Category Archives: Interviews

Interview | Alexx Calise

BY EVAN VOGEL

Alexx Calise

Alexx Calise. Although it’s a name that you may not be familiar with at the moment, there is a good chance you will be soon. She has already seen the successful appeal of her work unfold as it has been featured on numerous television shows (Dance Moms, Grimm and The Voice, just to name a few) over the years. As many independent artists do, Calise took to YouTube to share most of her music – and the internet spoke. She has since garnered millions of hits on her songs and established something of a fan base. Alexx took some time to talk with us about her style, what its like being an independent artist and also gave us some insight on her upcoming album, Addition By Subtraction. Check out the full interview below!

You started writing music at a young age, correct? Who were some of your biggest influences growing up?

I’ve been writing songs since I was a kid. My dad was definitely my biggest influence (he’s a guitarist as well), but I was also really into blues and grunge. I grew up listening to Silverchair, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Johnny Lang, B.B. King, and more. I’ve always been drawn to really emotive, passionate, and soulful music, regardless of the genre.

Have you always had your heart set on being a musician or were there other goals and dreams along the way?

Music has always been in my heart, but I’ve always been a writer first and foremost. I wrote my first story in kindergarten, so it just goes to show how many years I’ve been at it, haha. When I was 11, I picked up the guitar at first merely to facilitate my writings, but then I ended up falling in love with my instrument along the way.

In addition to music, I’m also a bit of an entrepreneur. I own my own kids party entertainment business out here in LA. We offer over 100 costumes and characters, and we’ve even appeared on The Ellen Show recently, which was pretty cool. I do some acting too, though I wouldn’t consider myself a connoisseur by any stretch. I’m beginning to think I have A.D.D. I can’t seem to sit still, haha.

Your songs all appeal strongly to emotions. Do you typically write from personal experiences or do you try writing from other perspectives as well?

Why thank you. I’ve definitely written from other perspectives, especially when I’m writing for licensing purposes or for other artists, but I typically write from my own life, because music is a form of therapy for me. An artist’s mind is a complex web of emotions, so there’s a lot to glean from! I’ve got a lot to say, haha.

Your music has been featured in countless television shows, particularly The Voice, Grimm, and Dance Moms, did you ever picture it happening like it did?

It’s funny, nothing has ever turned out the way I pictured it would. Nearly every little “victory” or “success” I’ve had has been out of nowhere, or it’s happened in a completely unconventional way. For example, I wrote a little song called ‘Cry’ a few years ago in my bedroom during a low moment. Little did I know that that song would become somewhat of an anthem for all of these little girls. One day, out of nowhere, all of these kids started making tribute videos and music videos using ‘Cry’, and I had no idea why. Upon further investigation, I found out it was used on this show called Dance Moms, and this little girl named Maddie Ziegler danced to it on the show. My dad suggested I make a music video featuring her in it because of how popular it was getting, so I flew Maddie out to LA, we shot the video, and the rest is history. The video now has 2.5 million hits, the song has sold over 50,000 downloads and counting, I’ve since performed on the show, and I’ve had at least six more songs on the series. Who would have thunk it?

You recently started your Fundrazr campaign for the funding of your fourth project which currently has over $2,500 of fan support, can you tell us more about it?

Certainly! I’m trying to raise money to offset some of the recording costs I incurred, as well as raise money for marketing costs. That includes an adequate PR campaign, music video production, CD duplication costs, graphic design costs, and the myriad of other things that are associated with putting out a new record. It’s quite expensive, haha!

If you’d like to be a part of the record, please check out my Fundrazr campaign page at Fundrazr.com. There’s tons of perks for contributing (even if it’s just a dollar—you can get an AC download of your choice!), such as exclusive AC shirts, a signed guitar, and clothing I’ve worn while performing on Dance Moms and Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition.

How is the new album, Addition By Subtraction coming along? Is there anything you can tell us about it? Concepts? Direction?

The album is actually all done production wise. In terms of sound, it’s a bit different from my previous works. It’s a little on the poppier side, but it’s not saccharine by any means. It’s very thought evoking and heartfelt, very lyric-driven, very emotive. I was going through a lot at the time, and you can certainly hear that. This album was a bit of a purge for me; I was getting rid of a lot of negative elements in my life, hence the title. I think you’ll hear my grungier influences in songs like ‘Blood’ and ‘End of the World’, and my lighter side in songs like ‘For What It’s Worth’ and ‘Anchor’.

You’ve said before that you’ve always been a part of the “counterculture” and that it has lent strongly to your alternative sound, where else does your musical style draw from?

