LaParadiddle.com’s Women In Music Part 3

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Here is the last installment in the Women in Music series here! In case you missed it, here is part one and part two.

Don’t forget to ‘like’ on Facebook and follow on Twitter! I am hoping to do a poll after these!

Let’s get the ball rolling, shall we?

SANTIGOLD

Santigold

Santigold was awarded at the ASCAP Pop Music Awards with a Vanguard Award in 2009, which is awarded to new and developing artists expecting to make an impact on future music.

It seems they were right!

Aside from her unique presence on stage and modern new wave sound, I have to applaud the performer for some of her honest statements about the music industry.

Taken from her interview with Pitchfork in February:

“I’m disappointed with the state of music right now, but it’s not really about anybody specific. I think there’s a lack of true art, and the fanfare is valued over actual substance. It’s like you don’t have to make good music to be f—— huge. (…)

I watched a music awards show last year and started crying afterwards. I just felt really sad that people go along with stupid wack sh–. I’m sorry, but LMFAO performed at the Super Bowl? Aren’t they a joke band?

As I had recently been discussing the state of the performer in this article, I found her statements to be very relevant. As for herself in the public eye, she commented, “Nowadays, everyone has to have an angle, everyone’s marketing themselves constantly. You’re under a f—— microscope, and that’s very unnatural, so no one wants to just be themselves”.

Santigold, or Santi White, who is said to have studied Music and African-American studies while in college, was working as an A&R representative at Epic Records before leaving to co-write and produce for the artist Res. Other sources and older Pitchfork articles site her as having joined other groups, including a punk band, before gaining more attention as an artist in 2007.

Oh, yeah, and she helped to produce the newest Devo album. She’s kickin’ it!

 

 

ZOOEY DESCHANEL

Zooey Deschanel of She & Him

 

What’s that? Hold up! Maybe you only know Deschanel from New Girl or Elf or that frustrating Siri ad that, unfortunately, makes Deschanel look like she can’t walk to a window to see if it is raining, or bust open a can of soup.

However, you may also know that she is a singer and musician. If not, well….today’s your lucky day!

Coming from a showbiz family, she began singing in films (as seen in Elf) and recording versions of songs for soundtracks.

In 2001 she formed a cabaret act with friend Samantha Shelton, titled If All the Stars Were Pretty Babies.

The first album for the band She & Him, comprised of Deschanel and M. Ward, was released in 2008.

Since then she has been singing in various areas, whether it be the “Star Spangled Banner” during the World Series, or being picked by Loretta Lynn to star on Broadway in The Coal Miner’s Daughter”. In 2012 She & Him were nominated for a Grammy award for Best Song Written for Visual Media (Winnie the Pooh).

So, you may say, “what’s the big deal here”, since plenty of other musicians have achieved similar goals.

I admire Deschanel for always being herself, though she may find herself at the butt of many hipster or quirky girl jokes. I feel that a lot of the negativity aimed at her is unfair. Would it be more acceptable if she were performing traditional pop or dressing in skimpy outfits, instead of in vintage dresses? She receives so much criticism for wanting to be feminine. Since when is being feminine against the feminist movement? The whole statement is contradictory. It’s like criticizing a vegetarian for eating vegetables. Deschanel plays multiple instruments, is a talented singer, started her own website, her own show, seems to be able to handle herself and her businesses in a professional and strong manner…what’s the problem? Let the girl dress girly! Her actions speak louder than words, and to me her actions say that she can get a lot more done that a lot of us. That’s not to say that she doesn’t have access to more resources than most of us…but that’s another post, too.

I’ve seen She & Him at the House of Blues, and it was a great show!

 

DOE PAORO

Doe Paoro, photo by Ryan Muir

 

I’m really glad that one of my first posts on this blog was about the talented Doe Paoro. Skeptical at first due to many artists who claim to achieve what it is that Doe Paoro has, in fact, achieved, I was blown away. The songs hit every point possible that they were intended to.

Sonia Kreitzer had been singing for some time. But then she turned around and did something completely unique-mixing her study of Lhamo with soul. It’s a sound I have tried to explain to others and can’t seem to do well, so I’d rather they just go and find out!

I admire Kreitzer’s artistic integrity and understanding, which was clear in the interview I was able to do with her in January.

Oh, yes, and she was listed as ‘brilliant’ in New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix. The artist performed SXSW this year, and we are sure to hear more from her and the band. At least I hope so. Having gone from a Youtube video of the song she wrote to where she is now, she is definitely one to watch.

 

ALYSON GREENFIELD

Alyson Greenfield

 

About the time I started to try and network more for the purpose of blogging, it was suggested I contact Alyson Greenfield. I ended up interviewing her in May.

Greenfield does a lot. Singer, songwriter, pianist…percussion, synth, beatboxing…and the founder of a festival.

From her site:

“Greenfield was named “One of the 5 CMJ 2011 Acts You Should Have Seen” by The Faster Times, an “Upcoming NYC Artist” by NYC’s The Deli, and was one of the first 5 artists chosen to record at Converse’s Rubber Tracks studio in Brooklyn. Greenfield’s engaging and charismatic live performances where “the stage becomes her playroom” (Venus Zine), have been called “amazing…funny, spontaneous” (Thy Daily Noise) and “mesmerizing to watch” (Music Crush Girl). In addition to being a songwriter and performer, Greenfield is also the Founder/Director of the Tinderbox Music Festival, an annual Brooklyn-based event showcasing emerging female musicians, and giving back to NYC non-profits empowering young women through the arts. The festival has grown quickly since its formation in 2010, garnering press from The New York Times, Time Out New York, Billboard, Brooklyn Vegan, and more.”

Oh, yikes. Let me put on some jet packs and try to catch up!

I’m happy that Greenfield is extending her skills to showcasing others and is a great resource for others!

 

KEAIRA LASHAE

Keaira LaShae

I just listened to many cover songs sung by Keaira LaShae, who I profiled a while back. LaShae displays a vast array of genres with her voice, and I think I may like her version of “Neither One Of Us” better than the original (what?!).

LaShae has a very interesting background and does it all. At fourteen she competed at “Showtime at the Apollo”, where she met her first manager. As you can see in her bio, she has been in the music industry for a while. Singer, dancer, choreographer and fitness instructor, she aims to be proactive and her energy is infectious.

On one of her past experiences she says (from her site):

“They [her team at the time] said, sing like this, dance like this, and it will work. And it did,” she says, “But it wasn’t me. I knew I had to get out of this… I [wasn’t] happy.” Keaira LaShae listened to her heart and had a professional renaissance. “I had to step up and say, ‘I’m gonna do me.’ That’s been the best decision of my life.”

 

 

Thanks for reading my Women In Music series! It was tough to narrow it down. Honestly, every musician who has been profiled on LaParadiddle is a serious contender, but I didn’t want the series to turn into The Neverending Story, minus the flying dog. Wait, that was a dragon? Was it?

Stay tuned! And let me know what you think, of course! Agree? Disagree? Throwing tomatoes at your computer monitor? Doing a happy dance? Let me know in the comments section!

 

 

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LaParadiddle.com’s Women In Music Part 2

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Thanks to all for feedback from round one, definitely keep it coming! Apologies for the delay. I thought it fitting to include a new video for one of these artists, so I paused on hitting the ‘publish’ button just yet,

Same concept as part 1 here. Same rules and regulations.

Also, please check out the Facebook page at Facebook.com\LaParadiddle and @LaParadiddle on Twitter! I have seen that the Facebook page is having some issues with updates, so don’t forget to subscribe!

Drum roll please…eh, I’m lazy. The only pair of sticks near me are still in packaging. But think about the drum roll. Got it? Ok, here we go.

FIONA APPLE

Fiona Apple 2012

Praise Apollo, Fiona Apple is back! I am incredibly excited to be seeing her perform in a few weeks. Apple’s voice and songwriting skills are beyond compare, and it’s nice to see some fresh material from her. Her style has not wavered, and I am 100% ok with that!

I find Apple’s blunt and honest responses to the media refreshing, because she is not afraid to be herself and say it like it is.

Her new music does not disappoint, and the video for “Every Single Night” is hot off the presses. While some may roll their eyes for Apple’s newest album’s title, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, I just say…I’d rather have a great album with a long title instead of a mediocre album with an easier, clipped title. She commented on the lengthy album title during a recent New York Times interview, stating “Of course you’re going to say ridiculous. Because that’s what you do with me, right?”. As with previous albums, this one involved some bumpy roads with the record label, and she wanted to wait it out for the album to be what it’s supposed to be. Though she may come across as hesitant at times, at least her stuff is honest and how she meant for it to be. It’s her voice and her imagery. You can proudly parade around something that doesn’t represent you, or you can sing it like it is, as cheesy as that may sound. But really. That’s why I admire Fiona Apple.

Well, that and her amazing voice and songwriting skills, musical ability and rhythm…the rhythm! One of the best modern dance performances I have ever seen was to Apple’s “Sleep to Dream”. But yikes, just watch her new video already!

FLORENCE WELCH

Florence Welch, by David Hall

So it’s been said that Florence Welch had been a punk musician before, performing with a band titled the Toxic Cockroaches. You can also listen to another band Welch was involved with, titled Ashok, here. Who knows if this track is legit, but there are also many cover songs floating around online with a young Florence singing.

As we previously honored Isabella Summers, I find it important to mention Welch for her artistry. Many questions popped into my head when pondering her success, some questions I have heard asked by others. Does her vocal technique concern anyone? Did she want to remain a punk artists, but this stood out more? I’ve heard a lot  of questions thrown out there to female artists like Welch, Gaga, and Katy Perry…are the antics to get noticed? Why is there so much stress on that?

Though Welch certainly displays an off beat performance style and, some may argue, doesn’t squeeze right into the Top 40 genre, I could not categorize her with Lady Gaga or Katy Perry. Antics? Sure, they’ve all got them. But I certainly don’t feel that Welch is trying too hard to be outlandish.

It makes me happy to see this type of musical-certainly not what the charts may have been expecting-getting this sort of recognition.

AMY HEIDEMANN

Amy Heidemann (Flickr_Alizenchains)

When Karmin were about to announce that they had been signed, my Facebook feed lit up with shares originated from the duo, Nick and Amy. Having graduated from Berklee College of Music, the two performed locally and had become noticed in the music scene and nationally via Youtube.

It’s truly a thrill to see a local musician go from performing on the street you walk down every day to Saturday Night Live and beyond.

Local to Boston from her Alma Mater, Heidemann is originally from Nebraska. As mentioned in a previous post, Heidemann won talent contests and accolades in her hometown, winning a chance to record a demo which got her into Berklee College of Music. Said to have received a scholarship and focused on her studies, the singer studied Professional Music while at Berklee, focusing on songwriting, vocal performance, and business.

Aside from the facts that Heidemann is making it in the music business with her college degree, musical training, worked as a wedding singer and for Berklee while trying to make it, and (did we mention she was on scholarship? Not easy) there are other reasons I am here to applaud her.

I’m open to the fact that you may not like Karmin, and everyone has a different taste in music. Personally, I was weary of the EP but really enjoyed it. You can tell they know what they’re doing. Some may disagree, and constructive criticism is valid.

What I can’t stand is the criticism out there that just doesn’t seem so valid. I’m a firm believer in something called BACK THAT FACT UP (like that Juvenile song, without being vulgar and with some solid material).

