Benefit Features News

Musicians & Media Get Involved In Haiti

By now you’ve heard about the devastation in Haiti and the aftermath of the earthquake. Many musicians and media outlets have been doing their part to raise money and I thought I’d fill you in on two music related ventures — Paste Magazine‘s “Songs For Haiti” and MTV’s “Hope For Haiti.”

Paste Magazine is offering those who donate money to the Haiti earthquake relief unreleased songs from diverse artists including Ludacris, Of Montreal, Andrew Bird, Hanson, Low Anthem, Umphrey’s McGee, Switchfoot, Derek Webb and over 200 others. If you’ve already donated you still can still participate (just say where you made your donation) as all will have access to “Songs For Haiti” MP3s. All the money raised through Paste will be spread equally among three charities active in Haiti relief: Doctors Without Borders, The Red Cross and Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund.

“We obviously don’t think people would need incentive to donate in this effort, but perhaps the campaign will inspire more music fans to get involved, or to encourage people who have already donated, to donate again,” said Josh Jackson, Paste Magazine Editor-In-Chief. “Music has always been a force that brings people together, and to have so many fantastic artists drop everything to contribute to this effort was very touching,” Jackson added.

I couldn’t agree more. For more information on “Songs For Haiti” and to donate click here.

Friday night, at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT and 7:00 p.m. CT, MTV along with many other networks will host a night of performances to raise money for Haiti relief. The lineup includes Madonna, Taylor Swift, Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera, Dave Matthews, John Legend, Justin Timberlake, Stevie Wonder, Wyclef Jean, Bruce Springsteen, Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blige, Shakira, Keith Urban, Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock, Sting, Coldplay, Bono, the Edge, Jay-Z and Rihanna.

Additional appearances include former President Bill Clinton, Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, Robert Pattinson, Will Smith, Julia Roberts, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Muhammad Ali, Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Clint Eastwood, Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Jon Stewart, Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman, Nicole Kidman, Samuel L. Jackson and more.

“Hope for Haiti Now” will begin accepting donations at 12 p.m. ET/9 a.m. PT on Friday, January 22 via the following methods:

Phone: 877-99-HAITI
Text: Text “GIVE” to 50555
Mail: Hope For Haiti Now Fund, Entertainment Industry Foundation, 1201 West 5th Street, Suite T-700, Los Angeles, CA 90017

All musical performances will be available for purchase for 99 cents per song through iTunes beginning Saturday, January 23. iTunes customers will be able to exclusively pre-order both the “Hope for Haiti Now” full performance album ($7.99) and the full two-hour video telecast ($1.99). Pre-orders will be delivered in the days following the telethon. All proceeds will benefit relief funds managed by Hope for Haiti Now charities.

Concert Reviews Features Q&A

So Long, 2009. Bring on 2010!

Earlier this week I compiled a list of my top five moments of 2009. Well, there were a few more than five in there, but I tried to keep it short. I figured I’d do the same today with my top five concerts and interviews. I’d love to know what you enjoyed reading most this year so I can amp up my coverage in 2010. Happy New Year!

You Sing, I Write’s Top 5 Concerts of 2009

There is nothing I enjoy more than that goosebumps feeling you get when an artist sings a song that particularly strikes you or tells a moving tale about the origin of the song. This year I attended more concerts than any year in my life and while it’s hard to narrow down my single favorite, I compiled five that stand out.

5. Mat Kearney — September 29 at The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza

I interviewed Mat Kearney back in May when he was on tour opening for Keane at Wellmont Theatre in Montclair, New Jersey. I hopped on his tour bus and talked with him about his latest album, songwriting process and breaking into the University of Oregon to use their piano to write a song. As an opening band, your set is always cut short so I decided to attend his headlining performance a few months later at Irving Plaza and was blown away. Having had his album, City of Black and White, on rotation over the previous months the songs struck me personally and Kearney put on quite the show. Jumping into the audience mid-set he started his own dance party on the floor with fans. You can bet I’ll be seeing him next time he’s around.

To hear Mat talk about the new album, his writing process and stories behind his songs, click here. For his view on writing about personal relationships, being an opening act and advice to aspiring musicians, click here.

4. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band — September 30 at Giants Stadium

He is The Boss. Does much more need to be said? Being a Jersey girl, Bruce Springsteen’s songs are anthems to me. I actually have Mat Kearney to thank of how I came to cover his show at Giants Stadium. The night before Springsteen’s performance I was buying my friend a ticket at will call because Kearney’s show was due to sell out. I recognized a photographer I met earlier that year at Ray LaMontagne’s show and we chatted for a bit. Low and behold, the next day he needed a writer to cover Springsteen’s show for a Web site he shot for and thought of me. Wendy picked up the tickets for me and we headed to Giants Stadium to cover the show for Bumpershine. And, guess who was sitting a few rows in front of me? None other than Mat Kearney himself. A bit serendipitous, don’t you think? For my complete review, click here.

