The newest storm to land on the SMC Spotlight is being touted by us to the world as a turbulent catapulting meteoroid direct from New York City – they are known as Victory Dance. The five-member band comprised of Kenny Collette (vocals/guitar), Bobby Kay (bass/vocals), Jason Krebs (keyboards/vocals), Chris Tsaganeas (drums), Are Jay Helton (guitar), come from separate established career backgrounds and have now combined forces to make up the resounding boom sound you hear today. Their past credentials have earned them major label deals with Universal Republic Records, sharing the stage with prestigious bands like The Roots, and a string of Vans Warped Tour dates. Indeed, this is a band that we predict going the whole distance with their music career and we are thrilled to bring them to our prestigious SMC Spotlight platform. Their sound is completely addicting complete with a stage presence that commands immediate attention – it will knock the socks off anyone watching. Legit.
Only days ago, the band released their new video ‘Memphis’ (see video below) off their album The Spectrum and it’s a true reflection of the combustible energy-type sound we feel these boys are capable of bringing to a packed stadium during the Super Bowl. Upon first listen, you’ll understand exactly what I mean. The vocals remind me of a mix between Owl City and Imagine Dragons and when combined with melodies that are upbeat, thunderous, and impactful, it becomes the audible magic that makes this dynamic band come alive.
In addition to the sound, the Memphis music video reflects the well-crafted vision in the creative minds of these exceptionally talented artists. Filmed primarily in a spacious stark-white warehouse in Keyport, New Jersey and various areas throughout Brooklyn and Jersey City, it offers a glimpse into the kind of intense energy these boys create together during live performances. In addition to the band’s accomplishments, I was happy to learn that personal pursuits outside the band are of environmental and mental health nature. In light of the recent passing of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, Kenny Collette has been actively engaging in public speaking events for suicide and mental health awareness. With our own involvement with Morgan’s Mission, an organization formed around this very subject, we have much respect for Collette’s passion on this subject.
If SMC is the first place you are hearing Victory Dance, just remember you heard them here first. We have been consistently showcasing high caliber talent on our Spotlight for the last 2 years since its inception and having Victory Dance on our platform supports this statement. We look forward to also following this bands’ career journey through our rapidly growing SMC Spotlight series, a signature that SMC readers have come to expect when we begin showcasing exceptional bands like Victory Dance.
Be sure to subscribe to the bands’ socials below and subscribe to our SMC Spotlight to stay informed on when we will be showcasing the band again!
SMC Spotlight Exclusiv Interview | Victory Dance | August 2017
SMC – Hello gentlemen! We are thrilled to have you on our Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Spotlight! Since this is our first time profiling you on our site, can you tell us a few things about yourselves in relation to your music background?
Bobby: We get around! Chris and I go the furthest back. We played in a heavy alternative band in high school. We crossed paths with Kenny on the NJ band circuit while he was in some progressive, post-hardcore bands that saw some bigger tours. Chris later joined a country band that Jay was in, and they eventually started a pop band they brought me into. That saw some major label success, until we disbanded and the 3 of us started Victory Dance. We were linked back up with Kenny through a mutual friend. Then Are Jay had been around the Nashville music scene since he’s from Tennessee, and he moved up to New York to start fresh. We connected through social media and the band took form.
SMC – Today, your single ‘Memphis’ has launched – can you tell us which platforms fans can find it on?
Bobby: Spotify, itunes, SoundCloud, BandCamp, and YouTube.
SMC – I was blown away by your sound! I also loved the teasers you gave leading up until the release of ‘Memphis’. Can you tell us what is most important to convey in your branding?
Bobby: Thanks! The thing about the Memphis video is the plot is pretty subtle. We wanted the promo of it to expand on the plot. I always liked how 30 Seconds to Mars uses video as an extension of a song or record. There’s a twist at the end of the music video, and all the teasers allude to that. We’re also a sucker for theatrics so it was fun to build some suspense.
SMC – Where was your video for Memphis filmed? (actual location)
Bobby: The bulk of it was filmed at a warehouse in Keyport NJ. Then some other shots at apartments in Brooklyn and Jersey City.
SMC – Who was the creative team behind the video creation?
Bobby: You’re looking at it. We developed the concept and I directed the video. We worked with a good friend and really talented DP, Anthony from ANS Studios in Dumont, NJ.
SMC – Can you tell us what you have been doing career-wise from your last release to the new music released today?
Bobby: We’ve been working with a producer, Oliver Straus at Mission Sound in Brooklyn, on some music that we’re really excited about. We’ve also been making some changes to our live show to kick it up another notch.
SMC – I read in your (website) bio that you all possess a ‘give no shits’ attitude…can you embellish where that is applied?
Kenny: Ha ha. Yes, the “give no shits” attitude has to do with where we derive our musical influences, and apply them to our sound and live show. We all come from a very diverse background in music and sometimes applying that to your music can either result in a cluster fuck or in beautiful chaos. I think we’ve managed to implement all of that into our sound and live setting without being too critical on if we are “over doing it” or blending everything together perfectly.
Bobby: I just think we were giving away far too many shits in prior projects and we all felt it was time to keep our shits for ourselves.
SMC – I have seen that there has been much success for each of you individually prior to becoming Victory Dance. Can you tell us which experiences are most memorable for you and why?
Bobby: How much time do you have? There are a ton of war stories, but the first one that comes to mind for me is from a prior band Chris, Jay, and I were in. We played a festival in Philly with The Roots, and then they invited us to join them down in Birmingham, Alabama for an outdoor festival. We take the stage in 100+ degrees and like 7,000% humidity. Jay’s laptop wouldn’t work because of the heat, the sound guy blew our monitors on stage so we couldn’t hear anything, and the air was so thick we couldn’t breathe by the second song. But we were in front of a few thousand people and we did our thing. It was a real lesson in work ethic and definitely a standout moment.
Kenny: Yes. In between touring/writing for Victory Dance I set out to release a solo record that tackled mental health issues, a subject in which I’m very passionate about. To my surprise an interview I did with Florida State University was picked up by USA Today and featured on their site. That was a memorable moment for me…
SMC – I saw in your One sheet that there is a fall tour scheduled….do you have any dates lined up yet?
Bobby: We could tell you but then we’d have to…you know. Follow us to stay tuned.
SMC – Will there be an album release in 2017?
Bobby – There won’t be a full album release, but we’re really excited to release a few singles through the rest of the year. No two are similar and we’re psyched for everyone to hear.
SMC – What do you think defines being truly successful in the music industry today?
Bobby: I think holding people’s attention is a measure of success in any industry today. In music, artists that keep fans engaged and interested for the long term are the successes.
Kenny: I think everyone’s definition of success is measured differently. For me success in the music industry is having my music heard, recognized and used as a therapeutic outlet for someone who may not have the ability to communicate their emotions to a doctor, but is able to allow my words and our music guide them through their life journeys. If I can have some monetary success out of being a musician as well…great. If not, it’s not the end of the world. If you have to remind yourself why you’re making music to begin with every single time then in my opinion you’re doing this all wrong.
SMC – You have been compared to Imagine Dragons and Jack White, yet I hear ‘Owl City’ – have you ever been told that before?
Kenny: Yes, I’ve heard Owl City mentioned a couple times, more recently though.
Bobby: Yea, we’ve been compared to some artists that are so vastly different it’s almost unsettling. Our EP the Spectrum was named that because it covered a wide range of sounds and human emotions. We have our faults, but no one has ever accused us of being a band where every song sounds the same.
SMC – What would you say is your signature style?
Bobby: It’s tough to come up with a definition of our style/sound. We’re best known for having a high energy show that’s more than just a list of our songs. You’ll have to come see for yourself!
SMC – Who does all the song-writing for your music?
Bobby: It’s a full band effort. Most of the lyrics come from Kenny, and the music often arranged by Jay and myself, but the entire band gets their hands dirty on every song.
SMC – What is the song-writing process like – which instruments do you create on?
Bobby: We have a pretty modern writing style in that we trade a lot of ideas through the computer. It’s a game of telephone a lot of the time where you send an idea out and it comes back completely different. It’s a fun unpredictable way of writing collaboratively.
SMC – What has been the greatest hurdle in getting ‘Victory Dance’ kickstarted?
Bobby: The man holding us down! Just kidding. The music industry landscape is always changing now, so navigating it is more complicated than ever. Luckily now we’ve aligned with the right team who have more foresight for that than we do. We’re lucky.
SMC – What has been your greatest triumph so far?
Bobby: One time at a show Kenny and I stopped everything and had a yoga competition to see who could hold a crow pose longer. I won…
SMC – What plans do you have for creative projects in the near future aside from music making?
Bobby: We’re getting tour dates locked down. We have videos coming along with our next few singles and so we’re developing those ideas and getting production rolling while we continue to write.
SMC – Are you involved in any charities or are there any causes that are close to your heart?
Kenny: I’m very passionate about suicide prevention and awareness. When I’m not with Victory Dance I’m usually participating in speaking events for mental health awareness. And Chris is also active with To Write Love on Her Arms which is a charity working on the same issues. And he’s also one of those dudes growing an awkward ‘stache for Movemeber, which is a focus on men’s health and prostate cancer.
Bobby: I’m largely focused on environmental issues. Any downtime from the band I’m working on sustainability efforts.
SMC – What is a deal breaker in terms of what you aren’t willing to do when it comes to the success of your career?
Bobby: We’d never kill a unicorn.
SMC – Ha Ha! Fair comment! What are your thoughts on the recent passing of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington? What do you think is the most important thing a Musician can do to gain balance in their lifestyle?
Bobby: We’ve lost so many beloved artists in the last year or so. These two were the biggest impact on me, and I think I can say for most of us in the band. Everyone’s situation is different and I don’t think there’s a blanket answer to finding balance. We hope that from the horror of these losses comes some awareness to the issue of suicide.
Kenny: Unfortunately, being in the music industry can be very brutal and impactful to one’s psyche. I think in order to sustain a healthy mental state, musicians need to prioritize allowing themselves to be with family more, and give themselves the opportunity to have personal time. The music industry sets standards that make it hard for an artist to have that work/life balance, and it really can affect the artist drastically as we’ve seen and are continuing to see. Music will always be here. Creativity will never die. Let’s take this one step at a time, stop going 100 miles/hr and getting lost in this vicious cycle.
SMC – What is a fond memory that sticks out in your mind that was the ‘AH HA’ moment when you knew you were destined for a career in music?
Bobby: I think there are ongoing moments that reinforce your passion. I’ve always liked provocative art. My first album I bought myself was ‘Doggystyle’. That exposed me to a world I didn’t know. Nirvana taught me how to lose inhibition. I saw Muse live and was simultaneously inspired and humbled. And then there are the moments on stage where you connect with people. All these things keep us going. Plus, AI is going to rapidly put everyone out of jobs and for the first time in history music might actually be the safe career!
SMC – Which Social Media platform is your favorite?
Bobby: Instagram. Pretty sure that goes for all of us.
SMC – What is the most daring or badass move you’ve ever made in terms of your career?
Bobby: Hmm. Chris slept with a leprechaun. I’m not sure if it helped our career at all in the long run though.
Kenny: Joining Victory Dance after being known for being in post-hardcore bands ha-ha
SMC – Can you tell us about a memorable fan experience?
Bobby: We met a girl in Baltimore who fell in love with the band. She was so upset our next tour didn’t have a Baltimore date that she threw a party, booked the venue and had us come play the party on our off day.
SMC – Where are most of your fans located?
Bobby: We’re homegrown. We’re picked up many fans/friends along the way but the bulk is in NJ/NY.
SMC – Which country has been most supportive of your music?
Bobby: We’ve got some love out of Belgium I think, but US for sure.
SMC – Who would you like to ‘shout out’ or thank for being supportive of your careers?
Bobby: Thanks to everyone who’s been open to a band they hadn’t heard yet. Thanks to our families for support. Thanks to our Manager Stephanie Rachel for her unparalleled hustle. And thanks to SMC for your support!
SMC – How about family? Have you all gotten a lot of family support?
Bobby: Absolutely. A career in music is challenging for a family, but we have great ones who make that easier.
SMC – Okay, final question: Can you tell us what career you would have all chosen if it weren’t a career in music?
Kenny: I would’ve gone into the veterinary industry. I love animals and that line of work.
Bobby: Well, Chris is a legit attorney. So, we are not a band to mess with! Jay has a degree in music composition and still writes for commercials so that’s an easy one. I’d probably be hanging with Elon Musk working on some bad ass tech to save the world. AreJay’s been in school for film so maybe he’d be a director, or maybe a spokesman for hair products.
Victory Dance Social Media (click to view & follow!)
If I had to capture the kind of magic in a bottle that would equate to Ogden, Utah-based Singer/Songwriter Sammy Brue, it would go something like this: you can’t. There is only one Sammy Brue and the kind of magic he creates stirs the deepest of human emotions through intrinsically written lyrics and harmonies that you will never hear anywhere else. Even his very persona has a calm, casual presence offstage but turns into a guitar shredding flurry on stage completely unaware of the alluring effect he has on his audience. In that moment, it’s just the maestro and his guitar: all this – within minutes. I’ve never seen anything like it.
I have carefully observed Brue on social media and he is extremely interactive with his fans, gracious with media, and completely down to earth even when performing alongside his idol Justin Townes Earle (son of music legend Steve Earle). In fact, I am confident that it is this very persona combined with exceptional talent that impressed Earle when Brue asked to ‘play a few songs for him’ at one of his shows. ‘We stayed in touch ever since,’ he said to me in a recent discussion. It’s things like this which lead to Brue win a recording deal with New West Entertainment, home of such Americana icons as Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle and John Hiatt.
This doesn’t surprise me, Earle being an exceptional Musician himself, would want to enlist exceptional talent for his ‘Kids In The Street’ tour. Brue has left enough of an impression on me that I am confident in saying: there will never be another like him. In fact, I am 100% confident he will go the full nine yards with his music career and I honestly don’t see that taking long either. He has already laid some serious touring tracks with Earle and has also appeared on his album ‘Single Mothers Absent Fathers‘. His penchant for bringing back a true ‘Americana’ sound through his music and live performances complete with his unique look sire true showmanship that is impossible to replicate.
I review and meet many people in the music industry but the last time I can recall ever spending more than three days researching an indie band or Artist this in-depth was Palaye Royale. My standards are high – It’s rare that I will spend more than a day researching a subject before their interview. However, with the kind of impression this young Artist has left already in the relatively short term of his career, it would be a disservice not to.
On June 16th, 2017, Brue released his debut album ‘I Am Nice’, a 12-track assortment of beautifully crafted songs that are guaranteed to blaze the trail for his future in the industry. The harmonies throughout are smooth – bringing me back to a time when the likes of Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, and Elvis were blazing their own trails bringing the house down on the Ed Sullivan show and the Grand Ole Opry. The beats and guitar rhythms are unforgettable but it is truly Brue’s voice that is the unique element here – just when you think the first few beats of each song can’t get any better, enter the bewitching vocals of Sammy Brue. Yeah, that’s the kind of magic I am talking about.
Sammy Brue isn’t just a Musician, he’s an out of this world experience.
Exclusive Interview | Sammy Brue | July 2017
SMC – Hello Sammy and welcome to the Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Spotlight! I have had a chance to research your background and I see so many impressive accomplishments in a relatively short period of time. Let’s begin with your most recent: touring with Justin Townes Earle – what was that experience like for you?
Sammy – Touring with Justin has been something I wanted to do for a long time. He has been a huge influence in my music and a constant support, so have this be my first tour was an honor.
SMC – Can you tell us what one of your best memories was while touring with Justin?
Sammy – Justin plays a lot bigger venue than I’m used to. So, I think being able to play those stages made a big impact on me. Also watching Justin handle his business was great. Learned a lot from him.
SMC – The connection with fellow artist Justin Townes Earle came after you played for him at one of his shows, correct? Can you tell us which songs you played for him and what his reaction/advice was to you after that?
