Today’s Feature, September 30th & October 1st: Evan Hillhouse

September 30, 2007 at 9:40 pm (Today's Feature)

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Looking for that fresh artist out on the scene to really sink your teeth into? A independent act that’s making music worth sitting down and taking in? Would you be interested in a musician who is producing melodies that relax your mind and please your eardrums? If you considered saying “yes!” to any of these, then look no further. Go out and buy an Evan Hillhouse CD.

Evan Hillhouse, whose self-titled debut album has received sparkling reviews, is an album just about any generation can appreciate, fusing together “warm 60’s inspired pop songs that are melodic and catchy.” But it isn’t just the music that you can appreciate about Hillhouse – this artist knows and appreciates the craft of making real music in an industry where image seems to be more important than actual talent. He puts it best – “There’s a lot of good stuff out there, but the artist has less and less of a role in the music-making… If you look good, we can auto-tune your voice and you can just mouth the lyrics when you perform live. In perspective, that’s crazy!” Evan wishes to have what most of us want out of the record business, “a means to bring good music to the public.”

Keep an eye out for Evan Hillhouse, for he is far from finished doing what he loves. Even at his young age, he is starting to help produce other artists and bands, as well as playing with them in live settings. But he’ll be starting his next solo project soon, and after all of the experience he’s gathered so quickly, it’ll be an album not to be missed. Read on for his answers to the XXQs.

XXQs: Evan Hillhouse

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get started in music?

Evan Hillhouse (EH): I got my start in music on my first birthday with a little Muppets drum set. I was influenced by my dad to be a drummer and musician from this young age. I had music lessons and heard inconspicuous playing of lullaby Beatle tapes while drifting off to sleep. Music was never not around, and I think if I had no musical talent I wouldn’t be the youngest child!

PEV: Growing up, who were you listening to and who helped shape your sound?

EH: Hmmm. When I was a kid (In no particular order) – The Beatles, The Doors, David Bowie, Tom Petty, CCR, John Lennon. More recently though- Sly, Jellyfish, early MJ, Radiohead, Jason Falkner, Stevie Wonder, Jon Brion.

PEV:  Tell us about the first live Evan Hillhouse performance.

EH: My first show is actually not a horror story (that comes later). I was probably 16 or 17 playing at a little place called Harmony Sweet in my home town. My band was a trio called The Shrines and we practiced up for months to do it. We brought all of our friends from high school and it went without a (serious) hitch. Now, I don’t know how good it actually was, but it was definitely fun to be in a band at that age playing your own songs to people who seemed to really like it.

PEV: What is the best part about performing live?

EH: I like the unique bonds that sometimes form between people you’re in a band with. It’s like everyone is on the same side, on the same page, trying to do the exact same thing. Nothing else really matters but the moment. And when people actually like what you’re playing, it’s even better!

PEV: What is the best part about performing live?

EH: Fun. It was still a pretty modest endeavor, and school never got in the way of the recording and vice versa. I was just taking it one step at a time. Sometimes it was like a double life though, I can remember one time I was up in the wee small hours doing backing vocal tracks to Reason to Live, and then getting up a few hours later to go to American Government. I was like, “What am I doing exactly?”

PEV: You recently graduated high school but had great success while you were still a student. What was it like being on such a large stage, traveling and getting your work out there, while attending high school?

EH: Let’s just say that my mom still goes to all my local shows. They’re all proud of what I’ve done so far.

PEV: How have all your family and friends reacted to your success?

EH: Haha. Thanks. If I considered it work in any way, I never would have been able to do it. It was just so much fun. I knew exactly what I wanted, and everyone involved helped me accomplish it and more. Looking back now with a little bit more experience, everything fell into place so easily, and I think it’s because we were doing it just because we wanted to. Not worried about who’s going to like it or if it was radio friendly. It was a personal challenge, and I’ll always have it as a milestone to look back on.

PEV: Your self titled, debut album, “Evan Hillhouse”, has been getting rave reviews. You not only wrote the entire album but play a majority of the instruments as well as produced it yourself. That seems to be a lot to take on at such a young age.

PEV: Today’s music tends to lack the talent and artistry that musicians like you take on, in creating their own work. What is your take on today’s music scene?

EH: Oooh…Dangerous waters. I think there’s a lot of good stuff out there, but the artist has less and less of a role in the music-making. Image is more important now. “If you look good, we can auto-tune your voice and you can just mouth the lyrics when you perform live.”  In perspective, that’s crazy! I guess it’s just a natural evolution, but the music business could be less of a manufacturing business, and be more of what it’s supposed to be- a means to bring good music to the public.

PEV: What can people expect from this album?

EH: You can expect warm, 60’s inspired pop songs that are melodic and catchy, and hopefully some ideas that you’ve never heard before.

PEV: In all your travels, which city, US or international do you think offers the best music scene?

EH: Well I was in Paris and there were these bad-ass French musicians playing in the train station I was in. I saw them a second time in the same day and approached them. One of them spoke pretty good English and I learned that they live by playing in public places and cafes and such. It blew my mind that they could support themselves through that kind of work, but I guess in France, you can.

PEV: What is the best and worst part about traveling on the road?

EH: The best part is, of course, seeing cool new places and people, the bad part is seeing not so cool new places and people.

PEV: What is one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Evan Hillhouse?

EH: Let’s see… I used to put on roofs during summer break for extra money. We’d work from like 7am-12pm replacing shingles, and then take off before it got too much over 100 degrees.

PEV: What kind of element do you surround yourself in when you sit down to write music?

EH: It has to be quiet, and usually something has to have just happened to me to write anything really good. I write really well with my older brother Erich- that’s where all the songs on the record came from. Those sessions were very prolific. It would be me sitting at the piano and him holding a guitar and we’d come up with titles or funny ideas and then go from there. Sometimes we would make the actual song title before any lyrics were written. The music was always the easy part, and that was square one for us. In fact, I think there’s a song that we forgot to put lyrics to.

PEV: Did you ever think that success would happen at such an early age for you? Is that hard to wrap your brain around?

EH: I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from people about this album, and I’m proud of that. I appreciate that they seem to like what I’m doing right now, and hopefully I can continue with what I love to do.

PEV: Is there an artist today that you would like to collaborate with?

EH: Well, I’m a huge fan of The Grays, and of both Jason Falkner’s and Jon Brion’s solo works. They inspired me tremendously, and it would be unreal if I ever get to collaborate with either of them.

PEV: Which up and coming artist today do you think we should all be listening to?

EH: Well, there’s this one artist that I play with, Jessica Callahan. She’s a singer-songwriter-pianist from Orange County who just made an amazing album with Rendezvous Records, and is just starting to tour and push her live shows. She’s asked me to play drums for her and she seriously gets better every show.

PEV: Who is on your iPod or in your CD player now?

EH: Well I don’t own an ipod, but in my CD player is Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall”. I’m just playing “Rock with You” over and over.

PEV: When you get a chance to relax and have some down time, what can we find you doing?

EH: Seeing a movie, reading a book, playing D & D with fellow half-geeks, listening to a friends’ bands or other live music, spending time with a friend or two.

PEV: In one word, describe Evan Hillhouse

EH: G-major

PEV: So, what is next for Evan Hillhouse?

EH: Well, big picture- trying to continue doing what I love. I’m getting into producing other artists and bands or playing with them in live settings, continue my formal training at CalArts next year, pursue my own solo project and start my next record. Right now though, I’ve got an English paper due Monday.

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Today’s Feature, September 28th & 29th: Cobra Starship

September 28, 2007 at 11:11 am (Today's Feature)

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If there ever was a band that was meant to be, that needed to exist, that united when the stars were set flawlessly, it would be Cobra Starship. Ever hear the story behind the creation of this musical force? Hell, this whole damn intro would be more entertaining and informative simply by telling the tale! Here’s the synopsis: Moving from Uruguay to the Bronx, Gabe Saporta realizes that he wants to be a rock star…He takes full-size leaps towards stardom, but also picks a lot of fights along the way…Gabe then finds himself lost! Leaving without meaning or purpose!…He decides to head for the “arid wastelands of the Arizona desert to contemplate his existence.”

This is where it gets exciting. One night out in the desert, Gabe is bit by a cobra, but not just any cobra. This cobra is unique – very unique. This creature came from the future on a starship to inform Gabe that there was no salvation for man, and that only the cobras will survive to see the world’s final days. This is how Gabe learned the purpose of his life – “to make sure mankind goes out in style… teaching hipsters to not take themselves so seriously and telling emo kids to stop being pussies.”