I read numerous reviews of Hello that just seemed downright bitter. One review basically tore it up in one paragraph and then went on to the reviewer plugging someone else. Was this a review of Hello or a plug for your friend? As for the Rolling Stone review, it was short and to the point but did nothing for me. Maybe it’s just me, but when a review is just negative, negative, negative, it doesn’t seem very constructive to me. Jody Rosen says “Karmin can make you hate pop music” but goes on to seemingly give a thumbs up to ultra pop-ified Justin Bieber’s single and Katy Perry’s machined ‘Wide Awake’, which I was very surprised was not a Ryan Tedder production. All these artists can’t really be put into the same blender but, after reading the negative reviews, I got the feeling that mixing pop with trained musicianship is just not what some people were ready for. That and Heidemann’s rapping. If she were male or…I dunno, not from Nebraska, I don’t think she’d be getting so much heat for her talent. The criticism seems to be in that she looks like she jumped out of the Lindy Hop but can run anyone out of town with her voice and rhymes.

So what? Break it down, give her the credit she deserves. Heidemann was previously also a gospel singer and almost never rapped in public. But what’s up now? So your butt was kicked by the girl with the suicide roll and the bright red lipstick? Get used to it, she rocks.

A video from Karmin’s early days in Boston.

ESPERANZA SPALDING

Esperanza Spalding

On the same page as some of the unwarranted Amy Heidemann negativity, Esperanza Spalding’s Grammy win in 2011 was a huge victory for jazz music and for organic performers like Spalding. After Spalding beat Justin Bieber for Best New Artist, Bieber fans went into a tween rage, truly displaying just how mature these particular Beliebers were (if you can’t tell, sarcasm is pretty much running out of my nose on that one). At the same time, I nearly did a cartwheel in my living room over her victory.

As a small child growing up in a difficult neighborhood, she taught herself to play violin well enough to land herself in the Chamber Music Society of Oregon (she grew up in a neighborhood of Portland). By the age of fifteen she became a concertmaster within the society. She then discovered the bass and enrolled in the music program at Portland State University at just 16 years old.

Taken from her site’s bio, she reflects on the experience:

“I was 16, and I had been playing the bass for about a year and a half. Most of the cats in the program had already had at least eight years of training under their belts, and I was trying to play in these orchestras and do these Bach cello suites. It wasn’t really flying, but if nothing else, my teachers were saying, ‘Okay, she does have talent.’”

I can definitely feel for her on that one, often feeling severely musically handicapped in some of my Berklee classes. When your peers have had opportunities from an early age, or have more money or resources, it’s always a struggle to finish the race with them.

Spalding, however, made her way to Berklee for three years of intense study and earned her degree. In 2005 she was made part of the faculty-the youngest ever.

I remember going to a Berklee College of Music Anniversary concert that year. Artists like Paul Simon and Gloria Estefan performed. I had not yet heard Spalding play, but she performed that night and my socks were knocked off.

Lastly, this interview from Jazz.com is from 2008, but basically solidifies my respect for Spalding as a singer, songwriter, musician.

In a past interview, you were adamant about the fact that you wanted to be judged on the quality of your work, not by your gender. Historically speaking, the music industry has not been very kind to women. Thus far, how has it been for you?

Well, for me it’s been fine. The tricky part is taking responsibility for your self. It’s really easy to say, “Everybody treats me like a woman!” and it’s true, however many women make the mistake of over sexualizing themselves. The hard thing, in the beginning, is to learn how to present your self in a totally professional way so that you’re not inviting any of that. There’s a way to behave where you are not over sexualizing yourself as a woman, but it’s hard to learn because in most situation it’s to your benefit.

ELISAPIE ISAAC

Elisapie Isaac

I interviewed Elisapie Isaac back in January. Singer, filmmaker, activist…multilingual and multi-talented.

I’m a little bummed out that we haven’t seen more of Elisapie in the United States, but I hope audiences will reel her in! Her blend of folk and pop with sounds influenced by her culture have produced many great tracks. She is Canadian, born to an Inuk mother, and her award winning documentary, If The Weather Permits, looked at the changing lifestyle and culture of the Inuit people.

Having already taken the stage with performers such as Buffy Sainte-Marie, I’m sure more and more listeners in the states will lover her sound. Folksy without being isolated or sullen, blending interesting beats and international sounds seamlessly, Elisapie has a unique sound that many others can’t pull off. Perhaps it’s her diverse background and rich knowledge of media and the arts, but I honestly feel that many musicians try for this type of look and feel and just come off as fake. Elisapie is the real deal, and I really hope to see her perform live someday.

Part three will be up and running soon! Keep in mind…I want your feedback! Leave it here or on Facebook, and please share. The more, the merrier.

Happy Monday!

LaParadiddle.com’s Women in Music Part 1

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Here it is, folks! Back when I discussed the Elle Magazine 2012 Women in Music list, readers suggested I do my own Women in Music list, and I’ve heard a lot of names tossed around. Every woman who has been mentioned on this blog so far already has my tip of approval, and there are far too many individuals to list everyone-and I am sure Elle Magazine ran into this conundrum as well.

I decided to showcase artists who have made a big impact on me over the past year or so, or artists that seemed to have really hit home to those I’ve encountered in the music world.

Originally I thought interesting portraits of each musician would be great, but after a while I thought it would be most necessary to include a photo of each person as a performer instead of a model. Of course! This is about music, isn’t it?

Lastly, this is not meant to be a ‘flower power’ type thing to divide men and women as musicians. This used to bug me when I was in an all female rock band. We didn’t plan on being in a band with only X chromosomes, but it was somehow manipulated into the idea that we did it on purpose, and we were just like the Donnas, and we were chicks. Nothing against the Donnas, but I was in no way inspired by them personally. Also, one may not call me a chick. Unless I am actually dressed as a chicken.

This is only part one, but your feedback is greatly appreciated! Agree? Disagree? Let me know here or on Facebook.com\LaParadiddle. Who do you want to see in part two and three?

KIMBRA

Kimbra performing at Coachella 2012

I was first introduced to Kimbra’s music this past fall, but the New Zealand born singer/songwriter/musician has been active for quite some time. Her track, “Settle Down”, was released in 2010, but it seems that Americans are just getting their ears used to her sound in the past few months-thanks to her vocals in Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know”.

Her rendition at SXSW this year is really something to watch.

But even the original music video is pretty kickin’. This remains as my favorite Kimbra track so far.

Kimbra has been singing since around the age of ten, and I hope we get to hear more from her in America. I love her style, the sass and personality that shines through in her videos and performances, and the way she utilizes vocal layering and loops. Many of her older videos showcase her guitar playing and a more acoustic sound.

I am really loving her album, Vows, and highly recommend it. It’s exciting to see more female musicians delving into pop/electric sounds without losing originality and definitive style. Her music videos (check out ‘Good Intent’) are really fun to watch, and while Kimbra utilizes some vocal manipulation, we can still hear…her voice.

Kimbra has won at least nine awards for her work, including the Rolling Stone 2012 One to Watch. I’m definitely watching, are you?

ISABELLA SUMMERS

Isabella Summers, Photo by Andrew Whitton

Is it just me, or do we not hear much about Isabella Summers, or the ‘machine’ part of Florence and the Machine?

I’ve heard-many times-that there are not enough women music producers. Even in sound and audio production courses, I remember a substitute professor once telling my class that she had never seen so many young women in a sound design course! There were two of us.

When Googling ‘women music producers’ Isabella ‘Machine’ Summers is one of the first to show up. She has it all going for her-musician, songwriter, record producer, Grammy nominee, DJ, remixing…can I be her when I grow up?

This is a great interview for more info!

MELODY GARDOT

Melody Gardot

Gardot’s newest album, The Absence, was recently released and I am really excited to hear new music from this artist.

If any readers don’t know, Gardot’s story is quite something. In 2003, Gardot was hit by a Jeep while on her bike in Philadelphia. The car had run a red light and left her with head and spinal injuries, a broken pelvis, and remained in a hospital bed for a year.  While having to relearn simple tasks, and fighting memory problems and sensitivity to light-hence her sunglasses-a physician recommended she use music to help her overcome her brain injury. She used to play piano and perform in bars, but could no longer physically sit at a piano. She began to learn to play the guitar, which helped her memory and speech.

It’s not hard to see why Gardot is an advocate for music therapy. In the music therapy class I was in at Berklee, I read or heard about similar stories, but Gardot’s is truly inspiring. I don’t feel I can even squeeze all the information about her as a person, as a profound example of the good music therapy can do, or as the amazing musician and vocalist she is. She delved into the genre she now performs in, most would say jazz or acoustic, due to her injuries. After her accident she could not tolerate sounds over a certain level.

I sincerely applaud Melody Gardot for overcoming these challenges and turning her therapy into something so beautiful. I hope more people can respect music therapy for this. However, essentially, I hope more people will be exposed to this wonderful musician!

TERRI LYNE CARRINGTON

Terri Lyne Carrington

Prodigy, jazz drummer, composer, record producer, teacher. Those are all words used to describe Terri Lyne Carrington, who is likely to be one of the best drummers of our time.

Having studied at Berklee College of Music, where she now teaches, she has performed with Herbie Hancock, Stan Getz, Dizzie Gillespie, Wayne Shorter…I mean, holy cow!

She started playing the drums when she was seven (her grandfather played with Fats Waller). Though part of me is jealous, most of me just admires the heck out of Carrington.

It is said that at eleven years old she was awarded a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music. In the 1980s, she was the house drummer for the Arsenio Hall show.

And since the 1980s she has done just about everything.

I was in one of Mike Mangini’s drum labs at Berklee. I knew that most of my peers were years and years ahead of me. I was lucky to have Mangini as my instructor, because he helped me learn by doing, because my sight reading skills were not the best. Mangini acknowledged the fact that most of the other drummers in the drum lab had started getting lessons when they were seven. I didn’t have professional lessons until taking classes at Berklee, and before that my friend taught me to play, but I had to wait until I was fifteen. Achieving an A in that class-for me-was a very different challenge.

I don’t remember how I ended up in this meeting, but I found myself sitting in one of the percussion rooms, at a drum set, with Carrington. I needed to knw what Drum Lab 2 would entail, as she would likely be my professor. Jazz drumming was my major road block. I didn’t end up going for Drum Lab 2 because of that, but that conversation with Carrington has stuck with me. We all learn and create music differently, and I do believe her advice was right on.

You can see more of her as a teacher here.

EMILY HAINES

Emily Haines, by Kyle Dean Reinford

Metric’s next album is due out soon and where would Metric be without singer-songwriter Emily Haines? Haines performs as lead singer, pianist, keyboardists, and guitarist.

She also performs solo as Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton. Her tracks from the solo album The Knives Don’t Have Your Back are tracks she didn’t feel would be appropriate for Metric to perform, but the songs are beautifully composed and produced.

Haines grew up in a creative household-her father was a poet-and has been involved in many musical projects along the way (Broken Social Scene, anyone?), though most know her from Metric. The band name is said to have been thought of due to her and her fellow musicians’ musical precision.

Synthetica, the band’s next album is due for June 12. You can read more about Haines here.

Again, don’t forget to let me know what you think so far, as there will be more musicians added to this list!

