sounding at once like many things you’ve heard before and also something you’ve never heard before. The three brothers – twins Josh (vocals) and Jake (guitar) Kiszka, younger brother Sam Kiszka (bass, keyboards) and drummer Danny Wagner – have turned their rich and varied musical background into an arresting mélange of rock ‘n’ roll with flavors of metal, pop, blues and grunge, the result of years of practice, study and familial good times.
“When we were not even born yet my father played us blues music and R&B, soul music – all the good stuff,” says Sam. Dad Kiszka was a musician himself, playing guitar and harmonica. “Our parents had a lot of vinyl laying around,” recalls Josh, so we grew up listening to that and really liked playing with the vinyl albums – putting them on the turntable and speeding them up and slowing them down. But, yeah, I really liked the blues and the soul and the funk – Wilson Pickett is the big one, and Joe Cocker, those kinds of things.”
The Kiszka kids furthered their music education during winter ski trips to Michigan’s Yankee Springs, where a plethora of family and friends would gather with instruments. Someone was playing something nearly every minute of the day, and Josh, Jake and Sam soaked it up with relish. “Every year was better than Christmas,” Josh recalls. “In the evenings or during the day, there was always music being made there, everybody getting together and experimenting with sounds, having lots of fun, making music.” For Jake, meanwhile, it was “really awe-inspiring when you see this completely surrealistic environment, to see all these people from all over the place come together, and what brought them together was music. That was mind-blowing.”
It was Jake who turned that inspiration into Greta Van Fleet, drawing the idea from the likes of Cream, the Yardbirds, The Who and other 60s British Invasion favorites. “We liked to see how the English bands had reinterpreted the blues, and we wanted to interpret it again – Y’know, wouldn’t it be interesting if an American band came right back and reinterpreted the reinterpretation that the English did?” the guitarist explains. “I thought there was something there that needed to be created.”
Jake gradually assembled his brothers into a band. Sam was caught up when Jake began jamming at the family home with a drummer friend from school. “It dawned on me that I needed to play bass for them,” Sam says. “Plus,” he joked, “my mom always said I looked like a bass player.” Josh, meanwhile, was studying theater, film and painting at school, with acting giving him an ease on stage, as well as a voice, that made him a no-brainer to be Greta Van Fleet’s frontman. “It wasn’t something I set out to particularly do. But it felt pretty natural,” he says now.
Danny Wagner, a friend of Sam’s since kindergarten, became the last piece of the Greta Van Fleet puzzle, joining a year after the group started, after being a regular at the Kiszka house for jams and rehearsals. “We all have similar taste in music and that helps a lot,” Wagner notes. “But at the same time, we have these little differences in what we like, and when it comes together it produces this sound. It’s got that classic kind of vibe, but it has a lot of soul, a lot of energy, and that’s a huge part of it.”
You won’t find a better description of the four songs on Greta Van Fleet’s EP, recorded at Rust Belt Studios in suburban Detroit with producers Al Sutton (Kid Rock, Hank Williams Jr.) and Marlon Young from Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker Band. The introduction runs a gamut from the dusty grind of “Highway Tune” to the sinewy punch of “Safari Song” and the muscular crunch of “Black Smoke Rising.” “Flower Power,” meanwhile, is a trippy sonic tapestry that weaves psychedelic and folk textures into the mix. “No limits, no barriers, no boundaries,” Jake declares. “It was like that when we were growing up, and it’s like that when we’re making our own music.”
Listen closely and you’ll also hear the flavor of a small, tight-knit community seeping into the group’s songs. “I think it has a huge presence in the music,” Josh says. “It’s this romantic, simple, Americana kind of thing, like Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn growing up outside of town in the country.”
The good news is there’s more where these four songs came from. The group has been in the studio for about two years now, with nearly 20 tracks down and more coming every day. “We’ve been writing since Josh and I were 16 and Sam and Danny were 13,” Jake says. “We have so many songs we’re working on it’s ridiculous. We’re just trying to develop and get better. That’s very important to us.” So is playing live, where Greta Van Fleet has been slaying audiences with an electrifying show that sounds more like a band that’s been around for decades rather than just a few years. The group can’t wait to take it around the country, and around the world in support of the EP, showing off the big sound this band from a little town can make whenever it hits the stage.
“It’s really happened so quickly. It’s definitely overwhelming and exciting – and it’s awesome,” says Wagner. “All these things are happening – the record deal, management, William Morris (booking agency). It’s slowly starting to build up, and we’re starting to get that fever. We’re itching to show everybody who we are and what we can do.”
‘From The Fires’ Official Press Release
LOS ANGELES, CA — Friday, November 10, 2017 — Credited as the breakout rock band of 2017, today Greta Van Fleet – Josh Kiszka/vocals, Jake Kiszka/guitars, Sam Kiszka/bass & keys, Danny Wagner/drums – celebrates the release of its double EP From The Fires (Lava/Republic Records), available digitally and as a physical disc. For a taste, check out the brand new “A Change Is Gonna Come” here. Use this link to access the entire release via outlets like iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, more.
The eight-track From The Fires combines four new tracks recorded in September at Rust Belt Studios in Detroit – two GVF original songs, “Talk on the Street” and “Edge of Darkness,” and two covers, Sam Cooke’s emotional “A Change Is Gonna Come” and “Meet On The Ledge” by the late 60’s folk rock band Fairport Convention – with the four songs from the band’s debut EP, Black Smoke Rising, released earlier this year. From The Fires was produced by the same duo that helmed Black Smoke Rising, Al Sutton and Marlon Young. As Greta Van Fleet vocalist Josh Kiszka said, “These eight songs belong together as they share a theme of basic humanity.”
The From The Fires track listing is as follows:
1. Safari Song
2. Edge of Darkness
3. Flower Power
4. A Change Is Gonna Come
5. Highway Tune
6. Meet On The Ledge
7. Talk On the Street
8. Black Smoke Rising
The four new recordings shine a light on some of the band members’ earliest musical influences, the blues, soul and funk of artists like Muddy Waters, Joe Cocker, Sam & Dave, Howlin’ Wolf and Wilson Pickett. As Screamer magazine said in its From The Fires review, “These new tunes show how much Greta Van Fleet is really capable of and how deep the talent runs.”
According to Josh, “Edge of Darkness” is about “the bravery behind the compassion that we feel for each other. One of the lyrics is ‘I’ve got love in my heart,’ and I think, as a global community, it’s a spiritual thing to share all that we have together. Giving love is giving power.”
Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” is one that has special meaning for the band. When Josh and twin brother/guitarist Jake first heard it, they thought it was a song they’d like to cover, but never did. Fast forward a few years and ironically, co-producer Marlon Young suggested they cover it for this release. “All of us are very affected by oppression of any type,” said Josh, “cultural, racial, sexual. I’ve never experienced what Sam Cooke did so I have to admit, it was a little difficult for me, getting behind the mic, but I did it because singing this song meant a lot to me.” As Icon vs Icon wrote about this track, “This is where the group truly shows they are like no other. This isn’t simply a rock song, or even blues, it’s a gospel ballad that will move even the toughest soul.”
Josh has always connected with folk songs, with their beautiful melodies and harmonies and is a big fan of late ‘60s folk-rock groups like Spyro Gyra, Pentangle and Fairport Convention. “Meet On The Ledge” was composed by Fairport Convention’s Richard Thompson. “I was on a train going to New York,” he recalls, “and on the way, I listened to an entire decade of Fairport Convention’s music. ‘Meet On The Ledge’ was the fourth or fifth track I heard and it caught me by surprise. I was absolutely entranced, the verse and chorus blew my mind.”
About “Talk On The Street,” Josh describes it as “a fun song, full of catchy riffs and dynamic drums, kind of an ambiguous wild ride, a real rock’n’roll song.”
Greta Van Fleet Social Media Links (click to view)
I first heard of Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canadian born and based band ‘Soap Box Duo’ earlier this fall. I happened to be looking at all the bands who had graced the summer music festivals when I stumbled across an interesting post with the hashtag #soapboxforhaiti. Immediately I was intrigued and connected with the band (no, I really don’t waste any time – Reporter brain over here…). I began my research and immediately fell in love with the bands music. What struck me even more was their reasons for diving into a humanitarian effort by bringing global awareness of how people can help by working alongside impoverished people through a 20-minute film documentary created from their trip to Haiti in October 2017.
I admittedly have a soft spot for individuals who utilize their creativity, status, and talent with the purpose of helping others, and with this being my first introduction to the Soap Box Duo, I am proud to welcome them into the Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Family. Tomorrow, the band will be hosting their FIRST self-produced benefit concert at the Horizon Stage in Spruce Grove, Alberta where they will air the documentary video followed by a live performance. I encourage anyone in the community to get to this show! Any remaining tickets can be purchased (here)
Aside from their humanitarian efforts, the bands’ music is a delightful blend of Alternative/Folk that hits you right away – it’s the ‘feel-good’ music that everyone should have on their playlists that are perfect for that mid-day pick-me-up we all experience throughout the work week. They also have created brilliant original works with songs like ‘Walls‘ (video below) which bring awareness to childhood sexual abuse along with their support for organizations like ‘Little Warriors‘. The band consists of Alexander and Jenesa MacMullin whose music influences include The Civil Wars, John Mayer, Aretha Franklin, and many others. Since the bands’ inception in 2015, they have been nominated for many prestigious awards, launched their first EP, and have had several television appearances. I am not surprised because this isn’t only a band with a highly contagious sound, they are path-pavers whose honest compassion for humanity set them apart from the rest. You can read the bands’ bio at the end of our interview as well as tap into their social media links. I look forward to following this dynamic duos’ journey and in supporting them going forward through our SMC Spotlight Numbered Series. Welcome to the SMC Family!
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Soap Box Duo
SMC – Hello Soap Box Duo! We are very excited to have you on our exclusive SMC Spotlight platform! Can you tell us how you heard about SMC?
SBD – We saw SMC feature some of our friends from the Edmonton music scene on Facebook.
SMC – Let’s delve into your background and roots in music – can you tell us what inspired your music careers?
Alexander- Honestly I owe my music career to Guitar Hero. I got so good at that game I thought that the next step to make it more challenging would be to learn real guitar. Then when I was 16 years old I started learning songs from artists like John Mayer, Bon Iver and Ray LaMontagne who were my biggest influences at the time. After performing my first original songs for friends and family I was shocked by their positive response. They really felt that I had a gift and I was inspired to grow as a musician so that I could pursue music as a career.
Jenesa- My parents always tell me that I sang before I could properly speak; it’s been a part of who I am since infancy. Then as early as age 7, I wrote my first song. I was put into dance, theatre and music lessons and was a huge pop music fan. I was that sappy kid who loved NSYNC and Destiny’s Child. To be honest, I still listen to Destiny’s Child. My focus on pursuing music as a career came in my teen years when I realized I could make money as a songwriter and performer and could hold a position of influence through my music.
SMC – Tell us more about yourselves for our new readers. We will get to your project later in this interview, but for now, let us know about you!
SBD – We are vintage-pop artists that go by the name Soap Box Duo. We chose that name because we want our music to be a platform for issues we want to address in the world. Our main focus is the prevention of childhood sexual abuse. In the early-mid 1900s if you wanted to rally people for a cause, you would stand on a soapbox and gather a crowd for your purpose. Now-a-days we have social media as a ‘soap box’ so we use that to connect with other passionate people.
We both met while studying music at MacEwan University. What brought us together was our shared passion for music, justice and God. We both had similar dreams of a career in music where we could support a family and live a life of purpose.
SMC – What instruments are you both proficient in?
Alexander studied guitar as his primary instrument while attending music school. He also sings, plays drums, bass, basic piano and recently started learning the cello.
Jenesa studied vocals as her primary instrument while attending music school. She also plays guitar, a little bit of piano and percussion.
SMC – You are both fairly new to the music scene as ‘Soap Box Duo’ – can you tell us what the reception/support in the local community has been like?
SBD – We have been blessed by the support of family, friends and the local community. When we started Soap Box Duo full-time in January 2015 we had no recorded music yet and needed to earn credibility in the music scene. It was so encouraging to be given a chance to prove our worth as writers and entertainers. Venue owners, radio hosts, booking agents and other musicians in the scene gave us the opportunity to share our music and our passion.
SMC – Who are your music mentors in the Edmonton community?
SBD – One key person who we have learnt a lot from is Rhea March who really helped us with our first few steps when we first started playing full-time in the city. But I would say that other musicians in the local scene have been consistent mentors to us. People like Brennan Murray, Jeff & Carol-Lynn Quinn, Joal Kamps, Jen Perry- to name a few- have taken the time to share their ideas, tricks and methodology with us.
SMC – You have some major accomplishments under your belts – your track, “Kissed the Girls” was a finalist in the Los Angeles Top Vocalist competition and the New York John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Tell us how that came about and the result of each – how exciting!
SBD – Thank you so much! Our tracks were entered into both of these contests and we were proud to have been named finalists. These things have given us more visibility, connections in the music scene in North America and encouragement to continue refining our song writing and performance.
SMC – I also read in your bio that In fall of 2016, you were nominated for the Gospel Music Associations (GMA’s) 38th Covenant Award for “New Artist of the Year”. Another huge accomplishment! Tell us about this more about this!
SBD – Thanks again. It was an exciting surprise for us to be nominated. As musicians trying to make a full-time income you enter your material to be considered for awards and contests. It’s often hard to believe in your own music. But we took some chances and submitted our songs. When we heard that we got nominated for “New Artists of the Year”, when they were considering musicians from across Canada, we were blown away. It was really humbling.
SMC – You were also nominated for your song ‘Complexion’ (see below) at the 2016 Edmonton Music Awards for the ‘Adult Alternative Recording of the Year’ category. You have made some amazing accomplishments! What was it like to be nominated for so many prestigious awards in your short career as ‘Soap Box Duo’?
SBD – We are so grateful to have been recognized for all of our hard work. There are so many incredible artists out there writing amazing songs, so to be considered among those people is a dream. We actually have a big collage of images and words on a board that hangs in our bedroom. This is a visual reminder of our goals and dreams and we have been blessed to see so many of the things on this board come to pass- this includes our first royalties payment, songwriting awards and playing live on radio- to name a few.
Soap Box For Haiti
SMC – This interview has been a long time coming and I am very excited to learn more about the upcoming event ‘Soap Box for Haiti’ on November 30th! Tell us more about what this project is about and the event.
SBD – This project is one that is close to our hearts. We are inviting our fans to join us for a night of live music and a chance to be the first to see the documentary we recently filmed in Haiti. The venue is a theatre, which is the perfect place for this event. Our audience will be able to really hear our lyrics, feel our music and be a part of memorable moments without distractions.
SMC – Why Haiti?
Jenesa- I traveled to Haiti three other times, the most recent trip was nearly 8 years ago. I have dreamed of returning there, as I love the country and the people, and wanted to share that love with Alexander.
SBD – We were happy to partner with Nicola Topsom of Floriana Wedding Project to travel to Haiti and see what they do. We brought wedding gowns and bridesmaid dressed that were donated for the store they have set up in Port-Au-Prince. In August, as we were preparing to go, we had the idea of making a documentary while there. Nicola helped to connect us with other organizations that we could interview as well as setting us up with opportunities to film “The Real Haiti” to show people back home what the country is like.
SMC – You actually went to Haiti in October to film your documentary – what was it about?
SBD – The goal of the documentary was to show ordinary people who were doing amazing things there while giving viewers a glimpse of the beauty of Haiti. We hope to inspire our fans to partner with organizations that they might relate to.
SMC – What was the experience of actually being in Haiti like?
Jenesa- Traveling to Haiti is always a culture shock. Since they are the poorest country in the western hemisphere, they live very different from how we do here in Alberta. But aside from the discomfort and the emotion of seeing the abject poverty, I was again reminded of why I love Haiti so much. The people are incredibly inviting, generous and loving. I felt like family again so quickly, even with the new friends we made.
Alexander- Before we left for Haiti I didn’t know what to expect. I was initially shocked by everything I saw. Though I was ill and was being stretched outside of my comfort zone, I was happy. The friends I made there were so loving. Part of me went there with the mentality that I was going to “help” them but in reality they were the ones who were taking care of us.
SMC – What did you feel most profoundly while in Haiti?
SBD – We were humbled by the resilience and joy of the people we met there.
SMC – What has the local response been like for this upcoming event?
SBD – So far, many people have been very supportive of this event! Over one-third of the tickets are sold and we predict that the event will sell-out in the next 4 weeks. Some people who aren’t able to attend have even given donations!
SMC – What can one expect to see at the event?
SBD – This will be our BEST live show yet! The audience will see us perform as a duo, with a full band and will hear both fan-favorites and NEW songs. This is the first show where we will have control of lighting, media and sound. This will be the only chance to see the pre-screening of the documentary on a BIG SCREEN as well! A local realtor has donated Oil Kings tickets that will be silent auctioned during the intermission. Audience members will be able to purchase our merchandise as well as unique items from Haiti, all in support of this documentary project.
SMC – What are the proceeds from this event going to be put towards?
SBD – The cost of travel, accommodations and food in Haiti for the duo, along with the director of the documentary, was quite high. We have taken on further costs with the post-production work required to finish the film. So the proceeds of this event are going to cover the out-of-pocket costs of being able to produce this documentary that will showcase different organizations and hopefully get more people connected to investing in Haiti.
SMC – Some would ask if you are also involved in the charities in your local community – are you?
SBD – We sure are! Little Warriors is one organization that we are very closely connected with right here in Edmonton. Stay tuned for some news on how we are partnering with them in the battle to prevent childhood sexual abuse.
SMC – What is the one thing you would like to see happen as a result of this event?
SBD – It would be amazing if people would be moved to get involved with the organizations we have showcased and perhaps even travel to Haiti themselves. If only one person is moved to get involved, we will count it as a success.
SMC – Your self-titled EP ‘Soap Box Duo’ is dynamic! I have had a listen and love it! What has the radio support for your EP been like? Are there any stations you would like to shout out to?
SBD – Thank you. 105.9 Shine FM, 88.5 FM CJSR, CBC Radio 1, 106.5 Mountain FM, 90.5 CFCR FM and GRadio are a few local stations that gave our first album a chance on air! We are super grateful to these guys for their support.
SMC – Can you tell us what the album means to you both ‘thematically’?
SBD – Thematically you could say it was an introduction to us as Soap Box Duo. This album shares about the start of our relationship as well as some of the first experiences in our marriage. It also talks a little bit about some of Alexander’s struggles before meeting Jenesa and the couple’s passion to help those affected by sexual abuse.
SMC – Which song is your favorite off the EP and why?
SBD – Our favorite song would have to be “Silver Lining” because it’s very emotional for the two of us. During our first ear of marriage we both had full-time jobs, we were teaching music in the evenings and we were trying to get Soap Box Duo started writing songs, rehearsing covers and building our online presence. We barely had time to get to know each other and those moments where we could stop and be with each other was the silver lining in our busy lives.
SMC – Let’s delve into the album ‘Serenaded Through Seaweed’ which appears to be a compilation album – can you tell us more about how you went from the Alternative Folk to Electronic genre with your song ‘Adventure Island’?
SBD – We were honored to be asked by our friend, Nathaniel Sutton, to be guest vocalists on a song he wrote with his band ‘Brother Octopus’! Nathaniel was so fun to work with. We laughed a lot when recording the ‘gang vocal’ bit from the tune.
SMC – What music do you have planned coming up? Can we expect another EP or album release in the near future?
SBD – After interviewing producers from Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and even Nashville, this December we will be recording with Justin ‘Dunna’ McDonough of Resonate Music Studio here in E-Town. It will be a 6-song album. We have been working on developing our “vintage-pop” sound and excited to showcase our strengths as writers, vocalists and instrumentalists. ‘Back to Black’ by Amy Winehouse has been an inspiration to us as we’ve been preparing for our next recording project.
SMC – I know that your Haiti project would have been very time-consuming but I was curious to know if you were inspired to song-write while you were there?
SBD – When we were in Haiti we didn’t have the time or energy to song-write, unfortunately. Now that we are home and working super hard at getting the concert event ready, we haven’t quite had the chance to process our experiences in Haiti. We did however write a song leading into our trip called ‘Greenback’ which is about poverty and can be found on our YouTube channel.
SMC – Aside from your November event, are there any other shows you plan on performing at during the holiday season?