Thank goodness for that cobra. After these events, Cobra Starship materialized, taking the skills learned that faithful night to create a sound that is more than imaginative – it goes where it wants with unforeseen actions that arouse the eardrums and amuse the senses. That invention can be heard in all it’s majesty on their upcoming release, “While the City Sleeps, We Rule the Streets.” Gabe describes the album as pure entertainment, a party that was created with one goal in mind – to have as much fun as possible. The new record will be in stores October 10th; so buy it, prepare for world domination, and read their XXQs.

XXQs: Cobra Starship

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How did Cobra Starship first form? Alex Suarez (AZ): Well, when I moved to New York it just so happened I moved upstairs from Rob Hitt who was the drummer from “Midtown” and he is the reason why I and Ryland met him. Gabe met Nate when Nate was drum teching for the band “Armor for Sleep” and Victoria we found on MySpace (although we actually knew her before).

PEV: (Gabe Saporta) You moved to Queens [from Montevideo, Uruguay] at the age of four. You had dreams of being a rock star early on. What were the earlier musical days like for you?

GS: I grew up listening to hip hop and then I discovered Nirvana and it kind of snowballed from there… through Nirvana I found Superchunk, Pavement, Fugazi etc and I got more and more into punk rock.

PEV: Tell us what happened to you that night in the desert when you were bitten by the cobra.

GS: The cobra took me on an intergalactic journey and taught me how to dance… for a visual check out our video for “Send my Love the the Dancefloor, I’ll See you In Hell”.

PEV: Was there a certain time or event that you realized you wanted to make music a career?

AS: For me I wanted to since I was little. I used to lip-sync all the time to Motley Crew and Slaughter when I was really young because my brother was really into hair metal.

PEV: What was it like the first time you stepped into a recording studio? What was going through your head?

AS: The first time I stepped into a studio was actually at Full Sail in Orlando, Florida. I recorded there with my old band for my friends project. Thoroughly impressed with the set-up in a state of the art studio I was very nervous. Then they told me that SHAQ recorded his record in the same room on the same console…. Turns out he spilled a diet coke all over it that was the first thing they told us when I walked in… I’ve never been more nervous to ask for something to drink.

PEV: What can people expect from your latest release “While The City Sleeps, We Rule The Streets”? And how is different from other albums out today?

AS: Well, we take pride in not taking ourselves too serious and that is definitely reflected in our record. We wanted to create a party record that has 1 goal to accomplish. HAVE FUN!!!! Music is entertainment, we just want our fans to have a good time listening to our songs.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Cobra Starship performance?

AS: Tons of dancing, tons of sass, 5 good looking people shredding away and having the time of their lives right beside the people that count the most to them, the fans.

PEV: How has life on the road been for you and the band? What is the best and worst part?

AS: It has been intense. We have done every size tour possible which is amazing and we did it all in the first year of being a band; everything from small clubs to theaters small and large to arenas and amphitheaters. There is a lot of down time. On the Honda Civic Tour we had a shit load of down time so we decided to write another record on the road which Patrick Stump produced and will be releasing in the fall of 2007. The best part is the traveling; we just did a world tour with The Academy Is… and we literally went around the world from NY and back to NY. Being in this band I’ve gone to places I never thought I would go.

PEV: In all your travels, which city, international or in the states, do you think has the best music scene? As well which is your favorite to play?

AS: Canada has been amazing. Montreal and Toronto and Vancouver, all very, very awesome… We have always had a blast going there and will continue to I’m sure.

PEV: Who would you like to collaborate with that you may have not?

AS: T.I., Wanye Brady and Bill Paxton.

PEV: Is there an up and coming artist or band on the scene right now that we should all be listening to?

AS: RATATAT, Valencia,Uffie and Chromeo

PEV: When you write music, what kind of element do you surround yourself in?

AS: I’m not picky about that as long as there are creative people around me.

PEV: What was it like the first time Cobra Starship played live on stage?

AS: We actually did 4 songs at this small, small club in NY before we went to do our first real set at the Key Club in LA which was right before we did Jimmy Kimmel Live the same night as the premier for SOAP.

PEV: What is one thing we’d be surprise to hear about Gabe Saporta?

GS: I love cat tattoos.

PEV: What do all your friends and family back home think about your success?

AS: I get nothing but support.

PEV: When you are not writing, performing or traveling, what can we find you doing?

AS: sleeping, eating and always writing and recording at home.

PEV: What is it like to have your songs in such movies like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Snakes On A Plane? Did you like the way they were used?

AS: Totally. It’s pretty sweet because we are all huge Samuel Jackson fans and we were all mega fans of TMNT when we were little.

PEV: What is your take on the current American music scene?

AS: Is what it is. It’s different from when I was younger but still, if you tour a lot and try your best to put on a sweet show, kids will support you.

PEV: So, what is next for Gabe Saporta and Cobra Starship?

AS/GS: World Domination in ’08

For more information on Cobra Starship, check out http://www.CobraStarship.com

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Today’s Feature – September 26th & 27th: Ryan Weaver

September 26, 2007 at 10:54 am (Today's Feature)

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We all fall upon difficult times at some point in our lives – sometimes we stand back up the stronger, and sometimes we simply cannot rise after being driven down upon our knees over and over again. Some people need adversity – they need to fall in order to rise. In the case of Ryan Weaver, he has risen higher than anyone could have expected in the face of overwhelming hardship to live out his dreams as a beloved country singer.

Born in St Petersburg, Florida, to Kelly Weaver, his mother married Michael Weaver who adopted Ryan along with his brother Aaron, he soon learned what it meant to be part of a real family. Ryan and Aaron both went into the military and in 2000 Ryan was selected to attend flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama. It was around this time that he began to notice his talent as a performer. He would take that talent overseas to Germany, and eventually to Iraq in May 2003. It was in January 2004 however, that tragedy struck in Iraq and Aaron was killed in action.

While it would have been easy and expected of Ryan to turn away from the world, and run into darkness after losing the person closest to him, he instead stood his ground. He drove even harder toward his real dream, to stand at the apex of a colossal arena with 50,000+ chanting his name and singing his songs. He even found a way to turn his experience in Iraq into a positive – “The time I spent in Iraq brought me back to loving the normal every day things that I took for granted like running water, hot showers and going to bed in a safe and secure place. I found a great deal of inspiration for writing about those things that I never take for granted that meant even more when I was there, like family and friends.”

Ryan is busy living out his dreams today, and is making music that encourages others to do the same. Just check out his debut single, “Talkin’ Part”, written by Bev and Cliff Nelson, Dee Briggs and Doak Turner. It’s been featured on numerous country radio stations across the USA, including Sirius Radio’s New Country “Beyond the Buzz.” It’s a song about doing more than just talking about dreams and aspirations, but actually stepping out the door and doing something about them. It’s definitely a song Ryan can relate to. Keep an eye out for this rising country star, and get into his XXQ’s.

XXQs: Ryan Weaver

PensEyeView.com(PEV): How and when did you first get involved in music?

Ryan Weaver (RW): I actually began playing the violin in 4th grade, but had my singing debut in a 6th grade play called “Scrooge”. Played the lead character who broke his leg and wasn’t happy with Christmas.

PEV: Born in St Petersburg, Florida and later settling down in Floral City, what kind of music did you listen to growing up?

RW: We moved around Florida from the north to the east and finally in the west central area, and I was exposed to so many different genres. My oldest brother Steve played Journey and the Eagles all the time. As life changed, so did the music I predominantly listened to. Southern Rock and Classic Rock were mostly what I listened to as a child, then growing up as a teen I got caught up in the great hair band music and pop culture. I never really settled in to liking any particular kind of music until around 96 when I really started feeling a passion for country music.

PEV: When, where and what was the first live Ryan Weaver performance like?

RW: On the big stage, it was opening for George Jones at the Dothan Civic Center after winning a singing competition for a local radio station. We were allowed two songs, and I sang In Her Eyes, a song I wrote in Baghdad, then Save A Horse Ride a Cowboy. The radio station was passing out T-shirts when I was singing the first song- lesson number one for future performances, always have free stuff during the show for the crowd but they really got in to Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy, and I was definitely pumped up.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Ryan Weaver show?

RW: High, positive energy, and a very personable show, bottom line. I use to watch other bands and artists perform to learn from everything they do – still do. The one thing I always appreciated was when the performer was having a great time and being real. I’m no different than anyone out in the crowd, simply a person that has been given a little talent, drive and passion for being on stage making people both treasure life and forget about life struggles one song at a time. I want the audience to feel like they can be up there with me, part of my dream, and certainly last but not least, dancing and partying until they are so tired they can’t stand it.

PEV: Your debut single “Talkin’ Part”(written by Bev and Cliff Nelson, Dee Briggs and Doak Turner) has been featured on numerous country radio stations across the USA, including Sirius Radio’s New Country ‘Beyond The Buzz’. What was it like the first time you heard your music on the radio?