Don’t agree with someone that’s on there? Know of a musician you’d like to see profiled? Leave a comment here or on Facebook.com\LaParadiddle.

I’m thinking of doing a poll at the very end, so your input is valued!

In My Mind & In My Car: WFNX, WERS, and Alternative Radio

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When I was a kid my family took a day trip and I was restless on the way home. It was nighttime and we had to stop at a Hannaford (or was it Shop & Save back then?) before finally going home.

My parents turned on WERS and I was immediately distracted. From then on I tuned in. This transformed to listening to Standing Room Only, The Coffee House, etc…on the weekends I would sing and dance (yeah, who doesn’t dance when they’re folding laundry?) to my favorite musical theater songs and on the drive to school I would listen to the sounds of folk and acoustic sets on WERS. I remember the cold fog rising from the fields in my hometown, driving the old clunker of a car that I had inherited, and becoming disgruntled when the signal became fuzzy and WERS became difficult to hear. I had first period free on Fridays during my senior year in high school, so I dropped my sister and friends off for school, assisted my theater teacher with role call, and would then sneak out to the little coffee shop in town. It was attached to the pharmacy, and I would then sit in my frosty car with a cup of coffee or latte and listen to WERS before facing the school day.

You see, I wanted to go to Emerson College–very much so. To be honest, I think listening to Emerson’s radio station hyped me up a little. At the end of the day, after band practice and theater or poetry club, I’d listen to Rockers. WERS and WFNX were probably the two stations I flipped between the most in that car, though I listened to classic rock a good deal as well. I used to listen to WBCN as well. For a while I tuned into WAAF but was disgusted with some of the on-air talent’s comments toward the Middle East and Iraqis after the military invasion of Iraq, so I stopped listening. For local and alternative radio, I focused on WFNX and WERS.

I was accepted into Emerson College and received a scholarship so that I was able to attend, and WERS was suddenly no longer a faceless entity. While I was not involved in any live mixes, or an on-air talent, I truly enjoyed volunteering time to the fundraisers and with other various tasks–submissions, digitizing the library, etc.

Regina Spektor at WERS, Boston. Photo credit Mary Costa.
http://www.marycostaphotography.com

One day, while I was sorting through old jazz records at WERS (anyone else remember the jazz program?) an artist came in for a live studio performance. Her name…Regina Spektor! I had already been listening to her for years, and really admired her as a musician and songwriter. Still do! You can see a photo from that day above, taken from fellow Emerson Alum Mary Costa. She blogged about her time at WERS here.

That performance was incredible. Hearing ‘Samson’ right then and there was a tough one for me, ladies and gents. Because crying would have been embarrassing, der! The emotion!

At the end, as she was leaving, I awkwardly told her that I really respected her as a musician and an artist. I must have sounded like a total nerf herder. But instead she smiled up at me (she is super tiny–I am 5’4″ and felt like an NBA player) and said, “How kind of you!” and jotted her signature on the back of the dreaded Sallie Loan envelope I had in my hand. Kind of me? I sounded like a trite jerk, I’m sure, but she was nothing but nice and friendly.

There were many other moments at WERS that will always stick with me. One being the caller I got while working the spring fundraiser during Standing Room Only. The woman who called me was prompted to do so after we played ‘If I Were A Rich Man’ from Fiddler on the Roof. She was reminded of seeing the play open on Broadway and then proceeded to donate the largest sum of money I had ever entered into that database.

Many of my friends did much, much more at WERS, and I know that all of the hard work there pays off. It is the highest rated college radio station in the US, and was rated #1 by the Princeton Review.

So, why am I reflecting on all of this?

In case you missed it, though I am sure you did not, WFNX was sold this week to Clear Channel Communications. Many feel this is the end of alternative radio programming in Boston, and have reacted angrily to the announcement. I will miss WFNX greatly! I loved the Leftover Lunch, and will miss the yearly themed Halloween prom parties. They were a blast. I have a lot of great memories listening to WFNX, and I know a lot of others do as well.

As I mentioned in a tweet earlier today…help us, WERS, you’re our only hope! But Star Wars jokes aside…many argue that radio is on its way out. And while I hear that debate, I find it comforting to listen to programming that includes a real human being. It’s nice to know a person is there, consciously interacting with the music as you are listening to it, requesting it, and whatnot.

Will we turn to the internet or satellite more for alternative music and indie bands? Youtube and the like have taken indie music by storm. The loss of WFNX reaffirmed my fear of more Top 40 channels taking over and churning the same songs at the same time each day. Not to discredit the songs played, but I often hear the same bands within an hour span, if not the same song, on Top 40 radio. Is the turnover rate that high for listeners, or are listeners not paying attention, or…is anybody there?

One thing is for sure: WERS still is, and I surely hope the radio station can support everyone who is frowning upon the loss of WFNX. Actually, I know it can. I just hope music lovers continue to support WERS in return!

Having a great time at the WFNX 1989 Halloween Party, 2009!

Thanks for all the great music, WFNX and WERS! In the meantime, I’ll be doing my best to spread news about artists through my Facebook page and Twitter. Follow for photos, links, and more!

Andrew Bird at WERS, May 2012. Photos by Sherwin Su & Nina Corcoran.

Alyson Greenfield: Eclectic, Electric

Interview, Main Navigation, Media, Press

When starting my blog and looking for interesting, music oriented individuals to network with and learn about, I was quickly given Alyson Greenfield as a reference. Doing a little digging, I found that many-from Brooklyn to Boston and beyond-have found her to be quite the music generator, if you will.

Alyson Greenfield. Photo by Jasmina Tomic.

Her site states, “(though) having shared the stage with indie-folk favorites Jenny Owen Youngs and Holly Miranda, Greenfield is no stranger to the electro and hip-hop scenes”. Greenfield has performed her own versions of Coolio’s ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ and L. L. Cool J’s ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’. Yet her original works are something outside of hip-hop; Greenfield does not confine herself to a singular genre. I’d encourage you to take a listen to tracks like ‘Uncharted Places’ and ‘Human Behavior’. You can definitely hear a Tori Amos influence here.

There is no real genre I would attach to Greenfield, as I feel that would be restrictive to the amount she is capable of!

I have been gathering info and thoughts from Alyson Greenfield over the past few months, and there is a lot to be said! Read for yourself!

Farah Joan Fard: This may be a generic question, but always necessary in my opinion…how were you first exposed to the field of music? What was it that stuck with you?

 Alyson Greenfield: As a kid I was always singing and writing songs. At a young age I became enamored with pianos. I thought they were gorgeous, magical things and I knew I had to play. I actually had to beg for piano lessons for 3 years until my parents finally bought a used upright for me to play.

 FJF: When did you decide it was something you would pursue to this extent, and why did you decide to do this in New York?

AG: It wasn’t until a few years ago that I decided to move to New York and pursue music. I decided to do this in New York because I kept visiting, playing shows, and feeling at home in New York more than any other place.

FJF: Do you think our country has a distorted view of the arts? I feel it is either inflated to the point of celebrity, where talent is not always key and money and resources can be wasted…or belittled and cut in areas such as our schools and communities, where society tries to ‘hire’ musicians for free or weigh our art educators as less worthy than math and science. What do you think about this and how do you think communities should approach it?

 AG: Oh boy, this is a big question. I think there are many distortions in our country about many things, and yes, the arts are one of them, but it also depends where you are. One of the reasons I decided to move to New York (…because I found here) that everyone took what I did seriously. When I would tell people I was a writer or a musician in many other places they would ask me if it was a hobby or what else I did. When I spoke to people in New York, I found they would accept what I said and just ask me more questions about what I was doing with it, and it felt really good to be taken seriously for something. All of that being said, I definitely think New York is one of the most accepting places in this country to be a artist. I actually went to West Africa a few years ago to be in the midst of a culture where arts are part of life, not something separate or devalued. I found that pretty much if you are alive you are part of singing and dancing since you are born basically. Yes, there are people who are Master Singers, and Master Dancers, but everyone engages in singing and dancing as a part of living which I loved, appreciated, and found comforting.

FJF: I am always weary to focus on articles that refer to ‘women who rock’ type headlines. I fear that it can divide male and female musicians more and make a spectacle out of being a female musician, especially in rock or rap, etc. As in, when I am performing I am just a musician, and they don’t need to put the word ‘female’ or ‘girl’ in front of it. You’ve done a great deal in helping women in the world of music. How do you straddle that fine line?

 AG: I always try to let people know that Tinderbox (the organization/music festival I run) exists because I felt there needed to be more space to recognize the amazing amount of talent of emerging female artists. I have definitely had questions like “Are men allowed to be there? Is it a bunch of man-haters?”– things of that nature. Unfortunately sometimes people confuse “pro-women” with “man-hating/men-excluding.” I make sure to let people know that men are definitely welcome in all aspects of Tinderbox. There are many men that perform with female artists, there are men on the Tinderbox Team, and we have had a lot of sponsorship and volunteer support from men. I try to create an environment that is open and inclusive, it just happens to have a focus of promoting female artists.

FJF: Macho-ness is certainly used a lot in rock music. So is femininity, depending on what the artist is going for. Both can get on my nerves, but I feel it is really commercialized for women. When I went to purchase my first stick bag I knew I wanted the plain Vic Firth one, but the sales clerk pushed me to purchase the pink cheetah print one, no matter how many times I said no. He lost in the end, and then I ended up playing a show where I had to use a set at the venue. It ended up being a pink cheetah print set. It’s like I could feel Lisa Frank screaming every time I hit the bass pedal, and the bass drum may as well have said ‘it’s a girl!’. But I think this happens to men as well. My question is…has this ever happened to you, where people jump to make your musical image girly, or assume you will like something better because it is girly? And are there examples of this that happen to men, and do you think it is as widely criticized? Is it criticized for women or accepted and expected?

AG: I think things like this do happen to both sexes, and I think this stems not just from the music industry, but from a wider “cultural norm” or the basic gender binary that has been constructed which is the most simplistic version of gender in our society.  It can be particularly frustrating to have experiences going into music stores and not feel like you are being taken seriously.   I have definitely had experiences where I feel like I need to throw out information about research I’ve done to let the employees know I actually do play instruments and am trying to make good decisions about my gear.  I definitely don’t like feeling like I have to prove myself in these situations, but I guess it shows me that there is still work to do.

 FJF: Lately I have been asking musicians what they think about costume and dressing for a performance. I think that sometimes performers focus so much on the image, despite the fact that the outfit and antics may not be the best for your vocal performance, or your instrument. How do you approach this? I find this especially difficult for percussion, as a drum set is not quite forgiving to dressy outfits made of heels and skirts…yet wearing Keds and jeans makes me feel like a slob to the rest of a band!

AG: This is very interesting.  I feel like I’ve been playing with my image a lot lately in photo shoots, videos, and on stage. Trying to find what I feel comfortable in and what risks I’m willing to take. Some of the images have ranged from being more feminine to being more “hard core.”  I have never worn heels on stage because I’m not comfortable in them and when I perform I like to be able to jump and dance around, but I know some performers who can dance all around in heels.  I think it’s good to wear and project an image that feels true to you as a performer– which I’ve found might be different than what you wear hanging around with friends. For CMJ last year a friend actually made me a custom leather harness (designer Gina Schiappacasse) and I was a little scared to wear something that I didn’t feel like I might just walk around in every day, but when I actually put on this beautiful piece over my dress it helped me tap more into the performer me.  I found that to be surprising and really special. 