SBD – There are a number of events we will be performing at during the Christmas season. One, for example, is a corporate function at the Hotel MacDonald. These are great events that give us a chance to share our music while making money to pay the bills! Ha ha.
Much of our month will be spent on recording and preparation for an upcoming opportunity that we hope to announce soon on our social platforms.
SMC – You two are a team and are always together – how do you separate career from home life?
SBD – Ha ha. This is something we haven’t quite figured out yet. We honesty don’t have much separation between our career and our personal life since we work from home and are both working all hours of the day. We really do love what we do and are happy to spend every moment together focusing on living a life of purpose.
SMC- How did you two meet and just know you were meant to have a career together?
Alexander- When we were still in school, Jenesa asked if I wanted to do a book study on ‘Purpose Driven Life’ by Rick Warren with her. The book was so good for us because it asked questions that really reached into the core of who each of us were, what we had lived through and who we wanted to become. This was actually how I ended up sharing, for the first time in my life, about having been sexually abused as a child. There was a closeness we shared so early in our friendship that led to us collaborating, dating, dreaming about a future and eventually marrying- all with Soap Box Duo in mind.
SMC – I would like for you both to answer this one: What is the one thing you admire about the other the most in terms of personal and career?
Alexander- I can’t pick one. I admire Jenesa’s work ethic and creative ideas musically and business-wise. She has an incredible gift for lyrics and melodies. She is strong everywhere I am weak which makes us a fantastic team.
Jenesa- Wow, this is a hard one! On a personal level I would say that I most admire his honesty. Trust is such a crucial part of any healthy relationship and I am so grateful that I have someone I can really trust. As for our career I would say that his true love and magnetism to music and creativity is what I admire most. He could honestly sit and create on his guitar for hours and he’d even forget to eat! I guess that’s where I come in 😉
SMC – What has been the greatest compliment a fan has ever given you?
SBD – The greatest thing we have heard from our fans is when they have come up and explained how one of our songs really touched them. To know that something we created has positively impacted someone else’s life is extraordinary.
SMC – Which social media platform are you on the most and why?
Jenesa- We use Facebook the most because we have the largest engaged fan-base there. Plus, I’m not super “techy” and Facebook is user-friendly. Haha.
SMC – Alright – final question: What is at the top of your list places to perform in and why?
SBD – We are excited to perform in any space with engaged listeners but I think we would LOVE to do large theaters and arena shows.
SMC – Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us!
Soap Box Duo Bio
Coming onto the scene early fall of 2015, this prolific pair saturated the Edmonton and area music scene playing more than 200 live performances to date! Alexander and Jenesa MacMullin are a Canadian pop duo with a folk undertone, hinting of both rock and jazz. This powerhouse vocalist and innovative guitarist met at jazz school in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Their unique sound is influenced by the music of The Civil Wars, John Mayer, Aretha Franklin and Gungor, to name a few. Their passion is to use music as their ‘soap box’ to encourage and inspire others toward justice. The couple writes and performs about topics that stir their hearts, from personal experiences to being an empathetic voice for the burdened. These two create catchy melodies and unique instrumentation as a foundation for their lyrics; lyrics that they hope will be both heard and felt by their listeners.
Since January 2016, the couple has released a music video, recorded & released their first EP, appeared on Shaw Television and were featured on multiple radio stations including CBC Radio 1. In fall the couple was nominated for the GMA’s 38th Covenant Award for “New Artist of the Year” for 2016. Their track, “Kissed the Girls” was a finalist in the Los Angeles Top Vocalist competition and the New York John Lennon Songwriting Contest. The two took to the road in March 2017 on their first Western Canadian Tour and, most recently, the duo’s song “Complexion” has been nominated for the Edmonton Music Award for the “Adult Alternative Recording of the Year” for 2016. Just last month the dynamic couple attended an intimate songwriters retreat with Judy Stakee, formerly of Warner Chappell in LA, where they ventured to further hone their craft as musical storytellers.
On June 30th, 2017, in the midst of our Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Artist of the Year competition (aka: chaos), I noticed a very confused, yet, humorous comment on one of our Artists’ voting poll posts. It went something to the effect of: ‘Did my vote register? I didn’t get a notification that it registered. Maybe it’s Trump…’ Of course, I had to respond. For two reasons: 1. Anyone who would take the time to ensure that their vote was, indeed, registered, enough to comment about it tells me that this is someone who pays great attention to detail, and 2. Anyone willing to make light of an (almost) pandemic situation (it was the last day to vote) by poking fun at their own government (even though the contest was global) had to be a friend of mine (that warped sense of humor – perfect!). Now, almost five months later, some in-depth conversations (and intense research on my part) later, I am happy to say that New York-born and based Singer/Songwriter, Author, Poet, Filmmaker, and Artist, Robert Segarra and I have struck a kinship that is pretty hard to beat. Not only is he incredibly talented (he’s an award-winning poet!), he devotes his time to others through charity work for many organizations in New York, particularly in the Brooklyn area where he was raised and where he calls home. This alone weighs very highly in my books.
As I always do with people I am fascinated by, I began reading about Segarras’ background to discover he had very recently written a book called ‘Temporary Angels’, a true account of his own visions of the afterlife that he’d been experiencing since he was very young. It didn’t take me long to discover that the ‘visions’ he was seeing of even disastrous events in dreams were prophetic in nature and he has documented this throughout the ‘Temporary Angels’ novel (read ‘Exterminance Cometh’ – a novel he wrote as a non-fiction account of countless dreams he had been having long before 911, about 911. This is discussed below in our interview more in-depth). These were things that resonated with me greatly being that I have also had experiences much like this of my own.
I then delved into his poetry and understood immediately why his work has been recognized and awarded. A good poem demonstrates excellent command of diction and syntax, not to mention, deliver a strong emotional impact without giving away too much or too little and all of this is what is prevalent in the book ‘Short Poems, Long Poems, Old Poems, New Poems’. Although he has written a newer poetry piece ‘Heaven’, both past and current works demonstrate Segarras’ ability to maintain a fresh approach to each piece he writes. Some people think writing poems are easy but in reality, the best poems are the most thought provoking and complex, leaving you to wonder. Admittedly, Segarra is a fan of Edgar Allan Poe which made sense to me after reading his works which are equally as great.
But there is something much deeper than that to this exceptional individual…
So, I dug deeper, discovering that Segarra has, in fact, written several scripts that have garnered massive media interest including the New York Times. Several were produced, and some have been aired on television. I recently was privy to reviewing an unpublished script he wrote called ‘The Littlest Hitmen’ and after reading every single page, I became more and more intrigued. I could visually see the actors, the mood, and the imagery flash before me while I was reading. I am a visionary as well, so it was interesting to be able to connect with another profound visionary in this way. I am looking forward to reading more of what he has written in the coming months and if people ask me ‘what I am reading’, more than likely, it will be something by Robert Segarra.
Throughout the summer and into the fall of this year, I also began observing Segarras’ music and video content on his socials and was pleased to discover that he had released an EP and full-length album this past spring: ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, and ‘Transition Man’. The former is a delightful and magical blend of songs that brings me to the topic of his children’s book ‘A Christmas Mouse’. It takes a certain kind of character to write for children. It impresses me when I see a fellow Writer creating a work of art explicitly to bring delight and wonder to a child – to me, that is indicative of a very selfless individual. ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, to me, is the music version of this work of art. Audibly, I can also see the all the songs on this EP translated onto a children’s film and that is something I would definitely like to explore more of in the near future. ‘Transition Man’ is a full-length album with more of a classic rock sound that is easy on the ears, and soothing to the soul. With the gentle, charismatic charm in Segarras’ vocals, combined with a true classic rock sound reminiscent of The Beatles or Jimmi Hendrix and intriguing lyrics, I feel this is an album that will appeal to all ages. Songs from the ‘Transition Man’ album have been already spun on Limehead Radio in the UK, and KB Radio in Ontario to name a few. I will not be surprised of some of Segarras’ songs like ‘Parkside Girl‘ or ‘Beautiful Girl‘ aren’t picked up also. These are previously recorded songs which, I feel, would be well-received by his fanbase. Luckily for our readers today, I have included these in the ‘MUSIC CAREER‘ section below. Enjoy!
After thoroughly examining all of Robert Segarras’ social media platforms and seeing his devout dedication to Artists within the entertainment and writing communities it was becoming very apparent that this was someone I wanted to work with on a more involved level. He is selfless and has often supported others when even his own brilliant works have had to be put on hold which also resonates with me. I spoke in-depth to him about what that might entail, and I am happy to say that we will be launching an official page on the SMC website as well as the SMC Spotlight for Robert to showcase his talent as well as collaborate with SMC on future projects. Some of these projects will be of the entertaining sort and will be formally announced well into the early part of 2018 as our creative juices flow. His official page on the SMC website will launch on November 30th, 2017, complete with new branding and content (did someone say, a Christmas video?). I think this is the perfect way to end 2017 for SMC, and I look forward to many exciting, upcoming projects with Robert as an official part of the SMC team. Watch for his bio and content in the coming weeks as well as a very special announcement in the new year! His OFFICIAL BIO is now on the CONTRIBUTORS section of the SMC SPOTLIGHT (click in the top menu to check it out!)
Editor’s Note: Robert, you are a shining example of what it means to be truly selfless in this (more often than not) chaotic and self-absorbed world we live in. If we had more people like you bringing the kind of perseverance, patience, and artful beauty you possess to this planet, this world would be a heavenly place. I look forward to working with you on making just that happen. I appreciate all that you have done not only for SMC through your unwavering support, but also for that of others. I have seen you on social media constantly support the same people you believe in day in and day out and I admire this greatly. Where many fall off or fall short, you have been the lighthouse on the shore for many of your peers. Your art, in all it’s multi-faceted forms are a true reflection of the beauty you have within. I see a solid foundation and great potential in you and I look forward to seeing where this partnership goes. Now, let’s help make that star of yours shine bright, shall we?
Welcome to the SMC team. More importantly, welcome to the SMC Family!
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview with Robert Segarra
SMC – Hello Robert! I am very excited for this interview – there are so many different facets of your career as a writer and artist that I would like to cover, so I will break this down into a few categories to make it easier. Let’s begin with how you found out about SMC?
Robert – I’m very excited for this interview, too. I feel quite honored to be a part of it. I’m relatively new to the online community of musicians. I was an active musician for years, but only within the last four or five years did I rekindle playing and recording again. At one point I had given up playing altogether for almost ten years. It seems I’m always on the verge of quitting. Then just as quickly as I had quit this last time, I picked up the guitar and started playing again. I re-recorded some songs and got them up online. Then I began exploring ways to promote the songs online, and this is where I began to find Internet radio stations that offered this kind of support – some for free, others charged a fee. I went with the ones that didn’t charge a fee. Through Hannah Clive, one of the artist musician friends I had made in a chatroom, I found Starlight Music Chronicles when she was in the running for Starlight Music Chronicles’ Artist of the Year in June 2017.
SMC – We have now welcomed you as Contributor to the SMC team. We look forward to seeing where this venture will go. What are your thoughts on this?
Robert – First and foremost, I am really thrilled and honored to be a part of such an awesome and all-creative organization. I think what appeals to me most is the fact that creativity is nurtured here, and I am beyond pleased to be a part of such an exciting group of individuals, at such an exciting time in its history. I look forward to contributing in any and every way that I am able.
SMC – Part of your new profile which will launch on our site November 30th, 2017 means that we get to showcase you and your art/projects alongside some of the other Contributors to our site. What kinds of things would you like to see happen for SMC?
Robert – I would definitely like to see SMC recognized as the multimedia powerhouse that it is. I’m not sure if people realize just how much reach and influence SMC has. I thought the recent interview that you did with Dacre Stoker (on Limehead Radio – see here and the SMC Spotlight – see here) was amazing and fascinating. I was glued to my PC as you interviewed this blood relative of Bram Stoker, no pun intended, and got to hear stories of what inspired him to write his legendary ‘Dracula’ novel. The public’s fascination with the story has only grown through the generations. I think people need only look back at past interviews and see the important work that SMC has been doing to support artists and bands.
SMC – Can you tell us if there are any current projects that you are working on that you can share with our readers?
Robert – I am always working on something. I am currently working on some scripts, as well as music. I am in the middle of re-recording music that I wasn’t happy with, such as my Christmas song. I am also writing new music – which is actually some of my old music, written in new ways. Additionally, I am looking forward to working on projects within the SMC family.
SMC – What role do you see yourself playing as part of the SMC team? Meaning: what would you like to do creatively with SMC?
Robert – Creatively I can see myself assisting in any way possible within the SMC organization, whether that involves writing, music, artwork, promotion, or support of any type that’s needed. I see an evolution with SMC, and we’ve spoken about this. I see SMC getting involved in all sorts of ventures – including film production, whether for TV or the theater. I can see book and script development. I can see music development, and collaborations with other artists. I think the skies the limit, and I would assist in any way that I can.
SMC – We are featuring you on the SMC Spotlight where we place all our high caliber artists. This will be your first feature on the site which will become what we call a ‘SMC Spotlight Numbered Series’. We tend to like doing follow-up interviews as an artist expands their career. Can you tell us what your thoughts are on becoming a part of our ‘biography-style’ journalism?
Robert – I’m flattered and humbled beyond belief. Starlight Music Chronicles has a reputation for focusing on some really amazing talent, and words can’t express how much I appreciate your support. I’ve seen and read about some of the artists that you’ve featured and it’s quite a list of talented folks. I’m honored to be included among such individuals, and I’m looking forward to seeing how my story unfolds.
SMC – We recently did some interviews with Limehead Radio and as a result, talks are in the works for my own show on their station. If we asked you to do an interview with me for the show in, say, December, would you be up for that?
Robert – I wouldn’t be against it, but I think an interview on me should cover new territory, and not just rehash something that has already been discussed. I’ve only done a handful of interviews, mainly because I don’t think I’m all that interesting. People may find my projects interesting, but I think I’m only interesting for being part of those interesting projects.
SMC – We have also talked about having our own podcast with SMC – and you being a part of that. What are your thoughts on this?
Robert – I think podcasts are fascinating and essential tools for getting information out to the public. As long as there is something interesting and fresh that needs to get out to an audience, then I think podcasts are just another facet of accomplishing that goal. So, with regard to getting SMC material out to its audience, I would be more than happy to do what I can to facilitate that. I have done everything from background music to actually writing interview questions for podcasts in the past, and I would be more than happy to contribute and continue doing that with SMC.
SMC – What involvement do you like to have in creative projects? Some people like to be front and center and others prefer to be behind-the-scenes. What is your preference and why?
Robert – In general, if I am involved in a creative project that I am pursuing, I tend to take on a more direct role. But when I am asked to become involved in something that didn’t originate with me, but with someone else, I tend to work more behind-the-scenes, only because I have always seen myself as a team player, and I don’t want to railroad someone else’s vision. But when required, I am more than willing to do whatever is asked of me in order to get the job done.
SMC – Before we dive in, can you tell us which career path you tend to gravitate toward more than others?
Robert – I started out as a playing musician. I played places when I wasn’t legally able to play them. I played with older musicians, in general, and sometimes we would play some tough places, like bars and strip clubs. I wasn’t legally allowed to be in these places as a customer, since I was a minor, but because I was part of the entertainment, nobody ever asked my age. They basically looked the other way. We played at lots of legitimate places as well, but the seedier places stick out more in my memory because I would be more anxious than usual during the performance. Over the years I sort of drifted away from wanting to play in front of a live audience, and prefer to focus more on songwriting now more than anything else.
SMC- Being a lover of classic rock sounds, upon first listening to your music – it was like finding that gem of an album on record store day. How refreshing it was to hear ‘Mermaid Serenade’! Can you tell us what your process was in creating the ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ EP?
Robert – I’m really glad you like that song. That song was important to me. It proved to me that I could write a song that wasn’t your typical love song. Not that there’s anything wrong with love songs. Most of the songs on ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ are old songs. Most of the songs on ‘Transition Man’ are also old songs. In putting together ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ I basically put together songs that I thought would go well together. ‘Mermaid Serenade’ was heavily influenced by The Beatles. They were always a major influence on me and my music, and it was the fun songs on the White Album, such as, ‘Obladi-Oblada’, ‘Bungalow Bill’, and ‘Rocky Raccoon’, that were in the back of my mind when I wrote ‘Mermaid Serenade’. The Beatles were such amazing musicians. They could write songs on just about any subject imaginable. I wanted to do that, too.
SMC – Indeed you have also been getting some fab radio play from this album as well as your other album ‘Transition Man’ – both released this year. Can you tell us who you would like to give a ‘shout out’ to for spinning your music?
Robert – Where should I start? First, I’d like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to tell my story. Your support has been very important to me. And I’d also like to thank the people who are listening to my music and buying my tracks. I’ve been lucky. A lot of places have played my music, starting with Take 2 Radio, Howard’s Power Pop Stew, Frontier Radio, Wig-Wam Radio, Rocker’s Dive Radio and a bunch more, but there are a few that have really shown me an amazing amount of support, with the first being Stephen and Anne Lambert of EGH Radio. They were the first to show me a real sense of belonging. Stephen is a visionary and a jack-of-all-trades, and Anne was the first person to recognize my roots in British Invasion music and Glam Rock. They’re great supporters of Indie and Unsigned artists, and they host shows every week where artists and basically anyone interested can take part in chats, while they play an amazing mix of music. Victoria Dee at Open The Door Radio has also been extremely supportive of me and my music, and I want to thank her for debuting many of my songs. Most recently it’s been Al Yardy of KB Radio that has been giving my music tremendous airplay, and I’d like to thank him for that. I’d also like to help spread the word that KB Radio suffered some major damage and is trying to rebuild. They have a GoFundMe page where they are accepting donations (see here). I truly hope that KB Radio can continue to do the fantastic job they’re doing in giving independent artists as well as established artists a forum. It’s a really amazing feeling as an Indie artist to hear your music in rotation with bands like Led Zeppelin, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Celine Dion and Kool &The Gang.
SMC – What has the media response been like for these albums?
Robert – The response to my music has been really positive. In fact, back when I was first playing music the old fashioned way, the response to my material was decent, but it was slow going in getting exposure. I had to push relentlessly in order to get the message out. With the Internet, the response is so much quicker, and generally a lot more positive. An artist can have an easier time finding a receptive audience with the Internet, as opposed to how it used to be without the Internet. The Internet has become an essential tool for independent artists today. Demographics and analysis is quicker and easier using the Internet, as well. I’ve found that audiences are much more receptive to my “sound” in Canada and Europe and in other parts of the world, than they are in the United States, and I believe that’s only because Indie artists doing anything other than what I call Disney-pop, Hip-Hop or Rap, are not getting the airplay or exposure that these other genres are currently getting, and have been getting for some time now in America. The Internet came along at just the right time for artists doing rock, alternative and other genres. If it weren’t for the Internet, the careers of Indie artists today would be much more difficult to get off the ground.
SMC – In the entertainment industry, we always hear about the kinds of struggles that artists go through to get themselves established. What would you like to see happen as far as change for artists in the industry (music, film, etc)?
Robert – I think there is a revolution coming within the industry, where the old ways of doing things will be changing forever. And I believe it has been a long time coming. I think artists, and creative individuals should not have to sell their souls in order to follow their dreams. I think it’s been this way for far too long, and for generations now, especially today, we are seeing the abuses that have come from such ingrained, highly imperfect and sometimes predatory institutions. But these things are already changing. Almost anyone can produce a film these days. Decent cameras are available at somewhat reasonable prices. Writers can take the initiative and get their music up at iTunes and other music sellers. And writers can get their works out in a number of ways that weren’t always available to them.
SMC – Can you tell us why there was a full-length album and EP back-to-back release for your music?
Robert – That’s a long story, but in a nutshell, one of the reasons, and there were many, was I was tired of writing, recording, and producing music under the name, Billy J Bryan & The Ax Grinders. People were always getting confused and asking me who Billy J Bryan was. People couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that I was doing this under an assumed name. It was as if this had never been done before. And this all came about while I was working on more material, so rather than wait, because I’m always working on new things, I decided to re-release the older material under my real name, and also release what I had been working on without a break in between. I think it worked out okay because the material on both collections is so very different. ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ is essentially an acoustic album.
SMC – What ‘sound’ do you naturally gravitate toward in terms of other Artists?