RW: The first time I actually heard myself on the radio was in 2004 with “In Her Eyes.” One of the local radio stations was doing a Christmas gift drive for the Soldiers deployed overseas and they were playing locally submitted music. I had my alarm clock set to the station and woke up to my song playing on the radio. I thought I was dreaming. If you could imagine the scene from the Wonders when they heard their song for the first time- think, me in my underwear dancing around my room calling my Mom completely ecstatic…It was amazing.

PEV: Was there a certain time or event that you realized you wanted to make a living playing music?

RW: I was tossing around the possibility when I was in Iraq in 2003, but when my brother was killed while we were both deployed in 2004, I realized life is just too short to let my dreams pass me by. Music has a way of reaching so many people, and I love to perform. Anyone that has ever seen my show can tell you I am at home and at peace on the stage. I just love it.

PEV: Describe to us the feeling of stepping into a recording studio for the first time. What was going through your head?

RW: I spent a great deal of time listening to the advice of a good friend of mine who is an artist and talented song writer in Nashville named Darby Ledbetter. When I walked in to the studio I felt prepared and full of nervous excitement. I was recording with some of the best musicians in Nashville, and though I was kinda star struck, I wanted to make sure I learned the most from the experience. The Army has a way of preparing you for the unknown. Keeping on an even keel is very hard in this business, but I can thank the Army for making that easier for me to do. I do get excited, but just like in that circumstance, I always try to use that energy to feed my performance rather than let it hinder the possibilities.

PEV: What do all your friends and family think about your music career success?

RW: Since most of my performances are all out of the state of Florida, my family heard a lot about what was happening, but until recently really didn’t have a real idea of where this is going and how fast. I put on a concert for the first time in my home town of Inverness, FL, and all of the family that could attend was there. My Mom and Dad were shocked. I graduated top of my class in flight school and they were proud, but this was completely different. They were really excited to see that I set out to be something most people just dream about and was well on my way toward achieving it. My Mom told me, “I’m so proud of the man you’ve become and I’m proud to call you my son. You have never fallen short when you put your mind to something, and you’re doing so well.” That’s a true testament to the great things they taught me growing up.

I have some of the most supportive friends with this that anyone could ask for. They are willing to make sacrifices to help me achieve my dreams, because they really do believe in me. They know where I came from and they saw me suffer in my darkest hour when Aaron died. They want this for me just as much as I do, which is really hard to believe sometimes and extremely humbling.

PEV: How has traveling on the road as a musician been for you? What are the best and worst parts?

RW: I love the road. I love going from place to place meeting new people. I can’t honestly say there are bad things about it- it’s all a matter of perspective. I look at it as part of my dream.

PEV: In all your travels, which city – in or out of the US, do you think offers the best music scene?

RW: Nashville is a lightning bolt charge every time I go there. You know there are so many dreams in the making and broken dreams just the same. I look at the first perspective like I am part of that wave, and the second perspective is what I use to challenge myself to work even harder. The talent you see in the Nashville music scene can range from new comers to people who have done and seen so many things. That wide span of experience is really invigorating. I can feel the energy when I get close to Nashville, and when I’m there it’s captivating. It gets in your veins and sets you on fire in a very positive way.

PEV: You were deployed to Iraq in May 2003, where you found inspiration to devote more time to songwriting. How did the time in Iraq affect your music?

RW: Country Music has a way of telling stories about down home values and good times that we all love. The things that mean the most to me and the things I want remember about life can be found in so many great Country Music songs. The time I spent in Iraq brought me back to loving the normal every day things that I took for granted like running water, hot showers and going to bed in a safe and secure place. I found a great deal of inspiration for writing about those things that I never take for granted that meant even more when I was there, like family and friends. Then, Aaron was killed, and it just re-enforced that inspiration even more. Some of the most wonderful thoughts come from hardship and heartache. There are very few Soldiers that haven’t experienced both over there.

PEV: Aside from writing when you were in Iraq, is there a certain atmosphere you surround yourself in when you sit down to write music?

RW: I like to be around people that share their ideas and have unique ways to look at things. It always feeds the idea train for songs and so many different ideas come together to make something special.

PEV: What can you say to all your fellow soldiers overseas right now that may be reading this right now?

America may not always believe in what’s going on over there, but I know America believes in Soldiers and supports you. Keep your heads down and get back. Last, but certainly not least…Be safe!

PEV: You’ve won several talent contests but one in particular landed you an opening gig for George Jones. What was it like to share a stage with such a celebrated artist like George?

RW: No other word than “wow” can describe it.

PEV: Is there one artist you would like to collaborate with you haven’t done so?

RW: Jeffrey Steele. That guy is incredible.

PEV: When you are not performing and you have time to relax, what can we find you doing?

RW: Spending time with friends and family.

PEV: What “up and coming” artist right now should people be watching out for?

RW: Without sounding cocky, me. I have a goal no shorter than 50,000+ in stadiums calling my name. Everyone that knows me has a true appreciation for my drive to be successful. I like to educate myself on every avenue that can take me to the top in a very competitive business the right way, the honest way. There is no greater compliment than having a fan tell me I’ve affected their lives in one way or another to be something more than they thought they could be. At that level, I have the ability to make a major difference to everyone that knows me- one fan at a time.

PEV: What’s the hardest part you about breaking into the music scene?

RW: The hardest part, without a doubt, is getting those who care deeply about my success to understand the business side of the music industry. Though I’ve learned to deal with what I prefer to call speed bumps, most that have become my biggest supporters take setbacks to heart. As an up and coming artist, you not only carry the weight of your dreams on your shoulders, but the weight of the dreams that everyone around you has. This is not an easy road, and it takes a great deal of work and perseverance. You just can’t do this if you really don’t love it. But, even as much as you love it, you have to be able to press the gas and jump the speed bumps with a smile and true grit.

PEV: What is one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Ryan Weaver?

RW: Wow. That’s a good one. I’m pretty open about who I am, so it’s really hard to surprise anyone with anything about me. Though the first time I take my hat off in a show and people see that I shave my head, it tends to be a surprise if they’ve never seen me before.

PEV: So, what is next for Ryan Weaver?

RW: Short term, I’m currently shopping for a record deal…We have a show in December opening for Montgomery Gentry and Trace Adkins. Long term(part of my “next,” but just down the road) CMT and CMA Music Awards…Can’t wait for the invite call because my fans and fellow musicians and artists want me there. We’re hoping that great things happen with this song and it writes the words to a much bigger success story. If you haven’t heard, the Promotions Only CD that gets distributed to a few thousand radio stations around the US, ‘Talkin Part’ is on it along with new stuff from all of the major Nashville acts… I was very excited and honored that Shadow Stevens out of Orlando included my song on it with the major artists in the business.

For more information on Ryan Weaver, check out http://www.WeaverCountry.com

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Today’s feature, September 24th & 25th: Natascha Sohl

September 24, 2007 at 10:50 am (Today's Feature)

Simply put, Natascha Sohl is the quintessential total package that most pop/rock female vocalists strive to be. She’s got the voice; she’s got the style, the talent and definitely the look. The UK-based bombshell understands the potential she holds, and is currently launching her attack on the American music charts with her sound that is best described as “Melodic Pop/Rock.”

Natascha realizes the music she produces is generally part of a male-driven genre, and takes in stride the fact that she has “all the boys to compete with.” She has however proven herself completely capable of holding her own, and her latest collection, “Dirty Little Word,” is just the latest example. The album, record with A-list producer and songwriter Russ Desalvo is aptly named – it contains that certain edge that so many rock/pop albums seem to lack in today’s scene, one that stands out even in a land dominated by male voices.

Natascha herself describes it as a “kick ass rock/pop album” with a “common thread” and “plenty to keep you entertained whatever mood you’re in.” Her hottest single off the record is called “Naked,” and it has been garnering attention everywhere (as you might imagine). When an artist like Sohl produces an album with hits like this, you know it’s a must buy. Keep an eye out for her upcoming music video for “Naked,” and be sure to check out her XXQs.

XXQs: Natascha Sohl PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get started in music?

Natascha Sohl (NS): Well I’d always had a strong interest in music growing up and I did try and write a couple of little songs when I was about 8 but I don’t think that counts. I was 18 when I finally decided enough was enough and I should get myself into a band. It was a bit scary but I’d had enough of watching other people and wishing it was me, so I found a couple of guys and we started a band!

PEV: Born just outside Paris, and moving to the UK, what was the music scene like for you growing? How did that impact on your musical style?

