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Song of the Week

Song of the Week: “Favorite Song”

 

I’ve been following Colbie Caillat’s career for five years now. In fact, she was the first artist I featured on You Sing I Write back in October of 2007. My cousin introduced me to her earlier that summer and living in California he first learned about the “Bubbly” singer from MySpace. Years later she found herself touring with John Mayer, which she later admitted to me in an interview “I’m kind of freaking out!”

 

After winning several Grammy’s and traveling on her own headlining tour, Caillat is still churning out the hits. Her latest single “Favorite Song” is the perfect summer jam. Featuring Common on guest vocals, the duo impress with a laid-back vibe and catchy chorus.

 

 

I’ll be interviewing Colbie tomorrow for CBS. If there’s anything you want to know, be sure to leave your questions in the comments. Meanwhile, watch my video interview with her from 2010 below.

 

 

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Features News

You Sing I Write’s May Wrap-Up

 

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been writing this blog for nearly five years now. What started as a mere creative outlet has transformed into steady freelance work and a stable job doing what I love — writing about music and interviewing bands. I never would have predicted the start of You Sing I Write would develop into what it has today and further my career as a music journalist but every day I’m continually grateful.

 

This past month has by far been the most exciting of my career and every week I woke up in disbelief that things could get any better. I’ll explain to you just why in this post’s May wrap-up which includes interviewing Darius Rucker, covering my first music video shoot with Gaslight Anthem and meeting John Mayer.

 

Darius Rucker

 

Early in the month I got word that I’d be interviewing Darius Rucker for CBS. In order to understand my complete excitement I have to take you way back to the summer of 2009 when my love for country music began. My best friends Wendy and Deana had been talking about visiting Nashville for quite some time. It just so happened that every June the city of Nashville is transformed into country music heaven as thousands of fans and artists descend on the city for the CMA Music Fest, what used to be known as Fan Fair.

 

For four days country music fans are treated to live performances and exclusive meet-and-greets with their favorite country artists. The three of us booked our flight and festival package and I wound up covering the nightly press conference and days events for Marie Claire. An outsider to country music, it was also my first time attending a press conference. While I knew the major artists like Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts and Reba, each night I was introduced to new acts. My first night in the press conference was intimidating to say the least. Not an exceptionally outgoing person, I soon learned that in order to get your question in you usually had to yell out to the artist onstage. The first artist in the room was Darius Rucker. The Hootie & the Blowfish frontman recently released his debut country album and would be performing on the main concert stage later that night.

 

 

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.

 

So, early this month I finally was able to interview Darius one-on-one about his career, writing process, transition into country music and what it’s like working with Lionel Richie. I also filled him in on the fact that he’s pretty much the reason I decided to start covering country music and he actually remembered that time in the press room nearly three years ago. You can watch two of my video interviews with him here and here.

 

Gaslight Anthem

 

This interview was also a long time coming. I actually used to work with drummer Benny Horowitz of New Jersey’s Gaslight Anthem in college. While attending Rutgers University I was Features Editor for the college paper, The Daily Targum. As editor, one night a week I had to proofread the whole paper before it was sent to the printer. Benny was the Night Pro editor and always talked about the bands he was in. Little did I know a few years later he’d be sharing the stage with Bruce Springsteen and touring the world.

 

In 2008 during my internship at Rolling Stone I was flipping through the magazine and was in shock when I saw Benny’s band featured as a Breaking Artist. At first I didn’t think it was him, but sure enough once I read the photo caption and contacted all my former co-workers I realized it 100% was him. For four years I tried interviewing the band for various publications but for some reason it just never worked out. My friends would always joke with me that I could interview Taylor Swift and Pat Benatar but not Benny, who I actually knew.

 

Flash forward to last month. My boss tells me, “This next email is going to make your day.” Truthfully, I thought it might be John Mayer related. When I read it I gasped and said, “I love you!” Turns out Gaslight Anthem were filming the music video to new single “45” at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park and she wanted me to cover the video shoot. This is the band I’ve been listening to for years and determined to interview one way or another and now I’d be able to hang out with them at their music video shoot — something I’ve had on my bucket list for years — and interview them!

 

 

I’ll be posting my music video recap in a few weeks once the video is released but being behind-the-scenes was truly a dream come true. While I learned video shoots aren’t as glamorous as I had previously thought (a lot of waiting around and continuous re-takes) it was still cool to be backstage and witness the excitement the fans had for being part of the live concert element of the video.

 

Afterward, I interviewed Benny and frontman Brian Fallon and found out some facts no magazine feature could ever reveal. Truthfully, personally knowing someone who followed his dreams even in the midst of countless obstacles and witnessed success is one of the reasons that has kept me perusing my own passion. When you actually know someone who has succeeded in the industry, you can’t help but think, “I can do that too.” And that’s exactly what Benny has done for me. Knowing that his band could make it into the pages of Rolling Stone made me realize that I too, could make it writing for Rolling Stone. Why not? The sky’s the limit.