3. Tyrone Wells — October 7 at Highline Ballroom

I recently found Tyrone Wells CD Remain and have been listening non-stop the past few days. Previous album, Hold On is quite striking as well. While compiling my top five list I realized I have witnessed Wells in concert three times this year. I first interviewed him during South By Southwest and caught his showcase with Tori Amos. Later this year, Wells opened for Better Than Ezra where a couple got engaged mid-set before he dedicated and performed “Sea Breeze” for them. I was lucky enough to catch his headlining show at Highline Ballroom in October after interviewing his opening act, Matt Hires. Wells truly blew me away as he mixed his soulful and energetic tracks with his emotion-filled ballads. His onstage banter with the audience and tales behind his songs are always enjoyable and like no artist I have ever witnessed. If you have yet to see Wells live, I highly suggest doing so as I foresee him selling out bigger venues very soon.

2. Coldplay — August 2 at Liberty State Park

I’ve heard only praises about Coldplay’s concerts from friends who have witnessed them firsthand. I really don’t know why I haven’t seen them sooner. Luckily, I caught their phenomenal set at the always memorable All Points West festival this past August at Liberty State Park. The way I described APW to friends was it being Woodstock’s reincarnation if it were around in 2009. Mud wrestling, music and beer gardens was more like it. Sunday’s four-hour rain delay resulted in multiple canceled performances and scaled down sets, but Coldplay managed to save the day.

Always comical, after traipsing through the mud onto a stage in the middle of the field, frontman Chris Martin realized what festivalgoers dealt with the entire weekend. “We have infinite respect for you now that we had to walk through that shit. Wish we had backstage passes for all of you,” he said.

Witnessing Coldplay live and up so close, I have incredible respect for the band. While they played many of their hits, they also performed a moving tribute to Michael Jackson and the Beastie Boys, who had to cancel their performance due to member Adam Yauch’s cancer diagnosis. I couldn’t imagine a better band to close the three-day mudfest.

1. The Gaslight Anthem — October 15 at Terminal 5

I’ve been covering The Gaslight Anthem on You Sing, I Write, since last year when I flipped through Rolling Stone to notice drummer Benny Horowitz, former paginator of my college paper, featured as a breaking band. I did a double take and contacted all the people I knew who used to work for Rutgers’ The Daily Targum. Since then, I’ve been trying to cover a show and set up an interview to no avail. You’d think garnering an interview with a rock star you knew would be easy. Think again. After several failed attempts I d
ecided to purchase tickets to their show at Terminal 5 before it sold out. I’m so glad I did. I feel like I reverted back to my high school days of Warped Tour and crowd surfing. Then again, I think the 30-year-olds in the room did as well.

I have never witnessed such an energetic (and frightening) mosh pit in my life. It was like Warped Tour for 30+. No more emo boys, these are grown men dancing in the pit and creating havoc. I’m not going to lie to you, I did fear for my life, but that was the beauty of the concert. From the looks of frontman Brian Fallon’s face, he was just as surprised. By far the most energetic show I’ve been to all year, there is no doubt in my mind that The Gaslight Anthem will be selling out Madison Square Garden. Hopefully, by then I’ll be able to get an interview!

You Sing, I Write’s Top 5 Interviews of 2009

I’ve been trying to cut down on long top 5 posts, but as evident from my concert list above I’ve been a bit verbose. I’ll try to keep it brief with my interviews and post the Q&A; so you can read it for yourselves and see just why I think they’re my top 5 of 2009.

5. Train

They’ve reached worldwide success and many of their songs garnered top spots on memorable songs of the decade. I spoke with guitarist Jimmy Stafford at the start of Train’s tour where he filled me in on Train’s latest release, embracing the Internet and a younger fan base and the reasons behind their longevity. Read it here.

4. Better Than Ezra

After catching BTE live earlier this year, the three-piece band was back in New York for press in August. Unfortunately, I was extremely sick and losing my voice during the interview but didn’t want to cancel. It was 90 degrees in New York and the interview was at a Starbucks that felt just as warm. You know when you’re nervous and feel like you’re sweating, but it’s probably just in your head? Well, it definitely wasn’t in my head…I was dripping wet. Remarkably, the interview turned out much better than I thought. But, I did learn no matter how important the interview, if you’re sick it might be best to postpone it for a later date. Read my interview here. Note my “hottest Starbucks” reference. Clever, huh?

