ANNA P.S.

houseshow_jameskornphotographyWhen did you get the music bug ?  I don’t know if it started as a bug.  My parents made my siblings and I all take piano lessons and we had to play a band instrument as well.  I think I started piano when I was around 7 years old, and I started playing flute when I was in 5th grade.  I don’t remember not being able to read sheet music, that’s how ingrained it feels in my life.  I went through certain ages where I was mad at my parents for making me take lessons and making me practice, but I’m grateful that I’ve always had music to fall back on when I’ve had nothing else, or no one else.

When I was in college, I found myself pretty miserable when I didn’t have time for music, so I figured out how to make time for it.  I was probably better at it then than I am now.  I took a few classical guitar lessons when I was in college.  It’s something that I have always wanted to play, but always thought would be too challenging.  It still is challenging, but that’s probably good for me.

Who are your ‘core’ favorite artists ? Maybe it’s just because I feel like I need role models, or I’m trying to emulate them, but I really love women who are singer-songwriters.  Corrine Bailey Rae, Eva Cassidey, Lisa Hannigan, Abigail Washburn, Tracy Chapman.  I also love folk and bluegrass, which I never thought would happen, but when I started to run sound for folk bands, the musicianship blew me away and I was hooked.

These probably don’t influence me as far as writing goes, but I really like Ratatat, Beats Antique, Sufjan Stevens and Noah Gunderson, to name a few. I grew up in a pretty conservative home and we weren’t really allowed to listen to music (kind of ironic, I know).  I grew up listening to the Nutcracker and Psalty the Singing Songbook.  I’m still discovering music that my peers listened to years ago.

What was your first concert and what strikes you about it now?  I’m not sure if you want me to tell you about all of the band concerts my siblings played in.  I was pretty young and I fell asleep a lot, ha.  I often was more interested in playing then I was in listening.  The first show that I went to as an adult was to see the Flaming Lips in the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago.  Marnie Stern opened for them, another great role model.  What comes to mind is that it was like magic, and I don’t know how else to describe it.  I think that’s what it is, when it comes down to it.  We go to musical shows because we want to feel the magic that is part of this world; we lose a hold of that sometimes when we’re distracted with living our everyday lives, at least I know that I do.

What was your first public performance and how did it go?  As an adult, my first public performance was as a senior in college.  You could put on an event called an Hour After.  It was a sit down affair; students would dress up, drink coffee and eat dessert.  It was a really amazing experience because I had never collaborated with that many people before, or led something like that.  I think I got together 10-12 people, some of who were good friends, and some of who I barely knew.  I didn’t know anything about putting together a show, orchestrating music, or asking people what to do musically.  It was a blast.  I think people enjoyed it, but I don’t really remember now.  I wish I kept better track of those things, because it feels important now.

Anna 2What perspective does being a pro sound man (woman) and working with so many acts live contribute to your feelings or /philosophy about ‘the stage’ as an artist in your own right?  The biggest impact it’s had on my mentality is to always be kind to your sound people/stage hands.  They are usually trying their hardest; the ones that aren’t won’t be working for long anyway.  I try to be kind to people anyway, but I have run into many musicians who are downright rude, and don’t treat you like a person.  If you treat me like that, I am not going to help you sound good.  That said, the majority of musicians I’ve had the chance to work with have been really gracious and appreciative of the work that happens behind the scenes for their show to go smoothly.  In short, kindness will always get you further than a bad attitude, or bossing people around to try and get their respect. Also, I would much rather be backstage than onstage.

Side note:  I refer to myself as the ‘sound guy’, because that’s who people are always asking for.  I was called ‘the sound lady’, affectionately, while I was running sound for the metal/hardcore scene in Goshen.

How do songs ‘happen’ for you as a songwriter?  The best songwriting has worked for me is when I’m doing it everyday.  I write a lot of crap songs, but I believe that quantity leads to quality.  Always, if inspiration doesn’t find me working, then I’m not going to get a good song out of it.  That said, I should practice what I preach.  The hardest part for me is finishing songs.  I get a lot of ideas and have many more finished songs than I do finished ones.  I used to journal a lot and I’m trying to get back into it.  A lot of the time, I jot down thoughts, or feelings that I’m struggling with, and sometimes they later develop into lives of their own with songs of their own.