NS: I moved to the UK when I was only 9 months old so I don’t remember anything about the music scene in Paris. When I was little my parents used to listen to a lot of Queen, the Police, Supertramp, Dire Straights and things like that so I was surrounded by good stuff. Growing up I listened to a lot of stuff like Alanis Morissette, Pearl Jam, Sheryl Crow, Matchbox 20, No Doubt, Lenny Kravitz, Incubus, so I’ve always kind of liked a bit of rock really. I still love all that stuff and I just really try to be open minded about music. Butch Walker, Ben Folds, John Mayer, Gavin DeGraw, Mooney Suzuki and the Foo Fighters are some of the stuff I listen to, who I think are amazingly talented. Anyone who I really think has a real talent and passion for what they do in their playing or performance or writing influences me, and these guys have definitely influenced me in my writing and performing as I’ve grown. I think you can hear some of them as influences in my music but generally I try to not sound too much like anyone else, but if comparisons are made with any of these guys I’m not gonna complain!

PEV: What do you see as a major difference between the European music scene and that here in the states?

NS: I think there’s quite a bit of difference in the scene. There seems to be a trend for under-produced buzz bands in the UK who have one or 2 great singles, but then you get really let down when you listen to the rest of the album. The male singer/songwriter thing is quite big at the moment in the UK too, which is cool. There are some bands and artists who sound great on the record but don’t quite seem to be able to pull it off live, which is shame… I think that’s quite a difference in the US. It seems that some musicians in the US are prepared to work a little bit harder coz the competition is so huge, whereas in the UK there seem to be a lot of people who think that if they can play 3 chords and sing a little bit then they’re a rockstar! I don’t think that’s everybody Ð there are a lot of greatly talented people that come out of the UK too who are amazing live and have obviously worked really hard to be where they are, so deserve all the luck in the world. In the UK there seems to be quite a quick turnover of artists and bands that’ll make some money for the record company on 1 single and then you hardly hear from them again. There doesn’t seem to be much longevity in the UK, whereas I think bands in the US tend to stick around for a little longer.

PEV: What was it like the first time you performed live and when was it?

NS: Scary! It was about 9 years ago… I was opening for 2 other bands who had all gigged a lot before and had all been together for years. My band had been together for about a month! We didn’t even have a name yet and we did 4 covers Ð Message In A Bottle by the Police, Little Wing by Jimi Hendrix and Weak and Charity by Skunk Anansie (they were a huge and awesome band in the UK). My boyfriend at the time was organizing the gig so I’d begged him to put us on the bill but I don’t think he was expecting much. Apart from the guys in my band I had never sang in front of anyone, so I was petrified! When we walked onto the stage I couldn’t even look at the audience – I was staring off to the right somewhere hoping that people would think we were OK! By the first chorus I suddenly I got a bit braver and realized that the whole room had gone silent and were watching us. We got a massive applause and some gaping mouths from friends and family who had no idea I could sing. I loved it, but I was still petrified and when we’d finished I literally ran off stage!

PEV: Tell us what it was like the first time you stepped into a recording studio? What was going through your head?

NS: Again, really nerve-wracking. It was doing something with people I didn’t know who had a whole lot more experience than I had at the time and I just really didn’t want to let myself or anyone else down. It was the first time I’d ever recorded any of my songs and it’s a very different feeling singing in a studio than singing live. Also hearing myself recorded for the first time was very strange Ð I didn’t know I sounded like that. I had my band with me which was cool; we recorded our first demo – I think it had 4 songs on it.

PEV: When you write music, what kind of element do you prefer to surround yourself in?

NS: It depends really. Sometimes a couple of lines will come to me in the middle of the night or when I’m out so I just scribble them down anywhere. I usually arrange writing sessions though with my producer or my guitarist so I have time to get myself in the right mindset to be creative. I just generally like to be somewhere that you know you’re not gonna have too many interruptions so I can get my ideas down. Usually we’ll record things as we go, even if really roughly so we don’t forget anything that we liked.

PEV: What can we expect from your forthcoming album – Dirty Little Word?

NS: A kick ass rock/pop album! I’m really proud of it and everyone involved worked really hard. The songs are all very different but there’s still a common thread running through all of the stuff, so there should be plenty there to keep you entertained whatever mood you’re in! It’s got a definite rock and edgy feel to it.

PEV: How is music on Dirty Little Word different from your previous projects and how tell us about the creative process behind it?

NS: It’s different because as I’ve grown and evolved as a songwriter and musician things are bound to change. I’m sure I’m inspired by different things, music, events in my life now than with the first record. There are always different events that affect you at the time, so most of the tracks are fairly personal to me. I have had more life experiences so have a bigger set of emotions and experiences to write about. I think musically and lyrically the record sounds more grown-up than previous projects I’ve worked on. It has a more American feel and has an edgy sound to it. The process was a fairly long one, only because I wasn’t based in the US and was working with people who are. I spent about a year flying back and forth from the UK to do writing sessions, write a few tracks, go home, come back to record a few tracks and write some more, go home, blah blah blah. That’s how it went really until it was done! I normally spent a couple of weeks in the US at a time and we’d get as much done as possible in the time. It was a great experience and I was working with some amazing people, so it was a lot of fun.

PEV: How is the music on Dirty Little Word different from other music out today?

NS: I think the difference is that I’m a UK artist with a US feel to the record. This is different from a lot of other music around at the moment, certainly in the UK. The type of music that I’m doing seems to be a very much male-driven genre, so I’ve got all the boys to compete with. It seems be a lot more acceptable for women to have a more rock edge in the US, but in the UK at the moment girls are mainly very pop, acoustic or jazz/soul. I have tried very hard to not fit into to any musical trends and fads…I prefer to write what comes naturally in my own style. That way I’ve ended up with a record that I can be truly proud of and hopefully a lot of people will relate to it.

PEV: Your latest single Naked, off Dirty Little Word, has been getting a lot of attention. Did you think that it would be doing as well as it already is when you first heard the final take?

NS: I loved the song straight away! I thought the chorus sounded like a smash so I hope it works out that way. It has been getting a lot of great response so I’m really pleased.

PEV: In all your travels, which city has been your favorite to perform in? And which offers the best atmosphere for music appreciation?

NS: I don’t know really – I pretty much like performing everywhere! I love playing London too because it’s pretty much my hometown. People love live music in London and it’s close enough that I can get friends to the gigs, which is always great. New York is a cool city to play because there’s such a lively music scene there Ð there are a million music venues scattered about and the people love finding new music! I don’t really know where the best appreciation at shows is… I think people loving music is pretty universal. People in the UK do tend to jump around a bit more though I think.

PEV: Who would you like to collaborate with that you haven’t had a chance to yet?

NS: Wow, probably a lot of people! I would love to work with Butch Walker in pretty much any of his capacities. I’m not fussy! He’s an amazing musician, writer, producer and performer Ð definitely someone I look up to Ð so if I could write with him, have him produce some tracks and then go on tour with him I’d be very happy. I’d also love to have the chance to work with Dave Grohl; he’s just so ridiculously talented. Pink’s a great singer – it would definitely be cool to do something with her. I think she has a great voice and amazing presence.

PEV: In your opinion, who is an artist that we should all be listening to now?

NS: Natascha Sohl!!!

PEV: What’s something we’d be surprised to hear about Natascha Sohl?

NS: I used to want to be a bunny girl Ð before I really knew what that meant. And a mermaid.

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to your success?

NS: They’ve been amazingly supportive. I’m very lucky. My family is very involved and love music, which is great for me. I have some amazing friends who are so supportive and excited for me and are always there when I need them, and understand that my life takes me away sometimes. You know you have great friends when it doesn’t matter how long you don’t see them for, they’re always the same and you just pick up from where you left off.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Natascha Sohl show?

NS: To have a great time and hear some awesome music! I have an amazing band who kick ass so the show will be tight and loud and fun. I generally like to talk a lot of rubbish and try to get the audience involved too, so be prepared to jump and sing and clap and shake what you got!

PEV: How has life on the road and touring been for you? What is the best and worst part about “road life”?

NS: It’s great! I like it a lot, you get to go to all sorts of different places and play all sorts of different venues so there’s lots of variety! Playing is one of the best parts of the job Ð rocking out with my band is so much fun, especially when the audience is great and really getting into the set. It’s a really good feeling when you have people come up to you after a show and they just wanna say hello because they’ve had a great time. The bad bits are probably living out of a suitcase, so having to pack light (not easy for a girl!) and it’s hard to wash your clothes! Touring is a lot of fun most of the time so I try not to complain too much. The worst thing was when we stayed at this dive motel and I found three bugs in my bed. I wasn’t really going to sleep anywhere else, though at 4am, so I had to share.

