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Interviews

11 Jun

Ellie Goulding: Happy to Be Here

Ellie Goulding believes in karma. “You should really treat others the way you want to be treated,” the British songbird said. “I use that as a general rule in my life.” Since breaking onto the music scene in 2010, Goulding knows how important it is to maintain a sense of graciousness toward the extraordinary life she’s currently living: “It seems my life is ever-changing.”

The last time she toured the U.S., both Goulding and her bandmates started to feel a little down. “We had been out for awhile, the tour was about six weeks long or so, and my voice had really reached its peak,” she said. “Being away for so long, we started to feel a bit homesick.”

Now she’s gained some perspective and is on the cusp of her second stateside tour in support of her debut, Lights. “I have all good memories, and I’m really excited to return.” she said.

Goulding hails from Hereford, England, and her lilting voice takes on a soft brogue when she sings. Most of her songs center around falling in love, being in love, then losing love. “Gossamer” is an adjective tossed around many a time by critics and fans when describing Goulding’s light and airy voice, and if it could be captured in one word, that would be it.

It is difficult, however, to relegate her sound to just one word. It is something that is very rare in the realm of pop culture–original. She somehow manages to combine pop, electronica and folk into a lovely blend that works well with her, admittedly, gossamer voice.

Goulding is present and aware, both in her songwriting and her daily life. Her writing takes on an old soul quality in the way she talks about loving whole-heartedly first, with the cautious optimism of someone who has had their share of heartbreak and emerged all the wiser as a result. She may be tip-toeing forward but both eyes are wide open, ready to devour the situation.

Her awareness of life is evident when she speaks about her music, and it’s obvious her feet are firmly planted. “I’m not the biggest singer in the world,” she said, “but I’ve been exceptionally lucky and amazing things have happened to me.”

In April, Goulding was asked to play the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, and while she’s unable to go into detail, she did dish that she and her band played a fourteen-song set. “It was awesome,” she said, “truly the biggest honor of my life.”

Another big honor was playing Saturday Night Live in May where she covered Elton John’s “Your Song,” which also appears on Lights. The song is about as stripped down as one can get – featuring only Goulding singing breathily as a piano plays along.

“Starry Eyed” is the first single off the album and conjures Bjork and Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine over a Le Roux backdrop. “Animal” is heavy on the electronica and makes you want to get up and dance, while “Your Biggest Mistake” is more subtle and appeals to her folksy, singer/

songwriter side. This is a woman who is just scratching the surface of what she is able to do.

Her next album will see Goulding getting back into writing. After all, she says, that’s why she’s here. “[To get inspired] I like to be by myself with a couple of drinks, my laptop and my headphones, sitting in a dark corner of a bar,” she said.

Goulding applies that same level of attention to the music she likes, too. “I listen with such intensity right now,” she said. “When I find something [I like,] I have a long-lasting affair.” Goulding said she doesn’t move on easily and chooses to latch on, listening and connecting for long stretches of time rather than flit from one artist to the next. Plus,

listening to others with such intensity allows her creative side to really come out.

Smother by Wild Beasts is an album Goulding is immersing herself in at the moment. “The actual music is stunning,” she gushed. Goulding is enamored with the band’s dreamy falsetto, claiming that it takes her to another time period. “They’re able to capture the future and the past so well, which is important for me. I like that a lot.”

As Wild Beasts have the ability to meld the past and future, Goulding is hoping to take what she’s learned thus far in her career and use it to propel her into whatever the future has in store. She’s in the early stages of writing her next album, but she’s not sure of it’s direction, and she’s okay with that. Her approach to her music has remained constant in that she lets it evolve naturally.

When she started out, her sound came about in a very organic way, strumming away on her guitar in her studio bedroom. “I never planned on it being one thing in particular.” she said. In addition to getting more heavily back into writing on the next album, Goulding also wants it to have a heavier guitar sound to it, since that’s what she sees as the core of her sound. “It’s important that things start with a guitar.” she said. “I really enjoy the sound of it – it gives an album a certain feel,” she laughed, awkwardly trying to change the subject. “I could talk about this forever.”

Bottom line: the next album is going to be on Goulding’s terms. She said she’s trying not to think about it and is instead reveling in the freedom to do what she wants to do. “I want to trust my instincts and see where it goes.”

With all her talk about love, Goulding said her relationship status has little bearing on the vibe and subject matter of her songs. “I have so much stored away in my head.” she said. “I like to tell stories.” And that means drawing from other people, her own story and even fairy tales.

One fairy tale dream come true dream would be to collaborate with Bon Iver front man Justin Vernon. She calls Vernon one of her favorites of all time and gets a bit swoony when she talks about him, “There’s a certain soul to his voice – it’s something very special,” said Goulding. “I’d like to play with that.”

The way her karma’s stacking up, it would come as no surprise that Goulding would make the collaboration happen. “I feel lucky to be alive, healthy and do what I do,” she said. Do good things and good things will happen to you. Ellie Goulding is living proof of that.

This article was originally published in the July 2011 issue of Origivation Magazine, http://www.origivation.com.

The Joy Formidable are a Formidable Force to Be Reckoned With

Rock acts have been sorely absent from the music charts of late, and North Wales band the Joy Formidable sounds worthy of a place at the table. Their full length debut, The Big Roar, is a nineties throwback, but in more of a refreshing homage rather than a carbon copy kind of way. The Big Roar mixes fuzzy guitar riffs and heavy, heart thumping drum beats with layers of deliberate distortion. Songs like “A Heavy Abacus,” “Austere” and “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade” have infiltrated indie rock airwaves, standing out with their pop/rock hybrid of hooks to the tune of singer Ritzy Bryan’s ethereal yet driving voice. Simply put: they are a big deliciously blurry sound of grungey rock goodness, and they are breathing life into a genre that has been stale for quite some time.

Their influences are varied, drawing from many different genres, past and present, and not settling on any one, lending even more so to their timeless sound. Growing up, bassist Rhydian Dafydd tended towards Hendrix and other artists of the 60s and 70s, but says, “It was all really just a gateway to good and bad music, in my eyes. I’m not drawn to any specific genre. I enjoy anything with a story and a unique voice and, ultimately, a soul is good enough for me.”

Same goes for the other members of the band. Dafydd says singer/guitarist Bryan was “spoiled for choice” by her mom and dad’s massive record collection. At an early age, she was exposed to Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and other great songwriters like Van Morrison and Bob Dylan.  “I’m sure that had a big effect on our songs being very lyrically driven,” he says. Drummer Matt Thomas’ taste is also varied, spanning the spectrum from jazz to metal with some Frank Zappa in between.

For Dafydd, it all comes back to good and bad music. “That’s why an album for us is a very dynamic piece of work,” he says. “I don’t want to hear the same sound or same structures twelve times on an album. I want to take you on a journey.”

And the Joy Formidable deliver. These varied musical tastes come together in a post-grunge sound that has traces of the Pixies, Sonic Youth, Garbage and Smashing Pumpkins. Bryan only plunges the bands’ sounded deeper into the 90s, drawing parallels to grunge girls PJ Harvey and Louise Post and Nina Gordon of Veruca Salt. Even Bryan’s look channels Courtney Love with her updated baby doll dresses, albeit Bryan looks the wholesome, impish anti-thesis to Love’s heroin chic hot mess.