What’s up with your band Shiny Shiny Black these days?  I played with Shiny Shiny Black for about three years.  We dubbed it ‘coffeehouse rock and roll’, mostly because we play electric guitars, but quiet enough to play in a coffee shop.  SSB has definitely been a big part of my musical experience.  It got me on the stage, even when I didn’t want to, got me playing my electric guitar, when I wasn’t sure that’s the guitar or kind of music I wanted to play, and gave me an amazing group of people to collaborate and create with.  I didn’t do any writing for SSB, that was all Nate Butler.  I refer to it as ‘Nate’s band’, because it is.  It’s his vision, his dream and his songs.  I feel as though there is little better than helping other actualize their dreams.

I toured with Nate and Amber, and their toddler to Nashville, St. Louis and back again.  They took a break to add another little when, and when they returned, it made sense for them and for me to not continue being part of SSB at this time.  It’s a little sad when I hear songs play on the radio, or that I don’t get to hang out with Nate and Amber every week, but it’s giving me the time to work on my own projects, both musical and visual art, as well as giving more time to developing as an audio engineer.

How is the approach different writing for sway them versus your own ‘voice’?  I’m honestly afraid to collaboratively write.  Maybe it’s just because I haven’t really tried it.  I’m a very private person, which I find slightly ironic.  It’s hard for me to get up on stage and share because it’s not an act for me, it’s just who I am.  Therefore, what I write is really personal.  It’s taken me awhile to become comfortable with sharing my music, but they few people I have shared it with have asked me to, so I’m trying to do that to a wider audience.  I think I’m afraid that someone will hear one of my songs sometime and realize it’s about them.

houseshow_posterpossibilitySo many artists pigeon-hole themselves by clinging to tightly to an indie image / vibe to appear sufficiently counter-culture enough to be have credibility with hipsters but are you comfortable with being a huge, national pop star?  If there was an image I wanted to uphold, it would be authenticity.  For me, playing music isn’t really about how many people come out to hear me play, where I get the opportunity to play, or who I’m getting to play with.  The reason that I started writing music is because I felt alone, and unseen.  That’s not really something I struggle with right now, but there are a lot of very human things I struggle with constantly.  What I want when people listen to my music and hear me play, is I want them to feel that they are seen, that they are not alone in their struggles, that there is hope in this often dark world.  Maybe that sounds idealistic, but I’m pretty sure that’s the point of art.  I never thought about being a huge, national, pop star because I think that people don’t want that much honesty in popular music, in a popular stage presence.  I want to be who I am on stage and I want to invite everyone who listens to be who they are, fully, and accept that.

You are offered one wish from a legit Genie with actual powers but it must involve your music career: You consider carefully and offer her the following humble request:  I want my music to have meaning.  I want it to speak to people.  I want it to invite people to dig a little deeper, to have hope, to pursue dreams.   ~ Anna P.S

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REBECCA FRAME w/ ESQUELA

Rebecca FrameHow did Esquela come together?

John ‘Chico’ Finn and Keith Christopher have a long history together. And so, when John wanted to start his own band, it only made sense for Keith to be his partner in crime. While recording Esquela’s first album, “The Owl Has Landed”, I was invited to do some backing vocals. Soon thereafter, Chico asked me to take over lead vocals. Todd Russell, a friend of Chico’s from high school, was a perfect fit on drums for the evolving band. Chico asked me if I would be interested in playing mandolin, which would have tricky since I have never played this instrument.  But, my friend Matt had.  So, enter Matt Woodin. At some point it was evident that we would need a fill in guitar player, since Keith was busy with other projects. Enter Ira McIntosh and Brian Shafer. Early on we had some other players from the city, who were great guys, but it just worked out better for it to be upstaters.