PEV: What do you miss most about the UK?

NS: Friends and family really, and my house and just being able to chill out, make a mess and cook in my own kitchen!!

PEV: In one word, what best describes Natascha Sohl?

NS: Rockstar!!

PEV: So, what is next for Natascha Sohl?

NS: I’m just about to shoot a video for Naked which I’m really excited about. Making videos is fun. The director had some great ideas and has done amazing work in the past so that’s pretty exciting. Apart from that I’m just busy spreading the word. Trying to get out there as much as I can really Ð in every way possible.

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Today’s Feature, September 22nd and 23rd: Greg Johnson

September 24, 2007 at 12:55 am (Today's Feature)

If I ever find myself in the Los Angeles or New Zealand area, I know exactly who I want to give me the tour – the unceremonious, slick-tongued, and unruffled gentleman out of Auckland, New Zealand, Greg Johnson. Honestly I’ve never met the gifted musician, but simply listening to his lyrics and clever repartee, I know he’d show me what was really important about a town, as well as that corner pub that reeks of unreserved style.

If you’re wondering who Greg Johnson is, then you’re clearly not from New Zealand. Johnson is a household name there, the country where he has recorded several hit albums and has won numerous Tui Awards (the New Zealand Music Award), as well as the coveted Silver Scroll Songwriter’s Award. His time spent in New Zealand is probably part of the reason why he is such a refreshing voice and personality here in the states – he first started playing when he was 14 years old in Auckland, where his first shows included “a murder, a shooting, numerous beatings and a hippie thrown through a plate glass window.” If you can take these events in stride, then you must have a fascinating persona.

And Johnson does – he’s an interesting character, comparing the flow of his songwriting to “a head wound” and claiming that friends and family have reacted to his success with “law suites, abusive e-mails, hate mail, water bombs and horse-bites.” His music is just as intriguing – just listen to his latest works, “Me and Joanna” (Joanna is actually slang for “piano”), and “Anyone Can Say Goodbye.”

“Anyone Can Say Goodbye” is currently receiving noticeable critical praise as an album “laden with delicate pop craftsmanship and superb vocals, a record full of tales of love gone wrong, love gone right, and all the feelings in between.” It’s what one should expect from a performer so gifted with words. Keep an eye out for Johnson on tour around the U.S., but also keep your ears peeled for his tunes on the shows “The Hills” and “50 Pills.” Now, check out his XXQ’s.

XXQs: Greg Johnson

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get started in music?

Greg Johnson (GJ): I think learning the recorder was compulsory for all New Zealand School kids, so that was first, it just degenerated from there really.

PEV: What was the music scene like for you growing up in Auckland, New Zealand? How did that impact on your musical style?

GJ: Well it was the end of the new wave era when I got involved in bands as a 14 or 15 year old kid and Auckland was very violent. In my first few ever shows we clocked up a murder, a shooting, numerous beatings and a hippie got thrown through a plate glass window…I’ll never forget the blood and hair everywhere…of course that stuff never happens these days!

PEV: Was there a certain time or event that made you decide music is going to be a profession?

GJ: It wasn’t those early days! It began when I got offered 100 bucks a night to sing like Chet Baker and play the trumpet…old blues and the like. I thought, let’s see…5 shows a week meant only 15 hours work, 500 bucks cash and the boss pays for all our boozin’, which we are encouraged to do at work…no brainer really.

PEV: What was it like the first time you performed live and when was it?

GJ: Joseph and His Techni-Coloured Raincoat, in the choir, not really singing… Epsom Primary School, 1914

PEV: How is performing for the crowds in New Zealand different than that of the US?

GJ: Well the crowds in NZ are obviously a lot bigger at this stage, since I’m known there, and they expect me to play a lot of my back-catalogue, which I’m happy to do for them. But as a rule American audiences are more vocal and less drunk. Generalizing of course.

PEV: What was it like the first time you stepped into a recording studio? What was going through your head?

GJ: I honestly can’t remember the first recording sessions and it’s just as well. We were awful for a long time, not like the kids these days who can play Hendrix note for note at age 4 and have a second album in the Charts by Junior High.

PEV: When you write music, what kind of element do you prefer to surround yourself in?

GJ: It doesn’t matter where I am long as I have access to a piano…or maybe an acoustic guitar. When it flows it flows…it’s like a head-wound.

PEV: Is there one aspect to your music, be it the type of songs, acoustic/electric, range in vocals; you find yourself leaning towards more then others?

GJ: I love pop. Real pop…I’m a sucker for a strong melody. I simply don’t get music that doesn’t have melody. To me that’s a bloody drum circle. And lyrics…if you wanna say something, you better at least try to make it interesting!

PEV: What can we expect from your latest release, “Anyone Can Say Goodbye”?

GJ: All of the above, but wrapped in lush guitars, strings, pianos…with perhaps a little less bleeding.

PEV: How is music on “Anyone Can Say Goodbye” different from earlier works (Vine Street Stories, Chinese Whispers, Sea Breeze Motel, The Best Yet and Here Comes The Caviar)?

GJ: I’ve got such a great band now…two really. Ted Brown is my long time mate who moved from NZ with me, he plays guitars and sings backing plus we’ve co-written a few tunes. Sid Jordan and Malcom Cross from Minibar and the Pete Yorn Band are just exceptional players and same can be said for my NZ guys Wayne Bell and Mark Hughes. So, I’m spoilt for great collaborators and that makes the songs really come alive…I know they all like playing on them and coming up with parts and so on, even though the working conditions can be extremely harsh.

PEV: How is “Anyone Can Say Goodbye” different from other albums out today?

GJ: It starts off strong, the middle is really great and it ends on a high note! I’m not scared of iTunes people downloading my whole albums.

PEV: In all your travels, which city has been your favorite to perform in? And which offers the best atmosphere for music appreciation?

GJ: It’s hard to go past the hometown shows of course, but for sheer fun New York has the honors. The music appreciation award probably goes to the Mid-west states like Kentucky who are also home to some great radio stations.

PEV: Who would you like to collaborate with that you haven’t had a chance to yet?

GJ: Maybe Daniel Lanois or Tom Waits…or perhaps Lily Allen.

PEV: In your opinion, who is an artist to watch today?

GJ: Hmm…maybe a NZ band called Evermore, they got the pop. Or Brett Hool, a young folkish chap from LA.

PEV: What’s something we’d be surprised to hear about Greg Johnson?

GJ: At this stage of the interview, probably nothing would be a surprise. I like to read history, and I find talking shop with other musicians rather dull generally.

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to your success?

GJ: With law suites, abusive e-mails, hate mail, water bombs and horse-bites.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Greg Johnson show?

GJ: I try to make the shows entertaining. Ted is funny sometimes. God knows life can be dull enough without paying for it. The songs speak for themselves and we speak to the room.

PEV: How has life on the road and touring been for you? Any great stories?

GJ: My tours have generally been wonderful. We usually fly. I’m afraid of driving you see. There are always stories, plenty of stories and an occasional truth.

PEV: Describe the feeling of hearing fans sing along with you when you perform?

GJ: A blend of pride and horror!

PEV: So, what is next for Greg Johnson?

GJ: More touring in the US and elsewhere, more songs on TV, in commercials and at Diners…and start work on another record soon as well!

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Today’s Feature, September 20th & 21st: HOTBOX

September 20, 2007 at 9:53 am (Today's Feature)

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Every artist we feature on PensEyeView.com has a story to tell – something that pops out at you over everything else. Sometimes these artists are the next best thing… sometimes they possess a talent that is exceptionally unique… and sometimes a PensEyeView artist is just plain too good to be true. So what’s the story on Hotbox? A 5-piece band out of small-town USA, Westminster, MD consisting of Dave Wah, Mike Stewart, Matt Wood, Wesley Howard and Joel Miller; Hotbox is a band, a sound and a sensation that’s hard to explain.

Simply put, these guys don’t have just one story. Much like the music they make, their story contains several ingredients that are integral to the final product. I have been to Hotbox shows before, and their performance calls on so much from the senses. The percussion will put your feet in motion, but before you can concentrate on your next step, a lyric will seize your thoughts. You’ll freeze, but that’s what makes their shows so great – that and the fact Wah himself refers to the events as simply “really big parties.”

I suppose this is what I enjoy most about Hotbox – the close attention to lyrics. While they work hard to produce an enjoyable beat, they’ll also connect with your experience (a reliable technique to ensure that your time at the show is remembered). While some musicians may neglect to write something meaningful, Hotbox focuses on understanding…on “observations on life and contradictions of every sort.”

