SMC Spotlight No.1 | Soap Box Duo ‘Soap Box For Haiti’ Benefit Concert

By Candice Anne Marshall

I first heard of Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canadian born and based band ‘Soap Box Duo’ earlier this fall. I happened to be looking at all the bands who had graced the summer music festivals when I stumbled across an interesting post with the hashtag #soapboxforhaiti. Immediately I was intrigued and connected with the band (no, I really don’t waste any time – Reporter brain over here…). I began my research and immediately fell in love with the bands music. What struck me even more was their reasons for diving into a humanitarian effort by bringing global awareness of how people can help by working alongside impoverished people through a 20-minute film documentary created from their trip to Haiti in October 2017.

I admittedly have a soft spot for individuals who utilize their creativity, status, and talent with the purpose of helping others, and with this being my first introduction to the Soap Box Duo, I am proud to welcome them into the Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Family. Tomorrow, the band will be hosting their FIRST self-produced benefit concert at the Horizon Stage in Spruce Grove, Alberta where they will air the documentary video followed by a live performance. I encourage anyone in the community to get to this show! Any remaining tickets can be purchased (here)

Aside from their humanitarian efforts, the bands’ music is a delightful blend of Alternative/Folk that hits you right away – it’s the ‘feel-good’ music that everyone should have on their playlists that are perfect for that mid-day pick-me-up we all experience throughout the work week. They also have created brilliant original works with songs like ‘Walls‘ (video below) which bring awareness to childhood sexual abuse along with their support for organizations like ‘Little Warriors‘. The band consists of Alexander and Jenesa MacMullin whose music influences include The Civil Wars, John Mayer, Aretha Franklin, and many others. Since the bands’ inception in 2015, they have been nominated for many prestigious awards, launched their first EP, and have had several television appearances. I am not surprised because this isn’t only a band with a highly contagious sound, they are path-pavers whose honest compassion for humanity set them apart from the rest. You can read the bands’ bio at the end of our interview as well as tap into their social media links. I look forward to following this dynamic duos’ journey and in supporting them going forward through our SMC Spotlight Numbered Series. Welcome to the SMC Family!

SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Soap Box Duo

SMC – Hello Soap Box Duo! We are very excited to have you on our exclusive SMC Spotlight platform! Can you tell us how you heard about SMC?

SBD – We saw SMC feature some of our friends from the Edmonton music scene on Facebook.

SMC – Let’s delve into your background and roots in music – can you tell us what inspired your music careers?

Alexander- Honestly I owe my music career to Guitar Hero. I got so good at that game I thought that the next step to make it more challenging would be to learn real guitar. Then when I was 16 years old I started learning songs from artists like John Mayer, Bon Iver and Ray LaMontagne who were my biggest influences at the time. After performing my first original songs for friends and family I was shocked by their positive response. They really felt that I had a gift and I was inspired to grow as a musician so that I could pursue music as a career.

Jenesa- My parents always tell me that I sang before I could properly speak; it’s been a part of who I am since infancy. Then as early as age 7, I wrote my first song. I was put into dance, theatre and music lessons and was a huge pop music fan. I was that sappy kid who loved NSYNC and Destiny’s Child. To be honest, I still listen to Destiny’s Child. My focus on pursuing music as a career came in my teen years when I realized I could make money as a songwriter and performer and could hold a position of influence through my music.

SMC – Tell us more about yourselves for our new readers. We will get to your project later in this interview, but for now, let us know about you!

SBD – We are vintage-pop artists that go by the name Soap Box Duo. We chose that name because we want our music to be a platform for issues we want to address in the world. Our main focus is the prevention of childhood sexual abuse. In the early-mid 1900s if you wanted to rally people for a cause, you would stand on a soapbox and gather a crowd for your purpose. Now-a-days we have social media as a ‘soap box’ so we use that to connect with other passionate people.

We both met while studying music at MacEwan University. What brought us together was our shared passion for music, justice and God. We both had similar dreams of a career in music where we could support a family and live a life of purpose.

SMC – What instruments are you both proficient in?

Alexander studied guitar as his primary instrument while attending music school. He also sings, plays drums, bass, basic piano and recently started learning the cello.

Jenesa studied vocals as her primary instrument while attending music school. She also plays guitar, a little bit of piano and percussion.

SMC – You are both fairly new to the music scene as ‘Soap Box Duo’ – can you tell us what the reception/support in the local community has been like?

SBD – We have been blessed by the support of family, friends and the local community. When we started Soap Box Duo full-time in January 2015 we had no recorded music yet and needed to earn credibility in the music scene. It was so encouraging to be given a chance to prove our worth as writers and entertainers. Venue owners, radio hosts, booking agents and other musicians in the scene gave us the opportunity to share our music and our passion.

SMC – Who are your music mentors in the Edmonton community?

SBD – One key person who we have learnt a lot from is Rhea March who really helped us with our first few steps when we first started playing full-time in the city. But I would say that other musicians in the local scene have been consistent mentors to us. People like Brennan Murray, Jeff & Carol-Lynn Quinn, Joal Kamps, Jen Perry- to name a few- have taken the time to share their ideas, tricks and methodology with us.

SMC – You have some major accomplishments under your belts – your track, “Kissed the Girls” was a finalist in the Los Angeles Top Vocalist competition and the New York John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Tell us how that came about and the result of each – how exciting!

SBD – Thank you so much! Our tracks were entered into both of these contests and we were proud to have been named finalists. These things have given us more visibility, connections in the music scene in North America and encouragement to continue refining our song writing and performance.

SMC – I also read in your bio that In fall of 2016, you were nominated for the Gospel Music Associations (GMA’s) 38th Covenant Award for “New Artist of the Year”. Another huge accomplishment! Tell us about this more about this!

SBD – Thanks again. It was an exciting surprise for us to be nominated. As musicians trying to make a full-time income you enter your material to be considered for awards and contests. It’s often hard to believe in your own music. But we took some chances and submitted our songs. When we heard that we got nominated for “New Artists of the Year”, when they were considering musicians from across Canada, we were blown away. It was really humbling.

SMC – You were also nominated for your song ‘Complexion’ (see below) at the 2016 Edmonton Music Awards for the ‘Adult Alternative Recording of the Year’ category. You have made some amazing accomplishments! What was it like to be nominated for so many prestigious awards in your short career as ‘Soap Box Duo’?

SBD – We are so grateful to have been recognized for all of our hard work. There are so many incredible artists out there writing amazing songs, so to be considered among those people is a dream. We actually have a big collage of images and words on a board that hangs in our bedroom. This is a visual reminder of our goals and dreams and we have been blessed to see so many of the things on this board come to pass- this includes our first royalties payment, songwriting awards and playing live on radio- to name a few.

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Soap Box For Haiti

SMC – This interview has been a long time coming and I am very excited to learn more about the upcoming event ‘Soap Box for Haiti’ on November 30th! Tell us more about what this project is about and the event.

SBD – This project is one that is close to our hearts. We are inviting our fans to join us for a night of live music and a chance to be the first to see the documentary we recently filmed in Haiti. The venue is a theatre, which is the perfect place for this event. Our audience will be able to really hear our lyrics, feel our music and be a part of memorable moments without distractions.

SMC – Why Haiti?

Jenesa- I traveled to Haiti three other times, the most recent trip was nearly 8 years ago. I have dreamed of returning there, as I love the country and the people, and wanted to share that love with Alexander.

SBD – We were happy to partner with Nicola Topsom of Floriana Wedding Project to travel to Haiti and see what they do. We brought wedding gowns and bridesmaid dressed that were donated for the store they have set up in Port-Au-Prince. In August, as we were preparing to go, we had the idea of making a documentary while there. Nicola helped to connect us with other organizations that we could interview as well as setting us up with opportunities to film “The Real Haiti” to show people back home what the country is like.

SMC – You actually went to Haiti in October to film your documentary – what was it about?

SBD – The goal of the documentary was to show ordinary people who were doing amazing things there while giving viewers a glimpse of the beauty of Haiti. We hope to inspire our fans to partner with organizations that they might relate to.

SMC – What was the experience of actually being in Haiti like?

Jenesa- Traveling to Haiti is always a culture shock. Since they are the poorest country in the western hemisphere, they live very different from how we do here in Alberta. But aside from the discomfort and the emotion of seeing the abject poverty, I was again reminded of why I love Haiti so much. The people are incredibly inviting, generous and loving. I felt like family again so quickly, even with the new friends we made.

