Today’s Feature – September 26-27: Marc B

September 27, 2008 at 12:10 am (Today's Feature)

Marc B isn’t pulling any punches. He makes music for surfers. Period. Some of you out there may say to yourself:

“Well, that’s a good way to narrow down your market and audience.”

Buuuuuut, hold your judges gavel for a moment. Marc’s musical reasoning is clear – he’ll tell you, “Surfing is a sport, pastime, addiction, hobby, passion. All those. But it’s also a way of life.” See? It makes sense. But his motivation comes from more than just his love of riding the waves. He does the work for himself, his friends, his family. He isn’t making music to please a label or to “make it” in the industry. His goal is to simply “get his product in the hands of the influencers.”

Marc’s “fresh beats and ocean-inspired melodies blend with free-flow lyrics as crisp as lettuce. Think Jack Johnson, but with a DJ and a lot more sand in his bed.”  It’s like a collision of roots, rock, reggae and jazz. The March 2008 released “The Yellow Jelly E.P.”  smacks of Marc’s casual style – something to take in whether laying on the beach or boozing at a house party. Speaking of parties; that’s the ideal spot to catch a Marc B live performance. Just make sure it’s a big party – Marc thrives off the energy of more and more listeners. For now, he’s heading off to Costa Rica and then Hawaii to play for the North Shore during the Triple Crown of Surfing. Sounds like my kind of life. There’s a lot more to learn in the XXQ’s, so dive on in.

XXQs: Marc B

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Tell us, how did you first jump into the music industry? Was music always an instant passion for you? Any hesitations?

Marc B (MB): I try not to deal with the music industry.  I make music, but I run it like a clothing company in the Surf industry, getting my product in the hands of the influencers.  By accident, all my contacts were in the Surf industry, since I grew up in Huntington/Newport Beach, California.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?

MB: I remember being very little hearing crap on the radio.  Once I realized that normal humans were creating the crap, I decided I could do it better. You know, when you’re a kid, you think adults are different.  You think they know everything.  Then when you become an adult, you realize none of us have a clue as to how to run our lives, so we just do the best we all can here.

PEV: Now calling Orange County, California home, what kind of music were you listening to growing up?

MB: In my early days it was all oldies.  Then I had a brief rock phase, and straight into reggae, hip-hop, jazz, classic.  My musical tastes are pretty wild.  I find tremendous value in all types, so I think of myself listening to music almost as studying.

PEV: What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you pick up a guitar?

MB: Let’s try not to snap THIS one in half.  Nah, just kidding.  I’d say any thoughts I had before I picked it up just disappear.  Holding a guitar releases my mind.

PEV: Tell us about your creative process… What kind of environment do you have to be in to write music? Is there a certain “method” or “science” to your writing?

MB: I moved to Hawaii when I was 21, and it seems that it was there where I really found my sound.  I write best in a tropical climate, where I am fully able to release the inner workings of my brain (which are the things that distract me).

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Marc B performance?

MB: I don’t know, I’ve never seen one.  Ha.  I guess I just let go.  Usually you’re going to have some surf videos accompanying my sound on the big screens, lots of people getting drunk, that kind of thing.  Think surf industry party, if you’ve ever been to one.

PEV: Tell us about your first live performance. How have you changed since that first show to where you are now?

MB: When I started out, the more people were in a room, the more nervous I became.  Over hundreds of shows it slowly evolved into the opposite…These days I thrive off the crowd.  The more faces, the better.  I get off on the masses of people who show up to see me make music.

PEV: What can fans expect from your latest EP, “The Yellow Jelly E.P.”

MB: I wanted this CD to be a melting pot of all my sounds.  I tried to give people a glimpse of my diversity within music, because at that time, I wasn’t quite sure which direction I wanted to take things.

PEV: Can you tell us what the “Yellow Jelly” is?

MB: The Yellow Jelly is a jellyfish.  Like a jellyfish, I’m deeply connected to the ocean, and my music is always moving and changing shape, much like a jelly.

PEV: How is “The Yellow Jelly (EP)” different from other albums out right now?

MB: Ah, good question.  I was waiting for this one.  Well, these days it seems music is made for one of two reasons:  either to be put on loud in the background (so emphasis is placed on the beat, not the message) or to be played while deeply examining it, like music for lying on your back or whatever.  My entire CD can be used both ways.  If you put it on in the background at a kickback, people will dig the overall sound.  But also, if you throw it in your car stereo while you’re driving up the coast to go surf, you can be all alone, and really hit a second level of appreciation for the musicality and lyrics of the songs.  Double-whammy.

PEV: How would you describe your sound? In a thick and talented industry, how do you expect to stand out?

MB: My sound is for Surfers.  Expand that, and we’ve got music for coastal people.  I’m not trying to compete with anyone.  I take a more relaxed approach.  I view my competition as co-workers.  I’ve now got such a pipeline of talented friends and performers within the surf industry that I’m not concerned about the future.  One day at a time.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about you?

MB: I’m moving to Costa Rica.  See I get tired of living in the same area for any longer than six months.  I think they call that a nomad.  Yeah, I’m a nomad.  That sounds cool, too.

PEV: Surfing is a major part of your life. Describe to all the non-surfers out there what it is like. Where is your favorite spot to surf?

MB: Surfing is a sport, pastime, addiction, hobby… passion.  All those.  But it’s also a way of life.  In a world with 10 million “surfers” there’s really only 400 real surfers between San Diego and Santa Barbara who paddle out day in and day out every day, and we know each other’s faces.  It’s really a tight nit group.  I make 95% of my industry contacts while floating in the Pacific Ocean.  How’s that?

PEV: How is life on the road for you? Best and worst parts?

MB: Life on the road…dreamland.  But it’s not for everyone.  Think of your one friend who you are always saying bye to because they’re always on the go. The road is for that person.  I am that friend for many.  Most people wouldn’t last a month on the road.  I thrive off difference though.  I become most comfortable in uncomfortable situations.

PEV: In all your travels, which has been your favorite city to play (US or
International)?

MB: Traveling is amazing because you meet the people who are exactly like you. You can’t do that staying in one spot.  You’ll maybe meet two.  As for my favorite US stop, I’d say either Haleiwa or Honolulu, just because the Aloha spirit runs deep in everything they do over there, and I learned so many valuable life lessons.  As far as international stop, I really liked singing for people in Venice, Italy.  When we started singing outside, about a hundred people poked their heads out of their little apartment windows above us, in a small alley that we thought was abandoned.  Very moving.

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

MB: Well friends and family were the first to notice it.  That’s how it always is.  By the time my music became a full time job, my family and friends were all saying “It’s about time!”

PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

MB: I’m only good at two things.  Music and surf.  So yeah…

PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for?

MB: I thought that’s what this was for!?

PEV: What’s been the craziest reaction from a fan you’ve ever had?

MB: I had some girls from Jasper, Florida create a pretty gnarly fan page, complete with tiled Marc B album cover backgrounds and pictures of their cleavage…

PEV: Ten years down the road, where do you feel you and career will be?

MB: Ten Years I’ll be roaming the globe playing music for festivals promoting the right causes.  I’ll be working with the top professionals in surfing and music to make the world sound better.

PEV: So, what is next for Marc B?

MB:  Next is Costa Rica for two months, then Hawaii for two months.  I’m going to Central America to share my music with 100% REAL surfers (as opposed to Orange County, somewhere around 4 to 5%) and to Oahu, Hawaii to play for the North Shore during the Triple Crown of Surfing, the pinnacle of surfing events.  I’ll be busy with lots of interviews, press stuff, and of course performances, but this goes out to all the world, if you’re in the area, get in touch!

For more information on Marc B, check out: www.MySpace.com/MarcBMusic

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Today’s Feature – September 23-24: Rosy Boa

September 27, 2008 at 12:07 am (Today's Feature)

Rosy Boa, a name fitting for a Broadway stage performer is actually a member of the Boidae Snake family – and it just so happens our latest feature, Rosy Boa, sits at a pleasant intersection between the two (sort of). The fact that “The Little Mermaid” soundtrack was his first album he ever owned lends to that Broadway part – and much like the Rosy Boa snake, Boa’s latest album is called “Bright Colors,” a release that “falls somewhere between The Grateful Dead and The Arcade Fire.”

The record is full of “sunny sounds and a fair amount of steel drums,” and complete with lyrics from an interesting place, lending inspiration from “how the crash of the sixties’ pseudo-revolution contributed to a lot of the cynicism we encounter today.” In fact Boa says, “I tried to write the whole thing from the place of someone living in San Francisco in the early seventies, so there’s a lot of disappointment juxtaposed with innocence in there.” The collection smacks of those revolutionary types of sounds – something to get your mind moving.

If you catch a live Rosy Boa show today, you’ll see the band having a great time on stage, inviting everyone in attendance to be a part of the show. If you catch a performance in the future, you may just see some circus animals incorporated into the act. Kidding (maybe). Boa will be supporting this record and working on his new work at the same time, work he says is “bordering on a blend of Weezer and Stevie Wonder.” Sounds pretty kick ass, eh? Get into the XXQ’s for a whole lot more.

XXQs: Rosy Boa

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Tell us, how did you first jump into the music industry? Was music always an instant passion for you?

Rosy Boa (RB): The first “industry” stuff I ever did was in high school, when I recorded a couple of EPs with the band Live Long Day. The term didn’t really exist yet, but we were “emo” in all the wrong ways. Our songs had titles like “Bleeding Tragedy” and “Melancholy” and stuff like that. And we thought we were being clever by pulling our name from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, but we didn’t realize that most people preface the phrase “live long day” with “I’ve been working on the railroad” until after our shirts were printed. I’ve always loved music. I begged my parents for piano lessons when I was in grade school, and have been playing music ever since.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?

RB: Honestly, I’m not banking on music being the only thing I do. I want to be recording and playing live shows until I die, but I don’t want to move to L.A. and lurk around the crappy bars on the Sunset Strip hoping to get noticed by some sleazy producer. I’m working on a master’s degree in creative writing. Music and creative writing are the two sides of a single drive in me–that drive to create or whatever you want to call it.

PEV: Now calling Santa Barbara, California home, what kind of music were you listening to growing up?

RB: My dad listened to nothing but the Grateful Dead and all their spinoff bands, like the Jerry Garcia Band and Bob Weir’s Ratdog. I used to hate that stuff, but I was surprised by how much Dead came out in Bright Colors. The first album I ever owned was The Little Mermaid soundtrack. I learned to play guitar listening to ska and pop punk, then I went through a blues phase. Now I listen to a lot of hip hop and electro pop.