Keep an eye out for Hotbox and if you’re in the Baltimore area, check them out at the 8×10 in Federal Hill on September 21st. Go ahead and get into their XXQ’s, but also check out how Hotbox describes themselves below. It about sums up what I was trying to say about having more than just one story.
“Hotbox… it’s like Jay-Z and Pete Wentz fronting a band with a voice like Paul Simon with a drink in his hand… it’s the soundtrack to a party put on by Sublime, with rhythms best fit for mosh pits and drum lines… two helpings of arrogance with depression on the side… it’s the truth you can shake your ass to…” Check out their XXQs…

XXQs: HOTBOX (Dave Wah)

PensEyeView.com (PEV)How and when did you first get into music and how did the band form?

Daivd Wah (DW): We all got into playing music at different times… Wesley and Joel started in a drum line together as kids, Stewart’s been playing guitar forever, and me and woodrow started playing about 4 years ago.

PEV: Was there a certain time or event that you realized that music was what you all wanted to do as a career

DW: When I recorded my first shitty little CD a few years ago and people actually listened to it…

PEV: What artists would you compare your band to

DW: No one else. I’m not sure how the rest of the band feels, but I truly believe that the music we are making now has more value than anything out there right now… the main difference in our music is the lyrics, and the energy of our live show. I think most bands don’t take the time to write at all, or take the time to write something clever or even remotely meaningful.

PEV: You’re from smalltown USA, Westminster, MD. Did that have any affect on your music

DW: Yeah definitely. We grew up with some pretty f**ked up individuals, we’re close to the city and to the country, so we’ve seen it all. When you come from a small town, you either embrace it and join the community or you despise it and yearn for more.Our music describes our lifestyle and our experiences, and I think a lot of people can relate to it…

PEV: You have a pretty loyal following in the Baltimore area. Have you heard/seen the groups called, “HotBox rocks my panties off” Thoughts ?

DW: I haven’t heard of any of that. I just think people like to sing along and dance to our music. Our shows are really just big parties.

PEV: You describe your music as “Like Jay-Z and Pete Wentz fronting a band with a voice like Paul Simon with a drink in his hand.” How’d you come to that

DW: I thought it was clever when I first came up with it. It just sounds stupid now. The lyrics have a hip-hop feel to them, not in subject matter, but similarities rhythmically and in the way they describe a lifestyle, plus I’m not afraid of saying “f**k you”… combine that with the sing along melodies of a band like FOB, without the whining. The Paul Simon part describes the fusion of different styles of music

PEV: Do you remember the first live performance you ever did

DW: Our first Hotbox show was the shit… we had all been in successful bands before, so it was packed… just a lot of energy and a lot of hype.

PEV: What’s the hardest part you face breaking into the music scene right now

DW: What music scene?

PEV: When you aren’t writing or performing, what can we find you doing

DW: Sleeping… or thinking about writing and performing, or studying what other people are doing, it’s really an unhealthy obsession.

PEV: Is there a certain atmosphere you surround yourself in when you write music

DW: Not really… it just kinda hits me. I get a pain in my chest and just have to write something… it’s like creative heartburn.

PEV: What do all your friends and family think of HotBox

DW: I’m pretty sure all our friends love it. Wesley’s parents love it, Stewarts parents came to a few shows… my dad’s never heard me play.

PEV: If you could collaborate with one artist, alive or deceased, who would it be and why

DW: Probably Jesse Lacey from a band called Brand New… he’s a true artist, not a lot of musicians/songwriters can honestly say that these days. His lyrics are pure poetry. I would’ve said Bob Dylan in his prime, but we have such different styles, i don’t think we could relate.

PEV: If I were to walk into your house right now, what is one thing I would be surprised to find

DW: A bunch of boxes, cuz I’m getting kicked out.

PEV: There are heated debates about offering free music online. What is your opinion

DW: Take it. When you write it, the song is still yours… then when you play it for people, you’re sharing it… once you record a song, it belongs to whoever wants to hear it… I’d be lucky if a couple million people wanted to hear my songs…

PEV: What can someone expect from a live Hotbox show

DW: You’d kinda have to ask a fan about that. Our experience at shows is sooo different from the experiences of the people on the other side of the mics.

PEV: What is the best part about playing live

DW: Having people sing the words back to you.

PEV: Is there an upcoming band or singer right now that you think we should be looking out for

DW: Besides us, no one else really comes to mind. The band might have a different answer, but they’re a little more respectful than me.

PEV: The most embarrassing moment for Hotbox was?

DW: Nothing too bad yet. I guess if you call waking up broke everyday, breaking our backs to play shit gigs, dreaming for a future like a four year old at Disneyworld embarrassing, then I am the American Embarrassment.

PEV: What would you say are the main themes found in your music and songs

DW: Observations on life and contradictions of every sort… I’m cocky in one verse and suicidal in the next. I write about love but I also write about one night stands. I write about partying, but I also talk about how lame it is. I call a lot of people out, including myself.

PEV: So, what is next for Hotbox

DW: We could be famous in a year or I could be dead tomorrow…

For more information on HOTBOX, check out http://www.MySpace.com/hotboxhotrock 

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Today’s Feature, September 18th & 19th: Matt White

September 18, 2007 at 9:48 am (Today's Feature)

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Matt White has been the focus of a lot of comparisons in the music industry as of late. He’s been called the “American James Blunt,” and “The Next Face of Pop,” and listening to his latest work, “Best Days,” the accusations seem fairly precise. I had a chance to talk to Matt and really got validation on the fact that “Best Days” has been the only CD in my car for the past month. Even after hours on a plane, White was upbeat and eager to talk. He’ll joke that people tell him he talks too much but frankly, this is the kind of interview I love…and no, he can never talk too much.

Just eavesdrop on the title track and you’ll understand. Its fast-paced upbeat and enriching sound can turn around just about any pessimistic mood, but then again, simply being a fan of Matt White should provide you with a healthier disposition. This guy is the type of artist you want… rather, the type of artist you need to cheer on. He is the kind of musician that wants to be on that stage every night; that plays and thinks about music every waking minute of the day not because he has to, but because he wants to. If the day comes that Matt White doesn’t satisfy his audience, I guarantee he won’t find sleep for a week.

In order to completely understand how much White loves his craft, you must witness him practice it in person. He’ll tell you, “I don’t think there is any bad part about playing live. I don’t understand how people don’t…I mean, if I take a week break, I start going crazy. Even when I’m off, I’ll just take my guitar down to Sidewalk Cafe or Bitter End and just play.”

“Best Days” is garnering fantastic reviews and the music world has honestly been waiting for its release with great anticipation. White admits the album was written while he was still in college and a majority of the record does contain many college themes. However, themes about refusing to grow up, “being young and doing things you can’t do when you have responsibility,” is the kind of music I want to hear! It’s the kind of sound that anyone can appreciate; anyone can connect with.

Buy the music of Matt White right now and keep the receipt. That way, when Matt does indeed become “The Next Face of Pop,” you can tell your friends you knew about him before he was a gazillionaire. And check him out live while you can still get a ticket, for “There is something explosive that happens on stage that can’t be put on an album.”

XXQs: Matt White

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get started in music?

Matt White (MW): My whole family is real musical. My sister is a violin teacher, my grandmother was the first female orchestra leader, so it was always kind of in my blood. I’ve played piano since I was three…it was always in the back of my mind, throughout my life.

PEV: Growing up what kind of music were you into?

MW: I was definitely into more classic rock. Obviously I was in to Bruce Springsteen, since I was born in Jersey. It’s kind of what happens when you’re from there. I really loved Zeppelin and the Stones. I really got into Tom Petty and into the 70s and 80s kind of record making. Really got into at one point, Amy Lou Harris. I never got into the whole Poison, kind of 80’s thing though…but I did like Guns N Roses…who doesn’t right?

PEV: Tell us about the first ever live matt White performance?

MW: Um…I really don’t remember…As far as the first time I really had to play as a musician and a performer and not a piano player, it was definitely very intimidating and I remember being sickly nervous. I kept thinking to myself constantly, that if I have to do this every night of my life I don’t know how I am going to survive. But then it became easy and you kind of thrive on it. Every night I’m not performing it drives me crazy. The first time sitting down and playing piano and singing guitar you have to remember not to be too close to the microphone and then the guitar hits the mic stand…there are so many things you don’t think of . It’s like being a professional athlete by nature it just takes practice.

PEV: “Best Days” it getting rave reviews and you are already being the called the American James Blunt. What can people expect from “Best Days”?

MW: I wrote it when I was in college. A lot of the themes are like…I mean, no one ever really grows up…everyone is still the same. The theme of Best Days is about being young and doing things you can’t do when you have responsibility. There are songs addressing things like young relationships and infidelity to being spontaneous and being young and in love. It is definitely a romantic album I definitely don’t feel like an angry punk band (laughs). Best Days is definitely about love and relationships. Being in love is the most important process and drives what you want to be.

