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First Person

You Sing I Write Says Goodbye To NYC

A Thousand Horses

(Posing with A Thousand Horses after an interview at New York’s Bryant Park)

I vividly remember my first time visiting Nashville. It was the summer of 2009 and my two friends, Deana and Wendy, convinced me to join them on a trip to Music City for the annual CMA Music Festival. I must admit, I had little knowledge of country music back then besides Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban. Midway through the festival, though, I was sold on country music. So much so, I remember telling one freelance writer I met that I wanted to move to Nashville ASAP. Her advice to me: build your career and reputation in New York first. In Nashville everyone covers country music and it’s much harder to break into the field but in New York, I’d be the big fish in a small pond.

Looking back on a blog post from 2009, that initial spark and desire to move to Nashville is apparent:

Being in Nashville for CMA week really opened up my eyes into the country music realm and I was so glad to be a part of it. Somewhat of a newbie to the genre, what I saw this week were some of the most down-to-earth, appreciative and welcoming people in the business and it’s so refreshing to see the stars so receptive and engaging with their fans. I just may have to make a yearly trip to Nashville from now on!

Little did I know that yearly trip would turn into a desire to pack up all my things and move to Tennessee! When asked how I, a Jersey girl, first got into country music I always tell the story of this first trip to Nashville and my first experience attending a press conference at CMA Fest. Definitely a fish out of water, I had little knowledge of the country community and press conferences. I had never attended a press conference before and I didn’t realize you had to shout at the artist to get your question answered. Darius Rucker was the first artist to come through the room and as all the journalists yelled to get their questions answered I simply sat there with my hand raised. In that moment I felt so out of place and questioned my even being there. 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.

“You have been so patient this whole time. What is your question?” he asked, pointing to me.

Darius Rucker

(Darius Rucker after he answered press questions in Nashville during CMA Fest)

I didn’t even realize he was talking to me so I turned to look behind me but sure enough he was addressing me. In that moment I was sold on country music. Having covered pop music for years, I really don’t think Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber would have even noticed me, let alone asked what my question was as sincerely as Darius did.

Since 2009, I have covered the country genre for Marie Claire, AOL, Rolling Stone, Billboard, Country Weekly and CBS and have gained some of my favorite New York memories thanks to the genre. Meeting Lady Antebellum at a Miranda Lambert concert at Terminal 5, then my first interview with Lady A a week later at City Winery. Kenny Chesney and Zac Brown Band being my first concert review for Rolling Stone. Spending the day with Keith Urban. The list goes on and on.

With all that said, I think it’s safe to say I built up my country music cred in New York and now it’s time for my next adventure — moving to Nashville. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. Every morning I wake up at 4 a.m. with a minor freakout. Is this the right decision? Am I going to get work? All I know is in New York and New Jersey! While all my family is up here, I won’t grow as a writer and as a person unless I jump out of my comfort zone every once in a while. So, I am moving out of Brooklyn July 31st. I’ll head down to Nashville mid-September after spending some time with friends and family in New Jersey. It’s a huge leap for me, having grown up and gone to college in New Jersey and not knowing many people in Nashville but it’s something I have to do. I know I’ll always regret it if I don’t.

To celebrate, and say proper goodbyes, I’ll be doing it the only way I know how: by hosting a concert! Next Thursday, my roommate Leah Taylor and I will be putting together a show at Arlene’s Grocery in the Lower East Side from 7-9pm including performances by Hide & Seek, Eugene Tyler Band and Leah Taylor. Come by early for happy hour and stay and enjoy some free live music. The night will be bittersweet for sure, but I have good reason to believe Nashville is the best decision for me career-wise at this moment. In the meantime, I aim to update this blog more often on my adventures, bands to watch and interviews. Stay tuned for another exciting chapter for You Sing, I Write!

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Song of the Week

Song of the Week: Darius Rucker’s “Homegrown Honey”

dariuspingo-770

Darius Rucker’s song “Homegrown Honey” went to No. 1 this week and it’s easy to see why. The song is as country as they come. Rucker wrote the song, the first single off his new album Southern Style, with Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley and Nathan Chapman. He told me last year that Kelley initially came up with the idea for the song.

