Joshua Radin. Hotel Cafe Tour. 2008
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Photo of the Week: Two-Stepping with Big & Rich
CATEGORIES: Photo of the Week

Big and Rich(Credit: Paul Familetti)

For years, I’ve been trying to immerse myself into the country culture as much as I can. Since the majority of music I cover is country I should be well versed in all things country, right? When I attended a Josh Abbott Band concert earlier this fall I was amazed at all the dancing going on. At first I thought it was line dancing, but I quickly realized that the couples weren’t dancing in a line — they were two-stepping. It was something I didn’t even know existed and I quickly wanted to learn!

Lucky for me, when Big & Rich came through New York to talk about their new album Gravity they were game to teach me. We did the interview first and the closer we got to the last question I could feel my nerves build, knowing that next up was my dance lesson. You see, I am the least coordinated person you’ll ever meet and it was a bit intimidating to be taught by guys who grew up doing the two-step. My biggest fear: stepping on one of their cowboy boots!

John Rich started off with the basics, which included explaining the difference between two-stepping and line dancing. “Anybody can dance by themselves,” Rich said of line dancing. “You’ve got to have something going on to get somebody else to dance with you. It requires a little coordination.”

Which is exactly what I learned. Most importantly, the guy has to lead. And as Rich says, if the guy doesn’t know what he’s doing it’s going to be a train wreck. Lucky for me, I had a good teacher.

big-and-rich-26(Credit: Paul Familetti)

“Full step, half step, back. Full step, half step back. That’s all it is,” he recites. “Once you get it down it’s like you’re walking.”

With that said, he grabbed me close (much closer than I had anticipated) and walked me through it while I very timidly tried my best not to step on his fancy cowboy boots.

“John Rich can two-step backwards!” Big Kenny shouts as Rich twirls me.

“I can two-step anywhere!”

“He’s a good two-stepper,” Kenny asserts. “And you’re doing good. You’ve never two-stepped before? By golly, you look like a natural.”

For my complete interview with Big & Rich visit Radio.com.

November 18, 2014 | | (0) comment comment
Artist of the Week: Sam Hunt
CATEGORIES: Artist of the Week, Band of the Week

For country fans, Sam Hunt is no new name. He’s the songwriter behind many hits you’ve heard on the radio including Kenny Chesney’s “Come Over,” Keith Urban’s “Cop Car” and Billy Currington’s “We Are Tonight.” But last week, his first song as an artist — “Leave the Night On” — went to No. 1 on the country charts. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it crosses over into the pop world. With slick beats, rapid fire lyrics and his blend of R&B and country it’s easy to picture hearing the country artist alongside the likes of Drake and Ed Sheeran on the radio.

Hunt is now part of these two worlds colliding, explaining that his first love is country music, but the “best way to represent me as an artist is that R&B side…the R&B thing is the strongest for me and I feel like I can do it the best.”

“I never listened to a lot of Drake but I imagine that Drake and I are influenced by a lot of the same people,” Sam told me. “There was definitely a sound that was heard throughout ’90s R&B. I think that influenced a lot of what I’m doing. I remember the first time I listened to Usher. I was blown away by that vibe and I think that stuck with me since then.”

 

It’s taken Sam a few years to pinpoint his own sound, but he’s finally found it with his first album, Montevallo, which dropped on Oct. 27. On his debut, Hunt blends country and R&B to make his own kind of music. For more of my interview with Sam, visit Radio.com or watch the video above. Catch Sam currently on tour with Kip Moore and Charlie Worsham.

November 12, 2014 | | (0) comment comment
You Sing I Write Celebrates Seven Years
CATEGORIES: Features, First Person

lady a

It’s incredible to me that seven years ago I started You Sing I Write with a dream to cover concerts and interview bands. It was a very lofty goal at the time but one I was so sure of, more than anything else in my life at the time. Getting to where I am today was a long journey, full of highs and lows. I definitely hit rock bottom too. Living in Brooklyn with a dwindling savings account and no steady paycheck, the freelance life was hard. But it’s those difficult times that test you and for me, there was no plan B. Music journalism was it. I refused to settle for a boring corporate job that I dreaded waking up every day for.

Years later, I came to learn that family members and friends often questioned my path and wondered when I’d give up this crazy dream for a “real job.” Today, though they marvel at my persistence and determination to make this career work. I’ve been asked for career and freelance advice a lot recently and it always surprises me that people want to know my story.