Robert – When it comes to other music that I listen to, the list is endless. I have loved and enjoyed the music of everyone from The Beatles to Elvis Presley to Dusty Springfield, Alice Cooper, David Bowie, The Allman Brothers, 38 Special, The Ramones, Iggy Pop, Blondie, Queen, Eric Clapton, Deep Purple, Nirvana, and even bands like The B-52s and McFly and Blink-182. Through my experiences with Internet radio I’ve discovered a whole new set of artists whose music is just as exciting and valid as these established bands, such as Chris Watkins of Drunk Poets, Red Light Revival, Anchor Detail, Free to Grow, Twenty6Hundred, Hannah Clive, and more bands and artists than I can list here. I feel that there is a whole crop of undiscovered and exciting talent simmering in the Indie Internet radio-sphere that’s going to explode someday in the very near future, and it’s going to re-ignite interest in this kind of music all over again.
SMC – Can you tell us what your favorite song is off each album and why?
Robert – From ‘Transition Man’, I’d have to say that ‘Heart Break Girl’ is probably my favorite at the moment. It reminds me of the songs that I used to love and listen to from British Invasion artists. I also like ‘Transition Man’ as well. I think it’s a fun summer song. I was in a good mood when I wrote and recorded it. From ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, once again, I’d have to say that the title track, ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, is my favorite song. It’s a really old song of mine, and this is the best version of it that I’ve produced. People have come up to me and told me what they think the song is about, and it’s always different. I don’t usually tell anyone what the true meaning is. I prefer to let people make up their own minds, but it’s a song about alienation. It’s a song about someone feeling like an outcast or a misfit in their own world.
SMC – When you create the lyrics for your music – is it based on your own personal life experiences or is it observations of the world around you?
Robert – Both. I’m a people watcher. I think I watch people so that I can figure out exactly what it means to behave correctly in social situations. I don’t think I’ve learned anything yet, however. In truth, I guess I’d have to say that a good majority of my lyrics are written from my own personal life experiences.
SMC – Can you tell us which song has received the most traction on radio to date?
Robert – ‘It’s probably Because Of Chloe’. Everybody thinks it’s a song about a particular girlfriend, or an ex-girlfriend, but it’s really a song about my cat.
SMC – In delving further into your music career, there were some delightful discoveries! There are songs like ‘Park Side Girl’ and ‘Beautiful Girl’…can you tell us what other gems are out there and which platforms they can be found under?
Robert – ‘I Believe In Rock & Roll’ is a decent song. I also like a song I wrote called ‘Florinda’. It has a Beatle sound to it that I like. They can only be found currently at places like Youtube and Vimeo. I’m planning on re-recording them in the very near future. I’ve actually taken a lot of material down, mainly because I want to re-record them. I think I took down about 55 songs. I rushed a lot of the earlier songs to completion, and I wasn’t always happy with the way they turned out.
SMC – Indeed you have created music under the moniker ‘Billy J Bryan and the Ax Grinders’ – tell us about the name and how that came about…
Robert – When I first started out playing guitar, I didn’t really have any kids my age that were interested in music, let alone any that could play an instrument. I was thirteen years old. Naturally I ended up gravitating towards older musicians. These guys invariably would party more than they rehearsed, and they almost never wrote any original material because they were stoned or drunk all the time, and often they couldn’t remember what day it was, let alone remember my name. They’d call me Billy, or Joey, or Brian, or any number of names, with these three being the most often used. And when it came time for me to record and get my own music out there, for whatever reason, I didn’t want to do this under my own name, so I put all three names together, added a fictitious back-up band, The Ax Grinders, and that was it. I thought I had come up with a name that nobody would have ever used before. I was so wrong!
SMC – Can you give us a career timeline in terms of when you began creating your music and that ‘Ah Ha’ moment when you knew music would always be a part of your life/career path?
Robert – I don’t think I’ve ever had that “Aha” moment you are referring to. As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a musician. My grandfather used to build custom acoustic guitars for musicians in NYC way before I was even born. So I was exposed to music and musicians from a very early age. Once I heard about the music of The Beatles and Elvis, through older cousins, I was hooked. When I was 13 my mom bought me my first real guitar. I basically started writing music at about that time, and I accumulated a pretty large stockpile of songs that I’d written by the time I was eighteen years old. Nobody that I played with was writing their own music, so my music was it. If we played somewhere, anywhere, we did a bunch of cover songs, and the only originals we would play would be the ones I had written. I didn’t have a lot of confidence back then in my songwriting, but even still, people would ask to hear my songs, which always amazed me. And it wasn’t till recently that I even considered the possibility that music might someday play an even larger part of my life. Whether I could make a living at it was another thing entirely. But music will undoubtedly always be a part of my life.
SMC – You are also a prolific and esteemed writer (we will get into your work as an Author next) – have you written songs for others? Who and where can we find them?
Robert – Actually, you may come across music online that is written by me that appears to be performed by others, but it’s really just me. I have recorded under the names – Billy J Bryan & The Ax Grinders, Bobby Smith & the Space Machine, Jimmy Deil, The Charismatic Asthmatics, Spit Bucket Disaster, among others, but it’s all me. My goal is to write songs that others can cover, but I didn’t always have the confidence in my songwriting skills to approach other artists regarding this.
SMC – Do you consider yourself a Frontman or do you prefer to be behind the scenes?
Robert – Many times by default I ended up having to “look like” the frontman in bands that I played in, but that wasn’t my choice, and it’s not what I preferred. One of my idols was Ritchie Blackmore from Deep Purple, and I was always amazed at how he could command the attention of everyone at his concerts by playing the guitar. He never sang a note, but all eyes were always on him and what he was doing with his guitar. His theatrics and his mastery of the instrument was mesmerizing. I always dreamed of being able to play that well, but no, I don’t consider myself a frontman and I do prefer to operate more behind the scenes.
SMC – When creating your music, where do you feel most in your element?
Robert – I am most in my element when I’m writing music on the guitar. I play a few instruments, and when you are a one-man band, you kind of have to be able to focus on what you’re doing, and I feel I do that best with the guitar.
SMC – What do you have coming musically in the next 3-6 months?
Robert – I have a lot more of my older music that I want to re-record. Many of them were done on analog machines, and many were rushed, and the sound quality wasn’t good enough, and consequently, I wasn’t always happy overall with the way they turned out. I have quite a bit of older material to convert that way, but I am always writing new material as well, and I’d like to continue doing more of that. I’d also like to collaborate with other musicians. I’ve had musicians ask me recently, and I have not had the time to do so as of yet, but it’s something I definitely would like to do.
SMC – Have you performed live? If so, where and which was your favorite venue?
Robert – Yes, I started out performing live. My very first memories were of performing informally for friends at parties and other gatherings. I played at a college once. I guess the one place that stands out, probably because it was kind of a traumatic experience was a strip club in Manhattan called West, when I was sixteen years old. I was always concerned that I was going to be found out and get arrested. I performed at a place in Queens called The Rainbow. Lots of bands from the fifties, sixties and seventies performed there. They had photos of many of the bands hanging on the walls. I think I remember a Frankie Valle and the Four Seasons photo there. I can’t remember anybody else offhand. I knew a girl that had a band and she needed a guitarist when she played at CBGB down in the Bowery, and I played with her and her band. Just about all of the clubs, bars or other places in New York City and New Jersey that I performed at are no longer in existence. They either went out of business, or have been replaced by clubs that now cater to other genres of music. And the thing about performing live is, while I enjoy it, and there’s an energy that you can’t get anywhere else than from a live crowd, I suffer from stage fright. I’m extremely shy, and if I had my way, I’d prefer to write and record over playing live.
SMC – What has been the greatest compliment you have received to date for your music?
Robert – Without a doubt it’s the support that I’ve gotten. I’d have to say that my experiences with Internet Radio stations, like EGH Radio, Open The Door Radio and KB Radio have given me an amazing amount of support, and have been a great boost to my confidence. Your interest in my music at Starlight Music Chronicles has to easily rank up there as the best that has come my way. I don’t do very many interviews at all, but I have done a few. However, I have not yet come across an interview as indepth or as interesting as yours, and the truth is, an interesting interview can make an unknown band or artist sound even more interesting. So I appreciate this support. I’m not sure that anyone that is not an Independent musician can understand how difficult it can be to carrying on doing what you love to do without support. For many, the financial rewards are years away, if they’ll ever come, and finding support in any way you can is often the only positive feedback most of us will ever get.
SMC – I was absolutely thrilled to read your book ‘Temporary Angels’! There is a lot that I can personally relate to with regards to what was mentioned or discussed in your book. Often, there are many who won’t speak out about their ‘ability’ to see entities or even visuals such as you have! Can you tell us who or what encouraged you to step out and write this book?
Robert – I think I had gotten to a point where I felt I had nothing to lose in writing ‘Temporary Angels’. This was something that I struggled with for most of my life, and I think my main goal in writing ‘Temporary Angels’, whether a reader believes what they’re reading or not, is that I believe we should always keep an open mind to everything in this world. We all have a role to play in this life, and in being open to things, we can then be more prepared to behave the way we should when our opportunity to act as a Temporary Angel arrives. There is a lot more in this world that we never see because we close ourselves off. We refuse to see. This world is a constant source of stimulation, knowledge and wonder, and if people would just be open to it, the possibilities could be endless. And for those that already do see, being able to see should not be a point of embarrassment or shame.
SMC – There are many books you have penned. Can you tell me which one was the most enjoyable to write?
Robert – ‘The Christmas Mouse’ has to be up there with being one of my favorites. I actually found it more of a challenge to write a complete story in the span of 1500 words or less than if I had written a book of 150,000 words. To be able to get your message across to your target audience under these strict guidelines was more difficult than I had imagined. I also have always loved art – painting, sketching, drawing, sculpture, and more, and combining the story and the artwork in this book was an amazing experience.
SMC – Which book has received the most traction in the writing community?
Robert – ‘The Christmas Mouse’ has gotten a great amount of traction, perhaps the most of all my books so far. It’s been the subject of a number of book reviews. It was featured on a CBS-TV news affiliate piece on children’s picture books in St Louis. Grammar school classes have read it as part of reading initiatives. My cousin is a school teacher in Brooklyn. One time just before Christmas a few years back, she read the book to her class. She asked me to make an appearance there, and I reluctantly agreed. The kids loved the book and asked some really observant questions. For the adult romance market, I wrote a book called ‘Still Waiting For The Sun’ – it’s the story about a woman that’s frustrated with her life, and one day, seemingly out of the blue, she receives an unusual inheritance, and through it she gets a second chance at life. It’s been just as popular as ‘The Christmas Mouse’.
SMC – You have also won awards for your writing. Can you tell us which ones and when?
Robert – I’ve had poetry win some awards. I don’t remember exactly which poems these actually were. I quit submitting my material for consideration when three of my poems took prizes in Vandoelecht’s Annual Poetry Contest in 1994. I was happy to win, but it felt absurd to have my poems win first, third and eleventh prizes, and I haven’t submitted my material to any contests since. Instead, my poetry has appeared in a few anthologies, including one entitled ‘Thoughts Of Christmas’ that featured poets such as Jane Yolen, Angie Monnens, and many more. I was also a regular contributor of poetry, short stories and artwork to a very influential national magazine called ‘Wicked Mystic’. Some of my poetry was a part of ‘The Poe Pulpit’, a magazine that published poetry, short stories, and artwork that was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe.
SMC – Your poetry is brilliant. I have already begun reading (when I am not distracted LOL) your book ‘Short Poems, Long Poems, Old Poems, New Poems’. So far, ‘Dream, The Mariner Did’ is my favorite. Can you tell us which poem is your personal favorite and why?
Robert – Thank you very much for the awesome compliment. I like that poem, too. I think most of us feel like the mariner, in search of many things in this life. I think that’s why it may appeal to readers. I have a number of favorites from that collection, but if I had to choose two, one would be ‘The Ghost Of Endale Arch’. I wrote that poem about a Revolutionary War battle that took place just blocks from where I live. It was The Battle Of Long Island, and I found it fascinating that I was walking along the same cobblestone streets that soldiers from the 1700s walked upon. The other poem is about a baby sparrow that died accidentally when it got tangled in some nesting material and never got the chance to beautify this world with its song, called, ‘Hanging By A Thread’.
SMC – Can you tell us what time of day you feel most creative?
Robert – I am constantly feeliing “inspired” to write, but I don’t often have the opportunity to do so during the daytime. I’ll be out running errands or doing something where I am away from my computer or a notebook, and I’ll have to jot things down on napkins or little pieces of paper, so that I can remember something that has come to me, or has inspired me to work on something. Usually I’m most creative towards the evening and at night when there are fewer distractions and I can focus on what I need to do.
SMC – What makes you wake up one day and say, ‘Hey! I think I want to write a book!’? At least, what sparks that creativity and desire to create within you?
Robert – My compulsion to write, whether it’s poetry, lyrics, scripts, or stories is chronic rather than acute. I don’t think I’ve ever had one of those moments yet. I just always remember wanting to read, write stories, write songs, write poetry or create artwork. I think I’ve always had the desire, and from an early age I started writing. I didn’t have any one moment when I told myself “now is the time!” I just started writing. I’ve always had lots of ideas for material. My writing was all silly to begin with, but it was ambitious. I remember writing a script about ghosts appearing at a seance when I was nine years old. In general, I try to write, no matter what I’m writing, whether it’s a short story, novel, script or a song – to write something I’d like to read, see or hear. I would have to say that obviously my writing is inspired by something, and if anything, it has to be the writings of others. I guess I feel I have something to add to the conversation, and that’s what motivates me.
SMC – What projects are you currently working on?
Robert – I’m usually working on a few things at once. I’ve always worked this way. That’s why it sometimes seems as if I will suddenly come out with a lot of material all at once. I am always working on new music. I just recently got three of my books out of book contracts that they were in because I wasn’t satisfied with how they had been edited or promoted, so I re-edited those and had them re-released online. I’m currently working on new music and a script. And from time to time I am working on art, but that’s usually done these days as part of a bigger project. I don’t always have the time to do the things I want to do, so I have to pick and choose. When I need to relax and recharge, art is usually my choice of therapy.
SMC – You also write screen plays! Can you tell us which ones and what kind of interest or traction you have gotten from them?
Robert – I’ve had about a dozen scripts that have been produced. Some aired on TV. Some screened at festivals, salons, bars, and clubs. I wasn’t always happy with how they turned out, so I generally don’t talk about them, but one of my favorites was called, ‘Waiting For Eugene’. It was a romantic dramedy about a couple of late bloomers that meet and fall in love. They had been waiting to fall in love with the right person, it seems, their entire lives. But they’re also career people, and when Eugene is offered an out-of-town promotion, he feels compelled to take it, even if it means leaving his girlfriend, Dolores, behind, who also puts a good bit of emphasis on her career. It was filmed in New York, with scenes shot in Central Park, and it screened at Arlene’s Grocery, sandwiched in between short films that included cast members John Belushi and Bill Murray of Saturday Night Live. To be sandwiched in between these legends was really a highlight for me.
SMC – You had mentioned to me once about a script you were working on that was mentioned by major media – even the New York Times. Can you tell us about that project?
Robert – I was working with a New York producer that was actually focusing on several projects at the same time. I wrote a script for one of the projects that was called, ‘No Safe Haven’. It was about the “Honor Rape” of a Pakistani woman named Mukhtaran Bibi or Mukhtar Mai. This producer and I actually met Mukhtaran Bibi and her handlers at Trump International Hotel and Tower the same week that she was in New York to speak at the United Nations, and the same time she had visited with President Bush in Washington. It was an amazing meeting and would have made for a really interesting and revealing story, but the project is still currently not in production after many years. Other producers became interested in developing her story, and amidst a very turbulent and violent atmosphere back in Pakistan, interest quickly faded. From what I was told, there were lots of threats made against Mukhtaran’s life, and government officials eventually made concessions, bringing electricity, a school, and fresh drinking water to Mukhtaran’s village, and the story soon disappeared from the public eye, after initially focusing a glaring eye on the practice of honor rape and honor killings in the Muslim world. The other project ended in a scandal and lawsuits, so I also tend not to mention these projects too much anymore. Producers and production companies tend to steer clear of people associated with lawsuits and certainkinds of controversy. They are all about controversy when it sells tickets and fills theaters, but when the controversy hinders production and profits, you can become industry poison.
SMC – Which ‘stories’ do you naturally gravitate toward when you write scripts?
Robert – I enjoy writing comedies and romance stories the most. But in my experiences, the demand for police dramas or police procedurals, and mob stories, far out-weigh the demand for anything else. And when you’re first starting out, you need to write what production companies are interested in, or you won’t get anything produced. I find these genres to be way too formulaic for my taste, but I have still managed to write several screenplays that bend these rules enough so that I was satisfied with what I ended up writing.
SMC – What has your writing meant to you personally?
Robert – My writing, whether it was writing songs, poetry, short stories or novels, have always been a way for me to express myself, even when I was too shy to express myself in other ways – such as in conversation. Because I was always so painfully introverted, I’d often turn to my writings in order to get my point across. And initially I was the only one that was reading my writings until I got my first poem published when I was 18 years old. The feedback I received from that made me hungry to want to express myself even more. My writing literally saved my life, in this respect. Without any sort of outlet, life would have seemed otherwise hopeless and meaningless.
SMC – What message(s) or subject(s) are you drawn to writing about?
Robert – I write about anything that fascinates me. Because I think that if a certain subject is interesting to me, that it will be interesting to others. As for messages, I leave that for the reader to find and interpret in any way they wish. I don’t specifically try to embed messages in my writing. Instead, details can be extrapolated by the reader. If they wish to see these things as messages, then that’s fine. But it’s totally up to them.
SMC – Do you get a lot of requests for ‘The Christmas Mouse’ book during the Holiday season?
Robert – I do. Most people don’t realize that I don’t actually sell the book myself. I have a publisher, yet they always write to me in order to get copies. And by the time Halloween rolls around it’s already difficult to purchase paperback copies of the book and have them delivered in time for Christmas. The publisher gets backlogged, and there is a “lag time” when people wait till the last minute to try and get a copy. The eBook version is also available, and it is delivered to a customer’s device within minutes, but the paperback version, which is the version that most people want, needs to be ordered with the time it takes for it to be printed and physically delivered in mind. I can’t tell you how many times people have turned to me to request the paperback version of the book just days before Christmas. Even I can’t get a copy that quickly.
SMC – I have read ‘Temporary Angels’ and I know that you are a gifted ‘see-er’. Is there one memory that stands out in your mind that is a positive experience that you haven’t written about in your book?
Robert – ‘Temporary Angels’ was actually twice the size it ended up being. Many powerful stories and examples were edited out. The reason they were edited out had to do with the nature of the experiences and believability. Some sections were just too personal for me to put out there at this time. And I think that other chapters would have fallen on deaf ears. I think what I ended up including was the right mix and amount of information for what I had in mind when I sought to have that material published. I think that one day soon I may release a version that includes more of what I kept out. I think the time may soon be right for that.
SMC – Which of all your publications (books) is your personal favorite and why?
Robert – That’s a tough one. I like certain things about each of my books for different reasons. There is always something about a project that endears it to me, and each one of my projects, even the ones that I’m not totally happy with have some redeeming value to me. ‘The Christmas Mouse’ and ‘Still Waiting For The Sun’ are favorites. One was my first successful children’s picture book, and the other was my first successful adult novel. I like ‘Million Dollar Harry’ because it captures a lot of what it was like growing up in Brooklyn.
SMC – Who is your personal favorite Author and why? I know as a writer myself, it’s always hard to narrow it down to one, but perhaps you can tell us of a few you like from each category?
Robert – Yes, it’s very difficult for me to narrow things down to just one of anything. In writing, I’ve enjoyed reading Steinbeck. I read his books as a grammar school student – he’s full of detail, humor, local flavor, mysticism, and more. Two of my favorite short novels were ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F Scott Fitzgerald, and ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ by Ernest Hemingway. With both it was as much the style of their writing as it was the subject matter. These two writers carefully chose every single word, phrase, and sentence that went into their work, and made it seem effortless and captivating. One of my all time favorite books is ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte. It was her one and only novel, but it has something for everybody in it. There is drama, romance and ghosts. What more could anybody want? In poetry my tastes are equally enormous. I enjoy reading everything from Shakespeare and Chaucer to Milton and Byron and Blake and Pope and Poe and Dickenson and TS Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Edna St Vincent Millay and more. I’ve also read Beowulf many, many times since first reading it in the 5th grade.
