——— Was bass your first instrument? Years back my brother had a guitar laying around the house that I would pick up and mess around on. I’d actually watch RHCP’s “Live at Slane Castle” on my computer and try to learn certain licks by ear and play along. Later that year I asked my parents if I could rent a bass, to which they replied “they’d think about it”. At Christmas there was a bass starter kit under the tree, and my mind was blown.
When 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.
What 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.
So 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
What is your favorite personal single recording (or song) and what about it makes you happiest? My favourite single is “Womyn”. I love it because it is an empowering song for anyone, especially women; musically, it draws from some 70’s African Jazz, which I am crazy about.
Do you still believe in the concept of an album over the single? I believe in albums, yeah. The reason being that they are pretty acurate portraits of an artist and sort of logs their growth chronologically. I love making records. I don’t care what the internet says.
Do you have a philosophy when it comes to recording? My philosophy when it comes to recording is; to capture a good vibe. A good vibe from myself, from the musicians and the engineer. I am super aware of the energy of spaces and so I have to feel the studio vibe is right; you can have a studio with $100,000,000 in gear and unless the energy is right, you won’t get a good recording.
How does the songwriting process work for you? Are there any triggers in your life that cause you to sit down and write something, or does it just happen? (The) Songwriting process for me is all about inspiration. You couldn’t pay me to sit down and write a song under pressure. Literally- my old label tried to do that with me in LA and it doesn’t work. I am so inspired by this amazing and flawed world. I tend to get song ideas when a) I am emotional b) I am walking/biking/on a bus c) I am travelling. Right now I am in India and am sooo inspired. Writing everyday!
What was the first real concert you ever attended and what impression did it have on you?The first real concert I attended was…Christina Aguilera/Justin Timberlake. Yeah, I know. Stripped was such a good album for 11 year old me. So empowering thematically.
What is your approach to playing live and what is your mindset pre-show? My approach to live performance is pretty dedicated. I take it seriously; in that…I am so serious about letting go and establishing a sense of release for myself and the audience. I am very playful and jokey on stage. I think that helps. My mind set pre-show is excitement and a bit of healthy nervousness. Mostly excitement.
If you could tour with any artist next year who would it be and why? If I could tour with any artist next year it would be…Sam Smith. I think we would blend well. I am in love with him and his music.
What are your favorite 3 albums of all-time? My three favourite albums of all time are:
Earth is to be destroyed by an asteroid — you been instructed to put one song (any song ever recorded by anyone) in a time capsule to represent mother earth, what might it be? The song I’d put in the time capsule as a gift to our cosmic neighbors would be… “Svefn-G-Englar” by Sigur Ros
Please visit AlyshaBrilla.com
Well, the first actual “rock” record I ever heard was “Rock around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets. At age 12, I couldn’t verbalize why it was great. I just knew it made me feel glad to be alive! The next record I heard after that – and I was still living in Scotland at the time – was “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley. Then we moved to Canada and boom, it was rock ‘n roll all the time. Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Elvis. My parents, like most parents at the time, didn’t approve – they thought Lawrence Welk was the height of musical sophistication – but they weren’t too hard ass about it. But from then on, yeah, it was rock ‘n roll every moment I could get. Then, of course, Dylan and the Beatles changed not only my world but the world.
What was the first song you ever wrote and what do you think of it today?
Don’t remember the actual very first song I wrote but one of the early ones, right after the Beatles had first come out, was a Christmas parody I wrote called “God Rest Ye Hairy Gentleman”.
Did it ever make the light of day in another for form?
No, no way, but it was pretty funny!
Artists have so many different approaches to writing, what is your general philosophy?
Strive for excellence. That’s it. And do whatever it takes to achieve excellence. Trying to do that, even when I didn’t know what I was doing, is the only reason I can think of to explain the career I’ve enjoyed. Strive for excellence. No one buys average.
Great songs give people a certain feeling: is that one of your barometers in determining whether a track is ready to be recorded or is that reserved for the listener?
Learning to be a songwriter is learning to be a bridge builder. A good songwriter builds bridges of understanding between himself or herself and the audience. it might be emotional understanding, it might be intellectual understanding, but that’s the whole deal.