For me, music was always a major passion, as was writing. From the first time I covered a concert (Gavin DeGraw at Rutgers University for The Daily Targum), I was hooked. It was as if a light bulb went off. I remember standing in the front row of the show, notebook and pen in one hand and camera in the other and it clicked: if I could do this for the rest of my life, I would. From there it was countless internships at Jane Magazine, MTV News and Rolling Stone. While interning and freelancing for free was definitely not easy, along the way there were signs I was headed in the right direction. An internship turned into paid work, a simple blog post turned into more review requests. And the more people I met in the industry, the more contacts I gained and the opportunities started lining up.

Hanson

Seven years ago, I never imagined I’d have a byline in Rolling Stone, Billboard, MTV News, AOL or Marie Claire but somehow it happened. And then, after a trip with some friends to Nashville for CMA Fest this boy band loving girl (that’s Hanson above, fyi), turned into a country fan. Who would have thought?

I eventually landed my first full-time gig at CBS Local back in 2012 and things felt like they finally were falling into place. It was a job where I actually got to write every day for a living. While I had always dreamed this was a possibility, I was starting to have my doubts. The gig has allowed me to meet some of my favorite artists and to sit down and have in-depth chats with them about their music, life and songwriting. Truly a dream come true, this little blog helped me get to where I am today.

Darius Rucker

The past seven years came full circle this year when I got to sit down with Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys (my childhood obsession) as well as Darius Rucker, who really made me fall in love with country music. Hearing the stories behind their songs and realizing that they are just regular people is always refreshing. I’m not sure who else this field will bring me into contact with, but I have a feeling the next seven years will bring even more moments to write about. And hey, who knows, maybe all these adventures will make their way into a book one day.

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey over the past seven years. Here’s to many more years ahead!

October 21, 2014 | | (0) comment comment
Video Interview: Lady Antebellum
CATEGORIES: Interviews, Videos

I still remember the first time I interviewed Lady Antebellum. It was back in 2010 at City Winery and I spent the entire weekend before my interview watching all of their Webisode Wednesdays, in hopes to find a question or two to ask that they had never been asked before. Though I had only 10 minutes with Lady Antebellum, I managed to succeed. During the height of the popularity of “Need You Now” it was a lofty goal to have, being as they’d done hundreds of interviews before. But I’ll never forget that pause in the interview when I knew I got them thinking.

Nearly four years later to the day, I sat down with the country trio once again to talk about their new album 747. During our chat, Charles Kelley admitted that new single “Freestyle” is the one song he is obsessed with, perhaps as much if not more than “Need You Now.”

He said he was initially hesitant during the writing process (he and his bandmates wrote the track with Shane McAnally) because it was “such a departure” from their previous material. Today, though, it’s one of his favorite tracks to play live.

“The one thing we learned was not to be afraid,” Kelley says. “‘Downtown’ was a good example of a song where at the time when we cut it Hillary was like, ‘I don’t know. This is so different.’ We’ve always found that our biggest and best songs always push us in a different direction. ‘Freestyle’ has this infectious energy to it. [You have to] keep it lighthearted sometimes.”

Watch the video of my chat above and read more of my interview with Lady Antebellum about their new album 747 at Radio.com.

October 19, 2014 | | (0) comment comment
Artist of the Week: Angaleena Presley
CATEGORIES: Artist of the Week, Band of the Week

angaleenapresley

I had the pleasure of talking with country singer-songwriter Angaleena Presley, known for her role in country girl band the Pistol Annies alongside Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe, over the summer while she was in New York promoting her debut solo album, American Middle Class, which was released today. While preparing for our interview, I had her album on repeat and was struck by her honesty in every song. She sang things many of us would never openly admit and in her bio she stated that she has trouble not being honest. I had a pretty good feeling she’d be open to sharing the stories behind her songs as she’s said they are her autobiography, but I never fathomed she would completely let her guard down.

Throughout our interview, Angaleena opened up about her previous marriage, her hometown which is dealing with a serious pain medication epidemic and described the most honest songs on her record in so much depth. I was struck by her honesty and walked away wanting to re-listen to all her songs since I now knew the stories behind so many of them. Below is an excerpt from my interview with Angaleena. For the complete article, visit Radio.com.

“I got introduced to the world as Holler Annie with these two blondes beside me,” she told me. “I feel like I had to get in a band, make history and kick down a door so I could walk through it as a solo artist…I’m an older artist and I could sit there and be like, ‘Oh this should have happened.’ No. If it didn’t happen like this, you wouldn’t have had this story to write or this song that so many people connect with. I feel like everything happened the way it was supposed to happen for me.”

