Features News

You Sing I Write's Weekly Wrap Up

The music world faced a major loss over a week ago when Whitney Houston was found dead in her hotel room. Just a day before the Grammys, rumors of several award show tributes abounded. While Adele‘s comeback performance was definitely one show highlight, Jennifer Hudson’s poignant cover of Houston’s infamous hit, “I Will Always Love You” was breathtaking.

On Monday, I started a new job at CBS Radio. Given the previous day’s events, my week had no shortage of news stories to be written. Whether it was NBA darling Jeremy Lin sharing his music taste with Fuse, or the rumors of a Chris Brown and Rihanna collaboration, I wrote about it. Since I’m still getting used to the rhythm of a full-time job my posts here might slow, but I’ll be sure to fill you in on all of my adventures on Twitter.

I was beyond excited to hear a preview of John Mayer’s new album when he posted a stream of one of the tracks Thursday. With wavering pedal steel, his familiar vocals and heartfelt lyrics, I’m anxiously awaiting his upcoming LP due out later in 2012. With so much new music due for release this year, I’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date. In the meantime, here are a few shows I’ll be catching this week and artists to have on your radar.

Mary Bragg – Tuesday 7pm @ The Living Room

This Americana songstress has a year-long residency at the Living Room titled “Mary Bragg With…” Each month, she performs two hours with a friend, showcasing new and old material as well as a collaboration with a new guest. I interviewed Bragg last year for CBS and Billboard where she filled me in on her songwriting and recording process as well as the evolution of her writing, which was originally inspired by her friend Dave Haywood of Lady Antebellum.

When Your Heart Belongs to Another from Mary Bragg on Vimeo.

Nic Cowan – Tuesday 9:30pm @ Rockwood Music Hall

This Southern rocker has major support from some of country and rock’s biggest names including Zac Brown, who produced his latest release, and Kid Rock. Cowan has songwriting credits on each of Hardheaded‘s 13 tracks, two of which feature Brown and Kid Rock.

Tragedy – Friday 11:30pm @ Brooklyn Bowl

Words can’t even begin to explain what one can expect at this band’s show. Glitter, spandex and cover songs abound. Not to mention, scantily clad personal trainers jump around onstage while other members of the entourage blow glitter into the crowd. Finally, fans are brought onstage for an impromptu dance party. These are just a few of the elements that make for a truly unique show. Did I mention they’re an all metal tribute band to the Bee Gees?

What albums are you most excited to hear this year? Which bands are on your radar to see live? Let me know!

Interviews Q&A

Q&A with The Trews

Over the summer, I caught up with Canadian-based rock band The Trews after an intimate performance in Brooklyn. “I find playing in the living room more nerve-racking than playing in front of 30,000 people,” frontman Colin MacDonald admitted after their set. “Playing in front of 25 people in a living room, you can really feel the eyes on you.”

After their set, the band filled me in on their songwriting process, what it’s like performing to American audiences and learning from the bands they tour with like Kid Rock and Robert Plant. Be sure to catch them tomorrow at Mercury Lounge. For complete tour dates, visit their Web site.

Their fourth album, the standout Hope and Ruin, is a departure from previous studio albums as the band wrote and performed everything live. A more organic process, The Trews spent time recording at The Tragically Hip’s Bathouse Recording Studio. Located on the shores of Lake Ontario between Toronto and Montreal, the band lived in and wrote the album at the converted mansion.

“We were just trying to catch lightning in a bottle, just playing until it felt right,” MacDonald said. “Bathouse has a tree house kind of vibe, it’s a good hang. It has a pool table, record collection, woods in the backyard, lake in the front yard. It’s a really cool place to focus for a band, to get out to the country and really focus on the task at hand. It’s really informal. We’ve recorded records at places that have felt a lot more clinical.”

For this record, the band went into the studio for the first time without songs completely finished. “The Dreaming Man” was written over coffee with their producer after jamming on a D riff.

“We had a great little melody and great little jam and I found some lyrics for it from some other song I had. It was done that night and recorded,” MacDonald said.

Songwriting isn’t always that easy though, guitarist John-Angus MacDonald explained.

“Sometimes songs are more fully formed upon delivery than other ones. For the most part, we want to have music that you feel something from,” explained MacDonald ‘s brother, John-Angus. “I don’t think the lyrics have ever come first for us. It’s mostly just a feel, melody, groove or riff and we either shoehorn or Colin comes in with lyrics that are more fully finished than others. Lyrics can be painful. If you don’t get them right away, it could take a while.”

Colin went on to explain that songs often come from what the title dictates.

“A song like ‘Hope and Ruin,’ came from a magazine cover somewhere. I saw hope and ruin and thought it had a nice ring to it, ‘I’m going to sing that over this song. What does hope and ruin mean to me?’ It’s as simple as that. If a song comes in 15 minutes chances are you have a pretty good song on your hands. Sometimes I write from personal experience, sometimes I write from other people’s perspectives and make it sound personal. It’s not always just about me.”

In fact, often the songs fans most relate to are not about him.

“If you can write a song form someone else’s perspective and still feel it, that’s important. You can’t just keep wining about your own situation over again. You have to broaden your emotional pallet,” he said. “Sometimes you write a song that predicts your future, which is weird. Maybe it’s a self fulfilling prophecy. You write this great breakup tune and you’ve broken up four months later. I don’t know what that means, maybe it’s you asking for it. From time to time, a songwriter can tap into something that has yet to happen to him or her.”

Having toured with everyone from the Rolling Stones and Robert Plant to Kid Rock and Nickelback, The Trews say they learn something from each act they perform with.

“As soon as I’ve done my set, I’ll go grab a beer, park myself side stage and watch the entire set of the bands we’re playing with,” MacDonald said. “We just got off tour with Kid Rock and that guy is one of the greatest rock performers out there right now. I watched his set every night and he was incredible. We opened for Robert Plant a few years back. It’s incredible. It’s always a thrill to open for bands you admire.”

Having been called “the greatest rock band of their generation,” The Trews continue to expand their fan base in the United States and Australia. While performing throughout various cities in Canada always feels like home, the band admits there is something special about U.S. audiences

“This is taking nothing away from our Canadian fans, but there is a real sense of diehard devotion that we get from the fans that we gathered here from the States,” MacDonald said. “It’s there in Canada too, but I guess I’m more struck by it because the numbers are generally smaller. To see them follow us from city to city in these small clubs that we’re doing in the States just emphasizes how much they really do believe in it. That’s cool because we’re not as well known down here. Americans, if they decide they like you, they’re lifers.”

With the goal always in mind to make music they want to listen to, The Trews continue to grow their fan base worldwide.

“It’s an ongoing process,” MacDonald explained. “We’re always trying to make the best possible music that we can make. If it’s something that I want to put on when I’m hanging out at home, then I’ve succeeded.”

Catch The Trews at Mercury Lounge Wednesday night. For more, visit their Web site.

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.

Song of the Week

Song of the Week: “All Summer Long”

Maybe it’s because it has Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” featured throughout the song, or it could be the light piano and guitar playing in the background. But I can’t deny it, Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” is such a catchy song. It’s just one of those perfect summer songs that take you back in time. Listen to it and see for yourself.