PEV: You have a very interesting name, definitely one we haven’t come across before. Do people often comment on it? What kind of name is Rosy Boa?

RB: Yeah, it seems to confuse people. The name does sounds a bit gender-bending, which is what mostly trips people up. A rosy boa is a cool-looking snake. I like animals, and I like the way “rosy” and “boa” sound next to each other.

PEV: Tell us about your creative process… What kind of environment do you have to be in to write music? Is there a certain “method” or “science” to your writing?

RB: Wow, it varies a lot. Sometimes, I’ll just get a melody in my head and run with it. Some songs are the chopped-up remains of other songs that didn’t work as well (or were just plain awful). I do always write the music first and try to get a pretty good idea for the melody, because I write better lyrics when I already have the vibe of the song cemented in my head.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Rosy Boa performance?

RB: Fireworks and juggling bears! No, it’s just me and my friends having a good time playing music together, although I would like to incorporate performing circus animals.

PEV: Tell us about your first live performance. How have you changed since that first show to where you are now?

RB: Ha ha–my first live rock ‘n roll show (piano recitals don’t count, right?) was with a pop punk band called South 680. When in doubt, name your band after a nearby freeway. My girlfriend at the time was upset because she was going away to college and I was spending all my time practicing. She iced me the whole night, which was pretty awkward. Now, I have a lot more fun; partly because I’ve done it so many times that I’m not freaking out before going on stage, and partly because I date girls who like music.

PEV: What can fans expect from your 2008 release, “Bright Colors”?

RB: Sunny sounds and a fair amount of steel drums. I had fun recording it, and hopefully that translates in the recordings.

PEV: How is “Bright Colors” different from other albums out right now?

RB: I think the lyrics come from an interesting place, and I tried to stay pretty focused while writing them. For about a year, I was grappling a lot with how the crash of the sixties’ psuedo-revolution contributed to a lot of the cynicism we encounter today. I tried to write the whole thing from the place of someone living in San Francisco in the early seventies, so there’s a lot of disappointment juxtaposed with innocence in there. Again, those concepts only work if the music exudes them. I hope all the thought I put into this album will help it stand out.

PEV: How would you describe your sound? In a thick and talented industry, how do you expect to stand out?

RB: The best description I heard from someone was that Bright Colors falls somewhere between The Grateful Dead and The Arcade Fire, to use two bands that everyone knows. It’s funny; people have been all across the board in identifying my sound–Tom Petty, Bob Seger, Ryan Adams, Mason Jennings, Phish–most of whom I’ve rarely listened to. The new stuff I’m working on is bordering on a blend of Weezer and Stevie Wonder. As far as “standing out” goes, my plan is to keep writing and recording music, doing everything I can to push like hell for lyrical excellence while cranking out some good tunes. I might try to come up with a gimmick or two. Like training a chimpanzee to be my drummer, or something. That plays into the “performing animals” thing again.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about you?

RB: My girlfriend wrote a poem in which she compared me to a man in a giant, foam rubber hamburger suit.

PEV: What one word best describes Rosy Boa?

RB: “Schnozberry”

PEV: How is life on the road for you? Best and worst parts?

RB: I’m not touring right now. I do like traveling, but I don’t like feeling dislocated.

PEV: In all your travels, which has been your favorite city to play (US or International)?

RB: San Francisco.

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

RB: They’re proud of me. They also like the stuff I put out, which means a lot to me. They might be lying though.

PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

RB: I read a lot, design and illustrate stuff, play sports, ride my bike, eat good food.

PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for?

RB: I like Róisín Murphy a lot, and none of my friends have heard of her from some reason. She’s an electro pop diva from the UK, and is pretty well-established over there. Her last album rocked.

PEV: What’s been the craziest reaction from a fan you’ve ever had?

RB: I had people ask me for autographs in high school, which was mostly crazy because I was such a poor musician at the time.

PEV: Ten years down the road, where will Rosy Boa be?

RB: Writin’ groovy tunes!

PEV: So, what is next for Rosy Boa?

RB: I’m recording another album right now. Hopefully, it will be out late winter or early spring.

For more information on Rosy Boa, check out: www.myspace.com/rosyboamusic

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Today’s Feature – September 21-22: Devon Ellington

September 23, 2008 at 6:26 pm (Today's Feature)

Devon Ellington is a stupendous writer. That’s the first thing you need to know. The second thing is that she has her hands in a lot of projects:

* The second Jain Lazarus adventure (the first being Hex Breaker)
* She’s adapting his series Angel Hunt into novel format
* Several short stories
* On and backstage theatre work (over 20 years of it)
* Her regular column, “The Literary Athlete”

“The Literary Athlete,” which runs in The Scruffy Dog Review, is the piece of work that I feel most defines Ellington. The purpose of the column applies to everyone, and there’s no better way to put it than to allow Ellington to do it herself: “In this day and age, if you want to make a living as a writer, you MUST be a ‘literary athlete.’ If you have a day job, if you have a family, if you want to write badly enough, you must treat it like a second job until it is your only job. You can write ‘on the side,’ but it will be a different trajectory and chances are, you won’t make a living at it. I’m really tired of people who whine about ‘not having time to write.’ It means you: A) can’t manage your time and B) don’t want it enough. We all have 24 hours in a day. It’s how we choose to use them that defines us.”

Damn right. Get into the XXQ’s for a whole lot more.

XXQs: Devon Ellington

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Tell us a little about your current work and what we can expect.

DE: I always juggle multiple projects. I just submitted the second Jain Lazarus adventure to my publisher (the first was HEX BREAKER, released in August), and have started work on the third. I’m adapting ANGEL HUNT (which ran for 18 months as a serial) into novel format, so it can go out on submission in October; I’m working on several short stories. And, of course, there are the articles, reviews, critiques, and copywriting work that comes in and those usually need a quick turnaround.

PEV: Now living outside of New York City, what kind of books were you reading growing up?

DE: I’ve always been a voracious reader. I was a big fan of the juvenile series mysteries growing up, like Nancy Drew, Beverly Gray, Vicki Barr, Cherry Ames, Judy Bolton – all of those. Now, as an adult, I can say that I “collect” them! 😉 I read the classics growing up – I started reading Shakespeare when I was eight, and I’m a rabid Shakespeare fan. I read all the Childhood of Famous Americans books and the Little House on the Prairie books and Winnie the Pooh – all of that. I read lots of classics in high school. My grandmother had leather-bound editions of Dickens, Poe, Austen, etc., and I loved to sit beside the fireplace with one of those and read. I’ve been a bibliophile since I was big enough to hold a book.

PEV: Having worked on Broadway, TV and film, is there one you prefer over the others? Why?

DE: I love theatre. I love working backstage on a show because it’s live and you have to be able to think on your feet. I love the dynamic and the rhythm you build with the actors with whom you work, that mutual trust and fun. The great thing about film and television is that the performance is captured forever, where in theatre, it’s fleeting. But that’s also the wonderful thing about theatre – every performance is unique. The money’s a lot better in film and television, though.

PEV: What was it like for you when you were first breaking into the business? Better yet, HOW did you break into the business?

DE: I started writing as a kid, and was published while I was in school, wrote for the local paper in high school, etc. I was a dancer, but sustained a permanent injury and started working backstage. I saw my first Broadway show when I was twelve, and knew I wanted to be in the theatre. I did a lot of theatre in college, but when I transferred to NYU, it was into the film program, although I continued to work in theatre. I’ve worked in the theatre my entire professional life, since I was 18. I got away from writing while I was in film school because I’m organized and I was good at things like production management. I started writing plays again working off-Broadway, because a lot of the actresses with whom I worked couldn’t find decent monologues for women. The monologues expanded into plays, I started writing short stories and erotica, and it all kind of evolved from there. For quite a few years, I ran dual careers – writing until I had to go to the theatre – but in the last few years, I’ve been transitioning into writing full-time. It’s hard to give up the backstage work because I love it so much, but I need to focus on my own creative work at this point.

PEV: What can fans expect from a Devon Ellington story/production?

DE: The aim is to craft strong, interesting, INTELLIGENT characters who work their way through interesting challenges and learn. Through their learning curve, hopefully the reader will see the world slightly differently than before.

PEV: How has your writing evolved from when you first started out?

DE: Nothing a writer experiences is ever wasted. As I gain life experience (and I’m interested in almost everything except math and anchovies, so I’m constantly gaining life experience), my characters are richer and more complex. Some of the themes remain the same: love, loyalty, betrayal, consequences – but the characters are more layered and complex.

PEV: Having worked 20 years backstage on Broadway, TV and film, are there any crazy stories about things that have happened live?

DE: Every day, something interesting happens in theatre – it’s live! A costume will tear and the actor has to figure out a way to get offstage and to you so you can either put him in something else or pin him together enough to get through it. I’ve had a zipper stick while trying to get the star out of a tight, beaded dress in a quick change and our only option was to rip the dress, scattering the beads, to get her into the next costume and back onstage without the audience noticing. Or your actor gets violently ill during the performance and you have to put the understudy on in the quick change, so you’re tending your regular actor and scrambling to get the understudy dressed at the same time. Or the TV show where we came back to do re-shoots, and the casting people sent me an African American male actor with dreadlocks to replace an Asian female actress. I showed the continuity photos to the assistant director and said, “the best I can do is put him in the same color shirt” and he laughed and promised it would be a really quick pan across the group and no one but us would ever notice. There are, literally, hundreds of stories.

PEV: You also teach a variety of writing workshops, as well as providing manuscript critiques and individual coaching services. How has this kind of interaction helped your writing style or affected it?

DE: I catch some of my own mistakes in others’ work, and it helps me the next time I face the page. Also, so many students fear there’s only “one way” to make something work, when, in reality, every piece you write is a bit like reinventing the wheel. That’s where craft comes in. It is inexcusable for writers not to learn the basics of grammar, spelling, and structure. Your “process” will be different in every piece you do, but the foundation of good grammar and structure remains the same. Even the most brilliantly experimental writing comes from a solid basis in structure and the CHOICE to fly away from it.
PEV: As well, is there an up and coming writer right now that you think we should all be looking out for?