One song that strikes a chord on American Middle Class is “Pain Pills,” which Presley says is a protest song about the struggle coal mining communities face with prescription medication, specifically Oxycontin. It’s something that hits close to home for the singer.

“I started [that song] as I was on my way home from a funeral,” she says. “A friend of mine from high school OD’d [and] at the funeral the mom was walking in going, ‘Oh they had a heart problem. It was a heart issue.’ We knew what was going on. This is when I realized, this is starting to become a problem.”

Presley gets emotional when she talks of the song and the “hush-hush culture” that surrounds prescription drug addiction in her small hometown of Beauty, K.Y., where she says the problem is worse than most other places in the country. It took her four years to finish writing “Pain Pills” and once she did she learned of a family member who was suffering with the same pills she’s singing about.

“Addiction has really changed the face of my personal life and a lot of things in my family. That song just haunts me,” she says. “If there’s anything I would get up on a soapbox for, it’s prescription medication. I just think it’s a travesty how careless doctors are with that stuff. It still happens. You don’t hand a 16-year-old a bottle of heroin and say, ‘Here you go. Just quit taking these after 12.’ Let’s start talking about it, let’s get some resources, let’s get some help.”

Watch Angaleena Presley make her debut on the Late Show with David Letterman below playing the title track of her album, “American Middle Class.”

 

October 14, 2014 | | (0) comment comment
Artist of the Week: Kip Moore
CATEGORIES: Artist of the Week

KipM_JW-10_3315_HIres

I can’t remember the first time I heard a song by Kip Moore but then again I can’t remember not being a fan of the country singer-songwriter. Maybe it was on the radio or perhaps it popped up at work while streaming country music videos on VEVO. I do know though, that last year his 2012 debut album Up All Night was my most listened to album of the year.

In a world where singles trump album purchases, Up All Night is one of those albums you have to listen to all the way through. From the more upbeat party songs like “Beer Money” and “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck” to the poignant “Hey Pretty Girl” and “Faith When I Fall,” the album has it all. As does his live show.

On Thursday (Sept. 25), Kip kicked off his first major headlining tour at New York’s Best Buy Theater which also included openers Sam Hunt and Charlie Worsham. Kip’s nearly two-hour performance during the first date of the CMT Up In Smoke Tour left a lasting impression as fans sang along for the hits as well as his deeper cuts. And, when it was time for his new material everyone paid attention.

“How many of you have been waiting for the record to come out?” Kip asked halfway through his set. “I want to give y’all the most amazing record I can possibly give. A new single is dropping the first of the year and a record to follow.”

In the meantime, he told the crowd he decided to release a new EP called Soundcheck. The five-track EP includes his No. 1 hit “Beer Money” as well as four other previously unreleased songs that were all recorded in Nashville. Prefacing “Heart’s Desire” off the EP, he said the song was the loneliest he has ever felt.

Singing of how he “let love slip through my fingertips,” he vividly got his point across with his slowed, raspy yearning vocals and stripped down instrumentals. Listen to the track, along with four others on his new EP below.

Additional highlights throughout the night included the acoustic “Hey Pretty Girl” and a lively performance of “Fly Again,” in which he walked the audience through the three stages of heartbreak before assuring us all that everything will be okay.

“It’s a damn good life hanging out with y’all. Thanks for giving us a life,” he said before segueing into gritty new track “Lipstick.”

Before he closed the night with an energetic performance of “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck” and then an encore of “Faith When I Fall” and “Free Fallin’” he once again thanked his fans for sticking with him over the years.

“We were traveling for many, many years before you heard us on the radio. It’s all about you guys. I don’t give a shit except making music for you guys.”

September 29, 2014 | | (0) comment comment
Band of the Week: Josh Abbott Band
CATEGORIES: Artist of the Week, Band of the Week

Josh-Abbott-Band

On a regular Tuesday night in New York City earlier this month, country music fans were seen two-stepping along to the Josh Abbott Band. It was almost as if the packed Bowery Ballroom in Lower Manhattan somehow became a honky-tonk in Texas. “I didn’t expect to see a ton of people dancing in New York,” Josh Abbott told me over the phone.

But, according to the frontman, no matter where they go they often see their fans busting a move. “When you come to a Josh Abbott concert you come to enjoy the music, drink a couple beers and do some two-stepping,” he says. “That’s part of what we do and we embrace that.”