FJF: So many questions and so much to say! Tinderbox. What sparked this idea and what is your goal?

AG: When Lilith Fair came back in 2010 I wanted to be on the line-up as it was a festival and focused on female performers.  I started a blog called “Dear Lilith Fair 2010” where I basically was trying to “pitch” myself to the event. I wrote songs to Lilith Fair, wrote about work I had done with young women, and things like that.  A lot of female musicians I knew started talking to me about my blog and how they would also love to perform at Lilith Fair, but they felt they weren’t big enough to play it. I realized I knew so many emerging female musicians who I thought were amazing, and who I thought more people should know about.  So I decided to start an event that focused on showcasing emerging female musicians that also gives back to local (New York City) nonprofits empowering young women through the arts.  It was a great way for me to combine so many of my interests.  Now we are in our third year and the goal is just to keep it growing, to continue to showcase even more emerging female artists/female fronted bands, build our Songwriting Workshop Program for young women, and really increase community among female artists and be a resource for female artists and young female songwriters.

FJF: How has the community reacted to Tinderbox?

AG: The community has had an incredibly positive reaction to Tinderbox.  I really wasn’t so sure if something like this was “needed,” but the community on all fronts has been incredibly supportive and excited about Tinderbox. I’m very grateful for this and happy that I have been able to help create this space.

FJF: And you also perform your own work! What is on the map, so to speak, for you right now?

AG: The next single I’m going to release is called “Uncharted Places.” I recorded it at the Converse Rubber Tracks studio which was an awesome experience!  (You can see a video of me recording it in their studio here )

I just worked with an amazing team for the “Uncharted Places” Video which I’m so excited about.  It’s incredibly amazing to have a whole team working on creating new visions of a song.

 FJF: What was your first album?

AG: Six Songs.  It is actually a selection of songs I was submitting for an application for an MFA program in creative writing. That’s what I was doing before I moved to New York to focus on music.

 FJF: First song you performed in public?

AG: I remember playing “When The Saints Go Marching In” on a piano for a Halloween assembly at school in fourth grade when I was dressed as a Punk Rocker.  I don’t know how all of this went together, but there is a picture of it so that’s why I still remember it possibly.

FJF: What are some artists you have discovered recently and are really excited about?

AG: Zambri, Gotye, tUnE-yArDs, Jesca Hoop, Dizzee Rascal

FJF: What advice do you have for musicians who are trying to get more gigs, promote themselves, or get an album out to the world?

AG: Talk to other artists and people in the music industry. Ask them questions.  Believe in yourself. Ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing and see what answers you come up with.  Work hard.  Take yourself seriously. Be open to new possibilities you may not have thought of yourself.

Check out more about Alyson Greenfield and Tinderbox here and here! Also, check out her show at Pianos NYC on June 8th!

Reviewing ‘Hello’ and Karmin’s Past

Interview, Main Navigation, Music Business, Press, Review

Today Karmin released their new album, Hello, and I was just lucky enough to have previewed it last week!

Karmin, photo courtesy of Epic Records.

The Daringest Duo had recently explained that the album is dedicated to their fans and centered around their journey to success.

The album has the track ‘Walking on the Moon’ up first, and is not to be confused with the Police song. ‘Walking on the Moon’ includes soft melodies and sentimental lyrics, a catchy repetitive riff, and Amy Heidemann’s insane rapping. The instrumentation and rhythm remind me of Kanye West’s past endeavors, but the song straddles the line between being a love song and an assertive hip hop feel.

Of course we have their well known single, ‘Brokenhearted’ on there as well along with…well, the rest of their story!

My favorite track may just be ‘I Told You So’. It’s everything I would look forward to in a pop song. Unexpected instrumentation-we get some horns in here-and a different musical style. Guitars, synth, rapping, and an eastern sound. I’ve always loved it when artists incorporate harmonic minor, Phrygian, Persian scales…all that jazz! The duo cited the different skills and musical styles they learned at Berklee as an influence as to what went into their songs. ‘I Told You So’ is a great example of this.

During the last interview session I had with the two, they mentioned working with other songwriters on a few tracks. I can hear this in the track ‘Too Many Fish’, as it has a very Beyonce feel to it, but Karmin carries it well. ‘I’m Just Saying” is a sort of ‘go get ’em’ anthem, with a very straightforward pop feel.

‘Coming Up Strong’, a track already loved by fans, was written solely by Heidemann and Noonan. This surprised me. Upon listening to it for the first time, I felt that the track had a country pop feel to it, which made me question who the co-writers were. Turns out Noonan and Heidemann know a thing or two about the songwriting formula! The song is heartfelt and broken up well by Heidemann’s rapping over powerful harmonies.

The title track, ‘Hello’, may just be my second favorite track. Sure, the synths sound familiar to many pop songs, and the ‘hellos’ remind me of some Nirvana riffs, but the rapping makes this song. I love how the lyrics are a grand hello to new listeners and fans, while the rapping addresses those who criticized Karmin on their journey or didn’t believe they could make it. It’s just great. Even if you don’t like pop or rap, you have to give them a hand on this one. Sometimes you just want to say ‘look what I did, even when you didn’t think I could’ to anyone who put you down along the way, and Karmin’s ‘Hello’ does this without sounding mean or cocky. It’s reassurance for anyone facing the same journey.

The album is diverse and catchy, and I really enjoyed it. You can definitely tell that the two are talented musicians and well trained, which is very welcome in today’s industry. I’m very excited to see where they will go from here…but I also wanted to touch upon their past.

I contacted the Galaxy of Stars Talent Search in Nebraska about Amy Heidemann’s win, which led to her to Berklee College of Music.

Wynne Adams, the executive producer for the Galaxy of Stars Talent Search, first met Heidemann when she competed at the Adams County Fair in Hastings, Nebraska. She won second place!

Adams remembers Heidemann well.

“When I first saw Amy perform in 2003 in the Galaxy of Stars Talent Search I knew she had the ‘Shine Factor’, as we call it in the Galaxy of Stars. It is the presence and energy that radiates from a performer that can’t be taught or explained it ‘just is’.  She had the creativity, the passion and the most of all the drive to not wait for something to happen but to take action and commit to making her dream a reality. She is an inspiration and is now a shining star for all to see!”
She also recalled the following:
In 2005 as 1st Place Winner in the Galaxy of Stars Talent Search Finals in Lincoln, Nebraska, Amy was awarded a recording session at Upper Room Studios, owners Mike and Dawn Chavanu in Kearney, Nebraska. She recorded an original CD produced by Wynne Adams. She used local musicians from Kearney, NE on the project. The project was entitled, Eventually.  
The project included six songs which, according to the Galaxy of Stars website, was “submitted to the Berklee College of Music and opened the door to Amy receiving a four year scholarship”.

Amy Heidemann won first place in the Galaxy of Stars competition in Nebraska. This led to her recording an album, which was submitted to Berklee College of Music. (2005)

Amy Heidemann, 2003. Heidemann was a local star and won a talent competition before recording an album, which was submitted to Berklee College of Music.

As for Noonan, The Bangor Daily News had a great piece about his time in Maine, where he was a prominent member of the music community:
“The whole school system was really supportive of music. My whole family is really supportive of me and what I do. Old Town has one of the best jazz programs in the state. I had some amazing teachers. I was lucky all around,” said Noonan, who cites teachers David Saucier, Shianne Wheeler and Jeffrey A. Priest as inspirations.
-Bangor Daily News, 4/29/11
I had read that Noonan also received a four year scholarship, but was not able to confirm. When I met him at the Rethink Music conference, he mentioned going to music and jazz competitions, one which had taken place at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, where we were speaking at the time!
Bravo to Karmin, and how far they have come! It’s great to see how involved the two were in their communities, and how much raw talent the two have.
As for Hello, you should see for yourself. I am willing to bet you will not be disappointed. Get yourself to iTunes or Newbury Comics!

Karmin Told Us So: From Youtube to Epic Records

Interview, Main Navigation, Music Business, Press

They don’t wanna brag, but we already know…Karmin has been dominating pop music lately, and kicking manufactured pop to the curb. With my recent article about women in music and the “song machine”, covering Karmin for a week was eye opening.

The press was still rolling after Rethink Music, and I had the pleasure of phoning into a conference call with Karmin and Epic Records, all while sitting in a coffee shop on the street where they started out: Newbury Street.

While it was exciting to speak to Amy and Nick about their success, blooming from Boston, it was really great to discuss their upcoming album, Hello. I was super pumped to join in on the conversation, and a big thank you goes out to Epic Records for including me! Who would’ve thunk that just a few years after taking classes in this area, the two would be where they are today? I think Amy once used the term, ‘amazeballs’ to describe it. I think I will go with that as well.

Here’s the scoop for all Karmin fans…from Karmin’s songwriting skills, Amy Heidemann’s hair and makeup, how Nick and Amy met, and what the future holds for them!

Please note that this was a conference interview, so items not specified by me may have been asked by others.

Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan of Karmin. Photo courtesy of Epic Records.

Some may be skeptical, seeing that the duo became famous covering other artists. But, fear not, Heidemann and Noonan were fully capable of songwriting on their own.

“It was a challenge, we have to say,” Heidemann said. “We started posting original music on YouTube before the covers became a reality and nobody was really searching for a little duo out of Boston with a wooden box and a piano”. She explains that they wrote songs that could then fit into many genres, and by the time they were signed to Epic Records, many of the songs were ready to go with producers. “There were some songs we composed solely for the purpose of the album when we went into the studio. A lot of them were collaborations with some of these amazing producers and (…) Claude Kelly”. Both she and Noonan worked to maintain their originality and songs, while still fitting into the mainstream world.

This is a very daunting topic to many artists, for fear a record label will change their artistic vision, or at least encroach on it.

“We understand our fans and supporters can’t be with us in the studio when we’re deciding to do things, so we’re being really careful,” said Heidemann.

“This is a good example. Sometimes people will show up to a photo shoot with a rack of clothing and they’ll pull something off the rack and I’ll look at it and I’ll say, ‘That’s second album’. I know where we’re headed so we’re able to hold back to a certain extent, to keep it relevant for this stage in our career”.

Both Noonan and Heidemann agree that they are lucky to be working with L.A. Reid, who understands their background as musicians.

Still, many wonder where the rap influence came from. And we’re not talking a little line of rapping here or there. This girl is an incredibly fast rapper. Just watching her rap sent my mind reeling to keep up. I couldn’t.

“I grew up loving rap music but coming from a conservative Christian household, I wasn’t allowed to listen to a lot of what we would consider legit rap music”.  She adds that Noonan finally convinced her to post a video of herself rapping on Youtube.

Yet, she has only been rapping for about a year. And on top of the work to keep their music heard via Youtube, it was a challenge to stay afloat in Boston as a duo. (Another one of their very early albums can be found here.)

Heidemann explains, “I have to say, I heard New York is a lot more difficult and Los Angeles, but being in Boston it’s a very large student population so we lost our fans every three or four years. They would move away. After opening for a couple of the larger bands in club scenarios, we realized that a wooden box and an acoustic guitar wasn’t really standing up against the metal rock scene in Boston so we started performing on the street”.

