SMC Spotlight No.1 | Robert Segarra, Multi-Talented Poet, Author, Artist, Musician, & Script-Writer

By Candice Anne Marshall

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!

PRESS RELEASE

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.

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music career

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.

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Writing Career/Author

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 certain kinds 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.

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Film Career

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 ‘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 of great 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.

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Art Career

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.  

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Personal Life

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. According to 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?

Robert –

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!

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Robert Segarra BIO

Lifelong Brooklyn native ROBERT SEGARRA is a New York Artist, Writer
and Musician.

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.

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Robert Segarra

Robert Segarra Social Media (click to view)

Author Website

Robert Segarra Music Facebook

The Ugly Guy Revolution Facebook

Twitter

Spotify

YouTube

iTunes

Amazon

SMC Spotlight No.2 | AnoNYMous Raven ‘Dialectical Observations’ Composer Exclusive Interview

by Candice Anne Marshall

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.

nym the great and powerful – new logo

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.

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The Dialectical Observations Album cover
Photo courtesy: The Lady AnoNYMous

AnoNYMous Raven Social Media Links:

Facebook

Twitter

Google Plus

YouTube

Bandcamp

Blog

SMC Spotlight No.1 | Rochelle Vincente Von K World Premiere ‘Deal Me In’ Music Video

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.

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(l-r) Director Stephen David Brooks, Rochelle Vincente Von K, and Actor, Jamie Spear. Photo courtesy of: Rochelle Vincente Von K

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.

Still from the Music Video for ‘Deal Me In’ featuring (l-r) Ryan Carnes (Drummer), Rochelle Vincente Von K, and Simrin Phull (Guitarist).
Photo courtesy of: Rochelle Vincente Von K

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!

Still from the Music Video for ‘Deal Me In’ featuring Actor Jamie Spear
Photo courtesy of: Rochelle Vincente Von K

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!

Still from the Music Video for ‘Deal Me In’ featuring Rochelle Vincente Von K and directed by Stephen David Brooks.
Photo courtesy of: Rochelle Vincente Von K

Music Career

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.

Thank-you Rochelle!

Rochelle – Thank You Candice!!! You dig deep!

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Rochelle Vincente Von K
Photo courtesy of: Rochelle Vincente Von K

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SMC Spotlight Series No.1 | Chris Watkins/Drunk Poets ‘Lights All Askew’: A Bright Star in the SMC Sky

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!

Chris Watkins
photo courtesy: Chris Watkins

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

Chris Watkins
Photo courtesy: Chris Watkins

SMC – Can you tell us which peer you have met on social media who has been influential in your career journey?

Chris – Just as important as the artists are the people who give them a place to be heard: (in no particular order) EGH Radio #UnsignedHour, #MusicHourUK, Candice Marshall at Starlight Music Chronicles, Al Yardy at KB Radio, Mark Riley, Jon Zombie, Paradisemoon Radio, Tracey at Music Talks, Ronnie at Bigtime Radio, Jeff at Eclectic Music Lover, Only Rock Radio, and the one and only Bernadette at Rock-fm.caBernie on the Air‘!

SMC – If you could name one person you would like to collaborate with in future who would that be and why?

Chris – I cannot pick just one, but to list a few (in no particular order) …Hannah Clive, The Puss Puss Band, Erica (The Erica Band), Jamie Slate, Zel Florizel, Mark Riley, Lakisha Skinner at Klef Notes, Edmond Crabtree (Lost Generation), Stan Stewart, Robert Segarra, Ghostly Beard, Kamikaze Funtime and of course the brilliant Addie.

SMC – Are there talks of any collaborations in future with other artists?

Chris – Yes, Hannah Clive and the Puss Puss Band.

SMC – Can you tell me what the radio response to your album ‘Lights All Askew’ has been like?

Chris – The response to ‘Lights All Askew’ in the digital radio community has been nothing less than extraordinary.

SMC – I am a fan of your song ‘Dark Old House’ – can you tell me about the ‘theme’ of this song lyrically?

Chris – Calvinist chic.

SMC – What instrument do you create your songs on?

Chris – The guitar.

SMC – What is the song-writing process like for you? I always like to ask this question because so many have such a different approach to this…

Chris – I spend half of the year reading and the other half writing and recording.

SMC – Which song off this last album has received the most attention from fans?

Chris – ‘Cheerleader in Love‘.

SMC – Which song overall has received the most traction with your fans and radio?

Chris – ‘They Can’t Hurt You Anymore‘.

SMC – I know that many artists create ‘themes’ for their albums…can you tell us the themes of each of your albums?

Chris –

Empty Rooms (1992) A view from the edge of the American empire.

Going Down Slow (1994) A picture of psycho sociological

Nail it Down (2001) A collection of short stories for the Nashville set

Lazy Mountain Moon (2005) Amalgamation of southern and northern myths

Winter Birds (2013) An act of sheer desperation

London Can Take It (2015) The sound of me getting back on my feet

Lights All Askew (2016) Twilight on tape

SMC – How do you think you have developed as an artist between albums?

Chris – Exponentially.

SMC – What has the media response to the ‘Lights All Askew’ album been like?

Chris – I could not ask for more.

SMC – Can you tell us where most of your fanbase is located?

Chris – Anywhere there is still a light in the window.

SMC – What do you think is the positive about social media in terms of building an artists career?

Chris – The digital platforms will be the infrastructure in the 21st century.

SMC – What do you think the negative attributes of social media are or can be?

Chris – It is naive to think that corporate control of the sphere is not inevitable in some form.

Chris Watkins
Photo courtesy: Chris Watkins

SMC – What are your thoughts on Spotify being the ‘way of the future’ in terms of rapidly becoming THE place for artists to have their music showcased?

Chris – If it is not Spotify it will be another platform just like the alternate media in the Soviet Union during the cold war.

SMC – What is the music scene up there in Alaska? I was curious to find out what the music scene was like or even the support for artists up there…

Chris – I have no idea, I am too busy going to work.

SMC – When was your ‘Ah Ha’ moment in terms of knowing music was going to be the career path meant for you?

Chris – There was no one moment, I just got better at writing songs.

SMC – Can you tell us if there are any other creative projects aside from music that you are currently or will be working on?

Chris – Staying alive.

SMC – Where has been your most favorite live performance to date and why?

Chris – The band on the ‘Going Down Slow’ album played to 10 people in Girdwood Alaska in 1995, and it was the best show I have ever seen or heard.

SMC – Who would you like to give a ‘shout out’ to for being supportive of your music career?

Chris – Yes, everyone I listed above. The radio stations, the DJs, the music blogs, my fellow indie-artists, friends and followers. Many thanks to you all.

SMC – Which kind of music or musicians do you naturally gravitate to?

Chris – The dangerous ones.

SMC – If you had to describe your ‘sound’ to a new fan, how would you best describe it?

Chris – Snow on the telephone wire.

SMC – What is a deal-breaker for you in terms of what you aren’t willing to do for the success of your career?

Chris – Lick Napoleon’s boots.

SMC – Can you tell us five things about yourself that no one knows anything about?

Chris – yes.

SMC – Can you tell us what the next 3-6 months look like for you in terms of new music or live performances?

Chris – I am focusing on finishing my next album.

SMC – Okay, final question: Fill in the blank – ‘If I weren’t a Musician, I would be a __________.

Chris – Corpse.

 

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Chris Watkins ‘Lights All Askew’ Allbum
photo courtesy: Chris Watkins

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SMC Spotlight Series No.1 | Ada Pasternak ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ Exclusive Interview & Review

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

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Ada Pasternak photo courtesy: Ada Pasternak

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.  😉

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Ada Pasternak photo courtesy: Ada Pasternak

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Exclusive SMC Spotlight Interview | Tony Crown ‘Distant From The Universe’ Album a Television hit!

Review and interview by Brian Kious.

Tony Crown is not new to the scene. He made his debut appearance as part of the lo-fi jazz/folk duo, Jane & Anthony, in 2012 with their album, Lounge Noir. It featured a couple songs that went on to be featured on ABC’s Brothers & Sisters & AMC’s Hell On Wheels. Despite the sudden success of their debut outing, the duo disbanded and Tony went on to perform under the moniker, Lawrence & The Lion, and later, Living Room Lava, under which he released an EP in 2013.