Their major label debut is five-song release, the Tuesday Night EP, (out Sept. 23) and is just a taste of what’s to come on the band’s full length debut due out next year. But Abbott hopes their current single “Hangin’ Around,” which he wrote with country hit makers, Shane McAnally (“American Kids,” “Mama’s Broken Heart,” “Better Dig Two,”) and Josh Osborne (“Chainsaw,” “We Are Tonight,” “Merry Go Round”), will be their breakout song.

The EP, Abbott says, is all about having fun. “It’s a reflection back on my college years,” Abbott says. “I wanted it to be something that’s more nostalgic for me and people that have already graduated from college, that they can listen to this and remember that time. Maybe when their life related to some of these songs.”

 

 

For more from my interview with Josh Abbott, visit Radio.com.

September 22, 2014 | | (0) comment comment
Song of the Week: Brett Eldredge’s “Mean to Me”
CATEGORIES: Song of the Week

Mean-to-Me

Sometimes a song hits you at the right moment. That’s exactly what happened last July when I heard Brett Eldredge perform “Mean to Me” at the CMA Songwriters Series at Joe’s Pub. It was a week or so before his excellent debut album Bring You Back was released and I remember sitting there, tearing up as he played the beautiful song on an acoustic guitar.

A week later, I interviewed Brett and learned the story behind the song.

“‘Mean To Me’ is very much a one-on-one love, romantic song that’s telling somebody else how much they mean to you,” he told me last year during his album release week. “I wanted to write a song telling someone, ‘If I could mean half as much as these things, half as much as you mean to me, then that would be amazing.’”

Brett wrote the song with Nashville songwriter Scooter Carusoe and said “Mean to Me” came about pretty naturally.

“I was just fiddling around on the guitar and we just started pouring them out [the lyrics] in these real descriptive ways. It’s a real special song that hopefully I can sing to my future soulmate one day.”

Watch the video for “Mean to Me” below.

September 20, 2014 | | (0) comment comment
Video Interview: Darius Rucker
CATEGORIES: Videos


 

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Darius Rucker several times over the past few years and he’s always one of the friendliest and easiest artists to talk to. This time, he was in New York for a CMA Songwriters Series showcase so he stopped by the studio to give some insight on what we can expect from his next country album, Homegrown Honey, due out next year.

In addition to talking about the single “Homegrown Honey,” which he wrote with Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelly, Rucker revealed that he’d be releasing a Christmas album on October 27. I don’t know about you, but hearing holiday songs from Darius is already starting to put me in the holiday spirit. Watch my video interview with him above and to read the complete article visit Radio.com. The track listing for his holiday album is below.

Home For The Holidays Track Listing:

01. I’ll Be Home For Christmas
02. White Christmas
03. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
04. Winter Wonderland
05. Please Come Home For Christmas
06. What God Wants For Christmas written by Darius Rucker, Frank Rogers and Monty Criswell
07. Baby, It’s Cold Outside (featuring Sheryl Crow)
08. O Come, All Ye Faithful
09. You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch
10. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
11. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
12. Candy Cane Christmas written by Darius Rucker, Frank Rogers and Steve Leslie

September 18, 2014 | | (0) comment comment
Song of the Week: Josh Abbott Band’s ‘Hangin’ Around’
CATEGORIES: Song of the Week

Josh-Abbott-Band

Earlier this week, I caught Josh Abbott Band‘s debut headlining set at Bowery Ballroom in New York. It was as if I was transported to the South watching the band play and it makes sense why: they’re from Texas.

The room was packed with hardcore fans singing and dancing — might I add two-stepping — along throughout the entire show. I haven’t seen a crowd that energetic in a while. Throughout their raucous set they played some of their older classics including “She’s Like Texas” and “Taste,”  as well as performed some songs off their upcoming EP Tuesday Night due out on Sept. 23.

While their set was lively, complete with electric, acoustic and bass guitar alongside banjo, fiddle and drums, Josh Abbott Band segued effortlessly from the more upbeat numbers to the softer ballads. Current single “Hangin’ Around” had the crowd singing along. And, long after their performance ended it was implanted in my head. An ear worm of a song, “Hangin’ Around” catches your ear from the very start of the track. The fiddle accompanied by Abbott’s memorable lyrics make it nearly impossible not to dance and sing along.

Listen to “Hangin’ Around” below. Josh Abbott Band’s EP Tuesday Night will be available on Sept. 23.

 

September 11, 2014 | | (0) comment comment
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