SMC – Can you tell us what the support has been like in the writing community for your work?
Robert – Writing books, like writing songs in America are about the same for me personally speaking. I find the only real support I have ever gotten from the writing community in America has been from the people who actually purchased my work. Just about all of my books were first published in the traditional way, by a traditional publisher, usually smaller independent publishers. And unless you already have name recognition, they barely promote you at all. After about three months, you are usually on your own, or headed to “remainders” – which is author hell. Over time I’ve gravitated towards self publishing for a number of reasons, the greatest being creative freedom. There have been times in the past where editors were interested in my projects, but wished to change them to suit their tastes. For instance, one editor wanted me to make the protagonist in one of my true-life stories be a major auto maker from Detroit that he had a gripe with. When I refused, he lost interest in my project. ‘The Christmas Mouse‘ was originally published by a small publishing house in the Mid-west. Due to the nature of small independent publishing it got very little promotion and eventually was published by one of the first Internet interactive publishers around at the time. That didn’t last very long, but it was one of the most pleasant experiences of my life working with the editor of Electric Bookworm. But for me that kind of pleasant experience was rare.
SMC – You have also penned two children’s books! Can you tell us why you felt inspired to write for children?
Robert – I think that writing for the children’s market can be the most fun, and the most enjoyable, creatively speaking. None of the restrictions that you encounter as a writer in the adult market exists with children’s literature. Children find wonder in everything if they are exposed to a lot, and the way they come to solutions to problems before they become cynical as adults is miraculous. It’s where dreams come from. To look at the world like a child is to see the endless possibilities. Of course children also lack the experience that’s practical and necessary to survive in the real world, but in the world of literature, especially children’s literature, to think like a child is essential. As a writer, you are limited only by your own imagination when you write for children.
SMC – What has the response been to your children’s books?
Robert – It’s been really great. I have people that have written to me from all over the world regarding ‘The Christmas Mouse’. I think feedback is extremely important to anyone that creates anything. Sometimes it can be the only reward, and when it’s positive, that’s what keeps you going and wanting to write the next project. And it hasn’t only been children that have written to me. I get just as many messages from adults as I do from children regarding ‘The Christmas Mouse’. The kids tend to write student reviews of my books, which invariably end up in some online library archive, while adults will tell me about how the book may have rekindled storytime with their children at home.
SMC – What has been the greatest compliment you have received in terms of your work as an Author?
Robert – I think the greatest compliment I have received as an Author has to undoubtedly involve the reaction I’ve gotten to ‘The Christmas Mouse’, though I have had positive reactions and positive feedback to nearly all of the things I’ve written – at least from readers, that is. People of all ages have told me how much they enjoyed reading it, and how much they enjoyed the fact that it was like none of the other Christmas books they had ever read. Everyone tends to analyze the book in their own way, and I let them interpret things as they see it.
SMC – Your book ‘Exterminance Cometh’ is a very profound book and it is spoken about in your other book ‘Temporary Angels’ – can you tell us about it a little more? I know it is somewhat of a prophetic written piece…
Robert – ‘Exterminance Cometh’ was a recurring dream I had been having that in its unedited form bore a remarkable resemblance to the attacks of 9/11 in New York City. It was originally over 300 pages long, but I cut it in half. Ironically, there was so much in the material that I removed that I didn’t think anyone would ever believe could come true. The story at the time seemed so far removed from reality that I felt forced to alter the story. The book detailed attacks and catastrophes all around the world; struggles of many kinds for people everywhere; religious turmoil; a mid-east strongman that lived in an underground bunker; New York City in rubble – with skyscrapers being vaporized, and a sort of revolution that would bring about an African-American president. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would see an African-American president in my lifetime, so I edited this last detail out. The African-American character still plays a vital role in “liberating” the citizens of North America, but he doesn’t become president. I had such a strong urge to get the message in this story out, that I had it self-published a year before the 9/11 attacks. ‘Externinance’ is the book I referred to earlier that a mid-west editor was interested in publishing if I would be amenable to making the villain be a major Detroit car maker that he had a gripe with.
SMC – In addition to your career as a writer and musician, you have also delved into film. I have watched some of your videos – pretty funny some of them, and others are quite compelling! Can you tell us which way you tend to gravitate toward in terms of style?
Robert – Writing scripts is so different from everything else. There is a visual element to films and screenplays, so a lot of the time you are writing to accentuate what you are seeing on screen or on stage. Many of the times because of this, it’s not what you write, it’s what’s in the direction that works with the writing to create the overall effect, and I find that a great challenge. That having been said, many of my videos are experiments and incorporate many different styles. I’ve enjoyed the styles of everybody from Alfred Hitchcock to Penny Marshall to Quentin Tarantino and more. That’s why you’ll see videos on all different subjects. If I find something interesting, then I think I can safely assume that others will find some of these videos interesting or funny, too, and everything is fair game. I am self-taught in everything that I do. I never took music lessons. I never took an art course. And I never took a course in film or animation. So these are all essentially experiments and learning experiences for me. I like learning new things. I saw these as a challenge, and I have learned quite a bit in doing them.
SMC – You have several monikers under your film credits too such as ‘The Ugly Man Revolution’ and ‘The Cat Stevenson Show’ – where can one find all of your work in film?
Robert – If they can be found at any one place, I’m not aware of it. Right now they can be found at Youtube, Vimeo and Daily Motion. I believe that a few videos are also up at other sites, such as iTunes and Amazon, but other than that, I can’t say. ‘The Ugly Guy’ and ‘Cat Stevenson’ have attracted a good amount of attention. They say things that we all want to say about life and about the world, no matter how outrageous – one through the eyes of a house cat, and the other through the eyes of a social outcast, and because they’re cartoon characters, people tend to be more forgiving, and less judgmental.
SMC – You also wrote a compelling piece called ‘A Chicken in a Cathouse’. I do feel that is a pretty powerful piece. What was behind this piece and your reason/purpose for writing/creating it?
Robert – I wanted to chronicle a true story, and also make people aware of a practice that still goes on to this day around the world. There is a sort of coming of age ritual that goes on where a young boy is initiated into adulthood when still a teen by taking him to a cathouse – which is another name for a house of prostitution. Often the boys will perform awkwardly because they’re still basically kids. This practice is seen as harmless, but it can often negatively affect any later relationships that the boy will have when he becomes an adult. It all depends on the experience, but I believe that a boy of 13 years of age just doesn’t have the wherewithal to understand what’s going on, or what’s expected of him, and so there can be lingering issues later on. The actual events as they unfold in my piece are true. This happened down to the last detail to someone that I know. In 2013, ‘A Chicken in a Cathouse’ was part of the Sans Diego Short Film Screening at The Producer’s Club in New York City. There were a number ofgreat films screened that evening to a very receptive sold out audience. My video also screened in Mexico City and in the UK.
SMC – You also have a pretty scary short called ‘The Homecoming’. I admit, I watched through my fingers LOL. Can you tell us a little more about this film and its theme?
Robert – Thank you for such a nice compliment. My intention was to experiment with a piece where one felt compelled to watch, even if it scared the heck out of them. Judging by your question and comment, something worked. ‘The Homecoming‘ is the ultimate warped love story. It is the story of undying love, even in the face of death. The male character passes away suddenly and unexpectedly and then literally rises from the grave in order to keep his promise to his lover that he would always return to her.
SMC – What part of the film-making process would you like to have involvement in or learn more about?
Robert – I’ve contributed to many aspects that were needed in film-making regarding the projects I’ve written or been a part of. I’ve written scripts. I’ve created props. I’ve done voice-over. I’ve acted in a few. I’ve written and recorded music. That being said, I consider myself an eternal student. There is always a lot to learn, and always things that a person can just not know about any one field or subject. I’m always open to being a team player and contributing as much as I can to the successful completion of any project that I’m a part of.
SMC – Your animated series are a lot of fun – this is where we begin to delve into your work as an Artist (which we will discuss next). Can you tell us what your greatest challenge is when creating for an animated series?
Robert – The greatest challenge is bringing it all together. I can come up with the idea. I can write the scripts. I can do the animation, and I can do the voice-overs. But it takes a lot of patience to marry these elements and still keep the project fun. And when you are doing this on your own, you can receive no feedback until you upload it or screen it, and by then it may be too late.
SMC – What platform do you create your animation still on? Photoshop, Illustrator?
Robert – It varies. Some of my artwork has to be scanned if I did it by hand, and if so, it can then be worked on using Photoshop. But a good amount of my artwork that’s used in some of my animated pieces is digital and was done using a mouse and the Paint program. Working on these is similar to artwork that I did using traditional methods, except no scanning is involved.
SMC – As an Artist, can you tell us which medium is your favorite to work with?
Robert – I enjoy working with oil paints, water color, goache, pencil and acrylic. If I had to choose one, it would probably be oil paint, but I enjoy it all. I have also created “paintings” that have incorporated sculpture in it – meaning, I will create a portion of a painting that will come out at the viewer in a sort of solid 3-D fashion. I will mount a particular piece, usually some part that is made of plaster, onto a canvas, as part of the bigger piece, and tie them all together.
SMC – You have also created and sold pieces to help charities…can you tell us which ones?
Robert – I did paintings to help raise funds for a local school’s art program in Brooklyn, where I live, which was very successful. I also did artwork for the Easter Seals Society of New York, and a number of other places. I really enjoyed being a part of these programs, and I’m always open to doing more when time permits.
SMC – Is there any painting you are working on at present?
Robert – No. Art has had to take a back seat lately. I enjoy it immensely, but it can also be time consuming in comparison to writing and music. And while I find it therapeutic in helping me to relax, finding the time to work on art at this stage is difficult.
SMC – Which Artist in history is your muse?
Robert – I admire so many artists, contemporary and throughout history. If I had to choose one single artist, I would have to say Leonardo DaVinci. I also admire Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Albert Pynkham Ryder, but DaVinci stands out for me, mainly because he did so many other things, and I enjoy doing as much as possible, too. He was a writer, a sculptor, a designer, an inventor, a scientist, and so much more. Trying to imagine what kind of a mind he possessed is often as intriguing as studying his work.
SMC – What is your muse today when creating new art?
Robert – Unfortnately, I cannot seem to find enough time these days to carry out the new ideas that I’d like to have committed to canvas, or whatever medium I’m considering. From time to time I will manage to get something done, but it’s definitely not as commonplace an activity for me as it once was. But I look forward to the day in the near future when I will be able to return to doing artwork once again. Maybe if I hit the lottery I’ll be able to do that.
SMC – What do you feel about the kind of support in New York City that is available to Artists?
Robert – Despite the fact that New York City is home to the Metroplitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art, as well as so many other great institutions, like The Fricke, or The Cloisters – I don’t know that Art for the average undiscovered artist has ever been well supported in New York City. I’ve taken part in some exhibitions, but I’ve never felt any tangible amount of support. Just as with anything else in New York City, a creative person has to take the initiative. Nothing comes to you in New York City. Just as with any endeavor and any location, one has to aggressively seek out opportunities.
SMC – With such diversity in your talent, can you tell us how you have been able to integrate it into every aspect of your careers to date?
Robert – Some projects make it easier to incorporate more skills into a single project, while others don’t always allow it. For instance, if I decide to write a book, it will be just the book unless some other aspect comes into play. However, if I write a children’s book, especially a picture book, it may also involve artwork, sometimes poetry. If I write a song, I know that at some point I most likely will be creating a video to help promote it. So the work may involve writing, recording and producing the song, as well as creating artwork, props, graphics, sometimes recruiting acting talent, and shooting video to go along with it.
SMC – What would you like to see happen for Artists/Writers in the industry today?
Robert – I’d like to see it made easier for new artists and writers to gain a foothold in the publishing world, in music, and in writing, for TV or Hollywood. A lot really does depend on connections in the various industries, and unfortunately many really great ideas and innovative writers will never see their work produced. The industry does not welcome new talent or any talent that they’re not already acquainted with, and because of that, we see many books with themes that seem repetitious, and in film we see remakes, sequels, prequels, and endless animated movies that involve dancing penguins and talking dogs, mainly because Hollywood is so closed off to new writers and new ideas. In literature, aside from the Harry Potter series, or a very few other projects, we see just how little interest children today have in reading. In music, the airwaves are cluttered with generic and formulaic product. I don’t hear all that much that is creative or original. Much of what commercial terrestrial radio plays is fine if you’re a teen or slightly older, but in my opinion, if you want to hear anything with substance, you need to find the local oldies station or turn to Internet radio, which is just about the only place that you can hear anything new, creative, innovative, or with staying power.
SMC – Which social media platform do you feel is most effective in getting the ‘word out’ on your new projects?
Robert – Without a doubt, Twitter has worked best for me. It’s fast paced, and in my experience generally reaches a wider, larger audience quicker.
SMC – Which social media platform do you think is most effective in general?
Robert – Again, I would have to say it’s Twitter. I also use Facebook, but the potential for reaching a wide audience is hampered by the size of your “friends” network. Facebook tends to discourage users reaching out to others with whom they have no connection. Youtube, Vimeo and Daily Motion are also good for reaching out to your audience, but with these, you also have to let your target audience know that you even have material posted if you are going to attract attention. So once again, sites like Twitter and Facebook come into play.
SMC – Your book ‘Temporary Angels’ does delve into your personal life somewhat – can you tell us which events in your life are most profound for you and which have shaped who you are today?
Robert – Easily the events where I was able to be helpful to others have been the most profound. I mention a young Australian woman in the book that had gotten all scraped up after tripping and falling in the mud while jogging in the park near my home, that seemed practically invisible to others, even though the park was packed with people that day. For whatever reason, I felt compelled to get involved, and I felt that I got as much out of helping her as she did from me coming to her aid. I find this kind of balance to be essential in everything I do in my life. Though things like this rarely fall at my feet the way that this one did.
SMC – What would you give as advice to Artists trying to ‘make it’ in the industries you have delved in?
Robert – I would tell them to not give up too early. If they have true talent and a real passion for what they ‘re doing, they should never give up. They should search out every avenue. Be as nice to everyone you meet as possible, because at the very least, you never know who may end up being a contact or connection somewhere down the line. I would tell them to believe in themselves, but to always stay humble. I would tell them they should not listen to those who with envy will tell you that you’ll never make it. In general I would tell them to be practical, and to persevere. If they truly believe in what they’re doing, they should never give up.
SMC – What does ‘success’ mean to you in terms of all your careers?
Robert – Success can mean a lot of things to me. Success can mean a lot to a lot of different people. Sometimes, for myself, success can be as simple as getting a great response for something that I worked hard to get completed. Sometimes it can lead me to another project or an opportunity to do more. Ultimately, in today’s world, success means recognition and financial reward, because it’s only with funding that an artist is able to create freely, without worry. When one is forced to choose between eating and paying the rent, or being able to freely create because they do not have such worries, it can be the ideal atmosphere for new and innovative ideas.
SMC – What is your favorite thing to do in your private time?
Robert – I have not had private time in years, but when I did have private time, I used to love to be outside in nature. I used to enjoy gardening. I used to love to hike and take walks. I used to go to the theater more often. Now it’s either Netflix or nothing.
SMC – What do you feel is essential in helping you feel most creatively ‘in the flow’?
Robert – I think that for me it is time – having the time to do the things I’d like to do is essential to me. Because of this, I jot down lots of notes to myself. I am always having ideas for new songs, stories, poems, books, and scripts come to me. I just don’t always have the time to develop them the way I’d like to. Now it’s more a matter of which idea or project seems more timely than the rest.
SMC – In your book ‘Temporary Angels’ you talk about how you have ‘given back’ to less fortunate people/families. Can you tell us which charities or organizations you like to support and why?
Robert – I tend to support charities that are local. I think that when you give locally, there tends to be less of the funds spent on the salaries of those that run the charities, than when you donate to some massive organization with thousands of employees. I think the more direct approach is always best. I like to donate to a local soup kitchen near where I live. My local YMCA has drives throughout the year that I like to donate to. I like to donate to animal shelters in my area as well. Just as with people, animals tend to need similar items. They need shelter and food, and towels and clothing. And giving to these is easy, and you can see the effects more readily and know where your money is going.
SMC – You seem to talk a lot about potatoes….what is the correlation? Why the fascination with potatoes?
Robert – Hunger, starvation and malnutrition are major problems at home and around the world. I wrote a piece about potatoes a while back that showed just how important Potatoes can be in meeting the nutritional needs of the human race. My article traced the origin of the potato from its humble origin in South America, where originally it was about the size of a human thumb, but over time, through careful cultivation, developed into a food item that is the staple of many cultures around the world. Accordingto the World Health Organization, many lives can be saved with just a glass of milk and a cooked potato, and implementing such a program would be easier than most would imagine.
SMC – You seem to be so supportive of everyone on twitter as well as other social media platforms! I see you tweeting so many lovely things about your peers. Thank you! What has your experience been like by engaging in this way?
Robert – The vast majority of the time, I’ll either get a lukewarm “thank you” or a “thanks for the retweet” – but occasionally I will make a true “friend.” I think people tend to either be wary of praise, or they begin to expect it, and there are few that are comfortable enough to accept it for what it is, and graciously pay it forward. Despite this, I still try to be as supportive of everyone as I can be, because I know how difficult it was for me to get any support whatsoever.
SMC – Can you tell us what being a part of the SMC Family experience has been like for you so far?
Robert – If my memory serves me, I have only been a part of the SMC Family for about four and a half months, but already I’ve felt a tremendous amount of support for the things that I do. It’s a difficult thing to continue trying to be creative when your efforts are never acknolwedged. And often it’is in the small gestures that we are able to carry on. With SMC I truly feel as if I’m able to breathe easy. I don’t feel as if the support I am feeling will be gone in a flash. For an artist or creative person that has always had support, this sentiment will never be understood. But for the vast majority of us, just knowing that you have the support of someone who recognizes your struggle is enough to make us want to continue, and to be supportive of others in our own way.
SMC – What are you most grateful for in life?
Robert – I am grateful for my dysfunctional family. I am grateful for my good health. And most recently, I am grateful for wandering into the world of Internet Radio, and ultimately finding you and SMC, and the group of supporters that came with these. This seemed to be a total chance discovery, but it was a timely discovery. Just prior to this, I was about to give up music once again. I feel that I am always one step away from quitting the creative life. There was a period just before I began writing and recording again, around 2004, that I had not played a single note of music for about ten years. My own personal experience for so long had been, “support of any kind for new bands was impossible to come by, and it was only a fluke that I started playing guitar again.” It was around 2004 that I was working on a few film projects that needed music, and it was through that process of seeking out and locating talent that my own interest in my music was reawakened.
SMC – Okay – final question: Can you tell us five things about yourself that no one knows anything about?
1) My parents met while trying to pick each other’s pockets during the Christmas festival at Grand Central Station.
2) Chuck Woolery is my godfather, once removed (using a minimally invasive procedure.)
3) My real name is Wink Martindale, but since there already was a Wink Martindale, I had mine legally changed to Robert Segarra.
4) My parents named me Robert Segarra because they loved that it is an anagram for – Sara Is A Great Robot.
5) I am a huge animal lover. (I don’t mean that I’m 20 feet tall or weigh 500 lbs, or anything like that. I just mean that I’m devoted to the well-being of nature’s creatures everywhere.)
Thank you Robert!
Robert – You’re very welcome! Thank you for this opportunity!
Robert Segarra BIO
Lifelong Brooklyn native ROBERT SEGARRA is a New York Artist, Writer
He is the Author of “STILL WAITING FOR THE SUN” – a lighthearted novel
that details the difficult life of an unmotivated woman as she receives a
very bizarre inheritance. With this unexpected windfall, she will attempt to
get her second chance at life – a life that she had almost given up on.
He is the Author of “MILLION DOLLAR HARRY” – A humorous novel.
Most recently he is the Author of “TEMPORARY ANGELS” – a true-life book
about angels and the after-life.
His poem, “HEAVEN” was also recently published.
Some of his other books are “CROW HILL & OTHER POEMS“,
– as well as the illustrated children’s book and perennial favorite,
“THE CHRISTMAS MOUSE.”
Robert Segarra is the screenwriter of a number of screenplays, including
“WAITING FOR EUGENE“, “A NIGHT AT THE INN“, “A SITUATION WANTED“, “BEAT THE STREET” and “AN ANGEL COMES FOR OFELIA.”