2017 finds Tony Crown sailing under his own flag as he embarks on a new adventure with his brand new solo album, Distant From The Universe. When listening to this new record and then revisiting his past material, one can be sure that, despite different musical vestments, Tony Crown is still writing in the same universe as he was with Lounge Noir. While the moods shift from raucous to reflective throughout, he has put together a recor full of songs that talk of conflict, confusions, and self-recognition.

The listener will easily find themselves driving a little faster if they dare start this album while driving as the opener, “Black & Blue” lays out a self-destructive relationship’s details laced with just the right amount of keyboards. “I & The Only” plays like a great 1980s new-wave opus and is all too brief, but that’s okay because it gives way to the gorgeous keyboard opening of “Pretty Little Thing.” The arrangements of “Pretty Little Thing” and “Hang On”, in fact, come out of the 1970’s playbook of David Bowie, or even circa 1975 Bruce Springsteen. As the intro to “Pretty Little Thing” ends it then erupts into the most brain-invading keyboard riff laid over a quasi-reggae vibe. It then takes off during the bridge when Tony Crown’s voice is joined by sweet harmonies.

As of late, the big attraction of this record is “Killing Machine.” This song has been carried to more ears as it was recently featured on AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead. Even without the promotion on the TV show, “Killing Machine” is quite easily the most catchy song of the bunch as you’ll find yourself singing, “good old fashioned killing machine.”

The biggest surprise on the album is Tony Crown’s cover of Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle.” He has taken an anthem of idealistic optimism and made it more high & lonesome. He has succeeded by making the song his own and while his original songs are worth the price of admission, this cover should easily gain recognition.

After listening to Distant From The Universe, I was fortunate enough to meet up with Tony Crown and have a conversation about his album, his art, and his plans for the future:

Tony Crown
photo courtesy: Tony Crown

TONY CROWN: TELEVISION. MUSIC. ART and DISTANT FROM THE UNIVERSE

SMC:  You’ve created four distinctly different sounds in four distinctly different acts. In 2012, as JANE & ANTHONY you released the album Lounge Noir, which I believe is also descriptive of that sound. You had the blues/rock outfit, Lawrence & the Lion, then, with Living Room Lava, you released a self titled EP which was more guitar driven rock. Now, you’ve released your brand new solo album, Distant From The Universe, which is more focused on melody and has more complex arrangements. Tell me a little bit about how you arrived at the sound  we hear on the new record.

Tony: Mostly I just wanted to do something different. I wanted to think out of the box and push myself into making some real polished material.

Jane and Anthony was an act that was purposefully rough around the edges, Lawrence and the Lion relied on pure emotion, and Living Room Lava is complex rock which can be throwback at times. I wanted to explore sounds and ideas that had always been in my head but never got put down. Some of these songs had been around for over five years and some had steamed from new ideas. Once these ideas were recorded I whittled down nine of them that fit together as well as a cover that seemed appropriate. “Distant From The Universe” is over two years of work in and out of the studio. Over that time I recorded probably over 30 songs. Having no time constraints really helped the process. I was allowed to not burn a ton of creative energy all at once. Kind of like a painting, where an artist might come back to a work several months or even several years later. Working with producer Andrew Stephens was also a huge part of developing the sound on the album. He has helped me take the ideas in my head and bring them to a new level.

SMC: So, it sounds like you went in having a bit of an idea of what you were going for and had a support system there to throw ideas around with, is that right?

TONY: I had the songs already written entirely before I went into the studio. However, once you do actually start the recording process things can take an entirely different turn. Sometimes I would record stuff and hear it on the big studio speakers and not really like the idea as much as I first thought. That’s where Andrew would come in say, “Maybe do it like this” or “Sing this Way.”  I would always record my own material or go into studio and be ridged about one part or the other. Being able to let go and just play and sing parts took a lot of weight off my shoulders. 

SMC: The album is full of different atmospheres. There’s a lot of darkness like in “Dust To Dust”, or “Killing Machine”, but you also have a little touch of reggae in “Pretty Little Thing”, a dash of pop in “In The Now”, even a little vaudeville in the title track “Distant From The Universe.” Is this how these songs all started out? Tell me about your writing process.

TONY: I was in the studio for two years and in that time I recorded a bunch of different material.  I learned music by learning other peoples songs so I guess when I’m writing my own I’m not coming from a particular angle. Mostly, ideas or melodies pop into my head and I’ll try to scribble them down or sing them into my phone. The cell phone is a huge tool in my writing and I allows me to revisit so many ideas I would have forgot. I’ll hear something and try and base a song around a certain phrase, so I do keep a written journal as well. My creative spurts are usually late at night or right after I wake up and drink coffee. 

BRIAN: Do you sit down with discipline and say, “Today I’m going to write this song and it will sound like this when finished”? Or do you have a line come to you here and there and over time it all coalesces?

TONY: It is kinda both. Some stuff just seems to come out and other ideas I will beat to death or just move on. I just depends.

BRIAN: I know you’re a fan of Bob Dylan. Is his influence hidden in Distant From The Universe?

TONY: I’m sure somewhere

BRIAN: I hear a little Tom Waits, perhaps some Velvet Underground. Do you feel anyone who has influenced you surfaces in any of these tunes?

TONY: David Bowie.

BRIAN: Oh yeah, I definitely can hear that now that you mention it. Speaking of legends, you include a cover of Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle” on the album. Was that something you had already in mind when you recorded?

TONY: I actually worked on a series of covers before I started recording my own songs. “Fly Like An Eagle” was one of them, but it seemed to fit in Distant From The Universe.

BRIAN:  It’s a great performance, and you did what many artists fail to do which is successfully making a cover song your own. How long have you been performing it?

TONY: No idea. Covers are tricky things. However people relate to them a lot more than original music sometimes. I really haven’t been playing the song that long.

BRIAN: A lot of newer artists are not shying away from including covers on their albums now. Veterans are even recording entire albums of covers. Ryan Adams, in fact, recorded a track-for-track cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989. You’re now one of the former. What do you think has affected this change?

TONY: I think at some point, most successful performers or bands play covers to get people listening. It’s a really good strategy. Playing original material is noble, less relatable. I think Ryan Adams is smart, Taylor Swift’s 1989 album was huge [and] his interpretations were relatable to Taylor’s fans.

BRIAN:  Are there any songs that you feel are off limits as far as being covers?

TONY: None that I can think of…

BRIAN: Let’s talk about the big news now. “Killing Machine” was recently featured on AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead. Congratulations on that. You must be very proud. How did you get connected with the show?

TONY:  Thanks! It’s awesome, a good moment for sure. Jane and Anthony had a few great T.V. spots too. I maintained positive relations with those people, plus I signed with a publisher (Synchaudio) late last year. Everything just [kind of] came together.

BRIAN:  Did you write the song for the show or did they hear it and say, “that’s perfect, we have to use that one!”?

TONY: The song was already written. I guess it just worked out.

BRIAN: This isn’t your first foray into television. As you just mentioned, a few years back, under the JANE & ANTHONY moniker, your song “Waiting For My Baby To Come” was used on ABC’s Brothers & Sisters. Have you found that having a boost like that attracts more attention than conventional independent promotion like indie radio, live performance, etc?

TONY: It definitely helps. Its kinda like a shot in the arm. A bunch of people now discover you from all parts of the world. Still, it doesn’t equal universal notoriety.

BRIAN: How about touring? Can we expect Tony Crown on tour in support of Distant From The Universe?

TONY: For sure.

BRIAN: What does a Tony Crown live performance look like now?

TONY: I do a lot of solo acoustic stuff however the full band thing still happens too.

BRIAN: One question about your website (www.tonycrownartmusic.com). You showcase not only your music, solo and LRL, but also photography. You are really dodging a specific label that every artist seems to get hit with. How do you want people to know Tony Crown? As a singer/songwriter? A frontman for Living Room Lava? A photographer? A renaissance man?