I’ve always been a bit of an outcast, and I’ve never really been part of any group. I suppose being different has always been a focal point of my writing and music. Personal struggle always provides great writing material, haha.

Being an indie artist who isn’t back by a label is tough, how have you been working on gaining exposure within the industry?

It certainly is! I find that one of the best ways of gaining exposure is by licensing your music. I belong with several agencies which help to place my music into film and TV. Getting a great placement in a movie or popular TV show is worth it’s weight in gold. I spent years trying to get interviewed and reviewed, and while that was really helpful, nothing even remotely compared to getting one big placement in a major network TV show.

My motto is to work smarter, not harder. Also, never be afraid to ask for the things you want. I’ve gotten music placed in major shows, endorsement deals, reviews, and a plethora of other things simply because I asked. You need to have a good product of course to back it up, but I think people respect the fact that I have the balls to ask them for something.

Have there been setbacks?

Absolutely! Most of them have been financial. Everything I ever make from music or my kids party business is immediately reinvested back into my music. I’ve poured thousands and thousands of dollars into my career, all with the hope of something potentially catching fire. Every time I invest in a record or a video or anything musical for that matter, I’m tossing the dice. It’s a bit nerve wracking, but it’s a gamble I’m willing to take because I believe in my music.

What benefits do you think you are afforded by not being tied to a label yet?

There are a bunch actually. I own all my publishing, I have the rights to my entire catalog, I’m in charge of every aspect of my career, and I ultimately get to do whatever I feel like doing. I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself. If I had to answer to a label, they’d have final say about everything. I’d have a hard time relinquishing control, unless of course I were being promoted heavily and touring extensively.

What is your favorite song to listen to right now?

I’ve been on a bit of a Kid Rock kick ever since I saw him a few weeks ago (if you haven’t seen him live yet, do yourself a favor and check it out—best concert I’ve seen in years), so I’ve been jamming out to ‘First Kiss’ and ‘3 CATT Boogie’ quite a bit!

What was your strangest fan encounter?

Usually people are very sweet. I can’t think of too many weird fan encounters offhand thankfully. All in due time I suppose, haha.

Favorite 90’s jam?

That’s a toughie since there’s so many great 90’s jams. Hmm…I’m going to have to go with ‘Freak’ by Silverchair because those are my boys.

Time to give yourself some plugs! Where can people keep up with you and all your music?

Everyone feel free to drop in and say “hi” at any of the following:

Alexxcalise.net
Twitter.com/alexxcalise
Facebook.com/alexxcalisemusic
Youtube.com/alexxcalisemusic
Instagram.com/alexxcalise
Soundcloud.com/alexxcalise

Interview: Stefan Ponce Talks New Album, Working with Childish Gambino on New Music, and More

BY DAN GARCIA

Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration
Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

Stefan Ponce is more than just the producer behind your favorite records from Childish Gambino, Vic Mensa and Chance The Rapper. Although his name is forever attached to some of your favorite rappers, Ponce is currently making a name for himself. Don’t label him as the Grammy-nominated Stefan Ponce, or the Childish Gambino-affiliated Stefan Ponce, or the guy who produced ‘Down On My Luck’ and ‘3005’, Ponce is an artist of his own, with an album of his own that’s on its way. We sat down with Stefan Ponce to talk about his forthcoming project, and some of his artist friends who have helped him get to this point.

Continue reading Interview: Stefan Ponce Talks New Album, Working with Childish Gambino on New Music, and More

Interview | Benjamin Booker

BY MERHAWI HAILE

Benjamin Booker
Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

American singer-songwriter, Benjamin Booker, coming off his critically acclaimed eponymous debut album, has led a successful nationwide tour and has left his mark on festival stages worldwide. Booker took some time out for us to discuss touring, the development of his short film, and social commentary in music. Read our full Q&A with the talented New Orleans based guitarist below.

Continue reading Interview | Benjamin Booker

Interview: Jazz Cartier Talks Marauding In Paradise, Live Show, and New Music

BY VIKASH DASS

Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration
Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

You probably don’t know a whole lot about 22-year old Jazz Cartier, and that’s by design. His presence in music seemingly cumulated at light-speed after the release of his aggressive and poignant debut project, Marauding In Paradise, an intricate and tightly-bound sixteen track free album that explores the ideas of being youthful and comfortably close to death within the confines of Downtown Toronto, and, a record that was brought to life in a festival setting for the first time last weekend in Squamish. Sonically, Jazz is able to find an anomalous balance between poetic, love driven lyrics over electronic sounds as well as maddening words placed upon bass-heavy trap bangers, courtesy of his in house producer, Micheal Lantz. The result is equal parts deafening and touching, as Jazz embraces the schizophrenic tendencies of his true self playing a scorned lover at one moment, and an unhinged street-rat the next. 