Robert’s music can be found at Amazon.com, CD Baby, iTunes and a number of
other fine sites.
In 2015, while then Artist of the Month IAMWARFACE came blasting onto the Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) radar, there was another sound we heard that also caught our attention. It was the hauntingly beautiful instrumentals of Portland, Oregon Composer The Lady AnoNYMous, a pseudoNYM and alter ego of Writer and Composer anoNYMous Raven (Nym for short). I know, a mouthful, right? I assure you, once you have begun to delve into the vast library of this exceptional Composer, you will agree that there aren’t enough elaborate descriptives in the dictionary that come close to explaining the discerning and ethereal compositions he creates.
Late this summer, Nym launched his album ‘Dialectical Observations’ and the result is a peek into the magical, kaleidoscope-like world that we at SMC have come to know so well of this Artist. Throughout this interview, I have stated my thoughts on Nyms’ art in questions which are answered in depth. I have to say that this is a true work of art that I have much admiration for. The album in its entirety is not only eloquent and beautiful, it is majestic and magical too. My personal favorite is ‘Fleeting Fractals’ which, to me, represents the sounds of joy and life and birth of something beautiful. Use your imagination when listening and remember my words – it will make sense. With compositions like these, it wouldn’t surprise me if this Artist is approached by the film industry – these are songs that could easily fit into the film world and I do hope to see this happen for Nym and when it does, I won’t be surprised. This is one of those Artists whose work (I predict) will one day end up in that Academy Award-winning Fantasy or Science Fiction film and you will all look back one day and think: ‘Hey, isn’t that that Artist who we first read about on the SMC Spotlight?’
Why yes, yes it was…
Editor’s Note: I would personally like to tip my hat to Nym for a beautiful work of art with this album. I think it should be in the libraries of every ambitious music collector and played on that cozy night in with the candles going and a glass of wine. It’s like audible medicine for the soul…Enjoy.
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | The Lady AnoNYMous
SMC – Hello Nym! We are happy to have you back for this second Spotlight Numbered Series. We last had you on our older Spotlight platform. Can you tell us what has been happening for you career-wise since then?
Nym – Mostly I’ve been a recluse on a small farm, which has demanded a lot of physical labor, which I’m able to do after three years of having severe limitations. So, I’ve had less time for music, though I’ve been promoting online nearly every day, and in particular it paid off with landing an interview on Beyond The Dawn Radio’s Erosion Factory show. I’m now one degree of separation from some of my favorite artists in the music and film industries!
SMC – Your new music from your album ‘Dialectical Observations’ is astounding! My first listen was ‘When Anchorage Became an Island’ and I felt the emotion in the whole instrumental piece. Can you tell us what helps you create your storyboard visual when you create pieces like this?
Nym – I don’t really have visuals in mind when I write music; it comes from a purely emotional place, mostly stemming from tunes that get stuck in head that seemingly come from nowhere. There are other times when it just begins from an experimentation in sound. For that song, I developed a cello theme, and I approached the rest of the song from a feeling of grace in sadness.
SMC – Your second single from the album was spot on for ‘Man Seeking Cocoon’…I feel like these are so suited to the kinds of films that win Academy Awards…Can you tell me if you are creating a sound that is geared toward film?
Nym – It has been previously suggested to me that I work in film. When I was younger, I listened to scores from my favorite films and TV series, and now I can’t watch anything without listening closely to its soundtrack, so the experience partly feels like research!
SMC – I had also noticed that after downloading the songs from the new album there is some magnificent artwork that coincides with all your pieces. Are they the starting point for your music creations? They are incredible!
Nym – The link I sent you was for what I call an ‘Artist’s Edition,’ usually reserved for patrons of my Patreon crowdfunding campaigns. They’re usually accompanied by a lot of visual art, and I now have a trade agreement with an amazing digital artist, Cyril Rolando. We can freely use each other’s art, as long as we give credit. He’s also responsible for the cover art of many of my EPs.
SMC – Can you tell me which is your favorite score from this album and why?
Nym – I think the second half of ‘Fistfuls of Whimsy’ is possibly the most perfect thing I have ever achieved. It’s absolutely epic, if I do say so myself. Also, I think ‘Less Sinister Cousins’ is a really fun ballad with lots of experimental elements.
SMC – What has the reception been like for your music?
Nym – Well, I’ve only ever once received negative criticism, and I think that was by a troll. My songs seem to be appreciated by people who of many different musical tastes: people who otherwise prefer metal, hip-hop, techno, and Christian music. That last is a little unexpected, since I’m openly and pretty vocal about being gay and promote gender awareness Mostly, my audience is mostly made up of lovers of ambient and neoclassical music, and I’ve always been warmly received.
SMC – I know that truly unique music like yours isn’t often found in mainstream music that is created today. I feel it’s because it is so unique and eclectic. With that being said, I also feel there is most definitely a place for your music and I see it doing well with the film circuit…what are your thoughts on that?
Nym – I’m very interested in working in film, and I’ve been hoping to be approached for scoring an independent short film. I’d like to start small, but I’ve known to just jump right into things! Zoe Keating’s doing the music for the series ‘The Returned’ inspired me greatly. I’ve also occasionally seen post-rock bands credited as doing the scores for some major films.
SMC – What instrument would you say that you gravitate toward and why?
Nym – My first love is piano. I started out with a fisher price ‘Sesame Street’ toy piano when I was two years old. Then, from the age of seven I had weekly lessons for five years. When I was fifteen, I was captivated by Tori Amos, who showed me piano has a place in alternative rock. I also have a great love for cello, which I believe has a three-dimensional sound that is pretty unique.
SMC – I listened to your score ‘Fleeting Fractals’ and I almost cried. I am not kidding…this song reminds me of joy and life and birth of something beautiful. Virtually all your music has this element for me, but this song was just so…happy for me to hear. What was it like to create that song? What was going on in your mind when you began to create it?
Nym – I really don’t know how that happened. I went into it drawing inspiration from How To Destroy Angels’ thick bass sound and post-metal guitars in their song ‘Keep It Together’ and accompanied it with a short, previously recorded alto piano ditty. The soprano piano sort of jumped in of its own accord, and the song became unexpectedly happy, which I just sort of ran with. I blame my meds.
SMC – ‘Signor Fancypants’ is another great score…can you tell me how you come up with the names for each song? This one is totally suited to the instrumentation heard throughout and I can’t explain why! Do you write these with a person in mind or a situation?
Nym – Sometimes I pluck song titles from the air and record them with that in mind. Other times the song just tells me its name while I’m working on it. For ‘Less Sinister Cousins’ I had to meditate on it for quite some time and followed an intricate stream of consciousness that jumped through many different associations. With ‘Signor Fancypants’ there was a swaggering, snooty quality that inspired the title. I also sometimes draw from film and television. ‘When Anchorage Became An Island’ and ‘Butterflies On Ganymede’ both came from the series ‘The Expanse.
SMC – Why the colors ‘black and white’ for your album? I personal love the combination, but I would like to hear what your thoughts are on this?
Nym – I was just trying to be pretentiously artsy with photos of various trees I took around our property. It’s that simple. Then I ran with it for the artwork of the Artist’s Edition of the album.
SMC – Can you tell us what you would ideally like to see happen with your music in terms of getting it heard and in which market you would best like it showcased in?
Nym – I’d love to see it performed by an orchestra. Oh, how about a traveling orchestra?! As for what market… I think I touch on every sub-genre of alternative rock, and would like to see it distributed on CD and vinyl, and some of it to be played in clubs. I would also like to hear what I’ve previously recorded in the soundtracks of film and television. That would be less intimidating than actually scoring for those mediums.
SMC – ‘Less Sinister Cousins’ is a very magical little number. I quite like the charm and mystical feel to it. Almost feels like something you would see in an eleven film or video…
Nym – It was inspired by fantasy author Charles De Lint, so if it was included in a movie or television adaptation, that would be awesome.
SMC – ‘Fistfuls of Whimsy’ again has that magical element heard throughout. I think that there is definitely a lovely theme here throughout the whole album – a story if you will…can you tell us what that might be?
Nym – I like to think of it as a ‘cinematic’ experience, when listened to all the way through. As for the story, I think that’s up to each listener. For me, it brings a lot of personal experiences to mind. ‘When Anchorage Became An Island’ calls to mind a past trauma that I think I’ve learned to handle with grace. But there’s also been many magical experiences in my life, and I try to approach life in general from a place of whimsy. For ‘Fistfuls,’ I wanted to express that a person who has been a ‘metal head’ in the past can appreciate and even make this kind of music.
SMC – I am personally writing my own book and can envision your music woven throughout my mind while I am writing. Would you be open to collaborating on promotional for projects like mine or others who are looking to showcase your work?
Nym – Absolutely. I think that’s an absolutely lovely idea. I think art can inspire and complement other art.
SMC – Can you tell us what the next 3-6 months look like for you in terms of promotion of your album to music platforms and/or radio?
Nym – As an independent artist, all promotional work walls on me (the main reason I’m always looking for a label that doesn’t repulse me). That takes up much of my energy in this field. Before and after a release always includes an intense campaign. It’s up to me to promote awareness of its availability on mainstream and independent media, and that includes distribution through an online service and sending out my music and feelers toward radio stations and hosts. It takes a lot of email and social media networking. I’ve had the pleasure to be interviewed on some radio shows and for music magazines, in particular the aforementioned Erosion Factory and of course this wonderful publication.
SMC – What do you feel is lacking in the music industry today?
Nym – With most of music being listened on free streaming platforms such as Spotify and YouTube, there needs to be a dramatic restructuring of how royalties and ad revenue are distributed. And record labels are expecting Artists to pay dramatic sums upfront rather than investing in them.
SMC – What do you feel is abundant in the music industry today?
Nym – Definitely an awareness and availability of independent music. Unless they restructure themselves, record labels are becoming obsolete, as artists now have more tools to distribute and promote their music.
SMC – Which social media platform do you gravitate to and why?
Nym – Personally, I’m a subscriber of Apple Music. Their library is quite extensive, and with the ease it took to be a verified artist, I have the ability to connect with fans on their unique Apple Music Connect feature. Also, I already had a MacBook, iPad, and iPhone that are easy to network with each other.
SMC – Which social media platform has been best in promoting your music?
Nym – Actually, I’ve been able to draw in a larger fan base that aren’t friends and family on Google Plus. My audience is more international, and I’m able to use their Communities feature to project more awareness with ease.
SMC – Can you tell us what you feel is the best thing about social media in general?
Nym – It’s the best and most frequently used promotional tool, these days. If an artist doesn’t have social media accounts across the board, they’re most likely to be passed over or forgotten.
SMC – What do you feel are the downfalls of media platforms today who claim to be in support of all indie music?
Nym – They often prey on artists for financial gain. As independent artists, we’re usually poor and can only invest in our art as a hobby rather than a career, until we ‘make it big.
SMC – What music platform do you promote your music on mainly?
Nym – I mentioned Apple Music Connect earlier. It’s one more social media platform, but one that is specifically geared toward artists sharing with fans. But Google lets artists customize their page’s art and bio. Spotify sucks in that regard by requiring a certain number of fans before an artist can be ‘verified’ and then have any say in how they’re presented.
SMC – There are a lot of Artists who gravitate towards curated Spotify playlists these days. What are your thoughts on this?
Nym – I think it can be a useful tool. I personally don’t use Spotify much, but it’s an oft-used streaming platform, and I think playlists with a specific demographic in mind will possibly be listened to by many.
SMC – Okay, final question: if you could sum up why you chose music as a career in 140 characters or less, how would it read?
Nym – Music is a universal language. As an artist, the most rewarding thing for me is to be a part of the soundtrack for a person’s life.
The moment has finally arrived! We are pleased to announce that our Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) 2017/18 Artist of the Year, London, UK-based Hannah Clive has been officially launched on our website (see here)! We have launched this feature & her page in the same month last year when Hannah won our October 2016 Artist of the Month event – there is just something special about this month: Hannah is special.
In 2015 when our September Artist of the Month winner IAMWARFACE catapulted into the SMC music scene, many UK artists began competing in our monthly events. In the fall of 2016, IAMWARFACE frontman Matt Warneford nominated Hannah for the October event. It is ironic that these two top performers from the same country have aced our Artist of the Year events, but, we assure you, they were chosen by our Judges for their incredible talent! All our SMC Artist of the Year competitors this year and last were stellar – it was a very tough decision to make. For the 2017 competition, we had four voting platforms for the Judges: Best in Media Support, Best in Music and Instrumentation, Best in Fan Interaction and Engagement, and Best in Social Media, Content, and Branding. Hannah not only excels in these areas, she is the total package when we look at an artist whose mark in this very tough industry has stood the test of time. She approaches everyone and everything with a smile, quick wit, and even her favorite: cake! (yes, cake. If you haven’t been following her tweets, get on that!). But beyond all these personal attributes, Hannah is a woman on the rise: her music is always evolving and she continues to interact with her peers and fans daily which is very rare to see. These are the kinds of things that keep an Artist relevant and current and we definitely see great things happening for her!
Hannah’s’ page on the SMC website has all of her socials, latest videos, links to her interview with Limehead Radio, announcements and upcoming events or shows are located in one convenient spot. We encourage you to get to know our reigning SMC royalty by connecting and following on all her socials and while you’re here, check out our exclusive interview with her below!
Editor’s Note: Hannah I want to personally congratulate you again. I know that this industry can be challenging at the best of times, but you, dear, continue to surprise us all with your perseverance, talent, and ability to stay at the top of your game with your art and loyal fan base. Now, it’s your time to shine as our Official SMC 2017 Artist of the Year! Welcome to the SMC Family!
SMC Exclusive Interview | Hannah Clive SMC 2017/18 Artist of the Year!
SMC – Hello Hannah! We are beyond thrilled that you are our SMC Artist of the Year! Can you tell us where you were when you found out you had won and what your first thoughts were?
HC – I was standing in the middle of a field having just performed at Frontrow Festival in deepest, darkest Oxfordshire, England when somehow, I got reception and took a call from Matt of (IAM)WARFACE around one AM telling me I’d won SMC Artist of the Year. I was elated, as were the other musicians for me, prompting singing late into the night with the Scottish contingent the Barstow Bats enthusiastically leading the charge.
SMC – Can you tell us what you think about online Artist voting competitions? What were your thoughts on the SMC Artist of the Year event?
HC – If I’m honest – generally speaking I’m skeptical of Artist Voting Competitions and other similar ventures like Battle of The Band competitions. I’ve heard horror stories from fellow musicians where they’ve been left out of pocket. So, I think a lot of competitions tend to leave a lot to be desired – they’re very good for competition organizers and their own promotion, fan base grabbing and connections made, yet they don’t seem to benefit the participants in any real way; artists who do work their a**es off, pushing the darned thing! I didn’t feel that about SMC Artist of The Year as I have built a relationship with you over a few years and you actually do cross-promote.
SMC – Can you tell us where your biggest supporters come from aside from the UK?
HC – My biggest group of supporters outside of the UK is in the USA and Canada.
SMC – Are there any people you would like to give a shout out to for their support during the competition?
HC – I’d like to thank all my ‘Queens of Ireland’ for their unfailing support, to Music Hour UK, fellow bands who’ve shared the love as well as to all my unfailing supporters. Last but very not least – last year’s winners, (IAM)WARFACE and all the ‘Warfarian’s out there.
SMC – Where did you first learn about SMC?
HC – Word of mouth via a local band of musicians (IAM)WARFACE.
SMC – Let’s get into your career – I saw recently that you were in the recording studio with IAMWARFACE, our 2016 Artists of the Year. Can you tell us what’s going on behind the scenes there?
HC – I can’t reveal too much but suffice to say Matt and I are writing new material together, we’ve yet to decide when we will present that. I’m singing and it’s all gone a bit James Bond meets Warface and Hannah’s smoky, torch vocals…and it really works – appeals to my cinematic background I guess.
SMC – We saw from your Facebook Page that you had recently performed live at a charity event. Can you tell us which festivals or events you have performed at over the summer?
HC – Well, when not attending to review them as I did with the Indies on the Jack Rocks / This Feeling Stage at Isle of Wight festival, I have been performing at quite a few! Starting with London’s largest one-day music festival The Hanwell Hootie sponsored by Marshall Amplifications – I know Jim Marshall’s son and now CEO Terry Marshall – he came down to support me personally, which was very moving. Then there’s been Into The Wild Festival along with (IAM)WARFACE – completely loved that. FrontRow Fest in Oxfordshire and there’s been the Bicester Round Table ‘Pub In The Park’ charity event, among others.
SMC – Do you have any events coming up that we can share with our readers?
HC – I was planning on releasing a new EP September/ October but I’m still waiting on the final production processes to be completed, plus now I’ve done this stuff with Matt – I’m in two minds as to what to release. I would very much like to release something new because fans are wanting it and it’s been a while – but it’s gotta be right in terms of my direction artistically. It may be I’m looking at another metamorphosis 😉
SMC – Being our Artist of the Year means having our support from July 2017 to June 2018. Can you tell us how best we can help promote you on our site? We love creativity and collaborations but we are also aware that our artists have their own vision on how they are promoted…what is your vision?
HC – So long as SMC are able to offer what all artists need which is their music promoted, available for people to listen to easily, presented in an engaging way and that the places where it can be bought are on prominent one-click-away display – really that’s all that matters to us music makers. It can be an expensive hobby so any investment we get from our supporters is enabling and always greatly appreciated. My vision has always been not to shout ‘BUY MY MUSIC’ or ‘CHECK THIS OUT’ – it puts people off. Instead I prefer building genuine fan relationships – I find that’s the best way to naturally generate interest in one’s music with music fans – and to be real.
SMC –We have Limehead Radio in the UK linked to our SMC Spotlight – can you tell us about your experience with your recent interview with them?
HC – I loved doing my interview with Limehead. They’re enthusiastic new music supporters and that always gets my vote! They have a good ear too for quality new music and goodness knows it’s out there and a genuine interest in supporting it.
SMC – Speaking of Radio – are there any stations you would like to give a shout-out to who have been supportive of your music?
HC – First and foremost all at EGH Radio Wednesday Unsigned Show with Stephen and Anne Lambert, and with Niki Tyler on Thursdays Unsigned Pop Show. Now that is a genuine community of music makers and supporters, where I tune in virtually every week. Also have to give a shout out to Gary Crowley at BBC Radio London (see below) for all his kind words and his support, playing my tracks twice now on BBC introducing in London. Additionally, to Gaby Roslin for inviting me on her show as a guest and to perform at BBC Radio London. But there is a plethora of independent digi’ stations out there I could mention – all doing an admirable job of play-listing new music, whereas nationals for whatever reason just can’t. Instead radio pluggers and corporates tie their hands. So, Independents such as Stephen and Anne at EGH Radio are seemingly the true Champions of real new music now – elsewhere it’s become a turn-style for the mainstream radio stations due to the sheer volume sent in versus available airtime for unsigned acts. The rest of the airtime has to be dedicated to signed acts and therein perhaps lays the problem.
SMC – Which Media platforms (aside from Radio) have been most supportive of your music?
HC – Social media is the best alternative platform and for that see Twitter. Facebook videos get a lot of hits too, more so than Youtube. I’m trying to branch out into Spotify playlists but they have to be the right ones apparently.
SMC – Can you tell us who your ‘go-to’ team is in terms of the production of your music/videos/branding?
HC – Production I have my Producer friend Brian Tench who’s worked with the best including Kate Bush and The Bee Gees and we often use my session musician friends who all play on world class material elsewhere. My branding I do myself, plus I bounce artistic ideas off of Matt from (IAM)WARFACE – he’s an artist as well as a musician so he has that artist’s eye, I’m also looking at image with Mrs. Warface.
SMC – I am aware that you come from an esteemed background in terms of the entertainment history and your family (your father). Can you tell us about that?
HC – Basically, growing up my Dad was on the telly – a lot! He was in seminal British Television programming and films of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s including Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange to name but a few. Like the actor Julian Fellowes who wrote Downton Abbey – my father the actor John Clive went on to become a successful writer, in his case an international best-selling author several times over and a screenplay writer and I’m very proud of him. He had me late and died only a few years ago but I feel strongly that he’s keeping a close eye on my career as its something he always supported. My mother was on the Production side in Light Entertainment including seminal British music programmes like the BBC’s Top of The Pops, then after having me and my brother went into specialist VIP and Press liaison – so I have a very solid grounding in the Business.