TONY: I’m just trying to be a great artist. Having multiple sources for artistic expression keeps things fresh and ultimately boosts creativity, at least for me.

BRIAN: Distant From The Universe is a great album, Tony. I think you’ve done some great work here. What can we expect for the future? More Tony Crown solo artist? A return with Living Room Lava?

TONY: Living Room Lava is about to release a few songs. We had a drummer change and things are finally back on track. I have a bunch of other songs to release so I’d expect some single releases as well as another album. I have another exciting T.V. placement coming up and I’m about to shoot some music videos. I’m pretty exited. 

*NOTEWORTHY: As for that exciting TV placement he’s speaking of, Tony Crown’s cover of “Fly Like An Eagle” appeared on Showtime’s Ray Donovan August 27th, 2017. Go visit him right now at his website: www.tonycrownartmusic.com and make sure to check out his album Distant From The Universe, available on iTunes, Spotify, and other popular outlets. Be sure and keep an eye and ear out as Tony Crown certainly has a bright future. (see all socials below)

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SMC Spotlight Series No. 4 | Dan Davidson ‘Say We Did’ Review & Exclusive Interview

By Candice Anne Marshall

Just as I suspected, Country Music Rising Star, Edmonton based Dan Davidson has launched yet another gold single today with his newest single ‘Say We Did’. Let’s start with that video though…. once again Davidson manages to stretch the traditional ‘country music video’ boundaries by going completely left field with this latest production. The cast and crew assembled in blistering 31-degree Celsius heat among the Hoodoos of Drumheller, Alberta fully prepared to melt their faces off (literally) for the sake of running around in polyester costumes, playing instruments and living out their love for Star Trek. This might seem like a wild choice for a Canadian Country Musician considering most have videos filmed in wheat field/tractor variety, but I assure you, this isn’t a wild choice for Dan Davidson whose wicked sense of humor and personality shines through here. In fact, the last several videos have seen Davidson in a moose costume performing live with his furry friend creatures or walking the streets of Tokyo in an all-white Cowboy ensemble unabashedly playing his guitar for an unsuspecting crowd of Asian onlookers. There isn’t anything like this on the planet and fans have come to expect this originality as a Dan Davidson trademark and staple and it’s a wild ride. For this alone, I feel the man is genius.

We have had several Spotlight features with Davidson going back to June 2015 where his very well-received debut single as a Country Music Artist was ‘Unkiss Her’. This was followed by ‘Found’ in March 2016, and ‘Barn Burner’ in October 2016. Although the single releases have been spread out, all the traction and attention they have received on radio and press, (including radio tours and live performances) there really hasn’t been a slack moment for this up and coming Country Music Legend.

In addition to his own thriving music career, Davidson is responsible for shaping the music careers of many well-known Artists in the Edmonton community via HandsUp Music along with his partner in crime Mr. Ari Rhodes. I have personally seen Davidson behind-the-scenes at many live performances for his Artists such as Bryan Finlay and Lexi Strate making sure that their equipment is running smoothly for their shows or even helping to orchestrate video shoots for them. He is a mecca of knowledge within the music community in Edmonton and has even written several successful grants for many Musicians in order to complete many of their own video projects. The man wears many hats and for those who don’t know and are just discovering him for the first time today, Davidson has also fronted the Canadian Rock Band Tupelo Honey for several years prior to his recent success in his solo project. You will want to check that out too!

With the new single ‘Say We Did’ out today, I am confident that this is going to be yet another well-received, unique feel-good hit we have come to know from this Artist. Klingons and Borgs in polyester suits aside, this truly iconic, fun, ‘Dan Davidson’ sound in its instrumental composition and lyrical strength. When we look at his work with Tupelo Honey, this song has shades of that ‘Halo’  grandiosity with a Country Music twist and I am very happy to hear it. This translates to a truly original sound that cannot be emulated: legendary. While Davidson is presently sowing the seeds in the music industry with hit after hit, he is simultaneously leading up to a full-length album (fall, 2017) which we are confident will blow the lid off this combustible musical force making Dan Davidson a global household name.

Be ready world, the Dan Davidson storm is coming!

SMC SPOTLIGHT Exclusive Interview | Dan Davidson | July 2017

SMC – Dan! We are thrilled to have you on our SMC SPOTLIGHT again! We have been following your career since June of 2015 when our contributor Randy Wayne Belt interviewed you for our platform. Since, we have had you featured three times in our Spotlight Numbered Series. What are your thoughts on us chronicling your career journey as Dan Davidson?

Dan – I really appreciate all the support! Its nice to have you guys on board from the start 🙂 Hopefully I can keep giving you something to talk about!

SMC – We have always been tapped into your new releases and with the release of ‘Say We Did’ today, can you tell us what you are most excited about with this release?

Dan Well this song is something that was really strategically complicated from a creative standpoint. I wanted to give radio something familiar (the upbeat front porch sound of Found and Barn Burner) yet something new and different to show I’m not just a one trick pony. I’m really confident that my producer and I nailed it on this one. I’m happy to get material out that really sounds like me. I feel that most of my songs aren’t just tunes that could be interchangeable with other artists, its something I’m proud of.

SMC – All week prior to the video launch of the single, we saw some pretty wicked sneak peeks of a Start Trek clad cast and crew…. can you tell us how the idea for this video came about?

Dan – Its just another worst “best idea ever”! Travis (the director), Russ (the assistant director) and I had some really crazy concepts planned for this. More travel related videos but thought, again, we should switch it up. Be spontaneous and unpredictable. We all love Star Trek and somehow got on the topic of buying costumes as a joke. Then it all kind of clicked in for us – we needed to do a spoof in the most DIY possible.

SMC – It was all shot in your garage and your wife couldn’t park in it for a week…. did she at least get flowers or a nice dinner out? (laughs) All kidding aside, your videos have become quite personal and homegrown… can you tell us why you have continued this trend?

Dan – Haha well, she gets a cameo in the video and hopefully her sacrifice helps to bring about a successful single and some sales money haha! Yea I think there are FAR too many riverbanks, dirt roads, wheat fields, and bars in country video. Videos are a real chance for me to communicate my personality and set my self apart. I’m definitely not one to fear straying from the norm. I think it’s a major strength of mine. I have the indie freedom to really do whatever I want – so I’m going to ride that out!

SMC – All your music videos are pretty epic to be honest. Epic and quite funny! Is this the signature ‘Dan Davidson’ style we can come to expect in future videos?

Dan – 100% I love it! Its fun for me. Its also great to hang out with all my creative friends and make some memories as professional grown up children.

SMC – Who is the creative team behind the video?

Dan – The video and concept was written by Travis Nesbitt, Russ Dawson, and myself. It was all shot by Trav and Russ as well.

SMC – The song itself is a genuinely pretty song with that classic upbeat sound we have come to know. Is this another co-write with Clayton Bellamy?

Dan – Nope, this one was co-written by Dave Thompson (remember Wave in the 90s? Yea him. We call him Dwave), and also with Travis Wood (Tim Hicks, James Barker Band)

SMC – What would you say is your unique Dan Davidson ‘signature’?

Dan – I’d say just honest music, with a little personality, and an indie DIY touch.

SMC – When you are about to embark on writing and production of a new single, what is your process?

Dan – Well for this one, I headed down to Nashville to write for a week. Landed a pretty good tune with a co-write, then looked at a list of about 30 songs with my publisher, radio team, and producer and narrowed it down. From there, I sent the demo to my producer and we began to fumble with the keys and tempos. Then we starting working on the arrangement. From there I began tracking a guide vocal. After that we started getting all the instruments in place, then I recorded my final vocals from my studio in Edmonton and sent them to my producer Jeff in Toronto.

SMC – I read recently that your previous single ‘Found’ is only 1000 streams away from being a Canadian Gold single! We are thrilled to see this happening for you! Can you tell us which song has been receiving the most attention so far (aside from ‘Say We Did’ today)?