Although there’s beauty and profoundness in Jazz’s reflective tendencies on Marauding in Paradise, it’s that latter, more ignorant side of Jazz’s music that fans come to see. Squamish Valley Music Festival might have only given him 30 minutes, but there were plenty of people walking away saying it was the best set of the weekend. If multiple pits weren’t organically opening up before the drops on songs, Jazz was orchestrating the crowd himself, and even leaping into the crowd to be apart of it all. “That aggression, that vibe, it all came from the studio,” Jazz explains. “When me and Lantz make songs of that caliber, we just try to capture that vibe first”.

Jazz’s studio process is not one that’s manufactured towards any certain feeling or sound, though. As I ask about what really goes into a regular studio session for him and his right hand, Michael Lantz, he makes it clear that it starts as more of an organic relationship as opposed to a  synthetic, work-based one. “We’re usually in the studio everyday, and it starts with him asking me how i’m doing and me asking him how he’s doing,” he says. Jazz then outlines a somewhat unorthodox and interesting method of working between him and Lantz where based on the mood and Jazz’s own specific feelings or emotions, Lantz will cater his production and beat selection towards aligning his own sounds with whatever is going on in Jazz’s head. “That’s where a lot of that aggressiveness comes from, just being inside and being cooped up with these cold ass beats. It almost brings it out of you,” Jazz reveals.

You wouldn’t know it from sitting across from him, but Jazz never had a reason to leave his hometown prior to music. “Before tours, i’d never left Toronto,” he says after i’d asked him if he’d visited Vancouver before. “Now i’m finally becoming a full-Canadian”. Jazz’s extreme devotion to his city is something that is alluded to frequently in his music and is a result of not knowing any other circumstance. He’s also got moments in his music where he questions the credibility and merits of his fellow Toronto artists, most notably on ‘The Downtown Cliche’, where Jazz scorns those within his city who claim the glory and spoils of a downtown lifestyle without actually living it. Jazz raps, “n*ggas created a dream, within a city where I’m never sleeping”, and continually fact-checks those who have to drive into Downtown Toronto to experience it, rather than Jazz who hasn’t left.

This dynamic Jazz plays within his city intrigues me, not just in a personal, living space, but within the music as well. Jazz Cartier is hands down one of the most popular up and coming artists out of Toronto, but is in no way affiliated with the biggest imprint out of that city, OVO Sound. That might not sound like much, but the reality is, when people not from Toronto talk about the city’s uprising and new sound, very few mention an artist that isn’t signed or affiliated with Drake and his label. “I’m not expecting anything from anybody, and when Drake was coming up, he wasn’t expecting anything from anybody as well. When Drake came up, there was no Drake,” says Jazz, revelling in his autonomy.  Jazz’s pride and sense of independence in the game is not only a dismissal of the perceived gatekeepers and tastemakers of his city, but it also evokes this emotion and energy that Jazz and his team don’t owe anybody but themselves for their success.

Jazz Cartier is doing pretty damn good on his own, though, as the Polaris Prize-nominated project Marauding in Paradise is without a doubt one of the strongest and boldest releases of 2015 thus far. With the benefits of retrospect, Jazz is able to reflect positively on his first impressions on the world. “It was me being as personal as possible, letting out my frustrations and not hiding anything. There is an art behind it. I’m just trying to not cater to anyone and just make the best music possible,” he says.  The music backs it up, too. Nothing on Paradise sounds forced or manufactured, and it’s free-flowing and personable in the best ways. “First impressions are everything. I just feel like personality goes a long way,” reflects Jazz.

But, Jazz also makes it clear to me that we might not have to wait too long for more music, as he passively mentions the existence of a completed, free body of work that he’s sitting on. “The second project is already done. I can press the button whenever, you know what i’m saying?” As I poke and prod, Jazz remains tight-lipped about the sonics and lyrical content of this next project, only using one word to describe it: “progression”. We’ll take it, Jazz.