Sammy – I remember him being pretty enthusiastic the first time I played him one of my songs. I think he was just stoked I was writing instead of doing covers like every other teenager on YouTube, but he also doesn’t hold back when he thinks I’m going in the wrong direction. I’m not sure what the first song I played for him was, but it was probably about Woody Guthrie.
SMC – Listening to your music is a genuinely moving experience – your songs are authentic and well written. Do you do all the writing of your music?
Sammy – Yeah, so far, I have had limited co-writing experience. My writing style is so abstract that writing with someone else is tricky. I do have some writing sessions in LA coming up so I hope I can pull it together.
SMC – Can you tell us how you can about the ‘theme’ of your album? Did the ‘theme’ come first or was it the songwriting that lead to the theme?
Sammy – I’m not sure there is a particular “theme” to the album other than I wanted it to sound like it was recorded in Muscle Shoals. It feels like we got that. We were choosing from about 25 songs that could go together. In the end, I wanted to have a mix of songs that weren’t all the same and showed a bit of diversity.
SMC – I found it really interesting to read in your bio that you gravitated to an acoustic guitar more than the electric guitar your father gifted to you. Can you tell us what you feel the acoustic has brought to your songwriting more than the electric guitar did?
Sammy – First, I’m not an acoustic snob. I love the electric and the legends that play them. There are about 5 different ones hanging in my studio that I use to write with. That being said, the acoustic guitar feels more honest to me. I can’t get away with as much on an acoustic so I have to really work hard for it. The sound it gives takes me to a different place artistically too. The hollow notes that won’t sustain make you work more.
SMC – I saw that you recently lopped off your locks for charity and you plan on continuing to do this. That’s very impressive – I have a true appreciation for people who aren’t afraid to change their personal image for the sake of humanity. Can you tell us which charity this was for and why it is dear to your heart?
Sammy – I donated my hair to Locks of Love through my mom’s salon she works at. They treat the hair and send it off to people free of charge when they donate. I just wanted to do something for someone else. I see a lot of people around that are going through chemotherapy and I just felt like as a human, I should do this. My grandmother Mary died of cancer long before I was around and it would have been cool if I could have done it for her, but I can’t. I did write the song “Once a Lover” for her though.
SMC – Let’s go back to your songs – they are very relationship based. Have you ever been told that you write from the perspective of someone, say, 20 or 30 years older than you? I am blown away!
Sammy – I’m influenced by the lives of the people around me. I really didn’t hang out with kids my age until just a little while ago, so most of the time I was around people 20 or 30 years older than me. Their stories are fascinating too. They’ve seen way more pain and struggles than I have. Reading about people like Woody or Leadbelly living in their time seems more interesting than 2017 where we contemplate what movie to go see, or where should we eat tonight. Watching someone go through a divorce or losing their job and home has more emotion to it.
SMC – I saw your live performance/Vlog on your YouTube channel for your performance at the Red Butte Garden Show. You seem to immerse yourself completely when you are performing live. Can you tell us what exactly you are feeling when you are performing live? You seem to be in a little bubble all your own and it’s rather impressive to see this!
Sammy – You have one shot to get through to a crowd when you play your songs. They feel if you are scared or don’t want to be there. This means you have to let it all out and get to your soul in your songs if you want them to feel it. I write these songs and they mean a lot to me so they deserve my best. It also hurts more when you put it out there and it’s rejected too. If I see people just talking or on their phones I feel like I didn’t do my job and I let those people and the song down. That’s the hard part. I know if I’m present or not during a performance and I’m my harshest critic. So, I try.
SMC – I am guessing that you are not shy about getting out in public and performing but which do you prefer more: recording and songwriting or being out on the road?
Sammy – It depends. Recording with incredible musicians and producers in Muscle Shoals is going to be tough to beat, but the right venue with the right crowd, it just becomes a spiritual experience. When you can feel their eyes on you and the only other thing is maybe the clink of glasses from the bar, and everyone is present, that touches my soul.
SMC – How did you win your recording deal with New West? I saw this in your bio and wondered if this was a contest thing or if it was a word of mouth thing….
Sammy – I don’t think “win” is the word I would use. I earned it by sacrificing everything to chase a dream. I had a goal written down for several years that I wanted a record deal before I turned 15 and was dedicated to it. I wrote the best songs I could and when I had the opportunity to play those songs, I didn’t waste it.
SMC – Which song off your new album ‘I Am Nice’ is your personal favorite and why?
Sammy – I don’t know that I have a favorite. I always gravitate to “Once a Lover” because it’s personal to me. It was for my grandmother. Going to be tough to beat that.
SMC – What comes easiest to you: the words or the melodies?
Sammy – Depends on the day and depends on the song.
SMC – Can you tell us what success means to you personally?
Sammy – Not really. I know that I’ve had success than a lot of artists in this business already, but I’m not ready to stop pushing for more ground. I get to make music and play all over the place for money. That’s a cool thing and sounds a lot like success.
SMC – What is a deal-breaker for you professionally?
Sammy – Making souls music just for profit. I want to make what feels like something to me. It has to move me in some way or another.
SMC – What brand of guitar is your go-to when songwriting?
Sammy – I’ve been playing guitars made by The Loar for years and have a nice collection now. The company has been so supportive for a long time and I love their instruments. I have a couple of Fender electrics too, but when I signed my record deal I went and bought a vintage Martin 00-18 that fits me like a glove. It just depends on the mood I’m in really.
SMC – What will you not part with and why?
Sammy – My very first Load guitar. I carried that thing around everywhere when I was starting out and had everyone I loved sign it. It hangs in the studio now so I don’t rub the signatures off. Justin was the first person I had sign it.
SMC – How do you feel you have evolved personally from your previous recordings to your latest?
Sammy – I’m more open to criticism about my songs and listening to other people’s ideas on how to improve them. Especially when it comes from some of the artists I’ve been able to work with.
SMC – What ‘sound’ do you gravitate to personally?
Sammy – Is Etta James a sound? Because that captivates me.
SMC – I saw that you grew up listening to the greats (I did too!) – What do you feel you have extracted from each in terms of cultivating your own sound?
Sammy – It’s authentic. Everything starts there and leads you to areas of possibilities. I was looking for Leadbelly videos and found Kurt Cobain. That’s why I start there.
SMC – Can you tell us what your family’s thoughts are on your music career and how they have supported you along the way? Tell us about a memory that stands out for you….
Sammy – My dad is the one that taught me how to work hard and strategize a plan when it comes to music. He has done everything in his power to help me reach those goals too. He believes in me more than anyone and picks me up when I need it. My sisters and mom have sacrificed so much to help too. At one point, we sold our house and moved to Nashville to make this happen. Everyone believes in me and I can never repay them.
SMC – In terms of your peers/friends – I have read that you are a still a typical ‘teenager’ and enjoy things like video games and skateboarding. Have you been able to remain grounded and personable with your peers while still killing it in the career aspect of your life?
Sammy – I think one feeds the other. The more time with friends, the more life experience I get. The more success in music, the more fun me and my friends have. It’s a good balance.
SMC – What impresses you in the music industry?
Sammy – Artists that grind. When I see an Artist who has great songs and just can’t catch a break, but they keep going I love it. A lot of them don’t have a team of people helping out so they do their own booking and are their own manager. Those guys blow me away because of their love of it and dedication.
SMC – You were born in Oregon but now live in Utah – Where do you feel the music scene is strongest?
Sammy – Portland Oregon has had a great music scene for a long time now. Some of my favorite acts like Portugal The Man and The Shins live up there so I absolutely love it there. Utah just hasn’t had the light shining down on them like that. I’m pretty sure that will change pretty soon though. Too many good acts just in my home town of Ogden for it to stay hidden.
SMC – Can you tell us what the next 3-6 months look like for you in terms of your music and tour?
Sammy – Not really. I don’t get too involved in that. I just wait for them to tell me where we go next. I’m sure it will have a lot of writing and playing songs. I know I have Americana Fest coming up and a week in LA doing some co-writing too.
SMC – Are you already working on more music?
Sammy – I’m always working on new music. I think I have about 30 some songs to choose from for my next album already. There’s a lot of half written songs too. I can’t not write when I’m home or have time off.
SMC – How long did it take you to write ‘I Am Nice’?
Sammy – Well the first 2 songs that came out as single are “I’m Not Your Man” and “I Know” one of them was the second song I ever wrote and the other I wrote 2 weeks before we went in the studio.
SMC – You have a vast range of sounds on this album – in terms of a genre, which do you gravitate more to?
Sammy – It depends on the day. Sometimes I write something like “I Never Said” and then that afternoon I’ll be writing something like “Covered in Blood”. I don’t think I gravitate one way or the other. I did them both.
SMC – Who would you call your ‘go-to team’ in terms of production?
Sammy – I’ve only been produced by John Paul White (The Civil Wars) and Ben Tanner (Alabama Shakes) so for now, they are my go-to guys. I can’t thank them enough.
SMC – Who is your go-to team for the creation of your videos?
Sammy – I’m always looking for creative video people.
SMC – Have you received radio play? Which stations would you like to give a shout-out to?
Sammy – I know that some of my songs are getting radio play, but I don’t know which ones or where unfortunately. Here in UT our local station KRCL has been spinning me so I thank them with all my heart.
SMC – We have many influential industry peers watching our site and sourcing out new Artists all the time. We have seen some seriously talented Artists receive radio play globally as a result of being discovered on our platform. Who can these peers reach out to for radio play?
Sammy – New West Records has done a great job with this. They handle all of that.
SMC – We would like to begin an SMC SPOTLIGHT Numbered Series on you as we have with many of the Artists that we work with. This means we will chronologically follow along with your career in a documented series of interviews. Are you open to this?
Sammy – Sure. If you don’t get bored of me.
SMC – Okay, last question: Can you tell us where your focus is in terms of your career in the next year?
Sammy – I’m just going to tour this album and hope it does good enough to get me back to the studio for a follow-up. Thanks for the interview.
There’s a new King in town and he is known as Los Angeles-based Writer/Director/Special FX mastermind Stephen David Brooks. I mean this quite literally. After watching the 2-hour sci-for thriller ‘Flytrap‘, a film that was well received on the film festival circuit, I am convinced that Brooks is the next creative film genius of our time. I spoke at length with Brooks a few days ago about some of his upcoming projects, his views on the film industry and his time working with horror book Novelist Stephen King. This is truly one of the most unique individuals I have met thus far, and it is apparent in this most recent film – its script is inventive, dynamic in visuals, and strong in composition. It comes as no surprise to me either that King elected Brooks to be the screenplay writer for his film adaptation of the book ‘The Mangler’. This earned him a place on King’s short list of “King Approved” Screenwriters.
‘Flytrap’ is full of humorous, chilling, and edge-of-your-seat dramatic performances delivered byJeremy Crutchley, Ina-Alice Kopp, complete with epic creepiness by ‘whistle blowing’ Jonah Blechman. Overall musical score is by Simon Boswell with dance sequence and end titles by The Tearaways which add a unique balance between paranoia (the synopsis) and normalcy. The film is directed by Brooks and produced by Tamara Sayiner (Ellen Degeneres Show) and is a true reflection of this sophisticated and audacious film prodigy. I can not even compare him to any other because there absolutely is no comparison – Brooks walks to the beat of his own unique drum and it is this that will make his films a truly memorable work of art.
You can catch the thriller on most major media platforms since it has already circulated the Film Festival scene throughout 2016 earning Brooks several prestigious awards. Stephens films have screened & won audience & Jury awards at: ECU The European Independent Film Festival, The Chelsea Film Festival, Worldfest Houston, Dances With Films, The Monaco Independent Film Festival, The Idyllwild Festival of Cinema, Ramsgate International Film & Television Festival, Festival du Film de Strasbourg, and The Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.
In speaking about future projects, the idea of SMC being involved in a ‘behind-the-scenes’ editorial came up and Brooks was all for it, ‘Do that for my next film, sounds fantastic!’ We look forward to continuing our journey by documenting his career through our SMC Spotlight series and we begin with our exclusive interview today.
Enjoy this Director’s reel below and ‘Flytrap’ preview, sit back, grab a coffee and enjoy. We guarantee this IS the beginnings of a genius at work!
By Candice Anne Marshall
SMC – Hello Stephen! Welcome to the SMC Spotlight! We were thrilled when our friend Mr. Mike Rogers connected us. This interview has been a long time coming and we are so excited to dig into the questions here. First, can you tell us what your connection is to Mike?
Stephen – Happy to be here. I met Mike through John Ferriter. Mike was playing some Tearaways songs on his Japanese radio show and had questions about film festival strategies and sales for his film Ghost Roads. So, John turned him on to me.
SMC – Mike also informed me that you are a multi-award winner at some of the most prestigious film festivals! Can you tell us which was most memorable for you and why?
Stephen – I have four festivals that stand out, each with a unique set of wonderful memories. ECU The European Independent Film Festival in Paris, The Chelsea Film Festival in the heart of New York City, the F.A.S.H. festival in Los Angeles, and the charming Ramsgate International Film and Television Festival in Ramsgate UK. ECU screened my first feature HEADS N TAILZ so I have a special place in my heart for festival founder Scott Hillier and everyone there. That’s why I chose ECU to be the site for the World Premiere of my second feature film FLYTRAP. The people running it are top notch film lovers and are very supportive of independent filmmakers. Plus, the festival is in Paris in early April. Nice time to be in Paris!
SMC – Your credentials as a Director/Writer are astounding. I have read that you have also worked with Horror Novelist Stephen King – can you tell us how that came about?
Stephen – That was my first professional writing job. I was hired to adapt Stephen King’s short story THE MANGLER. And Stephen King had script approval. So…no pressure.
I had supervised Visual Effects for director Tobe Hooper. He and I had a great working relationship so when he and his producers obtained the rights to Stephen King’s short story he called me to see if I’d like to pitch him my take on the adaptation. Tobe loved my pitch and called Stephen King. Next morning, I get a call from Tobe informing me Stephen King loved the pitch as well. So, I was hired to write the first draft. Six months and 44 drafts later we were in Johannesburg South Africa shooting. I went along as the Screenwriter/2nd Unit Director/Visual Effects Supervisor.
SMC -What was your experience working with King like? Can you tell us of one that is most memorable?
Stephen – It was actually a dream working with him. He understands the psychological aspects of horror better than anyone. We went back and forth on dozens of drafts of the script until he gave it his stamp of approval. He’s a perfectionist but one who knows exactly what he wants. Brilliant mind.
The most memorable moment happened when Stephen King screened the film. The short story is 5 pages long so I had to add a lot of detail that needed to be Stephen Kingesque but wasn’t actually in the original work. As he was watching the film he kept asking “Was that me?” and oftentimes Tobe would say “No man. That was Brooks.” No higher complement than that. Stephen King couldn’t tell what I wrote from what he wrote.
SMC – You then went on to seek your own adventures in Directing and writing – can you tell us what kinds of themes and stories you gravitate toward most?
Stephen – I gravitate towards characters who are out of their depth, in a situation they couldn’t have imagined and when we first meet them, have no idea how to extricate themselves. Then again, I think that’s the basis of all drama. That sense of being out of our depth and unsure how to proceed to make things right. We’re all imperfect creatures and exploring that imperfection through drama is how we discover who we are as human beings.
SMC – As a writer myself, I know that we writers are a very eclectic group and our imaginations are pretty intense at times – tell me, are you also an insomniac too? Most of us are…. if so, what keeps you up?
Stephen – I have never had insomnia. I can sleep anywhere. On a plane. On a train. In a moving car. And some of my best ideas have come to me in dreams.
SMC – You and I have tried so often to connect by phone to no avail – our schedules are intense! Can you tell us what project you are working on at present?