Dan – Not 1000 streams, but 1000-unit single sales (150 streams = 1 sale). So a combination of streaming and sales equaling 1000. Yea its pretty crazy – basically unheard of for an indie artist to land a gold record. Its definitely a career milestone for me! Well Found definitely was the song that broke through. Other than that, Barn Burner is really the only song out! (Which also was top 20 and a major success for me!)

SMC – When we look at having a successful ‘summer release’ when, in your opinion, is the perfect time to launch a new single, EP, or full-length album?

Dan – There is never a good time in Canada anymore – but that doesn’t stop me. Found went out during ratings and Barn Burner went out before Christmas…both terrible times to go. Right now we are competing against more great CanCon than I’ve ever seen. Space is limited but I think we will see some great support out there J

SMC – What has been your best social media strategy so far?

Dan – Make great content, and keep giving people something to talk about.

SMC – Which social media platform is your favorite to interact with your fans on?

Dan – Instagram.

SMC – Do you always launch a video at the same time the single is released to all major music platforms?

Dan – Not really, Found and Barn Burner came out a few months after the song was out. This time we are trying to use the video to leverage attention for the single so we decided to go at the same time.

SMC – Can you share with us what the outcome was for the ‘Dan Davidson’ guitar contest and what it was all about….

Dan – It was a contest to help spread the word about MusiCounts (an organization that helps to bring music and music education to kids across Canada that couldn’t always afford it). I talked to people and radio stations all across the country and raised some great awareness for the cause! A kid from Stony Plain AB won the guitar last week.

SMC – You have recently won Country Recording of the Year for your single ‘Found’ at the Edmonton Music Awards last week! Congrats! With the Canadian Country Music Awards around the corner, do know yet if you have been nominated?

Dan – I’m still in the running in the 2nd ballot, we find out if I’m a nominee in any category on July 12th I believe!

SMC –  I read somewhere that 2017 will be the year of ‘Dan Davidson’ – what are your thoughts on claims like that? (see: Canadian Beats year in review (here)

Dan – Well I sure hope so! I try my best to keep my head down and keep doing what I’m doing without worrying about what everyone else is up to. I think that’s the best strategy for success!

SMC – Speaking of Awards ceremonies and the awards themselves, what are your thoughts on the decisions of the Country Music Association in terms of who wins, etc.? Do you think there is a trend among different awards ceremonies as in: of one gets chosen for one category in one award ceremony, they are likely to get chosen for the others in the same category for other ceremonies in the same year?

Dan – Hmm id never really put any thought into it. I think the CCMA has a great reputation as an organization that really focus’ on credibility and accountability. Hard to find a better award organization that that. The good thing is nominees are essentially selected by their peers – so If I was picked for multiple categories I would just consider it a major honor.

SMC- Do you think that Country Music today is evolving to a new sound or do you think there will be a resurgence of a classic country sound?

Dan – I think the country scene makes room for every kind of country artist. There are trends that will come and go, but for the most part the awareness of country music and the breadth of the fan base is bigger and better than ever. I just hope that continues.

SMC – I know that I have asked you before why you chose a career in Country Music – now that you have progressed further into your career, can you tell me what your feelings are on making this career decision today?

Dan – Never once looked back. It was the best musical decision I’ve made in my 13-year career so far.

SMC – Again, I would like to talk a moment about your band Tupelo Honey – I saw that the Edmonton Oilers have supported your single ‘Can’t Stop’ – LOVE the tune! Is there anything coming down the pipe new music-wise for the band? SMC- How have your Tupelo Honey band members been supportive of your solo career?

Dan – Nothing new coming down the pipe. We have a bunch of B sides recorded that maybe well release to fans one day – but no plans just yet! The guys have been amazing. That’s the thing about making music with your best buds, there is nothing but support. 2 of the guys (Greg on drums, and Tyler on guitar) that are playing with me now. My show has evolved in such a positive way because of their contributions.

We were all so surprised and pumped up to see that we were the pump up music for the playoffs! All of our phones were exploding with texts.

SMC – I have seen so many Artists keeping consistent with their music and social media yet some never seem to make it to radio or get the support they deserve at the best of times. What do you feel is the disconnect on issues like this?

Dan – Radio is a tricky animal. There are tonnes of cool artists that don’t get radio play – sometimes its about the style, sometimes its about the song (often cool music isn’t ‘hit’ music), sometimes its about politics and team. Radio can’t play everyone, its very competitive. I don’t really have the answer to tell you the truth, I’ve found something that works for me after doing this for well over a decade but there is no real “right way”.

SMC – Where have you felt you have made the best career decision so far in your solo career?

Dan – Just doing what I do, having fun, making music with people I love and trust.

SMC – Indeed you have also been involved in the careers of so many up and coming and currently popular Artists in the Edmonton area – have you been still able to maintain grant writing and production work via Hands Up Music/Studio?

Dan – I basically hate grant writing, so I only do it for me and a few other artists I’m involved in BUT I still work tirelessly with Hands Up! Music. Ari and I have produced a tonne of great records this year (Ill have to tell ya about a few!). Hands Up! Is going strong and growing rapidly!

SMC – Which of your current Artists would you recommend for an SMC Spotlight next?

Dan – Lexi Strate is always amazing. She’s the real deal, such a cool sound. As for other production gigs – my fav EP we’ve produced lately is The Sissy Fits – its like a gritty Spice Girls meets punk rock.

SMC – We have seen you do sooooo much hard work behind the scenes for other Artists…. where do you find the energy for it?! (laughs)

Dan – I don’t know! I guess I just like to be busy and help people connect the dots that I was able to connect. Passing that karma down the line!

SMC – In terms of your Music Peers, who has been the most supportive of your career strides (aside from your management team)?

Dan – Jeff Dalziel my producer has been with me for 13 years and has produced essentially every professional recording attached to my name. We do whatever we can to continually help and support each other’s businesses. Also Bill Miller who I talk about often. Bill goes the extra mile, well beyond radio promotion. He’s a great sounding board and work horse. My publishers Red Brick Songs are so fully invested in this with me as well. The outpouring of support from my industry friends is paramount to my success.

SMC – Which radio stations have been quick to promote and support your new music?

Dan – Country 93.3 in Fort Mac, JRFM in Vancouver, KX96 in Oshawa, Real Country 95.5 in Red Deer, Country 94 in St. John, and CFCW have been great for early support!

SMC – What are your thoughts on other music platforms (for promotional purposes) like Spotify and Pandora as opposed to traditional radio playlists and shows?

Dan – It’s amazing. Its listener driven, no advertising. Its about organic trends and tastes. To me its not one or the other though. Artists should strive for both if their music fits.

SMC – I have enjoyed seeing your vlogs! They are pretty entertaining (laughs) – where can your fans find them posted and can they subscribe to them?

Dan – Instagram.com/itsdandavidson and Facebook.com/dandavidsonmusic

SMC – You played at The Danforth Music Hall in Toronto to a sold-out crowd alongside Chase Rice! Can you tell us if you have any future concert dates or festival dates we can watch out for?

Dan – Sure do!

Peace River, Alberta PEACEFEST W/ Jojo Mason & Aaron Pritchett 07/07/17 12 Foot Davis Events Park 8:00pm
Fort McMurray, AB WILD WEST COUNTRY FEST – W/ WBU & Road Hammers 07/08/17 Snye Point Park 8:00pm
Calgary, Alberta CALGARY STAMPEDE – Headline 07/09/17 Ranchmans 8:00pm
Sevenpersons , AB QUONSET DAYS W/ James Barker Band & Rivertown Saints 07/22/17 Quonset Days Grounds 8:00pm
Edmonton, AB K-DAYS – W/ Corb Lund 07/23/17 K-Days South Stage 8:00pm
Mattawa, Ontario VOYAGEUR DAYS W/ The Road Hammers 07/28/17 Mattawa Museum Grounds 8:00pm
Sarnia, Onatario BLUEWATER BORDER FEST W/ Aaron Goodvin 07/29/17 Centennial Park 8:00pm
Dawson Creek, BC DAWSON CREEK STAMPEDE – Headline 08/11/17 Dawson Creek Stampede 8:00pm
Dawson Creek, BC DAWSON CREEK STAMPEDE – Headline 08/12/17 Dawson Creek Stampede 8:00pm

 

SMC – Will you be performing at Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose, Alberta again this year?

