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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!

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Features First Person Q&A

You Sing I Write’s Top 13 Interviews of 2013

kenny rogers

It’s hard to believe 2013 is coming to a close. I’ve been so lucky to interview some incredible artists this year, some that I never would have dreamed of getting the chance and others I’ve been dreaming up meeting since the seventh grade. Here’s my Top 13 interviews of 2013.

1. Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys

Do I need to say more? He filled me in on how difficult life as a boy band can be when your fiance is receiving death threats on a daily basis. That made me throw away my lifelong dream of marrying fellow bandmate Brian Littrell. Yes, I truly grew up in 2013.

2. Willie Nelson

I interviewed Willie on his tour bus and yes, it did smell like pot. I’m not quite sure if I got a contact high, just because I was so high on life after interviewing him. And that’s the truth. A true legend, he opened up about why he can’t live without songwriting and how the first time he heard his voice played back to him he hated it.

3. Kenny Rogers

The Gambler. He had the absolute best stories and a true passion and gratefulness for his long career.

 

 

4. Robin Thicke

I interviewed him the week “Blurred Lines” went to No. 1. Also, this was the first time I ever interviewed an artist who kept his sunglasses on throughout the entire interview which was a little awkward at first. And he gave me some great relationship advice.

 

 

5. Gavin DeGraw

The first concert I ever covered back in college, this interview was a long time coming. And I finally learned the story behind his hit “I Don’t Want To Be.”

 

 

6. Jack Johnson

My roommates throughout college had his music on repeat. I’m  happy to say he’s exactly the man you think he is as perceived in his music.

 

 

7. Plain White T’s

The first song I ever learned on guitar was “Hey There Delilah” and Tim and Tom made me blush while I recounted the story of my friend teaching me. In all fairness, they did have some pretty interesting views on relationships.

8. Brett Eldredge

I must confess after interviewing him three times this year, I may have developed a slight crush on this country singer. His album Bring You Back is by far my most listened to release from this year.

 

 

9. Deana Carter

After seeing Deana Carter perform at the CMA Songwriters Series, I was excited to talk with her on the phone and learn about her latest album. The conversation geared it’s way into talking about how much we both love the TV show Nashville where she filled me in that she in fact auditioned for the star role.

10. Toby Keith

I came to learn the full story behind the song we all love to hate “Red Solo Cup” and he gave me some exclusives to his album which came out this fall.

11. Jason Derulo

The most thoughtful interview, I was at first startled at how he would stop and really think about answering my every question. After a while, I just let the dead air stay until he told me what he wanted to say and truthfully, I think that’s the best way to conduct an interview. Leave space to let the artist really open up and tell you something they may not have otherwise if you just jump to ask them the next question.

 

 

12. Will Hoge

I sat on his tour bus before a performance at The Bell House in Brooklyn as he told me the story behind my favorite country song, “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and opened up about country music.

13. A Great Big World

I was so excited to see this band succeed this year as I’d been catching them perform over the years throughout New York. There’s something so refreshing about a band you saw perform at a tiny club in New York to sharing a stage with Christina Aguilera.

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Features Q&A

Q&A: Gavin DeGraw

(Courtesy: RCA Records)
(Courtesy: RCA Records)

Last month, I interviewed Gavin DeGraw. A long time coming, his was the first concert I reviewed back in college and part of me has always wanted to meet him and tell him this. Nearly 10 years ago, I still remember the moment so vividly. Notebook in one hand and camera in the other, I was able to get to the front row of the show at Rutgers and a thought flashed through my head, “I could do this for a living!”

Of course I had already seen the film Almost Famous, but for some reason it never occurred to me that being a music journalist could actually be a real job. That Gavin DeGraw show changed everything. I began writing for our entertainment section of the school newspaper, interned at MTV, Rolling Stone and JANE Magazine in hopes to somehow make a career out of it. Somehow, much blood, sweat and tears later, I made it happen.

When I sat down with DeGraw, we talked about the struggle of starting out in music can be, the state of today’s music, his new album Make A Move, and the story behind his smash hit, “I Don’t Want To Be.”

“When I wrote ‘I Don’t Want To Be’ I was hearing so many of the songs that were coming out at the time and so many of the new artists that were coming out in different genres. Essentially they would say, ‘My name is… I’m from some place, all my homies or all my people or all my friends are like such and such and I represent this.’ I thought, ‘It seems like such a simple way to approach it, but realistically it’s so smart to just write a song that is essentially stating your identity.’”

Watch the video below, and for more of my interview with Gavin visit Radio.com.

 

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Features

You Sing I Write October Wrap Up

kenny rogers

I’m writing this post from a lovely spot in Nashville, Tennessee, called Edgehill Cafe. Fans of the television show Nashville may recognize this name as being the record label home of Rayna James and they’d be correct. Located on the corner of Edgehill Ave. and Villa Pl, it’s also nearby the famed Music Row where many record labels are stationed as well as some songwriting houses.