Stephen – Well I’m quite superstitious about announcing anything too soon. Waiting for all the pieces to be forced into place. Let’s just say one film is intended to be an iconic holiday classic, like LOVE, ACTUALLY and IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. This film has a heart. A big heart. Another film will bring a beloved character back to the big screen. And another is the beginning of a Young Adult mega franchise…When I can say more I’ll let you know.
SMC – Before we get into discussion on your film ‘Flytrap’, can you tell us what it’s really like being among some of the world’s greatest screenwriters in Hollywood? Have you collaborated with any?
Stephen – I know some of those writing greats but have not collaborated with any of them. We screenwriters tend to be solo creatures.
SMC – Your bio on your website says that you have been ‘mentored by Oscar winners John Dykstra & Richard Edlund’ (Star Wars) – can you tell us what that experience was like and what the most important thing you absorbed in your experience being mentored by them?
Stephen – John Dykstra taught me to always have a backup plan for any specific shot or scene. He was so right! Things oftentimes go wrong during the intensity of production and having a ready backup plan has saved the day more than once.
Richard really taught me how to view dailies with a critical eye. That man sees absolutely everything. It’s astounding.
I also had a third mentor in my Visual Effects days…Harrison Ellenshaw. Harrison taught me another valuable lesson…one I have dubbed “The Harrison Ellenshaw Rule.” That is…everything will change. Go with the flow. Filmmaking is as much about reading the tea leaves as it is turning adversity into an advantage.
And in the end. IT. WILL. ALL. CHANGE. Sage advice.
SMC – What, in your opinion, makes a film ‘great’?
Stephen – For me it all comes from the characters. Do they have identifiable problems? Do they deal with those problems in a realistic way? Are the characters driving the story? Are there some larger more universal thematic issues being explored? Is the film well executed? If the answer to all those is “yes” then you probably have a great film. Ultimately, it’s the test of time. If we’re still watching a film 50 years later. It must be great.
SMC – I see you have also shot music videos as well. Can you tell us which projects you have worked on past or present that are most memorable and why?
Stephen – Back in my Visual Effects days I worked on an Ozzie Osbourne video. “No More Tears.” That was a blast. Ozzie, what a character.
I directed a couple of videos for The Tearaways: ”Bash” and “Hello Isla Vista.” I loved capturing the exuberance of The Tearaways sound.
I’m now working with Rochelle Vincente Von K on a new video for her song “Deal Me In.” Rochelle is an Austrian Australian recording artist from London now based in LA. Very exciting stuff. We’re exploring an amplified cinematic visual style not usually seen in music videos.
SMC – What do you think makes your art stand out among the rest in your field?
Stephen – I’m just true to my point of view. I trust my gut. I have a very specific idea how the universe works and I use that as my guiding light when creating.
I don’t over think what I’m doing. Rather I feel my way through it. When I’m writing I can feel when a situation, or line of dialog is right. When directing Actors, I can feel when a moment is right. All I can say is…Everything I do is very “me” as those who know me well can attest. My sensibility. My sense of humor. My sense of irony.
SMC – Let’s get into your film ‘Flytrap’ – I watched the trailer on your website – wow! It’s intense! Can you tell us where you conceived the storyline for this film?
Stephen – FLYTRAP came to me like all my ideas…BOOM. There it is. A complete concept just pops into my brain. There’s no method to it. The initial idea is pure inspiration. Then I have to craft the idea into a story and a script. That’s where the hard work comes in.
SMC – As for the Actors in your film, can you tell us whose performance most blew you away in terms of final result?
Stephen – I had worked with Jeremy Crutchley before. He was in THE MANGLER. So, I knew he’d be great. Although Ina-Alice Kopp and I knew each other we hadn’t worked together. But having discussed another project at some length I had a good idea what she could do. And she did not disappoint!
Billy ‘Sly’ Williams and I have worked together on three films. He is my Robert DeNiro. So, I knew he’d knock it out of the park.
The big surprise was Jonah Blechman’s portrayal of Gilligan. I had met him once. I thought he seemed perfect for the role but I didn’t really see his genius until the first day of shooting. His look. The creepy whistle thing he did. He absolutely blew me away.
SMC – Can you tell us where the public can see this film in the film festival circuit?
Stephen – We’re finished playing festivals. FLYTRAP is in wide distribution and can be seen on Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon Japan, Google Play, iTunes, and Fandango Now. And we recently sold the film to China so it will be available on various platforms there in the very near future.
SMC – Your bio states:
‘Stephen’s films have screened & won audience & Jury awards at: ECU The European Independent Film Festival, The Chelsea Film Festival, Worldfest Houston, Dances With Films, The Monaco Independent Film Festival, The Idyllwild Festival of Cinema, Ramsgate International Film & Television Festival, Festival du Film de Strasbourg, and The Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.’
Can you tell us which award ceremony/win stands out to you the most and which film it was for?
Stephen – I hate to pick and choose. Every festival award is a gift and a special moment. But the win at The Chelsea Film Festival was quite memorable. It was the end of the ceremony and they had given out all the awards. FLYTRAP was nominated but didn’t win. Fine you can’t win them all. And as everybody got up to leave the theater the lovely Ingrid Jean-Baptiste, founder of the festival, steps up to the podium and announces there is one more award. And the Special Jury Prize goes to FLYTRAP. I was floored. What a great moment!
SMC – I also noted that there’s some ‘Tearaways’ music included in this film. As you are aware, we recently interviewed John Ferriter for our SMC Spotlight. Can you tell us of your connection to John and what projects you have worked on together?
Stephen – Well that’s no coincidence! I went to high school with Greg Brallier of The Tearaways. So, I see most of their Southern California gigs. I had also seen John Ferriter’s band The Stingrays back in the day. So when John re-joined The Tearaways John and I re-connected.
I needed 3 songs for the dance sequence in FLYTRAP. John said he’d send me the new Tearaways CD’s The Earle Mankey Sessions Volume IV and VII. I got the CD’s at 8 am the next morning. Played them and found two absolutely perfect songs on Volume VII: “Keep Your Knickers On,” “I Love The Blues,” and then on Volume IV I found “The Last Goodbye.” I mean it is as if they were written for the film. They were thematically and rhythmically perfect.
Then I discovered the song “I Love My Life” on the Volume IV CD and realized it is the perfect end titles music. Sometimes when it’s meant to be it just works out. And this was the perfect marriage of film and music.
SMC – What do you feel is the most important thing to be ‘equipped with’ in terms of pitching an idea/concept to potential investors for your art?
Stephen – Passion. Period. Yes, you have to know the structure of a pitch and you have to have a compelling story. But if you don’t go into the pitch absolutely convinced it will be the best film/tv show ever then you’ll get nowhere. And you have at most 30 seconds to make an impression. If you fail in the first thirty you won’t last the next couple of minutes.
SMC – I saw that you shot this film in California in a matter of only 12 days! In my personal opinion, some of the greatest films or projects that I have seen have been produced in a very short time-frame. What are your thoughts on this?
Stephen – There is something to be said for working fast. I think the energy level you create on set having to shoot 10-12 pages a day shows up on the screen. There’s an intensity there that translates.
SMC – Can you tell me who your ‘dream team’ is or who you would like them to be?
Stephen – John Ferriter, Jamie Angelise and Rana Joy Glickman…I’m already working with them!
SMC – What do you want to aspire to?
Stephen – I’d love to make a cinema classic. A CASABLANCA. Or LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. A timeless story set against an epic struggle. Intimate and sweeping at the same time. I’ve got a few ideas…
SMC – Which of your other projects are you particularly fond of and why?
Stephen – My first feature HEADS N TAILZ stands out. I mean it was my first! And making a feature is infinitely more complicated than making a short. I’m very proud of that film. It did play festivals and win some awards. And there seems to be renewed interest in it…
I’m also proud of my short BINKY which I shot before FLYTRAP. It stars two of my actors from HEADS N TAILZ: Billy ‘Sly’ Williams and Lucy Jenner (Lucia Ballard). That film also won some awards including a Best Actress accolade for Lucia. BINKY is being distributed by Shorts.TV and can be seen online, via Amazon and iTunes as well as on select cable and satellite channels.
Last year I directed a short called IRIS. I didn’t write or cast the project which is a first for me. But it turned out really nicely. And has already won a Remi at Worldfest Houston. Other film festival screenings are in the future but we can’t announce anything specific just yet.
I recently directed a short called BURN BABY, BURN with the Irish sensation Emma Pyne. The film was an experiment in minimalism. Emma wrote it, produced it, and stars in it. I directed and shot it. No crew. We’ll be screening at a festival in LA this November…stay tuned.
SMC – If you had a chance to do anything in your career over again, what would that be and why?
Stephen – I don’t dwell on the past. I learn from it. Learn from my mistakes then move on. I’m always moving forward. Never looking backward.
SMC – What do you measure success in the film industry by?
Stephen – There are two parts to my answer. First, how your work effects the audience. You can make them feel bad or make them feel good. Make them feel afraid or make them feel loved. I’d rather go for the positive emotional response. Have them walk out of the theater feeling better about themselves and their fellow human beings. That’s success to me on a creative level.
On a professional level, success it’s all about box-office. If you make the industry a lot of money then you will earn the clout to get more projects off the ground. That’s a win/win for me.
And I don’t think the professional and creative definitions of success are mutually exclusive. You can have both.
SMC – What is the greatest compliment you have received to date from an industry peer?
Stephen – “I want to work with people who know what they’re doing. Like you.” Producer Rana Joy Glickman September 17th, 2015
SMC – Let’s go way back: what was the pivotal point in your youth which lead to or was a result of where you are today in the film industry?
Stephen – When I was very young my parents took me to a re-release of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I had seen films and TV shows before, of course, but that film made me keenly aware that there is a vision behind what is on screen. I started to make movies, read about movies, and think about movies. It became my obsession.
SMC – Where do you think there are difference between the music and film industries? What do you think there are similarities?
Stephen – Both are tough but I think the music business is much harder. Touring is brutal. Much more exhausting than being on location shooting a movie.
Artists in both industries are judged by the amount of money they make for the business interests. In that sense, both are quite similar.
SMC – What is a ‘deal breaker’ for you?
Stephen – That’s an interesting question. Showbiz is a full contact sport. Everyone gets knocked around and kicked to the carpet from time to time. That’s business as usual. For me I’d have to say a personal attack on my team or an attempt to subvert the team would be a possible deal breaker. I’ve been personally attacked but have a heavy-duty Teflon skin. So it doesn’t bother me. But to try to attack or attempt to influence me by attacking a member of my team? That’s way over the line.
We live and die by our working and personal relationships. It’s all about teams and allies. You have to defend them to the bitter end even if it means walking away from a project. There will always be another opportunity. But there will never be another core team. A truly broken relationship can never be repaired.
SMC – What five things impress you (this can be in relation to anything and includes the film industry)?
Stephen- Loyalty. When a person chooses an individual relationship over personal or professional gain…to me that’s golden. And in my experience very, very rare. Relationships are permanent. Or at least they should be. Professional gain is temporary and fleeting. The personal capital of a relationship is worth more than all the gold in the world.
Unfettered intelligence. By that I mean someone who can always view a situation with an open and analytical mind. Think outside the box and find a unique understanding of a problem. Every day something (or many things) will go wrong and it takes an unusually agile mind to keep everything on track.
The ability to say: “I was wrong.” You’d be amazed how many people there are inside and outside of the industry who simply will never admit a mistake. They’ll deflect. Blame others or simply double down on the error. I do say to people when I first start working with them “I don’t care if you make a mistake. We all make mistakes. Just let me know when and what happened and let’s find a solution.” For me the cover up is always worse than the crime.
I am impressed with anyone who can take criticism at face value and not take it personally. There is nothing absolute in the creative world. There are an infinite number of ways to tell a story or define a moment. And all of us, writers, directors, producers, actors, and musicians need to be able to accept a note or a comment and not become defensive about it.
I’m impressed by superstars who stay grounded. Very easy to be a movie star or rock & roll icon and lose yourself and your sense of humanity. Easy to lose themselves in their public persona. I’ve met both those who can and cannot handle stardom. The ones who can are rare gems.
SMC – What is the most positive experience you have had in your career where you felt like it was an ‘Ah Ha’ moment?
Stephen – My first 2nd Unit Directing job on SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION. Usually 2nd Unit is just establishing shots of buildings, car drive-bys, shots that do not involve the principal actors. In the low budget world 2nd Unit also involves finishing scenes when the director has to move on to another location. Or shooting entire scenes when the schedule requires it.
This was my first opportunity to direct professional actors. And my first two actors where Academy Award Nominees…So, again, no pressure! I had to direct Melinda Dillon who was nominated for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and Brad Dourif who was nominated for ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST.
First up was Melinda. She played a ghost-like character who came back from the dead. So, there was a supernatural element to the scene. I setup the shot. And we did Take 1. It didn’t work. So, I walk over to Melinda and made a suggestion. I don’t’ remember what I said. I walked back behind camera and did Take 2. It didn’t work either.
I remember the next moments very clearly. As I walked away from camera towards Melinda the world slowed down and I was hit with a horrible realization: This is my moment. I want to be a director and I can’t get a performance out of an Academy Award Nominated actress? What the hell am I going to do…?
Then just as I reached Melinda it hit me like a bolt of the blue. I said, “You’re the wicked witch of the West.” Her eyes lit up. I knew she got it. I hurried back to camera and called action. Take 3 was perfect. “Ah ha” I thought. I can do this…
SMC – We would definitely like to begin a well-documented and chronicled SMC Spotlight Numbered Series on your career journey – what are your thoughts on this?
Stephen – Let’s do it!
SMC – Okay, final question:
Can you tell us what the next 6-12 months look like for you in terms of wrapping up current projects and new ones?
Stephen – FLYTRAP is in the rear-view mirror so all my energy will be projected forward. I’ll be moving one of my film projects from the development to the production stage. I just don’t know which one yet…Such is showbiz…
July 11, 2017 – The exotic location of the world class recording complex Karma Sound Studios in Thailand has been selected to host the next Superstar 101 programmes aimed at aspiring pop stars who want to fast track into the big time.
Multi Grammy Nominated & Award Winning producer and senior record company executive, Chris Craker (the owner of Karma Sound Studios), will personally be overseeing the month long ‘package deal’ for aspiring artists. During the 28 day stay at Karma, artists will have an album of songs written for them, they’ll be recorded at Karma, they’ll work with a top stylist, create video shoots, photo shoots and all the social platforms and a website that one needs, making the artist completely match fit and ready to launch! There’s more… Former Senior Vice President of Sony BMG, Chris will sign the artist to the Karma record label and handle the debut release for the selected artists on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and over 200 other digital platforms in a global record deal.
“There’s no real substitute for working with top class, writers, producers and engineers in a highend studio environment” said Chris Craker. “Yes, we live very much in a DIY environment for most young musicians, and amazing results can be achieved with just a laptop, a microphone, a great idea and a lot of hard work at home in your bedroom. But, really, none of the top stars are working in their bedrooms on their own… they all have a support network around them, with amazing cowriters, talented producers, skilled musicians and engineers to help make the end results truly compelling and chart-worthy! And that’s our aim with the Superstar 101 programme – to give young artists the opportunity to really have the best chance of success from day one…”
For a limited time, there’s a very special deal lined up for aspiring pop stars who would like to join the programme: The Superstar 101 Platinum package is viable for $100,000US all inclusive (reduced by half from $200,000). Within this fee the lucky participants will enjoy:
12 songs written and recorded at Karma Studios, Thailand
Two videos created for the lead singles + b-roll footage for social media advertising and marketing
Stagecraft advice and training
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat platforms all created, linked and populated with content +
A three month marketing campaign planned and ready to execute
All songs released in iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and over 200 global online distribution platforms
Applications close on August 1st, when the pricing goes back to the normal rate. So if you’d like to take advantage of working with the best of the best, in an amazing and exotic studio location in Thailand, send your name, address, phone number and a short biography + a link to a video of you singing a song to: firstname.lastname@example.org and the guys at Superstar 101 will send you all the details!