Alexander- Before we left for Haiti I didn’t know what to expect. I was initially shocked by everything I saw. Though I was ill and was being stretched outside of my comfort zone, I was happy. The friends I made there were so loving. Part of me went there with the mentality that I was going to “help” them but in reality they were the ones who were taking care of us.

SMC – What did you feel most profoundly while in Haiti?

SBD – We were humbled by the resilience and joy of the people we met there.

SMC – What has the local response been like for this upcoming event?

SBD – So far, many people have been very supportive of this event! Over one-third of the tickets are sold and we predict that the event will sell-out in the next 4 weeks. Some people who aren’t able to attend have even given donations!

SMC – What can one expect to see at the event?

SBD – This will be our BEST live show yet! The audience will see us perform as a duo, with a full band and will hear both fan-favorites and NEW songs. This is the first show where we will have control of lighting, media and sound. This will be the only chance to see the pre-screening of the documentary on a BIG SCREEN as well! A local realtor has donated Oil Kings tickets that will be silent auctioned during the intermission. Audience members will be able to purchase our merchandise as well as unique items from Haiti, all in support of this documentary project.

SMC – What are the proceeds from this event going to be put towards?

SBD – The cost of travel, accommodations and food in Haiti for the duo, along with the director of the documentary, was quite high. We have taken on further costs with the post-production work required to finish the film. So the proceeds of this event are going to cover the out-of-pocket costs of being able to produce this documentary that will showcase different organizations and hopefully get more people connected to investing in Haiti.

SMC – Some would ask if you are also involved in the charities in your local community – are you?

SBD – We sure are! Little Warriors is one organization that we are very closely connected with right here in Edmonton. Stay tuned for some news on how we are partnering with them in the battle to prevent childhood sexual abuse.

SMC – What is the one thing you would like to see happen as a result of this event?

SBD – It would be amazing if people would be moved to get involved with the organizations we have showcased and perhaps even travel to Haiti themselves. If only one person is moved to get involved, we will count it as a success.

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Music

SMC – Your self-titled EP ‘Soap Box Duo’ is dynamic! I have had a listen and love it! What has the radio support for your EP been like? Are there any stations you would like to shout out to?

SBD – Thank you. 105.9 Shine FM, 88.5 FM CJSR, CBC Radio 1, 106.5 Mountain FM, 90.5 CFCR FM and GRadio are a few local stations that gave our first album a chance on air! We are super grateful to these guys for their support.

SMC – Can you tell us what the album means to you both ‘thematically’?

SBD – Thematically you could say it was an introduction to us as Soap Box Duo. This album shares about the start of our relationship as well as some of the first experiences in our marriage. It also talks a little bit about some of Alexander’s struggles before meeting Jenesa and the couple’s passion to help those affected by sexual abuse.

SMC – Which song is your favorite off the EP and why?

SBD – Our favorite song would have to be “Silver Lining” because it’s very emotional for the two of us. During our first ear of marriage we both had full-time jobs, we were teaching music in the evenings and we were trying to get Soap Box Duo started writing songs, rehearsing covers and building our online presence. We barely had time to get to know each other and those moments where we could stop and be with each other was the silver lining in our busy lives.

SMC – Let’s delve into the album ‘Serenaded Through Seaweed’ which appears to be a compilation album – can you tell us more about how you went from the Alternative Folk to Electronic genre with your song ‘Adventure Island’?

SBD – We were honored to be asked by our friend, Nathaniel Sutton, to be guest vocalists on a song he wrote with his band ‘Brother Octopus’! Nathaniel was so fun to work with. We laughed a lot when recording the ‘gang vocal’ bit from the tune.

SMC – What music do you have planned coming up? Can we expect another EP or album release in the near future?

SBD – After interviewing producers from Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and even Nashville, this December we will be recording with Justin ‘Dunna’ McDonough of Resonate Music Studio here in E-Town. It will be a 6-song album. We have been working on developing our “vintage-pop” sound and excited to showcase our strengths as writers, vocalists and instrumentalists. ‘Back to Black’ by Amy Winehouse has been an inspiration to us as we’ve been preparing for our next recording project.

SMC – I know that your Haiti project would have been very time-consuming but I was curious to know if you were inspired to song-write while you were there?

SBD – When we were in Haiti we didn’t have the time or energy to song-write, unfortunately. Now that we are home and working super hard at getting the concert event ready, we haven’t quite had the chance to process our experiences in Haiti. We did however write a song leading into our trip called ‘Greenback’ which is about poverty and can be found on our YouTube channel.  

SMC – Aside from your November event, are there any other shows you plan on performing at during the holiday season?

SBD – There are a number of events we will be performing at during the Christmas season. One, for example, is a corporate function at the Hotel MacDonald. These are great events that give us a chance to share our music while making money to pay the bills! Ha ha.

Much of our month will be spent on recording and preparation for an upcoming opportunity that we hope to announce soon on our social platforms.

Personal Life 

SMC – You two are a team and are always together – how do you separate career from home life?

SBD – Ha ha. This is something we haven’t quite figured out yet. We honesty don’t have much separation between our career and our personal life since we work from home and are both working all hours of the day. We really do love what we do and are happy to spend every moment together focusing on living a life of purpose.

SMC- How did you two meet and just know you were meant to have a career together?

Alexander- When we were still in school, Jenesa asked if I wanted to do a book study on ‘Purpose Driven Life’ by Rick Warren with her. The book was so good for us because it asked questions that really reached into the core of who each of us were, what we had lived through and who we wanted to become. This was actually how I ended up sharing, for the first time in my life, about having been sexually abused as a child. There was a closeness we shared so early in our friendship that led to us collaborating, dating, dreaming about a future and eventually marrying- all with Soap Box Duo in mind.

SMC – I would like for you both to answer this one: What is the one thing you admire about the other the most in terms of personal and career?

Alexander- I can’t pick one. I admire Jenesa’s work ethic and creative ideas musically and business-wise. She has an incredible gift for lyrics and melodies. She is strong everywhere I am weak which makes us a fantastic team.

Jenesa- Wow, this is a hard one! On a personal level I would say that I most admire his honesty. Trust is such a crucial part of any healthy relationship and I am so grateful that I have someone I can really trust. As for our career I would say that his true love and magnetism to music and creativity is what I admire most. He could honestly sit and create on his guitar for hours and he’d even forget to eat! I guess that’s where I come in 😉

SMC – What has been the greatest compliment a fan has ever given you?

SBD – The greatest thing we have heard from our fans is when they have come up and explained how one of our songs really touched them. To know that something we created has positively impacted someone else’s life is extraordinary.

SMC – Which social media platform are you on the most and why?

Jenesa- We use Facebook the most because we have the largest engaged fan-base there. Plus, I’m not super “techy” and Facebook is user-friendly. Haha.

SMC – Alright – final question: What is at the top of your list places to perform in and why?

SBD – We are excited to perform in any space with engaged listeners but I think we would LOVE to do large theaters and arena shows.

SMC – Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us!

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Soap Box Duo Bio

Coming onto the scene early fall of 2015, this prolific pair saturated the Edmonton and area music scene playing more than 200 live performances to date! Alexander and Jenesa MacMullin are a Canadian pop duo with a folk undertone, hinting of both rock and jazz. This powerhouse vocalist and innovative guitarist met at jazz school in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Their unique sound is influenced by the music of The Civil Wars, John Mayer, Aretha Franklin and Gungor, to name a few. Their passion is to use music as their ‘soap box’ to encourage and inspire others toward justice. The couple writes and performs about topics that stir their hearts, from personal experiences to being an empathetic voice for the burdened. These two create catchy melodies and unique instrumentation as a foundation for their lyrics; lyrics that they hope will be both heard and felt by their listeners.

Since January 2016, the couple has released a music video, recorded & released their first EP, appeared on Shaw Television and were featured on multiple radio stations including CBC Radio 1. In fall the couple was nominated for the GMA’s 38th Covenant Award for “New Artist of the Year” for 2016. Their track, “Kissed the Girls” was a finalist in the Los Angeles Top Vocalist competition and the New York John Lennon Songwriting Contest. The two took to the road in March 2017 on their first Western Canadian Tour and, most recently, the duo’s song “Complexion” has been nominated for the Edmonton Music Award for the “Adult Alternative Recording of the Year” for 2016. Just last month the dynamic couple attended an intimate songwriters retreat with Judy Stakee, formerly of Warner Chappell in LA, where they ventured to further hone their craft as musical storytellers.

