LISA HELLER

How did you choose “Life On The Run” to be your first iTunes single?  I chose to release “Life on the Run” as my first iTunes single because I think it is a good representation of who I really am as an artist. As the first thing I’m really putting out into the world, “Life on the Run” is kind of saying I’m going to be myself, and march to my “own beat of the drum.”  I think it is an inspiring song to people who want to strive for a dream and don’t know if they can do it.  I think you can do anything you want to do if you work hard enough.

You are in a unique position releasing material at such a young age: do you ever worry that you may look back later in your career and go ‘OH NO!!”?  I don’t think that releasing material at such a young age (my 19th birthday to be exact) would make me look back and worry. It’s all a learning process and you have to learn who your audience is and feel for what they like and don’t like and work from there. If I never put my songs out into the world, how would I know if people would fall for them? I also think an audience likes to see an artist evolve over time and I plan to continue to grow.

How do songs take shape for you typically ? For me, my songwriting varies from song to song- sometimes I am driving on the highway and have to pull over because I get this one phrase stuck in my head and I have to scribble it on my coffee cup before it goes away. Other times I sit down and start playing different chord progressions on my piano and guitar with varying rhythm, and once it sounds right to me I start humming along until I find a suiting melody, and the words just kind of flow from there. Each song is such a different experience- with some it takes an hour to write the root of the song while with others I could spend 6 months on it just to find the right words.

What’s the bigger high for you: writing, recording or playing live?   Wow that’s such a hard choice! Can I say all three? They are all so different it’s difficult to compare. Writing is something that has been a huge part of growing up for me. I write down the experiences that I’ve had or are new to me, then I compare them to ones I haven’t yet had a chance to experience. But recording is also amazing because it’s like I’m taking all of these ideas that are kind of jumbled up in my head, and they’re put into real solid music. I really get in such a deep zone when I’m recording that I can’t explain. Sometimes I forget what I’m doing and that other people are there listening while I sing into the mic. And lastly, performing is such an amazing experience. The second I step on stage it’s like I feel this connection with the audience that they understand me. It’s like we’re all one, and as I sing about the adversity I’ve faced, as many others have, I’m singing for them, not me. I want to tell them it will all be ok, empowering my audience as well as myself.

What do you want your audience to see or feel when you are in front of them?  When I’m in front of my audience, I want them to feel welcome. There are so many opportunities for people to feel excluded or doubt themselves. But when I’m in front of people I want them to feel like it’s ok to be themselves, and feel empowered.

If you could open for any artist or band on a spill of east coast dates this summer, who would it be?  There are so many artists that I aspire to open for.  Of course Taylor Swift comes to mind, as such a dynamic player in the music industry.  She flawlessly switched from Country to Pop, a task no artist has surmounted with such supportive fans. I also would love to open for Christina Perri – her song “Jar of Hearts” was one of the first songs that I ever performed live and it really inspired me to write down-to-earth, relatable music. Sara Bareilles is also an amazing headliner – she is an artist I emulate and aspire to be like with her words of empowerment without a hint of cliche. Of course I would also be thrilled to open for bands with whom I am connected, such as Waiting for Henry, a group of great guys who have been supporting my hard work from the beginning.

How did you pick up guitar and what advice do you give to others who want to learn how to play?  I taught myself to play some simple chords on the piano which is how I started songwriting. After a while I really wanted to play guitar too so I started looking up how to play chords on google images! This really jump-started my ability to write songs, before I started taking lessons. My advice for someone learning to play guitar is to look up chords if you don’t want to pay for lessons, and keep repeating them until your fingers bleed. After a week or so you will stop hurting and your fingers will just remember where to be placed. From there, you can start writing songs! And for piano, you just need to learn the basic triad structure and go from there!

