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.
For their debut duo album, Nick & Knight, both agreed they didn’t want to make a big, pop-produced album. Instead, they regard the record as more of an indie release.
“We just let ourselves be free. It’s more of a broken down, rhythmic sexy vibe,” Jordan told me.
The guys also filled me in on that infamous term “boy band.” While they never grew fond of the description, they now accept it.
“When I came out with a solo album in 1999 I would always get asked, ‘How does it feel to be from a boy band?’ I would always get defensive and upset,” Jordan said. “Boy band, the term wasn’t used until around that time. I was a little defensive back then. Now, it’s just like whatever. That’s who we are, that’s what we are it’s all good. Yes we are now in man bands, which is a little better. We’re men.”
Watch the complete interview below.
If that’s not enough for you, you’re in luck. I also chatted with Nick about his reality show, I Heart Nick Carter, which airs on VH1 tonight at 10/9C. He and Jordan were very open with the difficulties that not only they face, but how their wives deal with being married to celebrities. Watch it below.
Last November, I visited Nashville for my 29th birthday. The way I saw it — as a country music journalist and country music fan — there was no better place to spend the last year of my 20s than Music City.
While there, I attended a Spotify event that showcased Jennifer Nettles and her upcoming solo material. It was like a scene out of Nashville – country artists and actors from the show Nashville mingled with each other while the liquor flowed.
At the end of the night, I met Dustin Lynch. When the “Where It’s At” singer learned I was from New York he quickly told me that his favorite spot in the City was Serendipity. A self-proclaimed chocoholic and frequent patron of the quaint dessert establishment myself, he told me I should move to Nashville and open Serendipity Nashville. Not a half bad idea for this country music loving chocolate addict. So, when I learned he’d be coming to New York for press on his upcoming sophomore album I knew Serendipity was the perfect spot to catch-up.
A self-professed sweets fanatic, Lynch said he first stumbled upon Serendipity years ago when he was on the hunt for cheesecake in New York. His publicist had recommended Serendipity.
“We got here and it was like, ‘Wow!’ Every dessert that came out was bigger than life,” he told me.
So what did he think of his Frozen Hot Chocolate?
“Good grief,” Lynch said, after taking his first sip. “The gym has to happen tonight,” he said grinning, before going in for another sip. “We can run to dinner.”
The conversation eventually turned from frozen treats to music—specifically, Lynch’s new album Where It’s At. It’s his sophomore release, and thanks to the popularity of the title track, the momentum is already building fast.
Read my complete interview with Dustin Lynch on Radio.com.
This week was truly a bucket list moment for me as I sat down and interviewed a Backstreet Boy in person. My 12-year-old self was definitely freaking out on the inside. And, I’d be lying if I said my 29-year-old self wasn’t just as excited. You see, I grew up a hardcore Backstreet Boys fan. I attended all the concerts, knew all the words to every song, tried to learn the dance moves, and my childhood bedroom in Jersey was covered from floor to ceiling in posters of the guys. Yes, I even thought one day I’d marry one. (Brian Littrell was my favorite in case you were wondering.)
A few months ago I learned that BSB’s Nick Carter and New Kids On the Block’s Jordan Knight were teaming up to release an album. Fittingly, they named themselves Nick & Knight. Flash forward to this past Wednesday when they came into my office and I sat down with them for an interview. I can’t deny the nerves I had right before they walked into the studio at CBS. But, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I’m a professional.
As the guys were putting on their mics, I just sat there watching them joke with each other, saying they were releasing their first reggae album in questionable accents, asking what kind of animal fur our boom mic was made out of and clearing their throats extremely loud as they were testing the mics. They even took time to compliment me on my dress, saying how much they loved it. (Yes, I was secretly dying on the inside, but surprisingly didn’t blush at all!)
Once I asked my first question the nerves thankfully vanished and I was impressed with how passionate Nick and Jordan still are about creating music and touring. They told me that they approached their debut album with more of an indie outlook than a big, pop boy band record. They also admitted how they hate the term boy band, but it’s something they’ve had to live with for decades now.
You can get a feel of their musical direction in their single “One More Night” below. Stay tuned for my complete interview which will be posted next week which includes both of the guys talking about their debut duo release, the self-titled Nick & Knight, as well as Nick opening up about his reality show I Heart Nick Carter which premieres on Wednesday, Sept. 10 on VH1.
And for my cousins who are anxiously wondering if I asked Nick to teach me the “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” dance, I didn’t. But that’s not to say that he didn’t do some moves from the video during the interview! Stay tuned for a few fun features I asked the band about too. All in all, sometimes things are well worth the wait and finally sitting down with a Backstreet Boy after all these years really is a dream come true.