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Soap Box Duo Social Media Links (click to view)

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Spotify

YouTube

iTunes

 

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.

__________

The Dialectical Observations Album cover
Photo courtesy: The Lady AnoNYMous

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SMC Spotlight No.1 | Dacre Stoker: Exclusive Interview with ‘Dracula: The Un-Dead’ Author

by Candice Anne Marshall

Trying to formulate the words for a writer as established as Canadian-born, South Carolina-based Dacre Stoker, Author of ‘Dracula: The Un-Dead’ and great Grandnephew of legendary Author, Bram Stoker, who wrote ‘Dracula‘, is a daunting task at best for a newbie on the block like me. I was challenged to write an introduction worthy of the kind of authenticity and grandeur that prolific writers like Dacre deserve and that can sometimes feel a little intimidating. However, this Author is so personable, approachable, and friendly, the words came easy to say. This ascertainment was made after speaking to Dacre at length on the phone this week for our Limehead Radio interview (launching Monday – times announced following the interview): the conversation was candid, entertaining, and very profound. We also delved into discussion about his careers as a Writer, Educator, and established Athlete (yes, an Athlete!) which is not only admirable, it’s relatable to me (I too, enjoy running and writing!). ‘When you’re following in the footsteps of someone like Bram, you better make sure your work is equal, if not better than his because people expect this,’ was a comment that he made through these discussions. Given the fact that he has recently sold a script from a finished book (due out in 2018 – a prequel to Dracula co-written with JD Barker) to Paramount Pictures, it’s safe to say that Dacre Stoker is being recognized as one of the most prolific writers of our time. I do believe Bram would be very proud.

As a young girl, I was always drawn to the idea behind magical and mystical creatures, and Halloween was the one day each year my family and I would go all out. My siblings and I would dress up in our scariest Witch, Bride of Frankenstein, or Dracula costumes and give the neighbors a theatrical treat for the eyes. Even today, the very thought of the skeletal remains of tree branches set against an angry dark moonlit sky elicits excitement among my family because it means Halloween is near. For the last six weeks, Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) has been promoting our Halloween special in conjunction with Limehead Radio (in the United Kingdom) with vivid imagery and special effects in weekly videos leading to the start of this magical time of year when even the oldest among us become kids at heart. Yes folks, it’s officially the start of our five-day Halloween special with Limehead Radio and there’s no better way to start than with the topic of the seasons’ most iconic creatures of all: Dracula!

Let’s rewind a bit…

In mid-September, I stumbled across a promotional video that Airbnb had launched in 2016. They were advertising a contest for two people to ‘Win an Airbnb night for two at Dracula’s Castle on Halloween night’in Transylvania, Romania. I was immediately intrigued and all while doing my research on the subject, I also wondered what rock I had been hiding under last year. This story was huge! I discovered that a Canadian brother and sister won the overnight stay in the famed Bran Castle. I researched further to find that the host of this event was non other than Dacre Stoker. It only made sense for him to have hosted the event, given his family lineage and the fact that ‘Dracula’ was written and based on the infamous castle itself (or so I thought – new speculation has arisen from the actual whereabouts of Dracula’s castle which was discussed in my Limehead Radio interview with Dacre Stoker). Immediately, I began researching, discovering more about his ‘Stoker on Stoker’ presentations that have been ‘fascinating audiences around the world, exploring the issues behind the mysteries that have baffled Dracula scholars and fans since the book’s publication in 1897 (quote from the Stoker website). I located his contact information and made my inquiry to see if we could line up an interview for our Halloween Special. He responded very promptly, agreeing to an interview on the SMC Spotlight.

By mid-October, I sent my interview over to Dacre and within days, it was returned, along with stunning imagery of Bran Castle, the Airbnb Halloween event, himself, and Bram. I began reviewing the questions and upon final review, became even more inquisitive. I sent over more questions which have now been included in this feature. This last week while chatting with Mark Richards at Limehead Radio about the depth of this interview, it donned on me that we should have a radio interview as well. There was just too much to this story to leave it at one part – this is a family, whose historical works of art both past and present have inspired the creation of (vampire) societies (see: Victorian Vampire Society UK), films (from the early black and white terrifying images ‘Nosferatu’ in the first film version of ‘Dracula’(1922) to the modern day Twilight series), to even more novels, articles, and a myriad of other things such as jewelry, comics, fashion, furniture, and dwellings inspired by these works. So, it was important for me to be able to extract all the pertinent information that avid Vampire and ‘Dracula’ lovers world-wide would want to know about the Stoker family history, mysteries hidden within the ‘Dracula’ novel, and where the family intends to take the ‘Dracula’ legend next.

The following interview is part one of a two-part Halloween special on Dacre Stoker and his own novel ‘Dracula: The Un-Dead’, a well-written sequel to his great Granduncle’s book, and the folk lore, myths, and truths of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’.

Editor’s Note: I would personally like to thank Dacre Stoker for taking the time to connect with me for this interview and on such short notice for our radio interview with Limehead Radio. I am honored to have been able to catch a glimpse into this magical and mystical world of the Stoker family where fiction is fact, and the pursuit to discover more about the family history and ‘Dracula’ legend is the very heart of this prolific Author. I look forward to connecting with him following his ‘Stoker on Stoker’ tour in the UK next month where we will continue discussion of his experiences and discoveries while on tour. It is an honor to know you sir, and I look forward to continuing to document your journey through our SMC Spotlight Numbered Series.

Dacre Stoker, descendant of Bram Stoker speaks during an interview at Bran Castle, in Bran, Romania, Monday, Oct. 31, 2016. A Canadian brother and sister are passed Halloween night curled up in red velvet coffins in the Transylvanian castle that inspired the Dracula legend, the first time in 70 years anyone has spent the night in the gothic fortress after they bested 88,000 people who entered a competition hosted by Airbnb to get the chance to dine and sleep at the castle in Romania. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) Photo courtesy: Dacre Stoker

Starlight Music Chronicles Exclusive Spotlight Interview | Dacre Stoker

Career Life & Bram Stoker History 

SMC – Hello Dacre! Welcome to the Starlight Music Chronicles Spotlight! We are thrilled to be including you in our Halloween month special. There is so much depth to this interview, so we will break it down into parts, but for the sake of our readers, can you give us a brief background of yourself and your relation to Bram Stoker?

Dacre – Bram Stoker’s youngest brother George is my great grandfather, this makes me the great grandnephew of Bram Stoker.

SMC – I first found out about you late last month when I saw a post in my newsfeed about an Airbnb contest for two to spend a night in ‘Dracula’s Castle’ in Transylvania. It had me completely intrigued. Can you tell us about this event?

Dacre – Airbnb hired me to be the host of “Night at” Dracula’s Castle. They do these “Night at” events in different locations around the world as promotional events. So, I spent Halloween 2016 at Bran Castle in Transylvania Romania helping put on the event. I helped read thru the finalists of 88,000, 500-character “essays” from people all over the world to see who would win a trip to Romania and spend an overnight in the Castle, complete with gourmet diner, in Bran Castle.

SMC – I also read that two Canadians were the winners of the contest and that they also have familial ties to the castle. That’s awesome! I also know that you are Canadian-born yourself. Can you tell us what the experience was like for all of you?

Dacre – The winners were a brother and sister from Ottawa, they had a famous relative who was a professor and an author specializing in Gothic Literature. They got to face an amazing barrage of world press including: AP, AP France, Reuters, and about 10 other journalists from assorted countries.  They were picked up in Bucharest driven to Bran, spent the night in an AirbnB house, then on Halloween they were driven by horse and carriage to Bran Castle where the filming and interviews started.  I then led them on a tour of the Castle for an hour before we left them in their crypt with their coffins and cell phones for the night. The next day after breakfast we all were driven back to Bucharest where we had drinks at the Canadian Embassy with the Canadian Ambassador and his staff.

SMC – Is there going to be another AirbnB event this year for Halloween?

Dacre – I have not heard of one at this point.

SMC – Can you tell us more about the Stoker on Stoker events/presentations and how people have reacted to them?

Dacre – I have been pleasantly surprised how well received my presentations have become. The audiences range from high school students to hard core movie fans, to literary and historical buffs. In most cases, over the past 5 years, audiences are entertained and become well informed about the backstories of a book that all have heard of and many have read. In the Q&A and discussions and comments on Facebook I have found that people had no idea that so much of Bram’s personal life was involved in the novel Dracula. Many say they will go back and re read it with a much different eye. 