For further information please contact: Chris Craker – email@example.com Telephone: +66 (0)85 288 1696
July 11, 2017 – Songwriters from all over the world have enjoyed the famous Song Writing Camps and Retreats at the beautiful location of Karma Sound Studios in Thailand during the past three years. October sees the fourth of these events happening over the course of three individual weeks commencing October 9th.
Each week, fifteen songwriters will join together and work in teams of three, writing songs each day to specific briefs from major label name artists and A&R teams from global publishing houses and record companies – all of whom are looking for their next Number One hit!
Karma Studios is the perfect location for this kind of ‘Song Writer Retreat’ – with five studio spaces,
amazing equipment and facilities, outstanding engineers, award-winning producers and exceptional hospitality within the compound of this luxury five star “destination studio”, it’s impossible not to be inspired!
“We’ve had amazing successes here at the Karma Camps in the past – we attract a very high level of writer and producer, and the results are always exceptional… On the last Camp we were writing for Rhianna, Robin Thicke, Five Seconds of Summer, top acts from SE Asia AND we invited in one or two recently signed acts, each needing songs written for them. You’ll be hearing some of these songs on the radio anytime soon!” said Studio Owner and the host of the Song Writer Retreat at Karma. “People make new friends for life and the networking opportunities here are amazing. We’ve already established great commercial relationships, too, between major publishers and some of the unsigned writers that attend. It’s always fascinating to watch 15 immensely gifted writers bonding and creating in front of our very eyes…”
The cost of attending is just 32,500THB ($950US and £750 GBP) which includes everything except your flight to get to Thailand. We pick you up at the airport (and return you there at the end of the Camp!) and provide full board and accommodation (either on site, or in a nearby hotel) as well as all the facilities during the Retreat.
For further information, simply contact Chris Craker – firstname.lastname@example.org with a short bio and a link to some of your recent work.
Fun, creativity, networking all in the truly amazing location of Karma Sound Studios in Bang Saray, Thailand.
In the latter part of June 2017, I was introduced to one of the industry’s most notable, influential peers and music inspirations Mr. Chris Craker. Undeniably, Chris comes from a distinctive background: he was General Manager and Senior Vice President of the International Division of Sony BMG Masterworks, Producer of the soundtrack for Director Christopher Nolan’s movie “Interstellar”, with the Oscar nominated score composed by Hans Zimmer, as well as producing the 2017 Annie Award Winning score for “The Little Prince” for Paramount, directed by Mark Osborne (of Kung Fu Panda fame). In April 2008, Chris resigned from Sony to set up Karma Sound Studios and devote more time to his own creative endeavors and management of a select group of uniquely gifted artists. Karma is now recognized as the number one luxury residential recording studio complex in South East Asia who’s first guests included three iconic global bands:Placebo, Jamiroquai, and Bullet For My Valentine.
Chris Craker has won numerous awards and received acclaim for his activities as a performer, recording artist, composer, arranger, producer/engineer, record label founder, artist manager, author, critic, industry commentator and strategic advisor. So, it doesn’t surprise us that he has plunged right into his projects at Karma Sound Studios with successful results (see our interview below). Karma, located among the luxurious sand and waterways of Thailand located just outside Bang Saray, provides a picturesque fishing village on the coast and surrounded by beautiful countryside which is perfect for inspiration.
The accommodations at Karma boast 6 bedrooms which are all ensuite, four with private balconies overlooking the 60 sqm swimming pool and extensive gardens. All rooms have an in-room private safe and are supplemented by a massage room, small gym, and a private bar situated around the swimming pool and BBQ area. The outdoor dining sala doubles as a live stage area for al fresco pool-side concerts and the ultimate “unplugged” video shoot location. TVs/DVD/Games Console and full broadband internet access and a table tennis table are all available.
Studio One provides spacious recording areas (200 sq metres), consisting of the main live room plus a very large drum booth / isolation area that can contain up to a twelve-piece horn or wind section, as well as a large vocal and guitar booth, and two further guitar amp / speaker isolation areas. The control room’s centrepiece is the SSL 4056 E/G Series console, supported by a 32/56 I/O Pro tools 10 & 11 HD system, complemented with outboard by BAE/Neve 1073s, Millennia, API, Great River, Emperical Labs, Teletronix, Universal Audio, dbx, Thermionic Culture, Avalon, Lexicon, Eventide and many more!
Studio 2 at Karma provides the ultimate ‘Swiss-army-knife’ set-up for the modern songwriter/producer. Designed with simplicity and flexibility in mind, it runs Pro Tools 10 & 11 HD Native, Logic Pro X and Reason 5 running on a UA Apollo Quad with D-Box monitoring and summing. Both studios have access to a comprehensive sample library and the latest 64bit plugins. Mastering grade ATC monitoring is an unusual but welcome provision, along with Yamaha HS8s & NS10s, B&W 805 Nautilus and Aurotones. Outboard provided by AMS Neve, API, SSL, Universal Audio, Teletronix, GML, SPL, Radial, dbx, Empirical Labs Inc. and more, mean very few studios can compete for the price.
*A full GEAR list of equipment in both studios can be found (here)
I hopped on a call with Chris last week and we spoke about some of the future projects coming up at Karma, his collaborations with some of the worlds’ top Artists (whose songs are written at Karma), and the projects which SMC will be in support of by way of press releases, interviews, and video content on the SMC Spotlight and Starlight Music Chronicles website. We are excited to share the content over the next few months and begin with our press releases on Karma Sound Studios Songwriter Retreat 2017 (click here) and the Superstar 101 for Aspiring Pop Stars (click here). Needless to say, when the website says ‘If James Bond had a recording studio it would be Karma…’, they were not kidding!
There will be much more to release over the course of the next six months on our SMC Spotlight so be sure to subscribe to our site and the Karma Sound Studios website (here)
Settle back for a few moments and enjoy this glimpse into the studio.
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Chris Craker
SMC- Hello Chris! We are happy to have you on our SMC Spotlight! I’m going to get right into it – I have read your bio (here) and it goes without saying that you are THE man in terms of the music industry. Your career history timeline includes that of being Former Senior Vice President of Sony BMG (among many other exceptional accomplishments!). I am certain that you have hundreds of amazing experiences that you are proud of. Can you tell us of a few highlights in your career(s) that have stood out most prominently for you?
Chris – Probably the biggest highlights we working as the Producer of the soundtrack to Christopher Nolan’s incredible movie ‘Interstellar’ and the Composer (my friend) Hans Zimmer. It was nine month of my life that then cumulated in me also being engaged as the Executive Producer for staging ‘Interstellar Live’ at the Royal Albert Hall in London – a sold out show which we screened the movie with a live, 90-piece orchestra playing the score, and speakers before the show including Stephen Hawking, Chris Nolan, Matthew McConaughey, Michael Caine, etc.…
SMC – I could probably sit and listen to your story all day (laughs), and I have so many questions that I am sure I will think of later, are you open to SMC continuing to support you by way of our SMC SPOTLIGHT Numbered Series? This is a chronicled history and timeline of your career accomplishments via interviews, ongoing support for new and current projects, and press releases.
Chris – I would love to be a part of this…thank you for asking.
SMC – You have worked with some of the world’s finest Composers and Musicians, which have you developed a kinship with and why?
Chris – Composers I’ve worked closely with include Hans Zimmer which has been inspiring; working with Lang Lang the Chinese classical Pianist was amazing and needless to say, it was a real pleasure having Jamiroquai at my Studio. Recording Leona Lewis was incredible too – watching how someone takes their artistry so seriously and setting super high standards for themselves…we all found her an inspiration.
SMC – Can you tell us what a typical day is like for you? Pick a day, any day will do.
Chris – Ha ha…I get up at 5:30 or 6 am and in the gym by 6:30 am the latest. Work starts around 8:00 am and continues all day with a mixture of either creative work or business/management issues with my Artists and colleagues. A normal day will include half a dozen overseas Skype or Facetime sessions too – which, by default, means that the working day is long so that I can coincide with multiple time zones…
SMC – I do know that with anyone in the entertainment industry, there is never a dull moment so I look forward to hearing what your thoughts are on this: is there any moment in time that stands out to you as an ‘ah-ha’ or ‘pinch me’ moment?
Chris – That’s a great question because it is odd sometimes when I think back to being in serious discussions with Christopher Nolan, Lang Lang, Benny & Bjorn from Abba, Hans Zimmer, Jimmy Page, and Actors like Dame Judi Dench, Michael Caine, and Christopher Lee – surreal really…
SMC – I heard you juggle between Europe, Thailand, and the US. Can you tell us where you feel most ‘at home’?
Chris – Actually, I feel most at home in Thailand since my studio is there – but I have family in London and always enjoy being in Santa Monica too…they are three amazing locations to spend my time.
SMC – Have you ever met an industry peer who was difficult to deal with? If so, how did you handle the situation?
Chris – Some Artists and Managers are more challenging than others and without naming names, I find the best approach is simply to be incredibly polite, friendly, and always do my job and try to exceed expectations. Then, if people are still difficult to deal with, it’s clearly them that has the problem! I try to surround myself with like-minded spirits and most of the time, working relationships are very cordial.
SMC – What are your thoughts on the music that is being created today as opposed to, say, 20 or 30 years ago?
Chris – I love what’s happening now – it’s just very different in content and the methods of creating are so different now. Also…the method of delivery to fans and the engagement with fans is so different from 20 years ago. I actually think the Music Industry is an incredibly vibrant place to be right now, and one of immense opportunity if one is prepared to think and act differently from the past!
SMC – Are there any other ventures you are involved in currently that you will be announcing at a later date? Obviously, I realize you can’t divulge full details, but perhaps even a hint at it….
Chris – I am expanding my Management and Label Activities. I am heavily involved in the field of Music Industry Education and have set up a new joint venture to forge that ahead – and later this year I will be rolling out a program that aims to help Musicians and Artists who have suffered at the hands of drug and alcohol addictions and giving them ‘Music therapy’ and a second chance at making it back into the industry.
SMC – What was your personally most rewarding experience from any one completed project?
Chris – Seeing Karma Studio open for the very first time and to see albums being created here that then have global success which changes people’s lives.
SMC – Who is your go-to team? Are you a solo thinker/doer, or do you like to bounce ideas around with your peers?
Chris – I have a small team of trusted Advisers but do most things on my own…the team at Karma is amazing – great administration and creative and technical support.
SMC – Which of your awards are you most proud of being a recipient of and why?
Chris – The award that brought me most satisfaction was winning the gold medal at an international music competition when I was just 18 years old. It was the first time I’d won anything of consequence and it really boosted my confidence to then go on and try to achieve great things in the music industry.
SMC – I read that you have been behind successful Artist projects in the USA and Asia. What draws you to Asia and where do you see the difference in the style of Pop Musicians between the two countries? Would you say Asia is more advanced?
Chris – we have amazing acts all over the world and the best ones are all unique. Styles and flavors change from country to country but I would say that I am excited at the prospect of breaking Asian acts into the west and western acts into Asia. That’s always fun to see cross pollination and true global success…
SMC – Where do you think ‘it’ is in terms of the future of music platforms supporting Artists – Radio, or alternative platforms like Spotify and Pandora?
Chris – I see Spotify dominating globally before too long. It’s an easy to use and very functional platform. I listen to the radio in the car, but more and more, I am enjoying having control of what I listen to on Spotify and then being surprised by playlists that others have created.
SMC – We often hear from industry professionals that the music of today ‘isn’t what it was’ 20 or 30 years ago in terms of quality. What are your thoughts on what the Millennial generation of Artists are creating? Do you share these same opinions of your peers in the industry to a degree?
Chris – I wholeheartedly disagree – there’s loads of great music being made now and 30 years ago, there was also great music and a lot of terrible music being made! Nowadays, everyone has access to very affordable simple technology to record and create which is a wonderful thing…then, as people develop their skills, they use the more sophisticated platforms on which to create and truly amazing music is flowing from Artists from all over the world.
SMC – Have there been any indie Artists who have wowed you in the last few years? If so, who?
Chris – Adele started out as an Indie Artist and caused a massive response from being truly authentic. I have also loved watching the rise to fame of Dagny – a Norwegian Pop Singer who has now been snapped up by Republic, but she started from grassroots and evolved as an Artist and is now wowing people all over the world.
SMC – For you, what do you find personal satisfaction in?
Chris – I love bands like Muse and Radiohead. I’ve really enjoyed live shows from Queen featuring Adam Lambert, and the Chainsmokers we fun in Los Angeles earlier this year.
SMC – When an idea comes to the forefront of your mind, do you act quickly on it or do you take the time to research and develop it?
Chris – I like to move quickly whenever possible! But I make sure to research too. That can be quick these days with access to everything we ever need to know online!
SMC – What was the most rewarding or memorable moment in your role as Senior Vice President of Sony BMG?
Chris – It was always great to see the younger acts coming through and making their mark. But, from a corporate point of view, seeing the end of the year financial reports always showing growth and always above target – that, as a result of making great music with our key acts. Also, ensuring that the back-catalogue was always being stimulated and refreshed and presented in new vibrant ways to the public.
SMC – Aside from Artists/Musicians/Songwriters, what kinds of initiatives or individuals professionally are you most likely to support or which you are most passionate about?
Chris – I take a strong interest in supporting mental health practitioners who help Musicians. Our industry is so demanding physically and emotionally and often, Musicians end up in difficult places. We need to look after them and ensure they are supported when the going gets tough, for whatever reason…
SMC – Last question before we head into the Press Release questions: What do you personally feel your greatest accomplishment is to date? Professionally?
Chris – Producing the soundtrack to ‘Interstellar’.
KARMA SONGWRITING RETREATS
SMC – When Mike (Rogers, mutual industry friend) had introduced me to you, he sent me a link to your website (here) and I was blown away! You are the owner of this venture – can you tell us what inspired you to get this project going? (for our readers, the press releases will be included with this interview below)
Chris – Having been working in London and New York for Sony, I really wanted to do a project that would get me back to making music and making records. I had always wanted to do build a strong studio and I thought about what the ideal studio should be. Naturally, there were palm trees and a beach location springing into my mind (laughs) and I liked the idea of being away from the real world in a tropical paradise – Thailand! We have subsequently developed these songwriter retreats for writers from all over the world to come and enjoy the vibe here. Fifteen writers from all over the globe, congregate and write together in the most exotic and inspiring location imaginable. Great songs flow!
SMC – What is the kind of work that goes into the planning process of these retreats? Do you have a team that organizes this for you or do you prefer to be hands-on?
Chris – I am very hands-on but we have an Administrator who looks after all the accommodations and logistics as well as amazing Producers working with the writers and programming them up, ready to pitch to major label Artists all around the world.
SMC – I feel that a studio in the middle of paradise is probably every musician or songwriters dream. As a writer myself, this inspires me to get the creative juices flowing just looking at the video of the studio (laughs)! Do you feel location for this project when you initially came up with the idea was essential to getting the creative juices flowing for the Songwriters/Artists? If so, why?
Chris – Choosing this location was all about the vibe. It was all about what would inspire Musicians. The world is full of studios in cities, and most Musicians have a set-up at home. We needed to be different and it seems to have worked! We are constantly full.
SMC – Can you tell us a little bit of history on the studio in terms of who has attended and whose music has been picked up by major label Artists?
Chris – One of the first bands to come (to Karma) was Placebo recording their album ‘Battle Of The Sun’ and since that time, we also have made records for Jamiroquai, Bullet For My Valentine, The Libertines, Enter Shikari, Young Guns, Heat, Hellions, Trophy Eyes, and amazing bands from Japan, Russia, Australia, Scandinavia, and of course, pretty well every major Thai act has been here too!
SMC – Is there one (or a few) Songwriters who have attended the retreat whose music has stood out to you or impressed you greatly?