So it is easy to see why Dave Grohl tapped the band to open for the Foo Fighters this fall, alongside Social Distortion. “It’s a kind of nice story because it seemed to come around quite naturally,” Dafydd says. While driving one day, Grohl heard the band’s “Whirring” but didn’t catch the name of the band. Trying to remember the tune in his head all the way home, Grohl figured it out, tracked them down, and since then, the Joy Formidable has played several shows with the Foos, including a secret show at Lollapalooza and some dates in the UK.

Dafydd confirms what so many others are already saying about Grohl and the Foo Fighters being the nicest guys in rock & roll, “We had a blast. They’re very down to earth and still know what’s important about it all and that’s the music,” he says. “Sometimes you get people with motives or with weird sort of egos and competition. They seem genuine, and that means a lot.”

The Joy Formidable came together in its most recent incarnation three and a half years ago. Bryan and Dafydd are childhood friends and reconnected musically in their hometown after a string of bad experiences, “We got back into writing music for the right reasons. We started enjoying and losing ourselves in the music, which is what is important.” They found a drummer. They rehearsed. That drummer didn’t work out. They found Thomas, and since he joined two and a half years ago, Dafydd says, “It’s been non-stop gigging.”

In addition to being childhood friends, Bryan and Dafydd are also a couple.  Dafydd says the only challenge for them in that respect is to find alone time because the band and the music is so all-consuming but says that was a choice the two made early on. “We’re quite lucky in that, first and foremost, the music is what brought us together,” he says. “We had that before we even became a couple.” If anything, he says it adds to the natural dynamic and chemistry necessary in a songwriting partnership. As with everything else, Bryan and Dafydd see it as a blessing that they get to travel this journey together.

“It’s a really beautiful thing that we’ve found it together. Dynamic in a band is a very precious thing,” he says.  He cites chemistry as a crucial element in a band because of the amount of time spent together, and says, “We feel like we’ve got that ultimately. When we get onstage, that’s where it all comes into its own, and we really lose ourselves. That’s where the beauty and the truth comes out.”

That beauty and truth is ever present on their journey, and there is a moment in every day that Dafydd is well aware that he and his bandmates are living a life many only dream of, “It’s not a job at the end of the day,” Dafydd says, “It’s a lifestyle, and it’s a privilege to be able to give value to our creative outlets in a way that it connects with other people. We don’t take any of it for granted.”

Dafydd, Bryan and Thomas have been travelling the festival circuit for a large part of the last year, and the rest of 2011 includes another month or so of festivals before a headlining tour in the UK. Then they’re back in the US for the Foo Fighters’ dates and even more shows follow after that. Dafydd wouldn’t have it any other way, in fact, he revels in the travel and touring to help generate the spark of creativity.

The variety of travel affords the band with the opportunity and freedom to get ideas down, collaborate and feel inspired, “It’s a great time to be feeling these things and seeing these things and meeting new people and seeing the world in that different light.” He adds, “To challenge yourself as a songwriter, you have to be able to put yourself in different contexts.”

The band arrives in Philadelphia Friday, September 23 for the Popped! Music Festival at FDR Park and then again for their date with the Foo Fighters at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday, November 10. They’ve been to the states several times, staying mostly along the east and west coastlines, and Dafydd knows they’ve got some ground to cover in between, “There’s still some nooks and crannies, but we’ll get there.” No doubt about that: the Joy Formidable are well on their way.

Alberta Cross: Embracing Their Inner Mutt

Alberta Cross’ music has been labeled a lot of things. “Brooding blues” (NME). “…haunting melodies of rural American music” (Rolling Stone). “South-of-the-Mason-Dixon guitar chops recall the Followill Bros” (Spin). “A British take on Southern Rock” (The New York Times).

That last one makes lead singer Petter Ericson Stakee cringe.

I bring up said cringe-worthy analogy to Stakee, and he replies with a sly and knowing, “Uh-huh…”  He knows what’s coming next.

The first band that comes to mind when southern and rock are mentioned together in a sentence is usually someone within shooting range of Lynyrd Skynyrd. “I don’t think we sound anything like that,” Stakee says. “I’m from Sweden, and when people say I sound like Southern Rock, that sounds like a bit of a joke to me – that sounds like comedy.”

And while there are leanings toward Kings of Leon, I’d venture to say that the Fallowills have a sound influenced more by Stakee and bassist Terry Wolfers’ side of the pond than the other way around. “Someone called us ‘Mutt Rock’ once,” Stakee says, “I kind of like that because we bring in stuff from everywhere. My dog is a mutt, and I reckon we are, too.”

I spoke with Stakee as he walked around in the blistering July heat during Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Wolfers, the other half of Alberta Cross, met in London in a pub housed behind a music studio. The owners were mutual friends. “We sort of met because we got free drinks there and then started a band. That’s pretty much it,” Stakee says with a laugh. The name Alberta Cross is an anagram out of London. When pressed to reveal its meaning, Stakee’s cheeky charm returns, “Nay.”

Stakee, if pressed, puts Alberta Cross in the genre of rock but says their influence comes from all over – both old and new – and they love the freedom to inject whatever they like into their own sound. The result is a label busting mash-up of My Morning Jacket meets Oasis meets Crazy Horse meets…Depeche Mode.

“My brother was into Depeche Mode and came more from the synthesizer world,” Stakee explains of the music that surrounded him growing up, “I think that sums up our sound in a way.  There’s organic stuff, but Depeche Mode, as well, with a lot of melodies – not just one melody but a lot of colors. This new record is definitely more colorful. We really worked hard on getting that stuff out.”

Songs of Patience, the band’s third album, is the result. Songs like “I Believe in Everything” and “Bonfires” display a more bluesy, stripped down vibe, which is something Stakee credits to his father, a singer-songwriter in his own right. “That’s also why I’m inspired by so much stuff because my dad was into bluesier rockers. So I got that darker, synthesizer vibe with the blusier and the rootsier side.

Those colors and those blending of influences perhaps show most, however, on “Money for the Weekend (Pocket Full of Shame),” a blistering, straightforward tune with a fuzzy bassline and synthetic undertone. The song was inspired lyrically by the London riots in 2010 stemming from a college tuition hike and musically by Keith Richards.

“The first name was ‘Me & Keith,’” he says and drew from Richards’ discussion on open tuning in his biography. The song has been featured in a nationwide Ketel One campaign, of which Stakee says, “When something like that comes along in this day and age you can’t really say, ‘no.’”

Stakee doesn’t believe putting his music in a commercial or TV show or on a soundtrack is considered selling out. In fact, in a musical climate heavy with corporate sponsors, Stakee thinks you’d be hard-pressed to find an indie band who thinks it is. “If people download our music for free and don’t pay for our records…people need music out there, so we kind of have to do shit like that in order to survive. I’m for it,” he says. “It’s a weird scene. It’s definitely changed since I started. It’s changing every day. As long as I stay true to myself and write the stuff I want to write and be able to play the music that I want to play then I’m fine.”

Alberta Cross will play Johnny Brenda’s in Philly this Wednesday, July 11. Songs of Patience drops July 17.