SMC – When do you expect the details of the tour guide to launch for the life of Bram Stoker?

Dacre – Tough question, I have just finished, with Co-Author JD Barker, a prequel to Dracula, we are slated to do a lot of promotion starting in a few months. In the mean time I am working on a documentary about Bram Stoker with an Irish filmmaker. I have 2 tours to Transylvania in the spring and summer to plan and promote, so in reality the tour guide takes a back seat to these other more time sensitive projects.

SMC – I had read that Walt Whitman and Bram were Pen Pals. Can you tell us more about how they met or collaborated?

Dacre – Bram first read Whitman’s controversial book of poetry “Leaves of Grass” while he was at Trinity College, Bram was impressed by the freedom that Whitman was able to express in his writing. They corresponded by letters, then finally met in Camden, New Jersey on one of Bram and Henry Irving’s trips to America with the Lyceum Theater. I believe that they shared a mutual respect for each others’ writings. They both shared a great respect for Abraham Lincoln, It is believed that Bram delivered his manuscript of “Dracula” to Whitman’s friend and lawyer Thomas Donaldson as a thank you for Donaldson passing on Whitman’s elaborate notes on Abraham Lincoln. Whitman had passed away, but Donaldson followed thru with Whitman’s wishes to give Bram the Lincoln Notes, in return Bram gave his “Dracula” manuscript to Donaldson possibly originally destined for Whitman.  This manuscript turned up in a Pennsylvania barn on a farm once owned by descendants of Mr. Donaldson. The manuscript is technically a typescript since it is typed, was sold at auction to Mr. Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft.  I have been fortunate enough to study it as part of my research for my “Dracula” prequel. 

Dacre Stoker during a ‘Stoker on Stoker’ presentation at Columbia College . Photo Courtesy: Dacre Stoker

SMC – I read on your website that you are beginning to organize a ‘Bram Stoker Dracula travel guide’ identifying the real-life locations mentioned in the novel as well as highlight the places of your Great Uncle ‘Bram Stoker’s’ origins. How is that coming along? Can you tell us some details about it?

Dacre – It is moving along very slowly mainly because every time I go back to Romania, seven times now, I learn something new that needs to be included in the travel guide.  This is a guide to show interested readers where to find the locations associated with the life and times of Vlad Dracula lll and also the places where Bram Stoker set his novel Dracula.

SMC – I read in an article where it was said that you are ‘determined to stop the deluge of vampires in popular culture from making people forget who invented the original cape-wearing bloodsucker (Dracula).’ (quote from this article here) Can you expand on that for us?

Dacre – Essentially, I want people to learn about the author who brought the world Count Dracula. He was an interesting man in many respects.

SMC – You have written ‘Dracula: The Un-Dead’ with Ian Holt. Can you tell us what prompted you to set out writing this book?

Dacre – Ian had the idea to write a sequel of Dracula using a screenplay of his as a starting point that was never made into a movie, it was a continuation of Bram’s novel. We decided to modernize our Count Dracula, he was similar to the Count played by Gary Oldman in the 1992 Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Ian asked me to get involved as co-author, this is what opened my eyes and interest level into the whole word that my great grand uncle created.

SMC – In reference to the last question, what was the public response from your book like?

Dacre – The book made it to number 21 on the New York Times best sellers list, it was sold to publishers in 20 countries. We receive excellent reviews from professionals; Publisher Weekly, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and Library Journal. However, some Dracula purists did not like the fact that we modernized Count Dracula and altered the characters.

SMC – Have you always wanted to write or direct?

Dacre – No, writing was something that came late in the game to me, I am slow and steady and need the assistance of good editors.

SMC – You were also a contributor to ‘Dracula in Visual Media: Film, Television, Comic Book and Electronic Game Appearances, 1921-2010’. What are your thoughts on this book?

Dacre – John Browning and Kay Picart did a fantastic job researching and putting this excellent reference book together. It really shows the impact that Dracula has had on popular culture. Let’s be honest, our culture is very driven by visual media, this book shows how prolific Dracula has been over the ages.

SMC – Are there any other projects we can discuss that you are working on currently?

Dacre – I am constantly being asked to make appearances to do my ‘Stoker on Stoker, The Mysteries Behind Bram Stoker’s Writing of Dracula’ presentation.  As a result, I am constantly striving to find new material to add to it. In early November, I am traveling to the UK to do some of these presentations. I will be visiting Cruden Bay in Aberdeenshire, Scotland for the first time. This is a town where Bram Stoker spent many of his summer holidays. He found inspiration here to write some of his other books and portions of Dracula as well. 

SMC – Which social media site are you most active on?

Dacre – I am a regular on Facebook and have recently started with Instagram and Twitter.

SMC – Can you tell us which ‘Dracula’ film was or is your favorite and why?

Dacre – I love the 1931 Todd Browning version with Bela Lugosi, I also like the 1992 Frances Ford Coppola version entitled “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, although I feel the name is somewhat misleading, I think it should have been called “Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula”.

SMC – I read in an interview that you do think that the film adaptations of ‘Dracula’ are great in the sense of ‘evolving’ the original ‘Dracula’. Can you expand on that?

Dacre – I love the idea that Bram’s original work, his novel of 1897, has inspired many Authors, Screenwriters, Directors etc., over the past 120 years to write their own version or adaptations of Dracula. If we did not embrace and honor Bram’s work by adapting it, we would be pretty bored with just one original version after 120 years.

SMC – What are your thoughts on the 1922 German film ‘Nosferatu’ (the first film version of ‘Dracula’) and how it evolved into the films of today like the ‘Twilight’ series?

Dacre – ‘Nosferatu’ (below) was a ground-breaking film back in 1922, the only problem I have is that it was determined in German court to be a copyright infringement. This was in fact the first novel to movie copyright infringement in history. I am all for creativity and history etc., but I also stand up for the rights of artists, authors, and musicians who need to have their work protected by copyright.

SMC – Christopher Lee as Dracula (1958 Horror of Dracula). What are your thoughts on his portrayal?

Dacre – Christopher Lee was a fantastic Count Dracula, I loved the 1958 version, this was the first version of Dracula where censors allowed blood to appear on the fanged mouth of the Count.

SMC – If there was one thing you would like the world to know about your Great Uncle Bram Stoker, what would that be?

Dacre – Besides the impact he has had on the world with his novel Dracula, Bram wrote a manual for Clerks of Petty Sessions throughout Ireland, this manual was in use in Ireland up until the 1960’s.

SMC – What are five things that all avid ‘Vampire’ or ‘Dracula’ fans or followers should know about the origins of the novel your Great Uncle wrote?

Dacre –

1.He based the story on a combination of events in his own life, as well as a lot of research into existing superstitions and folklore. 

2.He set the story in many real places.

3.He inserted some real people into his novel.

  1. There is a little bit of Irish folklore and myth in Dracula.
  2. Bram’s brother Dr. William Thornley Stoker helped him write the parts of the book dealing with blood transfusion and brain surgery.

SMC – It is nice to see your loyalty to the family name and the origins of Bram’s book! What is one thing that you would change in terms of people’s perceptions of the book based on the evolvement of Dracula that the film industry has portrayed?

Dacre – Count Dracula in Bram’s novel is more like a present-day zombie then the sexy dashing model looking Dracula’s in today’s movies and TV series.

SMC – Have you ever been approached by young Authors or Writers wanting mentorship from you or even a collaboration of any sort?

Dacre – No, I need all the advice I can get, I am in no position to give it out.

SMC – The real Vlad Dracula’s story is different from Bram’s. What are those differences?

Dacre – The original Vlad Dracula lll was not a vampire, he was however a brutal ruler who ruled in a brutal and violent time in history, the late 15th century. He ruled over Walachia and fought the Ottoman Empire in an effort to protect his homeland. Count Dracula was a vampire who was lightly based on some portions of Vlad’s past history. Bram used existing superstition and folklore from Romania to attach to his fictional count to give the backstory that the count was schooled in the Scholomance, a mythical school of the dark arts in the northern Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania. 

Bran Castle at Night
Photo Courtesy: Dacre Stoker

Personal Life

SMC – I read that you are former member of the Canadian men’s pentathlon team and coached the team at the Seoul at the 1988 Summer Olympics. What an accomplishment! What were those experiences like?