You have written with a whose who of international talents from Linda Rondstadt to Waylon Jennings to KISS: which collaboration, or collaborations, were the most challenging?
Well, the collaborations that turn out to be most “challenging” are generally those that, in the end, don’t work – and consequently, are ones that don’t produce work that lasts or you’ve even heard of. If you’re working with another writer, especially a writer who’s an established artist, every song you come up with has to get a thumbs-up from a lot of people before it makes the record; the artist, the record company, the producer, the promotion department and so on. Did I mention striving for excellence?
You offer personal song-writing coaching online @ AdamMitchellMusic.com: how does it work and do you end up sharing a writing credit if it’s really good?
Really, the best way to think of this is as one-on-one, song aid. Personal tuition. And no, since it would be a work for hire, I would not take part of the song. Anyone who’s interested should contact me at info@AdamMitchellmusic.com.
The industry has changed radically in the last two decades: do you think it is harder today for a songwriter to break in with major artists to get
I think in some respects it’s much harder to be a songwriter now because, unlike in previous times and even up until very recently, publishing companies very rarely now give a writer, particularly a new writer, a substantial enough draw – that is, advance against future royalties – to live on. In my own particular case, when I moved to Los Angeles, Warner Bros. was paying me to write songs for them and it was a paltry amount but I could get by. But by the end of my first year, so many artists had cut my songs that WB decided to renegotiate my contract and suddenly I was making about ten times what I had previously. I’m not sure you can do that now.
On the other hand, in many respects it’s much easier now. You can do great demo recordings at home, the Internet puts the whole world at your doorstep and I still believe that excellence prevails in spite of all difficulties. Everyone gets a break, sooner or later. The trick – the key thing – is to be ready when it happens. All the breaks in the world won’t help you if you’re not prepared.
Join me at SongCoachOnline.com. Great songs are at the heart of everything in music and I’ve helped many people improve dramatically in that respect. It’s what I love to do and you’ll get a lot of other information about recording, common career mistakes, great gear and so on. Remember, when you’re trying to get somewhere in music, it’s a competition, like anything else. And the most prepared – and those willing to work hardest – will win. It’s a cruel logic I know, but it’s true.
Jagger once famously sang “it’s the singer, not the song”, was he being ironic?
With all due respect to the His Majesty, the Prince of Darkness, I say “Bollocks!” The song is the most important thing by far in any performance. Look at it this way…You can have the greatest singer in the world singing a crap song and what do you then have? Zero. A well polished turd. Here’s an absolute, universal, once – and – forever, truth. If you don’t have a great song at the heart of what you’re doing…a hundred times nothin’ is still nothin’.
In a recent interview you said ACDC’s *Back In Black* would make it to your island playlist: would it have been even better with Bon Scott?
Not in my opinion. I think Brian Johnson is phenomenal. It’s very rare for a singer to do a great job replacing an original guy but I think Brian has done it. He and Bon are both incredibly good.
I can’t find 3! The first two I remember wanting to buy…but that my parents bought for me were vinyls: John Cougar Mellencamp (Hurt So Good), Joan Jet and the Blackhearts (I love Rock n roll) and on tape the first two I bought for myself were Michael Jackson (Thriller) and Men Without Hats (bought with my Brother) for the song Safety dance. Other tape (records) bought a little after that: Appetite for Destruction (Guns), Tesla, Bon Jovi, Ozzy, Def Leppard..
AND HOW DO YOU RANK THEM TODAY?
Classics! Really good songs still. I’m not the type of person who got “trapped” in the 80’s…but I have to admit that the quality of songs during that decade is phenomenal. We turned our backs to 80’s music in the late 90’s until recently. When we look at the top 40 from 1980 till 1989, we realize that a lot of those songs are still “up to date”. Especially the “New wave music” and the “Rock” music…but no so the Hair metal bands..
DID YOUR FASCINATION WITH MUSIC, LIKE SO MANY ARTISTS, BEGIN IN THE HOME WITH FAMILY?