SMC – Okay – let’s get into your music: Can you tell us which of your songs has received the most traction on radio?
HC – Oh goodness that’s difficult – they all have. Fire seems very popular, as is Kiss of Life.(below)
SMC – Do you write all your own music?
HC – Pretty much yes.
SMC – Do you plan on having any co-writes in the near future?
HC – I love collaborations and am always up for them. I like mixing things up I did as say with The Herbaliser on ‘Lost Boy’ (see belwo) or as I’m doing now with IAW – it sends you off creatively on a different path to the one you normally tread.
SMC – What is the song-writing process like for you?
HC – If working with others its quick. If its me I tend to get a burst, leave it for while, come back to it, tweak it etc. When writing it has to flow easily – if I try and force it the result is never as good. I have to have a buzz for it.
SMC – What instrument do you create your songs with?
HC – Good question. First it was piano, and then I didn’t have one (not particularly portable and I dislike plastic keys) so I wrote using the guitar for twenty years. Now I have my piano back I’m writing with that again and loving it – for instance Fire started out on piano and was then transposed to guitar.
SMC – Which instruments do you play aside from the acoustic guitar?
HC – Piano, flute, piccolo and tambourine – I play a mean tambourine (little known fact!) I write string parts too.
SMC – What do you admire most about other Musicians in the industry that have inspired you in some way?
HC – Their tenacity in the face of ever-dwindling returns! They keep playing because it’s their passion and Music chooses you.
SMC – Can you tell me whom your most influential role models were growing up?
HC – My Dad was a huge influence both musically and in the art of performance. Others early influences include John Lennon /The Beatles, Yellow Submarine was a biggie, Elton John, film scores, plus a raft of old school classic singers whom my Dad used to play on vinyl e.g. Ella Fitzgerald, Julie London, Peggy Lee – oh and Sinatra, but in this last instance that was more to do with the songwriting. My Mum who was younger than my Dad was a music influence on me too – she played things like Simon and Garfunkel, Earth, Wind and Fire – oh and ZZ Tops at full volume, at speed, with the windows down!
SMC – What does the term ‘success’ mean to you?
HC – Honestly? Being recognized for my craft and making enough money from my own music to pay the bills – anything else is a bonus – holidays in Antigua can wait.
SMC – How have you been able to juggle your career with home life? We see you always out there hustling and doing such a fab job of your social media!
HC – I feel like Zorba the Greek sometimes I’m juggling that many plates but then that’s what modern Mum’s do and I’m no exception. Mine’s just a slightly unusual area of employ is all, but no different than that in which I was raised, so it’s normal to me.
SMC – Can you tell us what advice you have been given by industry peers which stands out for you or which has influenced the way you do things now?
HC – Listen, speak less, learn – blend into the wallpaper until you have.
SMC – What do the next 3 months look like for you in terms of your career and new music releases?
HC – As explained I’d like to release something new. I’ll avoid the Christmas crush of releases but if not The Fall, then springtime 2018. Hopefully more gigs this year, the festival season’s pretty much over so everyone is prepping for Christmas releases and booking in for festivals next year. Plus, I’m managing (IAM)WARFACE now at their insistence, so I now have all theirs to juggle too!
SMC – Are there any tours or festivals planned for the next few months?
HC – No.
SMC – Where is your biggest fan base located?
HC – The UK followed by USA, then Europe – also very popular in France and Germany –, which is handy coz I speak reasonable French, and they like their chanteuses. I’m open to going there and it’s a good market.
SMC – What is the approximate age group your largest fanbase is?
HC – Actually, it’s across the board but mainly the 25 – 50 bracket, male and female – and they buy music.
SMC – Can you tell us what you think is total career fulfillment for you?
HC – Being known for, respected for and doing what I’m best at – singing, songwriting and entertaining people – and being fairly remunerated for that.
SMC – Which social media platform do you gravitate to most and why?
HC – Twitter because its instant and they don’t use an algorithm (like Facebook) to pick what to tell your friends and followers.
SMC – Which social media or music platform do you think is most effective for Artists today?
HC – I’m still working that one out – truth be told probably a combination of all of them. Fortunately, most of my fans actually buy their music on hard copy or via a music platform like iTunes; they don’t prefer streaming on Spotify because they enjoy the attachment, the sense of propriety owning a copy and its better quality. They know it supports the artist buying it.
SMC – What are your thoughts on Spotify? I know we had a discussion about that and I know this is something that most Artists want is to be featured on Spotify playlists. Are you featured on any?
HC – I am apparently – but its something I need to look at more. Open to help there!
SMC – Can you tell us when in your lifetime was your ‘Ah Ha’ moment – the time where you knew music was your destiny?
HC – When I sat at the piano aged 9 or 10, wrote a song and called my dad in to have a listen. He immediately started typing up the lyrics for me so I knew I was on to something – clearly, he thought I had something because he wouldn’t have indulged me with his time had I not.
SMC – Okay, final question: if you had not pursued a career in music, what would you have chosen to be?
I have absolutely no idea – probably a marine biologist or naturalist of some kind – an eco warrior. When not on stage I like good honest earth and living off grid – it proves a useful antidote to the plastic fantastic people one sometimes meets in the music business!
We are pleased to announce our SMC Spotlight Featured Artist for October 2017 is Menton, France-born, Montreal, Canadian-based Ghostly Beard! Just as the name suggests, you won’t find imagery of him anywhere (believe me, we have all tried!) and much like Sia, he has chosen this pseudo-image/name as his signature moniker for the purpose of creating music and getting it out to his fans – minus the convoluted self-imagery that runs rampant through the music industry today. In fact, this incredibly talented Artist has no intention of ever performing live. Although some might say that is a risky move in the music community, we at Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) and Limehead Radio have specifically chosen Ghostly Beard as our October 2017 Featured Artist not only for his brilliant music, but also for his ability to consistently engage in the Artist community through social media platforms, always networking his peers and showing support for their music. Indeed, there aren’t many ‘Casper The Friendly Ghosts’ in the industry today, so it’s refreshing to see an Artist as passionate as he is about networking his peers while still maintaining his secret identity.
Today, we have launched the world premiere of his lyric music video for ‘Blue’ exclusively on the SMC Spotlight and our main website front page. It is a song written for his daughter and the beautiful imagery throughout demonstrates the love between a Father and his ‘little girl’. Without giving away the literal meaning behind this lovely song (see the interview below), I can honestly say that this song is one that will resonate with any parent. The song itself is a beautiful, soliloquy-type account of the immense love and pride one feels as a parent and the accompanying instrumentation is a gentle, dream-like melody which supports this.
Aside from the obvious, Halloween being the October theme for SMC and Limehead Radio, the Ghostly Beard not only reigns as our Featured Artist this month on both platforms, but it made sense to showcase his art as his music and presence in the Artist community is most definitely felt, even if he isn’t ‘seen’. I encourage you all to check out his socials at the end of this interview and watch the music video for ‘Blue’ (below) here and also on the SMC website at www.starlightmusicchronicles.com!
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Ghostly Beard
SMC – Hello Patrick! We are pleased to host you on the SMC Spotlight to coincide with the SMC and Limehead Radio Halloween special! Can you tell us what your thoughts are on the support you have received from both for the launch of your new music coming out?
GB – It’s awesome! I love it! It’s an amazing experience and an honor for me to be featured. I truly appreciate all the work you do in the background to help spreading the word about indie music and artists, it is essential for all of us and most welcome.
SMC – Speaking of new music – we launched the World Premiere of your music video ‘Blue’ today on the SMC Spotlight and our main website. Can you tell us what this song is about? The lyrics are sweet!
GB – Thank you! I’m really happy about this one, especially the lyrics. It’s dedicated to my daughter, Sarah. It’s been inspired by a picture I took when we adopted her in China, the very first day actually. She was almost a year old and that day when we first met her she had been crying nonstop for hours, but in this picture, she had finally given up to tiredness and she looked so peacefully asleep… The picture is in a shade of blue from the lighting, which is why the song is “Blue” and inspired by that color. But more than anything, this picture represents the exact moment that I fell in love with my daughter. The song is also about how she has changed my life… she’s 16 now and I’m very proud of the grown up she is now, but this song express how I will forever remember her somehow.
SMC – The video has some lovely scenes in it. Can you tell us who the creative team was behind the making of it?
GB – I’ve found Gareth Kay, the director, who actually lives in London, UK, from an online service called Radar (see here) The service allows you to post a brief and this will be picked by various video artists who will pitch their ideas. His was the most interesting, in that he proposed to do live footage with a friend and his daughter, the budget was pretty tight of course but he came up with this simple idea of a father/daughter having fun in a park. Since I’ve done this (and it was actually the first video I’ve done), I asked him to do a few more, and he has done videos for “Close Your Eyes” and “No Return” from the previous EP, and he’s now working on “A Reason to Leave” and will possibly work on another one from that new album.
SMC – Now, your album launches very soon! Can you tell us what we can expect from it in terms of how it differentiates from your last album?
GB – It’s very different. Someone said that it was almost a 180, perhaps a 150 turn from the previous EP, and it’s really the case. The previous EP was quite progressive-rock in spirit, while this one is much more jazz oriented, and much more song oriented too. So, it might be a little bit disconcerting for people who expected the same kind of music, but jazz is also a big part of my background and music that I love to listen to and write and play, so this album reflects that. I hope the people who have loved the first EP will give it a shot though, they might like it!
SMC – Did you write all your own music for the album?
GB – Yes, I did. I write, arrange, record, produce, mix everything in my home studio. I also perform all the instruments (although drums are programmed, I program them myself too), and sing (or try to anyway).
SMC – What is the theme of your album?
GB – Not sure it has a theme as such, it’s not a concept album. The previous EP was more cohesive in terms of theme, but this one is more diverse and I wanted it so. It has tales of lost love or obsession, but also dreamy tunes, or tender songs like the “Blue” song, and even self-deprecating fun songs like “Fool”.
SMC – How long did it take to create your album from first concept to final art?
GB – A couple of years, probably more. These songs, as well as the songs from the previous EP and the songs from the next album after this one, I have worked on since 2013 I think. I usually take at least a month from an initial idea to a finished song. And then to put them out there on an album, I have remixed them, and then had them mastered and worked on the cover art and packaging and running order, etc. so yeah, a long time!
SMC – In terms of your name ‘Ghostly Beard’ – why the name? How did you arrive at that?
GB – First, I tried to use my name ‘Patrick Talbot’ – but the .com domain was taken as well as many social media accounts. So, I decided that I would use an artist name… Choosing a name that wasn’t already taken proved quite difficult actually… I was looking for a name that would be fun and evocative around the idea of being invisible. Why? Because truly I am invisible, like many other indie artists, I mean we don’t really exist in the realm of the “music industry”. Also, I liked the idea of being invisible, because I think nowadays images take too much importance and precedence over music and I think it’s a shame. Personally, I don’t need any visual stimuli when I listen to good music. I put my headphones on and I close my eyes… So how to convey these ideas in a name? I looked for “invisible” something, “shadow” something else, finally I was happy about “Ghostly Bear” but the name was taken too! So, I added a “d” at the end because I do have a beard… And then I found that icon that I use as a logo and that settled it. I licensed the icon immediately because I found that it was so evocative of a beard, a ghost, a mask, anything you want, really. I love that.
SMC – Can you tell me what people’s reactions to your name and secret identity have been?
GB – It’s been really fun. At first people didn’t understand it, but once they’ve learned the reasons behind it, they’ve been playing the game… And I know that some people are desperately trying to find a pic of me and it’s like a treasure hunt… so that’s the fun part. But they won’t find anything of course. I’ve been totally absent of the world of social media until very recently, and then I never published any pic. Anyway, if they did find something, they would just be disappointed. A mystery is only good when it stays a mystery. The fun is in the hunt, and just like reading a book, compared to watching a movie, the best is in creating your own images in your mind, not having them imposed on you…
SMC – With the secret identity, it reminds me of Sia. Are your reasons the same as hers?
GB – Nothing as dramatic, no. And at first, I didn’t want to hide as such, I just didn’t want to put a closeup of my ugly mug on my website, I thought it wouldn’t be such an incentive to check my music. I played with images of shadows for the site because I’m fascinated by them. But the more I’ve seen people wanting to see my face, the more it made sense to me to refuse to show it. It’s a message, really… It says: forget the face, forget the image, listen to the music. Music to me is powerful enough that it doesn’t need any image to go with it, and certainly not the image of an old dude with a beard.
SMC – Can you tell me what people’s reactions have been like for your music so far?
GB – I’ve been blessed with a lot of positive feedback. I’ve received a lot of really awesome press and reviews for my first EP, and generally people are loving the music. I’ve also had some people saying to me that they have connected with my music and that it has touched them emotionally, which is amazing because to me that’s the ultimate goal. I mean I’m not in it for the money that’s for sure, and anyway I’m too old to have any claim of fame and fortune. I’m way passed that. But to have people connect with my music so deeply is something that means a lot to me, and something that makes me want to do more and better. In the end, and you might think that it’s paradoxical because I don’t show my face, but it’s all about human connection and this is something that I want my music to reflect upon and my actions on social media to be about.
SMC – What has that public/fan anticipation been like for the release of your new music so far?
GB – Everyone who has loved the first EP, and who has come across my music, has said to me that they are eager to hear what I would do next, and that’s been a great incentive for me to go forward. Now all I hope is that this new album, which is so different, is still going to connect with people, and perhaps make them want to open their ears to different music, things that they are not used to listen to in general. I really hope that people will give it a good listen anyway.
SMC – You have been such an amazing support among your peers. Can you tell us who you would like to give a shout out to in terms of support for your work among your industry peers?
GB – How many pages do I have? The truth is that it’s been only a few months that I’ve started reaching out and “meeting” people virtually on social media, and already I’ve seen many people doing amazing things to support indie artists and this is something that really warms my old heart. Now I can’t cite them all, because there are so many, and I would hate to forget anyone so I’ve created a page on my website that I call “partners” to list all the ones that I know of and to say thanks to them. It’s also a resource for other indie artists who might wonder who are the good ones in this indie world…
SMC – You also have a blog! It includes a directory of all your industry faves and its growing every day. Can you tell us more about this blog?
GB – The blog started as a simple way of keeping my site up to date. I started putting short stories about what inspires me. And then the more I’ve met people online in this indie world and the more I’ve felt that I needed to talk about it, about what they do, and how it affects me, and every other artist, and it also became a way to put forward a few ideas that I have about sharing and networking between artists and indie “actors” and how it seems obvious to me that this is the way to go for us little fishes if we want to get heard in a music industry that ignores us blatantly.
SMC – What has the support been for your blog?
GB – Pretty good so far! People are sharing it, commenting on it, and it’s really nice to see! Now It puts some pressure on me to write about the issues I see in the music industry and about ideas that I have and hear about how to better network and share and care. But I try to write one post at the time, and usually it comes from things that I’ve seen or experienced online or off, and that I want to talk about. So, I might talk about something light and just have fun with it on one post, and then the next try to go deeper about the state of the music industry. That people are reading it and discussing it with me amazes me and it’s great if this makes anyone think a little bit and believe that we can all make a change.
SMC – What has been the biggest accomplishment of your music career to date that you are most proud of?
GB – The fact that I came back to music after 15 years of drawing a blank, and that my music has actually gained a lot of musicality and maturity in the process… I was really good technically when I stopped playing altogether. I mean I could play anything, really. But now after 15 years of not touching an instrument, my technique is much more limited, and I’ve learned to work around that by writing more simply but more deeply, with a lot more attention to production details and arrangement. I’ve learned the power of silence in music, and how to play each note with some thoughts behind it instead of letting my fingers run their course. It’s really coming from my heart nowadays. I want everything that I play to be sing-able and memorable somehow.
SMC – What is your songwriting process like?
GB – Painful! Well maybe not, but it takes me a long time from an initial idea, that could be a chord progression or a melody, something simple but powerful enough that it’s worth spending the time to perfect it, to try and make it a finished song. I usually record a scratch version, most of the time with acoustic guitar or simple piano and vocal humming some melody on it, then I live with it for a while… meaning I will listen to it from time to time during a week or two at least. And if this is strong enough, then I will start hearing some extra ideas in my head, counterpoint melodies, a bridge, some words, it will grow… This takes a while until I have a good idea in my head of an arrangement and something to work on. Then I start recording and adding layers to get close enough to what I hear in my head. And as I go along more ideas come and I throw everything and the kitchen sink at it and see what sticks. This goes on until I’m satisfied…
SMC – What instrument are you most proficient in?
GB – The guitar is my first instrument. I’ve started learning it intently (and intensely) at the age of 14 until the age of 30. I could spend 8 to 12 hours a day practicing, and playing. I wanted to be a session musician, so I knew I needed to learn to play in any style. And I did play in a lot of styles. There are some things that I naturally tend to do though, like playing augmented chords for example, because I have trouble playing simple Major or Minor chords, there should be a 7th at least then a 9th or a 13th somewhere otherwise it doesn’t sound complete to me, I find Major chords pretty boring TBH. And I tend to swing more than playing straight, which comes from having played jazz and listened to a lot of it too. I like straight rock and blues and many genres, but I love sophisticated harmonies best and some interesting groove.
SMC – Have you been spun on radio? If so, who would you like to give a shout out to?
GB – I’ve been aired on many indie radios, and it’s been a pleasure to be played on some amazing indie shows along some really great artists that I love and respect. Among these radios there is one that I want people to be aware of. First because it’s a good friend and then because his radio is in trouble and he has a fundraiser to buy the equipment that has been destroyed a while ago. I’m talking about KB Radio in London, Ontario, Canada, which is the labor of love of Al Yardy, an amazing indie supporter with a big heart and a real passion for good music. His motto says it all: “What radio used to be”! To help, I’ve been reversing all the sales proceeds from my first EP into his fundraiser. I wish people would chip in as well because I don’t want another good radio to disappear.
SMC – Where is the bulk of your fanbase located?
GB – Anywhere! Everywhere! Basically, on the internet. I think most people are aware of my music through interactions on social medias, hearing it on indie radios (mostly internet radios) and blogs. There’s no more frontiers now with the internet and anyone can hear music from anywhere, and it’s an awesome thing!
SMC – Since connecting with SMC and Limehead Radio, can you tell us what has changed in terms of your career and/or connections?
GB – Well first, I’ve come to know you and Mark and Rachael from Limehead Radio and seen what awesome work you do in the background, then I’ve been in contact with many artists that have been under your wings as well, like Hannah Clive or Chris Watkins and many others, and it’s been fun to support them and they support me too, so it’s a win-win for all of us. And then of course having my tunes played on Limehead opens it to UK listeners, and being supported by SMC makes me more “visible” on social medias and on the internet.
SMC – I saw a tweet once where someone had commented that you are very picky with your art. Is this true? Are you a perfectionist?
GB – I’m afraid so. I spend hours and hours, recording and arranging songs and mixing and in the end, I’m never entirely satisfied. I love mixing but it’s a never-ending task because everything you change on a mix affects everything else… And then our ears tend to get used to sounds too easily. Say you mix a track and you have too much of a certain frequency, at first it will feel weird, but then wait for a few seconds and it will sound perfectly fine, your ears have adjusted to it. So, you always need to re-tune your ears to what you are hearing, using references and taking breaks. And then the laws of physics also make it extremely hard to have a flat monitoring, especially in a home studio in a room that is not made for it, meaning what you hear is not necessarily what it is… in fact, there’s a good chance your room is lying to you. You listen to it in another room and it will sound completely different, and with another kind of speakers and you will hear it differently again. Someone said that you never truly finish a mix, you just abandon it, and that’s been exactly my experience.
SMC – Since you have chosen a ‘ghostly’ image, how are you going to get around live performances and such?
GB – I’m really a recording artist, I don’t gig. And I have no intention to do so. Too old for this, truly. I’ve done that in the past and it’s never been the part of being a musician that I enjoyed the most anyway. My dream was to be a session musician, meaning a studio rat. I love working in a studio but playing on stage is not my thing. No, my true pleasure comes from songwriting, arranging, producing, crafting my little tunes, finding the best note at the best time with the best sound I can. My dream role nowadays would be to be a producer for artists that I like.
SMC – Alright, final question: What are your plans in terms of any future collaborations with other Artists?