PEV: You mention that a lot of the album is about relationships. I’ve read that a lot of the ex-girlfriends want to claims there name to the songs-

MW: Yeah, it drives me crazy, they all think they are about them! One girl will say this or that…Some of them are about certain instances some are based around certain things but there are certainly parts that are true.

PEV: With the album coming out and with the song on the “Shrek the Third” soundtrack, what has been the last year like for you?

MW: The last year has been amazing! I love being on tour. Love to just kind of meet people and sometime I talk too much…or that’s what people tell me (laughs). I love to perform and that is what I’m looking forward to with the album. I just want to hit the road and perform over and over and not stop. When you are musician, it is like getting a hamburger every night, you just love to do it and look forward to it all day.

PEV: What do you like to do when you get a time to relax and chill out?

MW: I don’t know…Playing piano… and guitar I guess. It’s difficult to relax since I find myself at inopportune times having melodies come to me and I have to get them out. I think when you are a musician as your profession it is kind of your life.

PEV: What is your creative process like?

MW: Definitely always jotting notes down, jotting themes down, and melodies are always popping into my head. I have a tape recorder I bring around with me.

PEV: Is there up and coming band right now that you think we should be paying attention to?

MW: Someone up and coming that you should be listening to? Oh, there are so many great ones. There’s a band The Last Goodnight, I just did a show with those guys. Rooney, is a band on Geffen that just did their second record. John McLaughlin…Those are the ones off the top of my head.

PEV: Has there been someone that you have not gotten a chance to collaborate with that you would like to?

MW: Definitely Bruce Springsteen of course. A lot of his music has shaped the way I write. Plus being from Jersey…but even if I wasn’t I think he is just great.

PEV: You talk about the last year being so crazy for you, how has your friends and family reacted to your success?

MW: They’re very excited! It is a very, very, very exciting process and time. And I just want to live each day like it’s the last and perform each day. Of course I have to rest. But it’s what I love to do.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Matt White show? MW: Lots of fun, lots of intensity and musicality. Talk between songs too. Just a great bunch of people that come out and perceptive to music.

PEV: What is the best and worst part of playing live?

MW: Everything! There is not bad part about playing live. I get to play with my band. I don’t think there is any bad part about playing live. I don’t understand how people don’t…I mean, if I take a two week break I start going crazy. Even when I’m off, I’ll just take my guitar down to Sidewalk CafŽ or Bitter End and just play.

PEV: What is the best part about the New York music scene?

MW: It’s everything there. There are so many remnants of so many eras all around. New York is definitely a melting pot and definitely a fun place to live and see.

PEV: All of your touring what has been your favorite place to play and what offers the best appreciation for music?

MW: I love Nashville. I love Nashville because in Nashville there are so many unique musicians who play like petal steel and lap steel guitar… It’s just a great environment and great players.

PEV: When you sit down to write, what kind of environment do you surround yourself in?

MW: Any environment. Sometimes I’ll be in an airport and something will pop into my head. And I’ll get out my guitar like a street busker and just play what is in my head.

PEV: What’s one thing that we would be surprised to hear about Matt White?

MW: I like to cook. I’m not that good at it. Not many people like it but I do (Laughs).

PEV: How is life on the road been for you?

MW: Great! I love hotels. I think you are either built for it or not and I always was.

PEV: So, what is next for Matt White?

MW: Next for Matt White is touring as much as I can for the album. Then going and making another one.

For more information on Matt White and Best Days, check out http://www.MattWhiteMusic.com 

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Today’s Feature, September 16th & 17th: Fertitta & McClintock

September 16, 2007 at 6:26 pm (Today's Feature)

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So what did you do at your last high school reunion? You probably had some punch, wore a silly “Hi, My Name Is” name tag, maybe even ran into an x-girl or boyfriend that just had some beneficial reconstructive surgery. All in all, it probably wasn’t that eventful. It wasn’t as if some reunion was going to turn into a life-altering event or something.

In the case of Fertitta and McClintock, that’s not exactly true. These high school pals who first found success in the 1970’s have reunited today nearly 30 years later to resurrect the sound they left behind decades ago. In 1977, the pair signed a publishing deal with Island Music and subsequently a record deal with the legendary Clive Davis and Arista Records. Having the opportunity to be produced by multi-platinum producers Fred Mollin and Matthew McCauley, it seemed the duo were well on their way to rousing commercial success. However, that scenario never came to fruition, the record fell through, and the friends parted, going into careers writing songs for movies and TV, commercial jingles and other recording acts. But today…it’s a different story.

The record that was never supposed to exist has been created, and it’s fittingly called “After All This Time.” It’s an album that recognizes their passions of the past, as well as the experiences they’ve gained since then.

XXQs: Fertitta and McClintock

PensEyeView (PEV): How and when did Fertitta and McClintock form as a band?

Steven McClintock (SM): We started playing together in high school…in a band called JOBE. It had two lead singers…David and I…and that was unique at the time. We started making money at it together about 3 years later in Houston…we had the best gig…great money, great hours, great audience and 5 nights a week! No set up or tear down…I loved it.

David Fertitta (DF): Actually the first real version of Fertitta and McClintock was formed around 1974. Steven originally replaced a member of a trio that I had performed with for several years in Beaumont, Texas called David, David, and John…after the summer of ’73 we lost one of our members to college at Notre Dame…that’s where Steve joined the band…it was a short lived trio but Steven and I saw right off the bat that we had a really unique blend with our vocals and loved what we heard …he and I pursued work together as a duo in Houston which we did for about two years…at the end of that stint together I moved to Los Angeles in the summer of ’76 and Steven went on to play in another duo that toured Texas and had a gig in San Jose as part of the tour…over the Christmas holidays of ’76 I went back to Texas to visit family and ran into Steve there…we discussed reuniting at that time and decided to make a effort to make a go of it in Los Angeles. Steven moved to LA in January of ’77 and that was the beginning of Fertitta and McClintock the west coast version.

PEV: Growing up in Beaumont, Texas and both of you having gone to the same high school (Forest Park High School), what was the music scene like in Beaumont growing up? How did Texas music help shape your sound?

SM: Well growing up in Beaumont was actually cool. David lived across the street from Johnny and Edgar Winter. We would peek at them through the fence and listen to their rehearsals. It was a ball…we also had the influence of Janis Joplin…which I got to see rehearsing in Terrell Park when I was about 12 or so. I thought she looked like a witch…I remember it so well. There were great players everywhere and every kind of music possible. When I was about 13, I would occasionally go over to Lake Charles and see blues bands…just a skip across the Texas border into Louisiana. But really none of that led to Fertitta and McClintock’s vocal sound, but it sure gave us lessons in what was great!

DF: I would say that you did one of two things growing up in Beaumont, Texas…you either played sports or you played music…obviously Steven and I chose music…I can’t say that the music scene in Texas really shaped our sound…we were more influenced by Crosby, Stills Nash and Young, Doors, Beatles, Hendrix, Dan Fogelberg, Eagles, a shit load of groups mostly from every where else but Texas.

PEV: What was it like the first time Fertitta and McClintock stepped into a recording studio together?

SM: We never got to record together in Texas…it wasn’t until we got out to California AND already had our record deal that we got into the first studio together. I want to say it was Sunset Sound in Hollywood…but I could be wrong.

DF: Well all I can remember was hearing that sound that we knew we made in our live performances played back at us and hearing the magic of the blend come to life.

PEV: Tell us about the first ever, live Fertitta and McClintock performance?

SM: Boy…you are making me think! Holiday Inn off of Interstate 10 in Houston? I think that was it…a dumpy bar where we could practice and get tight. I remember they wanted country music and we had NONE!

DF: Hard to say it was so long ago but I can bet it must have been great.

PEV: Was there a certain point that you realized music was going to be a profession rather than a hobby?

SM: I think from the moment I first ever played in front of people I knew….in fact I never ever though of it as a hobby. It was always a career path for me with plans and goals.

DF: I knew music was going to be a profession very early on. Started playing guitar at age if 11 and writing and singing songs always imagining it was what I was going to do…music was like religion to me…its what I retreated to everyday after school in my bedroom…listening to records and picking out songs…trying to copy all the great music from the 60’s.

PEV: In the late 70s, after a bad music deal, Fertitta and McClintock as a group split and went there own ways. Did you think at that time that was the end of making music together?

SM: For sure…I never wanted to play with him again…and I think the feeling was mutual. I didn’t dislike David…I was just ready to move on.