Dan – No, I wish! I played 2 years in a row. They need a break! Haha

SMC – What is your favorite live performance so far as Dan Davidson?

Dan – London Music Hall W/ Chase Rice earlier this year. It was like an ACDC video. There were people hanging off everything and everyone was screaming the words!

SMC – Are we going to see a full-length album soon?

Dan – I’d say shortly after CCMAs in September we can expect a release!

SMC – Alright – last question: (I don’t think I have ever asked you this on before either)

Can you tell us one thing about yourself as a Musician that you feel sets you apart from your music peers?

Dan – That’s a tough one. My peers are pretty diverse! I’m not sure if I have a good answer. I’m hoping that fans don’t have the answer either. I don’t want what I do to be a gimmick – I’m hoping there is a music brand and a certain something that no one can quick put their finger on that sets me apart. I think that’s how you know its real.

Thanks Dan! It’s always wonderful when we can connect! Keep up with the awesome!

Check out the video for ‘Say We Did’ below!


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Photo Courtesy: Dan Davidson

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John Ferriter | Exclusive Interview: The Tearaways ‘Esquire’ & The Alternative | Series No.1

by Candice Anne Marshall

Earlier this month, my friend Mr. Mike Rogers (WhatTheFunday InterFM897 Radio) introduced me to his friend and peer, Los Angeles-based Mr. John Ferriter. As I always do when meeting an industry peer, I began doing my research and quickly discovered that John is a man of many talents. He is the mastermind behind highly successful television shows like ‘The Biggest Loser’, ‘On Air With Ryan Seacrest’, and ‘Project Runway’ to name a few. His career span includes working as a Talent Agent with The William Morris Agency, Octagon, and later, his own venture, The Alternative.

Ferriter has worked with the entertainment industries most notable individuals like Piers Morgan (also a close friend of his), Garth Brooks, Ryan Seacrest, Jimmy Kimmel, Carson Daly (to name a few), and some of his earlier clients include supermodel Claudia Schiffer and Jerry Garcia. In addition to managing his impressive client roster with The Alternative, John’s current projects include landing deals for world famous DJ Rodney Bingenheimer known as The Mayor of the Sunset Strip in L.A. (more on that later) and his own successful Music career with The Tearaways (more on that later too).

After initial introductions (thanks Mike!), John and I arranged for an in-depth interview covering his career span, music, and personal life. ‘Nothing is off limits’ was his response to my inquiry on sensitive subject matter. In fact, he even divulged on the future of Rodney Bingenheimers’ career (under his wing at The Alternative), his thoughts on his career change from The William Morris Agency to The Alternative, and the extreme passion for his art (a night owl like me – often creatives don’t sleep much). This is one of the most candid and entertaining interviews I have had to date where we cover many insightful, relevant, and interesting topics.

This is the first installment in our SMC SPOTLIGHT Numbered Series where we will continue to track and follow John’s career. So, if you feel left like you’re left wanting more at the end of this feature, know that this is just the first chapter in our journey with the entertainment industry legend known as Mr. John Ferriter. Enjoy!

Note: Following the interview below, I’ve included my review of the new Tearaways album ‘Esquire’ track by track complete with summary.

John Ferriter
Photo by: Colin Mathew

SMC SPOTLIGHT Exclusive Interview | John Ferriter June 20, 2017

SMC – Hello John! Welcome to the Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) SPOTLIGHT! Let’s get right into it – you have quite an extensive career so we will break it down into sections here. Before we do that, can you tell us how you came to know Mike Rogers?

John – I actually met Mike Rogers in the early 80’s when he was the lead singer for a Punk Rock band called The Rotters. He was in the band with Phester Swollen and he was singing a song called “Sit On My Face Stevie Nix”. It was a classic and I played it on my radio show on KCSB many, many times.

Television Producer/Talent Representative

SMC – I was watching a YouTube video on your website ‘The Alternative’ where you are interviewed by Hollywood Immersive. In it, you spoke about working with The William Morris Agency. Can you tell us which accomplishments you feel were your greatest while working there?

John – In my 19 years at William Morris, there were many highs and many lows. The best part of the job was that I never experienced the same day twice.  Conversely most days felt like a broken play, so you learned to think on your feet and improvise. But the greatest accomplishments were when you made the seemingly impossible become possible and when you saw the moments where clients were able to realize their dreams.

SMC – You are behind many well-known television shows such as ‘The Biggest Loser’, ‘Project Runway’, and ‘On Air with Ryan Seacrest’ to name a few. Can you tell us what your process is in terms of ‘packaging’ these shows?

John – When packaging shows, I always tried to bring together proprietary elements that couldn’t be replicated anywhere else. That’s why I’ve always been so partial to talent.  There is only one Ryan Seacrest. There is only one Garth Brooks, one Dick Clark, one Piers Morgan, one Dr. Drew, One Carrie Keagan, so when you have an opportunity to build shows around really talented people with great concepts and you target the marketplace accordingly you can meet with a greater degree of success.

SMC – Can you tell us of a time when you felt there was a client that was unprepared, or not ready for the kind of work you expected of them?

John – Many clients are unprepared in general and unprepared for success. As an Artist, your life can change in an instant, so I tell them to act like they’ve already had success.  But too many are unprepared. See it and Realize it and it can happen if they are willing to work for it.

SMC – While with The William Morris Agency, can you tell us which project made you feel exceptionally proud?

John – At William Morris I was proud of all my projects. That being said, all of the work I did with Garth Brooks, Piers Morgan, Dick Clark, Ryan Seacrest, Nancy O’Dell, The Spice Girls, Hanson were quite fulfilling. I sold “Blue Collar Comedy”, “Biggest Loser”, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”, “The Man Show”, “Project Runway”, “Biggest Loser” and about 300 other projects while at WMA. I was very proud of the Tsunami Benefit we put together in seven days that generated millions for the victim. I packaged the first Radio Music Awards and it’s now been cloned 50 times. I feel good about that.

SMC – Your transition into your own Agency ‘The Alternative’ followed working with The William Morris Agency and Octagon, can you tell us how that came about and why?

John – I was unceremoniously locked out of WME after the WMA and Endeavor merger because I was the only board member who voted against the merger. It was a bad deal and I voted to support the rank and file. The new boss used it against me. I don’t think I ever would have left the agency but I was given no choice. I signed a five-year deal with Octagon, a division of the Public Company Interpublic Group, and built a successful entertainment division. I sold and produced the Arsenio Hall Show, Garth Brooks last network series, was nominated for an Emmy for producing the Teen Bullying series “It Gets Better”, won an award from Planned Parenthood for Best Documentary for “I’m Positive” and launched a couple of docu-series. I realized that representing people and working at a Public Company are in direct conflict and I opened to launch my own Management Production shingle, THE ALTERNATIVE, when my five-year deal with Octagon expired.  No regrets at all.

SMC – Can you tell us which of your clients with The Alternative you have enjoyed working with the most and why?

John – Wow, at the Alternative I love them all! Seriously, Piers Morgan, Glenn Weiss, Nancy O’Dell, Mike Wolfe, Clem Burke, Rodney Bingenheimer, Carrie Keagan, Brian Copeland, Mark Walberg, The Beach Boys, JoJo Wright, Ari Afsar, The Tearaways, Millie Courtney, Paige Davis, Mark McGrath, The Calling, The Fulcos…. How much time do you have? It’s a privilege to work with such talent people.

SMC – You gave advice in your interview with Hollywood Immersive about how individuals should appear in their first meetings with your agency in terms of professionalism. Can you share some more insight on that with our readers?

John – Well just blow me away in the first 120 seconds. I don’t look for clients. I look for partners who are or who want to be stars. Shy doesn’t play, so make an instant impression. Also, don’t bring your problems into the room.

