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You Sing I Write Featured On Medium

It’s always strange to be on the other side of an interview. I’m so used to interviewing people, when the tables are turned it’s a little unsettling! I’m super grateful to Donna Block at Medium for wanting to highlight me and my journey into country music earlier this year. You can read the full feature at Medium and I’ve included an excerpt below.

Growing up in Jersey. Which artists and songs were your favorites to listen to?

I grew up on oldies and pop music. I remember loving Elvis Presley and the Beatles as a kid since my parents were always tuned into New York station WCBS-FM 101.1. It was around the seventh grade when I discovered other music existed and quickly fell in love with the Backstreet Boys and every other boy band that existed at the time. From that I started listening to more singer-songwriters like John MayerJason Mraz and bands like Switchfoot. I eventually had a punk/rock phase and loved acts like the All-American RejectsGood Charlotte and later Jersey’s own the Gaslight Anthem.

Country music. How did you decide to become a journalist in the industry?

When I started my blog in 2007 I was mostly covering indie, rock and pop artists. It wasn’t until I attended the 2009 CMA Fest in Nashville with some friends that my passion for country music began. I covered the festival for Marie Claire, and attended my first press conference. Darius Rucker was the first artist to come through and I didn’t realize how aggressive you had to be to get your question in. As other journalists yelled to get their questions answered, I sat there with my hand raised. The last question was asked and Darius was being ushered off the stage by his publicist, but then he stopped and looked right at me. He said, “You have been so patient this whole time. What is your question?” I fell in love with country music in that very moment and dreamed of moving to Nashville ever since.

Brett Eldredge took time off to put together his upcoming project. You said he shared how the song “Where the Heart Is” is the mission statement for the album. How has the song helped you get through these tough times?

At a time like a pandemic with so much job loss, you start to question your purpose in life. Brett’s song couldn’t have been released at a more perfect moment for me. My dream since high school was to be a music journalist and to work at a music magazine, and in a way my job defined who I was. His song is a reminder to find where your heart is and keep chasing that dream no matter the obstacles.

Music heals. What message do you want to share with artists and fans alike as we move towards our new normal?

I think the fact that so many artists are still releasing new music throughout the pandemic is so inspiring. So many of us are trying to stay positive in the midst of so much uncertainty and knowing that a new album is dropping from your favorite artist or band is something to look forward to. The country community hasn’t slowed down one bit on releases and for that I’m so grateful! As long as we have music, I’d like to think everything is going to be OK.

For more of my interview, visit Medium.

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Features News

You Sing I Write June Recap

Hanson

As I sat in my childhood bedroom this weekend, I was reminded of how far I’ve come. Home in Jersey for the Fourth of July, my room is full of hints at my future career as a journalist, but never in my wildest dreams would I have thought all this would have come to fruition. My walls are surrounded by posters, photos with bands and quotes from my favorite musicians. One that I live by is from Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman: “Be honest, and never let anyone else define success for you — money ain’t it.”

On the wall behind my bed is a framed copy of my very first front page article from the Rutgers school paper from October 2003. Nearly 10 years later I have two more articles to frame — my first concert review on Luke Bryan and band review on Mike Mangione & the Union for Billboard magazine. It took 10 years, but I finally feel like I’m exactly where I belong. I love that I can write about bands I believe in for a reputable publication like Billboard. That’s why I first began my blog: to write about artists I believe in and bring their music to those who might not stumble upon it themselves. Nearly six years later, not much has changed.

This past month I’ve interviewed some of the artists I grew up listening to. Chatting with Jack Johnson was a dream come true as much of my college years were spent listening to his music. Earlier last month, I sat down with Robin Thicke and he gave me a ton of relationship advice. A week later his single “Blurred Lines” went to No. 1.

It’s no secret that country music has become a passion of mine so when I had the opportunity to talk with Toby Keith on the phone I was floored. (He rarely does interviews). I learned the story behind his monster hit “Red Solo Cup” and he told me how his benefit concert for tornado victims in Oklahoma came together. Later in the month, I witnessed Hunter Hayes live for the first time. Verdict: go see him! (His album is my most listened to so far of 2013).

hunter hayes

That same week, I sat VIP while watching Hanson perform for their 21st anniversary. Yes, they played “MMMBop.” And of course I sang along word for word.

I’m a strong advocate of the saying, “Find a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” While getting to this place was by no means easy, there is nothing else I’d rather do. There have been many times this past month that I said to myself, “Remember this moment forever.” I still feel like a kid when I get to a show only to realize my seats are better than I thought. Granted, I’m covering these shows, but the excitement never wears off. The moment it does I’ll have a major problem. But, I don’t think that will happen anytime soon.

 

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Song of the Week

Song of the Week: “Blurred Lines”

Robin Thicke

I have been playing this song on repeat all week. While part of it was because I was preparing for my interview with Robin Thicke (yes, that’s us above!), the other part is that this track is so undeniably catchy. It instantly makes me dance in my chair, which is a little awkward if you pass by my desk at work. I talked with Robin Monday for Radio.com about the song, which just went to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

“In the studio, Pharrell and I started jamming,” he told me. “One of the first things Pharrell did was go, ‘Hey, hey, hey!’ and then we started having such a great time. We were dancing around the studio like old men. We were doing our old men barbecue dances.”