Some of you may remember them performing on Newbury Street, with a guitar case and some CDs. They cite that as their most successful performances in Boston, as tourists would constantly be visiting the street. They also performed for community events and opened for other bands they knew.

Speaking of Newbury Street…
One day, Heidemann found herself walking down Newbury Street and saw an ad campaign for Bebe where the model was wearing this hairstyle.

2011 bebe ad campaign, featuring the suicide roll.
Look familiar?

Of course, this is the suicide roll, a 1940s style. A friend at MTV told her it was a suicide roll, so she made a Youtube tutorial. It turned into something larger than she ever thought.

“It’s a fun style. I’m just very inspired by everything vintage!” Heidemann said.

As for makeup, turns out the girls in her high school dance team would ask her to do their makeup. She was active within the community with the musicals, speech contests, and poetry readings. And now? She cites MAC and NARS lipstick, Lancôme art liner, and amazing eyelashes as the key to her beauty routine.

As to how they met, Noonan answers this one. “[We hadn’t] had a conversation until the very end of our freshman year, but we played in a couple of shows together. I was the trombone kid and they asked me to do a bunch of (songs) being the trombone guy in the section. Then they asked Amy to be the singer or the backup singer for a lot of stuff because she was known as being some hotshot singer on campus”. He laughs. “She always hung out with the gospel crowd and everything, and I always just kind of hung out with the weird horn players. I was kind of more like the weird jazzhead”.

The two went away for the summer but hit it off at a party the first week of their sophomore year.  As for the wedding? This has been a whirlwind year for them, after all.

Noonan explains, “Well, we were planning on getting married on 9/10/11. Clearly, it has passed 9/10/11 and we are not married, so…it was just a comedy of errors, dude. It was literally ten days before the wedding. I didn’t have a tux yet. We didn’t even know how anything was going to happen”.

My big question for them was about their song “I Told You So”. I was immediately intrigued when I heard them perform it on SNL.

I enjoyed the feel of the song quite a bit..what was that? Harmonic minor? I was curious as to what the influence for the song was, musically, and the lyrics.

Heidemann jumps in. “Oh, that’s so awesome. I’m glad you like that one. We have a music video for that coming out very soon. ‘I Told You So’ (…) Nick and I wrote it completely by ourselves working with a producer (from) Atlanta. We came into the studio and he was kind of working on this beat and we were like, ‘Wow! That kind of reminds us of ‘Look at Me Now’, which was our big viral video hit.”

“We decided to bring in the acoustic guitar and the trombone, which I think are the two main elements of Karmin, at least in the YouTube era, and we just started messing around with different parts. We wanted it to be aggressive and like you said, the Middle Eastern sound, I’ve always been obsessed with that sound. Studying those progressions at Berklee and stuff we (thought) this would be a really cool musical hip hop homage to ‘Look at Me Now’, so we started doing that. Nick put some trombone down and then obviously, the rhymes just started flowing”.

And what is the message in “Hello”? (This is possibly my second favorite song on the album).

Heidemann answers again. “‘Hello’, we wanted it to kind of tell our story. We had gone through a lot of stuff and we can’t bring our fans and supporters with us every step of the way, so we tried to tell the story in the verses. In the choruses, we kind of wanted to get some of our pride out because we were like, ‘You know what’? We actually could be like the next big thing and we want people to know that'”.

“We used to have a joke where we were like, ‘Hey, we’re you’re new favorite duo’. It’s kind of a cocky thing to say, but we were like, ‘Hey, nice to meet you and we’re awesome and (…) that’s kind of the story it tells(…) We think you’re going to love our music”.

Karmin definitely leaned more into the pop music with their album, Hello, and Noonan adds, “Everything is very rhythmical leaning and, of course, there is a lot of rhyming”.

“We were actually lucky enough that L.A. Reid loves our writing. We wrote and recorded like fifty songs for this release and then the ones he ended up picking were I think…three or four of them we wrote 100% just by ourselves. That’s a pretty amazing feeling”.

As for their first single, ‘Brokenhearted’, they explain that they wrote the song because Claude Kelly said they needed a song about them, but they wanted to write songs about fans and motivating people. He wanted them to write a love song, so they wrote about how they met at a party in college. The next day, neither of them called the other, and Heidemann was pacing, checking her phone every five minutes.

“It’s funny, the word ‘cheerio’ kind of popped out when we were just recording it and Claude was like, ‘Hey, Amy, I need you to do a really good end to the song this time’. I’m the kind of person that will just say something really silly to break the tension in the room,” says Heidemann. “So that’s where that came from”. The album talks a lot about the lessons they’ve learned, comments on their supporters, and drives a strong message.

“I think one of the best lessons is to not listen to the critics or the haters. One of the hardest things to deal with when we started uploading YouTube videos was all the people saying nasty things about us or whatnot. As soon as you get over that and stop listening to it, it’s like the entire world opens up to you. It’s really crazy,” says Heidemann. “And there’s the whole bullying thing going on now. I think that’s just another way of saying you really can’t listen to (them). I know there are so many great efforts going on to prevent that in the future. Yes, it’s an important thing…just not letting that stuff get to you and moving beyond it”.

A great message for kids and aspiring musicians!

So, who do they hope to work with in the future?

Amy chimes in that she would love to work with Kanye West, and that Nick would like to work with Chris Martin.

Karmin’s most memorable moments so far:

1: “When the video blew up, we had a two hour sit down with Kanye!”

2-Performing at the iHeartRadio festival, and meeting many other great musicians.

3-SNL!

You can also check out their new rendition of ‘Brokenhearted‘, where they perform it as more of a ballad.

Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan of Karmin. Photo courtesy of Epic Records.

The album, Hello, drops on May 8, and I will have a full review of the album then!

www.karminmusic.com/

http://www.youtube.com/user/karmincovers

Be sure to check out my other two recent Karmin posts here and here.

What do you think of the ‘Daringest Duo’?

Rethink Music with Karmin and Amanda Palmer

Interview, Main Navigation, Music Business, Press

The Rethink Music Conference is where music industry nerds in Boston are flocking to.

The biggest thing I took from Rethink Music was the advice from fellow musicians who had launched their careers from Boston.

As mentioned in my last post, Amy Heidemann from Karmin had discussed guerrilla marketing and promoting ones’ self via the internet. In addition, Amanda Palmer discussed being attainable to an audience and booking gigs when you don’t quite fit in.

    Karmin at Rethink Music. Photo credit Farah Joan Fard.

When asked about getting started on the Youtube videos, Heidemann mentioned that she and Nick Noonan had posted material before, but were not satisfied with the hits the videos were getting. Citing advice from peers at Berkleemusic.com, where Heidemann was working at the time, they did some research. They found which top singles were trending, learned how to tag videos so that they were more visible, and showed personality in their videos. Eventually, Noonan convinced Heidemann to rap on a video. And a Youtube sensation was born!

Was it the novelty? I am sure that is part of it. But you can’t deny that they can both sing, play their instruments, and have excellent stage presence. Many comments on their videos note their energy, enthusiasm, and…smiling. Because, though it seems obvious, lots of us forget to smile when we sing! In fact, I am guilty of this when I drum. I am often told I look sad, or like I am about to beat up Billy for lunch money. Whoever Billy is.

    Karmin at Rethink Music. Photo credit Farah Joan Fard.

Karmin at Rethink Music. Photo credit Farah Joan Fard.

Amanda Palmer discussed the fact that she is so accessible to her fans-no, not fans. She stated that she prefers not to say fans, because it makes it sound as if she is above them. She mentioned being okay with the term ‘audience’, but seemed to favor ‘community’.

When asked if she ever becomes afraid that she will get a stalker, she just laughed. Since she is so open about her life, she joked as to why anyone would want to find skeletons in her closet, when they are all out in the open. She makes a valid point. Where’s the mystery?

Palmer realizes she uses social media to the Nth degree, but she also realizes that it is a huge part of her success. Palmer has utilizes social media to connect with her community and spread her music. She compared it to when she was a street performer in Harvard Square years ago-as a living statue. She said that no matter what, she could always estimate making a certain amount each day. She never walked away empty handed. Likewise, when she gives away her music for free, people often feel compelled to pay. It’s the gesture that makes an impact on the audience; your music being available to them.

Even when recording, Palmer kept on connecting with others to make the music happen. She mentioned that she would be in the studio and need an instrument that they didn’t have. She would tweet about it and, sure enough, a follower on Twitter would get one to her.

Not only does this interaction show her ‘fans’ (can I say that?) that she is responding to them, it shows that it is really her. Palmer noted her dislike for artists that have others pose as them on Twitter just for self promotion, without taking the time to actually interact.

Lastly, I asked her about getting gigs in Boston. I feel that, sometimes, venues stick to certain genres. They want to be sure they get a certain amount of people in for the show. So, how does a musician get a foot in the door if their genre can’t easily be classified as rock or pop or folk?

Amanda Palmer poses at Rethink Music. Photo credit Farah Fard.

Palmer said she used to play galleries and parties, until she had enough of a following to prove she could sell tickets for a show at a local venue.

I know a lot of you do that, so props to you!

Lastly, I’d like to share an email that was forwarded to me from Deer In Headlights, by one of their team members (and SYM band member) Andrew Hall, who attends the boxing club that Nick Noonan had been working before. Since I was reviewing their band history over the past few days and hearing stories from many who saw them when they were performing out on Newbury Street and handing out EPs, I thought I would share!

Guess who knows tonight’s SNL musical guest Karmin? You!

The Ring Boxing Club’s own Nick Noonan and his fiancee Amy Heidemann — will be debuting two songs from their upcoming album on tonight’s show.

Here’s a pic of the duo as seen on Entertainment Weekly:

http://music-mix.ew.com/2012/02/11/karmin-snl-new-album/

For those of you who may not know,
Nick was our front desk guy extraordinaire for two years — working 12-6 every day at The Ring and pumping out YouTube covers from his apartment every night after work. One day this past spring he and Amy posted a video of Chris Brown’s “Look at me Now,” and they were launched to stardom.

Here’s an insider secret for you — a couple of weeks before they were discovered, Nick and Amy wrote the background music for the video on the home page of The Ring’s website.

Thanks, Karmin, and best of luck tonight! We’ll be watching!

Ah! Ferklempt! It is such a great story. Thanks for the note, Andrew!

What do you think of all this? Youtube guerrilla marketing? Being super accessible to fans? Giving your music away for free?

Note: Heads up that I will be chatting with Karmin again this Friday about their album release! Hello is out May 8th!

Karmin! Hello, Boston.

Interview, Main Navigation, Music Business, Press

Hooray, for this is the first event I have attended as a member of the press on my own–not for anyone else, but my own blog.

Over the past few days, Boston hosted the Rethink Music Conference. I was very grateful to attend as part of the press, and as a curious member of the music industry. During this time, I had the chance to attend a concert showcase on Sunday night, and an interview with Karmin on Monday. The showcase involved Yoga Girls, Junior Boys, and Karmin. The next day I joined the duo at a table during the Rethink Music Conference, with two other writers.

Karmin at Rethink Music, press/(c)LaParadiddle.com

Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan. Have you heard?

Over a year ago I heard about the duo, who had attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. It didn’t resonate too much with me at the time, since so many peers from Berklee and Emerson were trying to break into the business. I couldn’t recall if I had seen them in the halls or classrooms, and noted that they were doing covers. I liked their style, but wish I had listened to some more of their stuff.