DF: Yes, I never dreamed it would happen again

PEV: What can fans expect from your CD “After All This Time”?

SM: A great collection of songs…well written, well thought out lyrics, strong harmonies, interesting duo unison lines. Our thing is singing unison on lead lines…which creates it’s OWN sound…not my sound nor David’s…but both of us creating something new. We do it better than anyone I think.

DF: Well it’s produced in the retro style of the late 70’s very big…not necessarily what you would hear in one of our live performances…but we decided to make the record the way it would have been made back in ’79 when we were signed to make the album for Arista records…but the sound is still there and the songs…14 great songs

PEV: How is “After All This Time” different from other albums out today?

SM: Well…it is completely melodic…not a bad song on the CD…it has the vibe of the late 70’s/early 80’s but the sound quality of today. I know there are other CDS that have the same vibe…but no other duo doing what we are…and there are some great ones out there now.

DF: Great songs…great sound and it’s ours and there is only one Fertitta and McClintock.

PEV: What do you hope people can take away from “After All This Time” and tell us about the development of this CD?

SM: I hope they hear the sound we created long ago and “get it”. We have a pretty strong fan base in OC and when they come out to see us…they “get it”….and it feels great. That was one of the cool things about finishing this CD with Fred Mollin. He was our producer hired by Clive Davis back in 1978…Fred got it and new exactly what to do with us…28 years later.

DF: They can take away a CD that you can listen to over and over and never get tired of it…everyone always has favorite tracks from a CD…I have found that mine change on this CD from listen to listen….which frankly surprises me as I tend to be very critical

PEV: As a duo, tell us about the creative process behind your music?

SM: I write…David writes…and we write together…the creative process REALLY comes when we decide to DO one of our songs in the set…the vocal parts, the guitar parts…how they work together…that is the fun part for me. We do a few covers too for fun sometimes or to just shake it up a bit….and the harmonies and our “thing” we do is obvious in those songs as well.

DF: No creative process…its something that just happens for us…we do our practicing in front of an audience.

PEV: Not many groups can say they have been together for as long as Fertitta and McClintock. What do you think is the secret to retaining a positive and productive musical connection?

SM: 26 years apart…Ha! Well it’s true. We are fresh NOW because we never really got to finish what we started…so it is all brand new to us still…better than ever.

DF: Breaking up for 26 years…

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Fertitta and McClintock?

SM: Got me there…maybe that we are completely opposites. But isn’t every great partnership somewhat like that?

DF: That we are really in our 50’s…I know you probably thought that we were still in our 20’s.

PEV: If you could collaborate with one artist, alive or deceased, who would it be and why?

SM: Irving Berlin…he could write anything. Second one would be Paul Simon or John and Paul from the Beatles…not that I had to tell you who they were…These guys were the best at what they did and proved it again and again.

DF: That is next to impossible to answer because there are so many…but if I don’t stop to think and say the first artist that come to my mind it would be Hendrix…why Hendrix?…do I really need to explain that?

PEV: What is the best part about playing live?

SM: It is when the parts we are singing create that magical third part harmony…making the sound even thicker and more rich…I love it when it happens and when the audience hears it…they don’t always know what just happened but they know they felt something. It is pretty cool for me.

DF: It can be magical…everything happens spontaneously and you get surprised all the time.

PEV: How has life on the road been for you? What is the best and worst parts about road life?

SM: Life on the road is just that…LIFE! You can make it good, bad, better or worse…it is all about the next gig…so how bad can it really be?

DF: Hell if I know…

PEV: What do all your friends and family back home think about your success?

SM: They love it…they are just as excited today as they were in 1978 when we got our first record deal with Arista. We played last November in our home town to a sold out audience and could do NO WRONG. We are heading back for a two week Texas tour again this November…I am really looking forward to it…Austin, Kerrviille, Houston, Dallas and Beaumont.

PEV: Between traveling and performing, what can we find each of you doing in your free time?

SM: I have no spare time…I am doing music all the time, raising two kids, producing, writing….busy with it all and loving it.

DF: Writing… as of late working on my new place I am trying to get ready to move into…making my way to the gym to swim and exercise.

PEV: Which city has been your best to perform in and why?

SM: Without a doubt…Newport Beach California…we honed our skills there at a time when people really wanted to hear something different and refreshing…I think we offered that.

DF: They all are good as far as I am concerned…it’s always fun to play back in our hometown because that’s like a high school reunion for us….but I love the audiences every where we play.

PEV: Is there an upcoming artist right now that you think we should all be listening to now?

SM: Yea…Fertitta and McClintock! I don’t know…I really like Tom Baxter from the UK…or Shiny Toy Guns from LA…both very different than us but one thing in common…good songs.

DF: Yes…Fertitta and McClintock

PEV: What do all your friends and family back home think about your success?

SM: They love it…they are just as excited today as they were in 1978 when we got our first record deal with Arista. We played last November in our home town to a sold out audience and could do NO WRONG. We are heading back for a two week Texas tour again this November…I am really looking forward to it…Austin, Kerrville, Houston, Dallas and Beaumont.

DF: Very, very jealous…just kidding….they thinks its great and long over due.

PEV: So, what is next for Fertitta and McClintock? SM: It is simple for us. We want to get this record heard, play more shows, make a few dollars from sales and licenses to pay back everyone and THEN make a new CD. The next one is going to be more acoustic with strings…maybe we can get Jimmy Webb to orchestrate it for us…that would be a lifelong dream for both of us. My hope is that we could use Fred Mollin again. Since recording us, Fred took the gig at Disney Records in LA as the VP of A&R…so he is a busy man…

DF: Promoting this CD and making our way back into the studio for a second album.

For more information on Fertitta & McClintock, check out http://www.FertittaAndMcClintock.com 

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Today’s Feature, September 14th & 15th: Matt Stamm

September 14, 2007 at 9:49 am (Today's Feature)

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Matt Stamm is one lucky musician… but lucky in the best of ways. Allow me to explain – every day, millions of people sitting on sites such as MySpace view thousands of artists working on their harmonious craft and decide that a career in music is what they want. Every day, artists of some kind are born – most of which you’ll never hear of. This is generally due to a lack of talent, but sometimes a lack of opportunity is at fault, or a lack of experience.

Matt Stamm is lucky because he’s been able to absorb the kind of knowledge that makes a true musician successful. Growing up in upstate New York, Stamm took to music at a young age, but didn’t begin to take his skill seriously until he arrived at Boston University and met roommate Charlie Diego. As Stamm’s talent matured, he met Jon Hartstone, and thus The Perfect Candidates were born. These valuable experiences continued to contribute to the formation of Stamm’s current sound, including one tough night at The Kells Pub in Boston, where his first live performance turned out to be a sour but valuable lesson.

Today, Matt is on his own and has recently released his EP, “Where Do We Go?” Building off of the 2005 release, “I Could Be Happy Here,” Stamm calls this collection his strongest one yet – “the song writing is at a new level, the production is top-notch (thanks to producer Russ Desalvo),” and thanks to work with renowned vocal coach Don Lawrence, Matt is “the strongest he’s ever been vocally.”

Look out for Stamm around New York City in venues such as The Bitter End, The Lion’s Den, Makor, and The Living Room, and even gigging with The Rideaways on keyboard. Go ahead and get into his XXQ’s at PensEyeView.com

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Today’s Feature, September 12th & 13th: The Pat McGee Band

September 12, 2007 at 9:43 am (Today's Feature)

pmbfeat.jpgFortunately for me, I’ve lived my whole life right around the roots of the Pat McGee Band here in that teeming area around the capital beltway, somewhere in between DC and Northern VA. It’s because of this that I have to continually remind myself that not everyone knows who the feel-good band is around here. The Pat McGee Band is that group that makes the work week seem like a distant memory, providing melodies to sing along to with a smile on your face that hangs around so long, it begins to hurt to keep up.

The band knows this is what their audience is craving, “to smile no matter what kind of day they’ve been through.” The Pat McGee Band formed in March of 1996, and really hasn’t looked back since. Their latest work, “These Days (The Virginia Sessions)” was produced by Todd Wright, a former member of the band. Pat himself will tell you that “He (Wright) was the first producer that ever ‘got’ what we are about and what our fans love about us.” Add to that the fact that Pat feels the album contains his best songwriting yet, and you’ve stumbled across a collection of songs “you can simply leave on repeat.”

While relaxing away an afternoon with the Pat McGee Band in your stereo sounds just about perfect, you should really get out to see a show. After all, this is a band known for their performances – always different, always fresh, and will always “leave you with a few tunes stuck in your head.” The guys will be out on tour with Josh Kelley all over the U.S., so check for a date near you, and look over their answers to the XXQ’s at PensEyeView.com

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