Photo by Brantley Gutierrez

Secret Music: Soon to Be NYC’s Best Kept Secret No More

Brooklyn-based, raucous, pop rocks duo, Secret Music is cultivating an image of mystery, which is refreshing in a culture consumed by reality TV, Facebook, Twitter and a society of over-sharing. The band took issue with wanting to put their faces on things like the album cover and starring in their own videos, and staying true to their convictions, their faces are not found anywhere in any of those places.  “Right now, that’s not really our main focus,” Secret Music frontman, Daniel Fry says. “There’s intrigue with the unknown and we’re trying to get people interested in that.”

Fry met bandmate Chase Nicholl in 2009 while Nicholl was visiting roommates of Fry’s. At the time, Fry was doing music by himself, and Nicholl was living in Boston. After breaking up with his girlfriend, Nicholl migrated south to New York, and within a week, the two were making music together.

Fry and Nicholl wrote their self-titled debut album while rooming together, and the result is a frenetically cohesive, synth-pop, guitar rock record with a nod toward Passion Pit, which is fitting since Ayad Al Adhamy of said band produced Secret Music on his label Black Bell Records. Adhamy also released the Joy Formidable’s A Thing Called Moaning EP on Black Bell, and there are tinges of the three piece’s chaotic art rock sound all over Secret Music’s debut.

Fry best describes their sound by looking at where they came from. Nicholl was in a synth pop band in college. Fry came from more of what he describes as a “bluegrassy, folksy background.” Nicholl was not the type of guy who’s serenading his girlfriend. Fry was in punk bands in high school were it was “all about going ape shit,” he laughs. “Music was second.”

Such is not the case now that the two have joined forces. Now, music is very much first priority, even if they’re not necessarily catering to any particular audience or outlet. “We really had no intentions of our music being for a record or for a blog. You gotta do it and think about it later,” Fry says. “I have this mindset where you can’t have preconceived notions about making records that people have to listen to. I’m all about ‘produce produce produce’ because if you’re always producing, you’re always getting better.” Build it, and they will come.

“They,” of course, would be the fans. Secret Music drops March 6, and, after a revolving door of musicians, Fry and Nicholl are ready to get out on the road and show audiences what they can do. Fry describes their live vibe very simply: “It’s good fucking rock and roll.” There’s no backing tracks. They have five people when they play live. They want to play to people who will let loose and dance. And it’s all got to be perfect, “We gotta impress the competition,” he says.

Secret Music is one band who is off and running and up and coming.

For more info, check out http://www.secretmusicband.com/.

Photos by Scott Marceau

Scattered Trees is an Organized Collection of Artists

Scattered Trees want to stay free to be whoever they choose to be musically. Not wanting to commit to one particular genre, they are a tight sounding band walking the line of rock and folk, and the music is well-crafted, providing proof that this band is composed of some seriously meticulous artists. Singer Nate Eiesland’s voice is vulnerable and melancholic, drawing parallels to Duncan Sheik, Elliot Smith and even shades of Radiohead. On their new album Sympathy, Eiesland, lyrically, is not afraid to be vulnerable, and it particularly shows on songs like “Love and Leave” and “A Conversation about Death on New Year’s Eve,” the latter of which drips with sadness. On the track, Eiesland sounds as if he’s singing at someone’s bedside as they’re sleeping or perhaps, as the title may imply, dying.

Sadness and melancholy aside, Scattered Trees are also gifted multi-taskers. Not only are these Chicago-based indie rockers five talented musicians fresh onto the indie rock scene, they are also an eclectic brood of artists, business types, siblings and spouses. Well, almost all of them.

“Ryne’s the odd man out,” lead singer Nate Eiesland said about bass player Ryne Estwing. He is the only band member who doesn’t share a last name with anyone in the band: drummer Baron Harper and guitarist Jason are brothers while keyboardist Alissa Eiesland and Nate are husband and wife. Eiesland said of the situation, “It makes for a colorful road trip.”

And a road trip is on the horizon for Scattered Trees. They are about to embark on a 27-show tour over 30 days. “We love being out on the road,” Eiesland said, “but we’re living the dream so we don’t get worn out.”

He admits he and his wife have had to learn to strike a balance between being husband and wife and bandmates. “We’re good ‘sneakers,’” he said, alluding to trying to steal away for some alone time whenever they can. “We know there’ll be a time for normal.” he said, “Right now, we’re taking one for the team. It’s kind of like being married to five people, but it’s totally worth it.”

Though, no amount of Arrested Development, the band’s favorite show, can prevent tensions from rising when traveling the country in a small van. “We don’t get on each other’s nerves too much,” Eiesland said, “but when we do, it makes for a good debate.” However, the Eieslands, along with any sibling squabbles that may occur between the Harper brothers, have learned not to bring it into the band circle. “Everyone understands and gives the necessary allowances if need be,” he said, “We trust each other as artists inside the band, as well as outside the band.”

Eiesland is the only member of the group who functions solely as a musician. “I write music.” he said, “I threw all my eggs in that basket when I was 13.” At a young age, Eiesland chose songwriting, and only songwriting, not leaving room for failure. “And much to the torment of my parents.” he said.

His bandmates, however, all pursued other interests before coming together to make Scattered Trees a full-time project. The result is a melting pot of talent outside their musical abilities, allowing Scattered Trees to keep a lot of things in-house and economize at the same time.

Jason Harper, for instance, went to Princeton where he studied film and directs the band’s music videos. Estwing is a web and graphic designer and handles the website and T-shirt design for the band. Alissa Eiesland is also a graphic designer, which has helped pay the bills until the band could make enough money to play music full time, which is where Baron Harper’s business degree comes in. “Baron has been paramount in the past year.” Eiesland said.

According to Eiesland, he’s helped the band streamline the business aspect of being in a band. In the past, Scattered Trees has done what he calls “spot tours” where they’d go out on the road for short stints over a few weeks. This time around, Scattered Trees is doing things with a bit more efficiency.

Unlike the melancholy  vibe that plays throughout Scattered Trees’ music, Eiesland’s attitude, is far from desperate. He said,“There’s a jumping-off-the-cliff point, and you’ve caught us mid-air.” Despite the melancholic, even morbid, metaphor, there’s a refreshing sense of hope and the excitement of possibility in his voice that so often gets lost in the shuffle of cynicism and repetitive nay-saying from your peers. Eiesland says the band realizes they have to pay their dues, but they feel very lucky to have the opportunity to do what they love, which is playing music together, “We’re in it for the long haul.” So far, Scattered Trees seems to be headed down the right path.

This article was originally slated to appear in the August 2011 issue of Origivation Magazine, http://www.origivation.com.

Nikka Costa is Still Chasing the Thrill

After spending her childhood with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr., R&B veteran Nikka Costa has made a career out of versatility, perseverance and hard-driving funk.

When we spoke, Nikka Costa was in the midst of coordinating rehearsals with her band, gearing up for her United States tour in support of her newly released EP, Pro*Whoa! The goal, Costa said, is to release a series of EPs rather than go the typical full-length album route. “For me, right now, this feels more exciting – it keeps the engines running,” Costa said. “Plus, it suits the ADD culture we’re living in.” She also thinks it’s good for the fans to give them little bursts of Costa’s funk and soul rather than unload her fierceness all in one huge chunk.

