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You Sing I Write's Biweekly Wrap Up

Photo Credit: Scott Vollweiler

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind for me and while I try to update You Sing I Write as often as I can, it’s getting a bit difficult with my new job. In the meantime, you can follow all my day-to-day adventures on Twitter.

Just over a month ago, I started working at CBS where I cover Top 40 for their radio station websites. On any given day I’ll be writing music news stories, interviewing bands or covering shows and I couldn’t be happier! It’s what I’ve been doing for the past few years, but in a permanent and stable environment. And, as a freelance journalist for so long it’s a rare find.

Photo Credit: Scott Vollweiler

While not much has changed with my daily writing process, I now have access to an even more wide range of musicians and the past two weeks seem like a dream. One day I was interviewing Jordan Knight from New Kids On the Block at the office and the next week I was hanging out with the guys in Rascal Flatts on a rooftop in Times Square. I can’t believe my life sometimes and am so glad to be able to bring you along on the journey!

From my first concert review in college with Gavin DeGraw to stalking down the All-American Rejects at their tour bus for a quote for an article, amidst the craziness I’ve come to find that it is 100% possible to find a job you love and make money from it. While it definitely has not been an easy transition, all the blood, sweat and tears have finally paid off.

Though I’m mainly covering Top 40 acts these days (especially boy band sensation One Direction) I’m always open to new indie acts and country artists. Since You Sing I Write is where I got my start writing about music on a daily basis, I don’t plan to stop blogging. I might be writing less frequently on here, but that doesn’t mean I’m not open to covering new acts. So, keep ’em coming! Feel free to E-mail Me band pitches as always. Thanks for reading throughout the years!


You Sing I Write's Weekly Wrap Up

Boy bands seem to be making a comeback this year. With the hysteria that UK’s One Direction is currently bringing to America, I can’t help but to remember growing up in the era of Backstreet Boys, N’ Sync and 98 Degrees. Two weeks ago One Direction performed at Radio City Music Hall. Since I work across the street, I learned firsthand that this is not just another music fad as girls lined up hours before the show and I heard screams from 44 floors up throughout the day.

On Wednesday I interviewed the boys of One Direction and got a behind-the-scenes look at what life is like for the current music sensation. With back-to-back interviews lined up with little but a second break in between, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the guys. Just a glimpse into their daily life made me thankful I never became a rock star. Stay tuned for my interview with One Direction later this week.

The Wanted are another UK band currently heating up the charts. After the success of “Glad You Came,” the group revealed details behind their next single, “Gold Forever.” Meanwhile, the All-American Rejects released the title track off their upcoming album, Kids In the Street while Lady Gaga’s ex continues to promote his book, The Drunk Diet: How I Lost 40 Pounds…Wasted.

Rihanna finally broke her silence about her recent collaboration with Chris Brown. “I reached out to him about doing ‘Birthday Cake’ because that’s the only person that really made sense to do the record,” Rolling Stone reports. “I thought about rappers, and I’ve done that so many times, and the hottest R&B artist out right now is Chris Brown. So I wanted him on the track.”

While I’ve been covering pop music more closely as of late, I’m always happy to learn more about collaborations in the country world. For details behind Matt Nathanson and Sugarland’s latest hit, “Run” watch my video interview with him here.


All-American Rejects

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

The All-American Rejects tour more than most bands I know. It seems as if every few months they’re back in New York and I always wind up seeing them because their live show is like none other. Whether it’s frontman Tyson Ritter’s quirky and unexpected banter with the audience or his incredulous stage antics, you can’t help but get in a good laugh.

In real life, AAR are quite amusing as well. Just read their responses from Zootopia’s press room below and you’ll see what I mean. Currently in Europe, the guys will be on tour with Blink 182 this summer so be sure to check out their MySpace for the dates.

You’re touring with Blink 182 this summer. How did that come about?
I actually saw Tom (DeLonge of Blink 182) last week at a show and I told him, “It’s crazy we’re playing with you because I was throwing CDs at your feet at the very first concert I went to.” It was Bad Religion and Blink 182 and I was darting CDs at them and they just kept kicking them off stage. It’s amazing. It’s literally full circle. Between opening up for Bon Jovi last year and now we’re opening up for Blink 182 — I don’t think there’s anything we can’t do.

Tell me about your new single, “The Wind Blows.”
“The Wind Blows” is a different step for us. We’re definitely not just a pop rock band. Like I said, there are no boundaries for us.