Absolutely. MY father was an italian immigrant from Rome Italy. He came to Canada with a plethora of music styles as he was also a musician himself. The Beatles, Elvis, Southern American music, Italian classics etc, played continuously on our turn table but also “Live”. Parties at my house were legendary…My father was one of the best “entertainer” I’ve ever seen…
As he (my dad) fell in love with the french Canadian culture (The Quebec Culture), he also learned a lot of folk music form here. As you can imagine, mixing the Beatles, italian classics and french traditional folk would rock any party, in any country!
Those were fine days…. I started playing with him at the age of 12-13. Started with some back vocals and easy rythms. Things moved forward pretty fast though, as I was really passionate about it. By the age of 14-15, I was playing at parties (with my buddies trying to impress young girls!), camping trips etc…at the age of 17-18, I played my first “bar gig”
My father passed in 2002… We played hundreds of times together at our house or at relatives for Christmas, Easter, New Years, name it. Since he passed, I’ve never played a single note at a home party again. It was his kingdom…he did it so well.
WHEN DID YOU START ACTUALLY WRITING SONGS AND CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE WRITING PROCESS FOR YOU?
My first melodies (with bad lyrics) were written between the age of 15 and 18. Although I do not consider them as “songs”. My first real song was written in College at the age of 19. The song is called “Unexpected”. This song followed me for quite some time since it was kept on my first english album in 1999. It was written after a young hockey player, Travis Roy, at Boston University (I was also a player at UMass, Lowell), became quadriplegic during a hockey game. This accident really moved me.
After that song, it took me a few years to write again. As for song-writing itself, it always has something to do with emotions as far as I’m concerned… Self doubt, happiness, love, death, anxiety, substance abuse etc… are all topics I have sang about in my career.
It usually starts with what some of us here call “yaourt”. A melody with no real lyrics… It can, or almost sounds like real words but they aren’t. They are just there to guide you to an emotion that will end up leading you to real words. Once the melody starts to take form, then real words come naturally….
I wrote strictly with the acoustic guitar for 10 years… The first song I’ve ever written on the piano is a song about my dad called “Un monde sans mon père”. ( A world without my dad).
Today, I’d say that 60% of the songs I write begin with the piano, the other 40 is with the guitar. Same deal….Most of the time, melody, then lyrics. I have also done the opposite (lyrics first) since I write for others quite often. I love it…. Completely different dynamics, but challenging.
Writing is a full time job for me…and although I do it more with my “head” then with my “soul” lately, there is always a way to put “heart” and honesty into it… Obviously, i’ts different when the writing is for my own material….then soul comes first.
IF YOU WERE TO HAND A DISC TO MR. BIG IN AN ELEVATOR LIKE IN THE MOVIES WITH ONE TRACK OF YOURS ON IT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
It’s very difficult to answer…I’ll say: “The Choice Is Yours“. It’s a song I have not yet released…. but:the track pretty much sums up everything that I am as a human being, an artist, a singer song writer.
Very good… the most important show I’ve done in France was in a 13th century Castle in the French Alpes… What was really for about that experience is that 16 of my faithful fans from Canada made the trip to Europe with me ! They followed me on tour for 10 days and on the 10th day, we played a sold out concert in the Tallard Castle. On top of the 16 that made the trip, about another 15 french Canadian fans joined us on the last day to attend the Castle concert….. One word : Magical!
IT’S BEEN A FEW YEARS NOW SINCE YOUR LAST FULL LENGTH RELEASE, L’OPNION DES AUTRES, ANY PLANS FOR A NEW DISC?
The french canadian market (95% in the Province of Quebec) is pretty Small…..only 6 million people. In order to have a great quality of life, one has to find multiple ways to make a living. As far as I’m concerned, in the last couple of years, I have found ways to position myself (and my studio), in great position. Lately, I have been writing for other artist that are much more « commercial » and « popular » then me ! Interesting copy rights come along with that. Also, I have been hired to write « thème songs and « music » for many TV shows. Some of then are « daly » shows. Interesting copy rights and publishing rights come along with that as well.
