Joshua Radin. Hotel Cafe Tour. 2008
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Local Musicians Come Together For Fifth Annual ‘A Holiday Benefit’ Concert
CATEGORIES: Features, News, Q&A

For the past five years, New York musicians have joined forces to produce a holiday album for a good cause.

Each year, A Holiday Benefit is recorded and released by local talent. All proceeds donated to 826NYC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills.

The fifth and final benefit show will be held on Wednesday at Rockwood Music Hall Stage II.

Singer-songwriter Benjamin Wagner explained his idea for the yearly event was inspired by the 1984 Band Aid song, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Featuring Sting, Bono, Duran Duran, Paul Young and numerous other musicians, the track raised money for famine relief in Ethiopia.

“It’s not the greatest song on the planet, but at the time no one had ever done that before,” he said.

For my complete article, visit CBS. Watch the group’s video for “Do They Know It’s Christmas” below.

December 13, 2011 | | (0) comment comment
Mary Bragg Credits Lady Antebellum's Dave Haywood For Songwriting Chops
CATEGORIES: Features, News, Q&A

Long before he was part of popular country trio Lady Antebellum, Dave Haywood acted as engineer and producer for his friend, Mary Bragg. The two met in high school and started singing together their first week of college.

With adjacent dorm rooms at the University of Georgia, Haywood and Bragg formed a band and even opened for a still-unknown Miranda Lambert. After Bragg graduated, Haywood and the now-Brooklyn-based Americana songstress began working on her debut record, “Certain Simple Things,” in the fall of 2003.

“He was really the first person to push me to write songs. We were in a band together for three years and he’s like, ‘We’re gonna make a record,'” she recalls. “He said, ‘I’m going to send you these MP3s of me playing these random chords and I want you to write some lyrics and melodies.'”

For my complete article, visit Billboard.

December 8, 2011 | | (0) comment comment
"Twilight" Music Supervisor Alexandra Patsavas Discusses the Art of the Soundtrack
CATEGORIES: Features, News, Q&A

Finding the perfect song to fit a poignant scene in a film can often take months to a year to select. With the right placement, the entire mood of a movie can shift, making all that hard work pay off.

Remember Rocky’s warm-up routine to “Gonna Fly Now” and that pinnacle stair scene? How about when John Cusack’s character in “Say Anything” held up his boombox blasting Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”? These scenes are easily distinguished as landmark moments in Hollywood and it’s impossible to imagine any other song being played.

I chatted with music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, known for her work in the “Twilight” series, to find out just how she selects the perfect track for each scene and the steps she takes from start to finish.

“Once a music supervisor gets hired, we sit down with the director and talk about the musical feel and vibe of the songs and the movie. That starts the musical conversation that might include CDs going back and forth or listening to tracks together,” Patsavas said. “Sometimes we start pitching tracks while the movie is being shot. And, of course once the movie is assembled and edited a supervisor pitches songs to picture.”

For my complete article, visit IFC.com.

December 7, 2011 | | (0) comment comment
Singer-Songwriter Mary Bragg Performs at Rockwood Music Hall Tonight
CATEGORIES: Features, News, Q&A

Mary Bragg has been winning over audiences in the New York singer-songwriter community for years.

With three albums under her belt, the Georgia native said the first time she visited New York as a teen it was love at first sight.

“When I was in New York, I felt this incredible sense of energy and thought and challenging circumstances,” she said. “I knew in order for me to have fodder for songwriting I needed to not live so wonderfully. I actually moved to New York both wanting to experience the world more and to find hardship.”

Bragg began writing songs in college thanks to the urging of her friend Dave Haywood. Now one third of popular country trio Lady Antebellum, Haywood engineered and produced Bragg’s debut album.

“I think in theory I knew that I could be a songwriter, it’s just that I had never actually sat down and done it,” Bragg recalled. “He was the person that said, ‘Alright, next Monday you’re going to come over and you’re going to have some stuff to sing for me.’”

For the complete article, visit CBS. Be sure to catch Mary Bragg tonight at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1.

December 5, 2011 | | (0) comment comment
2 Days Left to Send YSIW to the Grammy's!
CATEGORIES: Contest, Features, News

Last week, I found out I’m in second place for the MusiCares blogger contest! After submitting an entry on what music means to me, I made the final round for a chance to be on the red carpet at the MusiCares Person of the Year event in February honoring Paul McCartney. One of six bloggers selected, I have a chance to head to Los Angeles the week of the Grammy’s and interview all the musicians attending the event and cover the show as well.