Mission accomplished. Pro*Whoa! is a tight collection of six songs that highlight Costa’s signature hybrid sound of rock and funk with a heavy dose of soul and a dash of hip-hop mixed in. She’s a true Gemini: uber-feminine, and even girly, but when she opens her mouth to sing, her voice explodes from your speakers. It’s easy to see where her influences lie. She’s Janis, Jimi, and Led Zeppelin all folded into the tiny package with a big, sultry voice that is Nikka Costa. And she’s not shy, nor is she afraid to get naked for her art. Costa recently appeared on her YouTube Channel, “Nikka’s Box,” standing topless with a letterbox over her bare chest, the words Pro*Whoa! splashed across, and asked “What’s a girl gotta do to get the word out?”

Perhaps the reason for the shameless promotion is due, in part, to the fact that Costa hasn’t quite exploded in the United States…yet. Her self-titled debut released when she was just nine years old, and through the years she’s found much of her success overseas in Europe. Hits like “Like a Feather” and “Everybody’s Got Their Something” penetrated the airwaves stateside, and she’s a bit of a soundtrack darling with songs appearing on the television show Grey’s Anatomy and the films Blue Crush and Blow. There was a time Costa even questioned whether she wanted to be a musician.

“I had been touring from the time I was eight until I was twelve,” she said. She’s the daughter of famed musician, conductor, arranger and producer Don Costa, best known for his work with Frank Sinatra, arranging and producing Sinatra and Strings, as well as producing hits for the Osmond Brothers, Sammy Davis, Jr. and his own daughter’s single “Out Here on My Own.” The two were planning a follow-up to the single when the elder Costa died of a heart attack.

Around that time, Costa said she didn’t want to perform anymore and lived a “normal” childhood. Once she finished high school and all her friends headed off to college, however, Costa realized being a musician was the path for her. Costa’s “college years” consisted of writing songs, traveling around in a van, auditioning drummers, hanging her own posters and learning guitar. “I was out there doing it,” she said.

And Costa never looked back. She went from “sitting in the laps of the real Brat Pack,” as she sings on the new EP’s title track, to rubbing shoulders with celebrities and collaborating with big name artists like Eric Clapton.

So being around famous people her entire life, it’s hard to imagine Costa getting star struck. “Madonna walked right by me once and I didn’t say hi—I couldn’t,” she laughs. Same with Stevie Wonder – the first time she saw him she was too in awe to say hello.

She’s sung with Prince on several occasions, but Costa said he still has a starry-eyed effect on her. “There have been a few times when I’m sitting across the table from Prince, and I’m thinking, ‘This is so surreal—I’m talking to Prince!’” In fact, Costa’s sound, at times, is very Prince-like, especially on Pro*Whoa!’s, “Head First.”

Costa recently collaborated with another artist walking the androgynous, glam-rock line, American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert, and contributed a few songs for his sophomore album. “He’s great because you can throw anything at him, and he can sing it.”

Costa said it’s nice to collaborate and write for other artists, “It’s good to go into their headset and see where they are.” Costa said. “It’s fun for me, too, to be outside myself.” The challenge of writing for other artists creates challenges for her own songwriting. She can return to her own music with new perspective and fresh eyes.

Touring can also offer some fresh perspective and downtime gives Costa more time to get her life in order. On the road, Costa’s favorite pastime is organizing her computer, of all things. “I wind up doing things I can’t do at home because I end up cleaning.”

Things like deleting duplicate photos and learning how to use Garage Band help pass the time. Depending on the city, she loves checking out the scene once the sun goes down, but said the local park scene ranks pretty high on the list, too, especially when her daughter hits the road with her.

“It’s not good when I’m away from her for too long,” she said, her voice dropping an octave and losing a bit of its upbeat lightness. Now that her daughter is getting older, she joins Costa on the road. “She loves touring,” Costa said.

“We look at it as an adventure.” she said. “It’s really great for her. It gets her out of her schedule for a minute. Obviously, we’re always thinking of her first.” And the “we” is Costa and husband, Australian music producer Justin Stanley, who she said have been married for “a million years,” so the work/life balance is old hat for them. She said when they can’t get it together for whatever reason that’s when the balance becomes hard.

The Pro*Whoa! tour will find its way Philly on July 13 when Costa performs at World Café Live, and Costa said she loves heading to the City of Brotherly Love. “I love Philly, it’s an awesome city with its funky restaurants and tattoo shops.” Even though the venue tends to be one that is memorably on the chilly side, Costa said. “We’ll try to bring some heat. I love it when it’s a sweaty funk fest.”

Words to live by, Costa said, consist of only one, persevere. “I’m always telling myself to persevere.” After a literal lifetime of singing and eight albums under her belt, Costa is persevering quite well.

This article was originally published in the July 2011 issue of Origivation Magazine, http://www.origivation.com

JetStream: What I Did on My Summer Vacation

It can be a rare feat for an opening band at a concert to captivate an audience, and an even rarer feat for the first opening band. But California based JetStream has the ability to hold their audience in rapt attention. The three man band is definitely big on talent, which makes people stand up and listen on its own merit, but the fact that they are not even in their twenties makes an audience’s collective jaw fall open once they start unleashing said talent. And what did the band, who consists of Garrett Zeile, Kevin Grimmett and Ben Zelico, get to do on their summer vacation? Open for Stone Temple Pilots.

This is a rock & roll fantasy scenario only dreamt of by bands in basements and garages across the country, but these guys made it happen for themselves. While rehearsing one afternoon at Mates Studios in North Hollywood, JetStream had the good fortune of landing the rehearsal room next to the Stone Temple Pilots and caught the ear of bassist Robert DeLeo. DeLeo immediately took an interest in their music and initiated some discussion with the band members about writing and producing some songs together, as well as bringing the band out on tour.

Initially, JetStream’s manager, and Grimmett’s father, John, was a bit nervous when DeLeo said he wanted to invite the guys to come out on tour with them. Sure enough, though, DeLeo called, and JetStream joined them for 14 shows over a 27 day period. “Robert is a man of his word,” the elder Grimmett says, and added that STP’s people and crew working on the tour were all really nice to the guys.

“It’s really exciting to see the excitement that’s been building from that,” John says of the tour and watching the positive comments roll in from their rapidly growing Facebook fanbase. They even hired someone to accompany them on tour to handle all their social media, including a Vlog on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1sT3QvUgdI&feature=related) that documents the entire journey from start to finish.

The band’s been touring without an EP to support and, to compensate, have kept themselves busy in their hotel rooms burning and labeling CDs to hand out at shows. That, and Grimmett and Zeile have taken up golf. Grimmett says, “We get outside and it takes up all day.” As for Zelico, “Ben sleeps a lot,” Zeile adds with a chuckle that is chorused by the other two.

JetStream got together four years ago in Agoura Hills, California. They were the first to enroll in the School of Rock there and, after running through a laundry list of cover songs, Zeile, Grimmett and Zelico decided they wanted to do their own thing.

“We grew up with both old and new,” Zeile says of their influences, “We’re rooted in Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix, but we also take influence from Muse, Foo Fighters, the Strokes and Kings of Leon.” The latter of whom’s “Molly’s Chambers,” JetStream covers in their live show. Their own sound is a reflection of the melding of the old with the new. It’s a little bit grungy, a lot loud and rockin, and the way they move and interact onstage is so tight, if you closed your eyes, you’d think they’d been playing together for decades.