SMC – I saw in the ‘About’ section of your website, it states: ‘WE ARE PLEASED TO INTRODUCE AND WORK WITH THE MOST NOTABLE ENTERTAINERS IN THE INDUSTRY. WE DO THIS WITH EXPERIENCE, INSIGHT AND PASSION.’ Can you tell us what determines who is a ‘notable’ in the industry? What are your standards?

John – Great people, great projects, great attitudes. That’s where we start. I also like category leaders. But I look for people who will listen and who want it all. My standards are really about the character of the person, not that the person is a character.

SMC – You have just taken the famous Mayor of the Sunset Strip ‘Rodney Bingenheimer’ under your wing, can you tell us how that came about? When will you be able to reveal what projects/deals you have coming up for him? (can you tell we are excited about this?)

John – I have listened to Rodney on the Roq since 1978. I met him over the years, have loved what he has done for so many, many people. Clem Burke (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Drummer for Blondie, and the man who has played with us the last year) introduced me to a different side of Rodney. I learned Rodney was a deeply sensitive caring person who loves music and musicians. I heard Kroq was dropping his show (new management decision) so I called Rodney and offered to manage him for free and told him I would get him on the air within a month.  We just closed a great deal for Rodney to continue his show, Sunday nights in primetime on Sirius Radio on Little Steven’s Underground Garage Channel 21. One of my proudest deals ever because Rodney deserves to be National and I want everyone to experience what has made me happy for 39 years.

SMC – I have worked with some smaller newspapers and have a passion for Journalism in all its forms. One of your clients is Piers Morgan and I have to say, I admire that you have taken individuals not only from the entertainment industry, but also those who are behind the broadcasting of major world events. Can you tell us how this relationship began?

John – My relationship with Piers began over a bottle of inexpensive French Bordeaux at a party at Lady Caroline Michel’s flat in London and he’s become one of my closest and most trusted friends. I also shared the most expensive French Bordeaux with him the night we signed the big CNN contract. I’d take a bullet for him. We’re that close, and he’s that good.

SMC – You also have worked with Garth Brooks. Can you tell us what your best or most memorable experience was in working with him?

John – I love Garth Brooks. Greatest country artist of all time and up in the top three with Paul McCartney and John Lennon in my opinion. My greatest experience with Garth was in Vegas when I was producing his One Man Show Thanksgiving CBS Special with him. I suggested he put his Cowboy Hat back on for one of the numbers and he refused. Right before the show, he looked at me and said “ok, I will do it. If it doesn’t work, it’s your fault. If it does, I’m taking all the credit.”  It did, and after the crowd went crazy he looked my way and winked at me. He’s simply the best.

SMC – Can you tell us of a time where you were in complete awe of an industry peer/client?

John – Every day I am in awe of people in the business. Too many stories to tell, but I am in awe of any person who can balance a successful family, marriage and career. I’m envious.

SMC – At the end of the day we are all human. Can you tell us of an experience with a client or industry peer that made you see them in a different light aside from their celebrity status?

John – I’ve seen so many human sides. Clients who go through divorces who have to walk onto a set and smile like there’s no tomorrow while I know their heart is breaking. Many come to mind.

SMC – Have you ever had a real friendship develop with any of your clients?

John – I’ve had many friendships with clients. Piers Morgan, Glenn Weiss, Nancy O’Dell, James Ray, many, many, many. I’ve also had close friendships break up when clients look at me as their servant. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

SMC – In terms of your clients, what do you feel are the key factors in being successful in the entertainment industry?

John – Success in the industry – if you are a woman, know where you want to go and look fabulous when you get there! (Thank you, Leeza Gibbons, for that!). In general – success comes via hard work and preparation. Also, you need to trust your team. Without trust there will be failure.

The Tearaways
Photo – Collin Mathew Photography Liverpool

The Tearaways

SMC – Let’s begin with your connection to Rodney. Rodney is a legend and a true pioneer in the music industry in terms of discovering the ‘who’s who’ (such as Bowie, Blondie, etc.) I am aware that you have your own music career, The Tearaways as well. Can you tell us how supportive Rodney has been of your music?

John – Rodney Bingenheimer has always been a supporter. He started playing “Girls Who Love Cars” off of the Earle Mankey Sessions: Vol. IV CD and then he jumped on a number of other songs. He has gotten behind “Name That Tune”, “John Wayne”, “Bash”, “That’s Rock!”, “Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio”, “I Love My Life”, “We Don’t Talk We Text” many, many tunes. Our new Christmas song “Helluva Christmas” will be on his new Christmas CD. What can I say, the man’s a tastemaker!

SMC – Your new album ‘Esquire’ is a ton of fun! There are a lot of vintage rock influences woven throughout the lyrics and even in the instrumentation. Can you tell us what it was like to collaborate with some of the industry’s most notable such as Clem Burke?

John – Esquire” is a label of love. John Finseth (founder of the Tearaways in 1981 at 17) and I wrote about thirty songs along with Greg Brallier and we just tried to create a record that we would want to listen to over and over. Clem came in after I met him with the Empty Hearts and played about thirty shows with us last summer and fall and this winter. He came up and started recording and we watched it grow into something special. We also did some work with Jeffrey Foskett from the Beach Boys on Name That Tune (the theme to the new game show). We’ve been friends for years, and fans of Jeffrey’s and that was a thrill.

SMC – Which is your personal favorite song off this album and why?

John – My favorite song is one of five – “BASH” is just an old-fashioned romp and puts me in a good mood whenever I hear it. Hey we mention, Bash, IPO, The Rave-Ups, The 3 O’clock, Chesterfield Kings…. I mean, come on! “That’s Rock!” Is an autobiography of our early Santa Barbara days, “Much Too Old To Feel This Young” was inspired by Garth Brooks and his song “Much too Young to feel this damn old”, “I’m Just Trying to be nice” is the quintessential breakup song (it’s not you…. it’s really you!”) and “If I Had It” (just great vocals by Fin and Greg). I do the first ever Tearaway rap/Meatloaf rip off bit as well).

SMC – The album art is dynamic! David Russo is the brilliance behind the artwork on it and he has quite an impressive roster of accomplishments also. Can you tell us how he came up with the theme for it?

John – I met David through a mutual friend. Loved him and his work. We conversed for a couple of years and I just called and asked if we could use the vibe and characters from “What A Great Life” (WAGL) which he created. He said yes. The cover and design were all David.  I love it!!!!

SMC – When you are songwriting, where do you go to for inspiration?

John – As a songwriter I just look for inspiration. I have my favorites, but it starts with an idea and a melody for me. But it’s important to me that everyone be able to hum our songs. Mike Rogers told me that Japanese audience hum the Tearaways’ songs. That makes me feel really good.

SMC – The albums’ credits include this phrase: ‘A lot of sacrifice went into making this record so we hope you enjoy it and appreciate the spirit within which it is presented to the world’. We often hear how much has been put into the work by the Artists we support. Can you tell us what YOUR meaning behind that phrase is?

John – We loved making the record. We love the songs. We collaborated, we fought, we compromised but at the end of each song we high fived, hugged each other and shook hands. Being in a band is like being married to five of your ex-wives at the same time. But it’s as great high as I’ve ever experienced when it works. So, we are saying… “We love this, we hope you do to, and if you don’t love it we aren’t going to quit anytime soon!

SMC – I especially had deep appreciation for this phrase (also on the album credits): ‘When you’ve topped 40 in age, you can never be in the top 40 on the Pop Charts, but you can always be Top 40 in Life.’ With that being said, what would you say is an accomplishment that you are all proud of (aside from the album, of course)?

John- I am proud that a bunch of guys in their fifties can still rock, and sing and play with passion and that we all have our hair and none of us are grossly out of shape. I’m 57, but I feel 27! And playing with Clem makes me feel invincible. Fin is 53 but has the stamina of a 16-year-old in the studio. It’s a thrill to do this, while still having a very time intensive day job.

SMC – What has been the media response to your music in terms of Radio and Entertainment websites and blogs?

John – Knock on wood, the response to our music has been very strong. I just hope more people hear it. But we are gaining fans daily and that’s an amazing feeling.

SMC – What has the support been like among your peers? Family?