The CMA Songwriters Series celebrates its 10th anniversary in New York this year and Darius Rucker was along for the party last night (Sept. 3). Just hours after he announced the nominees for this year’s CMA Awards, he joined songwriters Bob DiPiero, Rivers Rutherford and Luke Laird at Best Buy Theater to perform their hits and tell the stories behind the songs they’ve written.
Host DiPiero kicked off the night with his love letter to the South – “Southern Voice” – made famous by Tim McGraw. Rucker followed suit with his love letter to his wife – “Alright.” Co-written with Frank Rogers, Rucker explained how the previous time the two got together they wrote a divorce song and quickly decided that they should try to write songs they can play for their wives.
In addition to playing his brand new single “Homegrown Honey,” a song he wrote with Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley, Rucker debuted “Southern Style.” Written with Rutherford and Tim James, Rucker said the track will be the second single off his fourth country album due out next year. The soulful number praised a woman who was raised in Southern style and is a fan of Lil Wayne and Lynyrd Skynyrd. “I love that song. That song gives me chills,” Rucker admitted once he was done singing it.
Other highlights from Rucker included “Southern State of Mind,” in which he called out a girl in the front row with the song’s title tattooed on her. Earlier, he told the story behind “Let Her Cry,” a song he and his band Hootie and the Blowfish made famous. Written in college after a night of drinking, he explained how the Black Crowes’ “She Talks to Angels” and Bonnie Raitt’s album Home Plate influenced the song. “I went home that night and I wanted to write ‘She Talks to Angels’ for Bonnie Raitt,” he said.
Standout songs throughout the night included Laird’s “Give Me Back My Hometown,” which he wrote with Eric Church. On his drive from Nashville to North Carolina to meet up with Church for a songwriting session his truck broke down so he bought a new one. Once he got to Church’s cabin he told him, “Man we gotta write a hit because I just bought a truck.” The song would later go on to No. 1 on the country charts, so he got his wish.
Meanwhile, Rutherford made the tears flow with his poignant ballad “Stealing Cinderella,” which he said he wrote with his father-in-law in mind and now dedicates to his two daughters who just left for college.
“It’s an amazing job. Making shit up and getting paid for it,” DiPiero joked during the show. After listening to the songwriters play and explain each song they wrote for two hours it was easy to see why. Rucker further showcased how inspiration could strike anywhere when he ended the evening with a spirited sing-along of “Wagon Wheel.”
“Wagon Wheel” was written in part by Bob Dylan and later finished by Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show. Though Rucker didn’t write it himself, he managed to put his own personal spin on the track. He explained that the decision to cut the song came from his daughter’s high school talent show. In the midst of making his third album, once he heard the faculty band countrify the song he knew he had to record it.
“I won’t ever cut a song that I don’t want to play for the rest of my life,” he said. “I have to play this for the rest of my life.”
I had the opportunity to tour with my first band back in 2008 when I was an intern at Rolling Stone. It was not as glamorous as I had previously thought, but an experience nonetheless. The band was Army of Me and I was in a tiny van with four guys as they toured with The Used. While it was a rite of passage I’ll never forget, I’ve always wondered what life on a tour bus is really like and I finally got to find out this year when I spent 24 hours on the road with Hunter Hayes as he broke a Guinness World Record for the most shows in 24 hours in multiple cities.
I spent 24 hours en route on a media bus where I tested out the bunks, realized the awkwardness of using the bathroom and had a newfound appreciation for the road life that so many artists deal with every day. You can read my full recap on Radio.com.
While I may not jump at the chance to travel the country on a tour bus myself, I wouldn’t say no to the next band opportunity. What was even more exciting was that that experience presented me with my first ever music plaque. I have a few softball trophies under my belt, but a music plaque is definitely a first.
That Hunter Hayes experience was just one of several that exhilarated me so far this summer and made me stop and cherish this crazy journey of being a music journalist. Last month, I interviewed Jason Mraz who I had grown up listening to. He was pretty much my college roommate’s life soundtrack and whenever I hear “I’m Yours” I’m always reminded of her ringtone.
I have not been that nervous for an interview in a very long time. I usually still get butterflies, but this time it was a huge knot in my stomach. He turned out to be more than cool and just a super chill person. Basically, exactly what you’d think he’d be like in real life. Watch our chat below.