Fast forward to this past June, when I caught wind via my Facebook feed, and some who knew Amy or Nick, that they had signed with a major record label. I was ecstatic and I didn’t even know half of their journey.

Fast forward a few more months, and my handy dandy shower radio was suddenly playing their song, ‘Crash Your Party’. I did a double take between suds–they had done it!

And then, this February, they performed on SNL.  It is so, so, so very neat to see musicians who have run some of the same circles as you, who are your age…make it. And make it without the record label taking too much of their artistic vision. Granted, I was wondering about the SNL performance. Who decided on the outfits? Were they trying to make them seem so very edgy? But mostly, I just wanted to see them playing more instruments, because I didn’t want the audience to dismiss them. They both studied music! However, I understand that performing on SNL must come with some stipulations and-oh yeah-it’s a HUGE deal. Never mind Lana Del Rey’s performance and how she rose through the musical ranks. People can say she did it through Youtube, and I know I don’t know much about Karmin’s background, but I have an inkling that Lana Del Rey did not struggle while trying to break out into the business, and that her connections didn’t hurt. Meanwhile, while trying to make it, Amy sang at weddings and worked for BerkleeMusic.com and Nick worked at a boxing club.

Amy compares the moment when she and Nick heard their covers mentioned on Ryan Seacrest’s show to the moment in That Thing You Do!, when the group first hears their song on the radio. She recollects that they both lost fifteen pounds and she couldn’t sleep.

Karmin at Rethink Music, press/(c)LaParadiddle.com

And how did they end up with Epic Records? Amy elaborates.

Amy Heidemann: There were several labels….but it was basically all the majors, except for one, and then a couple of artists that were interested, like Kanye West, for example. It was a tough month, very stressful.

One writer inquires as to how much their deal was worth, but they can’t say.

Nick Noonan: The whole debate was…whether to be independent…we weren’t just going to sign to a wager for the sake of signing to a wager. Because most of the time, statistically, it will not work out. We were only going to sign if it was the right deal, and it was the right deal.

AH: The crazy thing was, it didn’t even come down to the money as much as the deal points.

Amy cites full control of videos, not letting the label pull old videos. They both wanted to make sure they had full control of their internet ‘stuff’, and to make sure everyone saw where we came from. They also made note of the royalty rates being offered, citing that Epic was very generous, especially for new artists of the current era, and that it was favorable.

I asked about artistic independence. Many artists have expressed weariness toward record labels when they discuss their plans with albums. They feel that the record label wants to change their musical vision.

NN: One of the biggest reasons we signed with Epic was because we actually felt like L.A. Reid got it. He got what we were going for. There are a lot of songs on the album that I don’t think a lot of other people would have put on the album.

AH: Yes, if we had signed to one of the (other) big wigs…(they would have said no).

NN: They’re amazing people…they are…absolutely record gods. It’s just a personal thing. They don’t have to be amazing people…they just have to get it.

AH: Yeah, for the songs we were most proud of, L.A. Reid would get out the air drums, and…he was just so excited!

Another writer asks…’what are you most proud of? What was the ‘get it’?’

NN: The first one was probably the song called ‘I Told You So’.

AH: Yes, the second song that we did on Saturday Night Live…that was very urban. There’s trombone, kind of a very (Middle Eastern) chord progression…and…not very pop. And he texted us, like, ‘this song keeps me up at night, I’m so excited’! And to get that directly from him…

NN: Yeah, he’s a super pop, super smash, kind of guy…

AH: And he’s got great taste.

What’s next?

NN: Right now, everything is focused on the album. We might cover our own songs, actually.

AH: Yeah, we might do Karmin covers of…Karmin! You know, acoustic versions, and stuff like that.

NN: But for now everything is just focused on the album.

AH: We will be doing covers, yeah, maybe bonus material on the second album.

And their business strategies came from…Berklee?

NN: Yes…yes, and no.

AH: Did you take business (classes)?

NN: No.

AH: I took a couple business classes, and we learned, mostly, how to survive just as musicians…taxes and stuff.

FJF: But that’s a big question for a lot of people I know!

AH: I’d have to give a lot of my marketing knowledge credit to Berklee Music Online. BerkleeMusic.com. There’s a guy named Mike King over there, and he’s…a genius. But I learned everything I know about guerilla marketing from him.

NN: Do it yourself.

Another writer asks…’five years down the road, what does the music industry look like?’

NN: Subscription based.

AH: Definitely.

NN: Like your cable bill or something…sort of like a Spotify type thing…where you just get unlimited music, depending on how many downloads you get…per week, per month, whatever. You get different levels of paying rate. You know what I mean?

AH: Definitely, yeah. The internet radio thing is so exciting and I think, as far as new artists…a lot of it is going to be discovered online, direct to fan…people that build audiences. Like they said, A&R is now…people on Youtube…

NN: Which was the case for us, too.

Amy compares this to American Idol, but that you know where all your votes are…your page views!

After a moment and a few laughs, an individual tells us that they must move on, and we say our goodbyes.

Short, but sweet! Overall, I am incredibly glad I had the moment to speak with them. They were humble, friendly, and silly. Not in a bad way, it’s great to be silly! If you have seen some of their videos or tweets, though, you know they can be silly, and that’s one of the reasons why they are so personable.

Before writing this I went back and looked at some of their old videos, shot in an apartment that looked very similar to a building I lived in off of Beacon Street a few years ago. Then I watched a video of when they first hear their song on the radio. And this is why I do what I do! I can’t tell you the smile it brought to my face.

At the end of the interview segment, they shared a story of when they were waiting in the Lowell train station and decided to become a duo, a la Simon & Garfunkel. Though I can’t see Simon & Garfunkel busting out some ‘I Told You So’…but that would be pretty awesome…I do think Karmin has longevity and their story is definitely icing on the cake.

But really. Check out ‘I Told You So’ when the album, Hello, drops on May 8. The Middle Eastern side of me is loving those vocals! But all of me likes it, to be honest.

Karmin at Rethink Music, press/(c)LaParadiddle.com

Sidenote: I may be joining Karmin and Epic Records for another interview THIS Friday, to talk about their album release. Stay tuned!

Andrew Dawson and Kanye West in the Mix

careers, Interview, Music Business, Press

If you want a career as a mix engineer, Kanye West and Beyonce are pretty good artists to have on your resume. I’m sure many would love to observe these recording sessions, let alone be involved with them.

More than a fly on the wall, Andrew Dawson has been mixing and engineering (and more) tracks that have hit the music industry hard.

I was very tempted to title this ‘Sound Advice’ but didn’t want any of my awful puns to deter readers, so hopefully you read past this sentence now! Because, truly, Andrew Dawson has some spot on advice, and is someone with an incredibly admirable work ethic and discography.

Andrew Dawson was involved with mixing and engineering
for Kanye West’s ‘Graduation’

Dawson attended Berklee College of Music and then went on to take a job at Sony in New York City. He has since applied his skills in engineering, mixing, and producing. Remember a little ol’ track called ‘Power’ by Kanye West? Dawson earned a co-production credit for the track, and has worked with West for eight years, earning three Grammy Awards and six nominations. He has worked with artists such as Beyonce, Jay-Z, Kimbra, Common, and, recently, Pet Shop Boys. I am incredibly happy to bring you an interview with Andrew Dawson!

Farah Joan Fard: As a former classical pianist, what made you decide to delve into mixing and engineering?

Andrew Dawson: I was playing piano from the age of five, but I’ve always had a fascination with the technical side of recordings. I remember hearing A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory and just being in awe of the bottom end. I wanted to find out how to achieve that myself, and I began experimenting with 4 track recorders and early MIDI sequencers.  It was creative both from a sonic standpoint and a writing one. Something about the combination of technology and artistry has always seemed to captivate me.

FJF: If I remember correctly, you came to speak at an intro MP&E class I was taking with Stephen Webber, maybe four years ago? You gave a story of how you found your way into a studio by making yourself helpful and useful to others. Correct me if I am wrong…and could you elaborate, in your own words?

AD: Well, a lot of it has to do with anticipating what people need. You should be able to do something without the person having to ask, so that they can focus on what they should be doing and not on you. I think this awareness – in addition to really knowing my way around the studio and Pro Tools – was what put me ahead of the rest. I was working out of Sony Music Studios and Kanye West wasn’t happy with any of the engineers he was working with – he fired about five in a very short period of time. I was next on the list, and I’ve been working with him since.  You really need to pay attention, read people, learn their likes and dislikes, and see how they are reacting to what is going on.

FJF: You prefer to work on projects that have meaning. How is that defined for you?


AD: Someone who really believes in what they are doing. It can be a fun record, it can be a serious record, whatever the intention – so long as they believe in it and are passionate about it! Because I am passionate about making music. Fortunately, I’ve been able to work with many artists and on many projects that have had this kind of meaning.

FJF: West seems to have quite a reputation in the music industry. I’m not sure how much of it is fair. Honestly, I never thought I would like his work until a friend of mine introduced it to me when I was in college, and I enjoyed it. Then, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy came out, and there are some tracks there that I found to be so great from a musical and production standpoint! How is it to work in a creative environment with him?

AD: Kanye really brings out the best in people, and that is a true sign of a great producer.  When you’re in the studio with Kanye, it’s a one hundred percent creative atmosphere. There is the sense that there are no boundaries, anything is possible, and as a result a lot of ideas come out of those sessions. They are always productive. Definitely, Kanye for makes some crazy good beats, but he’s always very aware of the musical side of the songs as well.

FJF: I get this question a lot so I am wondering what you think…Auto-Tune. Industry standard, necessary evil…?

AD: It’s both. You can use Auto-Tune as an effect, but you can also use it as a proper pitch correction.  There’s the functional and creative part of it, and that’s a choice one makes depending on the production. I love the sonic effect of Auto-Tune when turned to “eleven”, your voice starts to resemble a synthesizer. There is a downside, though, and sadly lots of people are relying on it as a crutch for lazy vocal performances and that’s really not ideal.

FJF: While in school I often heard that “there are button pushers and creative types and a mixture of the two”. This seems awfully black and white, but I did see some who were great engineers, but not so much on the creative side and the opposite as well. Is this a bad stereotype? Is being a sound engineer creative enough in its own right?

AD: The way records are being made today, if you’re a creative type you have to be a ‘button pusher’ to get the sound you want. So much depends on the sonic aspect of it, and the boundaries are becoming more and more blurred. As a result, everyone seems to be a jack of all trades (these days).  It works from both sides too – if you’re an engineer, you have to be aware of how to put together songs to do well in the business nowadays. Often your songwriting or production sensibilities will inform your mix or engineering decisions. There are very few places left for pure “technical guys”.

FJF: A lot of music production students get discouraged–interning and fetching coffee and cleaning to get a job that may pay you minimum wage at first…when, at the same time, your friends are getting paid internships and well paying office jobs can get frustrating. When I was an intern at one place I was told, “they don’t pay because every wants to be here because it’s cool”. I think this is a model seen often in the entertainment industry, but what do you think about it? Any words of encouragement?