GB – None at the moment. Although my next album will contain an artist that I’ve been collaborating with for a long time, Emma Caiman. She’s a singer and musician and a poet and a friend, and she sings with me on one of the tune (I’ve played on a couple of her tunes too). And then my daughter Sarah will also sing with me on another tune. Apart from that I’m open to collaboration in principle, and there are a few artists that I’d love to collaborate with, but to be honest I’m such a control freak that I’m not sure anyone will dare attempting the experience!
Social Media Links for Ghostly Beard (click to view)
Every once in a while a comet lights up our Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) sky and today, that comet goes by the name of Rochelle Vincente Von K. The Viennese born, Los Angeles-based multi talented Artist has roots rich in music,fashion (modeling), dance, and film and with the world premiere launch of her brand-new music video ‘Deal Me In’ exclusively to SMC, this is one comet whose light we are certain will not go out anytime soon.
The video, directed by Stephen David Brooks (see SMC Spotlight here) is an opulent and extremely creative film from this prolific visionary. Scenes from the video were all shot in and around the Los Angeles area. The video also features New Zealand Actor Jamie Spear as Vincente Von K’s boyfriend who played the role of ‘heartbreaker’ exceptionally well. The song itself is intense with an almost ‘celestial’ undertone in its instrumentation combined with alluring vocals and an intense story line in the lyrics. It doesn’t surprise me that Vincente Von K has created a masterpiece here: she has a history gilded in accomplishment and achievement not only in music (see full discography here), but also with the success of Lover Raw Chocolate (see here), her company which focuses on the super food ingredient. We have included a link for your convenience in the right sidebar menu for purchase! Her clients are The Academy Awards, Costume Designers Guild Awards, The Supper Club, NYC Fashion Week and HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher to name a few. And this is just scratching the surface!
I have spent some time getting to know Rochelle in the last few weeks while planning the world premiere launch of her video on the SMC platform and I have to say that this is one of the most focused, personable, and lovely souls that I have encountered. In fact, she asked for SMC to postpone the launch of her video until today (was originally slated to launch October 3rd, 2017) out of respect for the tragedy in Las Vegas (only days ago), and the sudden passing of industry peer Tom Petty. Indeed, a comet passes our planet every so often, but I can assure you that this unique comet will not only light up our world, she will leave a lasting impression in it through her exquisite works of art wherever her magical trail is seen.
We welcome her into the SMC Family and look forward to following her career through our SMC Spotlight Numbered Series. To find out more about Rochelle Vincente Von K, be sure to check out her socials at the end of this interview below.
World Premiere ‘Deal Me In’ Music Video exclusive interview!
SMC – Hello Rochelle and welcome to the Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Spotlight! Can you tell us how you heard about SMC?
Rochelle – Hi SMC, thanks so much for your support! I heard about you through the incredibly talented director Stephen David Brooks.
SMC – We are thrilled to have been the Music Platform for the World Premiere of your new video ‘Deal Me In’! Before we get into this, let’s get a little career history from you in terms of where your career began to this moment in time…
Rochelle – Erm, where to begin… I started when I was 9 … and each phase moved into the next … so I guess I’ll start with my last phase before I moved to LA?! I was based in London & Brighton and was one half of electronic duo Product.01, we worked with many including Ursula 1000, Dr Luke, Stephen Hague, Bassnectar, Dubstar, Dave Clarke, Chicks On Speed, Adam Freeland, Si Begg, Princess Superstar, Larry Tee, Kromeangels, Alter Ego, Tiga, Husky Rescue and Katie Melua to name some.
We performed plenty of live shows, to 40000+ people, and including touring with Freeland, Dubstar, The Lightening Seeds, and playing alongside Tiga, Fatboy Slim, Dubfire, Eric Morillo, Bobby Gillespie (Primal Scream), Wilson Pickett, The Commitments, Mark Moore , Spektrum, Gregor Tresor, General Midi, Larry Tee, Princess Superstar, Arthur Baker, Chris Coco, Lee Coombs, Caged Baby, John Acquaviva, Kid Alex, Lee Coombs, Einmusik, Si Begg, Andy Barlow (Lamb), Beardyman, Kromeangels, Simian Mobile Disco, DJ Mehdi … as well as performances for Radio One, XFM, MTV, Tate Britain & London Fashion Week. We toured Brazil, Japan, China, UK and Europe predominately, thou did do some shows in Montreal and New York City. Never got to the West Coast, but had plenty of radio and DJ support.
My new band based out of LA, with Ryan Carnes on drums and Simrin Phull on guitar, has played The Roxy, Hard Rock Café, The House Of Blues, The Satellite and Coachella.
SMC – Stephen David Brooks is the genius behind the filming of this video. Can you tell us how you two connected?
Rochelle – He did an amazing job, didn’t he? We met through a mutual friend and felt an instant connection. We knew we wanted to work together right away and were contemplating either a short film or music video, hence the birth of our ‘Deal Me In’ collaboration.
SMC – Would you work with Stephen again?
Rochelle – Hell yes, I hope we work together again very soon! The thing that is refreshing with Stephen is he understands the creative process in that no matter how prepared you come, shit will inevitably happen, so nothing phases him. And when that shit flies, he knows how to duck and keep things moving forward. I also love how he works spontaneously and honestly. Artists can be oversensitive and it gets in the way of the process. With Stephen, I found it easy for us to be unfiltered with each other because we both wanted the same end result so I trusted him. We used what was in front of us to the best of our ability. You have to understand we worked with ZERO budget. So, it was pure raw energy from everyone who graciously gave their time and contributed. We were all there because we wanted to create something together.
SMC – Can you tell us what the premise of ‘Deal Me In’ is about?
Rochelle – It’s that age-old question of why do we sometimes fall in love with the very person that’s wrong for us? I know that for me, for example, I don’t like or play games. I’ve never been attracted to that, so I’m not addicted to weird behavior in men! I want straight shooters, I always look for the good in any person until proven otherwise, and yet why is it that I attract complex men? Is it because all men are complex and it comes out in different ways? Or are we destined to love certain people because it’s fate or some past life karmic pattern? I don’t know the answer to that… but ‘Deal Me In’ explores that, and also how when a man destroys the beautiful opportunity to love, he doesn’t just hurt me, he hurts himself even more. We can’t run from ourselves.
SMC – The song is brilliant and the video even more so! Aside from the teasers we shared in the last 8 days, can you tell us of a memorable story from behind-the-scenes?
Rochelle – Thanks so much. Written from the heart… created from the heart by all involved. I’m bummed that I don’t have more behind the scenes footage of my band but we needed my phone for music playback on the theater shoot! I’ve got some pretty wild stories, but I won’t share those just yet out of respect for other people’s privacy ha ha! But to share something, when we were shooting on Sunset Blvd, we needed a crowd so we went down on a Friday night and it happened to be a long weekend where literally everyone was out of town… we had zero crowd… so we waited around until one o’clock am when the Roxy was emptying out from The Buzzcocks show, and had literally 5 minutes before there was zero crowd again so had to move like ninjas!
Then at the Ahrya Theatre we had limited time because the City of Beverly Hills doesn’t let you park on the street after 3am! I was in the loos at 2am doing my makeup and getting on my last costume for the black wig scene, then my nails kept popping off and my guitarist Sim was helping me find them and glue them back on while I was trying to handle my cape. Stephen was very calm and also trying to help! By 2.30 am we were finally ready to shoot and we had literally 20 minutes to shoot the last scene and be at our cars by 3am. No pressure at all. 4 takes and we were done!
SMC – What has been the media anticipation been like for the release of this single?
Rochelle – It’s surprised me regarding how much demand this music video has had prior to its release!
SMC – Can you tell us who your ‘go-to’ team was for the creation of this video?
Rochelle – Stephen and I did pretty much everything together. We fed off each other’s ideas and made all the big decisions together. The initial plan for this video was very different to what it ended up being. It kept evolving into a different direction, even while we were shooting it, but we knew the feeling we wanted from it. Like I said, because Stephen is a true artist he understands the process on many levels and that’s where his experience and professionalism shines through… so, this allowed much creativity to flow without resistance and attachments to previous outdated decisions that ended up being mere spring boards to fresh ideas. And then of course on shoot days we had creative input from my band mates Ryan Carnes, Simrin Phull, actor Jamie Spear, our behind the scenes photographer Inge Christie and assistant Erica Boslego. But we really didn’t have a lot of time to faff about at any given moment because we were either on sunset times, theatre times, or street parking times!
SMC – Your ‘boyfriend’ in the video Jamie Spear did a fantastic job as well! Was this your first time working with him?
Rochelle – Yes, it was our first time working together. We had our own secret back stories a lot like we all do in life, and then Stephen would pull us aside individually and say something to create a certain feeling. There were certainly times where Jamie would give me a confused look and I wasn’t able to explain that it was Stephens direction. At the very end of the last shoot we revealed what our back stories were to each other and it was interesting because it really did add a depth and suddenly certain things finally made sense!
SMC – What is your overall summation of this video?
Rochelle – A journey within and a journey without!
SMC – Let’s go way back to 2006 when your album ‘Bullet Ride’ under the moniker ‘Product.01’ launched until this very moment with the new release of ‘Deal Me In’ – can you tell us how you feel you have evolved as a Musician?
Rochelle – Mainly I think the process has gotten faster. I’m much more able to be present and take on whatever is happening with trust. I no longer over think things… I’m much more impulsive. I understand that as long as I’m tuned in, there’s a reason why things are coming out as they are, and eventually it will make sense! You just have to keep going with it.
SMC – Do you write all your own lyrics?
Rochelle – Yes, I write all my own lyrics and melodies. And depending on how a song began, whether I started it or a producer sent me a music link, I do my own chords and arrangements.
SMC – Who is your creative team when recording your music?
Rochelle – It changes depending on the project I’m working on, but for this it was Marc Adamo from Product.01. He’s one of the best electronic music producers in the world. By far! He’s been my partner in crime for many years, and while the journey isn’t always smooth, the result is always exactly right.
SMC – What instruments are you proficient in?
Rochelle – I can play piano enough to write songs! I am also pretty good with programming and mixing, but I prefer to collaborate, to me it’s much more interesting. Like sex. Better with two!
SMC – I had a listen to your song ‘One Starry Night’ (see below) – beautiful song! Can you tell us a little about what the theme is behind the lyrics in that song?
Rochelle – Funny you should mention it as my ‘One Starry Night’ character makes a cameo in ‘Deal Me In’, in case you didn’t notice the blue wig & cage shoulder pad! ‘One Starry Night’ is about love at first sight… when you meet someone and feel their soul when you look in their eyes. You just KNOW. But then you second guess yourself because how is this possible? So instant? So easy? And you let it go, and then spend many years regretting that moment you let it go, only to find yourself praying for a second chance. Knowing you were right all along and won’t make that mistake again. And that no one has since come close to that feeling.
SMC – Your single ‘Blazing’ and the video is brilliant! Who was the creative team behind this video?
Rochelle – Ah yes thanks … and it was shortlisted for two Grammy nominations, under ‘Music Video of the Year’ and ‘Record of the Year’.
The majority of it was shot at a stunning crazy Mexican themed house in Calabasas where they film Ancient Aliens. Jeff Skeirik was the director, and Nazim Chambi was my guitarist. Nazim’s makeup didn’t quite go to plan! I was in Malibu and Nazim was in Hollywood getting ready before arrival at the house, and my awesome makeup artist Rebeca Teresa is experienced, but unfortunately even thou I had specified, we didn’t get the makeup artist that knew how to do Sugar Skull makeup on Nazim, so Rebeca was Facetiming with his makeup artist and it was insane, she had no clue even with basic instructions, all the while Rebeca was trying to get me ready in time as we only had the house to film for a short period of time. That was very stressful! But Nazim took his bad makeup with grace! Thankfully it worked because of his natural good looks. And Jeff was a trooper, he had the pressure of making sure all the shots were complete in time, there was a lot we really needed to ensure it made sense! Then I wasn’t planning it but that night I ended up at a party in full costume, which was pretty wild!
The dance sequence was shot Downtown, I did the choreography and auditioned the dancers, Jonny D and Isaac Uhlenberg. They were inspiring to work with. We only had 2 short rehearsals and then that shoot day ran very smooth!
Jeff edited the video himself, another incredibly talented director!
SMC – Can you tell us what the next 6 months look like for you in terms of promoting your new single?
Rochelle – Now that everything is digital it’s not really like that anymore over a 6-month period. Things are quite instant these days… but the plan is for my band – Ryan Carnes and Simrin Phull, to play live shows, and I have another stripped-down mix of ‘Deal Me In’ that we are going to release soon also.
SMC – Will there be an EP or full-length album in the near future?
Rochelle – We have two more singles coming out, ‘OutLaws’ & ‘Valley Of Fire’, and then the album ‘Three Is The New Four’ will follow.
SMC – What about the music industry appeals to you and why?
Rochelle – Nothing at all appeals to me about the music industry, but I have a deep passion for music so it’s just a part of it. On one hand everyone loves artists who break out and do something different and yet the music industry no longer supports artists like that, nor does the music press. Even independent journalists I know rarely do, thou they think they do! Now everyone just wants to be ‘liked’… Truth is they tend to want someone commercial with their songs written, produced, recorded and a million built in ready fans! That’s not exactly A&R! It used to be the complete opposite, the more underground, the cooler it was and the more people wanted to be a part of something new and special.
I think commercial music has always had its place, and I enjoy it too, but when it’s the only option it’s a bit creatively void, right? Then you have these famous artists who were lucky enough to have thousands if not millions invested to build them and develop their skills, who go on about giving away their music for free. Yes, we have to move with the times, but let’s not forget they had a shit load invested in them to get them where they are, so that they can give away their music free, and still make money in order to continue making music!
I’m also not a fan of these contrived pop show contests, or what I call musical fast food! For starters let’s be real, these shows are really about boosting the judges’ careers, in case you haven’t noticed! And because to me the very point of being an artist is to be creatively free and have your own opinion and voice that. Music is not a democracy and it’s not about approval. Anyone can train a monkey to copy something and do it well.
Music is an expression. An exploration. It’s not fixed. It changes all the time if it’s true. And while I love to explore remakes of other people’s songs and have successfully done so in the past, it shouldn’t be the main focus. I applaud people who try something different and shout that out. That takes real guts. Real spirit. That’s creative evolution.
SMC – I will get into some questions about your earlier careers but I would like to ask first which career you find most fulfillment in and why?
Rochelle – Which bit? The singing and songwriting, acting, dancing or my raw chocolate superfood company Lover Raw Chocolate? I love all of it and find they are extensions of each other. To be a good actor you need to work on voice and movement so that you have a natural vocal and physical range, to connect with a song you need to connect with emotion and movement, and to nourish the body for these things you need to fuel the body with something that gives it the best opportunity to thrive, so that you aren’t bogged down and can focus on being creative and channeling that energy.
SMC – Can you tell us which social media platform your music fans can find you most active on?
Rochelle – Facebook & Instagram are my 2 main ones. I barely use Twitter… I’m not the most technically savvy but I do try!
SMC – What do you feel is the most important thing an Artist can do for themselves to promote their work?
Rochelle – These days I have no idea, it’s so random. A talking dog can go viral. I can’t compete with that! I can try, ha ha. But probably just being who you are, sharing that, and praying a hell of a lot!
SMC – Which song of yours is your most personal favorite and why?
Rochelle – They are all really personal and touch me in different ways. Some are fun, some are deep. With our current global state, my next single is probably the one that’s most relevant to us all … it’s called ‘Outlaws’…
“when freedom is outlawed, only outlaws will be free, when freedom is outlawed, only some of us will see” … “insanity passed as logic, violence the tool of change…” … “epidemic if cronyism, we police our empire ….” … “in the eyes of progress, we bury hearts under ground” …. “evil described as virtue, slavery sold as liberty, we have broken from reality, broken from reality…”… that kinda thing!
SMC – I also saw on your website that there are some collaborations as well – which one is your favorite or most memorable?
Rochelle – I loved them all, all so different… memorable? I would say working with Stephen Hague because he’s such a legend (New Order, Pet Shop Boys, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield, The Pretenders, Peter Gabriel, Robbie Williams, etc., etc.) and learning his song writing tricks was priceless. It really did change my process and the way I approach songwriting to this day, and also gave me the confidence to know I am on the right track with my own techniques.
I would take the train from Brighton to Hastings on those cold miserable days and he would light up my world. I loved his studio, on a beautiful property overlooking the sea. It was inspiring and deep.
SMC – Are you looking at doing another collaboration in the near future?
Rochelle – Most definitely! I have some producers lined up and I’m really excited, there’s still so much I haven’t explored as an artist. I am taking a new direction with the new music.
Earlier Career History
SMC – I read in an interview that you were a dancer. What kind of dance did you take up?
Rochelle – Long story short, when I was 11 I was working on a TV commercial and Tony Bartuccio was the choreographer for the job. He was the number one Choreographer in Australia at the time and asked me to come and train with him at his studio. Within six months of doing one class a week I started working for him on live shows and TV. I picked up dance quickly, but he was also hardcore so that made me have to learn fast. The other dancers had all started when they were two – four years old, so I was rather late ha ha. And because I was working with them, there was a lot of pressure on me to be at their level even thou I didn’t have their backgrounds, was a lot younger, and many of them were already incredible choreographers and performers in their own right, touring with Billy Idol, Kylie Minogue or whoever! I started with jazz dance and expanded from that into ballet, tap, acrobatic dance, and then learnt Karate, got to brown belt but stopped as I was doing so much TV and was concerned I’d have a broken nose before a job!! I also started teaching dance at a popular gym in Melbourne when I was 16 (Ann Peacock was one of my students – the Prime Ministers daughter!) and did choreography for shows around Melbourne. But then my music took off and something had to give.
I continued dance in London with one of Michael Jacksons’ choreographers, joined a Hip Hop dance group in Brighton, and now do Hip Hop in LA!
SMC – I also read that you have worked with Femi Taylor (‘Oola’ from Return of the Jedi). Can you tell us how that came about and what the outcome was?
Rochelle – Femi and I were models for a rather large fashion parade at the Tennis Centre stadium (where they host the Australian Open), and she came up to me after the show, asked if I sing… I said “in the shower” and she said “good because I’m going to London to visit family for Christmas, will you please audition?” Honestly, I showed up thinking there’s no way! Bizarrely got the gig but it was only for one month. The other girl in the band was horrible to me. I’m a sister and love empowered women. And I was terrified. I needed guidance. I had never sung in front of anyone! I had 3 days to learn the entire repertoire including two feature songs that I had to sing, and a rap!!!! And I was working on two of those days so only had evenings. All I remember is my best friend at the time Portia (De Rossi) and I walking up and down her street in the city (as I used to stay with her when we had modeling jobs together) going over and over the songs together all night. She was unbelievable, held my hand thru the whole process. I would have died without her! Then when it was show time, it was a full house, my idol Scott Carnes from ‘Kids In The Kitchen’ was standing in the front row right in front of me. I was about to faint. Anyhow I think I got thru it. He’s a lifelong friend now.
When Femi returned from London I of course left the band, as I was always a replacement, and then after one show they called me, said that they miss me, and will I come back? They sacked that horrible other vocalist and Femi and I ended up working together for 2 years. So that is how my singing career began! Femi and I also did a lot of TV work together as vocalists, we were often booked together. And she is still my best friend to this day.
SMC – You have modeled and also won Miss Junior Victoria as well. Tell us how that came about.
Rochelle – Wow where did you find that?!! You clearly dug deep! When I was 9 I told mum I needed purpose in life and wanted to contribute to the world and maybe I can start by dusting shelves at the local shop?! Mum had heard of a modelling school and thought I’d be better off doing something where I’m making more per hour than dusting! But only if I liked it. She was never pushy, only encouraging. Well I just followed that journey and yes ended up winning Miss Junior Victoria, which was very surreal, as it was massive. Then I joined the best adult agency as a child model, and would be confused when I was sent to these auditions with the big girls, almost didn’t want to go in. 90% of the time I got the jobs I went for. The other kids’ mums hated it when I entered the audition room lol, and the big girls were awesome and really looked after me. I did Vogue, Elle, Dolly, Harpers Bizarre, and all of them really. I worked with some legendary Photographers and was also on Daniela Federici’s first ever photography business card. (She did Anna Nicole Smiths Guess campaign, and went on to shoot the famous Douglas family portrait, Prince, Sharon Stone and pretty much every Hollywood star). I remember that shoot well, she made me climb a church wall! I worked with her for many years. She has a work ethic few could match. I learnt a lot, that has stayed with me.