“I was playing golf with Charles Kelley one day,” Rucker explained. “Charles is probably my best friend in the business. He said, ‘Man, we’ve been in Nashville seven years and have never written a song.’ I hadn’t really thought about it, but he was right. We had never written a song together. When I got to the session he had this great idea he had started with the opening line, ‘Sitting in a bar in New York City everyone here looking New York pretty.’”

“Homegrown Honey” is the introduction to Rucker’s excellent new album, which he says is the “countriest” album he’s ever released. “We’re going more into the countrier side of music than trying to go the other way,” he says.

Rucker says the success of his 2013 hit “Wagon Wheel” had some influence on the makings of the fun and countrified album Southern Style. While he didn’t sit down and consciously decide to do a song like “Wagon Wheel” again, he said it did open his eyes to the fact that he could do a “real country song” and have a hit with it.

“‘Wagon Wheel’ was the most country thing on country radio that year. It definitely opened our eyes to the fact that I can go make those country records and maybe have a hit or two and make another one,” he admits. “It definitely influenced this record.”

For my complete interview with Darius Rucker, visit Radio.com

Categories
Features First Person

You Sing I Write Celebrates Seven Years

lady a

It’s incredible to me that seven years ago I started You Sing I Write with a dream to cover concerts and interview bands. It was a very lofty goal at the time but one I was so sure of, more than anything else in my life at the time. Getting to where I am today was a long journey, full of highs and lows. I definitely hit rock bottom too. Living in Brooklyn with a dwindling savings account and no steady paycheck, the freelance life was hard. But it’s those difficult times that test you and for me, there was no plan B. Music journalism was it. I refused to settle for a boring corporate job that I dreaded waking up every day for.

Years later, I came to learn that family members and friends often questioned my path and wondered when I’d give up this crazy dream for a “real job.” Today, though they marvel at my persistence and determination to make this career work. I’ve been asked for career and freelance advice a lot recently and it always surprises me that people want to know my story.

For me, music was always a major passion, as was writing. From the first time I covered a concert (Gavin DeGraw at Rutgers University for The Daily Targum), I was hooked. It was as if a light bulb went off. I remember standing in the front row of the show, notebook and pen in one hand and camera in the other and it clicked: if I could do this for the rest of my life, I would. From there it was countless internships at Jane Magazine, MTV News and Rolling Stone. While interning and freelancing for free was definitely not easy, along the way there were signs I was headed in the right direction. An internship turned into paid work, a simple blog post turned into more review requests. And the more people I met in the industry, the more contacts I gained and the opportunities started lining up.

Hanson

Seven years ago, I never imagined I’d have a byline in Rolling Stone, Billboard, MTV News, AOL or Marie Claire but somehow it happened. And then, after a trip with some friends to Nashville for CMA Fest this boy band loving girl (that’s Hanson above, fyi), turned into a country fan. Who would have thought?

I eventually landed my first full-time gig at CBS Local back in 2012 and things felt like they finally were falling into place. It was a job where I actually got to write every day for a living. While I had always dreamed this was a possibility, I was starting to have my doubts. The gig has allowed me to meet some of my favorite artists and to sit down and have in-depth chats with them about their music, life and songwriting. Truly a dream come true, this little blog helped me get to where I am today.

Darius Rucker

The past seven years came full circle this year when I got to sit down with Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys (my childhood obsession) as well as Darius Rucker, who really made me fall in love with country music. Hearing the stories behind their songs and realizing that they are just regular people is always refreshing. I’m not sure who else this field will bring me into contact with, but I have a feeling the next seven years will bring even more moments to write about. And hey, who knows, maybe all these adventures will make their way into a book one day.

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey over the past seven years. Here’s to many more years ahead!

Categories
Videos

Video Interview: Darius Rucker

 

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Darius Rucker several times over the past few years and he’s always one of the friendliest and easiest artists to talk to. This time, he was in New York for a CMA Songwriters Series showcase so he stopped by the studio to give some insight on what we can expect from his next country album, Homegrown Honey, due out next year.