Concert Review: Phoebe Ryan’s Chicago Showcase at the House of Blues

BY JESUS MONTERO

Phoebe Ryan
Photo by Jesus Montero/The Early Registration
Los Angeles singer-songwriter Phoebe Ryan is an artist on the rise. Being widely considered as one of this year’s biggest breakout artists, Ryan is setting herself up for a very promising career. With less than a year under her belt, Phoebe Ryan has successfully released her first EP Mine, signed a record deal with Columbia Records, has over 25 million plays on Spotify, performed at Bonnaroo & Firefly (and is set to hit the stage in Chicago at the North Coast Music Festival), and is also keeping herself busy this fall with a North American tour with Say Lou Lou.

We first got turned on to Ryan with her impressive rendition of R. Kelly’s ‘Ignition’ & Miguel’s ‘Do you’. Her unique spin of the mashup received high praises from the likes of many, including R. Kelly himself. Since then Ryan’s original music has taken over her growing popularity. Ryan held an intimate showcase in Chicago last night at The House of Blues’ Foundation Room. We were able to catch Ryan’s show which included songs from her Mine EP and of course her ‘Ignition/Do You’ cover.

Ryan’s intimate show was the perfect setting to really capture her pure talent. Although she is new to the music scene Ryan’s stellar performance could have been seen as one done by a seasoned veteran. Pulling off both a shy and powerful performance, Ryan’s down to earth lyrics set a mood that only she herself could set. Ryan’s soulful voice effortlessly captured her persona as a rising star.

We were also able to catch up with Ryan right after her performance. We talked about her fast track path to success that has led her to music stardom. “I still don’t even understand what is going on,” Ryan said in a humble disbelief. “In the beginning of the year I was independently releasing music that I had been working on for months. As far back as a year I had been holding on to that ‘Ignition’ remix before I decided to put it out. So that was the top of the year, just putting stuff out, then all of a sudden responds just started happening. It was crazy. It felt amazing.” Ryan explained at what point in her career she noticed a huge turn:

“When Columbia stepped in things got real. Now (I’m) doing stuff like this. (I’m) also going to radio promo showcases because they want to push my single ‘Mine’. Plus I’m about to go on tour for two months, it’s crazy!”

If you weren’t there last night, don’t worry! Ryan will be returning to the Windy City in less than a month, as she performs at the North Coast Music Festival in Union Park on Saturday, September 5th (single day tickets for Saturday are still available here). Meanwhile watch the music video for Phoebe Ryan’s single ‘Mine’ below.

Interview: Alessia Cara Talks New EP and Drake Sliding Into Her DMs at Squamish

BY VIKASH DASS

alessiacara
Courtesy of The FADER

Moments after the beautiful 19-year old Alessia Cara blessed the stage at Squamish Valley Music Festival on Saturday, among the piercing screams and thunderous applause, a strangely sweaty onlooker beside me tapped my shoulder and said, “She is f-cking amazing. Who is she?” I immediately filled him in, and watched his face light up as he tapped her name into his notes on his iPhone, only to ask moments later, “How do you spell that?” Moments like those are all collateral of Alessia, currently occupying a strange place in music. She might possess one of the most incredible, refreshing voices in pop, yet she only has one single under her name.

The sullen and petulant ‘Here’ was most of the world’s introduction to Alessia Cara and is the ultimate anti-party banger that delivers and astounds on plenty of levels. Her explosive voice made famous through her YouTube-famed covers of pop favorites cuts through the track and is equal parts sugary-sweet and dominant, the Issac Hayes sampling instrumental offers a retro nod to an 80’s classic while feeling modern and ballroom-chic, but hands down the most impressive component of Alessia’s first original offering to the universe is her writing. Alessia flawlessly places the listener into her gone-sour party experience while flowing with a relentlessness and shine reminiscent of a rapper. No, really. In contrast to the formulaic and nursery-rhymed pop hits that usually consume radio, Alessia Cara utilized a timely flow that sounds more like a rant or stream of consciousness and just when you feel that she’s about to run about of breath, she masterfully steps back and slaps you with a wave of tender melodies.

Few artists get to where Alessia Cara currently is, and frankly, even fewer do what she is about to do. The Canadian songstress is poised to stun and woo the masses with her eclectic, genre-blending debut EP Four Pink Walls dropping August 28th through Def Jam Records, and a full length album to follow shortly in the Fall. With #AlessiaSeason in full effect, I was lucky enough to talk to her over the phone just days after watching her tear down the stage.

Alessia comes across self-aware and not afraid to speak her mind, but she is also a remarkably gentle young woman who fully comprehends the surreal nature of her position. “It’s really, really awesome,” she replies, when I bring up her decision to tour her unreleased material around the world. “I already have people telling me their my fans and enjoying my songs and singing my lyrics,” she adds with disbelief. “I never expected it to be like this and this soon.”

