31 Days of Women: Jesslee

Credit: Dieter Spears

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

During a year of much uncertainty, Jesslee turned to music. Her 21 Jump Start EP, out today, has the Florida native covering uplifting songs by Miley Cyrus (“The Climb”), Rachel Platten (“Fight Song”) and Katy Perry (“Rise)” as a way to give hope to listeners.

“Although making music is an outlet for me as a human being, this record is not about me,” she says. “It is about YOU, it is about anyone that needs a little kick in the pants to know that no matter what we face as human beings we have the power to rise and overcome. We are stronger than we think and sometimes just need a little motivation and love to see exactly how strong we are.”

21 Jump Start has Jesslee showcasing her vocal prowess, further demonstrating why Blake Shelton and Kelly Clarkson both turned their chairs for the singer when she competed on Season 14 of “The Voice.” While the project has Jesslee reinventing several pop hits, she manages to put a unique spin on each while her vocal runs impress.

In addition to three cover songs, Jesslee offers a powerful original with opening track “Strong.” On “Strong,” Jesslee urges listeners not to compete with others and instead to embrace their uniqueness. “You know you don’t need their approval to be who you want to be,” she sings.

The track embodies the message of her 501C, The S.T.R.O.N.G. Program, which teaches children throughout their teens to be confident in mind, body and spirit. An anthem for women everywhere, especially during Women’s History Month, “Strong” has Jesslee sharing her light with others.

Listen to 21 Jump Start on Spotify below. 21 Jump Start is available on all streaming platforms here.


Photo of the Week: Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson


I’m getting a bit nostalgic for Nashville and CMA Fest. Thousands of country music fans will descend onto Nashville this week for the annual festival. For four days and four nights bands will perform all over the city and fans will get to meet their favorite country artists. It’s unlike any festival I’ve ever been to and by far my favorite. Here’s a photo of Kelly Clarkson’s surprise appearance with Jason Aldean at LP Field last year to perform their hit single “Don’t You Wanna Stay.”


You Sing I Write's Weekly Wrap Up

Last week I wrote of John Mayer’s album release date and scheduled tour. Unfortunately, on Friday morning Mayer wrote on his Tumblr that he would have to cancel live performance indefinitely as the granuloma on his throat grew back. For more, read my article here.

Taylor Swift and Kanye West were back in the news. As West debuted his women’s fall fashion line it came to be known that Swift will be be wearing his design in her April cover story in Australia’s Harper’s Bazaar. For my complete story, visit Fresh 102.7.

Kelly Clarkson will be a mentor on a new talent-based TV show this summer. Called Duets, Clarkson, Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, Lionel Richie and Robin Thicke will scour the country in search of undiscovered talent to mentor. The show will put a spin on the talent competition as each mentor will choose two singers to be their duet partners for weekly performances.

Two weeks ago I interviewed singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson where he filled me in on his songwriting process and pranking Train on tour. You can read all about his songwriting process here and about life on tour here. Watch him discuss teaming up with Maroon 5 to prank Train below.


New Video Tuesday: Featuring Dawn Landes, Kelly Clarkson, Michael Nappi

My inbox has been flooded lately with press releases and messages from bands about new releases, music videos and upcoming concerts. Since it’s often difficult to blog about each artist individually, I decided to showcase new music videos every week that I think you’ll enjoy. If I’m missing any must see videos, definitely let me know!

Dawn Landes’ latest music video for “Young Girl” is a seductive track with catchy electric guitar and percussion accompaniment that’s bound to get every listener stomping his foot. It perhaps is no surprise then, that the latest video off her album, Sweet Heart Rodeo, features cowboy boots, hats and appears to take place at a rodeo bar. Go figure.


Every time I turn on the radio I hear Kelly Clarkson’s “All I Ever Wanted.” More gritty than her previous singles, the track showcases an edgier sound for Clarkson. While comparisons abound to Pink and even early Spice Girls, Clarkson’s signature singing style remains. Although it’s an unofficial video, fans can go behind the scenes with Clarkson performing onstage and in the studio as well as see clips of a photo shoot  in action.


Back in January, I featured Michael Nappi as an artist of the week. At times, his relaxed vocals resemble Train frontman Pat Monahan. His newest video is a moving tale of the unraveling of a relationship and the impact that just one day can have. Take a listen to “7:26” below.


Features News

A Night With Clive Davis

It is indisputable that Clive Davis is one of the most highly regarded music executives in the business. The man behind chart-topping artists including Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson, Leona Lewis and Whitney Houston, not to mention rock legends Carlos Santana, Aerosmith, Janis Joplin, and Bruce Springsteen, Davis proves his passion for music with every artist he takes under his wing.

Davis spoke to a packed room at New York University last night. The talk, sponsored by SoundCtrl, was moderated by Billboard‘s Editorial Director, Bill Werde. Entering the room to a standing ovation, Davis thanked the audience for attending despite the World Series game, which he said he TiVoed.

Known as a versatile producer, Davis said when he started Arista he didn’t specialize and instead would frequent Broadway shows on a nightly basis and Carnegie Hall twice a week scoping for new talent and music trends. “To pour yourself into it, you learn and try to permeate yourself. You learn not to specialize.”

Before attending the Monterey Pop Festival, Davis didn’t know he had an ear for music. The festival was an epiphany, he said. “Monterey was a different culture than I had ever seen before. A different attitude, different music. I just knew from every fiber of myself that this was a cultural movement, a revolution and I was very fortunate [to be there].” Davis quietly bought Janis Joplin’s contract as well as Earth, Wind and Fire shortly after. “I felt this would be the new sound for music to be heard around the world.”

Highly regarded in the music industry as not trying to fit in and look like the artists he represents, Davis said, “Over the years you learn you have to be yourself. Once you try to purposely be trendy you lose respect.” He continued, “I’ve also found that artists want a manager who’s an expert. Artists want to be protected. They don’t want you to be one of them. I don’t try to talk in the jargon of Hip-Hop. It’s always best to be yourself.”

A firm believer in listening to his gut, the music industry veteran knows what a hit song is. In fact, he told the audience that Kelly Clarkson didn’t like many of her hits originally. “It’s not easy to come up with a hit. I work very hard at not going over the hill and making sure my ears stay current. You’ve got to be on top of your game.”

Before opening the floor to questions, Davis demonstrated his listening process to the audience with three early demos of Carlos Santana’s hit, “The Game of Love.” The first demo highlighted the instrumentals of the song with a male vocalist. It didn’t sound right, so Davis suggested adding a female singer — Macy Gray. Powerful, but not what he was looking for, Davis eventually chose Michelle Branch as lead vocals. However, there is an interesting back story to the song. The original choice was Tina Turner, who refused to do a music video for the song. Davis insisted that a video was necessary for mass appeal, but Turner declined, leading to the hit as we know it today featuring Branch.

While the future of today’s music industry is unclear, Davis remains optimistic. “I do believe that there will be new labels and companies formed today. There still is that hunger for music. There still is that role music plays in people’s lives. Music is as important, if not more today, than it has ever been.”

Concert Reviews

Zootopia Brings Diverse Lineup to New Jersey

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Zootopia 2009 – What Do You Want Covered?

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

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

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