In addition to talking about the single “Homegrown Honey,” which he wrote with Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelly, Rucker revealed that he’d be releasing a Christmas album on October 27. I don’t know about you, but hearing holiday songs from Darius is already starting to put me in the holiday spirit. Watch my video interview with him above and to read the complete article visit Radio.com. The track listing for his holiday album is below.

Home For The Holidays Track Listing:

01. I’ll Be Home For Christmas
02. White Christmas
03. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
04. Winter Wonderland
05. Please Come Home For Christmas
06. What God Wants For Christmas written by Darius Rucker, Frank Rogers and Monty Criswell
07. Baby, It’s Cold Outside (featuring Sheryl Crow)
08. O Come, All Ye Faithful
09. You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch
10. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
11. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
12. Candy Cane Christmas written by Darius Rucker, Frank Rogers and Steve Leslie

Categories
Concert Reviews

Darius Rucker Debuts New Music at CMA Songwriters Series in New York

darius rucker

The CMA Songwriters Series celebrates its 10th anniversary in New York this year and Darius Rucker was along for the party last night (Sept. 3). Just hours after he announced the nominees for this year’s CMA Awards, he joined songwriters Bob DiPiero, Rivers Rutherford and Luke Laird at Best Buy Theater to perform their hits and tell the stories behind the songs they’ve written.

Host DiPiero kicked off the night with his love letter to the South – “Southern Voice” – made famous by Tim McGraw. Rucker followed suit with his love letter to his wife – “Alright.” Co-written with Frank Rogers, Rucker explained how the previous time the two got together they wrote a divorce song and quickly decided that they should try to write songs they can play for their wives.

In addition to playing his brand new single “Homegrown Honey,” a song he wrote with Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley, Rucker debuted “Southern Style.” Written with Rutherford and Tim James, Rucker said the track will be the second single off his fourth country album due out next year. The soulful number praised a woman who was raised in Southern style and is a fan of Lil Wayne and Lynyrd Skynyrd. “I love that song. That song gives me chills,” Rucker admitted once he was done singing it.

Other highlights from Rucker included “Southern State of Mind,” in which he called out a girl in the front row with the song’s title tattooed on her. Earlier, he told the story behind “Let Her Cry,” a song he and his band Hootie and the Blowfish made famous. Written in college after a night of drinking, he explained how the Black Crowes’ “She Talks to Angels” and Bonnie Raitt’s album Home Plate influenced the song. “I went home that night and I wanted to write ‘She Talks to Angels’ for Bonnie Raitt,” he said.

 

 

Standout songs throughout the night included Laird’s “Give Me Back My Hometown,” which he wrote with Eric Church. On his drive from Nashville to North Carolina to meet up with Church for a songwriting session his truck broke down so he bought a new one. Once he got to Church’s cabin he told him, “Man we gotta write a hit because I just bought a truck.” The song would later go on to No. 1 on the country charts, so he got his wish.

Meanwhile, Rutherford made the tears flow with his poignant ballad “Stealing Cinderella,” which he said he wrote with his father-in-law in mind and now dedicates to his two daughters who just left for college.

 

 

“It’s an amazing job. Making shit up and getting paid for it,” DiPiero joked during the show. After listening to the songwriters play and explain each song they wrote for two hours it was easy to see why. Rucker further showcased how inspiration could strike anywhere when he ended the evening with a spirited sing-along of “Wagon Wheel.”

“Wagon Wheel” was written in part by Bob Dylan and later finished by Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show. Though Rucker didn’t write it himself, he managed to put his own personal spin on the track. He explained that the decision to cut the song came from his daughter’s high school talent show. In the midst of making his third album, once he heard the faculty band countrify the song he knew he had to record it.

“I won’t ever cut a song that I don’t want to play for the rest of my life,” he said. “I have to play this for the rest of my life.”

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Features First Person Interviews

Story Behind the Song: “Wagon Wheel”

darius_bts

Courtesy: Capitol Nashville

There’s no denying my love for Darius Rucker. A huge reason I fell in love with country music, he was the first artist I ever interviewed in a press conference setting and an experience I’ll never forget. It was 2009 and my first trip to Nashville. At this point in time I was very much a country newbie and a fish out of water in the press room.

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.