 

John Mayer

 

He has been an obsession of mine for quite some time. My former co-workers at WebMD and colleagues at JANE Magazine, heck all my friends, family and acquaintances know of my love for John Mayer. He’s one of those artists who has been such a major part of my life that the idea of meeting and interviewing him was so full of anticipation and high expectations. My dream interview, I’ve been trying for years to get a shot at interviewing him. I even got the okay from RollingStone.com but unfortunately he hasn’t been doing many interviews as of late.

 

So, when I got the email that he’d be signing autographs for fans in New York at a pop-up store I just knew I had to cover it. When I got to the pop-up store location and realized I wasn’t on the press list I instantly felt defeated because with nearly 3,000 fans lined up to meet Mayer too, there was little chance I’d get inside. Luckily, some co-workers started talking to one of the men by the door and it turned out he was John Mayer’s photographer who had traveled with him and had photos on display at the exhibit. After I interviewed him about his experience working with Mayer he was able to get us inside. The photographer asked if I was going to talk to John and I suddenly became so shy. This singer who I’ve grown up listening to was standing 10 feet in front of me.

 

 

Of course I had to at least say hi, right? After purchasing an album for him to sign for a friend along with something for myself my friend Wendy and I approached the table where he was signing. “Hi, I’m Annie” I said reaching out my hand for him to shake. He looked at me inquisitively and I couldn’t help but wonder if no other fans in line shook his hand. After much coaxing from Wendy for John to take a photo with me he apologized that he wasn’t able to take photos with fans since the line was so long. As the manager clearly wouldn’t let a photo opp happen I assured Mayer that I understood and it was no big deal (although of course I wanted a photo!) As we were ushered to the door he turned to me and said, “Thank you for being so understanding, Annie.”

 

 

That was it. I didn’t ask him any burning questions about his music I’ve wondered for years or say anything witty. I simply introduced myself and got something autographed and was ushered out of the store like every other fan in line. No fireworks, nothing remarkable to report. I walked out of the store indifferent and realized — here’s the shocker — John Mayer is just a person like the rest of us. He’s not some musician who should be worshiped or idolized. He’s just another human being working at making a living doing what he loves.

 

I think I grew up a lot in that brief moment of meeting him. While I will surely always admire his music I realized that I’m a professional. Sure, I would have loved to chat with him more about the meaning behind his lyrics and what his life is really like, but maybe it’d be better off if I didn’t know right now. We’ll just save all that for a future interview.

 

 

Categories
Artist of the Week Band of the Week Features

Gaslight Anthem Carry The New Jersey Torch

 

When New Jersey rockers the Gaslight Anthem decided to film a music video for their new single “45,” Asbury Park’s the Stone Pony was the only option they considered.

 

The famed rock venue, which is home to New Jersey legends Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and Southside Johnny, has been hosting memorable shows since it first opened its doors in 1974. Acts like the Kinks, Stevie Ray Vaughn, KISS and the Ramones have taken the stage and even the former VP of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Robert Santelli has called the club “one of the greatest rock clubs of all time.”

 

“It’s one of the cool old New Jersey relics left,” drummer Benny Horowitz said as he recalled his first Battle of the Bands contest there as a teen.

 

Just the drive down to Asbury Park strikes up the band’s material. Passing through New Brunswick, “The Diamond Church Street Choir” paints a picture of University life from an outsider, not far from where the band got it’s start. Before a left turn onto Ocean Avenue, where a slew of fans await for their chance to be in the band’s music video, Cookman Avenue appears. One of the many Jersey mentions in their song “Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts” off 2008’s EP Senor and the Queen it’s evident the Stone Pony is the perfect location for the band to feature in a music video.

 

For my complete article visit CBS. Stay tuned for more interviews with the band and a behind-the-scenes recap of their music video shoot.

Categories
Features Q&A

Darius Rucker On Lionel Richie: “He’s More Than An Idol, He’s Part Of My DNA”

 

Currently on tour with Lady Antebellum, I interviewed Darius Rucker for CBS Local while in New York to discuss life on the road and his recent collaboration with Lionel Richie. While he’s busy working on a new album, Darius explained what it was like working with Lionel Richie on his recent release Tuskegee. One of his idols, he revealed how it all came about.

 

“I’m sitting in my house and my cell phone rings and I answer it and the guy goes, ‘Darius, this is Lionel Richie.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah right.’”

 

 

Having been the target of practical jokes before, he was skeptical.