It might feel soon, but in reality, she’s been racking up respectable amounts of views on her YouTube videos she’s been posting since she was thirteen. Most of them are covers of hit songs with her strumming away at a guitar and belting out notes in front of a webcam, while others are videos of her interacting with her fanbase and showcasing the same coy, soft-spoken girl I was on the phone with. With that said, YouTube views aren’t exactly as effective as a measure of success in the same way festival stages and chart-topping singles are. “I’m really new, so I think a lot of people don’t know who I am yet” she admits, acknowledging her unique position.

“I’m just trying to make good first impressions and play songs I think people will enjoy.”

As the release date of her first ever project creeps closer, Alessia finds solace and plenty of thrills in performing songs people don’t even know yet. “It’s good to have some upbeat stuff that people can at least dance to” she says. “If they can’t sing along, I might as well try and get them pumped up in different ways.”

Four Pink Walls is a project with a title that reflects the isolation and detachment experienced in her childhood bedroom. With songs like ‘Here’ and the live previews I was able to take in, it seems as though Alessia’s music on this EP will continue to narrate the trials and tribulations of being a thoughtful, reclusive teenager with a lot to say. “Lyrically, I guess it’s really wordy,” she reveals. “I don’t know, I guess I just like fitting as many words into a song as possible.” 

Of all the things I had read about her process crafting her album and EP, the most interesting anecdote was her work with Malay Ho, a producer known for crafting the sonic landscapes and producing a majority of one of the greatest, most renowned albums in modern history, Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE.

“I’m a huge Frank Ocean fan and that album was amazing, and in getting to meet him I got to ask him questions and go inside the thought process behind the album.” she says. Alessia continued to break down the two songs they conceived with a feverish sense of excitement. “One of them is called ‘Wild Things’ that i’ve performed acoustically before, but the produced-out version is my favorite because it’s huge and it’s like, an anthem.” The other record, ‘Stone’, is described by Alessia as an “awesome guitar based ballad” that demonstrates Malay’s versatility. “I got to spend a good chunk of time with him in the studio,” she boasts. “It wasn’t like in-and-out, it was like, really working together.”

Alessia is remarkably strategic and ambitious about the days ahead of her. When asked about following up her smash hit, she is quick to throw away the concept of catering to anyone or anything. “I don’t ever like to try to make a hit or write a ‘next single’,” she explains.

“I just try to be completely honest and make songs that I would like first of all because I think those are the ones that resonate the most.”

As she prepares to drop two projects before the year’s end, the balance of impact and longevity is something Alessia has her sights set on. As she strives to create bodies of work that will speak to her generation, she isn’t afraid to admit that she looks to great albums of the past as a blueprint, specifically citing her love for fellow Ontario-native Drake’s modern classic, Take Care.

“I mean, you remember the singles, but it’s not like you remember it for the number one singles. You think, ‘Drake had an amazing, classic album,’”  says Alessia. “That’s what I want it to be. It’s really about making it a project and a body of work rather than just a whole bunch of singles or a whole bunch of songs that are just forced together and call it an album.” It’s moments like this that open my eyes to how methodical and serious Alessia is about her craft. She’s not just in this to be the talk of the blogosphere for a couple months. She doesn’t just want the song of the summer. She isn’t just on some “happy to be here” mentality. She is fixated on the idea of legacy and affecting the world with quality, brilliant music.

Drake and Alessia Cara

Alessia’s appreciation for Drake has been well documented and has evolved into a running-gag in most of her previous interviews as she’s called him out repeatedly and pleaded for them to have an interaction. Hilariously enough, I was originally supposed to interview Alessia in person at Squamish, but a wrench was thrown in her schedule when she was randomly blessed with a  DM from the 6 God himself moments before he took the stage, resulting in their first, much anticipated encounter.

“So, I’ve called him out and stalked him,” she explains, giggling. “I was sitting around waiting for his performance, and I just get a DM, casually, from Drake!” She goes on to tell me her frantic reactions which involve her having a heart attack and question life itself. As the DM informs her that someone is coming to get her, she proceeds to freak out some more and she impersonates the OVO crew member that came to get her, comically butchering her name saying, “Are you Alicia?”

After our many pauses of laughter and incessant giggles, she walks me through the process of wading through security and ultimately approaching his trailer to which Drake emerged and voiced his enthusiasm to meet her. “It was the best 5 minutes of my life”, she reflects, but it was probably pretty awesome for Drake too. After all, he had just met one of music’s most promising voices in a very, very long time.