As for my own material, It’s been too long LOL. Textbook story : Since my last full length CD « L’opinion des autres », I have lost a little bit of momentum. I’m now on my own with no record label, no manager and no bullshit. My last record deal experience was brutal. I’m excited about doing things slowly and on my own.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF FIRST AND FOREMOST TODAY: A PERFORMER, A SONG-WRITER, A SINGER OR A PRODUCER?
Probably the most “unanswerable” question ever! But let’s be honest here… I ain’t “the producer”, but I’m pretty good at it. I’m not a “singer”. I’m a singer–song-writer that can sing…but I’m not “the singer”! I think I’m a “performer” and a “song writer”….that produces music and sings his heart and soul out.
CANADA’S OBVIOUSLY HAD SOME GREAT ARTISTS OVER THE YEARS: WHAT’S THE CLUB SCENE LIKE IN QUEBEC FOR NEW MUSIC THESE DAYS AND ANY ARTISTS GRABBING YOUR EAR?
The club scene is very healthy for new upcoming bands. But unfortunately, it’s hard to make a living playing “clubs” with original material. That being said, Montreal is probably the best “stepping stone” in all of North America for “indie music”. I’ve been an “Arcade fire” fan for years… So cool to see them do so well.
Patrick Watson, Malajube (french), Karkwa (french), Stars etc….There are also other “main stream” bands or singers that do really well, and although it ain’t my type of music, it’s fun to be able to appreciate other’s talent and success (Celine Dion for example)
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A YOUNG ARTISTS RECORDING THEIR FIRST DISC?
Cliché stuff but so freakin true: Be yourself. Don’t let the “web”, “youtube”, “instant star’ bullshit syndrome get to you. IT DOES NOT MAKE YOU AN ARTIST AND IT WILL NOT GIVE YOU A CAREER OF ANY KIND. Write your own stuff cuz that’s how real careers are built. If you do not write your own stuff, then find the right songs for you.
Work. Dedicate yourself….Work…Never give up…. Cuz if this is really what you want to do, there will never be any other options anyways! You might as well work. Oh yeah…have fun along the way!
WHAT PITFALLS NEED AMERICAN BANDS BE AWARE OF WHEN VENTURING NORTH TO PLAY DATES IN CANADA (OR QUEBEC?)
No too many…. Be polite. Be open… Be respectful. Yes, a little cliché but…..Break the stereotype: Show us that you “understand” that although “America” is a great country, that you “ain’t” different then any of us or any body else for that matter. We love that especially in Quebec! We are a nation of our own…we speak French, we have a different culture, we have a different back ground, different traditions……Know a little bit about us (Canada or Quebec) before you head up here…it’ll show that you “care”. Do the same in Europe and anywhere else your music brings you! ~ Christiansbrocca.fr
When you think about the new disc Goodnight Stranger in general terms, what’s it about?
Hmmmmm, well that’s a pretty loaded question… or more so a loaded answer, lol. This was a really hard and personal record for me to write and even harder for me to listen to now. In a nutshell I would say that when I was writing these songs I was in a very dark and confusing place in my life. I felt I had lost a lot of my spirit, peace and the happiness. I sort of became this person that I didn’t know. When you listen to the record you hear a recurring theme in the lyrics of unfamiliarity and loss of one’s self… and so the title “Goodnight Stranger” is referring to me as the Stranger. I felt the title suited this chapter in my life…
How was it working with producer JP Bowersock?
From the moment I met JP I knew I wanted him to producer my record. Not only was he a pleasure to work with, but he’s energy really helped bring such an emotional record to life. He kept the vibes positive and made sure I was always happy and comfortable. I learned so much from him and Mark Dann (engineer) on the production side of things and in turn I feel like my ear is better because of them. They really kept me apart of the whole process, and let me, the artist, make all the final decisions in the studio. JP had a way of giving my songs the roots and character I wanted but at the same time keeping the sound “up to date” per say. When we talked about how we wanted the record to sound we decided that we wanted it to have an old school 70s vibe, with a modern Americana sound. I think we nailed it! JP and I were both thrilled with how it turned out.