What songs are you looking forward to this summer?
Songs of summer. I don’t know. The songs that you play with your top down in your car and just close your eyes while driving. I know that doesn’t sound too safe. There are some great summer songs. Don Henley, “Boys of Summer.” That’s as good as it gets.

There are a lot of album releases coming up. Which albums are you most looking forward to?
I guess we should say Eminem because he’s on our label. But, I like people that play a lot of instruments. I like to see a lot of instruments onstage.

Do you have any hidden talents or quirks?
Chris is a falconer. He falcons. Like, baby bird, there you go, lets eat it together. Crazy shit. True story.

You guys have had so much success. Do you feel that it happened quicker than most bands?
We were in a van for about five years playing bars and birthday parties. Quicker than some, I imagine. But we definitely paid our dues. It feels good to be here now.

Why is “Gives You Hell” such a huge hit?
I think everybody got hell the first of this year if they were losing their job. It’s so funny, when we put out When the World Comes Down, which is the name of our record, it was right before Obama was elected and everyone was like, “What a terrible title for a record, everything is going to be fine now.” Then all of a sudden a month into it the big bomb of the economy dropped and now everyone is saying, “Wow, what foresight you had.” I’m just glad we’re putting out music in this world right now.

What gives you hell?
I think its your teacher, its your boss, its the policeman that gave you a parking ticket. Mainly it’s the opposite sex. We know how to sing about heartbreak.

You were on “House” recently. Do you plan on doing more acting?
You’re gonna see us all over the place. I’m gonna do movies. Nick’s gonna do I don’t know, shit, he’s gonna do porn. Chris will do falconry professionally so you’ll see him on ESPN doing classes. There’s nothing this band can’t do.

Do you have any advice for bands who want to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t rely just on MySpace or the Inner Web to get your music out there. You still have to do it the old fashioned way and learn how to play your instrument. Get out there and play shows.

Concert Reviews

Zootopia Brings Diverse Lineup to New Jersey

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

Before I give my full report on Saturday’s Zootopia concert I have to preface this entry by explaining that I grew up listening to Z100. It was always my dream in middle and high school (I’ll admit in college too) to win tickets and attend a show. In fact, I can’t even count how many times I called the radio station in hopes to be caller 100!

Whether it was the Backstreet Boys in the 90s or the Jonas Brothers last year, Zootopia is one of the biggest concerts showcasing today’s hottest music and being behind the scenes always seemed so glamorous to me. Never in a million years would I have imagined I’d be attending and sitting in the press room interviewing the artists I grew up listening to. But, that’s exactly what I was doing Saturday night and loved every minute of it!

Upon arrival at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, NJ, Wendy and I were ushered into the press room shortly before 6 p.m. The back wall was lined with video cameras while the front of the room had a dozen or so photographers vying for the perfect location to capture the best shot of each artist. We made our way to the seats and shortly after none other than teen heartthrob Jesse McCartney entered the room. After his photo opp. he made his way to the mics for a quick Q&A.;

I realized right away how aggressive you have to be in a press conference set up and by the time the third artist came in, I made sure I got a question in. While one-on-one interviewing will always be my favorite, this set up was definitely a learning experience. I plan on typing up the Q&A;’s from each artist so you can have complete access to what was discussed. Each night this week I’ll post a new interview for you — how does that sound?

As much as I enjoyed the interviews, I had to catch some of the show. While I’ve seen the All-American Rejects numerous times in concert, their live show is always a treat. Whether it’s frontman Tyson Ritter making peculiar comments to the crowd or funny facial contortions, AAR’s energy and stage presence is undeniable. Playing a solid set of crowd favorites, “Dirty Little Secret” and “Move Along,” they switched gears up a bit by ending with latest single, slower ballad “The Wind Blows.” Riding the waves off chart topper “Gives You Hell,” “The Wind Blows” is sure to do the same. The guys talked about touring with Blink 182 this summer, so be sure to catch them soon!

Kelly Clarkson is another must-see live. Her arena friendly pop rock is solid and her vocals are always impressive. Not to mention, she had everyone around me singing along to “Since U Been Gone” (yes, even the guys). “I’m all about quality over quantity,” Clarkson told the crowd. “My personal philosophy is I do not hook up…unless it’s Hugh Jackman or Russell Crowe or someone really hot,” she joked before introducing current radio hit “I Do Not Hook Up.”