This summer was, however, their first tour, and during the school year, they play shows mostly on weekends and rehearse in between sports and schoolwork. Grimmett pulls double duty, running from baseball practice every day afterschool to band rehearsal three times a week.

What’s next for the band once they get back to California? “Reality,” one of them says, with the slightest hint of disappointment in their voice. Zelico started community college as soon as they got home, and Grimmett was going for his learner’s permit. Musically, putting out an EP is a priority, “Out of necessity,” Zeile says, “we need to make a record or EP.” They’ve already recorded several songs with DeLeo, and there is talk of recording more, but scheduling conflicts have caused the project to stall. As teenagers, the guys of JetStream have nothing but time on their side, especially since they’ve already got the talent.

Chris Campanaro is No Starving Artist

Chris “Cecil” Campanaro is an artist, but as a bassist in three bands, including Terraplane Sun, and a successful film and TV composing career, he definitely does not file himself under the starving artist label. “I enjoy it,” he says of what he does and the amount that he does it. Campanaro says of the balancing act, “It’s been a challenge, but it’s been good.”

Starting out, playing shows was the only vision Campanaro had. He didn’t even realize or see that there was a whole other side of the business as far as composing and writing and the ability to make a living while still doing what he loved, “It was all about play, play, play when I thought about being a musician as a kid.” While he loves playing and performing, he says, at the same time, “I wanna be able to eat.”  So at around the age of 21 or 22, he began composing, and it was a career path he fell into.

While rooted in San Diego, California, he made a solo record of what he labels, “weird, abstract sounds – recording microwaves.” A friend of a friend got a hold of his record, he relocated to Venice, California, which he was looking to do anyway, and composing snowballed for him from there. He didn’t know much about that aspect of the industry, at the time, and was very fortunate when people took the time to teach him and expose him to that industry and give him lots of opportunities to grow and show off what he could do.

That included the album, American River, which he co-composed, arranged and produced and went on to gain a Grammy nomination in the New Age category, “Which is funny because if you know me you think, ‘what the hell is he doing in there?’” Campanaro laughs. He was 23 and thought, “What am I even doing here? It was a trip.” He didn’t win the award, but the old adage of it being an honor just to be nominated rings true for Campanaro, “We got robbed!” he jokes, “No, we definitely won. Shit, I won. That was one to show the parents, for sure.”

In addition to composing, Campanaro is always playing in one band…or two or three. He’s in several bands at the moment, including Taxi and playing with Matt Ellis from time to time, but Terraplane Sun is taking up most of his focus these days. The band has been out on the road recently, which included a month long residency at Las Vegas’ Cosmopolitan club. “It’s been really great. The Cosmo is a really cool spot.”

The club, which opened last November, is located near the Hard Rock Café. The Cosmopolitan, however, is less concerned with filling their venue to capacity just to fill it and more concerned with putting on shows that make people feel creative, to keep up with music in the current times. “It was a good scene, good exposure, good reaction,” Campanaro says.

Terraplane Sun formed a few years ago after Campanaro and singer Ben Rothbard kept crossing each other’s paths on the LA music scene. They played together a couple of times before realizing they should play together on a more consistent basis and formed a band. After a number of lineup changes, the Terraplane Sun that exists today and has been playing together for a little over a year, consists of Rothbard and Campanaro, guitarist Johnny Zambetti, Scotty Passaglia on drums and Gabe Feenberg on keys. Campanaro says, “There’s a good energy with these five guys.”

Influences as individual band members are all across the board. “The other guys are more old school, like deep, gritty blues and old folk, whereas I’m more into punk and Motown.” As a band, Campanaro thinks their sound probably comes more from the folk and blues place, but says Terraplane Sun is a crossbreed of everything into one.

The bluesy influence is definitely easy to spot with a nice mix of rock and folk blended in. Their remake of Wanda Jackson’s “Funnel of Love” is great, and they fit in nicely with the current musical climate alongside bands like Cold War Kids, the Black Keys and Cage the Elephant. At the same time, though, they stand apart from all the others by doing things the way they want to when they want to do it.

Terraplane Sun has finished their second record, and now, the focus is on playing and even more recording to keep themselves out there for people to hear. The goal is just to keep on their own schedule and their own path, “We’re doing our own thing as a band, we’re on our own trip. None of us are overthinking it.”

Campanaro’s instrument of choice is the bass but plays everything else “poorly,” says he. “I can get what I need to hear out of what I play.” He used to play solo, but not so much anymore. His other band, Taxi, is a three piece featuring two bass players and a drummer, “All my thoughts are thrown out there with that band, and it’s so fun for me to do that. It gets to go in whatever direction it’s gonna go in. And I get to scream and sing, which is great.” For now, though, composing and Terraplance Sun are the priority, “It’s been a good trip so far.”

Campanaro says he never had his “a-ha” moment where he just knew he had to play music, either that or he says it hasn’t happened yet, nor does he know if it ever will. “I was terrified as a kid trying to be a musician. There’s definite unpredictability going down that road,” he says, “I wasn’t gonna back out, but it was tricky.” And when the writing opportunity opened his eyes to a whole different side of the music industry, the fortitude and luck of his career trajectory are far from lost on him, “I’ve just been grateful.”

Man at Work: Jay Nash Goes On the Road in Support of Diamonds and Blood

Singer-songwriter Jay Nash is one busy guy. With the release of his sixth studio album, Diamonds and Blood, he is winding his way around the country, and soon, the globe, to promote his latest release, a deeply personal compilation of songs written by a guy who’s seen the world many times over and has the insight, scars and songs to prove it.

When I spoke with Nash he was loving the 80 degree weather the Arizona desert was blessing him with. Spending his first winter in Vermont after living in Los Angeles for nine years, he said, “I’ve literally spent the last three months shoveling out of my house – literally shoveling my house out of the snow. I’m talking so it didn’t come in through the windows.” Understandably, the desert heat and sun were a welcome change.

Nash was making the trek to Austin, Texas where he will perform, interview and mingle at what he estimates to be his seventh SXSW Music Festival. He’s performing three shows that he thinks are nicely spread out, leaving him plenty of time to network,  make new friends, catch up with old ones and check out as many of the 2,000 music acts as he possibly can in the four days of jam packed performances.

“I’m excited about SXSW this year. It’s such a great coming together of music,” he said, and when I asked who he was most excited to see he put Josh Ritter in the top spot. “I’m looking forward to seeing the luminaries I used to play with,” he said, referring to his days playing at the Hotel Café in Los Angeles, as well as Room 5 Lounge, a mecca for singer-songwriters, largely of his making.

The small town in upstate New York where Nash grew up wasn’t what he would call a super nurturing place for singer-songwriters by sheer virtue of the fact that there weren’t many. When he got to Los Angeles, however, he was exposed to a whole new world, “I was blown away,” he said. On a weekly basis he saw great acts like Pete Yorn and Gary Jules, another curator of great music. It was around the time Jules’ cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” came out, and he was booking talent at the Hotel Café. There Nash saw talent like Joe Purdy and Jason Mraz, musicians who caught his ear and showed him what was possible.