3. Taylor Swift

There is no denying it, Taylor Swift conquered the music world this year. I was so excited to attend her press conference during the CMA Music Festival in Nashville and incredibly determined to get a question in. Luckily, I did. Note the “your music is like writing in a diary” question. I can honestly say, she is as nice and down to earth in real life as she seems onstage. There is no doubt in my mind that Taylor Swift will be around for decades to come. Read my interview here.

2. Joshua Radin

Joshua Radin has accomplished much as an independent artist. He bought himself out of his major label contract to go on to release one of the best selling folk albums of the year. Not to mention, he performed at Ellen DeGeneres’ wedding, toured the globe and remains so humble. Case and point: When asked how he feels about being called this generation’s Bob Dylan he responded, “That’s absolutely ludicrous. Bob Dylan invented music. I just feel like that’s putting a bull’s eye on the back of my head for everyone to be like, ‘No you’re not. You’re not really as good.’ And I’m like, ‘Of course I’m not as good, I wrote my first song four years ago!’ And I probably never will be as good. But, I bet you I’ll be much better at being Joshua Radin than Bob Dylan is. That’s all I can hope for.” Read more here.

1. Third Eye Blind

Not many know this, but Third Eye Blind is how I got my start writing for Marie Claire. I remember getting dinner with my friend and colleague Diana last year and venting to her how I had a great interview with 3eb frontman Stephan Jenkins, but no music publication seemed to care. I reached out to every music magazine and Web site you could think of and they all felt 3eb was a band of the past. Boy did 2009 prove them all wrong. Diana must have seen my frustration and thought they might be a good fit for the Marie Claire audience, being that much of the reader age group grew up listening to 3eb and Stephan Jenkins was always a heartthrob. 2009 proved to be a great year for the band who released their album independently and saw a surge in their fan base. Read my interview here.

What were some of your favorite interviews of 2009? 2010 will bring many more I’m sure. Happy New Year!

Festivals Interviews

PT Walkley

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

A versatile songwriter, PT Walkley has penned scores for numerous Ed Burns films, popular commercials such as MasterCard and GE, as well as his recent debut solo release, Mr. Macy Wakes Alone. An intriguing album, the storyline follows three main characters – Audrey Macy, a spoiled trust fund kid who plots her father’s murder, Calvin the Coroner, an aspiring singer-songwriter infatuated with Audrey, and Mr. Macy, Audrey’s father and evil record executive.

Walkley has said he hopes to bring back cover to cover listening and seemingly does so, as the characters and themes on each track intermingle throughout the album. I met with Walkley at All Points West and learned about his writing process, the tales behind his music and his view on performing: “If the core of the song is good, it’ll translate.”

Do you prepare differently for a festival than your own show?
Well, we definitely wanted to do the most singalong able songs. Anything with a lot of “la-la-la’s” and “oh’s and ah’s” and one word hooks like “Somebody” has. A lot of times the set can get a little mellow, which works in some environments, but when you’re trying to appeal to a bunch of people you want to rock a little more. We had a bunch more in the set, but today it was running a couple hours late so we only got to do a portion of the set, which was still great. We had a good time.

Do you feel the crowd was receptive?
Yeah. I think the crowd was locked up for hours and hours and were just ready to hear any music they could, so we got the benefit of that. By the time we went on, people were just ready to listen and have a good time.

What’s going through your head while you’re performing onstage?
Usually, it’s “Don’t screw up,” anything from that to really trying to engage with the crowd and getting into the performance and connect back to the song. At this point, you performed it so many times that sometimes you’re just running through the motions and hitting the notes or not. Connecting back to the core of the song is the important thing.

Tell me about your latest release, Mr. Macy Wakes Alone. I read in an interview that you wanted to bring back cover to cover album listening.
I had access to all these great players and I had a lot of bigger ideas floating around in my head with string quartets and crossing the genres of country, pedal steel and all the instrumentation that goes along with all the different styles. I wanted to somehow harness all of that and tie it together with a little storyline so I did that with Audrey Macy, Calvin and the Mr. Macy storyline.

The trick was to try to give it one voice throughout even though it kind of goes all over the place. I’m happy with the way it came out. I think it really worked. We put a little intro and it has the button lift and “Somebody” melody and string arrangement at the end, which was the final cherry on top where I was like, “Okay, now I think it’s a concept record.”

How did you come up with the three main characters throughout the album?
I came up with this Audrey Macy character. I think that was first. She was based on an amalgamation of different people that I’ve met and some fiction too. A spoiled brat kid who hatches the evil plan to kill her rich Daddy. And then it was like, who is the rich Daddy and why would she kill this guy? Calvin the Coroner was just a throwaway line, she pays off Calvin the Coroner to get what she wants and then I elaborated into that. Then it spun into he was infatuated with her as a kid so he’ll do anything. He assumes, “Oh, she’ll come back some day” but she comes back to pay him off. He must be thinking, “Oh, I knew you’d come back,” but it’s really that she wants to bribe him. It’s important for me to tape these things. I’ll just spout out ideas and play and free form songs and take the good stuff and let the garbage go out the window.