Jesse McCartney opened the night and most likely had all the girls swooning in the crowd. While I watched most of his set from the press room, his dancing and singing style was impressive. Having recently been hailed “The Heir to Justin Timberlake’s Throne,” while McCartney definitely has big shoes to fill, I’m rooting for him. As if that’s not enough, he’ll be touring this summer with New Kids On the Block and will surely win over the older women if he hasn’t done so already.

The rest of the night included appearance by Sean Paul, LMFAO and Taylor Momsen as well as the hosts for the evening — Z100’s radio station djs. Ciara’s performance made me wish I paid more attention in dance class, as her moves were like no one I’ve ever seen while Flo Rida and Soulja Boy wowed the crowd and surely increased the energy for Black Eyed Peas’ closing set.

If anything is certain from their performance Saturday night, the Peas will have the album of the summer. While “Boom Boom Pow” is heating up the charts, next single, “I Gotta Feeling” undeniably will to do the same. The band proved the breakup rumors to be false and their show demonstrated that they’re in it for the long haul. Playing past chart toppers, “Where Is the Love,” “My Humps” and “Let’s Get Retarted” the Peas had concertgoers at the IZOD Center on their feet, dancing and partying along until the last beat of “Boom Boom Pow” was played.
Stay tuned this week for interviews with each of the performers!


Zootopia 2009 – What Do You Want Covered?

I’ll be covering radio station Z100’s infamous Zootopia concert tomorrow night at the IZOD Center. For those of you that don’t know the line-up, Kelly Clarkson, Jesse McCartney, All-American Rejects, Ciara, Soulja Boy, Flo Rida and Black Eyed Peas will be performing along with some unannounced special guests.

I’ll have access to the press room where I can ask each artist questions as well as tickets to cover the show. My question for you is, what do you want to know? What are you dying to ask one of the artists?

I’m going to have to juggle the press room and the performances from the looks of it, so what would you rather read about — an exclusive interview or concert review? Let me know! Question submissions always welcome. For more information on the show and for last minute tickets, click here. I’ll be reporting live via Twitter so if you don’t yet, make sure you follow me for up-to-the-minute coverage!

Features Q&A

Top 10 Interviews

While I’ve been taking suggestions on revamping my blog, some advised cleaning up the sidebar and deleting older interviews to make it easier on the eyes. After much thought, I really can’t just weed out certain interviews because each has a life of its own. Maybe its the frank musician that discussed exactly what’s wrong with the label executives, or the bass player that told me just how “gross” groupies are, regardless, each artist I’ve talked to needs to be showcased. So, when you’re bored at work or just surfing the Web, you have plenty of reading material on your hands.

While going through each interview I came up with my “Top 10” list of interviews that have surprised me or left an impact. Here’s my Top 10 list, in no particular order.

1. Jon Foreman of Switchfoot (photo above)
I’ve been listening to Switchfoot since high school. I’d buy tickets with friends and we’d travel to NYC together at least once a year to see them live. One year, when covering the show for MTV’s concert blog, I was able to meet the guys, and interview frontman Jon Foreman. To meet one of your favorite musicians and talk to him about life, his fears of being a songwriter and pretty much anything else you’d want to know was truly one of the best moments in my music writing career. Read the in-depth interview here.

2. Colbie Caillat
I remember my cousin from California mentioning Colbie Caillat on his visit to New Jersey right after her debut album was released. A few weeks later “Bubbly” exploded on the radio and I just had to buy myself a copy of her album. The next summer she was going on tour with one of her biggest influences (and mine) — John Mayer. I was able to set up an interview for the blog and was surprised at how humble and down to earth she was. Talking about her stage fright before performing and thoughts on just why “Bubbly” took off, Colbie shared insight into her life before and after her music invaded the airwaves. Read all about it here.

3. Marko DeSantis of Sugarcult
This was my first impromptu band interview. Before catching Sugarcult’s set at Starland Ballroom, I noticed a group of fans by the stage door talking to someone. My friend found out it was Sugarcult guitarist Marko, so I asked to interview him. Why not? He wrote down his email address in my notebook with the casual, “Just don’t show this around” and I emailed him questions a few days later. My first nationally published interview, it was featured on Jane Magazine‘s Web site. I still can’t believe I did that, but it paid off. Read the full email interview here.