What were the first few albums you ever bought and what do you think of them today?  The first few albums I ever bought were from my parents, which definitely had a huge impact on my choice of music. As a young child I would listen to Dave Matthews and Coldplay in the car, so it really made me appreciate the deep music where the words had so much meaning and the instrumentation that was so captivating and complex. The upbeat party music was always fun too but that never really affected me the way that songs like “Yellow” by Coldplay did.  U2’s “Beautiful Day” was a perfect song when I needed to appreciate the little things in life or get motivated.

What’s your favorite song of all-time?  I would probably say “Fix You” by Coldplay – It was the song I resorted to throughout high school and it brought so many different emotions each time I listened to it. “Fix You” has this certain indescribable power to heal and unite people.

If you could have an alter ego performing in an alternate universe, what might she sound and look like?  If I were given the chance to be someone else, I would still choose to be me. There are billions of other people in the world but only one me, so if I’m not me then who am I? ~ LisaHeller.com

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NATALIE GELMAN

1.0 – Are you happy with how the new EP, Streetlamp Musician, has turned out?

I am! The songs are great to start with and the production and players performing on it are top notch. It has a diverse range of songs and I think I’ll be performing all of them for a long, long time.

2.0 – What are your plans if any for the release?

I’m taking it slow to make sure I’m doing everything right. It will be a soft release  and I’m going to start touring it towards the end of this year and more next year. I am hoping my friends and fans love it enough to share with their circles of friends so it finds a home in a lot of peoples music collection.

 3.0 – Which song on it do you have the strongest emotional relationship with, or are they all dear?

It changes over time. They all have been close to me at one point or another. The most emotional song for me is “One More Thing” but the one I have strong love and respect for is “Most The While”.

 4.0 – Do you have a formula when it comes to writing or is it more free-form? 

A melody and some lyrics will come to me at first and then its my job to uncover what the song is about and focus it moving forward. I also try not to give up on the song or judge it prematurely. I don’t have a formula exactly but I do try to capture everything I think is interesting and inspiring in notebooks and in files on my iPhone. I’ll refer back to those often when I’m looking to write and when I’m looking for a spin on a song I’m already writing. I work really hard on my lyrics to try to be as clear as I can in saying exactly what I mean to and honoring the message of the song. That process is tedious and involves a lot of revision most of the time.

 5.0 – What were the songs that you recall impacting you as a kid? 

I don’t have too many songs that impacted me as a kid because I grew up studying classical violin and piano and my mom played classical music at home. I did eventually get a Lisa Minnelli CD and Madonnas Like a Virgin album and listen to those repeatedly. I also started listening to the hit radio station in NYC and liked musical theater like Gilbert and Sullivan and Disney songs that I was studying musically when I started singing.

 6.0 – What was the first song you learned to sing and play on guitar at the same time, by who?

I was already writing songs when I decided to learn Jewel’s “You Were Meant For Me”. I had only been playing for a few months at that time and I learned the plucking, the harmonics and everything. I still cover that song at shows.

 7.0 – Is there an influencing artist that you consider your ultimate muse?

For a long time early Jewel was my primary muse. I’m now really inspired by Patty Griffin. I think she writes stunningly beautiful songs and stories and sings them amazingly. She’s an underappreciated gift.

 8.0 – Why led to your leaving NYC for California? 

I left for a variety of reasons, a lot of them too personal to mention in this interview but definitely available in the songs on my record. NYC, and the people surrounding me there kind-of broke my heart. I also had an opportunity to record out here with a great team and it just made sense to get out to Los Angeles and dive into it. I came out thinking I might be back by the Fall but the record took longer then expected and then one thing lead to another and now I live here and love it. I still get back to NYC a lot and miss it so much sometimes. It will always be my home and I love the energy of the city. I’m so proud to have grown up there.

 9.0 – You recently performed in the subway in New York; has that experience changed at all from when you started out busking in the West Village or is that what Streetlamp Musician is all about anyway? 