Using Jules as a model, Nash found a place he could showcase his own talent, as well as seek out and showcase others like him. Room 5 Lounge was created out of Bar F2, an intimate bar located above an Italian restaurant on North LaBrea in Los Angeles. Before Nash took over booking talent, the cadre of artists who did play there came in fits and starts, and charging a cover seemed a daunting and non-lucrative task. The bar changed ownership, and Nash helped the new owners shape the intimate venue into what they envisioned it to be, which is the nationally recognized spot for the singer-songwriter set that it is today. After performing and booking talent for five years, Nash knew it was time to hand it over to someone else so he could concentrate fully on his own thing. He found a proper predecessor in Joel Eckles, a carpenter by day and singer-songwriter by passion, “He’s done a really great job with it,” Nash said.

Nash also became a fixture at the Hotel Café where, many nights, Nash said, “Would end with everyone playing together onstage.” Then the bar would close and everyone would hang out until five or six in the morning, writing, playing, libations flowing, “Making our significant others very unhappy,” he quipped.

The people he’s had the pleasure of playing with occurred in a wholly organic way, and Nash said, “It wasn’t because I knew someone higher up. It was because we were sharing the stage in this tiny room.” The list of artists he’s collaborated with is long, and many of the names can be found by glancing at a Billboard chart.  In addition to his great body of solo work, Nash has created some really great music with Colbie Caillat, Sara Bareilles and Garrison Starr, to name only a few. “A lot of those collaborations came out of artists I stumbled upon, I sought out, or they sought me out,” he said.

Nash had one good friend – a musician – who was at her wits end because nothing was breaking in terms of her career, no matter what she did. At the time, she was opening for Nash in New York, and she wasn’t sure what she was going to do in terms of pursuing her music. Not long after, his good friend, Katy Perry, became a household name.

Nash, too, went through a period of questioning what it was he wanted to do and say. “I went to LA for a couple of weeks and wound up staying for nine years,” he said after realizing Los Angeles was the best environment for him to exist in as a musician. Nine years, five solo albums and a lot of touring mileage later, Nash’s priorities began to shift.

“Five years ago I would have said that all I want is to be able to play music every single night, but having a family definitely changes that.” His touring schedule could reach 220 dates a year, but said his “sweet spot” hovers around 100 shows. With a family, he said touring has become very well-orchestrated, and periods out on the road are shorter and more focused, “It’s not easy being away from my family.”

But living in Los Angeles also took focus away from his family, “On tour, I constantly have to be ‘on,’ and then I would come home and be surrounded by this world of singer-songwriters and I would still have to be ‘on.’” It became a little much, coupled with the realization that Nash and his wife’s annual travel budget was spent visiting family on the other side of the country. Both hail from the East Coast, and it suddenly made more sense to flip-flop the way he’d been doing things, especially after the birth of his first child. Now, homebase is with his family in Vermont, and he commutes to Los Angeles intermittently when he needs to.

Still, on “Golden State Goodnight,” Nash sings about his mixed emotions over leaving LA and the complicated love he has for the city, realized only in the wake of moving on, “I think I love it more now that I’m not there because now, the novelty never really wears off.”

Jambase.com said, “Nash’s music recalls a Los Angeles thought to be long since extinct, a romantic dream land where inspiration flowed from one artist to another with songs about late nights, friends and lovers, songs which grew organically and were created spontaneously. He’s a throwback for sure, smart with a hook, and brave enough to bare the fragile truth in a song.” The description doesn’t just capture Nash’s thoughts on LA, it describes Nash’s entire body of work. Every song on Diamonds and Blood is an honest, deeply personal baring of the soul that showcases who he is, now, as an artist. 

And Nash is more content with his career choice. “I do love it,” he said. He remarked about those friends from growing up having walked the faster route to financial security by becoming doctors and lawyers, but Nash has no regrets, “I had to slog it out a little longer, but I never felt I had less than I wanted.”

He’s got a strong work ethic and isn’t content sitting around, “I’m always willing to work – I like working.” The goal is to keep growing as a musician, and said with a laugh that was only part tongue in cheek, “We all want to play an arena rock show.” Although, he doesn’t discount the joy he finds in playing smaller venues that are packed to capacity. He hopes to continue pushing forward and expanding his audience, and in 2011, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so.

In addition to Diamonds and Blood, Nash is releasing an EP with Caitlin Crosby in the spring and a full length CD with good friends Tony Lucca and Matt Duke as TFDI in the summer. “I’ll have my hands full,” he said. After SXSW, he’s off to Europe for a few weeks to play with British singer-songwriter, Greg Holden, who will be promoting his new album, I Don’t Believe You. Then Nash is off to Holland, France and Germany, “I know I have this whole fanbase over there, and I don’t want to let the fire die. Lots of work needs to be done here, though, as well.”

The key, Nash said, is to be honest, to listen to and speak from that true voice inside him that emerges from getting a little bit older and wiser. Otherwise, the words won’t sound genuine or resonate with his audience, “The whole point of music is to connect with people, isn’t it?”

As he made his way across the desert, White Michigan, Jon Elliot and the Hereafter, Josh Ritter and TFDI played on the radio, the latter of which was playing for business as well as pleasure, “We’re playing together at SXSW, and we haven’t seen each other in a couple of months. I need to make sure I know the parts.” Even when he’s content to sit and enjoy the desert drive, Jay Nash is hard at work.

Two days after the release of Diamonds and Blood, the devastating tsunami hit Japan. This week, 50% of the proceeds from itunes sales of the album will be donated to the Red Cross to assist with those affected by the tsunami.

Max Lugavere: Changing the World One Concert at a Time

Musician, humanitarian and Current TV host Max Lugavere has a goal that is profound in its simplicity, “I want to ignite the conversation where music is the catalyst, and people can give back to the community.”

His concert charity creation, Rockdrive, is entering its third year and will take place on December 11 at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, California. The event is one that Lugavere hopes will turn into many and one that will spread into every city across the country.

A singer/songwriter who has recently seen his EP One Year Later on itunes, Lugavere says, “For a long time, I was content being a listener.” He cites Live as a band that heavily influenced him on his artistic journey, “I really cut my spiritual teeth on them.” However, once he realized he really had something to say, he picked up a guitar, learned to play and began to participate. At this year’s Rockdrive, however, Lugavere will be content participating as an active listener.

He will host this year’s Rockdrive, but he wants it to be its own thing, which is why he’s choosing not to perform at the event. He wants to remain as host and host only. By his side will be his Current TV co-host and longtime partner in crime, Jason Silva.

The two met in Miami where they made a fourteen minute documentary entitled, “Textures of Selfhood,” that Lugavere labels a “performance piece” in which he and Silva immortalized their lives in Miami while attending college there. The two produced the piece, as well as were featured in front of the camera.

The documentary caught the eye of Al Gore who was starting his own television network, Current TV, and he tapped Lugavere and Silva to be the face of the channel. Gore saw the documentary piece and thought they embodied what the channel’s mission was and what the channel stood for. After graduation, they packed up and moved to Los Angeles.

Lugavere says Current TV took a risk on him and Silva because they weren’t from LA and didn’t have the experience that typically originates there. But the two prevailed and became Current TV’s in house stars all on their own. They got their own show, Still Up, in which they were curating their own short documentaries, and they currently host the weekly show Unseen, which follows Lugavere and Silva to destinations around the world, exploring places only typically seen by locals. Lugavere says, “It’s the best network you’ve never heard of.”