Dacre – Twelve years of dedicated training and focus on achieving physical goals! It was very rewarding, both the participating and coaching. I met a lot of wonderful people, travelled to many countries, was constantly learning and stimulated to improve. I learned that with hard work and desire we can achieve almost anything that we set our mind to.  

SMC – You and your family are now in the United States. What prompted the move to where you are today?

Dacre – My wife is from South Carolina, when we first got married she moved to Ontario, I taught at Appleby College in Oakville. She really did not like the weather, so after two years we moved to the South. I knew the area well as my parents owned a winter home here, so it was like my second home. 

SMC – What area of your career as a Writer/Director/Athlete has been most rewarding to you personally?

Dacre – The process and single focus to achieve specific goals, be it winning an event or having a book published is wonderful, nothing beats the feelings when a goal is achieved. I have been involved as a Coach in helping two athletes win a World Championship; Lynn Chornobrywy win the Ladies World Championship in Modern Pentathlon in 1983, and then more recently in 2016, Camden Riviere won the Mens Singles and Doubles World Championship of Court Tennis. Helping these fine people achieve their own goals was extremely satisfying to me.

SMC – Halloween is right around the corner – I am going to ask some fun questions:  can you tell us which horror or suspense books and films you like?

Dacre – “American Horror Story”, “Penny Dreadful”, “It”, “Dracula Un-Told, Ripper Street, Ozark“. I also enjoy reading David Wellingtons vampire series, and my Co-Author, JD Barker’s Fourth Monkey.

SMC – What does your family do at Halloween – is there an expectation from neighbors or friends to ‘live up to’ the Stoker name by dressing up in a Dracula costume? (I had to ask – I was curious!)

Dacre – I get asked that a lot, I am usually not at home during Halloween, but instead at some gig somewhere in the world doing a Stoker on Stoker presentation. When I do dress up, instead of dressing up as Count Dracula I have put together a Bram Stoker costume consisting of the clothing that Bram would have worn as a theater manager in Victorian London late 1800’s.

SMC – What is the greatest compliment you have been given in terms of your career(s)?

Dacre – Bram Stoker would be proud!

SMC – I am sure you have been asked what weird experience you have had at Halloween from fans – but for the sake of our readers, can you tell us of an experience you’ve had?

Dacre – Vampire Con in Los Angles, was asked quite sincerely and quite convincingly if I would be interested in letting a person drink a small amount of my “Stoker blood”, needless to say I declined.

SMC – Okay, final question: Can you tell us what advice you would give to a new generation of writers who are wanting to delve into the same genre of writing or style you and your Great Uncle have?

Dacre – If you are writing about Vampires, then do your research, create a convincing and unique “world” and then let your imagination flow. Make sure that you create a believable storyline consistent with the world that you have created.

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Dacre Stoker Social Media Links (click to view)

Website

Bram Stoker Facebook

Dacre Stoker Twitter

Dacre Stoker Instagram

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Bram Stoker and his famous quote, an ioriginal painting by Damian Byrne
Photo Courtesy: Dacre Stoker

Bram Stoker / Dracula CSI UK Tour 2017 with Dacre Stoker

Nov. 7 University of Northumbria Newcastle 6pm

Nov 8 Art Central Gallery King Square Barry, Cardiff, Wales 7pm

Nov. 10 The Old White Lion Haworth 7pm

Nov. 11 Howl Bar Leeds 3:00pm

Nov. 13 Kilmarnock Arms Cruden Bay Scotland 7pm

Nov. 16 Edinburgh The Banshee Labyrinth 29-35 Niddry St Edinburgh 8pm 

Nov.  18 University of Glasgow TBD

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Limehead Radio Exclusive Interview with Dacre Stoker will air on Limehead Radio #Viral show on October 30th, 2017 starting at the following times:

7pm UK

North America

11am PST

Noon MST

2pm EST

*Please be advised that the interview will be aired following these times and not necessarily right at the times listed above. The Limehead Radio show is a 2 hour show.

____________________

Dacre Stoker
Photo Courtesy: Dacre Stoker

Dacre Stoker Biography

Dacre Stoker is the great grand-nephew of Bram Stoker and the best-selling coauthor of Dracula the Un-Dead (Dutton, 2009), the official Stoker family endorsed sequel to Dracula. Dacre is also the co-editor (with Elizabeth Miller) of ‘The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker: The Dublin Years’ (Robson Press, 2012). His next novel  a Prequel to Dracula, expected out in 2018 co-authored with JD Barker, has been sold to Putnam with film rights purchased by Paramount Studios.   

A native of Montreal, Canada, Dacre taught Physical Education and Sciences for twenty-two years, in both Canada and the U.S. He has participated in the sport of Modern Pentathlon as an athlete and a coach at the international and Olympic levels for Canada for 12 years.

Dacre Stoker’s compelling and informative Keynote presentation, ‘Stoker on Stoker, the Mysteries Behind the Writing of Dracula’, weaves together the details of Dracula’s history with Stoker family lore, and Bram Stoker’s life in Dublin and London, then separates fact from popular fiction, revealing the truth about all things Stoker and Dracula.  Customized to appeal to university groups, Gothic scholars, vampire fans, or history buffs, Stoker on Stoker has fascinated audiences around the world, exploring the issues behind the mysteries that have baffled Dracula scholars and fans since the book’s publication in 1897. Illustrated with Dacre’s own collection of never before published, and seldom-seen historic images, Stoker on Stoker is a glimpse behind the scenes of the life and the writing of one of the least known authors and one of the worlds most famous books. 

Dacre has consulted and appeared in recent film documentaries about vampires in literature and popular culture. He currently hosts tours to Transylvania to explore both the life and times of the historic Vlad Dracula lll and also the locations where Bram Stoker set his famous novel.  

Dacre has become well known and a respected figure in the world of Vampires in both academia and popular culture. He lectures and makes presentations entitled Stoker on Stoker The Mysteries Behind the Writing of  Dracula in the U.S. and abroad at various engagements, including: 2012, Comic Con, New York, NY, Underground Film Festival, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland, National Library of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland, University of Hull, Hull and Whitby, England  University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield,  England, London Dracula Society, London, England, World Horror Convention, Salt Lake City, UT, USA, Theatre Alhambra, Theatre en Anglais, Paris, France 2013 Historical Haunts Tour (Providence RI Newport RI, Mark Twain House, Hartford CT, Garde Theater, New London CT, Romania: Bran Castle, Hotel Castle Dracula, Samuel von Brukenthal High School, Sibiu . 2014 Historical Haunts Tour (Salem MA, Portland ME, Rockland ME, Woonsocket RI) Exhibition Dracula History & Myth: (consultant) National History Museum Taipei, Taiwan, US Navy Base,

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 2015 Whitby UK,  Horror Con Sheffield UK,  Historical Haunts Tour Salem MA, Saluda NC, Horror Writers and World Horror Convention Atlanta GA. 2016 International Vampire Film and Arts Festival, Sighisoara, Romania, Columbia College, Columbia SC, Sensoria Arts Festival, Charlotte NC, Monsterama, Atlanta Ga. Hendersonville NC Public Library, Bishops College School, Lennoxville, Canada, Airbnb “Night at Bran Castle”, Transylvania.  2017

Chattacon, Chattanooga TN, AnachroCon Atlanta GA, AgamaCon Aiken SC, Vulcan Industries Seattle WA, Whitby Goth Weekend, Whitby UK, Dragon Con Atlanta GA, University of North Georgia, Monsterama Atlanta GA. 

Illustrated with Dacre’s own collection of never before published, and seldom-seen historic images, Stoker on Stoker is a glimpse behind the scenes of the life and the writing of one of the least known authors and one of the worlds most famous books. 

F o r m o r e i n f o r m a t i o n : h t t p : / / w w w. b r a m s t o k e r e s t a t e . c o m / Presenting_Dacre_Stoker.html dacre@bellsouth.net    dacrestoker@

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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Tony Crown’s Social Media Links (click to view)

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SMC Spotlight Series No.1 | Victory Dance ‘Memphis’ Music Video Review & Exclusive Interview

The newest storm to land on the SMC Spotlight is being touted by us to the world as a turbulent catapulting meteoroid direct from New York City – they are known as Victory Dance. The five-member band comprised of Kenny Collette (vocals/guitar), Bobby Kay (bass/vocals), Jason Krebs (keyboards/vocals), Chris Tsaganeas (drums), Are Jay Helton (guitar), come from separate established career backgrounds and have now combined forces to make up the resounding boom sound you hear today. Their past credentials have earned them major label deals with Universal Republic Records, sharing the stage with prestigious bands like The Roots, and a string of Vans Warped Tour dates. Indeed, this is a band that we predict going the whole distance with their music career and we are thrilled to bring them to our prestigious SMC Spotlight platform. Their sound is completely addicting complete with a stage presence that commands immediate attention – it will knock the socks off anyone watching. Legit.