Chris – There are a number…a young guy called Syps (Alex Sypsomos) really stands out and you will be hearing hits from him in the next none months, I guarantee. Also, Gia Koka from Holland was amazing. Also, Jackson Dimiglio Wood and Rich Craker have done some pretty awesome things too for major label Artists.
SMC – Can you tell us about some of the Artists who have had some hits that originated from the Songwriters in this retreat?
Chris – Well it’s early days, but we know that a new Artist with Avex in Japan (Momo) is about to break with a brand new single written at Karma. We also have songs on hold with Rhianna and Leona Lewis currently.
SMC – Can you tell us what kind of feedback the Songwriters who have attended the retreats have to say about their experience?
Chris – We have such lovely feedback – people absolutely love being here and they do their best work but I get looked after so well too…our staff tend to everyone’s every need and the whole thing is pretty idyllic.
Karma Studio & Superstar 101 for Aspiring Pop Stars
SMC – Was the studio built from scratch? What kind of details can you give specifically about the studio equipment and the studio itself?
Chris – Yes, I bought the land and built the entire complex from scratch. We have three studios – one equipped with a 56 channel SSL G+ Console and the other two are very sophisticated production and post-production studios with a mixture of state of the art and vintage equipment from all major brands.
SMC – Is this your first time hosting the Superstar 101 for Aspiring Pop Stars program?
Chris – Yes, it is. We are the perfect ‘destination studio’ for this kind of project. We can make such great footage here and shoot great pictures to accompany songs from hit songwriters.
SMC – Can you tell us a little more about the program and where it was incepted and why?
Chris – This is a program that enables a young singer with some financial backing to fast track into the business and to work with amazing people within a concentrated period of time. At the end of the one-month program, the Artist will have an album and all the video and image assets required to be marketed internationally. And with my connections at the major labels, we can introduce them to senior A&R teams in London, Nashville, Berlin, Los Angeles, and New York as well as release direct to market via our own label linked with iTunes and Spotify.
SMC – Although at first glance of the costs for this program seem high initially, when one looks at what is offered to an Artist in terms of career advancement, I feel this is a valid and wise investment! Can you tell us if there is any other program out there which offers what you do or is this a first?
Chris – I don’t think there are many programs out there quite like this and when one knows that quite commonly top Writer/Producers are charging $10,000 – 20,000 a track, $100,000 for an entire album with two videos and two photoshoots plus all the other ancillary help is an amazing value!
SMC – You seem like the kind of man who is an innovator in terms of unique opportunities for the music industry. Can you tell me what the vision for the next five to ten years is for Karma Studio Artists or the Studio itself?
Chris – I do indeed like to develop new things, you’re right. In the next five years, we will have a very strong and innovative management company linked to the studios, as well as the label, which has already started but we are also very attentive to the ways that the market changes and so, right now, we are making it our business to work closely with Spotify, Snapchat, Facebook, and numerous other emerging platforms. We keep on top of the latest marketing techniques and ensure our Artists benefit from these…
SMC – What determines a successful candidate for this program? What are you and your team looking for in terms of qualifications/skills from the Artists submitting their music to you for this program?
Chris – It’s simple – a unique voice and a passion for success that matches our own hunger!
SMC – In your experience, what do you think makes up the components of a truly successful Artist?
Chris – Someone who has a genuine, authentic talent, who cares a lot about every single detail ad who works incredibly hard…there is now substitute for hard work and I love it when I see young acts really giving their all and matching our own drive and enthusiasm.
SMC – What do you and your team(s) hope to do in terms of having the Artists attending your program ‘stand out’ in mainstream music?
Chris – Again, in one sense, the answer is simple: we move heaven and earth to write and produce hit songs. One song can change people’s lives…
SMC – I read in your press release for the Superstar 101 program that ‘“There’s no real substitute for working with top class, writers, producers and engineers in a high-end studio environment” said Chris Craker. “Yes, we live very much in a DIY environment for most young musicians, and amazing results can be achieved with just a laptop, a microphone, a great idea and a lot of hard work at home in your bedroom. But, really, none of the top stars are working in their bedrooms on their own… they all have a support network around them, with amazing cowriters, talented producers, skilled musicians and engineers to help make the end results truly compelling and chart-worthy! And that’s our aim with the Superstar 101 program – to give young artists the opportunity to really have the best chance of success from day one…”
How do you feel your program is superior to that of one who writes, records, and produces music in their own personal space/environment? I do see that you have a lot to offer and I know that really, $100,000 isn’t much to ask for what you are offering in terms of services and the ability to get the Artist who attends this program the ‘established’. What do you think is the main benefit of the Superstar 101 program?
Chris – Along with the exceptional Writer Producers that we have on the team here, the other main benefit is the incredible links to industry that I offer. Yes, the old adage that ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ does ring true and If we have the right Artist here, I can have them in front of the right people in any major city with the very best assets to ensure they fast track to the top.
SMC – Can you tell us of a time you have had an Artist come on too strong and it was a turn-off? How did you handle it?
Chris – Well, naming no names, we did have one act that had a lot of drive and very little talent, but was not aware of this fact. I love people with passion and I always try to help, but there does need to be a base level of talent at all times!
SMC – In relation to the last question: Can you tell us of a time where there was an Artist who you felt was grateful for all the hard work you and your team did in establishing them and how did they reciprocate this gratitude?
Chris – The studio name is ‘Karma’ and actually, whenever we give our all to people, they always reciprocate in some way. We’ve built up amazing relationships with acts from all over the world, and the best way anyone can reciprocate is by recommending us to others…that’s the greatest gift.
SMC – Where do you think this kind of program becomes personal and about the Artist and their talent/art as opposed to the business aspect?
Chris – We will connect with the Artist from day one. That’s when it all starts. We need great chemistry and we work hard to develop the best environment and conditions for a healthy stimulating personal relationship.
SMC – What has been the best collaboration with an Artist from Karma Studios you have experienced to date?
Chris – Wow – there have been so many! I guess we have been instrumental in bringing a young Australian band ‘Hellions’ into the mass market but working with the new guy ‘Syps’ has been amazing. Watch this space…. he is destined for the top!
SMC – Okay, final question: Can you tell us about some of the dynamic or insightful experiences an Artist has shared with you about their time at Karma Studios?
Chris – The one thing that reoccurs from most of our most valued clients is simply, their gratitude that ‘we care’ and that we go the extra mile to make sure they have the perfect environment in which to create. The Libertines were especially grateful because we took our duty of care to the n’th degree looking after Peter Doherty (Lead Singer) for six months before he was ready to record. That’s an example of how our care and attention to detail pays off for people. They are now back playing major festivals all over the world, rising up from a long period of dormancy. It may well not have happened if they had not spent time at Karma….
Karma Studio Contact information & Social Media (click to view)
Just as I suspected, Country Music Rising Star, Edmonton based Dan Davidson has launched yet another gold single today with his newest single ‘Say We Did’. Let’s start with that video though…. once again Davidson manages to stretch the traditional ‘country music video’ boundaries by going completely left field with this latest production. The cast and crew assembled in blistering 31-degree Celsius heat among the Hoodoos of Drumheller, Alberta fully prepared to melt their faces off (literally) for the sake of running around in polyester costumes, playing instruments and living out their love for Star Trek. This might seem like a wild choice for a Canadian Country Musician considering most have videos filmed in wheat field/tractor variety, but I assure you, this isn’t a wild choice for Dan Davidson whose wicked sense of humor and personality shines through here. In fact, the last several videos have seen Davidson in a moose costume performing live with his furry friend creatures or walking the streets of Tokyo in an all-white Cowboy ensemble unabashedly playing his guitar for an unsuspecting crowd of Asian onlookers. There isn’t anything like this on the planet and fans have come to expect this originality as a Dan Davidson trademark and staple and it’s a wild ride. For this alone, I feel the man is genius.
We have had several Spotlight features with Davidson going back to June 2015 where his very well-received debut single as a Country Music Artist was ‘Unkiss Her’. This was followed by ‘Found’ in March 2016, and ‘Barn Burner’ in October 2016. Although the single releases have been spread out, all the traction and attention they have received on radio and press, (including radio tours and live performances) there really hasn’t been a slack moment for this up and coming Country Music Legend.
In addition to his own thriving music career, Davidson is responsible for shaping the music careers of many well-known Artists in the Edmonton community via HandsUp Music along with his partner in crime Mr. Ari Rhodes. I have personally seen Davidson behind-the-scenes at many live performances for his Artists such as Bryan Finlay and Lexi Strate making sure that their equipment is running smoothly for their shows or even helping to orchestrate video shoots for them. He is a mecca of knowledge within the music community in Edmonton and has even written several successful grants for many Musicians in order to complete many of their own video projects. The man wears many hats and for those who don’t know and are just discovering him for the first time today, Davidson has also fronted the Canadian Rock Band Tupelo Honey for several years prior to his recent success in his solo project. You will want to check that out too!
With the new single ‘Say We Did’ out today, I am confident that this is going to be yet another well-received, unique feel-good hit we have come to know from this Artist. Klingons and Borgs in polyester suits aside, this truly iconic, fun, ‘Dan Davidson’ sound in its instrumental composition and lyrical strength. When we look at his work with Tupelo Honey, this song has shades of that ‘Halo’ grandiosity with a Country Music twist and I am very happy to hear it. This translates to a truly original sound that cannot be emulated: legendary. While Davidson is presently sowing the seeds in the music industry with hit after hit, he is simultaneously leading up to a full-length album (fall, 2017) which we are confident will blow the lid off this combustible musical force making Dan Davidson a global household name.
Be ready world, the Dan Davidson storm is coming!
SMC SPOTLIGHT Exclusive Interview | Dan Davidson | July 2017
SMC – Dan! We are thrilled to have you on our SMC SPOTLIGHT again! We have been following your career since June of 2015 when our contributor Randy Wayne Belt interviewed you for our platform. Since, we have had you featured three times in our Spotlight Numbered Series. What are your thoughts on us chronicling your career journey as Dan Davidson?
Dan – I really appreciate all the support! Its nice to have you guys on board from the start 🙂 Hopefully I can keep giving you something to talk about!
SMC – We have always been tapped into your new releases and with the release of ‘Say We Did’ today, can you tell us what you are most excited about with this release?
Dan – Well this song is something that was really strategically complicated from a creative standpoint. I wanted to give radio something familiar (the upbeat front porch sound of Found and Barn Burner) yet something new and different to show I’m not just a one trick pony. I’m really confident that my producer and I nailed it on this one. I’m happy to get material out that really sounds like me. I feel that most of my songs aren’t just tunes that could be interchangeable with other artists, its something I’m proud of.
SMC – All week prior to the video launch of the single, we saw some pretty wicked sneak peeks of a Start Trek clad cast and crew…. can you tell us how the idea for this video came about?
Dan – Its just another worst “best idea ever”! Travis (the director), Russ (the assistant director) and I had some really crazy concepts planned for this. More travel related videos but thought, again, we should switch it up. Be spontaneous and unpredictable. We all love Star Trek and somehow got on the topic of buying costumes as a joke. Then it all kind of clicked in for us – we needed to do a spoof in the most DIY possible.
SMC – It was all shot in your garage and your wife couldn’t park in it for a week…. did she at least get flowers or a nice dinner out? (laughs) All kidding aside, your videos have become quite personal and homegrown… can you tell us why you have continued this trend?
Dan – Haha well, she gets a cameo in the video and hopefully her sacrifice helps to bring about a successful single and some sales money haha! Yea I think there are FAR too many riverbanks, dirt roads, wheat fields, and bars in country video. Videos are a real chance for me to communicate my personality and set my self apart. I’m definitely not one to fear straying from the norm. I think it’s a major strength of mine. I have the indie freedom to really do whatever I want – so I’m going to ride that out!
SMC – All your music videos are pretty epic to be honest. Epic and quite funny! Is this the signature ‘Dan Davidson’ style we can come to expect in future videos?
Dan – 100% I love it! Its fun for me. Its also great to hang out with all my creative friends and make some memories as professional grown up children.
SMC – Who is the creative team behind the video?
Dan – The video and concept was written by Travis Nesbitt, Russ Dawson, and myself. It was all shot by Trav and Russ as well.
SMC – The song itself is a genuinely pretty song with that classic upbeat sound we have come to know. Is this another co-write with Clayton Bellamy?
Dan – Nope, this one was co-written by Dave Thompson (remember Wave in the 90s? Yea him. We call him Dwave), and also with Travis Wood (Tim Hicks, James Barker Band)
SMC – What would you say is your unique Dan Davidson ‘signature’?
Dan – I’d say just honest music, with a little personality, and an indie DIY touch.
SMC – When you are about to embark on writing and production of a new single, what is your process?
Dan – Well for this one, I headed down to Nashville to write for a week. Landed a pretty good tune with a co-write, then looked at a list of about 30 songs with my publisher, radio team, and producer and narrowed it down. From there, I sent the demo to my producer and we began to fumble with the keys and tempos. Then we starting working on the arrangement. From there I began tracking a guide vocal. After that we started getting all the instruments in place, then I recorded my final vocals from my studio in Edmonton and sent them to my producer Jeff in Toronto.
SMC – I read recently that your previous single ‘Found’ is only 1000 streams away from being a Canadian Gold single! We are thrilled to see this happening for you! Can you tell us which song has been receiving the most attention so far (aside from ‘Say We Did’ today)?
Dan – Not 1000 streams, but 1000-unit single sales (150 streams = 1 sale). So a combination of streaming and sales equaling 1000. Yea its pretty crazy – basically unheard of for an indie artist to land a gold record. Its definitely a career milestone for me! Well Found definitely was the song that broke through. Other than that, Barn Burner is really the only song out! (Which also was top 20 and a major success for me!)
SMC – When we look at having a successful ‘summer release’ when, in your opinion, is the perfect time to launch a new single, EP, or full-length album?
Dan – There is never a good time in Canada anymore – but that doesn’t stop me. Found went out during ratings and Barn Burner went out before Christmas…both terrible times to go. Right now we are competing against more great CanCon than I’ve ever seen. Space is limited but I think we will see some great support out there J
SMC – What has been your best social media strategy so far?
Dan – Make great content, and keep giving people something to talk about.
SMC – Which social media platform is your favorite to interact with your fans on?
Dan – Instagram.
SMC – Do you always launch a video at the same time the single is released to all major music platforms?
Dan – Not really, Found and Barn Burner came out a few months after the song was out. This time we are trying to use the video to leverage attention for the single so we decided to go at the same time.
SMC – Can you share with us what the outcome was for the ‘Dan Davidson’ guitar contest and what it was all about….
Dan – It was a contest to help spread the word about MusiCounts (an organization that helps to bring music and music education to kids across Canada that couldn’t always afford it). I talked to people and radio stations all across the country and raised some great awareness for the cause! A kid from Stony Plain AB won the guitar last week.
SMC – You have recently won Country Recording of the Year for your single ‘Found’ at the Edmonton Music Awards last week! Congrats! With the Canadian Country Music Awards around the corner, do know yet if you have been nominated?
Dan – I’m still in the running in the 2nd ballot, we find out if I’m a nominee in any category on July 12th I believe!
SMC – I read somewhere that 2017 will be the year of ‘Dan Davidson’ – what are your thoughts on claims like that? (see: Canadian Beats year in review (here)
Dan – Well I sure hope so! I try my best to keep my head down and keep doing what I’m doing without worrying about what everyone else is up to. I think that’s the best strategy for success!
SMC – Speaking of Awards ceremonies and the awards themselves, what are your thoughts on the decisions of the Country Music Association in terms of who wins, etc.? Do you think there is a trend among different awards ceremonies as in: of one gets chosen for one category in one award ceremony, they are likely to get chosen for the others in the same category for other ceremonies in the same year?