John – Our families have been wonderful and wonderfully supportive for the most part.  Unfortunately, my wife left me during the recording of this record. We will write about that on the next record! But hey, sometimes Bad things have to happen for the right things to happen.So, love is out there somewhere!!

SMC – Are there any tour plans for the remainder of 2017? Any festivals you will be attending during the summer months?

John – Yes. We are playing in Ireland and England in August and September. Also, a lot of California dates in September and October and November. We have two new Christmas songs that are done and we will push them hard this fall and winter. We played the Malibu Guitar Festival for the second year in a row. It was great. We would love to play more festivals!!

SMC – Where do you find your fanbase is the most concentrated in terms of countries and age groups?

John – Our fan base is early twenties to Sixties. More women than men. California, the UK, some Scandinavian countries and Australia. Slowly but surely, by the time we’re 80, look out!!

SMC – Can you tell us a bit about your songwriting process?

John – I write constantly. If I come up with an idea I write it down. I then usually write late at night or early in the morning. If I start a song I finish it. Then I bring it to the guys. But I also love to co-write with others and help them elevate their ideas and concepts. Lyrics are easy for me. Melodies are easy. I need help with arrangements.

SMC – What instrument do you create your music on?

John – I write almost exclusively on Guitar. I recently wrote two songs that started on my trusty old Hofner Club bass (A Little Bit of Love and King of “F” Mountain).

SMC – You have all played impressive venues in the USA and England, can you tell us which is your favorite and why?

John – My favorite venue is the Cavern in Liverpool. Because it’s the Cavern and the Beatles played there. The staff at the Cavern is World class. In Dublin, I love “Whelan’s”. In Santa Barbara, I love “Soho”. I’ve always loved “Molly Malone’s” and “The Troubadour in Los Angeles. I’ve always wanted to play “The Roxy”. But I will play anywhere with a stage and a great PA.

SMC – What is the reception like when you play live? Which were your most memorable live performances?

John – We played to 40,000 people in Liverpool one year. We opened with a Ramones song and they went nuts. It was magic.  People really seem to like the band know. We also played a show in Long Beach at the Petroleum Club to about 20 people and I loved it. Old people got up and danced. It was cool.

SMC – Can you tell us what your experience was like working with Earle Mankey?

John – I’ve worked with Earle Mankey going back to 1988. He is a collaborator, a great producer, engineer and I am thankful to call him a friend. He’s talented and compassionate. So, I feel good when I work with him. Earle been berry, berry good to The Tearaways!

SMC – Tom Hanks and Piers Morgan are huge fans of your art – can you tell us what their responses are to the new album?

John – Tom Hanks booked the Tearaways a number of times before I rejoined the band. Piers has been an ardent supporter coming to shows and tweeting in support of us. Piers does the voice of “James Bond” in our song “James Bond”. That’s cool!

SMC – I read in your band bio that ‘Recent TV appearances include NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC, Tribune and The Arsenio Hall Show’…wow! Which experience was most memorable?

John – Any TV is memorable. Love it all. They can see us, they can hear us too! I’m in!

SMC – Will there be more creating in the next few years for The Tearaways?

John – We released “Esquire” May 29th, we have the next record in the can. We have two new Christmas songs and we will perform on the Hollywood Christmas Parade. Lots of Tearaway action coming to you!

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Personal Life

SMC – Aside from being a successful Television Producer, Artist and Talent Representative, what other characteristics or hobbies do you have?

John – I love animals. I love dogs. I help with dog rescues. I like all animals, but I love dogs. They are loyal, smart, they trust us, they are loyal. My goal in life is to be the person my dog thinks I am.

SMC – Who has been the most supportive of your career(s) other than family?

John – I have some friends and associates who have really supported us. It takes an infrastructure of love and support to make a band work. We’ve been blessed.

SMC – Can you recall an interview that was most memorable to you and why?

John – I loved my Hollywood Immersive” interviews and my talk/interview at UCSB a couple of years ago.

SMC – Can you list at least 5 talents/hobbies aside from your music career we don’t know about?

John – I play Tennis. I read avidly. I listen to music avidly. I love TV. It’s not the boob tube, it’s the Groove Tube to me. I love Tea. I really love Tea. I also love the News. I’m a news junkie.

SMC – Can you tell us what a normal day in your life would be like? Many of our readers idolize a celebrities’ life, but they don’t often know what goes on behind the scenes and how tough the industry can be….

John – I don’t have a normal day. I get up and all hell breaks loose. Every day since August 21st, 1991. I like it!

SMC – What kinds of pressures are there for you personally in keeping to a schedule in terms of your career(s)?

John – Many pressures. The industry kills relationships. If you are with someone who isn’t in the industry they don’t understand why you are a slave to your clients. If they are in the industry, they are jealous of your clients. Next, I will be a monk. Also, the hours put a strain on fitness. I work hard now to stay in shape. I want to live longer.

SMC – What kinds of charities or organizations do you personally support and why?

John – I support many dog rescues, but It’s a Dog’s Life in particular. I support a lot of AIDS Charities, Autism Charities, the SPCA and the like. Animals need our help. So, I go there first.

SMC – Can you tell us of a time where you were involved in a project and it just didn’t ‘feel right’? How did you handle it?

John – This happens every day unfortunately. Recently someone was disrespectful to my partner Jamie. He screamed “Do you know who I am?” I said “Yes, the guy that I just dropped.” I have no tolerance for Temporary people who make permanent decisions.

SMC – What does the term ‘truly successful’ mean to you?

John – Knowing that you’ve done things to change people’s lives forever in positive things. I call it Psychic Income!

SMC – Final question – if there was one thing in your life you could go back and ‘do over’ again, what would it be and why/why not?

John – I would have gotten up on stage at the Goleta Community Center and I would have sung “Sit On my Face Stevie Nix” with Mike Rogers.

SMC – Thank you John!

John – Thank you!!!

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Album Review

Bash – Right out of the barn gates (complete with lampshade on the head and party animals in tow), ‘Bash’ is a thrill-ride throwback to sunny beach days with the convertible top rolled down. The single word to describe this song has already been occupied by its title – a true reflection of this super catchy piece infused with guitar riffs and smashing drums that deliver like a punchy, warm, attack.

If I Had It – Now this tune is smooth as silk: the intro grabs my attention immediately and leads into instrumentation that takes me back to the music I coveted as a young girl listening to dynamic classic Rock songs on the turntable. It’s fun from start to finish. You can audibly hear these guys having a blast in the recording process of this song and listening to it allows you to be a part of it, almost as if you are there. Listen LOUD.

Hello Isla Vita – This is the song you hear in those movies where the little country girl arrives in the big city: it’s awe-inspiring. The magnificence is heard in the thunderous drums and gentle vocals throughout marking this ballad as the song you want to listen to when you are looking for adventure on a Friday night. Keep it in your weekend playlist for sure.

I Quit My Job – The lyrics here are laced with honesty throughout and is a true ode to the beach boy days where songs were executed with that gentle feel-good vibe. I give credit to the vocals in this one which are mellow but powerful in their impact. I recommend this one for cruising one a warm sunny day.

That’s Rock – We pick up the pace again with this track that is strategically placed halfway through the album. After the ‘Hello Isla Vita’ and ‘I Quit My Job’ mellow vibe, ‘That’s Rock’ picks up the pace with a groovy beat topped with impressive vocals. This song brings the party right back into the album.

My Bad – Ohhhhhh where do I begin with this slick number? The lyrics are strong right off the get-go. The instrumentation flows very well throughout and supports the steady authoritative vocals heard throughout. I envision a ride down sunset strip on a motorcycle when I hear this number.

Much Too Old To Feel This Young – If you want to get to the heartbeat of this album, this song is the one. The gentle tones in the vocals on this one illuminates the heart and soul. The song is perfectly placed in terms of the track order in this album as it gives the listener a true taste of how this band demonstrates a 360 degree turn in their style and instrumental composition.

Good Luck Lovin – What a fun one. The party continues with the catchy lyrics in this tune which, I feel, is an ode to The Beatles Cavern Club era days. The vocals are on point and the instrumentation is super catchy.  I think this one would be fantastic to hear live!