DE: There are so many wonderful writers out there. I think on every trip to the library, you should pick up at least one book by someone of whom you’ve never heard – and, if you like the writer, go out and BUY the book. Support living authors! The best way to find new-to-you authors, I believe, is to read anthologies. Julie Czerneda edited a fabulous anthology earlier this year called MISSPELLED that has one of the best mixes of new and established authors with some of the cleverest stories I’ve read in years.

PEV: Tell us, about your regular columns, in “The Literary Athlete”.

DE: It runs in THE SCRUFFY DOG REVIEW, a quarterly online literary magazine. The columns have followed the entire process from inspiration through revision and trusted readers and query letters to working with editors and will deal with marketing, juggling projects, and building’s one career. In this day and age, if you want to make a living as a writer, you MUST be a “literary athlete”. If you have a day job, if you have a family, if you want to write badly enough, you must treat it like a second job until it is your only job. You can write “on the side”, but it will be a different trajectory and chances are, you won’t make a living at it. I’m really tired of people who whine about “not having time to write”. It means you: A) can’t manage your time and B) don’t want it enough. We all have 24 hours in a day. It’s how we choose to use them that defines us.

PEV: What kind of music do you listen to? How important is music in your life?

DE: I listen to all kinds of music, except country and rap. I listen to a lot of international music, especially Celtic and Scandinavian. When I write, I prefer music without lyrics. I can’t write to soundtracks – I think the original creative vision of the piece for which the soundtrack was created infects the writing. Sometimes I burn play lists specific to characters and play them while I write, but the longer I write, the less I create character play lists and just write whatever fuels MY mood. A friend of mine is the lead singer for a band called Taking Chances – I’m listening to their CD a lot lately because I like it so much, and, surprisingly, find their songs (with lyrics) work well with the revisions I’m doing on ANGEL HUNT. You’d think due to the subject matter of the book, I should be listening to Maidens of the Celtic Harp or Faith No More (depending on the pace of the particular chapter), but it’s Taking Chances. I’m going to have to thank them in the acknowledgements!

I listen to a lot of Kyle Riabko (who’s also great to see live – if you ever get the chance to see him, jump at it), Capercaillie, Texas, Hedingarna, Tellu, Elvendrums, Ani DiFranco, Patty Larkin, Clannad, Old Blind Dogs, Creole Zydeco Farmers, Kirsty MacColl, MacTalla Mor, Jim Sutherland, Shooglenlifty, Bruce Springsteen, Mellancamp, Chris Isaak , B-52s, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Pat Benatar. Edith Piaf, Ella Fitzgerald, Jethro Tull – the list if pretty long.

If I’m writing in a particular historical time period, I play music from the period. For a romantic comedy set in 1921, I hunted down music popular at the time and had that going. Working on a piece about whaling, I had sea chanties playing.

And sometimes, the only thing that works is quiet, classical piano. Every piece is different, every mood is different, and a lot of it has to do with how tired I am – if I’m tired, but need to keep working, I’ll put on something with a bit of an edge to drive me. Those articles on deadline and it’s nearly midnight and I’m not done? That’s more Sound Garden and less Loreena McKennitt.

PEV: You publish under a half a dozen names in both fiction and non-fiction. Why so anonymous?

DE: Different names in different genres make it possible for me to prevent getting pigeonholed by myopic marketing people. And remaining anonymous means I get to keep my life to myself. I don’t like this propensity for living life on You Tube. My life is not a reality show. My work it out there and people either respond or don’t. My life is MINE. Trust me, it’s not all that fascinating, but it’s mine.

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

DE: My preferred environment is a room with a door I can close and QUIET. Repetitive machine noise (like drills, jackhammers), make me want to go postal. I need a lot of physical space as well as emotional space, and large swaths of uninterrupted time. There’s some much internal work that needs to happen before words go on paper, a lot of seemingly staring at nothing, a lot of pacing and muttering. The reality is I rarely have quiet. I’ve learned to write anywhere. I write on the train, in planes, at airports, in hotel rooms, on the beach, in the park, in the car, backstage – totally depends on my deadlines. And, if a character won’t shut up, I’ll jot down some notes to get some peace.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Devon Ellington?

DE: I can’t swim. As a Pisces, water should be my natural habitat.

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

DE: They don’t really understand what I do. But they’re glad it’s working. They finally understood the theatre once I jumped to Broadway, or if I work on a TV show they’ve actually heard of. There’s no choice but to be supportive, because I cut people out of my life who aren’t. I have no time for saboteurs. I won’t tolerate it, even if the person is related to me, and I’ll kick to the curb any lover who starts getting destructive. The right person will support your dreams. If you’re with someone who doesn’t – remove that person from your life, because it speaks to a much deeper problem in the relationship than writing. It’s about a lack of respect for you as a person with dreams, ambitions, and creative fire.

PEV: When you are not writing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

DE: Spare time? What’s that? Seriously, I enjoy almost everything. I love to cook, I travel, I do yoga, I visit friends and support whatever creative endeavors in which they’re involved. I’m a huge fan of both thoroughbred racing and ice hockey – but I write about them, so does that count?

PEV: Working so much writing and with the plays, how is life on the road traveling for you? Good parts? Bad parts?

DE: I don’t tour with theatre any more unless a specific actor puts me in the contract for a specific amount of time –and a good paycheck – or unless it’s something I wrote. That’s because I hate being on someone else’s schedule when I travel. I actually like writing when I travel, because I find a change of scenery is a good catalyst. If you’re with a touring production, your whole life is about the production, that’s why you’re there. I get restless very fast. Whereas if I’m traveling to write about something specific or to research or just because, I’m much more relaxed because it’s MY schedule. The airlines are so intent on screwing and disrespecting their customers that I try to fly as little as possible now. They’ve taken all the joy out of travel, and, honestly, the major carriers deserve to fold. I used to love flying, but now I go by bus or train more often, or, in spite of gas prices, I drive. The joys of owning a Volkswagen.

PEV: In your opinion, is there a certain city (US or International) that you find to be the best city for literary expression or appreciation?

DE: Australia loves writers. Edinburgh loves writers. I set a LOT of my work in Scotland and Northumbria, because I love it there, both as a traveler and as a writer. Iceland has a 100% literacy rate and they have bookstores every few blocks. Books are extremely expensive, but people READ. It’s also a great place to write. I like being in the northeast a lot because people read. On mass transit, you see people hauling books around all the time, and not just paperbacks. They drag around some serious hard backs. New York’s a good place for writers – if you can afford the cost of living.

PEV: Is there one genre of writing you have not worked with, that you would like to? Why?

DE: I’d like to write more about food. I love to cook, I love to try new restaurants. I’d like to write more in that vein, because it’s interesting. And it’s challenging to make the writing sensory and delectable without going over the top.

PEV: So, what’s next for Devon Ellington?

DE: As long as characters keep talking to me, I’ll keep telling their stories. HEX BREAKER is out, and, as I mentioned, I’ve submitted the second book in the series and started the third; NEW MYTHS just published my pirate fantasy story “The Merry’s Dalliance” and I’m working on the next story about the Merry and her crew; Cloverleaf opens their January 2009 season with a comic noir mystery I wrote for them; and I’m juggling a few other projects. I’m thrilled that people respond so positively to Ink in My Coffee, the blog on the writing life. And I’m house-hunting – I need to relocate, so that’s going to be a Big Project in the upcoming months.

For more information on Devon Ellington, check out: http://devonellington.wordpress.com

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Today’s Feature – September 19-20: Justin Stein

September 23, 2008 at 6:25 pm (Today's Feature)

Every year thousands of young hopefuls hop on planes heading out west to Los Angeles, chasing their dreams of success in the entertainment business. Many have grand delusions of being spotted on the street by Steven Speilberg or expect to find every top agent and producer waiting for them – contract in hand – on the tarmac. But, this is not exactly how things work. Success in today’s entertainment industry is rare; only a handful are able to ditch their job waiting tables and say hello to fame. However, earlier this year a plane left Chicago carrying Justin Stein – a young actor, dancer, singer and songwriter who has become one of those fortunate individuals.

Two days after graduation, Stein, who deferred acceptance to NYU, bid farewell to his family and wished his college bound friends the best. He figured college could wait – his dreams could not. While his friends spent their summers in Ikea picking out furniture for their dorm rooms, Stein traveled the country with Corbin Bleu’s 2008 summer tour. He even inked a deal with Disney; “My manager is the one who hooked me up with Radio Disney. He gave them my demo CD and they told him that they wanted to play it and support me as an artist. My manager told me the news on my 18th birthday… definitely the best birthday present ever.”

This had to be reassuring news for Stein’s parents who had reservations about their son veering off the standard track of a high school graduate. Despite any doubt, both family and friends are rooting for him. “I am incredibly fortunate to have the support I have from my parents and friends. Mom and Dad come to the majority of the shows. My brother jumps on the tour with me sometimes and works merchandise. It’s great having him on tour.”

An entertainer since the age of 12, Stein understands the responsibility of a professional artist. After all, the Disney tag carries a higher standard of excellence – one which Stein plans to live up to. Years of performing in children’s and community theatre productions in and around Chicago, along with diligent vocal and dance coaching have given Stein what Disney sees as a bankable future. The attention that comes with being a Disney star has been helpful as well. “I especially like seeing Radio Disney reps at the venues. They always hype the crowd and are just really fun people.” But it hasn’t been a difficult job getting folks excited for this up and comer – His infectious blend of pop, rock and R&B has been compared to artists such as Justin Timberlake and Chris Brown.

Today, Stein’s catalogue of teen pop hits like “Leave It On The Floor,” “Loose Control,” and “Don’t Be Playin’ With My Heart,” are just a few samples of Stein’s energetic stage presence, while tunes such as “Sweetest Girl” and “I’ll Never Look Away (Hey Girl)” allow Stein to showcase his classically trained voice. He has compiled these songs onto his self titled album in hopes of portraying the real Justin Stein, rather than what most pop acts are told to portray. This, without a doubt, is what has made him so successful.

Still, I can’t stop thinking about what must have been going through his head when he was on a plane with no plans of turning back and no cushion to fall back on. I had to ask him, ‘You left your family, said goodbye to your friends – What was going through your head on that plane ride?’ He replied, “Pursuing a career as a solo artist is something I have wanted to do ever since I started writing songs around 12 years old. On that plane I was just thinking ’Wow! I’m actually doing it!’” Stein is living proof that sometimes, all it takes is a “WOW moment” to have your dreams take flight.