Dan – Hmm id never really put any thought into it. I think the CCMA has a great reputation as an organization that really focus’ on credibility and accountability. Hard to find a better award organization that that. The good thing is nominees are essentially selected by their peers – so If I was picked for multiple categories I would just consider it a major honor.
SMC- Do you think that Country Music today is evolving to a new sound or do you think there will be a resurgence of a classic country sound?
Dan – I think the country scene makes room for every kind of country artist. There are trends that will come and go, but for the most part the awareness of country music and the breadth of the fan base is bigger and better than ever. I just hope that continues.
SMC – I know that I have asked you before why you chose a career in Country Music – now that you have progressed further into your career, can you tell me what your feelings are on making this career decision today?
Dan – Never once looked back. It was the best musical decision I’ve made in my 13-year career so far.
SMC – Again, I would like to talk a moment about your band Tupelo Honey – I saw that the Edmonton Oilers have supported your single ‘Can’t Stop’ – LOVE the tune! Is there anything coming down the pipe new music-wise for the band? SMC- How have your Tupelo Honey band members been supportive of your solo career?
Dan – Nothing new coming down the pipe. We have a bunch of B sides recorded that maybe well release to fans one day – but no plans just yet! The guys have been amazing. That’s the thing about making music with your best buds, there is nothing but support. 2 of the guys (Greg on drums, and Tyler on guitar) that are playing with me now. My show has evolved in such a positive way because of their contributions.
We were all so surprised and pumped up to see that we were the pump up music for the playoffs! All of our phones were exploding with texts.
SMC – I have seen so many Artists keeping consistent with their music and social media yet some never seem to make it to radio or get the support they deserve at the best of times. What do you feel is the disconnect on issues like this?
Dan – Radio is a tricky animal. There are tonnes of cool artists that don’t get radio play – sometimes its about the style, sometimes its about the song (often cool music isn’t ‘hit’ music), sometimes its about politics and team. Radio can’t play everyone, its very competitive. I don’t really have the answer to tell you the truth, I’ve found something that works for me after doing this for well over a decade but there is no real “right way”.
SMC – Where have you felt you have made the best career decision so far in your solo career?
Dan – Just doing what I do, having fun, making music with people I love and trust.
SMC – Indeed you have also been involved in the careers of so many up and coming and currently popular Artists in the Edmonton area – have you been still able to maintain grant writing and production work via Hands Up Music/Studio?
Dan – I basically hate grant writing, so I only do it for me and a few other artists I’m involved in BUT I still work tirelessly with Hands Up! Music. Ari and I have produced a tonne of great records this year (Ill have to tell ya about a few!). Hands Up! Is going strong and growing rapidly!
SMC – Which of your current Artists would you recommend for an SMC Spotlight next?
Dan – Lexi Strate is always amazing. She’s the real deal, such a cool sound. As for other production gigs – my fav EP we’ve produced lately is The Sissy Fits – its like a gritty Spice Girls meets punk rock.
SMC – We have seen you do sooooo much hard work behind the scenes for other Artists…. where do you find the energy for it?! (laughs)
Dan – I don’t know! I guess I just like to be busy and help people connect the dots that I was able to connect. Passing that karma down the line!
SMC – In terms of your Music Peers, who has been the most supportive of your career strides (aside from your management team)?
Dan – Jeff Dalziel my producer has been with me for 13 years and has produced essentially every professional recording attached to my name. We do whatever we can to continually help and support each other’s businesses. Also Bill Miller who I talk about often. Bill goes the extra mile, well beyond radio promotion. He’s a great sounding board and work horse. My publishers Red Brick Songs are so fully invested in this with me as well. The outpouring of support from my industry friends is paramount to my success.
SMC – Which radio stations have been quick to promote and support your new music?
Dan – Country 93.3 in Fort Mac, JRFM in Vancouver, KX96 in Oshawa, Real Country 95.5 in Red Deer, Country 94 in St. John, and CFCW have been great for early support!
SMC – What are your thoughts on other music platforms (for promotional purposes) like Spotify and Pandora as opposed to traditional radio playlists and shows?
Dan – It’s amazing. Its listener driven, no advertising. Its about organic trends and tastes. To me its not one or the other though. Artists should strive for both if their music fits.
SMC – I have enjoyed seeing your vlogs! They are pretty entertaining (laughs) – where can your fans find them posted and can they subscribe to them?
SMC – Will you be performing at Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose, Alberta again this year?
Dan – No, I wish! I played 2 years in a row. They need a break! Haha
SMC – What is your favorite live performance so far as Dan Davidson?
Dan – London Music Hall W/ Chase Rice earlier this year. It was like an ACDC video. There were people hanging off everything and everyone was screaming the words!
SMC – Are we going to see a full-length album soon?
Dan – I’d say shortly after CCMAs in September we can expect a release!
SMC – Alright – last question: (I don’t think I have ever asked you this on before either)
Can you tell us one thing about yourself as a Musician that you feel sets you apart from your music peers?
Dan – That’s a tough one. My peers are pretty diverse! I’m not sure if I have a good answer. I’m hoping that fans don’t have the answer either. I don’t want what I do to be a gimmick – I’m hoping there is a music brand and a certain something that no one can quick put their finger on that sets me apart. I think that’s how you know its real.
Thanks Dan! It’s always wonderful when we can connect! Keep up with the awesome!
On June 16th, 2017, Los Angeles-based Singer-Songwriter O’neill Hudson walked onto the world music stage under her new project and hasn’t looked back. In the short span of approximately 2 weeks, she has managed to enrapture thousands of her loyal fans (old & new) with launch of her debut single ‘Lucky’ on all major music platforms. What followed is the equivalent to one discovering a beautiful waterfall in the middle of a lush forest on a midsummer’s day: magical, refreshing, exquisite, and a welcome sight and sound. And that’s just her vocals. When we add in the exquisitely romantic lyrics (originally written for her husband), we have THE wedding song of the summer and more than likely, for infinity…it’s that good!
O’Neill began debuting her new single opening for her older brother, Reeve Carney on his ‘Youth Is Wasted’ tour recently, and the reception was exactly what we predicted: fans were gushing and clambering to hear the song just ‘one more time’ on social media platforms. In fact, friends of the songbird have also begun submitting videos to her with beautifully choreographed dance moves inspired by O’neills’ bewitching vocals. One fan even sent in a video with their preschool children singing ‘Lucky’ acapella! It’s that contagious and that memorable. (check out O’neill’s Instagram @oneillhudsonsings) These kinds of fan interactions demonstrate that this is a song that inspires people to sing along, create, dance, and even dream. O’neill maintains her authenticity with gracious responses such as, ‘I can hardly express my thankfulness for you all following me on here + your unbelievably sweet remarks on ‘Lucky’ – I feel like these times are pinch me moments’ and ‘You guys!! I am so overwhelmed by the support on ‘Lucky’ – it feels like a dream. I am so thankful that this song (which means so much to me) has connected us. I’m so excited for this new journey’.
Can we say ‘AMEN!’?
The earlier part of O’neill’s career, music written under the name ‘Paris Carney’ included sensual, leading-edge alternative ballads that laid the groundwork for her new project: ‘O’Neill Hudson’. After listening to the new single in comparison to her earlier work, one can audibly hear that O’Neill is ‘Paris Carney’, evolved. The singer songwriter began as a back-up singer for her equally talented brother Reeve (Carney), Jonas Brothers and most recently, Hailee Steinfeld. Soon after, with the support of family and friends, she began delving into her own art which prompts us again to raise our hands with another emphatic ‘AMEN!’
Although ‘Lucky’ is the first single under the O’neill name, we are confident that this is the very rich, mellifluous beginnings of what this Artist is capable of. Her cultivated vocals are O’neill and I am confident that this is the kind of Artist who does everything on point in terms of lyric/instrumental compatibility, while remaining original, authentic, and beautifully flawless in her final composition.
O’neill has already consented for SMC to begin a Spotlight Numbered Series where we will begin documenting her career journey on our SMC SPOTLIGHT and in the wake of her success with ‘Lucky’, we are already anticipating her next single!
Have a listen to ‘Lucky’ & read our exclusive interview below:
Starlight Music Chronicles SMC Exclusive Interview | O’neill Hudson
SMC – Hello O’neill! Welcome to the SMC SPOTLIGHT! I am going to get right into this – off the hop, I want to say that your new single ‘Lucky’ is an ASTOUNDING entry into the industry under your new project O’neill Hudson. Before we get into talk on your new song, let’s go further back: you’ve been a musician for a few years now. Can you tell us what your other projects were/are?
O’neill – Hi! Thank you so much! I’ve been singing my entire life truly, and grew up doing demos for my dad. I professionally started as a backup singer for my brother Reeve 12 years ago. I’ve also sung background for the Jonas Brothers and most recently Hailee Steinfeld. I’ve written songs for TV/FILM and co-wrote Youtuber Bethany Mota‘s debut single ” Need you right now”.
SMC – I was on Spotify looking back at some of your previous music under your Paris Carney name. There’s some pretty fantastic tunes! Can you tell us how you have evolved from Paris Carney to O’neill Hudson and which project you are focusing on more long-term?
O’neill – Ah thank you! I am very proud of my other released material (under my maiden name, Paris Carney) but I felt like there was a side of me that wasn’t being heard in that style, that’s why I started writing for “O’neill”. I love singing and telling stories and I wasn’t feeling like I could fully do that…I also wanted everything to be authentic and real from the messages to the production. I’m definitely focusing on “O’neill Hudson” but I wanted the ability to go back and work on some more of my older stuff down the line.
SMC – Can you tell us about the stage name O’neill Hudson? Where is it derived from? I saw somewhere that part of it was a name your mother was going to give you?
O’neill – O’neill is my middle name and I’ve always loved it so much. I was named after a close friend of my parents “Norris O’neill” who worked in commercial jingle business with my dad in NYC. He’s also my brother Zanes God-father, but Norris passed away before I was born, so I was named in his honor. “Hudson” was the name my parents had picked for me before I was born, because they thought I was going to be a boy. I also always loved that name + I’m from NYC and loved the Hudson River connection!
SMC – You come from a family with exceptional music talent, can you tell us how they inspired you or vice versa?
O’neill – I think we inspire each other by watching each other live and listening to eachothers’ recordings… We have similar inclinations and it’s cool to hear them / see them and then also exciting when something unexpected happens vocally, lyrically or production wise.
SMC – I saw that you had some very successful live performances opening recently for your brother Reeve. Can you tell me what your thoughts are on the response you received when you sang ‘Lucky’ live?
O’neill – It honestly feels surreal getting to sing “Lucky” live, really all my new songs. I’ve been working on this project for 2 years and only the co-writers and producers and my family have really experienced them. Singing “Lucky” live does feel especially special because of the meaning behind the song, having people connect to it was my dream.
SMC – Do you plan on any more future touring dates with or without Reeve? (Come to Canada!)
O’neill – I most definitely intend on touring very soon and I LOVE Canada- I would be so honored to play there!
SMC – What kind of feedback have you gotten from your family on your new single?
O’neill – My family has been so supportive and encouraging (really always! Ha ha) – I think they recognize my passion and ownership of this project, which has been really cool and validating.
SMC – What has the online support been like in terms of your fans?
O’neill – It has been truly unreal – I have been so moved by people’s support and love for the song – That is all you can ever hope for as an artist and songwriter. I just hope it continues to reach more people!
SMC – What has the media support been like?
O’neill – Nylon magazine online was amazing to just include my song in their best songs of the week, but otherwise my only other media support has been through my incredibly talented friends and family 🙂 I’ve been doing this all very grass-rootsy.
SMC – Often, when we find an Artist we see with a very promising future, we like to follow and chronicle their career as they reach milestones in their careers. We do this by way of a SMC SPOTLIGHT Numbered Series. Would you be open to us supporting you by way of interviews and reviews on our site as you continue on your journey?
O’neill – Of course! 🙂
SMC – Okay, let’s get into the topic of your new single ‘Lucky’…first off, I have to say ‘WOW’, lady, you have the voice of an Angel. (my review of the single will be posted above). I assume that this song was written for your husband correct?
O’neill – Ah thank you SO much! And YES! I wrote this as a love letter to my husband. It started with the chorus’ lines and the first line of the song “I hit the jackpot” and I brought it to my co-writer Wendy Wang (who also ended up producing the version that I released) …the rest flowed out in about 2 hours. I still cry when I listen to the lyrics because they are so true! I come from a divorced family and to find a love like I’ve found is so remarkable 🙂
SMC – When was this song written and why was it chosen as your debut under the O’Neill Hudson name?
O’neill – The song was written on Feb 24th, 2016. I chose it as my first single because the meaning was so special to me and everyone that heard the demo seemed to have this deep connection with its message, so I knew it had to be the one 🙂
SMC – Have you been approached by Radio yet for ‘Lucky’? I can list at least six stations who will want to play this song! I should connect you….
O’neill – I haven’t! But I would LOVE that so much! 🙂
SMC – When you sit back and look at the kind of responses you have gotten for ‘Lucky’, can you tell us what thoughts roll through your mind as you’re reading the comments from friends, family and fans?
O’neill – It almost feels like an out of body experience ha ha! I think because I hoped and prayed it would resonate with people, but actually seeing it resonate with people is so powerful to me.
SMC – What do you think makes a Musician ‘successful’ in the music industry?
Oh man…So many things… It really feels like ” right place, right time”. There are so many ways to “make it” now a days. You could make yourself crazy thinking about it. I know, for me, I just want to make art to make art at this point – and then pray that “success” comes from that place.
SMC – Where is your greatest global fan base located?
Hmmm… I’m not sure – I wanna say South America? They are so sweet and passionate there!
SMC – Can we expect another single soon? You MUST keep them coming. Please do keep us in the loop on upcoming music.
O’neill – Yes! I’m not positive when, but it may be coming very soon 🙂 I will definitely keep you posted!
SMC – Speaking of future music and style, can we expect recordings to be thematically or compositionally congruent to ‘Lucky’? This is a different sound from your music as Paris Carney.
O’neill – Yes! This project is all about organic sounds – Nothing MIDI 🙂
SMC – Are you touring on any festival circuits this summer?
O’neill – Not that I know of yet, but I’m hoping soon!
O’neill – I’ve been loving the “Good Luck Charm” charm necklace (I’m wearing it in my single artwork) – Really ever since I wrote “Lucky” I’ve been drawn to it. Also, her “Smiley face ring” – Her jewelry is all unbelievable.
SMC – Your husband Greg (Garboswky) is bassist for Jonas Brothers and has toured extensively with the band. How did the two of you meet and what is his thoughts on your new single?
O’neill – Yes! He actually works on their management team now. We met at a karaoke bar through mutual friends in 2009. When I first played him Lucky, he got choked up – which made me so emotional / happy 🙂
SMC – Aside From the talent you are surrounded with in terms of your family and friends, I still see you as a bright light whose talent stands alone and apart from the crowd. You are truly unique. Have you ever heard this from any industry peers before?
O’neill – Wow – that is so kind! I’ve struggled a lot with insecurity in the past (still do, of course!) but when it came to this project I found such strength and confidence – I am just so passionate about it and I think that is what shines through at the end… That makes me so happy!
SMC – What was the most flattering compliment you have ever received in terms of your music?
O’neill – My main inspirations for this project were Jeff Buckeley and Areosmith and two separate people heard “Lucky” and without me telling them the inspiration said it reminded them of those people and I about lost my mind with happiness.
SMC – What are your thoughts/experiences on/of the music industry in general?
O’neill – I think I know a little too much… Ha ha! It’s so complicated and complex, I love knowing people that make music because they love it.
SMC – How do you feel you differ I in terms of your Brothers Zane and Reeve in terms of your own projects?
O’neill – I think I have a little more “pop” music in my background, which may come through here and there, that’s where all the spice girls and Britney Spears listening sessions shine though, ha ha.
SMC – How do you feel you are similar to your siblings?