Many of you have been following You Sing I Write since day one and this is a HUGE opportunity. For more information and to vote, click here. Make sure you Like MusiCares on Facebook, click “Vote for Blogger Finalists” on the tab underneath the profile photo, hit Enter Now button, type in your Name, Email and select me (Finalist #5 – Annie at You Sing I Write: MusiCares: Changing Lives One Song at a Time). Voting ends Wednesday, November 30th.

If I win, you can be sure I’ll be taking some of your questions to the red carpet to ask all the artists performing.  Thanks for your support!

November 29, 2011 | | (0) comment comment
Taylor Swift Welcomes NYC Crowd to Dream World For 'Speak Now' Tour
CATEGORIES: Concert Reviews, Features, News

Recently crowned Artist of the Year at the AMAs, Entertainer of the Year at the CMAs and Billboard‘s Woman of the Year, Taylor Swift proved just how deserving she is of these accolades last night. With two sold-out performances at NYC’s Madison Square Garden — the last two dates of her “Speak Now” Tour — Swift is a fitting example of how dreams come true with a little luck and a lot of hard work.

Swift showcased her catalogue of hits, and even brought out Goo Goo Dolls frontman Johnny Rzeznik for a duet on the band’s “Iris,” a track Swift explained as “one of the greatest songs ever written.” Before she took the stage for “Sparks Fly,” complete with fireworks, Adam Brand and NEEDTOBREATHE opened the night.

For more than two hours, Swift took the audience on a journey. Each song performed had an elaborate story acted out by Swift, her band and dancers. Throughout the numerous scenes within her set, it is evident she dreamed up the entire sequence, down to the tiniest details.

“I was hoping it would be cool with you if I stood here and told you a few of my stories,” Swift said. The audience screamed in approval.

For my complete review, visit Billboard.

November 22, 2011 | | (0) comment comment
A Night In the Studio: Recording at Brooklyn's Galuminumfoil Studios
CATEGORIES: Benefit, Features, News

Photo Credit: Monica Rozenfeld

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been writing about music for several years, but have never actually been in a studio while a band was recording. Always a dream of mine, when Benjamin Wagner invited me to join him at Galuminumfoil Studios in Brooklyn I couldn’t say no.

For the past five years, Wagner and friends have been recording A Holiday Benefit, a selection of holiday classics while putting their own spin on the music. An annual benefit concert is held each December where the CD is available for purchase and all the proceeds are donated to 826NYC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills.

I’ve been covering the benefit shows since their inception in 2007 and each year discover new musicians that I soon become a fan of. So, on a cold Friday in November I headed to Galuminumfoil Studios, not exactly sure what to expect.

Shortly after 8 p.m. I entered the studio where half a dozen or so artists were hanging out, writing lyrics to sing and trying to decipher the right piano chords to play with the track. That night, the vocals for the group number, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” were being recorded.

A huge fan of the song, Wagner said “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is the reason A Holiday Benefit came together.

“I went to Chris [Abad] and said we should get everybody together and do something. It’s because I loved this song when I was a kid,” he recalls. “What if we got all our friends together and did one on our own and made money for a charity?”

In it’s fifth year, over $15,000 has been raised for 826NYC.

While some of the artists have been friends for years, others met for the first time that night. Her first year singing for A Holiday Benefit, Georgia native Mary Bragg was excited to be part of the project and even wore a pair of Santa Claus socks to get her in the spirit.

“We’re not a band that has been rehearsing together. Sometimes things happen and you have to redo it,” she said of the recording experience.

As Wagner finished writing the lyrics to the song, singer-songwriter Misty Boyce took to the piano to record the last of the instrumentals. Meanwhile, studio engineer and producer Jeff Berner gave her further instructions for the track.

“My idea is to have some ethereal piano in the background. This is going to be a long fade and we’ll dub more parts in,” Berner said.

Once the piano part was perfected, the solos were assigned and each singer took turns at the mic for a few takes.

Bragg was up first and impressed with spot-on vocals. Though the first take sounded like a keeper, everyone in the room had her sing it two more times for their own enjoyment.

Initially excited to sing Bono’s part in the song, Boyce was nervous during her recording session.