XXQs: Justin Stein

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Just days after graduating high school you hopped on a plane to LA in pursuit of his dream, even foregoing an acceptance to NYU. What made you decide to jump into the business so hard, so fast? And what was going through your mind when you were on that plane to LA?

JS: Well, pursuing a career as a solo artist is something I have wanted to do ever since I started writing songs around 12 years old. On that plane I was just thinking “Wow! I’m actually doing it!”

PEV: Hailing from Chicago, what kind of music were you listening to growing up?

JS: I listened to a lot of Broadway and Stevie Wonder growing up interspersed with some pop music. My parents were always playing Celine Dion and Whitney Houston… I guess that’s where my love for powerhouse vocals came from…
PEV: You have two singles currently featured on Radio Disney on the Disney Incubator – “Leave It On The Floor” and “Loose Control”. How has working with Disney been for you and how did this come about?
JS: It’s been great being on Radio Disney. Working with them has been a lot of fun. I especially like seeing Radio Disney reps at the venues. They always hype the crowd and are just really fun people. My manager is the one who hooked me up with Radio Disney. He gave them my demo CD and they told him that they wanted to play it and support me as an artist. My manager told me the news on my 18th birthday… definitely the best birthday present ever.

PEV: Being a singer, actor, dancer, songwriter and composer, what was it like for you when you were first breaking into the music business? Before you were getting press, regular gigs and touring around the country?

JS: Before the tour I was in high school. It was difficult juggling my school workload, after school activities and recording my CD at the same time… but it all worked out. I literally graduated from high school two days before I jumped on the plane to LA.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Justin Stein show?

JS: High energy awesomeness! Some surprises… Expect to be thoroughly entertained! (Laughs)

PEV: How have your shows evolved from when you first started out?

JS: They are so much better now! You can actually go on youtube.com and see the progress… I am much more comfortable onstage, my dance moves are sharper, and I know how to work the crowd now.

PEV: Any embarrassing or crazy live show stories? There has to be tons, I’m sure…

JS: The popcorn lady: One time during my song “Sweetest Girl,” I jumped out into the audience and as I was coming back to the stage there was this lady selling popcorn. I almost bowled her over.

Dad and the cops: My dad is a pretty reasonable guy, but at one of the shows one of the cops was giving my brother and my friends a hard time because they were backstage without their passes. The state trooper was not the smartest and was fed up with my brother and my friends so Jordan (my brother) went to get my dad who had his pass on him. He told the cop that my brother and my friends were supposed to be backstage and that since he had a pass, he was going to take them in. The state trooper would not let this happen and blocked my dad’s way. He then put his hands on my dads shoulders and dad knocked his hands away. Then the cop threatened to throw dad in jail. All this time… I was performing and had no idea what was going on. Later, five cops approached dad saying that he pushed the state trooper. Dad and my bodyguard James explained what happened and said “If I had have pushed him, he would know it!” Then the officer in charge said, “Well if you’d of pushed him, you would know it.” Then dad said, “You’re right, and I don’t know it so go away.” My dad was almost arrested at my concert!

Corbin Cricket: The other day we were all chillin’ out in Corbin’s bus and his friend had given him this gift basket filled with edible insects. Corbin and I downed a salt and vinegar cricket together. Its little dead eyes were disgusting but it actually tasted decent.

PEV: If you could collaborate with one artist out today, who would it be and why?

JS: Stevie Wonder. I think he is the greatest songwriter of our time. He is truly amazing and one of my biggest musical influences.

PEV: Tell us, what can fans expect from your upcoming self –titled album. How is this different from other music you’ve worked with?

JS: It’s a fusion of pop/rock/and R&B. All of the songs I write are based off of different life experiences I have had. Some songs are based on past relationships while others are about just letting lose and having fun. I try to put all of me in every song so that people can connect. Hopefully there is something in there for everyone.

PEV: How is this album different from other music out today?

JS: It’s me!

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

JS: Well, it depends… I used to sneak away during first period in school and sit at the piano in the choral room. Sometimes I write at my room at home. I love going to the studio and writing music with my producer in his studio downtown Chicago. Sometimes I’m in the shower… just when inspiration hits… I try to either have a piano or a tape recorder handy… if not, I just remember it or try and write it down… I have a little recorder on my phone that records for a minute… I use that periodically.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Justin Stein?

JS: I’m a really good golfer. I play about ten times a year and shoot pretty well every time. I used to play a lot because my dad is a fanatic.

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to all your success? Was there ever a point when your family thought you were “crazy” for pursuing an entertainment career?

JS: Everyone has always been incredibly supportive of me and my career path. I am incredibly fortunate to have the support I have from my parents and friends

PEV: If we were to walk into your practice studio right now, what’s one thing we’d most likely find?

JS: A piano

PEV: How is life on the road for you? Good parts? Bad parts?

JS: Awesome! I love it! It is a lot of work but it is a blast. The best part is being able to perform. Its what I love to do. I also love meeting people after the concerts. Everyone is so incredibly supportive. Bad parts… not many… sometimes living on the bus gets cramped… especially when the air conditioning doesn’t work halfway through the night or it breaks down en route to the next show. The only bad experience I had was one venue wouldn’t let me stay afterwards and meet the audience… that upset me. But besides that… everything has been fantastic!

PEV: In your opinion, is there a certain city (US or International) that you find to be the best city for music?

JS: CHI TOWN!!! YEAH!

PEV: As well, where’s one place you haven’t played, you would like to? Why?

JS: I think it would be awesome to go overseas… Italy maybe…? Any place with pretty girls and good food.

PEV: Where will do feel your career will be ten years from now?

JS: Hopefully I will continue to be successful as a solo artist… have sold millions of CDs… be working on my 7th album and my 2nd greatest hits, haha! Also, I want to have starred in a couple of successful movies as well as directed and produced. Basically, I just want to continue doing what I love to do, perform!

PEV: So, what’s next for Justin Stein?

JS: There are a couple of things on the burner, but nothing solidified yet… maybe another tour… maybe a movie… maybe a TV show… we shall see…

For more information on Justin Stein, check out www.JustinStein.com

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Today’s Feature – September 17-18: Justina Carubia

September 23, 2008 at 6:23 pm (Today's Feature)

When introducing any PensEyeView artist, we always looks for some sort of topic to kick things off – something that’ll really stand out in the minds of our readers. There’s so much we can talk about with today’s feature: Justina Carubia. We could tell you about her four Asbury Music Award nominations, the fact she writes all of her songs, or about her “soft, yet soulful rock vocal approach.” But that’s not how we’re kicking things off. I want to talk about song covers.

Song covers are underappreciated. A cover song can tell you so much about an artist – what they like, how they see music. I mean, seriously, it can tell you the true identity of an artist. With that said, have you checked out Carubia’s take on Flo Rida’s smash, “Low?” Of course, an acoustic version of a hip-hop hit is different, but listen to her take! She adds a whole new flare to the hit. When you hear her EP, “Last One Standing,” you’ll hear what I’m talking about – though in a different tone from a “Low” cover. The EP deals in rejection. Justina says, “I was at a really low point after my first EP (Break of Day): I got turned down by a few labels, dealt with the breakup of my live band, and with ‘friends’ I couldn’t really rely on. Rejection is something everyone has experienced, and it can really make you feel horrible and worthless. So I really wanted to make a collection of songs to inspire others who are going through the same thing, and give them hope to come out a stronger person.”

“Last One Standing” is pure Justina Carubia – she was able to control the project from start to finish (so no doubt you’ll notice the flare I’ve mentioned). Come out to a performance – she’s had tons of experience to produce the quality show she has now. She’ll be hitting up FYE stores in the near future to play for and meet her fans, and then focusing on a full album. We can’t wait. Get into the XXQ’s for a lot more.

XXQs: Justina Carubia

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Tell how you first decided to become a musician? Was it something you always wanted to do or did some event spark the idea?

JC: It was the beginning of my freshman year of college (2001), around the time that the female singer songwriters like Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton, and Jewel, were really dominating the market. It really caught my interest, and I had always had a love for singing and poetry so I really wanted to try something of my own. I asked my dad for a guitar for my 18th birthday, so he got me one and showed me some chords. I pretty much took it and ran with it. It just came very natural to me.

PEV: A New Jersey native, what kind of music were you listening to growing up?

JC: I grew up with my parents blasting records by The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Carly Simon, James Taylor, Paul Simon, and Eric Clapton, so it was a nice mix of Folk and Rock. My mom also played a lot of chick rock like The Bangles, The Go Gos, Blondie, and Pat Benatar…there’s just something so tough and cool about being a rock chick!

PEV: Along with being an Asbury Music Award Nominee, you also recently made your television debut with the unreleased song “Oxygen” on Philadelphia’s The 10! Show. How did that come about and what were your thoughts of the show?

JC: I started working with a booking agent and he gave me the offer. I jumped at it right away! I had never done TV before, and it is an amazing opportunity to be able to reach so many people at once…it went really well, and I networked with a lot of people. It’s important to network any way you can!

PEV: What was it like for you when you were first breaking into the music business? Before you started playing regular gigs?

JC: When I first started out I was playing a lot of open mics and coffeehouses. I haven’t stopped playing any of those things, open mics are actually still a good practice to get out and do, if I don’t have any gigs scheduled. It’s still a struggle to get my music heard, and build that following.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Justina Carubia show?

JC: Lately I have been playing all of my shows acoustic, so they are pretty intimate settings where I get to kinda talk to the crowd and tell stories behind the songs. I also like to mix up the set list all the time. I’ll bring back some of my older songs my fans have grown to know and love, or I’ll break out a brand new song, maybe even a cover song. I think I have become a lot more daring with the carelessness of a set…. I forget words or chords to my own songs, and I shrug it off. Not that I don’t care, of course I do, but careless is so much more rock n’ roll! It seems to give the audience a little laugh, and humor in a set is always fun! I also love some audience participation!

PEV: How have your shows evolved from when you first started out?

JC: My live shows have gone through so many changes, starting out as an acoustic act, and then performing with a band, then back to the acoustic thing. I think change is important; it keeps the audience coming back. I think I’m taking more chances now, vocally. I’m playing more vocally demanding songs live, and I’m getting more comfortable doing so. I’m finding myself as a performer, not just a studio vocalist anymore.

PEV: Any embarrassing or crazy live show stories?