O’neill – I think we all have similar vocal tones and also, we are all obsessed with Areosmith “nine lives”. We also love a good vocal harmony arrangement!
SMC – Can you tell us where your most memorable live performance has been and why?
O’neill – This past mini tour for sure! I’ve done a lot of background singing in amazing places – but singing my own songs in a style that is so authentic to me is unreal.
SMC – Are there any specific charities or non-profit organizations you have a passion for or whom you support? If so, why?
O’neill – That is such a wonderful question. I feel passionate about people feeling loved and heard, for that reason I love giving back to the homeless in Los Angeles. I’ve also always had a heart for those with special needs and I want to get more connected in a way to give back in a bigger way.
SMC – Can you tell us what a typical day in the life of O’neill Hudson is like?
O’neill – I have a literal obsession with coffee, soooo, I’d pick up almond milk latte from a coffee shop near me (usually to meet a friend) …before that possibly go to my fav workout “Pop Physique” and then usually I’ll go to a writing or recording session to follow! I also probably watch too much TV in the day… I was obsessed with “This is us” and want “Lucky” or one of my songs to be in it soooo badly!
SMC – I have read articles that speak of your wit and charm. I have found that you come from a family of pretty charming and witty individuals. (The Honeymooners Art Carney is her great Uncle!) What would you say is your greatest personality trait and your weakest?
O’neill – Aww that is so sweet! I think it usually is a good thing because I love to make people feel comfortable… I do however have serious trust issues, so it’s kind of an interesting internal combination.
SMC – Let’s talk more fashion: aside from wearing gorgeous jewelry pieces from your mother’s line, what are your go-to’s in terms of clothing and ensemble?
O’neill – I do mix it up quite a bit, but I love vintage tees or silk shirts and different denims (Paige denim is my favorite) and I’ve also been obsessed with pointy toe flat booties.
SMC – Most often, we ask the Artists in our interviews who their ‘go-to’ team is in terms of Music production, Music Video Production, Management, and PR. Can you tell us who your team is?
O’neill – Aw yes! Don Miggs, Kevin Held and Wendy Wang are my current dream team! Lydia Murrty took my single artwork/ did all of my photography. I also have a lot of help from friends who have gone above and beyond to make my dreams come true so far… I’m still in need of someone in PR though 🙂
SMC – Which music platform do you prefer to promote your music: Spotify, Radio, SoundCloud, CD Baby, or Pandora?
O’neill – I love them all! I do tend to go to Spotify because I know it’s cheap and or free to access so much music…I really just want my music to be shared as much as possible.
SMC – Aside from family, which Artist or Artists in the industry are you inspired most by and why?
O’neill – Jeff Buckeley, Areosmith, Carole King, Joni Mitchell. I love all of them for different reasons from songwriting, to vocal ability, to the way they emote. New ones include…Andy Shauf, Lucius, and Big Thief.
SMC – Many people can Google an individual to find out more about their background, but we like to ask this question in our interviews: can you tell us 5 things about yourself that no one (or barely anyone) knows about you?
O’neill – I love God, Coffee, my husband, my family, I love listening / talking through stuff with people.. And obviously I love music and singing and songwriting… That’s 8 whoops…ha ha!
SMC – Where do you see your career in 6 months to a year from now?
O’neill – I hope to be on tour seeing people singing along to songs I wrote… My dream is also to sing “Lucky” on dancing with the stars and Jimmy Fallon. Ha ha!
SMC – Are there any other projects you have coming up that you can tell us about?
O’neill – This is my main focus right now… But I do have a side project with two of my songwriting friends that may be released somewhat soon 😉
SMC – Alright, final question – Can you tell us five things in your life at present you are grateful for and why?
O’neill – God, my husband, my family, friends and my first song “Lucky” being out… I am truly so Lucky and blessed.
Thank-you Paris! We look forward to supporting you on our SMC SPOTLIGHT platform and we wish you a world of success in your new venture as O’Neill Hudson!
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!
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.
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.
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?
MTV music award
Billboard Top 10 hit
Collaboration with someone cool.
Yeah, I know, probably not going to happen, but if you can dream it, you can do it.
After initial introductions (thanks Mike!), John and I arranged for an in-depth interview covering his career span, music, and personal life. ‘Nothing is off limits’ was his response to my inquiry on sensitive subject matter. In fact, he even divulged on the future of Rodney Bingenheimers’ career (under his wing at The Alternative), his thoughts on his career change from The William Morris Agency to The Alternative, and the extreme passion for his art (a night owl like me – often creatives don’t sleep much). This is one of the most candid and entertaining interviews I have had to date where we cover many insightful, relevant, and interesting topics.
This is the first installment in our SMC SPOTLIGHT Numbered Series where we will continue to track and follow John’s career. So, if you feel left like you’re left wanting more at the end of this feature, know that this is just the first chapter in our journey with the entertainment industry legend known as Mr. John Ferriter. Enjoy!
Note: Following the interview below, I’ve included my review of the new Tearaways album ‘Esquire’ track by track complete with summary.
SMC SPOTLIGHT Exclusive Interview | John Ferriter June 20, 2017
SMC – Hello John! Welcome to the Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) SPOTLIGHT! Let’s get right into it – you have quite an extensive career so we will break it down into sections here. Before we do that, can you tell us how you came to know Mike Rogers?
John – I actually met Mike Rogers in the early 80’s when he was the lead singer for a Punk Rock band called The Rotters. He was in the band with Phester Swollen and he was singing a song called “Sit On My Face Stevie Nix”. It was a classic and I played it on my radio show on KCSB many, many times.
Television Producer/Talent Representative
SMC – I was watching a YouTube video on your website ‘The Alternative’ where you are interviewed by Hollywood Immersive. In it, you spoke about working with The William Morris Agency. Can you tell us which accomplishments you feel were your greatest while working there?
John – In my 19 years at William Morris, there were many highs and many lows. The best part of the job was that I never experienced the same day twice. Conversely most days felt like a broken play, so you learned to think on your feet and improvise. But the greatest accomplishments were when you made the seemingly impossible become possible and when you saw the moments where clients were able to realize their dreams.
SMC – You are behind many well-known television shows such as ‘The Biggest Loser’, ‘Project Runway’, and ‘On Air with Ryan Seacrest’ to name a few. Can you tell us what your process is in terms of ‘packaging’ these shows?
John – When packaging shows, I always tried to bring together proprietary elements that couldn’t be replicated anywhere else. That’s why I’ve always been so partial to talent. There is only one Ryan Seacrest. There is only one Garth Brooks, one Dick Clark, one Piers Morgan, one Dr. Drew, One Carrie Keagan, so when you have an opportunity to build shows around really talented people with great concepts and you target the marketplace accordingly you can meet with a greater degree of success.
SMC – Can you tell us of a time when you felt there was a client that was unprepared, or not ready for the kind of work you expected of them?
John – Many clients are unprepared in general and unprepared for success. As an Artist, your life can change in an instant, so I tell them to act like they’ve already had success. But too many are unprepared. See it and Realize it and it can happen if they are willing to work for it.
SMC – While with The William Morris Agency, can you tell us which project made you feel exceptionally proud?
John – At William Morris I was proud of all my projects. That being said, all of the work I did with Garth Brooks, Piers Morgan, Dick Clark, Ryan Seacrest, Nancy O’Dell, The Spice Girls, Hanson were quite fulfilling. I sold “Blue Collar Comedy”, “Biggest Loser”, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”, “The Man Show”, “Project Runway”, “Biggest Loser” and about 300 other projects while at WMA. I was very proud of the Tsunami Benefit we put together in seven days that generated millions for the victim. I packaged the first Radio Music Awards and it’s now been cloned 50 times. I feel good about that.
SMC – Your transition into your own Agency ‘The Alternative’ followed working with The William Morris Agency and Octagon, can you tell us how that came about and why?
John – I was unceremoniously locked out of WME after the WMA and Endeavor merger because I was the only board member who voted against the merger. It was a bad deal and I voted to support the rank and file. The new boss used it against me. I don’t think I ever would have left the agency but I was given no choice. I signed a five-year deal with Octagon, a division of the Public Company Interpublic Group, and built a successful entertainment division. I sold and produced the Arsenio Hall Show, Garth Brooks last network series, was nominated for an Emmy for producing the Teen Bullying series “It Gets Better”, won an award from Planned Parenthood for Best Documentary for “I’m Positive” and launched a couple of docu-series. I realized that representing people and working at a Public Company are in direct conflict and I opened to launch my own Management Production shingle, THE ALTERNATIVE, when my five-year deal with Octagon expired. No regrets at all.
SMC – Can you tell us which of your clients with The Alternative you have enjoyed working with the most and why?
John – Wow, at the Alternative I love them all! Seriously, Piers Morgan, Glenn Weiss, Nancy O’Dell, Mike Wolfe, Clem Burke, Rodney Bingenheimer, Carrie Keagan, Brian Copeland, Mark Walberg, The Beach Boys, JoJo Wright, Ari Afsar, The Tearaways, Millie Courtney, Paige Davis, Mark McGrath, The Calling, The Fulcos…. How much time do you have? It’s a privilege to work with such talent people.
SMC – You gave advice in your interview with Hollywood Immersive about how individuals should appear in their first meetings with your agency in terms of professionalism. Can you share some more insight on that with our readers?
John – Well just blow me away in the first 120 seconds. I don’t look for clients. I look for partners who are or who want to be stars. Shy doesn’t play, so make an instant impression. Also, don’t bring your problems into the room.
SMC – I saw in the ‘About’ section of your website, it states: ‘WE ARE PLEASED TO INTRODUCE AND WORK WITH THE MOST NOTABLE ENTERTAINERS IN THE INDUSTRY. WE DO THIS WITH EXPERIENCE, INSIGHT AND PASSION.’ Can you tell us what determines who is a ‘notable’ in the industry? What are your standards?
John – Great people, great projects, great attitudes. That’s where we start. I also like category leaders. But I look for people who will listen and who want it all. My standards are really about the character of the person, not that the person is a character.
SMC – You have just taken the famous Mayor of the Sunset Strip ‘Rodney Bingenheimer’ under your wing, can you tell us how that came about? When will you be able to reveal what projects/deals you have coming up for him? (can you tell we are excited about this?)
John – I have listened to Rodney on the Roq since 1978. I met him over the years, have loved what he has done for so many, many people. Clem Burke (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Drummer for Blondie, and the man who has played with us the last year) introduced me to a different side of Rodney. I learned Rodney was a deeply sensitive caring person who loves music and musicians. I heard Kroq was dropping his show (new management decision) so I called Rodney and offered to manage him for free and told him I would get him on the air within a month. We just closed a great deal for Rodney to continue his show, Sunday nights in primetime on Sirius Radio on Little Steven’s Underground Garage Channel 21. One of my proudest deals ever because Rodney deserves to be National and I want everyone to experience what has made me happy for 39 years.
SMC – I have worked with some smaller newspapers and have a passion for Journalism in all its forms. One of your clients is Piers Morgan and I have to say, I admire that you have taken individuals not only from the entertainment industry, but also those who are behind the broadcasting of major world events. Can you tell us how this relationship began?
John – My relationship with Piers began over a bottle of inexpensive French Bordeaux at a party at Lady Caroline Michel’s flat in London and he’s become one of my closest and most trusted friends. I also shared the most expensive French Bordeaux with him the night we signed the big CNN contract. I’d take a bullet for him. We’re that close, and he’s that good.
SMC – You also have worked with Garth Brooks. Can you tell us what your best or most memorable experience was in working with him?
John – I love Garth Brooks. Greatest country artist of all time and up in the top three with Paul McCartney and John Lennon in my opinion. My greatest experience with Garth was in Vegas when I was producing his One Man Show Thanksgiving CBS Special with him. I suggested he put his Cowboy Hat back on for one of the numbers and he refused. Right before the show, he looked at me and said “ok, I will do it. If it doesn’t work, it’s your fault. If it does, I’m taking all the credit.” It did, and after the crowd went crazy he looked my way and winked at me. He’s simply the best.
SMC – Can you tell us of a time where you were in complete awe of an industry peer/client?
John – Every day I am in awe of people in the business. Too many stories to tell, but I am in awe of any person who can balance a successful family, marriage and career. I’m envious.
SMC – At the end of the day we are all human. Can you tell us of an experience with a client or industry peer that made you see them in a different light aside from their celebrity status?
John – I’ve seen so many human sides. Clients who go through divorces who have to walk onto a set and smile like there’s no tomorrow while I know their heart is breaking. Many come to mind.
SMC – Have you ever had a real friendship develop with any of your clients?
John – I’ve had many friendships with clients. Piers Morgan, Glenn Weiss, Nancy O’Dell, James Ray, many, many, many. I’ve also had close friendships break up when clients look at me as their servant. Live by the sword, die by the sword.
SMC – In terms of your clients, what do you feel are the key factors in being successful in the entertainment industry?
John – Success in the industry – if you are a woman, know where you want to go and look fabulous when you get there! (Thank you, Leeza Gibbons, for that!). In general – success comes via hard work and preparation. Also, you need to trust your team. Without trust there will be failure.
SMC – Let’s begin with your connection to Rodney. Rodney is a legend and a true pioneer in the music industry in terms of discovering the ‘who’s who’ (such as Bowie, Blondie, etc.) I am aware that you have your own music career, The Tearaways as well. Can you tell us how supportive Rodney has been of your music?
John – Rodney Bingenheimer has always been a supporter. He started playing “Girls Who Love Cars” off of the Earle Mankey Sessions: Vol. IV CD and then he jumped on a number of other songs. He has gotten behind “Name That Tune”, “John Wayne”, “Bash”, “That’s Rock!”, “Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio”, “I Love My Life”, “We Don’t Talk We Text” many, many tunes. Our new Christmas song “Helluva Christmas” will be on his new Christmas CD. What can I say, the man’s a tastemaker!
SMC – Your new album ‘Esquire’ is a ton of fun! There are a lot of vintage rock influences woven throughout the lyrics and even in the instrumentation. Can you tell us what it was like to collaborate with some of the industry’s most notable such as Clem Burke?
John – Esquire” is a label of love. John Finseth (founder of the Tearaways in 1981 at 17) and I wrote about thirty songs along with Greg Brallier and we just tried to create a record that we would want to listen to over and over. Clem came in after I met him with the Empty Hearts and played about thirty shows with us last summer and fall and this winter. He came up and started recording and we watched it grow into something special. We also did some work with Jeffrey Foskett from the Beach Boys on Name That Tune (the theme to the new game show). We’ve been friends for years, and fans of Jeffrey’s and that was a thrill.
SMC – Which is your personal favorite song off this album and why?
John – My favorite song is one of five – “BASH” is just an old-fashioned romp and puts me in a good mood whenever I hear it. Hey we mention, Bash, IPO, The Rave-Ups, The 3 O’clock, Chesterfield Kings…. I mean, come on! “That’s Rock!” Is an autobiography of our early Santa Barbara days, “Much Too Old To Feel This Young” was inspired by Garth Brooks and his song “Much too Young to feel this damn old”, “I’m Just Trying to be nice” is the quintessential breakup song (it’s not you…. it’s really you!”) and “If I Had It” (just great vocals by Fin and Greg). I do the first ever Tearaway rap/Meatloaf rip off bit as well).
SMC – The album art is dynamic! David Russo is the brilliance behind the artwork on it and he has quite an impressive roster of accomplishments also. Can you tell us how he came up with the theme for it?
John – I met David through a mutual friend. Loved him and his work. We conversed for a couple of years and I just called and asked if we could use the vibe and characters from “What A Great Life” (WAGL) which he created. He said yes. The cover and design were all David. I love it!!!!
SMC – When you are songwriting, where do you go to for inspiration?
John – As a songwriter I just look for inspiration. I have my favorites, but it starts with an idea and a melody for me. But it’s important to me that everyone be able to hum our songs. Mike Rogers told me that Japanese audience hum the Tearaways’ songs. That makes me feel really good.