Purchase Alessia Cara’s single ‘Here’ and look out for her Four Pink Walls EP released August 28th through Def Jam Recordings.

Interview: Tove Lo Talks Music Festivals at Lollapalooza

BY DAN GARCIA

Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration
Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

One of Lollapalooza’s stand out performances this year was from Swedish singer/songwriter Tove Lo. And while everyone wants to talk body with one of pop’s biggest rising stars, we wanted to talk music festivals. So a day after her huge performance in Chicago for Lollapalooza, we sat down with the ‘Talking Body’ singer to talk about her recent festival performances and some of her favorite moments at music festivals.

Friday of Lollapalooza this year, before fans were treated to headlining performances from Paul McCartney and The Weekend, festival goers rushed (or sprinted if you will) to the Sprint Stage see to Tove Lo perform some of her biggest tracks from her 2014 Queen of the Clouds album. After we congratulated her on the great set, we asked Tove Lo about her weekend at Lolla. “I think it’s awesome!” she told us. “I love the whole set up here. You have this big nature park and then you just see all the skyscrapers around, it’s so cool.” And while Tove was busy in Chicago with her Lolla set, as well as performing one of the festival’s official aftershows, she still found time to take it all it and enjoy the fest. “I watched The Weeknd yesterday… So amazing. Great acts playing and I love my set. So far it’s been awesome.” Next on her schedule of acts to see were Banks, Chet Faker, Sam Smith, Alesso, and more that she couldn’t remember. “I have my little map (of acts to see),” she laughed.

Tove Lo

Performing two different types of shows during the weekend of Lollapalooza, the festival crowd and her own crowd during a intimate club performance in Chicago, we asked Tove how she compares the two experiences. “It’s one thing when you’re in a club and it’s only your audience, and they know every word, you’re sweating, and it’s intense,” she told us.

“But there’s something about festivals, just the whole vibe, just being in the presence of so many creative people.”

Festivals not only help keep the lights on for these performers but they also give artists a place to meet some of their musical peers. “You kind of become friends with the people you are playing the same festivals as. You see each other again, you get to hang out, you get to see each other play.” This time around, Tove Lo certainly made friends, as a number of Lollapalooza’s artists also shared a festival bill with Tove Lo at Bonnaroo this year, Tove Lo’s biggest show to date. “It was great, it was night time and it was the biggest crowd I’ve ever had.” Still loving her time at Lollapalooza, Tove Lo credits Bonnaroo as her favorite festival moment as a performer. “Maybe I shouldn’t say that here,” she joked. “It was really emotional that day, everything was just perfect.”

Not only enjoying festivals as an artist, Tove Lo likes to enjoy festivals as a fan as well. “As a goer (my favorite moment) was when I saw Stromae at Coachella this year. It was the best live show I’ve ever seen, he was just incredible. You could really feel every person in the audience watching his every move, it was great!” And while Stromae is Tove Lo’s favorite live performer, likely one of your favorite artists is a huge fan of Tove Lo’s live performances. Seeing her live twice this year (Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza), her festival performances always rank as one of the best that year. This Swedish pop star is taking over America’s radio waves and the festival circuit, and rightfully so, no one has a problem with it.

Interview: Andy Grammer is Music’s Easiest Guy to Root For

BY DAN GARCIA

Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration
Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

Andy Grammer is music’s easiest guy to root for, and that just may be an understatement. Today you can’t turn on the radio without hearing Grammer’s single ‘Honey, I’m Good.’, and while a lot artists may see their commercial success come almost overnight, Andy Grammer, who is one of the nicest guys in the industry, has truly worked his way up the charts. Sharing stories about studying music and learning to fail in college, to his version of “grad school” where he would pay rent by performing on the street 6 to 10 hours a day, we sat down with the ‘Keep Your Head Up’ singer to talk about his come up, temptations, his next album, and blurring the lines between “pop music” and other genres. Before his studio debut and self-titled album, which brought his first successful singles like ‘Fine By Me’ and ‘Keep Your Head Up’, Andy would sell his demo CDs for $5 on the street to Santa Monica tourists, only to have those same people come up to him half a decade later with those same CDs, while Andy is touring the country in promotion of his latest album and performing a single that reached the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 list. Hard work really does pay off.