Only days ago, the band released their new video ‘Memphis’ (see video below) off their album The Spectrum and it’s a true reflection of the combustible energy-type sound we feel these boys are capable of bringing to a packed stadium during the Super Bowl. Upon first listen, you’ll understand exactly what I mean. The vocals remind me of a mix between Owl City and Imagine Dragons and when combined with melodies that are upbeat, thunderous, and impactful, it becomes the audible magic that makes this dynamic band come alive.

In addition to the sound, the Memphis music video reflects the well-crafted vision in the creative minds of these exceptionally talented artists. Filmed primarily in a spacious stark-white warehouse in Keyport, New Jersey and various areas throughout Brooklyn and Jersey City, it offers a glimpse into the kind of intense energy these boys create together during live performances. In addition to the band’s accomplishments, I was happy to learn that personal pursuits outside the band are of environmental and mental health nature. In light of the recent passing of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, Kenny Collette has been actively engaging in public speaking events for suicide and mental health awareness. With our own involvement with Morgan’s Mission, an organization formed around this very subject, we have much respect for Collette’s passion on this subject.

If SMC is the first place you are hearing Victory Dance, just remember you heard them here first. We have been consistently showcasing high caliber talent on our Spotlight for the last 2 years since its inception and having Victory Dance on our platform supports this statement. We look forward to also following this bands’ career journey through our rapidly growing SMC Spotlight series, a signature that SMC readers have come to expect when we begin showcasing exceptional bands like Victory Dance.

Be sure to subscribe to the bands’ socials below and subscribe to our SMC Spotlight to stay informed on when we will be showcasing the band again!

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Victory Dance
Photo courtesy: Victory Dance

SMC Spotlight Exclusiv Interview | Victory Dance | August 2017

SMC – Hello gentlemen! We are thrilled to have you on our Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Spotlight! Since this is our first time profiling you on our site, can you tell us a few things about yourselves in relation to your music background?

Bobby:  We get around! Chris and I go the furthest back. We played in a heavy alternative band in high school. We crossed paths with Kenny on the NJ band circuit while he was in some progressive, post-hardcore bands that saw some bigger tours. Chris later joined a country band that Jay was in, and they eventually started a pop band they brought me into. That saw some major label success, until we disbanded and the 3 of us started Victory Dance. We were linked back up with Kenny through a mutual friend. Then Are Jay had been around the Nashville music scene since he’s from Tennessee, and he moved up to New York to start fresh. We connected through social media and the band took form.

SMC – Today, your single ‘Memphis’ has launched – can you tell us which platforms fans can find it on?

Bobby: Spotify, itunes, SoundCloud, BandCamp, and YouTube.

SMC – I was blown away by your sound! I also loved the teasers you gave leading up until the release of ‘Memphis’. Can you tell us what is most important to convey in your branding?

Bobby: Thanks! The thing about the Memphis video is the plot is pretty subtle. We wanted the promo of it to expand on the plot. I always liked how 30 Seconds to Mars uses video as an extension of a song or record. There’s a twist at the end of the music video, and all the teasers allude to that. We’re also a sucker for theatrics so it was fun to build some suspense.

SMC – Where was your video for Memphis filmed? (actual location)

Bobby: The bulk of it was filmed at a warehouse in Keyport NJ. Then some other shots at apartments in Brooklyn and Jersey City.

SMC – Who was the creative team behind the video creation?

Bobby: You’re looking at it. We developed the concept and I directed the video. We worked with a good friend and really talented DP, Anthony from ANS Studios in Dumont, NJ.

SMC – Can you tell us what you have been doing career-wise from your last release to the new music released today?

Bobby: We’ve been working with a producer, Oliver Straus at Mission Sound in Brooklyn, on some music that we’re really excited about. We’ve also been making some changes to our live show to kick it up another notch.

SMC – I read in your (website) bio that you all possess a ‘give no shits’ attitude…can you embellish where that is applied?

Kenny: Ha ha. Yes, the “give no shits” attitude has to do with where we derive our musical influences, and apply them to our sound and live show. We all come from a very diverse background in music and sometimes applying that to your music can either result in a cluster fuck or in beautiful chaos. I think we’ve managed to implement all of that into our sound and live setting without being too critical on if we are “over doing it” or blending everything together perfectly.

Bobby: I just think we were giving away far too many shits in prior projects and we all felt it was time to keep our shits for ourselves.

SMC – I have seen that there has been much success for each of you individually prior to becoming Victory Dance. Can you tell us which experiences are most memorable for you and why?

Bobby: How much time do you have? There are a ton of war stories, but the first one that comes to mind for me is from a prior band Chris, Jay, and I were in. We played a festival in Philly with The Roots, and then they invited us to join them down in Birmingham, Alabama for an outdoor festival. We take the stage in 100+ degrees and like 7,000% humidity. Jay’s laptop wouldn’t work because of the heat, the sound guy blew our monitors on stage so we couldn’t hear anything, and the air was so thick we couldn’t breathe by the second song. But we were in front of a few thousand people and we did our thing. It was a real lesson in work ethic and definitely a standout moment.

Kenny:  Yes. In between touring/writing for Victory Dance I set out to release a solo record that tackled mental health issues, a subject in which I’m very passionate about. To my surprise an interview I did with Florida State University was picked up by USA Today and featured on their site. That was a memorable moment for me…

SMC – I saw in your One sheet that there is a fall tour scheduled….do you have any dates lined up yet?

Bobby: We could tell you but then we’d have to…you know. Follow us to stay tuned.

SMC – Will there be an album release in 2017?

Bobby – There won’t be a full album release, but we’re really excited to release a few singles through the rest of the year. No two are similar and we’re psyched for everyone to hear.

SMC – What do you think defines being truly successful in the music industry today?

Bobby: I think holding people’s attention is a measure of success in any industry today. In music, artists that keep fans engaged and interested for the long term are the successes.

Kenny: I think everyone’s definition of success is measured differently. For me success in the music industry is having my music heard, recognized and used as a therapeutic outlet for someone who may not have the ability to communicate their emotions to a doctor, but is able to allow my words and our music guide them through their life journeys. If I can have some monetary success out of being a musician as well…great. If not, it’s not the end of the world. If you have to remind yourself why you’re making music to begin with every single time then in my opinion you’re doing this all wrong.

SMC – You have been compared to Imagine Dragons and Jack White, yet I hear ‘Owl City’ – have you ever been told that before?

Kenny: Yes, I’ve heard Owl City mentioned a couple times, more recently though.

Bobby: Yea, we’ve been compared to some artists that are so vastly different it’s almost unsettling. Our EP the Spectrum was named that because it covered a wide range of sounds and human emotions. We have our faults, but no one has ever accused us of being a band where every song sounds the same.

SMC – What would you say is your signature style?

Bobby: It’s tough to come up with a definition of our style/sound. We’re best known for having a high energy show that’s more than just a list of our songs. You’ll have to come see for yourself!

SMC – Who does all the song-writing for your music?

Bobby: It’s a full band effort. Most of the lyrics come from Kenny, and the music often arranged by Jay and myself, but the entire band gets their hands dirty on every song.

SMC – What is the song-writing process like – which instruments do you create on?

Bobby: We have a pretty modern writing style in that we trade a lot of ideas through the computer. It’s a game of telephone a lot of the time where you send an idea out and it comes back completely different. It’s a fun unpredictable way of writing collaboratively.

SMC – What has been the greatest hurdle in getting ‘Victory Dance’ kickstarted?

Bobby: The man holding us down! Just kidding. The music industry landscape is always changing now, so navigating it is more complicated than ever. Luckily now we’ve aligned with the right team who have more foresight for that than we do. We’re lucky.

SMC – What has been your greatest triumph so far?

Bobby: One time at a show Kenny and I stopped everything and had a yoga competition to see who could hold a crow pose longer. I won…

SMC – What plans do you have for creative projects in the near future aside from music making?

Bobby: We’re getting tour dates locked down. We have videos coming along with our next few singles and so we’re developing those ideas and getting production rolling while we continue to write.