“When I get nervous I get cold,” she told Wagner who urged her to do some jumping jacks. “I’m Bono. Fuck, it’s too much pressure man!”

“I’ve been singing this song for 25 years, you can sing it for 25 minutes,” Wagner replied to which Boyce started dancing around the studio.

Soon after, Bryan Dunn, Sarah Nisch, Dan Scott and Philip Drennen of Astoria Boulevard, Chris Abad and Wagner recorded their solo parts before the entire crew got together for the group chorus.

“This is gonna be interesting. I’m glad we’re saving this for last,” Berner joked.

As the group huddled together and shared headphones and mics, it was hard not to get into the holiday spirit. With their perfected harmonies and all around talent, A Holiday Benefit, Vol V. will no doubt be a success.

After a few takes, the group was satisfied with their performance and went into the studio to listen to the song on the speakers. Nodding along and at points, mouthing the words they seemed satisfied at the final product.

“And that’s how it’s done!” Bragg said, summing up the night.

Be sure to catch the artists perform December 14 at Rockwood Music Hall II. For a complete lineup and to order your tickets click here.

Related Links:
“A Holiday Benefit, vol. 3″ Impresses Just in Time For the Holidays
A Holiday Benefit Concert Recap
December 1st Holiday Benefit Concert
A Family Holiday Album to Benefit Young Writers

November 21, 2011 | | (0) comment comment
Taylor Swift Profiled on "60 Minutes" Tonight
CATEGORIES: Features, News

Country music sweetheart, Taylor Swift will be profiled on tonight’s episode of “60 Minutes.” The night before her final two sold-out tour dates at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Swift talks to Lesley Stahl about being a role model.

“It would be really easy to say, ‘I’m 21 now. I do what I want. You raise your kids,’ but that’s not the truth of it. The truth of it is that every singer out there with songs on the radio is raising the next generation. So make your words count,” she says.

Well known for her interaction with fans, (remember that infamous 15-hour autograph signing at CMA Fest last year?), Swift asserts she’s never had a bad incident meeting the fans and it’s certainly not part of a bigger business plan.

Tune into CBS tonight at 7pm ET/PT for the complete special. Be sure to follow me on Twitter tomorrow night for up-to-the-minute details on her show at Madison Square Garden.

November 20, 2011 | | (0) comment comment
Daniel Wayne To Perform At Glasslands Gallery Thursday
CATEGORIES: Features, News

With a distinct sound that some say exude Jeff Buckley and Roy Orbison, Brooklyn-based musician Daniel Wayne has been busy making a name for himself. With the recent release of his debut EP, he’s playing a show in his home borough this week.

Born in Cincinnati, Wayne was immersed in country and bluegrass music as a child. It’s no wonder that his music is a distinct blend of both these genres and also embodies rock influences.

“My mom was born in Kentucky and my stepdad is from Kentucky and they were always listening to bluegrass music. I guess I just got immersed into that,” he said. “I think that’s where my influence comes from as far as that country side.”

Honesty is the key to standing out as a musician in New York, Wayne said.

“I just try to keep it sincere and honest. I think the main objective of any artist is to find their own voice and sing from that perspective. If they do that, they’re going to stand out naturally,” he said. “If you’re coming from a perspective of sincerity and just being yourself, everybody can stand out.”

For my complete interview with Daniel Wayne, visit CBS. Be sure to visit his Web site for more information.

November 15, 2011 | | (0) comment comment
You Sing I Write Nominated as MusiCares Blogger Finalist
CATEGORIES: Contest, Features, News

Last week, I made the final round for a chance to be on the red carpet at the MusiCares Person of the Year event in February honoring Paul McCartney! One of six bloggers selected, I have a chance to head to Los Angeles the week of the Grammy’s and interview all the musicians attending the event and cover the show as well.

Many of you have been following You Sing I Write since day one and this is a huge opportunity. For more information and to vote, click here. Make sure you Like MusiCares, click on the Enter Now button, type in your Name, Email and select me (Finalist #5 – Annie at You Sing I Write: MusiCares: Changing Lives One Song at a Time). Voting ends November 30th.

If I win, you can be sure I’ll be taking some of your questions to the red carpet to ask all the artists performing. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get to stay around for the Grammy’s. Thanks for all your support!

November 14, 2011 | | (0) comment comment
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Willie Shaw's sultry new song mesmerizes upon first listen.
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