Pharrell and Thicke found themselves dancing around the studio all night to “Blurred Lines,” but he never fathomed the reception it would receive a year later.

“We felt like maybe it was something special but it was so different,” he admitted. “We didn’t know it would be this big.”

Read my complete article at Radio.com and stay tuned for my video interview with Robin where he told me what to expect from his upcoming album and gave me some love advice.

 

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Concert Reviews

Zac Brown Band Chips Away At Bucket List At Madison Square Garden

“It’s a big night for us. Playing Madison Square Garden has definitely been on our list of things to do,” Zac Brown said during the band’s Eat & Greet Saturday night in New York.

Before Zac Brown Band took the stage for their sold-out concert they served food and mingled with 150 fans. A testament to their growing success, the band continuously thanked everyone for their support.

The Eat & Greet was just one way to show their gratitude Saturday night. The other was a commanding two-hour set that spanned their catalog of hits and jaw-dropping covers from Nirvana, Aerosmith, Metallica, Van Morrison, the Marshall Tucker Band and the Charlie Daniels Band. Whether it was cover songs or their original music, Zac Brown Band showcased their signature sound and standout musicianship with minute long instrumental features and unyielding energy.

For my complete review, visit Billboard.

Categories
Song of the Week

Song of the Week: “Pontoon”

(Credit: Williams + Hirakawa)

 

I have to be completely honest: I never knew what a pontoon was before I saw Little Big Town’s music video. Growing up in Jersey with a pool in the backyard, we never went to the lake. I never even heard the word pontoon in context until their song.

 

Earlier this week, I interviewed the band for Billboard and I surveyed my co-workers to find out if they were familiar with this mode of transportation. Turns out everyone knew what a pontoon was except me. Not quite sure if I should admit this to Little Big Town, (my sister said no) I decided I might as well– but waited until the very end of our interview.

 

The band were good sports and didn’t seem too alarmed. In fact, when preparing for their CMT performance earlier this summer in Las Vegas they said most of the people they talked to there never heard the term either.

 

So, boat makers everywhere have Little Big Town to thank for teaching us all what a pontoon really is. Their fastest selling single to date, the group is providing pontoon awareness all the way up the country charts.

 

Join Little Big Town in the water below and stay tuned for my interview with them!

 

Categories
Features First Person

Gaslight Anthem Lands No. 3 Spot On Billboard Hot 200

 

If you’ve been following You Sing I Write at all over the past four years then you know of my love for New Jersey punk rockers the Gaslight Anthem. In fact, it’d be fair to say that my obsession runs deep.

 

In college I worked with drummer Benny Horowitz at Rutgers University’s award-winning newspaper The Daily Targum. It was during that time that I realized my dream career of becoming a music journalist. I knew he was in a rock band but I was too into my pop music and boy bands to pay any attention. Fast forward to an internship and later freelance work at Rolling Stone in 2008 when Gaslight Anthem were featured in the magazine as a breaking band.

 

I still remember that day so vividly. Looking at the photo of Gaslight Anthem and thinking, “That looks a lot like Benny. What does the caption say?” It read Benny Horowitz. When I went home I IM’d everyone on my buddy list from college to see if they knew anything about his band, a group that was compared to Bruce Springsteen.

 

No one knew of Benny’s blossoming rock star career. So, I went to my closest record store to investigate (Virgin Megastore RIP) and bought a copy of The ’59 Sound and Sink or Swim. I instantly fell in love with the music, the stories and imagery in the songs.

 

 

Benny being featured in Rolling Stone was HUGE. It meant that it was possible and attainable to follow your dreams and make things happen. I knew I wanted to be a music journalist from the first time I watched Almost Famous and the first concert I covered in college for that very same paper I worked with Benny at.

 

Sometimes all it takes is one success story close to home to make you realize you NEED to pursue your dream. Seeing Benny succeed was a confirmation. If he can do it, so can I. What do I have to lose?

 

After numerous failed interview attempts I finally interviewed Benny on the phone this year, just days after I attended the taping of their music video for “45” in Asbury Park. As luck would have it, my recorder didn’t work. But for some reason it didn’t matter. It was as if we just needed to have a conversation one on one to learn each other’s back story. I told him exactly what I just wrote (in fewer words), and he revealed that the day he joined Gaslight Anthem he told himself it’d be the last band he would play in. If it didn’t work out he’d just have to settle for that boring 9-5 job and live in the suburbs.

 

“I think that’s why you hear that desperation on Sink or Swim,” he told me.

 

He and some of the other band members felt that the album might be the last album they ever made so they gave it their all. It’s funny how sometimes in your darkest hour something grandeur can be created.

 

 

Benny has gone on to become a member of my favorite band and even directed their latest video for “Handwritten.” Frontman Brian Fallon reflected on this in a recent interview, saying, “It was a cool experience to be directed by your friend who you’ve known for 6-7 years. You’re watching him blossom into another facet of his personality.”

 

That’s exactly how I feel seeing Benny rock all the big stages on a nightly basis.

 

So now you know where my obsession of Gaslight Anthem comes from. It’s something even bigger than their music. It’s knowing that it’s possible for dreams to come true firsthand.

 

The boys continue their ongoing success having landed No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 200 chart this week for their latest album Handwritten which is the chart’s highest debut with 40,000 sold. I have a feeling this is just the beginning for them.