SMC – Can you tell us which acting gigs you have done as well?
Rochelle – It started in Melbourne, as an extension of modeling at a big agency you got sent in for various film auditions, plus at the dance studio Caroline Gilmore (a well-known Australian actress) was head of the acting department and also sent us in for things.
I worked on lots of TV including ‘Chances’ with Jeromy Sims, a film called ‘The Hunting’ with Guy Pearce, John Savage and Kerry Armstrong… I featured in Paul Norton’s ‘Southern Sky’ music video as his girlfriend (loved swimming in those shark infested waters with the shark patrol on sight, comforting!), which was selected for the Sydney Olympics Opening, and ended up in a lot of music video duke boxes (!) … and when I moved to England got involved with the short film scene thru Junk TV. We won awards for our short films and then I was funded by the British Film Council to direct my own short ‘I Make My Pictures For What Hollywood Spends On Lipstick’, a film about Maya Deren, the pioneer of film funding!
SMC – Which career did/do you find most fulfilling for you personally?
Rochelle – I love them all. I see them all as different limbs to the same body. Creative energy is just that, it’s just where you put your focus.
SMC – Can you describe ‘a day in the life of Rochelle’ to us?
Rochelle – Hmmm, it’s so different every single day. My one constant is my beautiful rescue dog Maya. I have no routine, it depends on what I am working on.
SMC – Which Artist (can be any: musician, actor, etc.) would you like to work with and why?
Rochelle – David Bowie. I hear from mutual friends who have worked with him that he was a very funny man. I like a sense of humor on the job, British sense of humor even better … even if it’s just once coming up for air after some deep creative moments.
Living, I would love to work with Martin Scorsese. And music wise Trentemoller. Please Lord!
SMC – Can you tell us of a time in your career (choose any) that stands out for you as most memorable?
Rochelle – Being booked to support James Brown on his Australian National Tour with the band I was in ‘Relax With Max’, and then the record label doing the dirty on us the day before was a memorable one! That’s a long story, sigh! We won the court case but honestly, it really didn’t matter at that stage! (facepalm)
And a defining moment when I feared I had gotten off track in life… needing a break, I had taken a one-way ticket and small suitcase from Australia to Europe, and eventually landed in Munich working with Warner Chappell, but didn’t like the music they wanted me to do, it was super cheesy and I could have done that many years ago, why go on a massive journey only to cave? So, I continued on to where they import the music I do from, London. In London I had an incident where I was physically attacked by the Minister at a church I had gone to, I was only there to enjoy the gospel singing. That’s a very long story but after I came forward many other women did also, and as it turned out this guy had been on the run from New Zealand and hiding at the church! Fooled everyone, who had initially thought I was lying! Until other women came forward!
I moved down to Brighton and lived in a squat for a month or so, upstairs was pretty nice and downstairs it had no floors, just dirt and wooden planks to balance on, it was winter and damp with no heating, and I had to sleep in all my clothes and a coat and was still shivering. I really understood that scene in ‘Withnail & I’ with the Deep Heat rubbed on them to keep warm! Dude! And the Brits have this weird thing where they share bath water????!!!! (I was always the first ha ha)… showers were not a thing in old houses at that time. Eeek.
Needless to say, I had run out of money and found a job at Virgin Cinemas. My intuition was very set on me working there.
Within a month, one of the ushers at Virgin knew a guy who was looking for a vocalist for his band, so I gave him my demo not thinking too much of it. When the usher next came in he told me I must quit my job because they wanted to put me on their National UK Tour that week. I didn’t believe him because we hadn’t met, but he convinced me so I quit my job, went to London to meet the band and discovered it was only an audition!!!! Thankfully, I got the gig and was at dinner with EMI that very evening to celebrate.
A week later I was doing our first show with Dubstar live to Radio One with the legendary John Peel (who went on to support all my music endeavors), then MTV, then TFI Friday, Shepherds Bush Empire (that’s where I met Stephen Hague for the first time) and then onto a massive tour with The Lightening Seeds right when they had their football hit ‘Three Lions’, and ‘Perfect World’ had just came out as well.
In one week, I went from being a popcorn chick, to signing autographs and working with the British music industry elite.
Plus skip forward, the first signing Product.01 had was a record label in Munich called Compost Records, who knew the Warner crowd where I started in Europe.
And that my friend, is how life rolls!!
SMC – Okay, final question: What does the term ‘success’ mean to you?
Rochelle – Success to me is doing what you are passionate about without creative compromise, and being supported for that.
Rochelle – Thank You Candice!!! You dig deep!
Rochelle Vincente Von K Social Media links (click to view)
Whenever I get a message from English-born, Munich, Germany-based Ryan Inglis, I know it’s going to be something amazing. In the two years that I have known him, I have watched him complete an admirable amount of charity fundraisers, relocate from his home in Weston Super-Mare to Munich, Germany to expand his career, create and launch exquisite original music, and compete in the SMC Artist of the Year 2016. SMC has been along for this amazing journey with Ryan and it only made sense that he launch the World Premiere of his new song and music video to the SMC Spotlight today (see below and on front page of our site).
Ryan is one of those Artists who continuously is evolving: he spent the better part of 2017 raising money for the Karmaflights.org ‘Feed 5000’ project, (see our Vimeo video below) raising over $10,922.97 in funds thus providing 50,000 meals to children in Nepal. If that isn’t enough alone to admire this earth angel, then I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the work he has done in other areas of the globe. He has raised $10,000 by walking over 500 miles through Spain to provide temporary shelters for those who lost their homes in the earthquake. He has also worked with Julie Derrick for ‘The Charlie Derrick Music Foundation’ based in Weston-super-Mare and in over the 12 years or so that it was running, gave out close to £40,000 in bursaries (which were started by Julie). Talented music student Charlie Derrick died in a car accident almost 15 years ago and his former lecturers, fellow students and musician friends united in December 2013 for a charity Christmas single in his honour of which Ryan was an integral part of. Earth angel indeed….
Earlier this year, Ryan admits (in our interview below) that he struggled with depression. With the help of his friends and through penning his songs ‘Only Human’ (video below), and ‘The Wall’, he was able to continue on his path of enlightenment by inspiring and supporting others also struggling with depression. The song is a beautifully inspiring ballad which speaks of climbing out of a dark place in one’s life. Vocally, Ryan has always impressed me and the lilting angelic vocals heard in this number combined with the sweet sounds of the violin are truly awe-inspiring. I had chills after listening, and there may have even been a tear or two….
SMC has inducted Ryan Inglis into our family of exceptional Musicians for the sum of all the parts mentioned above: he is truly one in a million and we are confident that his music has not only the power to change one’s perspective, it has the power to change the course of one’s life indefinitely, it is THAT powerful. We should all be so lucky to have this incredibly talented and resplendent soul in our midst. Follow and subscribe to his socials below so you can stay apprised of what he’s checking off his 100 Things list next!
The Wall Music Video – World Premiere
(see at end of interview)
SMC – Hello Ryan! We are glad to have you back on our SMC Spotlight! There are so many things you have accomplished since competing for our Artist of the Year in 2016! Let’s begin with the World Premiere of ‘The Wall’ launched today on the SMC Spotlight! There’s definitely a story behind the lyrics in this song…can you tell us what it means for you personally?
Ryan – Glad to be back! It’s been an eventful year for sure! I moved to Germany last July and just before that I went on a 3-week mini-tour of Germany with another musician, which didn’t go so well. The record deal I was hoping to sign out here fell through and I just found myself at square one again feeling pretty rubbish about myself.
Without going into too much detail I spent a lot of time in a bit of a pit and this song along with another called ‘Only Human’ was the outcome of my feelings. One of the biggest hurdles some days was to just get myself out of bed. It was compounded by the fact that I also felt like I had no real right to feel as bad as I did; it’s not like life was SO terrible for me it’s just that my mind decided to turn on me and I really kind of hated myself.
It’s best summed up by the line “I can remember a time when I believed in myself but the way that I talk to myself in the mirror I wouldn’t wish on anyone else”
I’m glad to say I am feeling much better about myself now though.
SMC – Ryan you have been through so much in the time that I have personally known you. We met in early 2015 through Luke Potter, who was a student of yours. You have done so much for others through your music and this new song is truly going to inspire and uplift many who have suffered from depression in the music industry. Can you tell us what your personal journey has been in relation to this song?
Ryan – Luke recently posted a status about his own kind of depression recently and I sent him this song to listen to and offered some advice. He said it helped him and I hope that it helps others too of course. I think a lot more people in the world are having these thoughts but do not really own up to them. It takes a lot of trust to tell others how low you feel sometimes and it can feel like you are burdening them if you do.
I have a friend here in Munich who was going through similar feelings so we had each other to talk to which was really important. It’s a great feeling when someone asks how you are and you can just honestly tell them. You are never on your own in the way you feel.
SMC – On your social media, it states: ‘The Wall’ was written in Austria, practiced in Germany, recorded in Italy and hopefully listened to Worldwide. Can you tell us why the different locations for all of this and how it came together?
Ryan – Some friends and I went to a cabin in the mountains of Austria where we wanted to write some music away from any distractions. I was writing material with a rapper called MartinProbst who I met at an event a year or so previous and from that we created a small community called ‘Creative Chaos‘. We had access to a studio and we would just record our individual ideas and see where they lead.
There were about 10 of us in this cabin and the initial idea for ‘The Wall’ started together with help from Carmina Reyes, a wonderful singer songwriter you should definitely check out.
Once we wrote the first verse I knew where the song direction should go and I just wrote about how I was feeling. I only played it live a couple of times and never really thought seriously about recording it or releasing it because it was maybe a bit too honest… but after visiting Italy and playing at a place called Wildarno,they offered to make a video of a live performance and this song was the best option to record.
SMC – Who is the creative team behind the making of this video and how did that come about?
Ryan – A guy called Gio recorded the video and Tommaso from Wildarno recorded the audio. We had some lunch together and then recorded this in one take. They intend to make many more with other artists who play there so if you are planning to go to Italy definitely get in touch with them – https://www.facebook.com/capannonewildarno/
SMC – Can you tell us what projects you have coming up musically that we can anticipate?
Ryan – The main focus is actually on my band ‘Visions To Kill The Mainstream’ (VTKTM for short). We are a blend of rap and riffs much like Rage Against The Machine, Limp Bizkit… Eminem with lots of guitar… nothing like my own music but a big passion of mine no less. I will be heading back to the UK for a month to work on a new EP together with the guys at LongWave Studios. We have big plans for a world tour in 2018.
I also cowrote a song together with Bianca Amapola. It’s called “Back To The Moon” we hope to record it at the beginning of December
For myself personally, I am just accepting work wherever I can that allows me to travel. I will be playing in Norway in November and some part of the ski season in St. Anton, Austria in February. I always dreamed of being able to see the world with what I do and my dream is thoroughly being realized. Just this summer alone I have been to Paris, Budapest, Italy and Greece.
I am recording an EP here in Germany too with a great guy called Karsten from WeltraumStudios. I will be making some plans with a tour manager to effectively promote it with a focus on the German market. It features some of the finest musicians I have met here and I’m looking forward to releasing the first single in 2018
Charities | Organizations
SMC – You literally just finished the project ‘Feed 50,000’ in Nepal. Can you tell us about how you came about with the idea to begin this project?
Ryan – Number 16 of my 100 things list (all the things I want to achieve with my life) was to feed 5,000 people. I asked for some advice on Facebook how to go about it and my friend Saskia Götzput me in touch with a charity organisation she knew about called www.Karmaflights.org, who work very closely with the communities in the Gorkha area of Nepal.
I contacted them, and told them what I wanted to do…
SMC – What essentially is the project about?
Ryan – After speaking to Isabella Messenger, who runs the charity, she told me about their hot lunch program, which was a perfect fit. I asked how much it would cost to provide 5,000 school dinners and I offered to pay it up front. The thing is 5,000 meals wouldn’t be enough of an impact for the 4 schools that were targeted. Due to them being some of the most impoverished in the area we decided to go one better and raise enough money to provide 50,000 meals instead which would feed all the children for a year and help make sure that the program could be sustainable.
SMC – I know you reached your goal and I am so pleased for you! Can you tell us what that goal was?
Ryan – The goal was to raise $9,400… we raised $10,922.97, which is enough to provide roughly 65,537 school dinners. The program will be sustainable too after the first year because they will already have all the cooking equipment they need. The food will then be grown by the children themselves and provided by the families living in the community and the program will have been solidified by the great work of Karmaflights who regularly visit the schools and check on their progress. You can see where the money goes on my website here – www.ryaninglis.com/feed-5000
SMC – Who would you like to thank for their support of this campaign?
Ryan – First, I would like to thank my friend Saskia (who is playing violin with me in this music video) for raising this money with me and seeing this through from start to finish. All the times when I felt like giving up she kept me going and even came to Nepal with me to visit the schools in person.
I’d like to thank everyone at Karmaflights for the work they do and for helping me put this money to good use and really, it is they who are doing all the real work. They are keeping an eye on the communities and seeing the money is used correctly.
Everyone who put some money in the donation box at every gig myself and Saskia played in the 7 months it took to raise the full amount and everyone who donated online. I had a few donations over €500 from some very kind-hearted people.
We held the party to celebrate reaching our target at Rumours in Munich. They very kindly offered the venue and wemade over €550 on that night alone. I’d like to thank the owners and the musicians who played that night too.
SMC – I know that this isn’t the first campaign or charity you have chosen to support. Can you tell us more about some of the projects you have worked on in the past?
Ryan – Ryan – 2 years ago I raised $10,000 by walking over 500 miles through Spain (see video below). This money was given to shivacharity.com via The Charlie Derrick Music Foundation who used half of it to provide temporary shelters for those who lost their homes in the earthquake (I believe it built 34 homes in total) The other half of the money went to setting up a music department in Charlies name that the kids in the area have access to. It is of course still running now and is home to some 30 guitars and most recently some recording equipment that was donated by Tony Hobden, who still works very closely with the charity. There are videos about this project (here).
Before that I worked with The Charlie Derrick Music Foundation based in Weston-super-Mare. Over the 12 years or so that it was running we gave out around £40,000 in bursaries and music awards for children of World School (where Charlie Derrick was a student) and the hard-working musicians in the town. This money afforded them opportunities, instruments and training to help them further their music.
SMC – Which campaign or charity has been closest to your heart and why?
Ryan – From all of them I have seen the direct results, I have been there to witness the effects of the fundraising and I have amazing memories connected to each. They are all close to my heart
SMC – I know that you have actually taken the proceeds from the sale of your music and put it toward charities or organizations in need. Can you tell us what makes one get out of bed one day and just say, ‘Hey, this is what I am going to do!’ I mean, that’s very adm
Ryan – To be fair it’s not entirely accurate. I did release a single for £1 called ‘Blessed With Less’ and that money DID go to the earthquake appeal but it was actually only just over £20. The majority of the money came from donations online and fundraising from playing live.
To tick off feeding 5000 people, for example, I knew I had to provide that money from my own pocket to feel like I had the right to tick off at all. I’m just trying to live a good life and it’s actually totally selfish because it makes me feel good about myself. It’s nice to feel like I have made a positive impact on someone, somewhere in the world.
SMC – What is the one charity or organization you feel you want to help next and why?
Ryan – Next? I don’t know what to do next yet. I feel like I will wait another year before doing a large fundraiser because it can be quite draining and I find it quite hard to keep asking for money from people. All I do know is that whatever it will be I will stick to my method of raising money for something I can see and show the results of. I think that is so important. To see the change it is making
Personal & Professional Life
SMC – Going back to your music video ‘The Wall’ and the lyrics…indeed, it is written from personal experience. Given the recent passing of Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell, can you tell us what you feel is the most important thing an artist can do for their own mental health in an environment that is very demanding?
Ryan – I don’t know if I can give any professional advice here. All I can say is that you may benefit from finding a friend you can be frank with and just be honest about what you are actually feeling. Try not to feel ashamed of it and remember it’s ok not to be ok.
The Samaritans have a number you can text (in the UK) if you are feeling really depressed or suicidal, +447725909090. Many people don’t like talking on the phone and would be more comfortable texting.
SMC – Can you tell us what your personal goals are in bringing hope and support to your peers who may be suffering from the same experience you have had?
Ryan – I don’t feel like I am some ambassador for depression or anything but if this song hits home for anyone out there, the message is simply to be open about it. You will be surprised how many are going through similar feelings and the most important step is (and was for me) to get up in the morning and start treating yourself like your own best friend.
SMC – What do you think is the most important thing an Artist can do for themselves to maintain balance in their personal lives out of the spotlight?
Ryan – I don’t know what it is like to be IN the spotlight. I’ve always wondered what fame would be like and I can imagine it would hold many challenges for your mental health. People find balance in their own way and whatever is going on around you I guess you would always need a ‘point zero’ to get you back to who you are. You need real friends and family who you can be honest with and who can be honest with you
SMC – Which platforms have been most supportive of your projects and music?
Ryan – Well most recently it has of course been you, Candice. Since Luke introduced me to you I have been massively impressed with the dedication you have to the musicians you help via Starlight. Before I released my album, The Time Is Now I was getting massive support from users of the site at slicethepie.com. I am still in touch with some of them now but most I never had any direct contact with. If they are reading this I would love to hear from them.
SMC – I always like to ask this because each Artist always has a ‘go to’ in terms of social media platforms – which one is yours and why?
Ryan – I really am a Facebook guy, It seems to be the one that I get the most interaction with. The art seems to lie more in the WAY you promote yourself or your music so I like to think of fun ways to interact with my Facebook friends and followers. Follow my music page (here)
SMC – You have spent a lot of time in Germany in the last year – can you tell us what the music scene is like there?
Ryan – The German audience is very receptive to original music. From my experience they are very happy to sit and listen and give artists that respect. I am very happy I moved here and chose Munich specifically because I found it to be very rich in places and ways to perform with a vast amount of great musicians to work and learn from.
SMC – Where is your greatest fan base?
Ryan – Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know who is keeping an eye on what I am doing. If you are reading this and you are a fan I would encourage you to let me know. I will always reply to messages
SMC – Which Musicians or Artists would you like to do a collaboration with and why?
Ryan – Anyone who is happy to sit in a room with me. From every collaboration I have learned to look at music in a slightly different way and every musician has a spark of something you can learn from
SMC – Are there any current collaborations in the fire that you are working on?
Ryan – There’s a song I’m still hoping to finish with Stephanie Forryan called ‘Start Healing’. We wrote it last year and started recording it but it’s still in the production process.
Most recently I worked on a song called ‘We’re In The River’ with a songwriter called MANU and on my upcoming EP there is a collaboration with Stephan Worbs called ‘Love Runs Against The Wall’
I also co-wrote a song with Luke Potter called ‘Living A Lie’ which I hope will end up on his album
SMC – Can you tell us what you have planned in the next 3-6 months career-wise and as personal goals?
Ryan – I will no doubt look at my 100 things list and decide a plan of action to tick more off. Mostly I will be concentrating on VTKTM and anything to do with travelling. My EP should be ready by then and I hope to sell a million of them… let’s see what happens!
SMC – How many items have you checked off your ‘100 things’ list?
SMC – How did you arrive at creating a ‘100 things’ list?
Ryan – I was in Australia in 2014. The place I’d always wanted to go, doing the thing I’d always wanted to do, but for some reason I was still missing something. I was feeling unfulfilled. I looked up, asked the Universe to offer me some guidance and a couple of days later as I walked past a bookshelf, one book just jumped out at me. That book was called ‘100 Things’ by Sebastian Terry. It’s a story about a man who, after his friend past away, realised his friend lived a great life and he wondered if he could say the same about himself. He wrote down everything he wanted to do with his life, packed a bag and just started doing them. It’s a strange thing to think that I never really took the time to actually think about what I wanted to do in my life until then. I always focused on just being a musician (which I love doing) but forgot that I could also be many other things too
SMC – Alright, final question: What career advice would you give to the new generation of Musicians or Artists just beginning in this industry and why?
Ryan – Don’t be afraid to throw yourself completely into it. If it’s what you want to do with your life then give your life to it.
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. 😉