I didn’t start busking in the West Village. I actually started in Times Square and tried to avoid ever playing too close to home. I didn’t really want to run into people I knew though I always do when I play – usually quite a few folks actually.

Anyways, it has changed because it’s become more crowded. And, as I get older and as the economy has changed people are less likely to tip artists down there now. I still think it’s the best way to hone your chops and start to build your fan base as a young artist. I’m lucky to have made it into the MUNY program that’s run by a part of the MTA who manages the subways. They give you permits for bet spots and times as well as the right to amplify your music. It’s a great community to be a part of and it feels more like a legitimate thing that we’re doing together to make the subways more interesting and special. The buskers and street artists are so vital to the city and it’s spirit.

Streetlamp Musician is about the West Village changing in the past few years as much as it’s about me wishing more people would listen to me when I’m laying my heart out on the line. The city has to change but I wish the West Village was more of the neighborhood I grew up in with artists and bohemians. It’s way too expensive for interesting characters to live there anymore and all the mom and pop shops that had been there for generations were pushed out because rent got too high. My godmother blames the Village getting too popular on Sex and the City and I think she’s right.

10.0 – What’s the worst gig situation you have ever found yourself in? 

The worse ever was at a place called The Guitar Bar in Savannah, GA. I set up a show there for their opening night while on my first tour. Everything sounded good from the owner in follow up and checking in a week before the show right up until I got to the venue the night of the show and the owner told me that they weren’t going to be opening that night. My drummer was from Savannah and we were expecting a lot of people so we rescheduled for the next night and now were co-billing the show. We called 30 people to tell them about the switch and ended up playing a house concert that night instead.

The next day we went to the venue and they were complaining that they still didn’t have their liquor license and hustling to finish painting, put things away etc. I saw painters tape all over the floor moldings that needed to be removed so I started helping with that and got to the moldings in the bathroom when I realized they had no toilet paper. I asked the owner if they did and he was overwhelmed and said no so I offered to get some thinking he would pay me back. I went across the street (aka highway) in the dark to get some at a deli and loaded it into the bathroom.

The place opened that night and a ton of our friends came out. The show was amazing right up until I went to go take care of being paid before leaving. We had worked out a 50/50 split of the door deal and I had brought out 30 people at $10 a person. So the band should have made $150.

He handed me maybe $20 or $40 and said he was sorry, they didn’t have their liquor license blah, blah, blah. I quickly found out that he needed all the money from the people I brought in to pay the other act who was a friend of his who has flown in from CA when he paid the other guy $250 right in front of me. The other act hadn’t brought out anyone. I told him that wasn’t okay, we had still driven for hours to be there, had helped them out so much and brought in a lot of people and had a fair contract, yes, the payment details were in writing and it was signed. After a ton of arguing I ended up just leaving and just was so mad that he was making this my issue and just left.

I just looked them up and that place is finally closed. I can’t believe they actually stayed open for 4 years or so. What a nightmare.