Since that moment, I fell deeply in love with country. I’ve been lucky to have interviewed Darius three times since that day in the press room and he’s always been such a nice, friendly guy and great interview. During my most recent interview, he told me the story behind his GRAMMY-nominated song “Wagon Wheel.”

“When I heard ‘Wagon Wheel’ at my daughter’s high school talent contest, I don’t know what it was about the song, because I had heard the song before,” he told me. “When I heard it there I just thought, ‘Man some day I’m going to cut the song for a record.’ It was really one of those lightning bolt things that I can’t even explain.”

Read my complete article here.

 

 

Categories
Features

Darius Rucker Digs His Boots Deeper Into Country

Me and Darius Rucker

While I’ve been saving my country posts for my relatively new Tumblr blog, I thought it was fitting to come back to You Sing I Write for this post. In fact, if it wasn’t for me starting this blog in the first place I would have never discovered my love for country music. Back in 2009, I visited Nashville for the first time and that experience became one of my top 5 moments of the year. This is what I wrote:

“The community between artist and fan is phenomenal and even the press are extremely welcoming. I remember my first night in the CMA press conference and being extremely nervous because the biggest country stars would be there for interviews. Martina McBride, Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley! A Jersey girl covering the Nashville music scene, I was definitely a country newbie. I kept raising my hand throughout the night in hopes to squeeze a question in and quickly learned you have to be aggressive and shout out your questions to the artists. Lucky for me, Darius Rucker noticed my continuous unsuccessful attempts and while the PR person was ushering him off the stage he pointed to me and said, “You’ve been so patient this whole time. What’s your question?” I was shocked and humbled.”

That experience forever changed my preconceptions of country music and I fell head over heels for the genre.

Fast forward to 2012. One of the first interviews I conducted for CBS was Darius Rucker. He was opening later that night for Lady Antebellum and came into our studio to chat about his new single at the time “True Believers,” and what we could expect from his forthcoming album of the same name. I was finally able to tell him the story of that night in the press conference and thank him for making me a country fan and he was so appreciative.

Today, he released his third country album and having interviewed him three times over the past year we decided to make a video package from the content he provided in support of his new album. You can watch the complete video below. To learn more about his album and the story behind many of the tracks on True Believers, visit Radio.com.

 

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Features

You Sing I Write’s 12 Most Memorable Interviews of 2012

Josh Turner

2012 was quite the year. In February, I started a new job at CBS full-time where I interview bands, cover concerts and write music news stories every day. Pretty much my dream job that I was starting to doubt existed. In addition to many memorable interviews I finally met John Mayer (!!!), attended my very first music video shoot (Gaslight Anthem!), album listening party (Justin Bieber) and album release/film screening (Rascal Flatts).

Throughout the year I’ve interviewed so many artists and while it was hard to narrow down my favorite interview I’ve compiled a list of my 12 most memorable interviews from 2012. While some allowed me to bring my mom along (Josh Turner), others were over the phone (Gaslight Anthem) but none were any short of interesting. I’m sure 2013 will bring even more excitement. Happy New Year!

12. Rascal Flatts

Rascal Flatts have been making music together for over a decade. With eight albums under their belts, it’s nearly inconceivable that the popular country trio almost called it quits. But they did and I learned this all at a red carpet film premiere in New York where I chatted with the band.

“We’ve been more excited about this one then we’ve been in a long time,” Jay DeMarcus told me of their new album Changed. “We feel like we’ve got renewed energy and a resurgence of the spirit of what Rascal Flatts was about to begin with.”

11. Jerrod Niemann

I know I’m not supposed to be friends with rock stars (at least according to Almost Famous) but country artists make this so difficult! The moment I met Jerrod Niemann I knew it would be a great interview. I started off gushing about my love for Nashville and by the end of the interview we were discussing cowboy boots (he had on a pair of alligator skin boots!). A bit self-conscious about wearing mine in NYC, and finding it a cliche to wear them while interviewing a country artist at that, Jerrod put me at ease. “Hey, everybody thinks I’m crazy most of the time,” he told me. The next week I wore my pair of boots to work twice.

10 and 9. Benny Horowitz and Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem

If you’ve been reading this blog over the years then you know of my obsession with Jersey band The Gaslight Anthem. This interview was also a long time coming. I used to work with drummer Benny Horowitz 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.