You’ve written music for Ed Burns’ films and commercials. How is the process different writing an album vs. a 30-second commercial spot?
The assignments are always a lot easier when there is definite direction. It’s like, “Okay it should have this feel” and the commercials are really fun that way because you get to do a lot of different styles. That learned me the different genres a little bit. Whether it’s dance stuff or orchestral arrangements or mariachi band version of this. Sometimes you get crazy direction from clients. The assignment is usually fairly easy to cover, but figuring out what I really want to do and if it’s something I’m really going to be proud of and make my own sound is sort of hard to land on sometimes. That can take a long time.

How did you originally get into music?
You know, it was kind of late in the game. I think my parents got me a guitar when I was 15 and I took one lesson and was like, “Oh, that’s kind of like homework. I don’t want to do that.” So, I put it under the bed for a few years and then I picked it up again in college and started playing along to old Velvet Underground records and things that are easy enough for a beginner to feel like he actually knows how to play. Then it just spun from there. I started in a band in college just playing guitar and once I moved to New York I had a landslide of ideas and it just never stopped. I try to be as productive as I can. It’s good to have different avenues for all those things because all the ideas need homes, whether they’re goofy, kazoo melodies that I would never release on a record or something deep and meaningful. I feel lucky to have all the different outlets.

Do you feel a song comes out better when it actually happened to you?
Yeah, I think so. I think it has more lasting. Sometimes you can capture a character and you’re happy to sing. It’s always good when it comes from a real place. My life’s not incredibly interesting, so I try to get creative when I can. We’ve all been through some shit, so it’s good to tap into that and when you do you’ve got something really good.

Are you ever afraid to reveal too much because the person you’re singing about might be in the crowd?
I was for a while. I was just having fun with melodies and throwing out words that sounded good together. I have this other band, The Blue Jackets, and that’s fun, it’s more of a rock band and then I put out this Track Rabbit album a couple years ago. But this album, Mr. Macy Wakes Alone, even though it’s mostly character based, there is a lot of me in there. I really wanted to go inside a little more and reach from personal experience. Even in the fictional songs, I would use those characters to speak for, like a ventriloquist dummy. There is some of me in all those songs.

Chris Martin originally heard you sing wi
th your band The Blue Jackets and had you open for Coldplay.

Yeah, through Ed Burns. We had been friends for a while, I had been doing the scores for his movies and I started a side band and it started getting more and more serious. We got offered the spot to open for Coldplay and it was unbelievable. It was at Madison Square Garden. Through that I’ve gotten to know Chris a little bit. He and Eddie are friends. So yeah, that was my first brush with them and tonight I’m looking forward to seeing them again. To see how they’ve come along, I hear they’re doing well [Laughs].

What’s your advice to aspiring musicians?
It sounds so corny at this point, but God, just believe in yourself and keep going. A lot of things come your way and it’s real easy to give up. There’s going to be a lot of crappy days and a lot of things that don’t work out but if you know you’re good, you usually figure that out at some point and just keep going.

For more on PT Walkley, be sure to visit him on MySpace and if you’re in New York or D.C., catch one of his shows in the upcoming weeks.

You can also read this interview on


Poll of the Week: Which All Points West Headliner Are You Most Excited About?

Just a few days ago I was credentialed for New Jersey’s very own summer music festival — All Points West! I’m still in the process of setting up interviews with this year’s lineup but I’d love to know which headliner’s performance you’re most excited to read about. The headliners for this year are below:


All Points West takes place this coming Friday, July 31 – Sunday, August 2 at Liberty State Park. Check out the lineup here and let me know which bands you’d like to see covered on You Sing, I Write.

Grammy’s Tonight!

Tonight is the most important night of the year for many musicians — the 51st Grammy Awards! Who do you think will walk away with the most awards? Here‘s a list of all the nominations.

One of the most anticipated award each year is Best New Artist, this year’s nominees include:

* Adele

* Duffy

* Jonas Brothers

* Lady Antebellum

* Jazmine Sullivan

Tough choice! Be sure to tune in tonight on CBS at 8 p.m. for the results as well as performances by U2, Radiohead, Coldplay, Paul McCartney, Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Katy Perry, John Mayer, B.B. King and many, many more! I’ll be updating the results throughout the show on Twitter, so be sure to follow me if you’re not yet!