Lugavere and Silva remain the Omni-present VJs for the channel, “We have a unique chemistry. Our friendship has turned into somewhat of an enterprise, so when we’re hanging out, we’re simultaneously having fun, as well as plotting our next business move.”

Lugavere finds he’s weighing his options as to what’s next. He says he sees himself more as a personality with something to say versus just being a conduit, but he in no way wants to discount where he came from, “Current TV, in a way, has raised me. It really feels like family.”  In addition to focusing on his next TV move, he’s now focusing on his music and, of course, Rockdrive.

Originally, the idea to start a charity rock concert came out of one of Lugavere’s own shows when he accepted toy donations in lieu of a charge at the door.  He labeled it Rockdrive because he thought the name sounded catchy and like one that should already be taken. Since it wasn’t, he got to claim ownership.

After that first show, he shelved the project for six months until he met some producers who liked the idea and wanted to support him. They helped him with the second event, which was bigger than the first, and now, Rockdrive 2010 is taking place in a venue three times the size of last years’.

The December 11th event will feature an amazing lineup of artists including Cary Brothers, Aqualung, Rocco Deluca and Angel Taylor. Proceeds will benefit Communities in Schools and the Story Project. Communities in Schools, the nation’s leading dropout prevention organization, works to create a support system within a community in order to keep students in school and help them graduate. The Story Project is an after school literacy program for at-risk youth.

Lugavere looks at Rockdrive as having two components. The first is the non-profit part and supporting local need with a focus on education. The other is his desire to empower people to host their own Rockdrive in their own hometown.

If interested in attending this year’s Rockdrive, or, even better, if you’re interested in hosting your own, check out www.rockdrive.org for details. The ultimate goal is for people to be able to register and use the website as a tool in getting artists to play at their own event because Max Lugavere really does believe that music can change the world.

Tony Lucca: It’s a Cool Way to Be

Singer/Songwriter Tony Lucca’s Aha! moment came at the ripe old age of seven. At Thanksgiving dinner one year, his cousin picked up a guitar and started playing and singing at the same time. Lucca was in such shock and awe at his cousin’s talent, he knew he needed to get on that, too. Coming from a big musical family, it’s no surprise that the two started playing in a band together when Lucca was seven and his cousin was eight. By twelve, he had his first paying gig, at an Activity Night at his local middle school.

At fifteen, he scored a spot on the Mickey Mouse Club, which Lucca describes as a small kid from a small town winning the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket kind of experience. Fellow alum included Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Keri Russell. He didn’t know then how big of a deal it would become, and, for Lucca, that made the whole experience that much cooler.

After the Mickey Mouse Club ended, Lucca says, “Managers and agents and all these people were courting me and telling me to come out to LA.” The acting thing panned out a little quicker for him, and he landed a role on the series, “Malibu Shores,” alongside Russell.

There was a period, however, when he wasn’t working, and he started to feel beat down by the whole auditioning process. He also knew that he didn’t want to be repeatedly cast as the quarterback jock.

“I’m a musician first and foremost – I know that. Acting for me was like being at a party I wasn’t necessarily invited to,” he says. He believes musicians who decide to try their hand at acting have an easier, more reputable time than if the opposite were true. That stigma that actors can’t cross over and become musicians worried him. He realized he had something to say, and his music was the perfect outlet for that. Six albums later, including recent release Rendezvous with the Angels, Lucca hasn’t looked back. Well, maybe he has at least once.

Last summer, Lucca got a call from a fellow Mouseketeer who needed a favor. Justin Timberlake was directing a series of commercials for his own brand of tequila, 901, and he wanted Lucca to star in one. Timberlake said he wanted to work with someone he had a good shorthand with, and Lucca says, “It was special, and I felt honored that I could do a favor for him. It was cool bouncing ideas off each other.”

Lucca boasts he is absolutely in love with what he’s doing. He aspires to see the proportions grow – always. They’ve already grown exponentially, but he only wants to watch them continue to do so. “Touring the last four or five years has certainly helped with that,” he says, as far as putting himself out there and making a name with promoters and selling a few more records each time he passes through a city, “I’ve grown to be happy and content with each new level as it comes.”

“Ideally, though? The fantasy I have in my head?” he asks, “To be on a tour bus playing with a couple of really good guys and just having a good group of people around me. Have the wife and kids and a nanny and a tutor.”

Family, however, wasn’t always at the forefront, “For a lot of years I thought it would be a hindrance and a distraction, but it turned out to be exactly the opposite.” He finds that they only give him more strength and inspiration, and a sense of greater purpose, “It definitely makes a difference when what you do affects the lives of others.”

Including the influence he has on his son, and Lucca can already see he’s going to be a pretty serious drummer. The two have a little band with an ever-changing name, “Right now, it’s the Bow and Arrows. It was the Fire Lizards and then he took a dark turn and we were the Bloody Souls.” When they play together, Lucca remarks, “I get the same joy locking in with him,” as he does with his musical counterparts a little closer to him in age.  And if his son wants to follow in Dad’s footsteps? “It’s exciting to think he may want to do it, too.”

In that regard, Lucca wants to follow in his parents’ footsteps. He remarks that they weren’t the nightmare stage parents you so often hear about, “When I made it clear that this is what I wanted to do, then they enabled me. I can only hope to do the same.”

Lucca is very humble and very aware that he’s living the sweet life, “Living your dream, so to speak, is definitely a cool way to be.”  But, he says, it’s a lot of work to strike a balance between family and the touring, and to live that type of life, in general, “It’s not for the faint of heart.” He relays one experience where he didn’t quite get booed offstage, but it came pretty close, and he thought, “Can I go home now? I want to go home now. But you learn. You do eventually identify and get a sense of when people are tuning in and when they’re tuning out, and you figure out how to work to bring them back.”

He muses, “You never forget the bad ones, though. Hopefully, you walk away having learned something. Either come strong or go home, I guess, as the saying goes.”

And what is Tony Lucca listening to these days? “I don’t know what it is they got going in the hotel lobby right now,” he joked and told me he’s been sulking a bit because his hard drive, which had something to the tune of 6000 songs on it, recently crashed, and he didn’t have any of it backed up. A serious music aficionado friend from New York hooked Lucca up with his entire itunes library, and he says he’s been exploring the Genius feature pretty hard to get a handle on the huge scope of his friend’s musical tastes. Lucca’s own favorites include Ray LaMontagne, Jeff Tweedy, Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses, as well as iconic artists like Crosby, Stills and Nash and Billy Joel (he covers “Vienna” on Rendezvous).

Currently, Lucca is in Illinois recording with friends and touring mates Jay Nash and Matt Duke. Their hotel is blocks away from the studio where they have a nice set up and can go in and record any hour of the day that they choose, “We’ve taken every advantage of every second, and we’re making some really inspiring music. It’s such a joy.” He describes working with them as very much dreamlike, and says, “We’re constantly reminding each other of what we have and are able to do for a living and that this is as good as it gets.”

The three will take a break from recording to tour through December, landing in Philadelphia at the Tin Angel on November 20. The Philly show, Lucca says, will be a special one, “We’ll be coming out guns blazing. We’re really excited to get out there and play the new stuff.”