SMC – Are you involved in any charities or are there any causes that are close to your heart?

Kenny: I’m very passionate about suicide prevention and awareness. When I’m not with Victory Dance I’m usually participating in speaking events for mental health awareness. And Chris is also active with To Write Love on Her Arms which is a charity working on the same issues. And he’s also one of those dudes growing an awkward ‘stache for Movemeber, which is a focus on men’s health and prostate cancer.

Bobby: I’m largely focused on environmental issues. Any downtime from the band I’m working on sustainability efforts.

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

Bobby: We’d never kill a unicorn.

SMC – Ha Ha! Fair comment! What are your thoughts on the recent passing of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington? What do you think is the most important thing a Musician can do to gain balance in their lifestyle?

Bobby: We’ve lost so many beloved artists in the last year or so. These two were the biggest impact on me, and I think I can say for most of us in the band. Everyone’s situation is different and I don’t think there’s a blanket answer to finding balance. We hope that from the horror of these losses comes some awareness to the issue of suicide.

Kenny: Unfortunately, being in the music industry can be very brutal and impactful to one’s psyche. I think in order to sustain a healthy mental state, musicians need to prioritize allowing themselves to be with family more, and give themselves the opportunity to have personal time. The music industry sets standards that make it hard for an artist to have that work/life balance, and it really can affect the artist drastically as we’ve seen and are continuing to see. Music will always be here. Creativity will never die. Let’s take this one step at a time, stop going 100 miles/hr and getting lost in this vicious cycle.

SMC – What is a fond memory that sticks out in your mind that was the ‘AH HA’ moment when you knew you were destined for a career in music?

Bobby: I think there are ongoing moments that reinforce your passion. I’ve always liked provocative art. My first album I bought myself was ‘Doggystyle’. That exposed me to a world I didn’t know. Nirvana taught me how to lose inhibition. I saw Muse live and was simultaneously inspired and humbled.  And then there are the moments on stage where you connect with people. All these things keep us going. Plus, AI is going to rapidly put everyone out of jobs and for the first time in history music might actually be the safe career!

SMC – Which Social Media platform is your favorite?

Bobby: Instagram. Pretty sure that goes for all of us.

SMC – What is the most daring or badass move you’ve ever made in terms of your career?

Bobby: Hmm. Chris slept with a leprechaun. I’m not sure if it helped our career at all in the long run though.

Kenny: Joining Victory Dance after being known for being in post-hardcore bands ha-ha

SMC – Can you tell us about a memorable fan experience?

Bobby: We met a girl in Baltimore who fell in love with the band. She was so upset our next tour didn’t have a Baltimore date that she threw a party, booked the venue and had us come play the party on our off day.

SMC – Where are most of your fans located?

Bobby: We’re homegrown. We’re picked up many fans/friends along the way but the bulk is in NJ/NY.

SMC – Which country has been most supportive of your music?

Bobby: We’ve got some love out of Belgium I think, but US for sure.

SMC – Who would you like to ‘shout out’ or thank for being supportive of your careers?

Bobby: Thanks to everyone who’s been open to a band they hadn’t heard yet. Thanks to our families for support. Thanks to our Manager Stephanie Rachel for her unparalleled hustle. And thanks to SMC for your support!

SMC – How about family? Have you all gotten a lot of family support?

Bobby: Absolutely. A career in music is challenging for a family, but we have great ones who make that easier.

SMC – Okay, final question: Can you tell us what career you would have all chosen if it weren’t a career in music?

Kenny: I would’ve gone into the veterinary industry. I love animals and that line of work.

Bobby: Well, Chris is a legit attorney. So, we are not a band to mess with! Jay has a degree in music composition and still writes for commercials so that’s an easy one. I’d probably be hanging with Elon Musk working on some bad ass tech to save the world. AreJay’s been in school for film so maybe he’d be a director, or maybe a spokesman for hair products.  

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Victory Dance Photo Courtesy: Victory Dance

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Meresha | ‘Enter The Dreamland’ EP Review & Exclusive Interview

By Candice Anne Marshall

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to interview Florida-based three-time Billboard top 40 charting Artist and voting member in the Grammy process (as part of The Recording Academy) Meresha on the Indie Music Monday platform. Last Friday she launched her new EP ‘Enter The Dreamland’ and has already received rave reviews from fans and media globally. Popularity aside, Meresha has impressed me with her ability to remain grounded, focused, and consistent both personally and professionally.There are no airs about this young lady -whether she is performing in front of thousands of her fans or just chilling on the beach meditating, she continues to remain personable and authentic. This is apparent on all of her social media and in her art. Even in the wake of her success on the Billboard charts previous (let’s not count the fact that she was placed between Adele and Justin Bieber right off the hop!), she continues to strive for excellence (and continuing to remain authentic) with her new content, and ‘Enter The Dreamland’ is the result.

When we breakdown the five-song EP, each track can best be described as a sacred work of art. Nothing about Meresha’s art is of the ‘cookie cutter’ sort we hear these days and the production work from multi-Grammy Award Winner Joe Chiccarelli (whose work includes Elton John, Beck, Christina Perri, Glenn Frey to name a few) supports my statement.

Here’s a break-down of ‘ENTER THE DREAMLAND’:

Enter The Dreamland – is ethereal, lush, and vibrant. Modern sound and gentle vocals make this a powerful piece that should be heard loud and on your best speaker system. And probably at night. It’s like capturing a unicorn in a jar – magical and combustible.

Stardust – Take a trip into outer space with this number. Essentially, Meresha considers herself an Alien and this is most definitely the club sound of the summer. It is fast, fun, and throbs in the veins.

Jungle Potion – is a follow up from Stardust with some sensational instrumental pieces woven throughout. Not my most favorite number but still a quality track.

Violet Night – Now THIS is the sweet spot on the album in my opinion. This song pulls from Meresha’s Spanish roots lyrically and instrumentally while still making this something fresh. I believe it was LIGHTS who I discovered in 2008 when they began making their debut into the Canadian music scene and this single reminds me of that ‘Drive My Soul’ vibe. Side note: Lights has over a million active fans and followers globally – Meresha is already well on her way there. I predict big things from this track in the future of Meresha’s career.

Lights Out – The final song on this track is sensual in its composition lyrically and vocally. In our interview (below) Meresha said that she will leave interpretation to the listener on this song, but for this listener, this is a sexy little number that leaves this album on a positive note.

More please, Meresha!

Meresha
Photo courtesy of Meresha

SMC SPOTLIGHT Exclusive Interview | MERESHA ‘Enter The Dreamland’

SMC – Hello Meresha! Welcome to Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC)! I have previously interviewed you on Indie Music Monday but for the sake of our readers here on SMC, can you please tell us a little about yourself: where you are from, your age, what got you started in music?

Meresha – Hi Candice.  Thanks for asking me back!

I’m a (musical) artist, vegan & alien luver.  I was born in Europe and am now US East Coast-based. Some suspect I’m actually an alien, but I don’t comment on rumors.

I wrote my first song when I was 12, and recorded it about 8 years ago in a CD booth in South Florida.

SMC – Your new album ‘Enter The Dreamland’ is just stunning! I especially like the song ‘Violet Night’. There are a lot of ethereal influences woven throughout the lyrics and even in the instrumentation. Can you tell us why this theme?

Meresha – Sometimes you have to open your eyes to see the beauty around you.  We get so wrapped up in the everyday that we often miss it.  As I write:

“I have found the puzzle piece

it is right in front of me”

 this was always meant to be

our eyes open galaxies”

SMC – You just launched (June 11th, 2017) your video for ‘Enter The Dreamland’. Can you tell us who the creative team was behind this video?

Meresha – For this video, I worked once again with David Rousseau and his team.  He was the Director of my “New Revolution” video.  David has done a lot of amazing work including videos with billions of views for acts like PitBull, Magic!, Enrique Iglesias and Shakira.  Despite all his success, he is really down to earth and very practical in getting great footage.  His team was amazing managing a shoot in 2 stunning locations 90 minutes away from each other, all in one (very long) day.

SMC – “Lights Out” is also another beautiful song – I feel this is going to be one of those power songs that make it big off an album. What is the song about?

Meresha – Thanks!  “Lights Out” was the last song I wrote for the album.  I’ll leave interpretation of the song to the listener.   Some might hear something sensual, others something spiritual, while others something else.  This can change too depending on when you are listening.