This October, You Sing I Write celebrated six years. It’s crazy to think of everything I have accomplished since my very first post. Things came full circle last month when I sat down to interview Gavin DeGraw. The very first concert I ever covered back in college, I told him that his show was what initially sparked me to pursue music journalism. Surprised and humbled, he gave me a high-five and we went on with the interview, where he told me the story behind his monster hit “I Don’t Want To Be,” why he chose to pursue music, and his latest album Make A Move.

My friend Sarah highlighted YSIW last month. For the feature, we met up in Brooklyn and she interviewed me. It was strange to be on the other side of an interview but it also reminded me why I first created YSIW six years ago — to highlight bands I believe in. I’ve been lucky to be able to extend this coverage to the outlets I write for, which is more than I ever expected.

The major highlight of October was interviewing Kenny Rogers. He was such a pleasant interview and told the story behind so many of his older hits, meeting Dolly Parton for the first time, and his versatile career.

 

 

Another incredible moment this month included a lunchtime concert by Paul McCartney in Times Square. I’m not quite sure when I’ll get another opportunity to see one of the Beatles perform so I made sure I caught his brief gig. McCartney played a 15-minute set showcasing songs of his latest album, New. Tweeting out a mere half hour before he stepped in a truck on 46th and Broadway to perform, hundreds of fans showed up to catch a glimpse and hear some tunes.

I also interviewed Will Hoge, an incredible Nashville-based singer-songwriter, who also happens to have written one of my favorite country songs, “Even If It Breaks Your Heart.” Hoge has been in music for 15+ years and is brutally honest about the industry which was incredibly refreshing. On his tour bus, he told me the story behind “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” which went all the way to No. 1 for the Eli Young Band.

After six years, I’m so grateful that I still love what I do. I really don’t know what I would do if I woke up one morning and was tired of music. Luckily, I don’t think that will ever happen.

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Features News

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!

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Features

Blast From the Past: Gavin DeGraw Plays Rutgers University – circa 2004

Though the concert was nearly four years ago, it’s one of those nights that I remember like it was yesterday. I anxiously anticipated this concert for weeks, telling my editor at the time, Monica Rozenfeld (you can check out her blog here), that I wanted to cover the show for our college paper, The Daily Targum. True to her word, Monica hooked me up with a press pass for Gavin DeGraw’s show that semester.

I had gone to plenty of concerts before, being the concert junkie that I am — always the first to find out about an artist coming to town and constantly informing and recruiting friends to attend shows with me. But, I had never “covered” a concert. Sure, I had attended various college events and meetings and wrote about them, but it never occurred to me to catch a show and write about it — until now.

The perfect explanation of this epiphany is similar to that of the movie Almost Famous and it’s main character, student journalist Will. He just knew music reporting was what he wanted to do for a living, despite his mother’s wishes for him to become a lawyer. Well, I didn’t go on tour with Gavin, but that experience — standing front row of the concert, notepad and pen in one hand, camera in the other capturing the show — made me realize that this is what I wanted to do the rest of my life.

Below you can read my first-ever concert review. I know the first few “newsy” paragraphs are a bit boring, but I was writing a news story for the paper. I’d like to think my writing has gotten better and more intriguing over the years, though. I hope you think that as well! And, as you can tell from my very brief quote from Gavin, my interviews have gotten much better also.

Singer, heartthrob DeGraw croons into college girls’ hearts

Hundreds of students anxiously waited outside the Busch Campus Center’s Multipurpose Room Friday night for the long-awaited Gavin DeGraw concert sponsored by the Rutgers College Program Council. With a crowd of more than 400 students, excitement was in the air, and students patiently waited for the concert to begin.

Lori Smith, assistant director of Rutgers College Student Leadership, Involvement and Programs and advisor for RCPC music committee, said the concert was a part of a variety of music they try to sponsor all year long. Previously this year, RCPC sponsored many different acts including folk, jazz, hip-hop and punk. Next semester, RCPC plans to feature gospel and retro music and will also find three acts for RutgersFest.

Smith said many people expressed interest in having DeGraw come to the University, and they did what they could to get him here. “I hope students have a good time tonight and enjoy the concert and feel excited that Rutgers is bringing cutting-edge stuff here,” Smith said.

Rutgers College senior Michael Worthington, vice president of RCPC music, explained the group decided to bring DeGraw here because, “People definitely knew his music through his theme song on “One Tree Hill,” his music video and being at the Thanksgiving Day parade. We saw him as a rising star.” Worthington said tickets sold out in a day-and-a-half.

University College junior Rone Alonzo, RCPC music chair committee member, said that the group started planning the event two to three months ago. Alonzo said he was impressed with students’ reaction to the concert and that RCPC received a lot of e-mails asking about the concert. He said that he was looking forward to “a very relaxed concert with good music” and said there was a great turnout with DeGraw being the last concert of the semester.