Continue reading Interview: Andy Grammer is Music’s Easiest Guy to Root For

Interview: Meg Myers Talks Debut Album and First Headlining Tour

BY DAN GARCIA

Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration
Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

Singer-songwriter Meg Myers is soon approaching the release of her debut studio album, Sorry, which is set to release later this year (September) on Atlantic Records, and which just saw its title track cross over into the Top 15 U.S. alternative radio chart. While her notable singles like ‘Desire’ and ‘Sorry’, as well as her dark alternative sound, have drawn a lot of comparisons (Fiona Apple, Sinéad O’Connor), Meg is ready to show the world that she is her own artist with the release of her first full-length LP. We spoke to Meg, moments before her Summerfest performance in Milwaukee, to talk about the pressures of making her first full-length album, living all around the country (Tennessee, Florida, Ohio, Los Angeles), and how she enjoyed her recent headlining tour.

Continue reading Interview: Meg Myers Talks Debut Album and First Headlining Tour

Interview: Jon Bellion Partners with W Hotels and DJ White Shadow Amidst Debut Studio Album Release

BY JESUS MONTERO

DJ White Shadow and Jon Bellion
Photo by Jesus Montero

Jon Bellion has been on a steady rise thanks to his creative unique sound, that has molded him into an artist that has many paying attention. The Long Island producer, singer and songwriter for years has been working his way up to this critical point in his career.

Bellion’s has seen success most notably from his first three free mixtape/albums: Translations Through Speakers, The Separation, and The Definition. He is also known for his work on Eminem’s hit record ‘Monster’, featuring Rihanna. Bellion this year though, has caught the mainstream spotlight once again by this time signing the vocals for Zedd’s hit summer song ‘Beautiful Now’. And now, Bellion partnered up with longtime Lady Gaga producer and friend DJ White Shadow for his “Destination Tour”, partnering up with the luxurious W Hotels nationwide.

The ‘Beautiful Now’ singer is also set to release his first full length studio album, Beautiful Mind, later this year, which has the bar set high from his first three projects. “It was definitely a labor of love for the last three years.” said Bellion. “I think the next step is just naturally growing, I think I’ve given the fans enough to trust me for them to spend their hard earned money on something that I’ve worked on.” Bellion’s thoughts were focused on his fans, as this will be his first project that is going for sale. “I’ll always cater to the fans and I’m never going to over-charge for tickets, that’s always going to be a constant thing in mind. But I think now the next step is going to iTunes and the radio, or having it in stores. It’s a sense of legitimacy that comes from that.”

Paul Blair better known as “DJ White Shadow” was recently named Music Director for North America as part of W’s new Global Music Collective. His roles include handpicking music talent. “As a human being you want to keep developing things that you enjoy and things that you do.” White Shadow on his role of picking music talent, told us “I started out when I was 19 years old. I used to make techno, I used to travel to Europe to put records out, then it was about making music for somebody else and reaching a larger audience and I feel like I’ve done that. Now what I really enjoy is helping out people be the best they can possibly be. Right now at this specific junction in my life I am really excited to help other people out.”

The relationship between White Shadow and Bellion is both professional and personal. The big brother always looking out for what’s best for his younger sibling was present during the interview. “For Jon, where he’s at the point of his career maybe he doesn’t have the ability to walk into a situation that I just have sitting.” White Shadow explained “The first day I met Jon I said, ‘I have to fucking sign this kid.’ The day that I met him I literally knew he was going to be giant one day.”

DJ White Shadow is best known for his work as a producer for Lady Gaga’s albums Born This Way and Artpop. White Shadow added , “Everybody wants to be a superstar,” when talking about the work needed to make it in the music industry. “Everyone wants to be famous. This is hard work. Hard work to the point where you stress your body, brain, and your relationships out. You can tell if you’ve been around long enough if a person is going to be able to make it or not. Being an artist is not going up on stage and putting a microphone in your hand. It’s about creating so much more.”

The business partnership between DJ White Shadow and Bellion on behalf of the W Hotels includes touring and exclusive experiences to fans. “I knew if I send him here, he wasn’t going to get drunk in the lobby and pour champagne everywhere.” DJ White Shadow’s trust in Bellion’s character extends beyond his musical talent. “I know he has the ability to become a stronger business person and a better performer, and whatever I can contribute to helping him do that.”

A testimony to the traditional way of creating music, DJ White Shadow sites technology as constantly evolving. “That’s what exciting to me, finding people that want to work hard.” said DJ White Shadow. “You’re able to have enough equipment to record a full blown record in your bedroom. When I was first making records I had a Roland 808 Juno that I took out every credit card out that I could to buy it. There’s a lot of things that are exciting. Finding people that work hard, finding music that sounds great and people that really know what it takes to be an artist and helping support those people.”