SMC – The albums’ credits include this phrase: ‘A lot of sacrifice went into making this record so we hope you enjoy it and appreciate the spirit within which it is presented to the world’. We often hear how much has been put into the work by the Artists we support. Can you tell us what YOUR meaning behind that phrase is?
John – We loved making the record. We love the songs. We collaborated, we fought, we compromised but at the end of each song we high fived, hugged each other and shook hands. Being in a band is like being married to five of your ex-wives at the same time. But it’s as great high as I’ve ever experienced when it works. So, we are saying… “We love this, we hope you do to, and if you don’t love it we aren’t going to quit anytime soon!
SMC – I especially had deep appreciation for this phrase (also on the album credits): ‘When you’ve topped 40 in age, you can never be in the top 40 on the Pop Charts, but you can always be Top 40 in Life.’ With that being said, what would you say is an accomplishment that you are all proud of (aside from the album, of course)?
John- I am proud that a bunch of guys in their fifties can still rock, and sing and play with passion and that we all have our hair and none of us are grossly out of shape. I’m 57, but I feel 27! And playing with Clem makes me feel invincible. Fin is 53 but has the stamina of a 16-year-old in the studio. It’s a thrill to do this, while still having a very time intensive day job.
SMC – What has been the media response to your music in terms of Radio and Entertainment websites and blogs?
John – Knock on wood, the response to our music has been very strong. I just hope more people hear it. But we are gaining fans daily and that’s an amazing feeling.
SMC – What has the support been like among your peers? Family?
John – Our families have been wonderful and wonderfully supportive for the most part. Unfortunately, my wife left me during the recording of this record. We will write about that on the next record! But hey, sometimes Bad things have to happen for the right things to happen.So, love is out there somewhere!!
SMC – Are there any tour plans for the remainder of 2017? Any festivals you will be attending during the summer months?
John – Yes. We are playing in Ireland and England in August and September. Also, a lot of California dates in September and October and November. We have two new Christmas songs that are done and we will push them hard this fall and winter. We played the Malibu Guitar Festival for the second year in a row. It was great. We would love to play more festivals!!
SMC – Where do you find your fanbase is the most concentrated in terms of countries and age groups?
John – Our fan base is early twenties to Sixties. More women than men. California, the UK, some Scandinavian countries and Australia. Slowly but surely, by the time we’re 80, look out!!
SMC – Can you tell us a bit about your songwriting process?
John – I write constantly. If I come up with an idea I write it down. I then usually write late at night or early in the morning. If I start a song I finish it. Then I bring it to the guys. But I also love to co-write with others and help them elevate their ideas and concepts. Lyrics are easy for me. Melodies are easy. I need help with arrangements.
SMC – What instrument do you create your music on?
John – I write almost exclusively on Guitar. I recently wrote two songs that started on my trusty old Hofner Club bass (A Little Bit of Love and King of “F” Mountain).
SMC – You have all played impressive venues in the USA and England, can you tell us which is your favorite and why?
John – My favorite venue is the Cavern in Liverpool. Because it’s the Cavern and the Beatles played there. The staff at the Cavern is World class. In Dublin, I love “Whelan’s”. In Santa Barbara, I love “Soho”. I’ve always loved “Molly Malone’s” and “The Troubadour in Los Angeles. I’ve always wanted to play “The Roxy”. But I will play anywhere with a stage and a great PA.
SMC – What is the reception like when you play live? Which were your most memorable live performances?
John – We played to 40,000 people in Liverpool one year. We opened with a Ramones song and they went nuts. It was magic. People really seem to like the band know. We also played a show in Long Beach at the Petroleum Club to about 20 people and I loved it. Old people got up and danced. It was cool.
SMC – Can you tell us what your experience was like working with Earle Mankey?
John – I’ve worked with Earle Mankey going back to 1988. He is a collaborator, a great producer, engineer and I am thankful to call him a friend. He’s talented and compassionate. So, I feel good when I work with him. Earle been berry, berry good to The Tearaways!
SMC – Tom Hanks and Piers Morgan are huge fans of your art – can you tell us what their responses are to the new album?
John – Tom Hanks booked the Tearaways a number of times before I rejoined the band. Piers has been an ardent supporter coming to shows and tweeting in support of us. Piers does the voice of “James Bond” in our song “James Bond”. That’s cool!
SMC – I read in your band bio that ‘Recent TV appearances include NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC, Tribune and The Arsenio Hall Show’…wow! Which experience was most memorable?
John – Any TV is memorable. Love it all. They can see us, they can hear us too! I’m in!
SMC – Will there be more creating in the next few years for The Tearaways?
John – We released “Esquire” May 29th, we have the next record in the can. We have two new Christmas songs and we will perform on the Hollywood Christmas Parade. Lots of Tearaway action coming to you!
SMC – Aside from being a successful Television Producer, Artist and Talent Representative, what other characteristics or hobbies do you have?
John – I love animals. I love dogs. I help with dog rescues. I like all animals, but I love dogs. They are loyal, smart, they trust us, they are loyal. My goal in life is to be the person my dog thinks I am.
SMC – Who has been the most supportive of your career(s) other than family?
John – I have some friends and associates who have really supported us. It takes an infrastructure of love and support to make a band work. We’ve been blessed.
SMC – Can you recall an interview that was most memorable to you and why?
John – I loved my Hollywood Immersive” interviews and my talk/interview at UCSB a couple of years ago.
SMC – Can you list at least 5 talents/hobbies aside from your music career we don’t know about?
John – I play Tennis. I read avidly. I listen to music avidly. I love TV. It’s not the boob tube, it’s the Groove Tube to me. I love Tea. I really love Tea. I also love the News. I’m a news junkie.
SMC – Can you tell us what a normal day in your life would be like? Many of our readers idolize a celebrities’ life, but they don’t often know what goes on behind the scenes and how tough the industry can be….
John – I don’t have a normal day. I get up and all hell breaks loose. Every day since August 21st, 1991. I like it!
SMC – What kinds of pressures are there for you personally in keeping to a schedule in terms of your career(s)?
John – Many pressures. The industry kills relationships. If you are with someone who isn’t in the industry they don’t understand why you are a slave to your clients. If they are in the industry, they are jealous of your clients. Next, I will be a monk. Also, the hours put a strain on fitness. I work hard now to stay in shape. I want to live longer.
SMC – What kinds of charities or organizations do you personally support and why?
John – I support many dog rescues, but It’s a Dog’s Life in particular. I support a lot of AIDS Charities, Autism Charities, the SPCA and the like. Animals need our help. So, I go there first.
SMC – Can you tell us of a time where you were involved in a project and it just didn’t ‘feel right’? How did you handle it?
John – This happens every day unfortunately. Recently someone was disrespectful to my partner Jamie. He screamed “Do you know who I am?” I said “Yes, the guy that I just dropped.” I have no tolerance for Temporary people who make permanent decisions.
SMC – What does the term ‘truly successful’ mean to you?
John – Knowing that you’ve done things to change people’s lives forever in positive things. I call it Psychic Income!
SMC – Final question – if there was one thing in your life you could go back and ‘do over’ again, what would it be and why/why not?
John – I would have gotten up on stage at the Goleta Community Center and I would have sung “Sit On my Face Stevie Nix” with Mike Rogers.
SMC – Thank you John!
John – Thank you!!!
Bash –Right out of the barn gates (complete with lampshade on the head and party animals in tow), ‘Bash’ is a thrill-ride throwback to sunny beach days with the convertible top rolled down. The single word to describe this song has already been occupied by its title – a true reflection of this super catchy piece infused with guitar riffs and smashing drums that deliver like a punchy, warm, attack.
If I Had It – Now this tune is smooth as silk: the intro grabs my attention immediately and leads into instrumentation that takes me back to the music I coveted as a young girl listening to dynamic classic Rock songs on the turntable. It’s fun from start to finish. You can audibly hear these guys having a blast in the recording process of this song and listening to it allows you to be a part of it, almost as if you are there. Listen LOUD.
Hello Isla Vita – This is the song you hear in those movies where the little country girl arrives in the big city: it’s awe-inspiring. The magnificence is heard in the thunderous drums and gentle vocals throughout marking this ballad as the song you want to listen to when you are looking for adventure on a Friday night. Keep it in your weekend playlist for sure.
I Quit My Job – The lyrics here are laced with honesty throughout and is a true ode to the beach boy days where songs were executed with that gentle feel-good vibe. I give credit to the vocals in this one which are mellow but powerful in their impact. I recommend this one for cruising one a warm sunny day.
That’s Rock – We pick up the pace again with this track that is strategically placed halfway through the album. After the ‘Hello Isla Vita’ and ‘I Quit My Job’ mellow vibe, ‘That’s Rock’ picks up the pace with a groovy beat topped with impressive vocals. This song brings the party right back into the album.
My Bad – Ohhhhhh where do I begin with this slick number? The lyrics are strong right off the get-go. The instrumentation flows very well throughout and supports the steady authoritative vocals heard throughout. I envision a ride down sunset strip on a motorcycle when I hear this number.
Much Too Old To Feel This Young – If you want to get to the heartbeat of this album, this song is the one. The gentle tones in the vocals on this one illuminates the heart and soul. The song is perfectly placed in terms of the track order in this album as it gives the listener a true taste of how this band demonstrates a 360 degree turn in their style and instrumental composition.
Good Luck Lovin – What a fun one. The party continues with the catchy lyrics in this tune which, I feel, is an ode to The Beatles Cavern Club era days. The vocals are on point and the instrumentation is super catchy. I think this one would be fantastic to hear live!
Find Another Fool – is a slower ballad that has a very slight ‘Bon Jovi’ style in the vocals and mood. I am talking the ‘Living on a Prayer’ variety here. Backup vocals on this are a perfect fit throughout and make this a unique composition. I quite like this one a lot.
I’m Just Trying To Be Nice – Hello Sir Paul McCartney! This is a gorgeous number and probably, my favorite off this album. I mean it, this album definitely touches on the scope of all eras of classic Rock and ‘I’m Just Trying To Be Nice’ is captivating in its overall composition. They lyrics, vocals, instrumentation – all of it is completely on point. Classic British Rock and Pop influences play a primary role here.
Name That Tune – Back we go to California! This is a short ballad that fares well among the 1960’s groovy pool party crowd. Can you see it? Once you have heard the song, you’ll know what I mean. Definitely a must for a playlist suitable to this nature.
Any Better Than This – The final song on this album is like the bow on a present: a complete picture of the who, what, when, where, and why of The Tearaways: they have been there, done that and there’s no regrets. This is a very heart-warming number.
Here’s my description of this album in its entirety: These boys are no strangers to this industry and it’s apparent in their cultivated sound. Listening to ‘Esquire’ is the kind of experience where you walk away feeling closer to these incredibly talented Musicians. They have exposed their hearts and souls vividly and authentically to their fans, comparable to them inviting you into their homes, having a couple of beers and shooting the breeze. It’s a warm, familiar, and fun feeling that leaves you satisfied long after the visit. Who doesn’t walk away from something like that feeling fantastic. That’s The Tearaways sound. Well done gentlemen!
People, have you bought the album yet? Get on it!
Check out their live performance on Brian Copeland below:
“I’M JUST TRYING TO BE NICE” – John Ferriter/John Finseth/Greg Brallier/John Ordazzo c. 2016
Feretic Music, ASCAP / Magma Music, ASCAP
“Whatever Happened To Rock And Roll Radio” by Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny Ramone, Joey Ramone c. 1979
“MUCH TOO OLD TO FEEL THIS YOUNG” c. 2015
“FIND ANOTHER FOOL” c. 2015
“ANY BETTER THAN THIS” c. 2012
John Ferriter/John Finseth/Greg Brallier
Feretic Music, ASCAP / Magma Music, ASCAP
John Finseth – Guitar, Bass, Keys, Percussion & Vocals
Greg Brallier – guitar & vocals
David Hekhouse – guitar & vocals
John Ferriter – bass, guitar & vocals
with Clem Burke – drums & percussion
Additional instruments – Joel Mankey – horns, woodwinds, cool noises
The Tearaways are endorsed by Hofner Guitars
The Tearaways use Vintage Vox Amps, Vintage Fender Amps, Marshall Amps, Hi-Watt Amps, Ampeg Amps, Hofner Basses & Guitars, Gibson Guitars, Rickenbacker Guitars, Fender Guitars, Martin Guitars, Gretsch Guitars, Silvertone Guitars, DW Drums, Gretsch Drums, Vox, Korg & Hammond organs, Human hand-claps, just about anything else in the studio that you can shake or hit
CD design and original artwork for the Tearaways by David Russo (WAGL =. WHAT A GREAT LIFE)
CD photographs courtesy of Collin Mathew Photography Liverpool, Ian Hanson Photography Liverpool, Joanne A. Calitri Beat artist Santa Barbara California and Martyn Daniel Still Image – we thank you all for your amazing work and friendship
A lot of sacrifice went into making this record so we hope you enjoy it and appreciate the spirit within which it is presented to the world. Special thanks go out to our families and friends for their loyalty, love and support. All of our former bandmates for tolerating us and inspiring us to play and to all others who have inspired us in some way.
And a very special thanks to Earle & Jeri Mankey, John Ordazzo, Piers Morgan, Jamie Gruttemeyer, Rodney Bingenheimer from Rodney on the Roq, KROQ, KTYD, Alan Goldman, Patricia Kramer, Lin Aubochon, Billy Butler BBC Merseyside, Mike Rogers WhatTheFunDay, Radio365 Network, Jeffrey Foskett, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, Ron Dante, Bo Donaldson, Kenny Aronoff, Robin DiMaggio, Jimmy Paxson, David Raymond, Eddie Munoz, Joel Mankey, Jesse Benenati, Perry Benenati, Daniel Orias, Stephen David Brooks, Jim Yukich, Cindy Kona, Ralph Rubenstein, Noah Rubenstein, Matthew & Gunnar Nelson, Mark McGrath, Charles and Mary Rook, Thomas Repicci, Merwyn Belin, Robert Matheu, Bob Hannam, Chantal Reeder, Marc Platt, Lianne Curtis, Millie Courtney, Robert Courtney, Bill Heckle, Jon Keats & theteam at the Cavern Liverpool The Greatest Club in the World, Blondie, the Empty Hearts , the International Swingers & Split Squad for loaning Clem to us, The Beatles, Chandler, Carly, Marc Chardon Rogers, Nick Wass, Cathy Harrison & Rob Olson from Hofner, Jim Lombard, Charles & Mary Rook, Bootleg Blondie, Paddy, John, Bob Horrocks, Tony Barbados and Liverpool elite, Candy Kayne, Elizabeth M. Adger, our friends from Imperial Guitars, Norman’s Rare Guitars & Guitar Center, The Beatles, The Ramones, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Tom Petty, The Spoilers, The Rotters, The Jetsons, Trik, The Stingrays, 5 Cool What, The Pranks, Reverie, Aston Martin, Toyota, Mercedes, Honda, Ford, Chevrolet, Mr. & Mrs. Dog, Christine Brallier, Jack Brallier, Loretta Finseth, Dakota Finseth, Jade Finseth, Mack Finseth, Dave Humes, Tony Cook, Steve Heller, Mike & Jessica Lambert, the little Twerp, Cam Dafoe, Lisa Hekhouse, Cari Hekhouse, Shane Hekhouse, Kyle Hekhouse & the Ferriters,
Dedicated to E.L. Woody & Alan Massengale & every kid who has a dream to play an instrument or sing in public
In loving memory – of our family members who remain with us only in spirit & Timothy Bryson
“When you’ve topped 40 in age, you can never be in the top 40 on the Pop Charts, but you can always be Top 40 in Life.”
The Tearaways are represented by John Ferriter & Jamie Gruttemeyer at The Alternative