Christina Krupinski, a Rutgers College sophomore and staff member for the event, said this was one of the better concerts this semester. “The buzz is pretty big tonight,” Krupinski said.

Worthington said that due to some late arrivals, the show started 40 minutes late. But fortunately, all groups involved – security, facilities, parking and transportation, and the student center operations – were understanding and worked with RCPC throughout the night, he said.

Opening Act from New Jersey Chris Batten and the Woods took the stage around 10 p.m. to an excited crowd, playing a 40-minute set including some songs from their albums, the 1960 song “Shake” and a Christmas song. The crowd showed much enthusiasm toward the rock ‘n’ roll band, singing along, dancing and clapping to various songs while Chris Batten, singer of the four-member band told the crowd, “Please do not be afraid to dance tonight.”

Many students were impressed with the opening act. “I really enjoyed the opening artist. They had a really original sound. Out of all the concerts I’ve seen, they were the best opening act,” said Jess Frey, a Douglass College sophomore.

Shortly after 11 p.m., Gavin DeGraw arrived on stage to a crowd chanting, “Gavin, Gavin,” and some screaming, “I love you Gavin!” DeGraw and his band performed many songs for the next hour from his album “Chariot.” Playing for an hour, some of his songs included “Just Friends,” “Crush,” “Follow Through,” “Chemical Party,” “Belief,” “Nice to Meet You Anyway” and the obvious crowd favorite “I Don’t Wanna Be,” theme song from WB show “One Tree Hill.”

DeGraw was quite the crowd pleaser, with audience members singing aloud to all of his songs and going crazy when he entered the crowd to shake hands, thanking students for attending the concert. His performance concluded with his song, “Chariot,” and he informed all who attended he would sign autographs right outside the room after the show.

Douglass College sophomore Celine Tardy, who attended the concert, said of DeGraw, “He’s a really good performer live and has an amazing voice. He really gets in touch with the audience when he sings.” She said she went to the concert because she really enjoys his music.

Tina Madan, a Rutgers College first-year student, attended the concert with some friends and said DeGraw is “an artist that has a lot of soul.”

“The concert really united many different kinds of people that were there to enjoy his music,” said Ally Tseng, a Douglass College sophomore.

Batten, the lead singer of the opening act said he really enjoyed playing Friday night. “It was great, a really amazing crowd. We really appreciated [the audience]. They were one of the best audience’s we’ve played for. It was nice to open up for a band that’s actually good.” This is the second time Chris Batten and the Woods played at the University, the only college they have played at. Batten said the group previously performed at the University last year for Livingston College’s Springfest.

And after spending the evening performing at Jingle Ball, Gavin DeGraw came to the University and stayed until 1 a.m. signing autographs, where he said he enjoyed playing at the University. “I had a great time. It’s as good as the people think it is,” Degraw said.

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Concert Reviews

Gavin DeGraw Serenades Fans Over the Makeup Counter of Macy’s

The makeup section of Macy’s department store is definitely not your typical concert venue. However, for 35-minutes Tuesday night it was for lucky New York Gavin DeGraw fans. Following a signing with DeGraw and Tommy Hilfiger on the second floor of Macy’s Herald Square, fans were ushered outdoors to 34th Street to await entrance into DeGraw’s 10 p.m. show.

Though it was a short set of seven songs, DeGraw’s ongoing jokes and explanations of each song had the audience in constant laughter from the moment he walked onstage. DeGraw started off the night on piano with “Follow Through” from his debut album, Chariot. A strong, soulful song, his voice reverberated throughout the first floor of Macy’s. Fans in the crowd enjoyed the intimate performance, one screaming, “I love you, Gavin!” to which he quickly responded, “I love you back. I don’t know you, but I think it’s gonna work.”

The night featured a mix of DeGraw’s older songs, such as breakout hit “I Don’t Want To Be,” as well as some newer material from his latest, self-titled album. Before introducing “Cheated On Me,” he slyly asked the crowd, “Has anybody in the room falsely accused someone for cheating on you?” to which a few hands raised. He quickly retracted himself and sarcastically commented, “Then you’re alone. Because that hasn’t EVER happened to me.” With lyrics “I’m a jealous guy/I hear people talk/And it isn’t hard to believe/I think you cheated on me” for DeGraw, the song is pretty explicit. Who knew rock stars had insecurities?

Fans enjoyed requesting songs throughout DeGraw’s set, one of which he sat down at the piano for a few minutes and admitted, “This is a great song, but I can’t remember the opening line.” Crowd favorite of the night seemed to be current guitar-driven radio hit, “In Love With a Girl.” DeGraw ended the intimate set with the title track off his debut album, “Chariot.” A slower jam, the song displayed his strong vocals. Complete with fitting piano accompaniment, the soulful and jazzy number had fans humming the tune as they exited the store.