How does the song writing process work for you guys? 

Chico gets inspired by either a funny story from a friend, an article he’s read, or a documentary he has seen, and of course life experience and puts a pen to paper. Sometimes, with the help of Keith, he records a rough draft and sends it my way. I usually stick to the melody he had in mind, but I get to play around with it a little. Later the band gets together and fleshes it out.

 

Esquela has a late 60’s vibe, what’s Esquela about to you?

Does it have a 60’s vibe? That’s cool. Esquela is about getting together and being free to create in whatever way we see fit for each song, and have a good time doing it. Maybe that’s how they did it in the 60’s too.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to singing and what do you hope to put across personally?

I guess I just want to do justice to the songs. And try to convey the feel as best I can.  I wouldn’t say I have a philosophy, I just love to sing.

Esquela_cover (2)Where can producer Eric Ambel’s influence be heard most on Are We Rolling? versus the debut, The Owl Has Landed?

I can’t really say anything about the Owl. I just showed up at the studio in Oneonta and laid down the vocals and the rest was up to the fellas.  But with are we rolling it was awesome to work with Eric in a more intimate way. He took more of a directive role. He’s smart and kind of sneaky. hahaha. example: Eric knows that I like to belt out songs, which can be a good thing, but sometimes it’s a little much. so for take one he would tell me to give it all I got (just like I like to). then for take two he would ask me to take it easier and softer, which was a little challenging for me because that’s not how I usually “attack” a song. I think we ended up using more of the second takes. They sounded better. He was right. But, he was cool about being right. It was a good learning experience for me. Also, we have a lot of guitar players in the band. Brian, Ira, sometimes Matt…..so I think Eric helped sort out the chaos of who would do what when. Honestly, while they were doing their thing I was bullshitting with Chico and Todd, so who knows what REALLY went down.

What was the first record you ever bought and what’s your favorite thing about it today?

The first album I bought was the Body Guard Soundtrack. I mean, Whitney? come on! she is (was) incredible.  her voice can move you in a way that no one else’s can. simply beautiful and strong.

Who are your musical heroes?

Chico. he just goes for it. I wish I has his courage when it comes to sharing his work.  you want a famous hero? too bad. I stick with my decision.

When did you realize you could actually sing?

Hmmm…when I was in grade school, my friend had a recorder and we sat on my living room floor and sang “This Used To Be My Playground” by Madonna, which is funny because we were soooo young but we were sooo dramatic about it. then we started our make believe band and would use picnic tables as our stage. I guess the dream was there early. but I guess high school was when I found that I actually had some talent for real.

Was there someone early in your life that encouraged you?

I don’t know if encouraged is the right word. influenced works better for me. My father played the piano every night while I was falling asleep, all the women in my family sing, my sister showed me the awesomeness that is classic rock, and also looked the other way when I stole her SWV and En Vogue tapes. My mom would tolerate me playing her Beatles albums over and over…and over again. I had a wonderful teacher in high school who called me ‘songbird’. that’s encouraging….

It’s said singers get better with time; how do you separate the best from the rest? 

I’m not sure if i agree with that totally. i mean, refining your skills, takes work and time, and yes, you get better at it the more comfortable you are with what you are doing. but, when you are starting your musical journey there is so much enthusiasm, and hope, and drive, and passion. and those things can kind of fade. i think what separates the”best” from the rest, are those who can hold onto the passion that they had at the beginning.

SARAH FIMM

1.0 – What’s the best thing about BARN SESSIONS

Perhaps that it’s real, it’s live, and you can see a mouse suddenly appear behind John’s lovely head in the “Hiding”‘ video.  That’s just my personal opinion.

2.0 – Did you have a sound in mind when you starting recording it or did it evolve?

It was more of a feeling I wanted people to remember.  The entire landscape of music has gone through drastic changes.  I wanted to do a live experiment with talented people to see how the variables would change the result.  It evolved as things do, once my team of amazing artist friends helped it become what it is.  The sum of their talent and personality, combined with other elements, created the sound.