AD: Don’t do it simply for having a “cool job” – that soon becomes very transparent and those guys get weeded out fast. I hate to say it, but being a music engineer / producer / musician is a lifestyle – it’s very challenging and something you have to choose knowing there will be sacrifices in other areas of your life you have to make. There are crazy hours, often with no sense of holidays or weekends for little to no money for a while. If you are really smart, passionate, eager and willing you will find yourself getting promoted or favored with time.  I think a common misconception among new interns is the notion: “oh man, if they could only hear how good of an engineer/producer I am!”. To be honest, initially, no one really cares how good you are. We are just looking for the right attitude, personality, and eagerness to learn and help.  Make the person you are assisting/working with life easier, or job less stressful, and they will want you around all the time. Your time will come.
If you really want it, you need to realize that you always have a lot to learn – learn from observing and listening.

FJF: A lot of people express that the music industry is changing, and more power is going back to the artists. Do you agree?


AD: In some aspects yes, while in others no.  Actually, I think that the consumer now has more power than ever. The consumer now expects and gets everything on demand, and with an almost infinite amount of choices.  If you happen to be an artist that a consumer wants then there are more avenues available for you to get music to them. In this way, the consumer is empowering the artist, as are the technical advances of the time. Yet in most cases, artists still need help in reaching that audience – it can be overwhelming, and they need to be allowed to focus on creating and being artists.

FJF: What projects are you working on now and in the near future?


AD: I have just finished up Producing, Engineering and Mixing the Pet Shop Boys new album. In the works are VersaEmerge – who, like fun., are on Fueled By Ramen – P.O.S. and recently POP ETC (formerly known as The Morning Benders).


Check out his website!

Elle Magazine’s ‘Women in Music’ & The New Yorker’s ‘Song Machine’

Music Business, Random, Review

I have to give a little applause for Elle Magazine pulling together a music issue every year, though it is pretty mainstream. That being said, there are always a few speed bumps in reading the issue that send me pulling over from what I was reading and thinking, ‘what?!’.

I also have to give a hand to John Seabrook on the great article The New Yorker published in its March 26 issue. There were no surprises in there for me, but it served as reinforcement as to what drives some nuts about pop music. I encourage you to read it.

Put these two articles in a blender and there were more reading speed bumps than ever!

Photo taken by Carter Smith for Elle’s Women in Music 2009

In 2009, Elle Magazine featured Gwen Stefani on the cover of their Women in Music issue. In 2010 it was Rihanna. In 2011 it was Gwen Stefani. This year it is…take a wild guess. Following any basic, pattern based word problem from my elementary math classes, I would say Rihanna. Oh, look. It’s Rihanna.

Granted, these two women are very involved in the music industry and have great voices. However, Stefani’s last single was in 2008 (‘Early Winter’) and, as much as I do enjoy her…are there really no other women in music that can be featured? Perhaps a woman who has had a musical breakthrough relevant to this year. Again, I am not saying that Stefani is not relevant. I believe her to have been a major influence on my generation and for female vocalists. I just find it unfortunate that Elle keeps regurgitating the same cover girls, despite the many talented female musicians out there. I understand that Gwen Stefani and Rihanna are both gorgeous and interesting, and putting them on the cover is a sure way to sell magazines, but if we are celebrating women in music, come on!

Photo by Tom Munro for Elle’s Women in Music 2010

Aside from the fact that I feel featuring the same individuals is redundant when the array of musicians is so vast, this is scraping the surface of women in music.

That being said, it’s a HUGE topic to squash into one magazine issue, so I understand that. I’m not trying to undermine Elle Magazine’s efforts in bringing these artists to our attention.

I did say it was scraping the surface, and I guess that means I have to back that fact up! (You’re a fine fact checker when you back that fact up!)

More than once, Elle has featured instruments in these music themed issues. Instruments like…designer guitars. May I ask who, as a musician, cares if a Chanel logo is on their guitar? Does it improve the acoustic quality of the guitar? I don’t think so. My sister wrote Elle a letter about this, and I’m not sure it was well regarded. It certainly was not published. I think it would have been more pertinent to showcase different guitars that some of these female musicians use.

In addition, Seabrook’s article for The New Yorker reinforced how I feel about some aspects of pop music: disheartened. For decades, musicians have performed other people’s songs. Elvis did it. The Beatles did it. It’s nothing new to see songwriters hired to write for specific musicians. What bothers me is the method, if what is written here is true, and the image portrayed to fans.

Ester Dean is showcased in this article as songwriter, and I encourage you to read up about her, as she is the driver behind many of these pop hits. An excerpt from the article, ‘The Song Machine’, declares:

“Dean’s preferred method of working is to delay listening to a producer’s track until she is in the studio, in front of the mike. ‘I go into the booth and I scream and I sing and I yell, and sometimes it’s words but most time its not,’ she told me. ‘And I just see when I get this little chill (…) and then, I’m, like, ‘Yeah, that’s the hook’.’ If she doesn’t feel that chill after five minutes, she moves on to the next track, and tries again”.

Why give up? If I am writing a song, and I get stuck on a part, I don’t give up. I take a break, come back later, save what I have. But the difference may be attachment to the song and care. This is exactly as the article title states: a song machine. Eating up random words, hooks, tracks produced to the point of no return, and crapping out a song that sounds an awful lot like the last pitch corrected, drum machine laden song. Don’t even get me started on the lyrics.

The few beefs I had with this article are with the display of pop music as the newest, creative venture in the world of music. Yes, Dean has to be creative and clever with these hooks. But how are we putting this musical mad libs above those who spend the time to compose the song from the bottom up themselves? I could be wrong, but this whole process sounded very detached. Not listening to the track beforehand, chugging through it if it doesn’t come to you quickly…and shouting out random lines until you get one that sounds catchy enough for Top 40 may work, but it doesn’t seem genuine to me. How much thought went into that line? Though, when the lines are the lyrics to ‘Rude Boy’, I can’t wonder too much about the thought of the song.

This article insinuates that Ester Dean wrote the song, ‘Rude Boy’. Though it is sited that on an episode of ‘Alan Carr: Chatty Man’, Rihanna speaks about the song as if she wrote it herself. When ‘Man Down’ came under fire, Rihanna had to defend the lyrics. Trouble is, did she write them?

Seabrook states that the public’s ‘appetite for hits’ and Top 40 is bigger than ever, which may be the case. I would argue that it’s also taking over a lot of other options in the radio world. When WBCN signed off and 104.1 was taken over by pop, much of the community around me declared their discontent, and many cited that the same was occurring in New York.

Seabrook also questions how mainstream rock became robotic and predictable, while pop music is now creative and experimental.

Speed bump! Ouch.

Are we sure that the rock being referred to here is not mingling, dangerously, with pop? If we are talking rock like Doughtry and Fall Out Boy, I think we are still in Pop Land. Just because it quacks like a duck, doesn’t mean it isn’t a man doing a great duck call. And I’m not about to jump in and declare the current state of pop music as experimental and creative as ever. Let’s not forget the producers, too.

Why do I say that? It is noted in the article that Ryan Tedder (OneRepublic) created some tracks that ended up as different songs. I had already learned this fact and was certainly not surprised. The article claims that nobody cared or noticed. I’ve picked out a Ryan Tedder song from miles away (Ok, sitting on a couch and hearing the song on the TV) and said to myself, ‘That must be a Ryan Tedder song’.  Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Already Gone’ and Beyonce’s ‘Halo’ always sounded suspiciously similar to me. Turns out they were created from the same track. However, One Republic’s ‘Secrets’ also sounds awfully similar, as well as the ‘All I Ever Wanted’ (Faith Hill), which I thought was ‘Secrets’ when I first heard it.

So, yes, I am hesitant to declare ALL pop music the new frontier in creative music when it is being processed through this Song Machine. Chicken McNuggets, move over!

What does this have to do with Elle’s ‘Women In Music’ ?

With the facade of pop music, and the lack of involvement some artists have in the creation of their hits, it seems like a teeny slap in the face to those women who compose, write, and perform, and are not featured as prominently. Yes, Rihanna is very relevant to today’s music, but she is a great performer. She has been described by some as a ‘manufactured artist’. Why are we showcasing her again? Was Florence Welch not available? Janelle Monae?

Hmm. Perhaps I need to do my own 2012 Women in Music post. What do you think?

Brighton Music Gentlemen Hall

Main Navigation, Uncategorized

I tried to merge the venue with the band. I tried. I couldn’t pass up a possible play on words, so you may cringe and berate me later.

Well, you’re probably here because you are really digging Gentlemen Hall’s tunes, and rightfully so. Everything that is so unique and smart about their music really shines through during a live performance. It gives me hope for many reasons. For one, it defies stereotypes of Boston music, and is refreshing. While I even had the error of comparing them to Passion Pit once…they may run in the same genre, but they have their own dynamics and range. Two, it gives me hope in the world of overly processed, highly produced pop and synth tracks…that a synth rock/synth pop band is so musically tuned and aligned.

Before my camera decided to cry for help (currently searching for a camera doctor), I was able to snap some shots of Gentlemen Hall in action Saturday at the Brighton Music Hall. The band was super friendly and welcoming, really very awesome group of guys!

A big thank you to Plan A Media, Gentlemen Hall, and Josiahs Porter.

Gentlemen Hall. Credit Farah Joan Fard.

Gentlemen Hall. Credit Farah Joan Fard.

Gentlemen Hall. Credit Farah Joan Fard.

Gentlemen Hall. Credit Farah Joan Fard.

More photos at LaParadiddle’s Facebook page.

Capturing My Politic

Main Navigation, Uncategorized

By capturing the band, My Politic, I mean with a camera. Not in a swashbuckling pirate sort of way. Yes. So.

Friday, March 30, was a joyous night of folk music at the Out of the Blue Gallery in Cambridge!

A big thank you to everyone involved with putting the party together, and I wish I could have stayed longer. As the evening progressed I was able to see Stephanie Barrak perform, an impromptu performance by Sarah Fard, and then My Politic’s set.

The gallery was PACKED. I think the only individual who could move while My Politic performed was the dog in the room, sneaking in between eager listeners.

I have posted a few photos below, more can be found at Facebook.com/LaParadiddle.

My Politic. Photo by Farah Joan Fard

My Politic. Photo credit Farah Joan Fard.

My Politic. Photo credit Farah Joan Fard.

My Politic. Photo credit Farah Joan Fard.

Be on the lookout for a My Politic CD release party sometime in the future!

Bees and Jazz: Bees Deluxe

Main Navigation, Press, Review

I think of bees and often think of the Beehive in Boston: jazz and good potatoes, two things I really like.

Launching off of one bee/jazz association, I will jump to another jazzy bee: Bees Deluxe.

The band has a very interesting background, rooted in Boston’s love for jazz and music.

Patrick Sanders performs as the band’s drummer, who attended Berklee College of Music and sharpened his drumming skills with mentors such as Mike Mangini (now with Dream Theater) and Jamey Haddad (who has worked with Paul Simon and Steve Gadd). Sanders has also performed with the lovely, supremely talented Esperanza Spalding, when both were students at Berklee!

Bees Deluxe’s guitarist, Conrad, has performed everywhere from London to CBGB’s in New York City and back to Boston. He cites Wes Montgomery and Jeff Beck as influences. He also mentions having worn the hats of ” guitar-player, band manager, special-effects builder, illustrator, music journalist, as well as record company production manager”. You know what I’ve been told to do in the music industry? Wear as many hats as possible. I’ll take Conrad’s path as confirmation!