JC: About a week ago I had a show in NYC, and a drunken construction worker started dancing to “Oxygen” right in front of me…he had his hard hat on and everything. It’s hard to get through those kinds of things without cracking up, so I just encourage it. I told him to “drop it like it’s hot”…it gave the audience a good laugh! One of my friends even started dancing with him, so that was funny…Yea I also have habits of swallowing bugs, or having them fly into my face during those outdoor shows…

PEV: If you could collaborate with one artist out today, who would it be and why?

JC: I would love to collaborate with a lot of people, it’s so hard to choose just one! I would really love to collab with Stevie Nicks though. She has been an idol of mine for a very long time, and I know she has worked with many other favorite artists of mine like Sheryl Crow and Vanessa Carlton so her style would probably compliment mine as well. Also she just seems like a very graceful yet strong presence. It would be an honor to do a song with her!

PEV: As well, is there an up and coming artist right now that you think we should all be looking out for?

JC: I am a big fan of Terra Naomi who has grown a huge fan base from her You Tube page. Also, fellow musician and Jerseyan’s band Charlotte Sometimes has been doing really well making a name for themselves. I used to play shows with her at local cafes and now she’s playing Warped Tour, so that is pretty amazing to see things happen for someone so close to home.

PEV: Tell us, what can fans expect from your long awaited follow-up EP “Last One Standing”(Nov. 2007)?

JC: It was a musical journey for me. It touches a lot on the theme of rejection. I was at a really low point after my first EP: I got turned down by a few labels, dealt with the breakup of my live band, and with “friends” I couldn’t really rely on. Rejection is something everyone has experienced, and it can really make you feel horrible and worthless. So I really wanted to make a collection of songs to inspire others who are going through the same thing, and give them hope to come out a stronger person.

PEV: How is “Last One Standing” different from your May of 2005 five-song debut EP titled “Break of Day”?

JC: Most of the songs on Break of Day were written when I had just started out, and I even co-wrote a couple. The production was in the control of the producers, they did all the music on their time, and I came in and did vocals when they needed me. I wasn’t as involved as I would have liked to be, and there was a deadline, so I felt like those songs weren’t really developed the way they should have been. With Last One Standing, I saw the project from beginning to the very end; Writing every song and melody, The pre-production, the studio sessions with every musician that played on every track, to the album artwork, vocals of course, down to the mixing/mastering/packaging, and even designed my own website. I had full control of the 2nd EP, so I feel like that was my baby, and I am so proud of it. I also feel like with LOS, you can hear the difference in the content, and in my voice. I have definitely matured as a writer, and with this collection of songs I think I really found my voice. I was a lot more daring with hitting higher notes, and doing more vocal riffs.

Working with Wayne Dorell (Hey Tiger), who produced LOS, was a comfortable and creative experience. We really took our time with things, and made sure everything was 100% before moving on to the next track…. Are there things I’d still change about LOS? Of course, but that’s just the perfectionist in me!

PEV: When you sit down to write an album like “Last One Standing” what kind of environment do you surround yourselves in?

JC: When I write, I like to lock myself in my room and just tune the world out. I feel bad for abandoning the people around me, but sometimes it helps to get into that introverted kinda mode. I always/usually write alone. Writing songs is very private to me, just as it is writing in a diary, which is why I find it so hard to co-write. I’m only able to write with those who I feel a certain comfortable connection with…it’s hard to explain, but maybe I’m just musically strange, hahaha!

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Justina Carubia?

JC: I used to be extremely shy back in high school, and never dreamed in a million years that I would be doing something that involved performing in front of people. I never even did chorus in high school because I was scared to sing in front of people. It takes getting a little older and growing some confidence to realize that if you’re given a gift, you should use it, or at least try to.

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

JC: They’re all so amazingly supportive of what I have achieved so far, I’m really fortunate to have that support system. Some kids have parents who want them to be lawyers and doctors, something that has a promising income. But my parents are John Lennon fans, they’re definitely dreamers, I’m not the only one 😛

PEV: If we were to walk into your practice studio right now, what’s one thing we’d most likely find?

JC: I know it sounds really glamorous and all, but my practice studio is actually my room, haha! I have a pretty big walk in closet with a desk, so I have my laptop set up in there, and of course a pen, notepad and guitar. It’s its own little nook in my house, and I know nobody will bother me there. Also lots of candles, incense, and glasses of green tea help to relax and clear the mind.

PEV: How is life on the road for you? Good parts? Bad parts?

JC: I traveled a couple times to support my music, but never have I done a full on tour. That is definitely a dream of mine! In any event, gas station bathrooms are definitely not the best things about traveling! The good part is seeing what each city has to offer, networking my @$$ off and trying a different restaurant each night… I love food!

PEV: In your opinion, is there a certain city (US or International) that you find to be the best city for music?

JC: A couple weeks ago I played in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in NY. It was a very quaint area; there were music clubs all over the place. NYC is great, I love going into the city! I also have a love for New Hope, PA, Sedona, AZ, and Savannah, GA. I just got back from Philly though, and South Street is just happening with the music…I hope to play there again soon!

PEV: As well, where’s one place you haven’t played, you would like to? Why?

JC: I would LOVE to visit New Orleans because I have heard so much about the streets being filled with music all hours of the night! It’s just one big party! Also I would really love to go to Nashville, TN and take a trip to Music Row.

PEV: Where do you think you’ll be ten years from now?

JC: It’s kinda scary to think of 10 years from now, when I don’t even know what’s gonna happen tomorrow…or even 5 minutes from now for that matter! I hope to still be rocking out and creating more. Most importantly, I hope I can eventually do music comfortably enough to make a nice living out of it. I hope I’m not stuck at this day job forever!!

PEV: So, what’s next for Justina Carubia?

JC: I have a consignment deal with FYE stores in the works… I have been writing all through last winter, so I have a catalogue of new songs waiting to be recorded. I would really love to do a full album, and I would really love to tour. I guess we’ll just wait and see!

For more information on Justina Carubia, check out: www.justinasworld.com

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Today’s Feature – September 16-17: Mark Erelli

September 16, 2008 at 8:34 pm (Today's Feature)

Mark Erelli of Somerville, Massachusetts is the definition of the talented Boston-based singer/songwriter (with numerous amazing acts emerging from the scene) – but still has the skills to write a tune about PEV’s hometown: Baltimore. It really doesn’t get much better than that.

Seriously though, Erelli has been diving into the folk-Americana scene since his days on campus, back when he booked guys like Greg Brown and Chris Smither to play and talk about writing songs and making a living playing music. Compared to artists such as John Hiatt and Ron Sexsmith, Erelli has been a song producing machine, dropping album after album to more and more praise. After grabbing attention immediately with his self-titled debut, his 2001 sophomore effort, “Compass and Companion” spent nine weeks in the Top Ten of the Americana charts and garnered two Boston Music Award nominations. Next on the success list, the making of “The Memorial Hall Recordings” was recorded on film, and the ensuing documentary was broadcast on PBS stations nationwide.

Erelli’s third record called for him to team up with Boston country band The Spurs to record “Hillbilly Pilgrim.” Containing 11 western swing originals, the album fittingly spent 11 weeks on the Americana radio charts, and received two more Boston Music Award nominations. 2006 was an especially busy year, with two albums being released: “Hope & Other Casualties” (Folk Radio WUMB’s #1 record of the year) as well as “Innocent When You Dream,” his first all-acoustic record.

Today, you can nab a record that has once again raised the bar for Erelli, a collection called “Delivered.” Mark says “There’s no bullshit on it, I think these songs address hard questions about life and death and love and God in an honest way that strives to find some common chord that might resonate and bring us all together a little more closely.” No doubt, more award nominations are on the way.

While you missed Erelli on the Soul2Soul tour with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, you can still catch one of his intense and entertaining shows as he hits the road to support “Delivered.” He’ll be on tour throughout the US and the UK not only for much of this year, but for 2009 as well. Get into the XXQ’s for a whole lot more.

XXQ’s: Mark Erelli

PEV: First off… tell us more about your song for the PEV hometown entitled, “Baltimore!”

ME: Like some of my songs, Baltimore probably sounds more autobiographical than it really is. I do a lot of driving alone, so I know how a guy can go crazy when he has too much time to think. This is just a simple little doghouse love song, a plea for his lover to have a little mercy on a sinner when he shows up at her door in the middle of the night.

PEV: So give us the story – how did you get into music?

ME: I’ve always been a fan of music, I was dancing along with Michael Jackson videos in front of MTV when it came on the air. I was in musicals in junior high, rock bands in high school, and gradually drifted towards the folksinger thing in college. I played coffeehouses on campus, joined the student group that brought music on campus, and then booked all my heroes (Greg Brown, Chris Smither, etc) to come play on campus. I would be their guide for the day, sometimes I’d open the show, and frequently we’d hang out afterwards while they (very graciously) answered my questions about how one comes to write songs and play music for a living.

PEV: What were you listening to growing up?

ME: Starting out on MTV, I was mostly into the popular stuff of the day at first…the top 20, then heavy metal once adolescence kicked in, graduating to more classic rock and finally the blues and singer/songwriters towards the end of high school and beyond. I was a big Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead fan, two wonderful ‘gateway bands,’ in that you can really get yourself hooked on some great music by delving into the earlier traditional country and blues that inspired them.

PEV: You’ve been compared to John Hiatt and Ron Sexmith by The Washington Post – how does that sit with you?

ME: Hiatt and Sexsmith are two of my favorite artists, so any comparison is welcomed.

PEV: You recently had a son – how has that affected your music?

ME: Becoming a parent is one of the best ways to have your priorities instantly (and joyfully) reorganized. Fatherhood is like switching over from rabbit ears to high-def. I don’t know if it’s wanting a way for my son to know me that I may never be able to otherwise explain to him, but I am very focused on playing music from a place of honesty and distilling every thought and expression down to some core belief. This doesn’t mean every song is full of big revelations; it could just be trying to set an example for him by expressing and appreciating the simple joys in life.

ME: PEV: If we were to walk into your practice studio right now, what would we find?

ME: A crib and a changing table. I used to have a space to make some noise in, but when my son arrived, the room became largely his. I have a closet full of guitars (high strung, tenor, a dreadnought, baritone electric and more) and a corner packed with amps and a pedal steel, which I borrowed from a friend in a fit of optimism.