Well, 2012 was finally the year. I interviewed Benny and frontman Brian Fallon after their music video shoot 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.

The day after I was on the set with the guys for their music video shoot I spoke with Benny on the phone and he informed me that Gaslight’s debut album Sink or Swim was full of desperation because in his mind that was his last shot at music. He had been in bands since he was a kid and in his head if Gaslight didn’t work out he was going to give it all up and get a boring 9 to 5 job. Luckily for him (and the rest of us) that never happened.

8. Gari Lamar Askew II aka John Mayer’s photographer

John Mayer has been an infatuation 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 (Gari) who had traveled with him and had photos on display at the exhibit. This guy not only traveled with John, but considers him a friend and only had the nicest things to say about him. After I interviewed him about his experience working with Mayer he was able to get us inside. Gari 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.

7. One Direction

Having grown up a boy band fan, I can recognize when the next big sensation is coming. Early in the year I received a press release on One Direction, revealing that their first U.S. fan signing brought over 5,000 fans to a local mall in Boston. I mentioned it to my boss and we learned the guys would be in town in a few weeks so we set up an interview.

I had a flashback to the 90s when Backstreet Boys, N’ Sync and 98 Degrees ruled the charts when I saw girls line up hours before their concert at Radio City Music Hall (and heard their screams from the 44th floor of my building!). When I interviewed the boys of One Direction I got a behind-the-scenes look at what life is like for the current music sensation and it wasn’t pretty. With back-to-back interviews lined up on their day off with little but a second break in between, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the guys. A few of them kept remarking how they just wanted to go home while the publicist assured them they just had one more interview (which they didn’t). Just a glimpse into their daily life made me thankful I never became a rock star.

6. Little Big Town

There is no concert I look forward to more than the CMA Songwriters Series held at Joe’s Pub. It’s here that the songwriters and singers from Nashville come and share the story behind their songs and perform in a round. I attended the show Little Big Town were performing at and afterwards interviewed the band for Billboard. The day I sat down with them their ever popular single “Pontoon” just hit No. 1 on the country chart. It became the group’s very first No. 1 hit. Incredibly down to earth, I confessed to the band that I never knew what a pontoon was before their song.

They shared with me the story behind the song and how it was important to showcase their live sound on the new album. In order to channel their live performance, the band came into the studio at 6 p.m. to record as if they were rehearsing for a performance later that night.

“We just wanted to do something different. That was our producer’s idea, Jay Joyce,” Kimberly Schlapman said. “He wanted us to come in like we were playing a show and to have the energy and a little bit pressure like it is to put on a show. He wanted us to sing it live and put us on the spot a little bit. That was his idea and it worked like a charm.”

“I think it’s just a bolder, bigger, more confident sound from us,” Phillip Sweet said. “It’s unapologetic and just honest.”

One Republic

5. OneRepublic

To be honest, I was very fearful this might be my worst interview ever. The guys of OneRepublic were coming to CBS at 8 a.m. for an interview. I only had 15 minutes with them so I know I had to make it quick. From the moment they sat down though I thought it was a bust. When I asked my first question I was greeted by silence.

“You know that part in the car where I said, ‘Can you guys answer some questions today?’ Cue,” frontman Ryan Tedder said to the band.

Man, could I feel my nerves heat up, but he quickly apologized and the interview went on without a hitch.

“Can you ask the question again? I’m going on four hours of sleep here.”

4. Darius Rucker

Back in May 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 yeah I finally interviewed 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!

3. Tristan Prettyman

In June, I chatted with singer-songwriter Tristan Prettyman whose new album Cedar and Gold dropped in September. Formerly engaged to fellow singer Jason Mraz, the album was deemed a breakup album. Reading over all the press material, I wasn’t sure exactly how I’d bring up the elephant in the room, but everything was stated pretty clearly in the press release so I wouldn’t be a good journalist if I didn’t.

The more we talked about the album and her relationship, the closer I came to having to bring up his name. So, I asked if she was nervous to have Jason listen to the album and she revealed that she sent him a few tracks and he responded, remarking at the fact that she didn’t hold anything back.