4. Kris Roe of The Ataris (photo above)
I lucked out being able to interview Kris twice — first for Rutgers University’s entertainment section, Inside Beat, and last year for my blog. Having listened to The Ataris growing up, I attended a performance of theirs at Rutgers and was able to obtain an interview after talking to his manager. After interviewing him with my friend Monica, I remember leaving the room with the realization and determination that, “This IS what I’m going to do the rest of my life.” Haven’t looked back since. Read the full two-part interview with Kris from his performance at Maxwell’s last year here.

5. Joshua Radin
Incredibly honest about the music industry, Radin bought himself out of his five record deal with Columbia and put out his most recent release independently. Not to mention, it hit No.1 on the iTunes folk charts. Not too shabby. A class act to follow, Radin even performed at Ellen DeGeneres’ wedding. Read on for more of his take on the music business here.

6. Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind
I was extremely nervous for this interview. 3eb was one of the most recognized bands of the 90s and having read up on past interviews with the band I was a little worried how mine would pan out. Luckily, it went extremely well — good enough to be used as my first interview feature on! You can read it on Marie Claire here.

7. Vince Scheuerman of Army of Me (photo above)
Possibly the most open singer-songwriter I’ve interviewed, my chat with Vince revealed many of the stories behind his songs, the struggle of making it in the music business and a typical day in the life of a musician. Read on for more here.

8. Tyson Ritter of the All-American Rejects
Oh, Tyson. Brutally honest and never afraid to hold anything back. Though it was a quick 3-question on-the-spot interview outside his tour bus at a concert, it’s one that will always stand out in my memory. Laugh about it here.

9. Jeph Howard of The Used
Okay, I must admit interviewing Jeph on their tour bus was definitely a highlight of the interview. Possibly the longest interview I’ve had, he chatted with me for nearly an hour about life on the road, groupies, and struggles the band has faced. Read all about it here.

10. Sia
Australian singer-songwriter Sia was definitely the most captivating and lively phone interview I have ever had. With her infectious laugh and refreshing take on the music industry, it’s interviews like these that make me continue pursuing this crazy career. You can read the interview featured on here.

That’s my Top 10. What’s your favorite? Did I miss one that should be added?


Watch Live All-American Rejects Concert

A few months ago some friends and I found out that infamous Oklahoma rockers the All-American Rejects would be playing a free NYC concert courtesy of Walmart and Axe. To watch the full six-song performance, click on the link here.

The Rejects just announced another leg of their tour supporting most recent album When the World Comes Down. If you like what you saw, be sure to catch them when they’re in town! For more info visit their MySpace.


Listen to New Fall Out Boy, All-American Rejects’ Albums Stream on MySpace

Oh, the wonders of the Internet. You can now listen to both upcoming releases by Fall Out Boy and the All-American Rejects on their MySpaces before they’re due to hit stores and iTunes this Tuesday. Both have been getting mixed reviews by the press, so why not make the decision for yourself?

To listen to Fall Out Boy’s album, Folie à Deux click here.

To listen to the All-American Rejects’ When the World Comes Down click here.

Which album do you like better? Are you going to pick up both? I’m still debating myself.


Blast From the Past: Interview with the All-American Rejects

Last night’s free All-American Rejects concert at Hammerstein Ballroom reminded me of my on the fly interview with frontman Tyson Ritter back in college. It was one of those situations that I look back at and laugh because sometimes I can’t believe half the things I’ve done to score an interview with some of my favorite bands. (Please, no groupie remarks I’m a journalist not a bandaid!) Anyway, last night’s show was pretty intimate as they were filming it for Wal-mart and it looked as if only a hundred or so fans gained access to the event. I’ll let you know when I find out the full details of when the concert will air. In the meantime, read below for this week’s “Blast From the Past” with the All-American Rejects.

When my friend invited me along to help cover a concert at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton two summers ago, naturally I went. She was working on a piece for the Trenton Times about the venue and how it was trying to attract a younger crowd. Hence, the concert “Popfest” was put on by local radio station WPST 94.5 attracting many of its younger listeners. In addition to the All-American Rejects, performers included Nick Lachey, The Fray, Bo Bice, and The Click Five.

My friend was promised a press pass to interview some of the bands, but for some reason it fell through. This is where my ingenious Plan B came in. “Let’s just go find their tour buses,” I remember telling her matter-of-factly. And so we did. After waiting 10 minutes or so she was discouraged and wanted to leave, but I persisted. A few minutes later, drummer Chris came out of the venue but was short on time, so he told us to wait for the rest of the guys. Shortly after Tyson approached the bus where we were able to ask him a few questions about the event. It was probably less than a five-minute impromptu interview, but I’ll take what I can get!