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

ME: Before I became a father, I was very disciplined about writing, sitting down each morning at our dining room table with a cup of coffee, notebook and guitar. Now, I mainly try to grab inspiration where and whenever I can. I write fewer songs, but have more scraps of ideas and melodies that I try and hold onto until I can examine them more fully and see if there’s any potential for a full-blown song.

PEV: What can fans expect from your release, “Delivered”?

ME: I am really proud of this new record. It’s the record I’ve always hoped I had in me. There’s no bullshit on it, I think these songs address hard questions about life and death and love and God in an honest way that strives to find some common chord that might resonate and bring us all together a little more closely.

PEV: How does this collection differ from “Hope & Other Casualties?”

ME: I would say it takes that album’s exploration of how the personal and political intertwine even further. The personal songs go deeper, the political songs are even more direct and unvarnished, and the songs where the two collide, they do so with greater force and higher stakes than on previous records.

PEV: How was the “Soul 2 Soul” tour?

ME: The Soul2Soul tour was a really fun experience, mainly because I was playing music every night with Lori McKenna, one of my dearest friends. It was a real honor to be entrusted with helping to introduce her and her songs to 15,000 people every night. Tim and Faith were really good to us, and it was a fun five weeks, playing in huge rooms, traveling as part of this musical circus, pretty much isolated from any hard work or trouble that you might have to deal with in the ‘real world.’

PEV: How has “life on the road” been for you?

ME: Pretty good thus far. I have been trying to stick closer to home, to the extent that is possible in my line of work. I love traveling and playing music for folks, but often that comes at the expense of seeing my wife or missing my son growing up. It’s a constant dance and juggling act, but so far so good.

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

ME: Of course, there are great writers, singers, performers and pickers just about everywhere you go. Bob Dylan, Mississippi John Hurt, Hank Williams and everyone else was, at one time, an unknown artist hanging around some small town singing their songs, so I think there is great stuff everywhere if you look hard enough. However, I would stack my hometown of Boston up against New York, Nashville, Los Angeles or any other music business hub.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Mark Erelli performance?

ME: I play so many different kinds of shows in such a wide variety of venues, that I just try to bring the same joy and commitment to each show. I don’t consider what I do to be, ultimately, entertainment. If that is all someone wants from music, there’s always a wardrobe malfunction happening somewhere. I strive to be entertaining, but I want to connect with the audience on a variety of levels; challenge them, lift them up, hopefully send them home feeling a little less alone.

PEV: Before a show, are there any pre-show rituals you do or is it just go out there and perform?

ME: I don’t really do much more before a show than try and have a decent meal and a glass of red wine.

PEV: Do you have a dream collaboration that you haven’t had yet?

ME: Until a year ago, I would have said to write a song with Ron Sexsmith, but I wrote a song with him and Lori McKenna last summer, so it’s time to find a new dream! I think most of my dream collaborations envision myself in someone’s band, as an accompanist, rather than out in front. I would drop everything to be in Bob Dylan’s band.

PEV: Is there an up and coming artist out right now that you think we should all be looking into?

ME: No one comes to mind, but that’s all due to the fact that I barely have time to cover all the music I need to know to perform and record, let alone keep up with the latest new thing. I’m sure I’m missing out on something great and new that’s coming out right now, though.

PEV: What is one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Mark Erelli?

ME: I am, or used to be, a pretty good tennis player.

PEV: When you are not touring or performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

ME: I am usually hanging out with my son, walking around the neighborhood, making up songs about the things we see along the way. He’s only one year old, so he doesn’t know what I’m singing about, but I think he likes to be wheeled about, listening to his dad’s voice.

PEV: In one word, describe Mark Erelli.

ME: Does “sleep-deprived” count as one word, or two?

PEV: So, what is next for Mark Erelli?

I used to have a whole list of future projects that I wanted to do, but I think now I tend to go more on gut and instinct. I am looking forward to getting the new cd “Delivered” out into the world, and I’ll just have to wait and see what the world has in store for me once that happens.

For more information on Mark Erelli, check out www.MarkErelli.com

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Today’s Feature – September 14-15: Damage

September 16, 2008 at 8:32 pm (Today's Feature)

The stage is set for Damage, the next in a line of rock, metal and alternative kings hailing from Orange County, California – a who’s who line of bands like No Doubt, Korn, Avenged Sevenfold, The Offspring and Social Distortion. The 5-piece act has been following a similar path carved out by these ultra-successful groups, taking home the Best Hard Rock Band Award from the 2006 Southern California Music Awards and finding themselves compared to the legendary Alice in Chains by Music Connection Magazine.

And these guys (and girl) have been doing it the right way from the start, figuring out their metal formula while building a fan base from the ground up through intense songwriting and heavy guitar riffs. Starting out with just three members, Damage has now expanded out to five, allowing for even more instrumentation and swinging vocals. The follow-up to their debut, “Velocity” is titled “Truth and Consequence,” a record with “More introspection about our individual places in the world and our collective responsibility to face certain truths and challenge ourselves.” There’s no denying the fact that Damage has upped their game for this collection – apart from the in your face guitar sound smashing, you’ll notice they mix up their rock style with music from the cello, viola, piano, even trumpets; like the orchestra swung through the studio.

“Truth and Consequence” brings it on so many levels, but they’re happy as long you notice the “big abusive guitars” – a personal passion of theirs. Part of the reason Damage has grown as much as they have is their live show, something they pride themselves on; an act that will have you talking about them for weeks after the performance. Get out to one, and pick up the new record. There’s a lot more to learn in the XXQ’s, so get to it.

XQs: Damage

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Tell how Damage first came together. Was it an instant connection the first day you practiced together?

Michael: About 4 years ago, I was asked by friends to sub-in for the lead guitarist of a San Diego-based band at a local gig. The other band members and I hit it off real well and we decided to embark on a new project that would soon become Damage. We started writing together and gigged all over SoCal (southern California). I was then introduced to producer Ronnie King backstage at an Offspring concert and he ended up producing our first album “Velocity”. After about a year or two we replaced some members who didn’t have the time to continue touring and driving the project forward. I’m really blessed to get to play music with my current bandmates as they are really great musicians as well as great people.

PEV: Hailing from “The O.C.” (Orange County ? California), what kind of music were you listening to growing up?

Michael: Bands like Social Distortion, Offspring, and No Doubt were and still are great influences on us and other bands in the area. Some of my other all-time favorite bands are STP, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains, G&R, Led Zeppelin, and Chili Peppers. I’m also a huge fan of guitar virtuosos like Steve Vai and EVH.

PEV: Do people often ask you about the shows like “The O.C.”, or “Housewives” when you say you are from the OC? People from out of the area do all the time. What’s one big misconception about your area?

Michael: The biggest misconception is obviously that we all live a very superficial life like they do on those shows. There is also a very real, earthy, and chill version of Orange County that many people from out of the area don’t realize. Hanging out on Huntington Beach with friends and a cooler of cold beer is about as OC as it gets.

PEV: What was it like for Damage when you were first breaking into the music business? Before you were getting press, and regular gigs?

Michael: Probably like it is for most bands, it started in a small lockout rehearsal space finding our sound and songwriting, playing any shows we could find around town. My buddy Christopher Scott produced a 4-song demo for us in his home studio and we used that to get gigs. You know, just staying after it and being focused on songwriting and doing a lot of grassroots marketing to build a fan base.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Damage show?

Michael: We really strive to sound as good as, or even better than, our studio recordings. That is always a goal of ours. Sometimes things are beyond our control with that, like the room or the sound system at the club, but we do our best. We want our fans to experience quality when they see us live. That is really important to us.

PEV: How have your shows evolved from when you first started out?

There has to be tons, I’m sure? We used to be a 3-piece, we’re now 5. We’ve added a lot more instrumentation and vocals with our 2 additional members. Fans love Erin, our very hot and energetic backup singer who also breaks out her cello on stage on some songs. She adds a very cool element to our loud guitars.

PEV: Any embarrassing or crazy live show stories? There has to be tons, I’m sure?

Michael: Erin kicking out my guitar cable on several occasions. She gets a little out of control on stage sometimes. Nothing more embarrassing than having no sound in the middle of a guitar solo. Another time we played a big show in OC with several other bands. The production guys at the venue forgot to take our huge banner down after our set and the next band played their whole set with a 20 foot wide Damage banner prominently lit up and hanging behind them. The other band was cool about it but I felt bad that they didn’t get their banner up. There are some crazy backstage stories but we’ll leave it at that.

PEV: If you could collaborate with one artist out today, who would it be and why?

Michael: Wow. That’s a tough question. For me it would be Jimmy Page. I would love to write and record a song with him. He’s a hero of mine, and the most innovative guitarist ever in my opinion. I was really jealous when the Foo Fighters got to play with Zeppelin recently. Dave Grohl said it was the greatest moment of his life. I totally believe he was genuine about that. That lucky fucker.

PEV: As well, is there an up and coming artist right now that you think we should all be looking out for?

Michael: Yes, an incredible singer-songwriter named Marianna Ladas. I’m a bit biased as I’m producing her debut album right now. She’s a really compelling artist. Stay tuned.

PEV: Tell us, what can fans expect from your latest release, “Truth And Consequence”?

Michael: More introspection about our individual places in the world and our collective responsibility to face certain truths and challenge ourselves. Self-responsibility is a virtue that so often is misplaced onto others and is something that seems particularly relevant to us today. We also used a variety of instruments on this album to stretch ourselves musically. In addition to our normal guitars, bass and drums, you’ll hear cello, viola, piano, trumpets, and other instruments. We wanted certain elements in the music that we felt we needed to help embody the messages we were trying to convey.

PEV: How is “Truth And Consequence” different from other music out today?

Michael: We don’t necessarily write with an eye towards being different, but we do have such a variety to our musical backgrounds that often these different concepts when combined form a unique sound. For example, you’ll hear what we believe to be pretty interesting bridges in most of these songs, things you might not expect. The bridges on “God” and “You seeing me” sound like something you might expect to hear on a heavy metal version of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s album. Overall we tried to deliver compositions that were rich and musical, relevant, yet still with big abusive guitars — a personal passion of mine.

PEV: When you sit down to write an album like “Truth And Consequence” what kind of environment do you surround yourselves in?