As Tristan continued to talk about the songs and her relationship she started to tear up and while I wasn’t quite sure whether to keep asking questions, I figured if she felt that uncomfortable she’d let me know. We continued the interview and I was so grateful for her honesty. Writing songs is often like writing in one’s diary and she shared so much of her process and the stories behind her songs with me. After our interview, I have no doubt her release will help a lot of people deal with their own heartbreaks. And that in itself is often the goal for a songwriter.

As far as my future interview goals, while I definitely don’t strive to make anyone cry from the questions I ask them, I hope I do allow them to feel comfortable enough to let their guard down for a moment. I know it’s not always the best idea to be friends with rock stars, but building a 30 minute friendship during our interview can’t hurt, can it?

2. James Valentine

When I found out that I’d be interviewing Maroon 5 guitarist James Valentine I joked with my co-workers about the last time we used a payphone. After listening to their hit single “Payphone” on repeat I knew I had to ask him the same question.

Still trying to implement the idea of making my interviews more like a conversation with a friend, I was a bit nervous but determined to make it work. Having seen Maroon 5 perform the night before I at least had a few good conversation starters. As the interview went on I found my questions fitting seamlessly into the interview with no internal dialogue of “what am I going to ask next?”

By far my favorite interview to date, James Valentine took me behind-the-scenes of his writing process with Adam Levine, how he came to join the band, and of course the last time he used a payphone. This was the first interview I’ve had in a long time that really felt like a conversation with distinct connection.

1. Josh Turner

In September I learned that Josh Turner would be coming in for an interview. My mom’s a huge fan so I HAD to bring her along. I’ve never seen my mom speechless or star struck before so it was a treat to have her sit in on my interview and even ask Josh a few questions of her own. It was during this interview that my mom finally realized what all my hard work, unpaid internships and years of freelance work amounted to and I could tell she was proud. It hasn’t been the easiest journey convincing my family that I would make a career out of music journalism but in 2012 I finally proved it was possible. I have no doubts that 2013 will bring even more fun and a lot more stories to add to that future music memoir! Thanks for joining me for the ride.

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Features

You Sing I Write Celebrates 5 Years!

It’s hard to believe it’s been 5 years since I wrote my first blog post for You Sing I Write. Started simply as a creative outlet to keep up my writing after graduation, it’s helped lead to numerous freelance gigs at dream publications like Rolling Stone and Billboard as well as land a full-time gig at CBS writing about music every day. I couldn’t be happier, but it was no doubt a long and arduous journey.

This past week CMJ was back in town and hundreds of music fans and bands descended on the city to catch live music and attend music industry related panels giving advice of how to make it in the business. I attended one on music journalism and knew each of the panelists having worked with or met all at one point over the past 5 years. Each had insightful things to say about working in the industry but I couldn’t help but feel a little depressed afterward. The fact of the matter is the business has changed dramatically over the years.

When I first started it was the dream to live vicariously through Almost Famous and go on tour with bands. Unfortunately that rarely happens anymore Caryn Ganz, Editor In Chief of SPIN said. Another panelist, Jessica Robertson of MTV Hive, said she spends 90% of her time in business meetings and the other 10% in creative meetings.

If I was a college student hearing this I would have been discouraged, but at the same time my “prove ’em wrong” mentality would have kicked in. So, my advice: if you’re passionate about something you’ll find a way to succeed. It won’t be easy but I’m living proof that it’s possible.

Growing up a pop music junky I never would have dreamed I’d be interviewing boy bands and some of the biggest pop stars heard on the radio. Through my blog and freelance gigs I also discovered my love of country music and after suggestions from friends even started a country blog. Along the way I’ve met and interviewed some of my favorites including John Mayer (!!!), Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, Darius Rucker and Switchfoot. Not to mention toured with a band and witnessed some amazing live shows.

I’m not quite sure what the next 5 years will bring but if it’s anything like the past 5 have been they will be nothing short of interesting. Thanks for supporting me over the past 5 years. Here’s to 5 more!

Come celebrate 5 years of You Sing I Write at W.i.P. in New York on November 3rd. The night will include performances from some of my favorite acts I’ve covered over the years including Mary Bragg and The Ramblers. Stay tuned for more details!

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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.