How is it for you playing a show like Popfest at a smaller venue vs. your bigger arena shows?
Our first time to step out in an arena was with Fall Out Boy two months ago and we just got off that tour. So I guess coming off that tour this might seem smaller, but this is still a large show to us. Definitely a different energy though. At a pop show, people don’t move as much.

Do you enjoy playing shows like Bamboozle more?
Oh yeah. That’s like the voice of a generation all in one spot at the same time. They’re the future leaders of America. Even though they may listen to music that’s not contemporary or run of the mill, those people are a lot different when they go to Bamboozle. The people who go to Bamboozle are definitely . . . I don’t know, more cerebral than normal people, I find. Whereas at these shows people scream and go crazy like five seconds after they see us. At Bamboozle a kid will be like “What’s up Tyson?” and try to talk to you, as opposed to try to bombard you or scream until you give into some weird wish that they want. But it’s all fun.

Would you consider coming back to Trenton?
Oh yeah. It was great, the kids were loud, girls were giggly. The next time we come here we’d like to come and play a proper show. We had the option to headline but we wanted to make The Click Five look bad. We don’t like bands that don’t rock their instruments. There’s a difference between playing your instrument and rocking it. I don’t play my instrument. It’s really kind of, I like to call it ho-hum music because after one song you kind of go ‘ahhhh’ [referring to bands who don’t rock their instruments].

Gotta love the honesty. Be sure to pick up a copy of AAR’s new album when it hits stores, December 16.

Concert Reviews

The Many Sides of the All-American Rejects

Review and photos by Wendy Hu

After seeing the Rejects in concert a couple of times over the past few years, I wasn’t sure what to expect with their sold-out show at Irving Plaza last Tuesday. If the night was any testament to their ability as musicians, writers and performers, their new album, When The World Comes Down, slated for a December 16 release, is definitely going to be more than just another catchy pop-rock album. It was a night of entertaining, energetic rock with a large dose of honesty, appreciation for the crowd, sexual innuendos, and guitar picks being thrown into the audience after nearly every song.

The set list flowed, but in an eccentric and unexpected way, largely due to the many sides of lead singer Tyson Ritter. He got the crowd dancing from the get-go with their two big pop-centric hits, “Swing, Swing” and “Dirty Little Secret.” Transitioning into their newest single, “Gives You Hell,” it felt like Ritter was putting on a play with his animated facial expressions and constant audience interaction. One minute sincerely frowning while reaching into the crowd singing “Truth be told, I miss you,” then quickly changing into a sinister smile and bug eyes while flicking his middle finger singing, “Truth be told I’m lying.”

A more serious side came out when Ritter started talking about the state of the world, “Shit can all fall apart, but it doesn’t matter if you’ve got someone next to you,” which led to “Mona Lisa,” another track off their upcoming release.

The entire night Ritter addressed his appreciation to New York fans: “We missed you so much, New York! You’ve been with us forever; we’re not just a flavor of the week…You care about the All-American Rejects,” Ritter said. “I haven’t been this happy for two months. I’m going to sing something special for you, New York City,” before he slowed the night down with an acoustic version of “It Ends Tonight.” Disco ball reflections flickered throughout the room as the audience sang along word for word while Ritter conducted them. There was definitely a moment there. It was too perfect, so of course, the next song had to be, “I Wanna Touch You,” another one from the new album.

The hour-long set ended with “Move Along,” which again had the crowd energized, dancing and jumping around. The Rejects ran off the stage, but everyone knew there would be an encore. I wasn’t sure what song they would play since all the hits seemed to have been played already. After the chants died down, AAR quickly ran back onstage as Ritter quieted the room. He then told the story of how three-and-a-half years ago he had a CD with two songs; one of them being the now infamous hit “Move Along,” which he gave to two guys from their record label to listen to. He played it for them and one said, “You did it, kid. This is the song.”

Sometime after, this same friend from the label passed away. Ritter said for the new album, he was striving to write something special, something more than just pop music for his friend. Closing the night with “Believe,” Ritter said he really believed his friend was listening “up there.”

See, I knew it would be a fun head-boppin’, teenage-girls-screaming kind of a night, but I’m happy to have been surprised and to have also seen another side of the Rejects, much more than just another pop-rock band.

Watch the All-American Rejects’ performance of “Believe” from the show below.