Find Another Fool – is a slower ballad that has a very slight ‘Bon Jovi’ style in the vocals and mood. I am talking the ‘Living on a Prayer’ variety here. Backup vocals on this are a perfect fit throughout and make this a unique composition. I quite like this one a lot.

I’m Just Trying To Be Nice – Hello Sir Paul McCartney! This is a gorgeous number and probably, my favorite off this album. I mean it, this album definitely touches on the scope of all eras of classic Rock and ‘I’m Just Trying To Be Nice’ is captivating in its overall composition. They lyrics, vocals, instrumentation – all of it is completely on point. Classic British Rock and Pop influences play a primary role here.

Name That Tune – Back we go to California! This is a short ballad that fares well among the 1960’s groovy pool party crowd. Can you see it? Once you have heard the song, you’ll know what I mean. Definitely a must for a playlist suitable to this nature.

Any Better Than This – The final song on this album is like the bow on a present: a complete picture of the who, what, when, where, and why of The Tearaways: they have been there, done that and there’s no regrets. This is a very heart-warming number.

Summary

Here’s my description of this album in its entirety: These boys are no strangers to this industry and it’s apparent in their cultivated sound. Listening to ‘Esquire’ is the kind of experience where you walk away feeling closer to these incredibly talented Musicians. They have exposed their hearts and souls vividly and authentically to their fans, comparable to them inviting you into their homes, having a couple of beers and shooting the breeze. It’s a warm, familiar, and fun feeling that leaves you satisfied long after the visit. Who doesn’t walk away from something like that feeling fantastic. That’s The Tearaways sound. Well done gentlemen!

People, have you bought the album yet? Get on it! 

Check out their live performance on Brian Copeland below:

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John Ferriter Social Media Links (click to view)

The Alternative Website

Twitter

The Tearaways Social Media (click to view)

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Spotify

YouTube

iTunes

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The Tearaways Album Art by David Russo Photo Supplied by John Ferriter
The Tearaways Album Art by David Russo Photo Supplied by John Ferriter

The Tearaways Album Credits

THE TEARAWAYS –  “DW Hofner, Martin Gibson, Ludwig Rickenbacker, Marshall Gretsch, Earle Hammond & Vox Fender, esq.”

BASH

IF I HAD IT

HELLO ISLA VISTA

I QUIT MY JOB

THAT’S ROCK!

MY BAD

MUCH TOO OLD TO FEEL THIS YOUNG

GOOD LUCK LOVIN’

FIND ANOTHER FOOL

I’M JUST TRYING TO BE NICE

NAME THAT TUNE

ANY BETTER THAN THIS

Produced by Earle Mankey/John Finseth/John Ferriter

all songs John Ferriter/John Finseth/Greg Brallier/Clem Burke c. 2016/2017

Feretic Music, ASCAP / Magma Music ASCAP / Clem Burke Music ASCAP

except “BASH” – John Ferriter/John Finseth/Greg Brallier/Clem Burke/David Hekhouse c. 2016

Feretic Music, ASCAP / Magma Music ASCAP / Clem Burke Music ASCAP

except “NAME THAT TUNE” – John Ferriter/John Finseth/Jeffrey Foskett/Ralph Rubenstein/Clem Burke c. 2014

Feretic Music, ASCAP / Magma Music, ASCAP/Fos Q Music, ASCAP/Clem Burke Music, ASCAP

“I’M JUST TRYING TO BE NICE” – John Ferriter/John Finseth/Greg Brallier/John Ordazzo c. 2016

Feretic Music, ASCAP / Magma Music, ASCAP

“Whatever Happened To Rock And Roll Radio” by Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny Ramone, Joey Ramone c. 1979

“MUCH TOO OLD TO FEEL THIS YOUNG” c. 2015

“FIND ANOTHER FOOL” c. 2015

“ANY BETTER THAN THIS” c. 2012

John Ferriter/John Finseth/Greg Brallier

Feretic Music, ASCAP / Magma Music, ASCAP

THE TEARAWAYS

John Finseth – Guitar, Bass, Keys, Percussion & Vocals

Greg Brallier – guitar & vocals

David Hekhouse – guitar & vocals

John Ferriter – bass, guitar & vocals

with Clem Burke – drums & percussion

Additional instruments – Joel Mankey – horns, woodwinds, cool noises

The Tearaways are endorsed by Hofner Guitars

The Tearaways use Vintage Vox Amps, Vintage Fender Amps, Marshall Amps,  Hi-Watt Amps, Ampeg Amps, Hofner Basses & Guitars, Gibson Guitars, Rickenbacker Guitars, Fender Guitars, Martin Guitars, Gretsch Guitars, Silvertone Guitars, DW Drums, Gretsch Drums, Vox, Korg & Hammond organs, Human hand-claps, just about anything else in the studio that you can shake or hit

CD design and original artwork for the Tearaways by David Russo (WAGL =. WHAT A GREAT LIFE)

CD photographs courtesy of Collin Mathew Photography Liverpool, Ian Hanson Photography Liverpool, Joanne A. Calitri Beat artist Santa Barbara California and Martyn Daniel Still Image – we thank you all for your amazing work and friendship

A lot of sacrifice went into making this record so we hope you enjoy it and appreciate the spirit within which it is presented to the world.  Special thanks go out to our families and friends for their loyalty, love and support. All of our former bandmates for tolerating us and inspiring us to play and to all others who have inspired us in some way.

And a very special thanks to Earle & Jeri Mankey, John Ordazzo, Piers Morgan, Jamie Gruttemeyer, Rodney Bingenheimer from Rodney on the Roq, KROQ, KTYD, Alan Goldman, Patricia Kramer, Lin Aubochon, Billy Butler BBC Merseyside,  Mike Rogers WhatTheFunDay, Radio365 Network, Jeffrey Foskett, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, Ron Dante, Bo Donaldson, Kenny Aronoff, Robin DiMaggio, Jimmy Paxson, David Raymond,  Eddie Munoz, Joel Mankey, Jesse Benenati, Perry Benenati, Daniel Orias, Stephen David Brooks, Jim Yukich, Cindy Kona, Ralph Rubenstein, Noah Rubenstein, Matthew & Gunnar Nelson, Mark McGrath, Charles and Mary Rook, Thomas Repicci, Merwyn Belin, Robert Matheu, Bob Hannam, Chantal Reeder, Marc Platt, Lianne Curtis, Millie Courtney, Robert Courtney, Bill Heckle, Jon Keats & theteam at the Cavern Liverpool The Greatest Club in the World, Blondie, the Empty Hearts , the International Swingers & Split Squad for loaning Clem to us, The Beatles, Chandler, Carly, Marc Chardon Rogers, Nick Wass, Cathy Harrison & Rob Olson from Hofner, Jim Lombard, Charles &  Mary Rook, Bootleg Blondie, Paddy, John, Bob Horrocks, Tony Barbados and Liverpool elite, Candy Kayne, Elizabeth M. Adger, our friends from Imperial Guitars, Norman’s Rare Guitars & Guitar Center, The Beatles, The Ramones, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Tom Petty, The Spoilers, The Rotters, The Jetsons, Trik, The Stingrays, 5 Cool What, The Pranks, Reverie, Aston Martin, Toyota, Mercedes, Honda, Ford, Chevrolet, Mr. & Mrs. Dog, Christine Brallier, Jack Brallier, Loretta Finseth, Dakota Finseth, Jade Finseth, Mack Finseth, Dave Humes, Tony Cook, Steve Heller, Mike & Jessica Lambert, the little Twerp, Cam Dafoe, Lisa Hekhouse, Cari Hekhouse, Shane Hekhouse, Kyle Hekhouse & the Ferriters,

Dedicated to E.L. Woody & Alan Massengale & every kid who has a dream to play an instrument or sing in public

In loving memory – of our family members who remain with us only in spirit & Timothy Bryson

“When you’ve topped 40 in age, you can never be in the top 40 on the Pop Charts, but you can always be Top 40 in Life.”

The Tearaways are represented by John Ferriter & Jamie Gruttemeyer at The Alternative