 

“It was just wild for Lionel Richie to be calling me and asking me to sing on his record,” he said. “I mean, this is Lionel Richie. I say to people all the time, ‘He’s more than an idol. He’s part of my DNA.’”

 

For the complete article and video interview, visit CBS.

Categories
Features News

John Mayer Celebrates Album Release At NYC Pop-Up Store

No amount of rain could deter John Mayer fans from Reed Space in New York Monday night.

 

Despite torrential downpour, many camped out overnight for the chance to meet the singer at the grand opening of his pop-up store in celebration of his new album. By 7 p.m. hundreds of fans lined the sidewalk for his autograph signing.

 

The Born and Raised pop-up store exhibit included seven photographs taken by Gari Lamar Askew II from two shoots including the Born and Raised recording sessions and a road trip with Mayer along the Pacific Coast Highway. Having worked with Mayer since 2007, Askew explained the concept behind the shoot.

 

 

“He told me he wanted it to be iconic. There was a time in life within music when it was more about the subject and the moment. He said, ‘I just want me and you to go and it to be a journey. You to capture me as if I was on a road trip by myself.’”

 

For my complete article, visit CBS.

Categories
Concert Reviews Features

The Gaslight Anthem Impress At Brooklyn Performance

The Gaslight Anthem played to a sold-out crowd Wednesday night at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg. While several hundred lucky fans got an in-person view of their set others could watch the entire show across the globe as it was broadcast live on Livestream.

 

A preview of what’s to come on their new album Handwritten, due for release July 24, the New Jersey band’s nearly two hour performance included the energetic first single “45” as well as the bluesy “Biloxi Parish” which showcased a new side of the band. With distinct groove, though a slight deviation from the expected, Brian Fallon’s familiar vocals and memorable guitar licks impressed.

 

The band’s set covered the entirety of Gaslight Anthem’s catalog, from the poignant “Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts” and the classic “Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis?” off their first EP Senor and the Queen to the more familiar “Great Expectations” and “Old White Lincoln” from breakthrough album The ’59 Sound. All the while frontman Brian Fallon expressed his gratitude to the fans.

 

For my complete review, visit CBS.com.

Categories
Features News Q&A

From Brooklyn to Ethiopia: Tomas Doncker’s Quest

From the moment he saw his favorite band performing live on television when he was 12-years-old, Brooklyn-based musician Tomas Doncker knew a career in music was in his future.

 

That Christmas, his parents bought him a guitar and he’s been writing songs ever since. Countless A-list collaborations later, Doncker says he has learned there is no one way to write a song.

 

I think you have to remain open to the inspiration revealing itself to you and not be afraid or shy to follow it,” he said. “You have to be able to go after the thing that tickles your fancy at that moment and get it to a point where you actually have a verse, a chorus, some chords, and let that live.”

 

Being open is what led Doncker to his latest project. After a meeting with playwright Roland Wolf’s sons, Doncker was inspired to create an album that would change people’s lives. With the hope to create a play that mirrors “Fela” and “Passing Strange,” a script is also in the works.

 

“’Passing Strange’ changed my life. I want to be a part of that kind of performance. Very soon after that I met the Wolf brothers. They gave me the script to read I thought to myself, ‘Wow, here’s my chance to create something in that way,’” he said.

 

The first step was making the album, Power of the Trinity.

 

“The tag line I’m creating is ‘From Brooklyn to Ethiopia,’ and obviously, everywhere in between. What we’re about, which is global soul, is soul music for and by everybody. It’s not just from Memphis. It’s from Ethiopia, it’s from Mali, it’s from Brazil,” he said. “There’s no mistaking soulful music. It doesn’t matter what language someone’s singing in. If it touches you, if it moves you, that’s it.”

 

Doncker continued to explain that songs don’t always have to be about real life to be relatable.

 

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be what you did. It can also be something you dreamt, it can be something someone said to you, it can be something you read. As long as it was internalized on some intimate level and means something to you, then it’s going to sound sincere,” he said.

 

One song, “Lucky Day” took years to develop.

 

“I walked around the streets of New York City singing the chorus of that song for seven years. I was singing it in a minor key because I was in a pretty bad spot at that time in my life. Not to be too mysterious, but I was living on the streets and taking a lot of drugs. I’m now 12 years sober,” he said.

 

Ten years later, while sitting in his apartment in East New York, the entire song came to him when he played a major chord.

 

“All of a sudden the rest of the song flew out. I wrote that song in about seven minutes, the whole thing,” he said. “I love that song because I know it comes from such a sincere, real place. I absolutely know that because I lived it.”

 

Having finished a tour in the West Indies and gearing up for multiple performance at Summer Stage, Doncker says his performance goal is “to burn the building down every night and have a ball.”

 

For more information, visit his Website.

 

This article originally was written for CBS.com.