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

Meresha – I’ve lived with all 5 songs for a while. Some I originally wrote over a year ago, and kept working on them. Hard to pick a favorite, though I guess you always love most the last thing you did, like “Lights Out”.  Mainly, though, I’m just excited that I can finally share my work with the world.

SMC – Your album art is gorgeous! I did see that you like to involve your fans in the decision-making process on your album art – can you tell us what the best advice was and how it helped you make a final decision?

Meresha – Picking album art is hard.  In this case, there were probably over 100 different ideas and mock-ups.  I had ideas submitted from different people.  I shared the base picture and let them manipulate it, or have it inspire some original art.  A few hundred fans gave detailed comments and helped steer me on the final choice.  I’m really glad you like it, but it really was a team effort.   The whole team deserves any credit.

SMC –I am very happy to have been introduced to your sound via Walter Hargrave at Indie Music Monday! What is the typical reaction you get from people hearing your sound for the first time?

Meresha – I’ve heard people say that my music was deeper and more interesting than they were expecting.  Guess that is a good thing.

SMC – How impressive to land on the Billboard Top 40 charts three times! Can you tell us where you were and how you reacted when you landed on it the first time?

Meresha – I did not really believe it when I got the first reports.  I entered the charts the first time right in between Adele and Justin Bieber.  That’s something that is really hard for an Indie artist to do.  Label artists have armies supporting them.  I guess the secret is to have some guerilla tactics.  I sent every single station that could play my music a handwritten individual note and a CD that looked like a vinyl 45, and asked for their support. Maybe the personal touch and a bit of being different helped get their attention.  In any case, I was grateful so many stations took the risk to play the music of a new Indie artist.

Meresha
Photo courtesy Meresha

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

Meresha – My high school Performing Arts (and Spanish) teacher Mrs. Salivar. I changed High School Sophomore year.  It was not an easy transition for me.  As a vegan, artsy type I did not always fit in.  Mrs. Salivar, though, immediately got me involved in the arts – dancing, singing, performing.  Think I had 12 roles in the variety show my first year.  She continues to help.  She even helped improve the wording in my first song in Spanish “Juntos”.

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

Meresha – My inspiration comes from many sources – from nature, my travels, things I experience and things I observe.  Books I read like those of Haruki Murakami also take me to new places, and awaken my imagination.

SMC – You have performed alongside Adam Lambert and Third Eye Blind – what was that experience like?

Meresha – That was amazing.  It was my biggest show up to that point.  With headliners like that, I had a built-in crowd.  Since it was in Boca Raton, not too far away from where I went to High School, there were a lot of people too who I knew in the audience.  Middle and High Schoolers from my school even organized a flash mob for my song “New Revolution” with some of them on stage.  It was a memorable night.

Meresha – Was also great to meet the other musicians.  Spent the most time with Adam and his band who were on after us, and had a dressing room across from ours.  They are good people who put on a great show which I got to watch from behind the scenes.  Seeing how the audience reacted from Adam’s perspective was very cool.

SMC – Let’s talk about your song ‘Juntos’ which released late last year – the lyrics are in Spanish correct? I definitely hear Latin influences in this new album.

Meresha – Right.  “Juntos” is my first song in Spanish, but not my last.  I’ve spent time in Costa Rica, Cuba, Spain & Mexico and love Latin culture.  Maybe I’ll do a duet at some point with a Latin artist.   Some of the sounds from my travels in Latin countries and the Caribbean can be heard on the EP, especially in songs like “Jungle Potion”. 

SMC – What has been the media response to your music in terms of Radio and Entertainment websites and blogs? Have there been any other Media platforms who have lined up an interview or promotion to coincide with your release?

Meresha – I’ve been blessed by getting the support of media who support Indie artists.  I really appreciate that they take the time to write about us and share our music.  It is all about getting your message out to as many people as you can.  Some journalists that wrote about me before are covering the “Enter the Dreamland” launch.  New sites are covering me too for the first time (like yours), which is very cool.

As far as radio goes, I’ve gotten support from market-leading stations like WRMF and music people like Kid Kelly at Sirius XM.  My music has been played on Indie, college and commercial stations.  While streaming has taken off, radio remains a way many people discover new artists.

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

Meresha – I did an interview on live TV on Cape Cod a while back.  I was still pumped after playing a live concert on the station.  Not sure everything I said was coherent, but I do remember that I really enjoyed it. 

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

Meresha – What I notice is that artists tend to be very supportive of each other.  There are a lot of us, and it is important to shout out when one of your fellow artists is doing amazing things and shine a light on them.  If all of us do it, the best will be found.

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

Meresha – Besides Just Dance on the Xbox?  I love languages – have studied 6 and can say I speak 3.   Travel is a passion.  I’ve been across parts of Europe and Latin America.  Asia is next on my list.  Whenever I can, I do different sports like running, paddle boarding, blading, etc.

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

Meresha – I work on my art every day.  Most of my day is filled with learning about music, playing instruments and Deejay-ing.  I write music when I can, and otherwise try to absorb new inspirations.  I’m on a bunch of social media platforms and try to stay in touch with as many fans and supporters as I can every day.  Really, there is more that you could do to advance your music every day than is humanly possible to do.  Think the people who make it and build a career are working on those things all the time.

Meresha
The Artist in her true element Photo courtesy Meresha

SMC – What kinds of pressures are there for you in keeping to a schedule in terms of your creative recording process and execution of your music to the masses?

Meresha – While there is some pressure to keep creating new music, as an Indie you have freedoms which keeps this to a lower level.  You can create whatever music you want and release it when you want, in whatever form you want.  If something doesn’t work, you can take it down, or just try again.  You won’t get kicked off the Label for failure.  You are the label.

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

Meresha – I played SunFest last month, which was amazing.  Some video from that is on Meresha.com.  Probably 40,000 heard me debut “Enter the Dreamland” and “Stardust” together with 6 other songs.

Some other individual Festivals are in the works.  Right now, I do not have a tour planned, but it would be great to open for a more established artist I respect, at some point soon.

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

Meresha – My launch June 23 is global, though right now I’m focusing on the US and Canada.  I’ve been as high at #6 on the iTunes Pop Album pre-order chart in the States in the last days.  This week, we are also presenting “Enter the Dreamland” to Canadian radio.  It will be my first time going for radio play there.  Will be interesting to see if my music resonates there.

I do have fans internationally including quite a few in Latin America, Japan/Asia, Australia and Europe.  I hope to be able to tour there some time soon. 

SMC – Which radio stations would you like to acknowledge in this interview and give a shout out to?

Meresha – WRMF is a hometown station in Florida that took a chance on me.  Not only did they play my song “My love has come” on air among the first stations in the US, but they also invited me to play their big yearly No Snow Ball with 1000s of attendees.  To get that kind of support as an Indie artist is amazing.

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

Meresha – I keep a notebook of ideas which I something go back to.  New songs start in various places, sometimes with a melody or set of notes, sometimes with lyrics.  There isn’t one way that they get created.  Even when I record songs, I sometimes come back to them several times and rearrange them before they are ready.

SMC – What instrument do you create your music on?

Meresha – I have a David Smith Prophet ’12 Keyboard on which I do most of my composing.  I’m also working on creating a live show with just me and my Prophet.

SMC – Can you tell us what tour life is like and which were your most memorable live performances?

Meresha – I flew many miles once to see Paramore in the Chicago House of Blues.  I arrived early, went to their restaurant hours before, and somehow managed to convince them to let me in the music hall with the first fans.  I saw Hayley and the guys in the front row of the Mosh pit.  It was amazing.

Last year, I co-Headlined a House of Blues show.  I know that some of the people there came out specially to see me live.  It’s now my job to create memories for them.  That’s what keeps me going.

SunFest last month will certainly be one that I remember for a long time.  Getting such a huge crowd to hear my music, some for the first time, and partying to it was great.

SMC – What does success mean to you?

Meresha – Success is enjoying what you do.  I’m working hard to make music that thing.  The jury is still out on whether I can build a sustainable career and live from my music, but being able to stay on the path would itself be a success.

SMC – Okay, final question Meresha – can you tell us five things you would like to see happen in terms of your new album release and its success in the next 3-6 months?

Meresha –

  1. Grammy
  2. MTV music award
  3. Billboard Top 10 hit
  4. Global tour
  5. Collaboration with someone cool.

Yeah, I know, probably not going to happen, but if you can dream it, you can do it. 

Come join me on the adventure!

Meresha during one of her recent live performances.
Photo courtesy Meresha

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