How was your approach to the studio this time different than when you recorded your debut EP In My Shoes a couple years ago?
So this is the first record that I have funded myself. That being said, we were on a TIGHT budget lol! Everything was carefully planned out as to not waste any studio time because every minute costs. Believe it or not we got all the basic tracks recorded for this record in one twelve-hour day! It was crazy and stressful but we did it! JP had set up some rehearsals with the band prior to the recording session so we were prepared and super sharp for the recording. You could technically say this is a live album because all the basic tracks were played together as a band and mixed in a live room instead of each musician recording separately. That being said, we did have overdub sessions and of course I went in to do most of my vocals separately. One of the greatest things about this record is that I have a stellar band now that I have been playing with for the past two years and so we naturally vibe together which I think you can tell from the recordings. On my first EP, I didn’t even really know the musicians that played on the record and every track was recorded on a separate stem. It’s not to say one way is better than the other for the listener but from an artist point of view I definitely dig recording with my band that knows me and my songs.
What do you feel are the high points (or best moments) on new album?
Well lets talk about some songs first…I think everyone’s opinion is and will be different but for me I love the song “My Peace” That songs has some really raw and honest moments…I’m sure that’s not going to be my “hit” per say but I think that song best plays out my life during the writing of “Goodnight Stranger”. On a lighter note, “Blue Moon” is a solid track, and it’s kinda of a break from more of the moodier stuff on the record. Everyone seems to think that that song is going to be well received and as a band we all vibe really well together on that track! And finally, one of my favorite moments on this album is the slide guitar in “Muela West”. It’s the first thing you hear when you start the record and I think it’s interesting, strong and beautiful. It really captures your attention and makes you want to keep listening…
There were a couple of songs that I actually used the scratch vocals on. “My Peace” being one of them. But for the majority I came in separately from the band and tracked my vocals with just JP and Mark.
Who plays on the record and what do they bring to the personality of your band / music?
Neil Cavanagh, Billy Grant, Tony Oppenheimer and Neil Nunziato. I had been playing with these guys for a while prior to the recording and I have to say that their time and devotion to this project gave me the confidence to put thing this down. These guys were all so positive and talented and if it were not for them, these arrangements would not exist. They all pretty much had creative control over their own parts and I never really needed to worry about it “sounding good” because they are killer musicians. All of us were super honest, supportive and professional and that’s what makes a successful band.
Which tunes of the record are you playing live and which of them seems to go over best?
We have played most of them live at one time or another but the ones that seem to always be on the set lists are, Blue Moon, Never Really Tried, Between the Lines, Bag of Bones, Muela West and Riding the Wind. Blue Moon is always a favorite of the crowd.
Does your background in acting inform your live performance as a singer / musician?
Absolutely! I think my experience with acting gives me the confidence and personality to get on stage night after night and at least look like I know what I’m doing hahah:) Also, something that I learn in acting is how to be vulnerable which is really hard for humans to do in general. As a musician though you have to be because you are always trying to communicate and relate to your audience and if you can’t “let them in”…what’s the point?
Socially, how is New York city different from where you came from in California?
No where is like New York. New York is its own animal and I think about this all the time. My life socially here is an adventure everyday, filled with twist, turns and surprises, giving me more inspiration to write, experience, and love. I like to think that I have a “New YorK” family as well as my real one. The people that I know here have brought such joy and positive energy into my life and I think that’s because this city just has that effect on people. I’m not a world traveler so I can’t say that this is the only place in the world that has this effect on people but I find myself falling in love with my life here in new york more every day. Don’t get me wrong, I love my home and where I come from in Southern California but for me my environment is so important and this cities people, culture and life brings me experience every day…and that’s what people strive for…”the experience”.
In a strange twist of fate, you are hooked up to a lie detector by angry ASCAP agents …you are surprised when the question they ask you is simply “What are your three favorite albums of all-time?”.
Don’t make me do this!!! Well these are certainly not the best records of all time but it’s 3 of which I can’t live without…I had about 15 and then did eeny meeny miny moe and this is what I got….