In a few short years, Bellion has set himself up in a big way to breakout when his first studio album drops. Chicago was his second to last stop on his North American tour. Bellion sees the process he’s made and the journey his currently on as a “blessing”. “Last tour it was 13 guys in an 11 passenger van playing anywhere from 800 people sold out in New York to a bar in the middle of North Carolina with 200-250 kids. This year, every venue quadrupled and completely sold out with oversells and bumped up rooms. To see the progression that fast, it’s incredible.” Bellion also explained the resources DJ White Shadow offered that made this tour more memorable. “Then out of no where, we were all prepared to tough it out, being in the band. I get a call from one of my best friends in the industry (points to DJ White Shadow), and it’s like ‘I’m music directing for the W hotels, we can get you a tour bus.’ To see the growth and to able to carter to thousand of more fans and being healthy (is amazing). Last year it was grueling with my health, touring in a small van. To see my career grow getting to work with companies like the W Hotels… It’s been amazing. This tour has been so much fun, last year was grueling, this year I’ve been having a lot of fun.”

Bellion performs with his band, that is made up of his friends from college. Bellion also uses his close friends for social media content and when creating videos. “We made a promise to each other when we were jamming in college six to seven years ago that we would stick together if one person were to make it, we would all keep jamming. Their my best friends and it feels like I’m at summer camp with them right now.” He also cites the people he surrounds himself with as a major influence to his success. Traveling and performing across the country has made many surreal moments for Bellion and his band of musically talented friends. “These are God fearing cats that love their craft and decided to actually make music in the craft of making music.” Bellion added. “It’s an incredible thing to see my best friends that I met in college and (who I were) jamming with when we didn’t know what the hell was going on for us. Just recently a show in New York (it) sold out 60 days in advance. That’s three thousands people. We all look at each other and it keeps us in check because we tell each other, ‘Remember when I couldn’t afford lunch at school and you had to swipe your dinner card for me?’ These are the same guys. It’s a blessing!”

White Shadow also shared how his first studio session with Bellion went. “If you’re light minded and you have success in your blinders, that’s what you’re moving towards. It’s a beautiful thing to see light minded people like you and racing with you and help support you. It’s incredible, that’s what I saw at my first session.”

Bellion delivers a unique hybrid of smoothing electronic sounds with his singing and rap productions. His multitalented approach has Bellion’s input into his songwriting and live performances, to directing his music videos. He also posts videos on YouTube showing fans the “Behind The Scenes” of his music “The soup of what the internet is today created an avalanche of content because technology made it so accessible.” Bellion explains his involvement with all aspect of his music. “What kids want is to gravitate toward something that’s real, I’m just a person who is putting their heart and soul into everything. I think the second my touch comes off everything is the second nobody is going to give a shit about me. My touch will always still on my music.”

White Shadow also weighed in on the topic of the importance artists must have with their content. “There’s a lot of artist out there that do none of there music. None of their content, nothing. Those people can’t sell out a “House of Blues” because people who do listen to music have no connection with that artist whatsoever. Who wants to pay to see that?” White Shadow was not shy for words about the music direction that seems to be very present in today’s music. “That’s some Milli Vanili shit.” White Shadow explained. “There’s a lot of really good DJ’s that have never made a song in their life and have seven albums out. It’s a weird time in music, but to see someone like Jon doing what he’s doing, it’s refreshing and awesome to me but also it should be refreshing and awesome for everybody who actually is an artist and musician.” White Shadow also added what he believes is one of the things that works in the music industry. “If you’re not honest and open and legitimate about what you’re doing, you’re going to get called out, that’s the best thing that has happened recently. If somebody unplugs your shit when you’re signing a record and your record keeps going, the whole world is going to know about it. Everything has to be open and honest, carefully crafted in order to be great.”

Bellion is continuing to rise up the ranks of emerging new artists, due to his contributions to other artists. That will soon be in the past according to Bellion, “My commercial success has been a blessing.” With his well deserved success, Bellion is someone who will definitely make a name for himself in the future for his unique and captivating music. “Starving artist do die hungry and my artistry, I put everything into that.”

To finish our interview Bellion shared an update of his forthcoming album, Beautiful Mind. Bellion stated “I’m like ninety percent done with it.” A goal for Bellion is to constantly change and grow as an artist. “I’ve improved my craft from that last (project). That’s always been my goal. Every (project) that I dropped, I want to be greater, lyrically more precise to get my point across. I think this next album is just the next step in my growth. Anybody can take it how ever they want to take it but I know for myself I’ve checked boxes from my last (project) that makes this album much better.”