Michael: I like to write in my backyard on my $50 Mexican acoustic guitar with my dogs sitting around me. I probably wrote 6 or 7 seven of the songs on T&C that way. Really though, I don’t often “sit down to write”. I usually have some kind of guitar in my hands, if I’m hanging out or watching TV or even sitting in front of my computer. I’m more riff-oriented. My fingers will start doing something on their own and they’ll catch my attention. Then I take over from them on something that resonates for me musically and develop it. Then I bring it into the band to further develop it. I usually write music first and then lyrics. I like to sit with what I’ve just composed musically for a while and decipher what the music means and what it is saying to me. Then I write the lyrics. It’s a bit backwards but it’s what I do. This way, I feel like the song is a natural birth as the music is always telling me something. It would be hard for me to write a story and then put music to it.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Damage?

Michael: Tony is a cancer survivor. GW went to the famous Berklee School of Music in Boston. Spencer has appeared in over 25 movies and TV shows in various musician cameo roles over the past few years. Erin is an amazing artist (painter). I enjoy cooking.

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

Michael: Extremely supportive since the beginning. It’s really been a fun ride for everyone.

PEV: If we were to walk into your practice studio right now, what’s one thing we’d most likely find?

Michael: Cans of barbecue sauce. We rent a warehouse behind my buddy’s office which is home to his barbecue restaurant business. There is a big fridge with pork butt in there as well. We’ve pretty much taken it over now and it’s really a state of the art rehearsal studio. But there’s still some sauce lying around.

PEV: How is life on the road for you? Good parts? Bad parts?

Michael: Good for the most part. Playing music on the road and meeting new people and seeing new places is awesome. But you definitely miss your family and friends when they’re not with you. The worst part of all time was when we hit a deer outside of Boulder, Colorado. I should say he really hit us, ran right at us from across the freeway, hit our back fender and went flying 30 feet into the air. It seemed like he was committing suicide. It was really sad.

PEV: In your opinion, is there a certain city (US or International) that you find to be the best city for music?

Michael: Austin, Texas is amazing. A lot of the Southern cities really come out hard for good rock. But places like Minneapolis and Denver are also surprisingly strong. There are so many great rock festivals in Europe that dwarf a lot of the festivals here in the U..S. We forget I think sometimes that there are great rock bands overseas, amazing bands, and great music scenes in places you would never think.

PEV: As well, where’s one place you haven’t played, you would like to? Why?

Michael: Japan. It would be a crazy experience all the way around I think.

PEV: Where will Damage be ten years from now?

Michael: Hopefully writing, recording, and performing as a group. It would be fantastic to be sustainable and relevant as a rock band for many years. So few have accomplished that. Why are U2 and Bruce Springsteen still winning Grammys to this day as best artist, best album, etc.? I hope there are some bands in our generation that can approach these levels of accomplishment over time. I just wanna be making music, that’s all. Individually, I think we’ll all be active in music, writing and producing in some fashion.

PEV: So, what’s next for Damage?

Michael: More touring to support “Truth and Consequence”. We’ll also go back into the studio very soon to record new tracks. Basically, keep pushing.

For more information on Damage, check out: www.MySpace.com/Damage

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Today’s Feature – September 12-13: The Times New Roman

September 16, 2008 at 8:31 pm (Today's Feature)

Proudly representing the city of B-more, I give you The Times New Roman. Shut up – they know it’s a font. Rob Stevens, Brian Fee, Kevin Jahn, Sam Morgan and Scott Smith are creating an advanced breed of music; a new style and take on a number of influences – and they’re doing it with less than year together under their belts. These guys have only just begun to tap into their potential, and the best part for the members of PensEyeView is that they’re growing and maturing right in our backyard.

Currently making their rounds through the diverse Baltimore scene, the members of The Times New Roman might be the only guys not surprised by their unique and attention-grabbing sound after only three quarters of a year together. Bassist Brian Fee says “There was definitely an instant connection. I think we wrote pretty much all of ‘Underground’ the first time we played together, also the backbone of 2 or 3 other songs that we are still playing. It was pretty cool just to get together and have songs come out instead of sitting there wondering what to do.”

These first sessions have led to the band’s first EP release, “The Warehouse Sessions.” And much like the assorted background of the setting they played in (an actual warehouse complete with crates and stripper poles), the collection contains tunes that jump up and down the genre-meter; what they call a “batch of audible experimentation.” It’s a great listen, riffs, chords and mixed lyrics included. The Times New Roman are trying to spread the word through their evolving stage show, so check them out when you stop in Baltimore. There’s much more to learn, so get into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: The Times New Roman

RS: Rob Stevens (Guitar)
BF: Brian Fee (Bass)
KJ: Kevin Jahn (Drums)
SM: Sam Morgan (Vocals)
SS: Scott Smith (Guitar)

PEV: Tell us how The Times New Roman first came together as a band.

RS: Brian and I broke off from our previous band and started posting ads online for musicians. Over the course of a couple months the band just kind of took shape as it is today, each piece of the puzzle fell into place one by one.

PEV: Now calling Baltimore home, what were you listening to growing up?

SM: My older sis got me into a lot of hair bands. I was the only cigarette smoking 11 year old with a Guns’n’Roses jean jacket and holey jeans. Hey it got me alot of 15 year old girlfriends. (laughter) Kids, I do not condone smoking.

SS: I started with Springsteen and The Eagles, then came The Beatles and Pink Floyd. I got really into the brit-rock thing around ‘95, ‘96- Oasis, The Stereophonics, Travis, Ocean Colour Scene, The Verve and now I’m just all over the place.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your lives when you knew that you wanted music to be a career for you? Even if it isn’t right now, but the concept of it possibly becoming a reality?

SS: My first Oasis show in ’96, I could even tell you what song it was that got me hooked, it was Slide Away in the acoustic set. That’s when I decided music was what I wanted to do. I went out the next day, bought a guitar and started to teach myself to play.

PEV: The first time the band got together to practice, what was that like? Was there and instant connection?

BF: There was definitely an instant connection. I think we wrote pretty much all of Underground the first time we played together, also the backbone of 2 or 3 other songs that we are still playing. It was pretty cool just to get together and have songs come out instead of sitting there, wondering what to do.

PEV: Tell us about a normal day of a show for The Times New Roman. Is it excitement? Chaos? Running around? Chilled out?

KJ: It’s chilled out for the most part, as the show gets closer things speed up a bit and it’s just making sure everything is set for us to give the best possible performance. We’re all pretty easy going for the most part.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live The Times New Roman performance?

RS: A lot of energy, our goal is to make an impression. We’re adding new songs to the set all the time so every show might have a different feel. Hopefully the people who come to see us go home happy and those who have no clue who we are want to find out. We want people to get attached to our songs, to be singing them in their heads for days after the show.

PEV: Before a show, are there any pre-show rituals you do or is it just go out there and perform?

BF: No time for rituals, hopefully we’ll have time for that some day when we’re playing arenas. We really just show up and play, except for Rob who has been there for 5 hours measuring the stage and getting acoustic readings on the angle of the walls of the venue and taping off amp placements. (laughter)

RS: Yeah, while Sam is sitting at the bar letting us do the heavy lifting.

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

SM: I really think Baltimore has something great going for it. I spent a lot of time around Denver playing in bands and the scene here in Baltimore is much more diverse. This is also a great location geographically, with DC, Philly, and New York right around the corner.

PEV: Ok, Saturday Night Live calls up and wants you to be the musical guest – who is your dream host for that night (why)?

KJ: Kate Bosworth (without any hesitation)–because I love Blue Crush.

BF: Tom Hanks or maybe Will Ferrell, so he could run out and play the cowbell on one of our songs.

SM: Angelina Jolie, with the hopes that she has room for one more adopted son.

PEV: What can fans expect from ‘The Warehouse Sessions’ the band’s first EP release?

SM: What we bring to the table at this point, is really a batch of audible experimentation. We’re still getting to know each other as musicians and the music is still in that metamorphic state, before it settles into “our sound”. Warehouse Sessions is a sample of where we are right now, but the project is constantly evolving.

PEV: How is the sound on ‘The Warehouse Sessions’ different than any other music out today?

SM: I think our music, while not being categorized as Emo, definitely spans the spectrum of human emotion. Some songs like “The Circle” are melancholic and sensitive, and then we throw “This City Is…” into the mix, bringing you aggression and sarcasm. Not saying that other bands aren’t doing the same, but we have an experimental itch that I foresee being scratched in the near future, so I’m pretty excited about that.

PEV: How has your family and friends reacted to your music career?

KJ: Nothing but supportive.

SS: Everyone has been really excited about what we’re doing.

BF: My wife said after listening to the cd that she forgot she was listening to my band, she just lost herself in it.

SM: I recently saw “Walk Hard, The Dewey Cox Story” and it struck a lot of similarities with my situation. (laughter)

PEV: What’s your opinion on the heated debate on downloading music for free? Do you find the internet has been helpful for bringing great music to the forefront?

SS: We’re all for it. The more hands you get your music into the better. If you find something you like, buy it, support that band. Sharing music could do nothing but help a band like us. I’ve found a lot of bands I never would have heard of otherwise from p2p sites. The thing is, if you like it, you should support the artists.

PEV: Do you have a “dream collaboration”?

SS: Ryan Adams, his mind always seems to be going a million miles a second. It’s not just the quantity of songs he produces but the quality. Name a genre and he’s written a classic in it.

PEV: Is there an up and coming artist out right now that you think we should all be looking into?

SM: Yes, check out J_Roddy Walston and The Business. They’re another Baltimore band that totally kick ass.

PEV: As an up and coming band, what do you find to be the hardest part about breaking into the business?

SM: I’d say making friends who are already established. It’s a very competitive industry in and around Baltimore, it sometimes seems to be about who you know. We’re the new kid on the block and thus far haven’t found anyone to play tag with.

PEV: What is one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of The Times New Roman?

SM: The members of The Times New Roman usually wake up at 6AM after a hard night of partying and go eat greasy omelets at the Broadway Market in Baltimore.

RS: Ack, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

PEV: When you are not touring or performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

RS: We all have jobs, so that keeps us busy but, we always make time to check out other local bands in the Baltimore/DC area. Scott and I are always coming up with new song ideas.

SS: Brian and Sam play W.O.W, I don’t even want to know how many hours a day that takes up.

PEV: In one word, describe The Times New Roman.

BF: GORGAK (laughter)

SS: Expressive

PEV: So, what is next for The Times New Roman?

SS: Playing shows, writing, recording… Just grinding out a name out for ourselves. We feel like we have something here and the songs we’re writing keep getting better and better and we want to get that out to people.