Lastly, we have Bruce Mattson, New England Conservatory graduate, and player of the keys. Mattson also scores and arranges for multimedia, and has performed with Charles Neville and Chuck Leavell.

Bees Deluxe, credit Eric Antoniou

Listed as the genre “Vintage Tube Terpsichorian”, I was, of course, curious. Time to peruse some tracks! Their music blends the sounds of classic rock, blues, jazz, and funk, without brimming with pretentiousness, as some jam bands tend to do (in my opinion). Yet the songs are definitely tracks I’d like to jam to. Tracks like “Asleep at the Chelsea” brought me back to rainy days listening to Van Morrison or Hendrix. Not particularly in style, though I hear it, but in ambiance and personality. The track, “The Girl With the Green Hair” brought about an eerie aura in some instances, and a laid back, relaxed one in other measures.

I also love the homage to Billie Holiday with their performance of “God Bless the Child”. Vocals blend into this one, though the instruments do a lot of talking themselves; it brings to mind Sting’s jazz and blues performances.

But really, it bugs me when I start to compare musicians to other musicians, when one should really take a listen on their own, because unique bands always have their own sound, as Bees Deluxe does.

The band is preparing to release a new album, titled, “Space Age Bachelor Pad Blues” and have upcoming shows at the Gardner Ale House on April 9 (Gardner, MA) and at Johnny D’s on May 6 (Somerville, MA).

And, to save you the trip to the dictionary, a terpsichorian is, by another spelling, a dancer or something related to dance. Is this true, Bees Deluxe, that we are in for some funky, vintage style tunes to dance to, grooves and all?

Check out their site!

Cowgill: Plans, Planted, Performers

Interview, Main Navigation, Press, Review
I always have a soft spot for folk music (gee, can’t you tell?) and really enjoy elements of folk fused with rock.
That being said, a Boston based band is combining folk with indie-rock, piling some guitar and trombone into the mix, and releasing their newest single. The band is Cowgill, and the single is “Plans”. Others are noting the incredible musical range that Cowgill possesses, and I have a feeling this is quite the catalyst for their tunes. Take a listen for yourself!
After being introduced to the music of Cowgill, I inquired about interviewing the band as they embark on their journey. The band consists of Paul Cowgill (Vocals, Acoustic Guitar), Mike Truskowski (Piano, Backup Vocals, Trombone), Dan Weissman (Mandolin, Backup Vocals, Trumpet), Leeann Hackett (Violin), Ryan Rivers (Bass Guitar) and a “temporarily rotating cast on drums”. Their release party for Side One of their album, Planted, is May 17 at the Middle East Upstairs.

Cowgill

Farah Joan Fard: Cowgill…named after the place? Or cows? I see the cow on your site banner. I’m originally from New Hampshire, so I appreciate cows, but am curious to the story of your band name! I know I could also have cited your vocalist/guitarist, but…again, I’m a curious cat. The decision process of a band name is always interesting.

Cowgill:We took all of our names, and tried to think of the craziest band name we could come up with by combining all of them.  And after we did that, the weirdest was still just Paul’s last name.  Strange.

Haha no, but what actually happened was Paul felt pretty ridiculous using his last name as our band name, so we tried to think of one for a long time, but couldn’t think of anything we all liked.  Some of the not-so-great ones from our brainstorm a while back are No Bills, Hasty Outro, Venetian Mutes, Track II, Unrecycling, Tracks and Stacks, Dogskill, Nomenclature, Trick Poems, and Doggerel.

FJF: What brought you all together? I enjoy the dynamics and range of instruments used here.

Cowgill: Paul started looking for bandmates in about May of 2011.  Paul and Mike have been roommates who make music together for fun, going on four years now.  He and Dan met over “delectable kosher-for-passover brownies” (to quote Dan) last April.  Towards the end of April.  Paul found Leeann the violinist on Craiglist, and same for Danielle, the drummer who plays on the album, but has since left the band.  Leeann knew Ryan the bassist from high school, and he’s a senior at Berklee right now with Joe, the new drummer.

FJF: How did you get a residency at P.A.’s Lounge?

Cowgill: It was actually pretty easy.  They posted the availability on Craigslist, and we sent them an email.  But it must have helped that we had a website and Facebook fans and whatnot.  Oh, and the booking agent used to be the booking agent at Precinct, and we had done a show there through him before, so he already knew who we were when we shot him the email.

FJF: That’s definitely important to note-the website and Facebook fans. It’s getting to be a requirement to book a show, the Facebook fans!
So, you formed just last summer, or am I incorrect? How much do you practice together? You have gotten quite far in that amount of time! How did you do it?

Cowgill: We’ve basically tried as hard as we can since day one, and maybe it’s as simple as that.  And all the songs were already written by “day one”, so that definitely helped.  If our Kickstarter campaign hadn’t been successful, that would have set us back by a few months as we tried to scrape together money to record an album in some other way.  So that’s probably the biggest thing that allowed us to be where we are today (thanks again, Kickstarter backers!).  Also, Paul does nothing other than work on keeping the band moving forward, doing his day job, and hanging out with friends.  Well, that actually doesn’t sound that earth-shattering.  He spends a lot of time reading blogs about the best things to do be doing to raise the profile of the band at each step along the way.  So maybe it’s not just that we’re working hard, but that we’re working hard at the right things.

Oh, and we usually practice about twice a week.

FJF: Do you think the Boston music scene is changing?

Cowgill: Well, we can definitely think of one guy who thinks it is (and we think we agree with him), and that’s David Day, who just left DigBoston to work full time on the Together Boston festival.  Which is coming up really soon – it’s from April 2nd through the 8th – and you should all check it out if you can.  It’s trying to be a SXSW for Boston with a bit of a more electronic skew.  So if they succeed, that should gradually push the music scene here in a more of electronic direction.  We’re not at all an electronic-y band at this point, with our pretty stereotypically folk rock instrumentation, but who’s to say we won’t pull a Radiohead and dabble in that later on?

But yeah, so our point is that we tend to associate Boston music with angry people, some Irish influences, and horns, and that’s probably changing somewhat.  And just having Brooklyn nearby is injecting a lot of indie rock awareness into our scene, and that plays more into our hands stylistically, so we’re pretty happy about that.  But then again, Boston also loses some of our bigger indie rock bands to Brooklyn.

Most importantly, we probably shouldn’t pretend like we’re qualified to answer this – sorry we didn’t warn you.  Paul’s musical life so far has been radio music until college, stereotypical college bands like Dave Matthews Band in college (and he’ll defend them to this day), and then for the past 3 years or so really getting into the indie scene.  And the deeper you fall into that rabbit hole (but it’s a nice, comfy rabbit hole), the more and more you get to know local scenes.  He’s still a beginner at that at this point.

FJF: If there are stereotypes associated with the Boston music scene, how do you think Cowgill negates that?

Cowgill: (…) how do we negate that?  Hmmm.  What we’re going for is taking all the indie rock influences we have, but adding in more energy and making the songs less mopey (no offense, indie rock, we still love all those songs).  Paul grew up listening to a lot of Motown and other oldies, and he thinks a lot of the great songwriters were really nailing it back then at making songs with surprising structures and chord changes but that were still catchy as shit.  So we’re humbly hoping for a renaissance of some of that.

FJF: What are your plans for after your CD release party?

Cowgill: The band will be touring the U.S. in August (tour dates not yet announced), recording Side Two of the album in the Fall, and promptly hitting the road again for a more extensive tour in support of the full album.  Before August, we’ll be filming some videos of us covering two songs that were the winners in this promotion we did during our Kickstarter campaign —  “Old Flame” by Arcade Fire and  “Common People” by Pulp.  So that’s gonna be fun – we’ll probably either shoot those in one of our apartments or in some cool weird spot around Boston.  And there should also be a music video on the horizon in the next couple months, assuming we can find a little money to make that happen.  We’re doing a kind of weird thing for a band, which is looking for investors instead of counting on a label for money for things like that.  So if that sounds like a cool thing to be a part of to any readers, shoot us an email!  10% interest!

FJF: What was the writing process like for the album?
Cowgill: We’re gonna drop the ‘we’ voice for a second and just let Paul answer this one:

“Plans” is probably the newest one, and that one was written in late July of 2011.  I’ll talk about how I wrote that one, but it’s about the same for all of them, minus the iPhone part (spoiler alert).  So I map out the verses, choruses, bridges, intros, outros, segues and all that crap first.  I really think quite a lot about what I feel to be the perfect amount of each and in what order.  And there are no lyrics at this point, and not even a concept yet, just a feeling.  Then I try to think of a concept that there hasn’t been a song about yet that I can think of, but one that still resonates some emotionally and that fits the feeling of the chords.  While I think about that, I play the chords for a while and mumble with melody lines, usually while having a beer in my apartment at night.  Here’s where the iPhone comes in.  That night I record a lot of repeats of each of the major guitar sections on Garageband, put them on my phone as separate pieces, then for the next few days, I ride around on the T whenever I need to be doing that (which is a lot, since I don’t have a car) and sing the melody and words in my mind, changing things around.  And whenever the sounds I make are like words that fit the story I want to tell in the song, I write them down in a notebook I carry with me.  But it’s important to me that I don’t look like a crazy person while I’m doing all this, so I don’t rock back and forth or actually make sounds.  That’s something weird that a lot of people do…haha, and they don’t even have the excuse that they’re writing songs.  Usually it all comes together when I get off the T – ideally it’s a sunny day – and there’s no one around and I can sing out loud what I’ve been imagining on the T.  And then whenever I see someone walking towards me, I’ll stop singing whenever they get within earshot.

After that’s all done, I bring my rough, self-indulgent little acoustic pieces to the band, and they make them sound lush and baroque and awesome. And that part always feels freaking amazing, when you hear it with everyone for the first time.

I think the oldest song is “The King of Wales”, (because) I finished that one my senior year of college in 2008.  That was a pretty Beatles-heavy time for me, which I think you’ll notice when you listen.  And actually, I started “Red Carpet” a year before that one, but I didn’t finish figuring out all the parts until right before I wrote “Plans” last year.  You can read more about some of this on (their Tumblr) if you check out the older posts.  And we’ll also post more of this kind of stuff on there about newer songs and about the ones on the record that we haven’t talked about yet pretty soon.

FJF: How did you decide on the first single?

Cowgill: It was really tough to decide.  There are five songs on our upcoming release, and first we ruled out the one that starts out as a ballad in a 6/8 time signature, (because) nobody wants any of that in their singles.  But then we still had to choose between the other four — a sorta weird one, two happy ones, and a faster angrier-feeling one.  We decided to go with the weirder one first ’cause we thought it might be the most intriguing one for bloggers.  The second single is gonna be one of the two happy ones.  But they’re all sorta weird and sorta happy (even when they sound angry sometimes), so that’s why it was hard to choose, haha.

FJF: Anything you would like to add?

Nope, we think we made this too long already…wait!  Sign up for our mailing list!  That’s the most important thing to us in the world, and if we’re gonna make a real go of all this, we need your help.  And that’s how you can help… And check out our website!  We’re gonna have a brand new sexy design up there in a few weeks .

Check it out!

http://cowgillmusic.com/.

http://cowgill.fanbridge.com/

A big thank you to Cowgill for their awesome, thoughtful responses. Hope to see you all at the Middle East Upstairs for the release. And you, and you, and you!