3.0 – Do you consider branding & image as part of the artistic process? 

When I found a wooden hard drive to go with the Barn Sessions package I was pretty pleased.  There is an overall aesthetic that is particular to each project.  I liked the wood because what people receive is the same material that shaped the acoustic environment where the music was created.   I am a creature who tries to be consistent.

4.0 – When did you start writing songs (originally) and what was your first?

This is a good question.  I would have to say if I really go back in time, I was writing in my head constantly, and piano melodies near my mother’s lap at 3 or 4 years old.  I remember listening to her voice when she would talk to people.  I remember thinking that her kindness created music in people.  I would play things that fit the scene of the room.  I would play to the moods of the people inhabiting the room.  I became aware of the power of simple observation, and began to understand how music was a doorway to change people’s emotional states.

5.0 – Do you have a philosophy when it comes to writing? 

Stop thinking so much. :)

6.0 – And what about the stage and playing live?

There’s nothing like it at its best and its worst.

7.0 – How did you catch the folk bug originally? 

I didn’t know I had it!  I came from rock. (Older brother-you know:)

8.0 – Did you have to work at it or does it come naturally, or both?

-I work all the time at all aspects of everything I do. My friends tell me I really need to get out quite often luckily.  Playing music, and trying to survive as a musician, are two different things.  They both take extraordinary amounts of discipline and work.

9.0 – What’s your favorite record of all-time? 

That’s the hardest question.  If I had to choose, Brian Eno and Harold Budd. It brings me to a state of absolute serenity.

10.0 – What was the first concert you attended and how did it impact your life? 

I think the first time I was truly impacted was either Tool, NIN, or Tori Amos.  It was all within the same week.  It really changed up the playing field.

MATT SPIEGEL w/ TRIBUTOSAURUS

1.0 – Was there a specific band or artist that got you hooked on rock & roll as a kid? 

Well, my sister left some vinyl around when she went to college. Abbey Road, The Kinks’ live album, Billy Joel’s debut, and Springsteen’s The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle. So it starts in that pile, and probably with “She Came in Through The Bathroom Window” specifically. That vocal made the hairs stick up on my neck…after hearing lots and lots of classical music from mom and dad. The classical had an impact too.

2.0 – What was the first album you ever purchased?

REO Speedwagon’s High Infidelity. There’s no lying when answering this question, no matter the quality of the album in question. “Keep On Lovin’ You” had owned me on the radio, enough to make me ride my bike to the mall.

3.0 – What music is in your car right now? 

It’s whatever’s on my phone, or maybe an Android tablet I use too. I don’t keep a ton on either of them. Whatever Tributosaurus is working on (Pink Floyd, Tom Petty) , plus: Funkadelic (America Eats It’s Young), Fleet Foxes, Wilco (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Engineer Demos), Spoon (Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga), Grant Green (Sunday Morning). There’s a little more…I swap it out often. Also, Sound Opinions podcasts rotate.

3.0 – How did the Tributosaurus concept come about? 

My brother Jon throws a big birthday party concert every year, and one year (when he was in the pit band for Blue Man Group), some NYC Blue Man extended family was there. They told me about something in New York called Loser’s Lounge. Every few months they got a wide array of NYC musicians together to do the music of, say, Burt Bacharach, and they’d all cover a tune or two doing their own spin. Brilliant. So I thought of doing that in Chicago, but clarifying it to be iconic rock and roll artists, and to do it as close to note for note as possible. The idea was to treat the rock canon with the same reverence and respect with which orchestras treat Brahms or Shostakovich.

4.0 – It must be fun to argue about which tunes to do by a given artists, is there a formula for Tributosaurus set lists?

Yes..there are five core members, and we each get 3 or 4 picks, depending on the set length we’re going for. Every once in a while we might say “well, this and that HAS to be in,” but for the most part the list ends up being a product of our individual tastes coming together. No veto is allowed either, so if I, or anyone, picks an absolute dog, you suffer through it. Of course, tunes you thought you hated always end up being appreciated. That’s one of the real joys of the thing.