Radiohead- The Bends, Joni Mitchell- Blue, Ryan Adams- Heartbreaker
When I was in the studio recording “In My Shoes” I was overwhelmed, being that it was the first time anyone had taken my songs and gave life to my music. I feel like the end result was more than I could have asked for at the time. I have a product I am proud of and I feel, for my first record, it did pretty well with fans on both the east coast and west. The feedback I get from people has been very positive. I do wish, however, we got to put more songs on it:)
Did you have specific goals going in to the studio?
Really my only goal was to learn as much as I could. I was new to it…this was my first time in a major studio in NYC and I had no idea what to expect. Rich Pagano, who produced it, was a pleasure to work with and kind of guided me through the whole process. As I got more comfortable with him and the process I started coming in to my own. One thing that I was really picky about was my vocals sounding too “clean”; I really wanted there to be a lot of feeling behind the lyrics and I think that comes across when the vocals are “true”, without auto tuning, or effects, things like that.
You did a solo east coast tour this summer in support of the disc, how did it go and is it scary playing solo?
I was a bit nervous you could say lol. I didn’t have a band backing me up. I thought that maybe I wouldn’t be enough to portray the songs like the record cuz’ there is definitely a lot going on instrumentally. I thought the people that had heard the record but never seen me live might be disappointed but thankfully I was wrong. I had a great response and some fans even preferred me live, alone on an acoustic – that was a great feeling! I had a lot of support from fans on this tour and it made me a better, more confident musician. But, at the end of the day, I love having the energy of a band behind a song.
Do you have a philosophy when it comes to performing live or anything you hope to get across to the audience?
Hmmmm, I don’t know if I would call it a philosophy…for me, I guess it’s about sharing myself with the audience. If I am connected to the song, if I am “in the moment” and really feeling what I’m saying, then I feel that comes across to the audience and they connect with me. So to do that I actually have to forget they are there while in a song and focus on what I’m singing. And then when a song is over I immediately try to re-engage the audience, so they know I am present there with them, and not in my own la la land. lol.
What songs (or artists) had the biggest impact on you as a kid?
As I kid I grew up on all the greatest… Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Beatles, Grateful Dead, Simon and Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, etc. My parents were pretty hip you could say haha. Well, at least I thought so. Classic rock and folk music was huge in the family. The songs that told a vivid story, with a voice I could actually feel were my favorites. Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin were probably my top favorites growing up.
What came first for you, singing or the guitar?
You probably won’t believe this but I started singing at 8, taking voice lesson regularly. My dad bought me a guitar when I was 13 and didn’t pick it up until I was 20! It’s terrible, I’m actually really pissed at myself for waiting so long to start playing. I could have actually been “good” at it? But all kidding aside, I’m so glad I at least picked it up finally. Changed my world as a songwriter and performer.
What was the first song you ever wrote and what was the inspiration behind it?
The first song that I ever wrote using the guitar was, “Without You” when I was 20. My inspiration came from what every young girls goes through at one point; a broken heart. I had been playing about a month and knew like 4 chords. The song just sort of wrote itself. I actually love this song and I don’t have any professional recordings of it, but lately I have been thinking it might be kinda of cool to put it on my next record as a bonus acoustic track… Maybe
How does the song writing process start for you, with a subject, a guitar line, a melody?
I could write for hours on this but as to not bore you I’ll try and sum it up. The process for me is pretty much always the same…First of all, I can only write when I am in the mood. It has to be totally organic. I used to try and set aside time for writing and that was a huge mistake, I only wrote bad songs and got frustrated with myself. I find music comes to me when I don’t force it. When I’m mentally ready to write something I just feel it. I’ll stop whatever it is I’m doing, lock myself in my room and write. It starts with the mood I’m in and one chord and everything else just falls into to place.
What’s your favorite thing about the scene in New York City?
Oh god, what is there not to love about this city. This city has everything to offer someone and more. I can’t just pick one thing. The culture, the creative artists, the food, the seasons… I really could go on about this. So, the best thing I would say, is the opportunity.
What ‘guilty pleasures’ might one be surprised to find on your deserted island playlist?
HAHAHAH…Well this is funny. Snoop Dogg :)
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.
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.