SIBLIN SANDOVAR

1.0 – When did you start playing guitar and what was the first song you ever wrote? I was about 12 or 13 when I started playing guitar. The first song I remember writing and finishing was called “Why Bother Here.” I was about 13 I think.
2.0 – You perform as Silbin Sandovar, does having an alter-ego of sorts impact your music at all? Nah. Not really.
3.0 – You bring a wide fusion of influences to your music, can you explain its origins? I just always liked older things. And I like variety. I love the idea of hybrids, musical mutts if you will. I don’t like “pure-breeding” in my music.
4.0 – What do you like to write about? I like the story song. Always have. The songs are about anything that revs my imagination. Sometimes it’s about me, sometimes I approach songwriting like script-writing. I write with other people, other personalities, other voices in mind.
5.0 Who were you listening to in high school? The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. Still love the former?
6.0 – If you could do a duet with any artist, who might it be? Great question. Emmylou Harris. Dolly Parton. Jenny Lewis. PJ Harvey… Would definitely be a woman. 
7.0 – What is most rewarding to you; playing live for people, the writing process, or recording new music? A good live show is hard to beat.
8.0 – What’s the vision for RocketHubTo grow to the point where the company is a lot more than simply crowdfunding. I like to think that Rockethub (and businesses like it) will perform in a similar function as record labels and film and television studios do. I hope we can improve upon things by creating a better, fairer model for creative people.
9.0 – Are other ‘captive’ club promoters receptive to it, or are some leary of helping?
I’ve had no problem at all incorporating Rockethub with my work as a booker or promoter, the brand has a very positive association with the places I work.
10.0 – What advice would you give up and coming artists looking to build a following in NYC? It all depends on what your path is, what kind of music you make. In my experience I would say that artists need to be patient and persistent– building an audience is just that–BUILDING–and building is work. And artists need to work smart. Working smart is having a strategy. There’s no one right way of doing it but I’d recommend doing some research– go out into the field of your given city or town and find out:
*what the best venues really are in terms of sound, size
and value
*follow the heat–find out and try to become friendly with artists who
do have a following and figure out ways to collaborate with them
*don’t overplay your market/city/town–unless you have a clever working
strategy–even the big dogs can and will die from overexposure.
Space your major gigs properly and pick up new fans at open mics,
guest appearances at other peoples shows, benefit concerts,
ect.
*Be a giver. Have something to give, to barter with. Artists that only care about when they’re playing and don’t try to be part of a community or scene are almost always the ones that come whimpering and whining about no one coming to their shows or not being able to find a drummer or a guitar player for their band. When starting out especially–we are each other’s audience. All the great bands and artists didn’t come out of nowhere, they all came from or started a scene or community of some sort–The Beatles, Stones, Bob Dylan, The Byrds, etc etc.

JOE DELL’AQUILA

1.0 It must be an exciting time to now have your own studio in Exeter Recording, how is it going?

It’s been going really great.  It’s amazing to see how far I’ve come.  Just to think I started out with a Tascam 4 track at my house to this is just insane. Been having a lot of great young bands coming into the studio, and the 7inch wall is still growing! I’m really happy with the sounds I’m getting here and the place has such a comfortable atmosphere. I’m always updating my equipment and always figuring out ways to improve everything I do.  Just ask any band that comes in here about how insane I go when mixing!  I have the gray hairs to prove it.

2.0  Would you be able to produce as well if you hadn’t been in bands yourself?

I always think about how hard it would have been if I didn’t grow up being in a band (With Resistance). I can relate to bands on a lot of different levels.  Whether a band is just starting out recording the first songs they’ve ever written, or recording a debut full length and are about to hit the road for a month, I feel I know exactly what they are going through having been in the situation myself.  One of the great things about being a producer is feeling like you’re apart of every band that enters the studio.  No matter how you feel about the band’s music, you become apart of that band’s history, and are working as hard as they are to put out something awesome.

3.0  When did you realize producing was what you wanted to do?

I think as soon as I hit the realization that high school was ending, that’s when I decided I had to figure out something to do that wasn’t going to make me miserable for the rest of my life! I remember feeling like it was such a make or break decision, and figured, whatever it was, that it was going to start there and then, and that I wasn’t going to give up on the decision unless I hated it. Music was the obvious choice for me, and I was so amazed by the recording experience every time my band had to record that I said “screw this crappy supermarket job”…. I want to do this! Then I went to school and nabbed an associates degree, but that’s not where I felt it started.  Once I started to get hands on experience just figuring out how to record on my own, that’s where I got sucked in and knew I could only get better from there.

4.0  What is your favorite part about the process?

It’s to hard to pick a favorite. I love mixing because it really is amazing to hear the transformation from raw recorded sounds with no set levels, to something that sounds so together, with everything having its own space and being brought more upfront.  And even though I’m not a drummer, I loooooove recording drums.  Nothing feels more awesome than great drum tones.