Man at Work: Jay Nash Goes On the Road in Support of Diamonds and Blood

16 Mar

Singer-songwriter Jay Nash is one busy guy. With the release of his sixth studio album, Diamonds and Blood, he is winding his way around the country, and soon, the globe, to promote his latest release, a deeply personal compilation of songs written by a guy who’s seen the world many times over and has the insight, scars and songs to prove it.

When I spoke with Nash he was loving the 80 degree weather the Arizona desert was blessing him with. Spending his first winter in Vermont after living in Los Angeles for nine years, he said, “I’ve literally spent the last three months shoveling out of my house – literally shoveling my house out of the snow. I’m talking so it didn’t come in through the windows.” Understandably, the desert heat and sun were a welcome change.

Nash was making the trek to Austin, Texas where he will perform, interview and mingle at what he estimates to be his seventh SXSW Music Festival. He’s performing three shows that he thinks are nicely spread out, leaving him plenty of time to network,  make new friends, catch up with old ones and check out as many of the 2,000 music acts as he possibly can in the four days of jam packed performances.

“I’m excited about SXSW this year. It’s such a great coming together of music,” he said, and when I asked who he was most excited to see he put Josh Ritter in the top spot. “I’m looking forward to seeing the luminaries I used to play with,” he said, referring to his days playing at the Hotel Café in Los Angeles, as well as Room 5 Lounge, a mecca for singer-songwriters, largely of his making.

The small town in upstate New York where Nash grew up wasn’t what he would call a super nurturing place for singer-songwriters by sheer virtue of the fact that there weren’t many. When he got to Los Angeles, however, he was exposed to a whole new world, “I was blown away,” he said. On a weekly basis he saw great acts like Pete Yorn and Gary Jules, another curator of great music. It was around the time Jules’ cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” came out, and he was booking talent at the Hotel Café. There Nash saw talent like Joe Purdy and Jason Mraz, musicians who caught his ear and showed him what was possible.

Using Jules as a model, Nash found a place he could showcase his own talent, as well as seek out and showcase others like him. Room 5 Lounge was created out of Bar F2, an intimate bar located above an Italian restaurant on North LaBrea in Los Angeles. Before Nash took over booking talent, the cadre of artists who did play there came in fits and starts, and charging a cover seemed a daunting and non-lucrative task. The bar changed ownership, and Nash helped the new owners shape the intimate venue into what they envisioned it to be, which is the nationally recognized spot for the singer-songwriter set that it is today. After performing and booking talent for five years, Nash knew it was time to hand it over to someone else so he could concentrate fully on his own thing. He found a proper predecessor in Joel Eckles, a carpenter by day and singer-songwriter by passion, “He’s done a really great job with it,” Nash said.

Nash also became a fixture at the Hotel Café where, many nights, Nash said, “Would end with everyone playing together onstage.” Then the bar would close and everyone would hang out until five or six in the morning, writing, playing, libations flowing, “Making our significant others very unhappy,” he quipped.

The people he’s had the pleasure of playing with occurred in a wholly organic way, and Nash said, “It wasn’t because I knew someone higher up. It was because we were sharing the stage in this tiny room.” The list of artists he’s collaborated with is long, and many of the names can be found by glancing at a Billboard chart.  In addition to his great body of solo work, Nash has created some really great music with Colbie Caillat, Sara Bareilles and Garrison Starr, to name only a few. “A lot of those collaborations came out of artists I stumbled upon, I sought out, or they sought me out,” he said.

Nash had one good friend – a musician – who was at her wits end because nothing was breaking in terms of her career, no matter what she did. At the time, she was opening for Nash in New York, and she wasn’t sure what she was going to do in terms of pursuing her music. Not long after, his good friend, Katy Perry, became a household name.

Nash, too, went through a period of questioning what it was he wanted to do and say. “I went to LA for a couple of weeks and wound up staying for nine years,” he said after realizing Los Angeles was the best environment for him to exist in as a musician. Nine years, five solo albums and a lot of touring mileage later, Nash’s priorities began to shift.

“Five years ago I would have said that all I want is to be able to play music every single night, but having a family definitely changes that.” His touring schedule could reach 220 dates a year, but said his “sweet spot” hovers around 100 shows. With a family, he said touring has become very well-orchestrated, and periods out on the road are shorter and more focused, “It’s not easy being away from my family.”

But living in Los Angeles also took focus away from his family, “On tour, I constantly have to be ‘on,’ and then I would come home and be surrounded by this world of singer-songwriters and I would still have to be ‘on.’” It became a little much, coupled with the realization that Nash and his wife’s annual travel budget was spent visiting family on the other side of the country. Both hail from the East Coast, and it suddenly made more sense to flip-flop the way he’d been doing things, especially after the birth of his first child. Now, homebase is with his family in Vermont, and he commutes to Los Angeles intermittently when he needs to.

Still, on “Golden State Goodnight,” Nash sings about his mixed emotions over leaving LA and the complicated love he has for the city, realized only in the wake of moving on, “I think I love it more now that I’m not there because now, the novelty never really wears off.”

Jambase.com said, “Nash’s music recalls a Los Angeles thought to be long since extinct, a romantic dream land where inspiration flowed from one artist to another with songs about late nights, friends and lovers, songs which grew organically and were created spontaneously. He’s a throwback for sure, smart with a hook, and brave enough to bare the fragile truth in a song.” The description doesn’t just capture Nash’s thoughts on LA, it describes Nash’s entire body of work. Every song on Diamonds and Blood is an honest, deeply personal baring of the soul that showcases who he is, now, as an artist. 

And Nash is more content with his career choice. “I do love it,” he said. He remarked about those friends from growing up having walked the faster route to financial security by becoming doctors and lawyers, but Nash has no regrets, “I had to slog it out a little longer, but I never felt I had less than I wanted.”

He’s got a strong work ethic and isn’t content sitting around, “I’m always willing to work – I like working.” The goal is to keep growing as a musician, and said with a laugh that was only part tongue in cheek, “We all want to play an arena rock show.” Although, he doesn’t discount the joy he finds in playing smaller venues that are packed to capacity. He hopes to continue pushing forward and expanding his audience, and in 2011, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so.

In addition to Diamonds and Blood, Nash is releasing an EP with Caitlin Crosby in the spring and a full length CD with good friends Tony Lucca and Matt Duke as TFDI in the summer. “I’ll have my hands full,” he said. After SXSW, he’s off to Europe for a few weeks to play with British singer-songwriter, Greg Holden, who will be promoting his new album, I Don’t Believe You. Then Nash is off to Holland, France and Germany, “I know I have this whole fanbase over there, and I don’t want to let the fire die. Lots of work needs to be done here, though, as well.”

The key, Nash said, is to be honest, to listen to and speak from that true voice inside him that emerges from getting a little bit older and wiser. Otherwise, the words won’t sound genuine or resonate with his audience, “The whole point of music is to connect with people, isn’t it?”

As he made his way across the desert, White Michigan, Jon Elliot and the Hereafter, Josh Ritter and TFDI played on the radio, the latter of which was playing for business as well as pleasure, “We’re playing together at SXSW, and we haven’t seen each other in a couple of months. I need to make sure I know the parts.” Even when he’s content to sit and enjoy the desert drive, Jay Nash is hard at work.

Two days after the release of Diamonds and Blood, the devastating tsunami hit Japan. This week, 50% of the proceeds from itunes sales of the album will be donated to the Red Cross to assist with those affected by the tsunami.

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