5.0 – What five homage’s are you most proud of?

The first time we did Steely Dan, we surprised even ourselves. It kind of made us realize that absolutely anything was suddenly possible. Marvin Gaye gave me the best appreciation for the deconstruction/reconstruction nature of the project, because it took 15 or 16 people to re-create the deceptively simple Motown sound. Stevie Wonder with a huge band was a joy and an absolute party. The Replacements holds a place in my heart, because we were properly gritty, sloppy, and a little drunk, but nailed the stuff we had to nail in that great music. Queen last month at The Vic, with 1100 people singing along to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, is a beautiful memory right now. Those are the first 5 that popped into my head…there are many others.

6.0 – Did your confidence in your voice as a singer lead to your career in radio in any way? 

Interesting. No..they’ve always been concurrent careers, one sometimes jumping ahead of the other. My dad was a sports guy, mom a music teacher and opera singer. My brother 10 years older is a musician; my brother 9 years older was a baseball player and sports fan. I’ve always been consumed by both, and done both. College was full of both. They inform each other far more than you might expect. Team and locker room concepts inform band situations. Musical narrative/lyrical concepts show up in game theories and radio production. There’s probably a book in there.

7.0 – As the resident rocker at The Score you have contributed many musical spoofs & bits, any personal favorites?

‘The 12 days of Bearsmas’ was a lucky and fun concept. We tried it last year too, and may this year, but it’s better when the Bears are terrible. 7 false starts, 6 prime time losses, 5 Cutler picks, etc. ‘The Hossa’ song to the Kink’s “Lola” became a Blackhawks favorite, sometimes played on the ice for their afternoon skate, and put on jukeboxes at sports bars in town. That’s pretty cool. Truly, I’m proud of the music you hear on our show in production, and as bumpers coming out of opens and back from commercials. The producers have good, varied tastes, in addition to stuff that Mac and I like. I have no doubt that you hear the most interesting, eclectic mix of music on our show that big city talk radio has ever seen.

8.0 – Musically speaking, where does the road part for you and Danny Mac?

Um, in about 1986 I think. The man loves his 70’s, and a touch of his skinny tie 80’s period. So I kind of have anything after that covered. In the vintages we do share, I go into soul and funk more than him. I like punk and new wave more than him. But I dig much of his taste, even if it’s a bit narrow. He loves the Stones, ACDC, Zeppelin, Alice Cooper. And he seriously LOVES it. You have to respect when someone is as passionate about it as he is. Plus, like so much with him, he’ll surprise you when you least expect it, and quote a lyric from Pete Townsend’s Empty Glass or XTC’s Black Sea. He turned me on to Todd Rundgren. As long as he doesn’t veer into UFO and Nazareth too much, we’re cool.

10.0 – What’s the best concert you’ve ever seen?

Wow. Peter Gabriel’s “Up” tour at the United Center, in the round was pretty great. Saw the So tour in 1986 I think as well…he’s wonderful live. The Pavement reunion last summer at Pitchfork was a wonderful night personally, with my buddy who shared the history with me, and my wife to be who was discovering them. But I’ll cheat and say Lollapalooza 1994. I had the full combo platter: moshing for the Beastie Boys on the lawn, up front dancing for George Clinton & the P-Funk All Stars, I sat completely in love with Kim Deal & The Breeders. Even though I left during the unnecessarily loud Smashing Pumpkins, that day ruled. I heard enough from “Siamese Dream” to cap the show perfectly.

TURK LEWIS

1.0 – How important was music to you growing up?

Really important. Home life was a bit solitary so I was always listening to the radio and seeking permission to go to the living room unaccompanied to put LP’s on the “Hi-Fi” as my father referred to it. Got a clock radio with a cassette deck, then a receiver/turntable from my drum teacher and after what seemed like years of reviewing sound components, prevailed on my parents to buy me a real system.  I was among the first kids I knew with a CD player.