5.0  What records and producers would you say you have been most influenced by?

I feel like I remember liking the sound of a record rather than who recorded it, which is horrible because I should be hoping people do the opposite when listening to my recordings! But annnnyways….I was definitely influenced by Chris Badami at Portrait Recording Studios.  My band went to him when he was recording out of a garage.  We had such a good experience that we never went to anyone else, going to him the next four times we had to record, and watching his studio grow into the amazing place that it is today.  It was really inspiring because he was just a genuine, nice dude, that was cool to work with for 10 hours a day, and I saw him do exactly what he set out to do. Another guy is Dan Korneff at House of Loud, the guy is a damn genius!  His mixes are enormous, and I think the guy knows more about Nuendo than Steinberg does!  He has indirectly taught me so much, and its awesome to be in contact with him to shoot the shit about recording.  Which leads me to the last guy, my buddyJosh Jakubowski.  He let me use his home studio for years to start my business while he worked in north Jersey at another facility.  Basically my mentor, he taught me things he learned on a daily basis, and we were able to put together an amazing studio for a couple years.  As for records, I love the sound of Small Brown Bikes’s records, Elliot – False Cathedrals, Cave In’srecords, Propagandhi’s records, Jimmy Eat World’s records, I think Days Away; “Mapping An Invisible World” still has my favorite kick drum sound ever! And when my father breaks out his Beatles vinyl, I still get amazed at how good they sound.

6.0 Do you see yourself first as a producer or a musician?

Well about 8 years ago, I would have said musician without even thinking, considering I was in a touring hardcore band at the time.  But since the band broke up, being a producer has completely taken over.  The time I used to spend writing songs is now replaced by figuring out ways to better my recordings and better myself as an engineer.  I feel like there will always be room to improve and that’s what makes recording so addicting.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to play shows again and I have a bunch of songs I’ve written over the years but right now, the studio is the number one priority in my life.

7.0  Was producing records something you had to work hard at or was it something that came naturally to you?

Engineering is something that takes a lot of work to get used to, but Producing is definitely something that comes more naturally to me. Having written so many songs myself, and now having worked with so many bands, I feel I can easily get a grasp on what a band is going for, and from there the ideas start to flow. I always like to throw in my input when something pops up in my head. I’m not scared of getting turned down, because I know bands have a certain idea of how they want their songs to sound, so that makes me an easy person to work with and also keeps a creative atmosphere. I want nothing more than to make the band happy and to make their songs bigger than what they even imagined.

8.0  Can you offer any advice to young bands who are thinking about entering a studio to record for the first time?

Preproduction and practice!!!!  There are so many basic ways of recording available now a days, that young bands with a small budget can do preproduction on their own and be prepared to focus mainly on their performance in the studio.  A lot of bands like to jump the gun on recording, and then you get the, “that’s what you’ve been playing there?” line. So unless you have the time to break down songs in the
studio, it’s something that’s really important to do beforehand.  It just leaves so much more open to focus on performance and to sprout
ideas to make the songs even better.

9.0  Do you have a philosophy about producing?

It’s usually whatever comes in my fortune cookies from the Chinese food I eat every day here! “What’s the deal with fortune cookies being
just statements now a days, I want a fortune damn it!” But seriously, it’s just about working with the artist that came up with the song and realizing the direction they are trying to take. Be open to any ideas they have, and build off them and your own together.

10.0  Is it really true that “every room is different sound?”

I think it’s true, but in the same sense, it doesn’t mean that you can record in one room and not in another. I feel like I could take my set up anywhere and get the sound I need.  It’s all about knowing your equipment, knowing your mic placements, and trusting your ear. On the other hand, getting used to your Monitors and control room is a different story. I feel like that is something that takes a little more getting used to, but its all about comparing and testing the room with different things you and other people have done.

Exeter Recording Studio is located in Freehold, New Jersey