Another highlight was interviewing Miranda Lambert. She just released her new album Platinum and while I only got 15 minutes with her, I was taken aback by how down to earth she was. While she’s married to perhaps the most popular man in country, Blake Shelton, she was so incredibly nice and even gave me some hilarious, yet questionable advice about turning 30 in November. “There’s always Spanx and Botox, you’ll be fine.” Watch my interview with her below.
I’m a strong believer that if you want something bad enough you’ll make it happen. Of course hard work, persistence and luck are usually the ingredients to success but sometimes it’s also timing. Being at the right place at the right time, or just having faith that things will work out. This all pretty much sums up my career as a music journalist. When I started this blog nearly seven years ago I never dreamed it would take me all the places I’ve been. I especially never thought I’d be covering an awards show, but I certainly hoped I’d attend one at some point in my lifetime. Lucky for me, it was this year and the Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas last weekend. Below are my Top 10 moments of that experience. For all the photos, you can follow me on Instagram.
1. Gondola Ride with Dustin Lynch
I have never been to Las Vegas and for the longest time, the only reason i wanted to go was to see The Venetian in person and pretend I was back in Italy. I got that wish, but it was even better than I could have imagined. I rode on a gondola while interviewing Dustin Lynch! If that was the only thing that I accomplished while there it would have been enough.
2. The Red Carpet
I’ve covered a few red carpets before in New York and they were nothing compared to an awards show red carpet. Everyone was dressed up (including myself!) and I had butterflies the hours leading up to it. I already planned my standard three questions, but my nerves were getting the best of me, until it started and I realized how many friendly faces there were. Half of the artists that came by I had already met and interviewed, which helped calm my nerves. When I told Will Hoge of my worries, his advice: just be yourself. Which I did and luckily, the artists all remembered me which made it even easier.
3. The ACM Awards
For as long as I can remember, my dream was to attend an awards show. To sit in the audience and take in everything that was happening firsthand. In reality, it was more like a concert event than awards show with all the performances. During the commercial breaks, we’d see artist EPK’s on each new single, album, tour and best of performance moments from previous ACM Awards. Witnessing Merle Haggard come onstage and accept the Crystal Milestone Award, seeing George Strait perform in person for the first time and accept the Entertainer of the Year Award, it can’t get any better than that!
4. Interviewing Kip Moore
Talk about butterflies. I know I shouldn’t have crushes on musicians, but this guy is special. I don’t think I’ve listened to any country album more than his debut, Up All Night. My alarm every morning is set to his song, “Hey Pretty Girl.” While I’d never admit I’m obsessed, I am pretty infatuated. He’s just an incredible songwriter and someone I admire. Interviewing him only further proved this because he was so humble and almost uncomfortable talking about his nomination for New Artist of the Year. He also gave me some insight into his next release, which I can’t wait to hear later this year!
5. Brett Eldredge
He’s another one of my favorites and a friendly face throughout the weekend — backstage and on the Red Carpet. He is always one of the most fun guys to interview. Maybe I’ll even go shark diving with him…
6. Merle Haggard and George Strait Performing Together
I can’t believe this even happened. On Monday, I attended the TV taping for a special to air on CBS called ACM Presents An All-Star Salute to the Troops. The first performance of the night was George Strait and Merle Haggard playing “The Fightin’ Side of Me.” Two legends I never even dreamed of seeing live in the same room as me. It was truly mind blowing.
7. Attending Big Machine’s ACM After Party
Of course I was hoping to run into Taylor Swift at some point during the weekend, but this never happened. (There’s always next year!) I did attend her record label’s ACM party though where I chatted with Rascal Flatts, Eli Young Band and The Cadillac 3. Believe me, I was pinching myself. Having interviewed Rascal Flatts a few months prior, it wasn’t difficult to go up to the band but for some reason I was super nervous to approach Eli Young Band. Their single, “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” is one of my all-time favorite country songs and one of the songs that kept me motivated as a freelancer when I constantly questioned my ongoing struggles in making my dream career work out. When I told my colleague this, he told me to go tell them. And I’m very glad I did. So sweet and humble, when I told one of the guys this he thanked me profusely and confessed that he often feels like the band is country music’s underdog. I’m not quite sure why and I told him this because I always hear their songs on the radio. It’s interesting to learn band’s perceptions on themselves and to find out that even country stars can be insecure.
8. Interviewing Chris Janson
“I hear you’re a songwriter,” Chris Janson said as he approached me on the red carpet. I was speechless and didn’t know how to respond. I still have never written a complete song. “It’s a simple question. Yes or no,” he said. To which my colleague urged me to say yes. “Sure, I guess,” I responded note even able to convince myself. It’s my dream to write a song (and his publicist knew this) so when I landed in New York, I signed up for a songwriting class. At least the next time someone asks me I’ll be more certain in my answer.