For more information on The Times New Roman, check out www.thetimesnewroman.com

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Today’s Feature – September 10-11: The Scott Harris Project

September 16, 2008 at 8:30 pm (Today's Feature)

The Scott Harris Project was created out of, and for, the same thing: having a good time. Harris himself says that even though he’s matured as an artist and a songwriter over the years, that “Luckily I still like to have a good time so my music will always give off a fun vibe.” From songs like “Live it Up” to “Same Dream,” Harris’ sound is infectious, a new breed of upbeat melodies just waiting to be discovered by the rest of the world.

The band has been doing their part to get the word out; after releasing the album “In Between a Memory and a Dream” they’ve hit the road with acts such as Lifehouse, Blues Traveler, Gin Blossoms, Sugar Ray, Ben Lee, Teddy Geiger, and Toots & the Maytals. Making giant leaps one town at a time, there’s no doubt The Scott Harris Project is a soon to be proud owner of a #1 most downloaded tune. Any of the songs off of “In Between a Memory and a Dream” could make it, all containing an “eclectic mix of rock, pop, and crafty lyrics.” Harris says of the album, “I think the lyrics and song are really easy to relate to. On a first listen you know what I am trying to say. You can sing back almost any song off the record the first time you hear it.” You can check him out live and see for yourself as the band hits a few college campuses before their fall tour. Look at the schedule, buy the record and jump into the XXQ’s for a whole lot more.

XXQs: The Scott Harris Project – Interview with Scott Harris

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Now calling New York home, what kind of music were you listening to growing up?

Scott Harris (SH): I hate give that generic ” I listen to everything” answer, but its really true. I heard a lot of jazz and Beatles growing. My first two favorite cds were Dave Matthews Band “Under The Table and Dreaming” and The Fugees “The Score”.

PEV: What’s your take on today’s mainstream music scene?

SH: I kind of like what’s going on. I like artist who are coming out with pop hits and then collaborating. Cross-over singles always make for an interesting sound.

PEV: At what point in your life did you decide that music was going to be more than just a hobby for you?

SH: I think when I was in college and I had an opportunity to make a demo in LA. I was out there for a month recording and meeting people who worked in music full time. I fit in pretty well and I knew it could be something I could take really seriously.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Scott Harris Project performance?

SH: Lots of energy and surprises.

PEV: Tell us what it was like for you when you first started out. Before you were regularly playing gigs.

SH: It was tough. I did a bunch of open mics where the sound was always terrible. My friends would always come out and support me even if it didn’t sound good so it made those tougher times easier.

PEV: How is your style changed over the years, since you first started out?

SH: My style is constantly evolving. I think I am becoming more mature as person and as a songwriter. Luckily I still like to have a good time so music will always give off a fun vibe.

PEV: What can fans expect from the new album, “In Between A Memory and A Dream”?

SH: Fans can expect energy and fun songs. There is a lot of up-tempo music on that CD.

PEV: How is “In Between A Memory and A Dream” different from other music out today?

SH: I think the lyrics and song are really easy to relate to. On a first listen you know what I am trying to say. You can sing back almost any song off the record the first time you hear it.

PEV: In all your travels, what has been the favorite city to play and why?

SH: I would have to say New Orleans. I loved everywhere I have been playing lately but that place is something else. People just want to party and that’s always the best crowd to play to.

PEV: Is there a certain “up and coming” band or artist right now you think we should all be looking out for?

SH: I think the secret is out but MGMT is definitely got that hip sound everyone will love.

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

SH: Everyone loves to follow the story. It is such a roller coaster but friends and family are always supportive.

PEV: How is road life for you? Best and worst parts?

SH: Road life is like a roller coaster also. A lot of up and downs for sure. The best part is meeting all different types of people. Playing shows every night that people are really enjoying is great too. The worst part is being forced to eat at a lot of rest stops.

PEV: When you aren’t performing or traveling, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

SH: Writing mostly. When I am not writing I am usually with my friends and family just trying to have a good time. Trying to enjoy life.

PEV: What’s one thing fans would be surprised to hear about Scott Harris?

SH: I was the captain of my volleyball team in high school.

PEV: What is a normal day of a show for the band like? Any pre-show rituals?

SH: I usually ask a million questions and everyone will think I am nervous. I am not nervous it’s just how I get before a show. We get in a huddle and tell each other we love each other and play like it’s our last show.

PEV: In one word, describe The Scott Harris Project.

SH: Special.

PEV: If you could have your “dream collaboration” with any artist, who would it be and why (living or passed)?

SH: Probably Kanye West. It would be so nice to hear him flow on something I wrote. It would be fun to write to one of his beats too.

PEV: What has been the best part of your career so far?

SH: My last tour that was sponsored by Cover Girl. At this stage of the game playing every night to a different city is where we need to be to take our music to the next level.

PEV: What is next for Scott Harris and The Scott Harris Project?

SH: We are going to record some more music with some really cool people. We will be doing a bunch of college dates while we get some new tunes together and get ready to hit the road for a big tour in the fall.

For more information on The Scott Harris Project check out: www.scottharrisproject.com

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Today’s Feature – September 8-9: The Youngers

September 9, 2008 at 8:18 pm (Today's Feature)

It’s great, amazing, and wonderful to see all of the young, emerging artists on PensEyeView – so many new musicians that are introducing the world to new sounds, occasionally re-inventing the melodies or placing their own spin on existing styles. But it’s just as pleasant to see a band holding up some of the traditions of music, bands like The Youngers. They’ve gone as far as to name their latest album “Heritage,” a collection held close to each member of the group, led by frontman Todd Bartolo and featuring Randy Krater (Bass and Vocals), Jesse Nocera (Guitars), Justin Schaefer (Drums and Percussion), and James Harton (Hammond B3, Piano).

The record, which was released on the bands own Obuck Records pays homage to the creators of The Youngers musical inspiration, the musicians behind their old school roots. The collection even contains performances from John Carter Cash (Percussion), Laura Cash (Fiddle), Ronnie McCoury of The Del McCoury Band (Mandolin), and legendary Waylon Jennings’ pedal steel player Ralph Mooney. The album is “full of chiming guitars, anthemic choruses, soaring harmonies and story songs of working and hard life blues;” something that will hopefully move you as much as it moved them.

Whenever you have the opportunity, check these gentlemen out live. They say you can “expect us to give them not only a great show, but a connection. Instead of listening to the songs at home, they can experience the emotions of each song with us as we are experiencing them. That’s what it’s all about; making that connection and going on the musical journey together.” I couldn’t agree more. Dive into the XXQ’s to learn more.

XXQs: The Youngers – Todd

PEV: So give us the story – how did everyone come together?

Todd: Randy Krater and I met back in October of ’99 when I was kicking around the idea of starting a band. He was the only bass player that didn’t turn me down. Everyone else has become a member through the years, most of us meeting through our thriving local music scene.

PEV: What were you listening to growing up?

Todd: Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Flying Burrito Brothers, John Prine, The Band, Bill Monroe, Stanley Brothers, Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen, and everything in between from metal to rap.

PEV: How did you all start your own label, “Obuck Records?”

Todd: Obuck records was created as an outlet for music such as ours.

PEV: If we were to walk into your practice studio right now, what would we find?

Todd: Very determined focused people working on perfecting our live performance for our upcoming tour.

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

Todd: Every one is different. Songs come from the kitchen of my home, from the back of Randy’s backhoe, the ride to-and-from our day jobs; there really is no set environment. The songs come when they want, and you have to be prepared to write them down.

PEV: You all seem to pay a lot of attention to musical tradition – what parts of that tradition are most significant to you?

Todd: The music itself. It is important to remember the musicians that have come before us and how they have inspired us to create something new that is still tied to the roots of early music.

PEV: What can fans expect from your release, “Heritage”?

Todd: Songs that move them as much as the experience of making Heritage moved us.

PEV: How was working with John Carter Cash for this record?

Todd: Recording Music should be a fun and rewarding experience. I found both on this project. It was an unforgettable inspirational journey. John was the ideal producer for us & we all worked really well together. He definitely got our best performances out of us for each song. He was great.

PEV: How’s this one compare to your debut album, “Output?”

Todd: Since the recording & release of Output we have grown a lot as musicians & songwriters. The feel of Heritage is completely different than Output. We’ve matured you could say. This album has The Youngers sound I had been searching for. On Output there is the lap steel work, great harmonies and guitar work but Heritage has more of it. Output is good, but Heritage is great. As a musician I always want to strive to make an album better than the last, to keep pushing myself.

PEV: It seems collaboration played a big part on this record – how has it affected the sound?

Todd: I think we were all really focused on getting the best sound we could & keeping things as simplistic as we could. With John Carter at the wheel we approached each song with the same goal in mind; do not overproduce. It helped us to stay true to the root of the song. This helped with the overall sound of the album.

PEV: How has “life on the road” been for you?

Todd: So far it has been enjoyable for us. We have met some great people on the road, and have had the opportunity to see a lot of nice places. It does have its disadvantages though. Being away from home is hard for everyone. There is no place like home.

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

Todd: To be honest every city we have played in has been slightly different. They all have been good, and they all have a scene. Each is uniquely different, and I cannot say that one is better than the other.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live performance?

Todd: They can expect us to give them not only a great show, but a connection. Instead of listening to the songs at home, they can experience the emotions of each song with us as we are experiencing them. That’s what its all about; making that connection and going on the musical journey together.

PEV: Before a show, are there any pre-show rituals you do or is it just go out there and perform?

Todd: It’s pretty much go out there and play your heart out.

PEV: Do you have a dream collaboration that you haven’t had yet?

Todd: Of course, who doesn’t? Billy Joe Shaver, Bob Dylan, Steve Earle, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Prine, Iris Dement, Wilco. Just to name a few.

PEV: Is there an up and coming artist out right now that you think we should all be looking into?
Todd: Frog Holler, Tandy

PEV: What is one thing we’d be surprised to hear about The Youngers?

Todd: I cannot think of a single thing that would be surprising to anyone really. We are all pretty much regular guys whose love for music goes above and beyond.

PEV: When you are not touring or performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

Todd: Spending time with our families, camping, fishing, biking, collecting antique vehicles and instruments, and boating.

PEV: In one word, describe The Youngers.

Todd: Passionate

PEV: So, what is next for The Youngers?

Todd: More Music, More Albums, More Tours

For more information on The Youngers, check out: www.TheYoungers.com

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