2.0 – When did you realize you could sing?

Not really sure.  I have 5 siblings from my dad’s first marriage and they are all really musical.  I think I first realized that I actually had rhythm before I recognized that I had pitch.  My mom was always chiding me for drumming on the dashboard or the table—couldn’t help it.  My 9 year-old daughter is like that now and it’s wild to see the chord of music extended in the family.  To your question, I did a lot of acting at school and in 10th grade we did a musical.  They put me with three other guys and we did a couple of barbershop numbers in the show that just hit.  It was random, but we fit perfectly into a TTBB scheme and we ended up recording an album, Shades of Blue as The Ceruleans our senior year that I’m still proud of and I still enjoy.

3.0 – What stuff did like to sing along with as a kid?

Jacques Brel, Billy Joel, Carly Simon.

4.0 – What was the first time you sang on a stage and what do you remember about it?

Alice in Wonderland as the Mock Turtle singing “Beautiful Soup”, age 8.  People said I had a high voice—they were right.  The first ‘concert’ was in high school at Homecoming.  I remember singing “What I Like About You” and watching my voice teacher cringe as I closed my throat and screamed.

5.0 Did you know about the Colgate 13 before you went attended the school, was it part of your decision to go there or just a bonus?
I’m not sure if I knew who they were or not, but it was not a factor in my deciding to go.  And it was an afterthought to be sure.  I had had some correspondence with the hockey coach but was not recruited (for good reason) and was still battling my dejection at not being a collegiate athlete.  I walked into auditions and there was a line down three flights of stairs.  I cavalierly gave some freshmen my cassette (in ’87 not every freshman had his own tape with a cover and recording right and everything!) and walked out. I later learned that some of the guys from the group were so outraged at my insolence that they wanted to blackball me, but eventually I got a call to audition.
6.0 – Most rock & roll singers have never had the sort of formal training that A capella entails, how did it help you as a singer?

The a capella stuff was helpful for developing my ear: pitch and harmony.  But I was visited by an angel who taught me everything.  Jane McKee was a voice major at the University of Iowa (I think) and she came to my school interested in putting an a capella quartet together.  She was tireless and incredibly dedicated.  And she then went on to train me in classical voice—donating tons of her time to teach me how to breathe and then how to sing.  I owe her so much for opening up a new world to me.

7.0 – It must be exciting to have music as a part of a well-rounded curriculum at Portledge School, how rare is that today?

Great question. Almost all schools, public and independent are struggling to remain financially viable without cutting essential programs.  We have shown a real commitment to music at Portledge and it shows.  When you attend an All-County band or orchestra performance, it is really amazing how many of our students are selected.  Many districts are simultaneously cutting their program and budgets or losing elements of the programs altogether.

8.0 – How do you think it impacts the students’ experience?

A student of music is learning so much more than how to read or play or hear or articulate—my point is the value to the music student involves much more than the music itself.  There are educational study after study that continue to illuminate the ways in which the study of music helps to open neural pathways that lead to stronger retention, that have applications to science and math and language. And, they learn about beauty and empathy and teamwork.  I am so proud of our music department and our leadership for making the commitment in time and resources to the program.

9.0 – Is it part of your pitch to prospectives and their parents?

When it’s genuinely relevant, yes. Either because I just read or experienced an illustration of the strength of that program, or because the prospective student is a musician himself.

10.0 – What advice do you give students with special talent or who want to pursue a career in music?

To Porltedge students, I tell them about Claude Zdanow ’06 (StadiumRedNY) and his incredible road to success in the music industry and that he’d be happy to talk with you. I actually have hooked up students with alumni in music and other artistic fields and helped them enrich their work collectively.  That’s very exciting. But more generally, if you really know yourself enough that you can be honest with yourself.  And you feel you have the talent and the determination, and are willing to pick yourself up each time you told you’re not good enough.  Search yourself to see if you are willing to give up some of the creature comforts you currently enjoy, and if you are, immerse yourself completely in your work.  Nothing great was ever created without significant sacrifice.