9. Walking the Strip
I couldn’t help but feel like I was walking on a movie set while in Las Vegas. My last day there I was able to take in the sites, walk past Italy, France and pretty much every major city imaginable all on the same street. It was surreal.
10. Being a Kid at Heart
Sometimes you just need to ride a roller coaster that’s in your hotel. It was actually terrifying! I stayed at the New York New York, ironically, and there is a roller coaster that starts at the top of the hotel and ends inside the hotel. It was something I never imagined seeing before. I also took a 30-minute trip on the new 550 ft Ferris Wheel at the Linq Hotel where I got a view of the entire city. To me, these rides were better than gambling…at least I knew where my money was going!
I’ve been lucky to have interviewed Hunter Hayes several times last year. A fan of his music, I’ve been known to have his songs on repeat for hours (especially “Wanted” and “I Want Crazy”). So, when I sat down to interview him, I had to ask about the first time he heard his song on the radio and if he ever gets tired of it (he doesn’t.) For a guy who has been performing live since he was four-years-old, who could blame him?
“I had just come off a six-week radio tour so it was a bit of a time warp for me,” he told me. “I had never been on the road that long. I was leaving dinner with my publisher and we were parked on opposite ends of the parking lot and she pulled around to where I was parked and rolled down the window and there was ‘Storm Warning,’ rocking. So I turned my car off and went over to her car and we jammed a little bit. That was the first time I heard it on the radio out of the blue.”
He added: “That’s not something you get used to or get comfortable with necessarily. It still catches me off guard a little bit and I think it always will because there’s something magical about somebody else endorsing your music that way, believing in you like that. It was really cool.”
Last week, I saw Yuna perform at Highline Ballroom in New York after my roommate raved about her and said she’d be an artist I like. Well, she was right. At the show there was something so familiar about her music, and the next day I realized that a friend of mine pitched her to me nearly three years ago.
“I think the most interesting thing about her is that she doesn’t compromise her Muslim beliefs but doesn’t drown her lyrics in religion,” she told me.
I couldn’t agree more. Her songs are so uplifting and while she dresses elegant and conservatively for a pop star, the Malaysian singer-songwriter grabs the concertgoer’s attention right off the bat. One song in and I was an immediate fan.
Before the show, a friend sent me her latest single “Rescue” and it struck a chord. It’s funny how sometimes the right song finds you. Lately, I’ve been questioning a lot of things, career-wise. While it’s my dream to move to Nashville, is it really realistic? More than anything, I miss the freedom of writing what I want every day, discovering new bands I’m passionate about and writing about them. That’s why I’ve vowed to throw myself back into this blog in 2014. At the end of the day, this is my personal resume and I’ll look back in 10, 20 years and remember that concert I attended that changed my perspective on life, that chance star-sighting at a bar in Nashville, and of course all the band interviews along the way.
Yuna’s lyrics also helped put this all in perspective:
“She thinks she’s all alone and all her hopes are gone and so I wrote this song so she can move along. Things were bad. She was in despair. Things were bad and you were never there, but things were bad, she came up for air. She said a little prayer, she found herself. Yeah she’s got light in her face, she don’t need no rescuing she’s okay.”
There’s no denying my love for Darius Rucker. A huge reason I fell in love with country music, he was the first artist I ever interviewed in a press conference setting and an experience I’ll never forget. It was 2009 and my first trip to Nashville. At this point in time I was very much a country newbie and a fish out of water in the press room.
Being my first time in the press room, I kept raising my hand in hopes to get my question answered. When the last question was asked and the publicist started to usher him off the stage he pointed in my direction. “You’ve been so patient this whole time,” he said. “What’s your question?”
After looking around and realizing he was talking to me, I was shocked and thankful to be given a second of his time. So, I asked him how his Hootie fans have reacted to his leap into country music and he told me they’ve embraced and supported his career in country music. Still stunned he pointed me out in the crowd I instantly knew country would become my new favorite genre.
Since that moment, I fell deeply in love with country. I’ve been lucky to have interviewed Darius three times since that day in the press room and he’s always been such a nice, friendly guy and great interview. During my most recent interview, he told me the story behind his GRAMMY-nominated song “Wagon Wheel.”
“When I heard ‘Wagon Wheel’ at my daughter’s high school talent contest, I don’t know what it was about the song, because I had heard the song before,” he told me. “When I heard it there I just thought, ‘Man some day I’m going to cut the song for a record.’ It was really one of those lightning bolt things that I can’t even explain.”