Q&A Videos

Video Interview: Orianthi

One of my favorite interviews to date, I met up with Orianthi when she was in town last December promoting her debut album, Believe. Having shared the stage with Michael Jackson, Carlos Santana and Steve Vai and with the goal to inspire more girls to pick up the electric guitar, Orianthi is a stand out role model. While she began playing guitar at the age of six, she said being a female guitarist wasn’t always easy.

“Guitar is a guy’s thing. I’d get picked on a lot and school wasn’t exactly the easiest time,” Orianthi said. “Actually, my teacher told me I should play the harp, it’s more feminine. It’s kind of like being a male ballerina in a way … I loved playing guitar so much that I stuck at it. I just want to inspire more girls to pick it up and stick at it and believe in themselves with whatever they do. You just have to follow down your path.”

Watch my video interview with Orianthi below to learn more about her passion for guitar, what it was like to perform with Santana and her experience working with Michael Jackson. To read the complete transcription click here.


Video credit: Wendy Hu

Q&A Videos

Video Interview with Orianthi

Photo and video credit: Wendy Hu

A few weeks ago I featured my full interview with guitar goddess Orianthi. She’s played with all the guitar greats including Carlos Santana, Steve Vai and of course no one can forget her jaw-dropping performance in Michael Jackson’s This Is It film.

I met up with the 24-year-old Australian virtuoso when she was in New York promoting her debut album, Believe, and performing for fans. While she began playing guitar at the age of six, being a female guitarist hasn’t always been easy.

“Guitar is a guy’s thing. I’d get picked on a lot and school wasn’t exactly the easiest time,” Orianthi said. “Actually, my teacher told me I should play the harp, it’s more feminine. It’s kind of like being a male ballerina in a way … I loved playing guitar so much that I stuck at it. I just want to inspire more girls to pick it up and stick at it and believe in themselves with whatever they do. You just have to follow down your path.”

Watch my video interview with Orianthi below to learn more about her passion for guitar, what it was like to perform with Santana and her experience working with Michael Jackson.


For the complete transcription, click here.



Orianthi exploded on the music scene in 2009. After her jaw-dropping performance at the 2009 Grammy Awards with Carrie Underwood, Michael Jackson’s music director approached her via MySpace to audition for his world tour. Unfortunately, the tour never developed, but if you saw the film This Is It, you will recognize Orianthi as the killer guitarist in his band.

I met up with Orianthi when she was in town in December for a few shows and promoting her debut album, Believe. Having shared the stage with guitar legends including Carlos Santana and Steve Vai and the goal to inspire more girls to pick up the electric guitar, Orianthi is a stand out role model. Read below to learn more about Orianthi’s songwriting process, the ideas behind her songs and her experience working with Michael Jackson.

Every time I turn on the radio your single, “According To You” is being played! Did you ever expect for it to do so well?
I’m really happy and thrilled people are connecting to it and really dig the track. We have a lot of fun playing it live.

How did it feel to hear it on the radio for the first time?
The first time I heard “According To You” I was actually in Vegas. We were driving to a radio station and it was so awesome. It felt great. When you’re in a radio station you know they’re going to put it on but when you’re driving in the car and it just comes on when you’re switching stations and you hear it, it’s an awesome moment. Everyone in the car was so excited.

How was the process of recording your debut album, Believe?
The process was great. I moved to the States about three-and-a-half years ago. So the first year moving out I was writing the record and for two years off and on I was recording with Howard Benson and had an awesome time working with him. We actually recorded 18 tracks and narrowed it down to 11. It’s got a real 80s feel to it. It’s pop rock. I’m proud of it. I think it’s an empowering record. I want to inspire more girls to pick up the electric guitar and keep at it. And guys too. Just follow their dreams and believe in themselves. That’s why the record’s called Believe. I think it’s so important to believe in yourself and follow your dreams, because they do come true. If you’re persistent, it’s a lot of hard work and you have to have passion for what you do, but just stick in there.

You really exploded in 2009 performing with Carrie Underwood at the Grammy awards and later Michael Jackson.
Getting invited to the Grammy Awards to jam out with Carrie Underwood was awesome. I’m a big fan of hers and her band is great. Being out there was pretty surreal looking at rock royalty in the audience. It was a great night. I had a lot of fun. Mark Vaden, who is music director of MJ’s band, saw me at the Grammy Awards. He contacted me through MySpace and asked if I’d audition to be part of the band. That was crazy, life changing working with Michael. I was so nervous going in and auditioning for him. It’s been a crazy year. But, I’m just really, really grateful I got to play with Michael and the band and learned so much.

Is there one lesson he taught you about navigating the music industry?
He basically didn’t want us to be nervous. He wanted us to project our energy out and put on a show. He made me believe in myself more for choosing me to be part of it. Just have fun and do your best. He did his best all the time and he was such a perfectionist. I think everyone that was chosen to be part of the tour is going to carry on with his spirit and just follow down our paths, whether it be music or dancing. I think everyone that was involved in the tour; we all have that bond for being a part of it. It felt like a family.

The last song on your album, “God Only Knows,” was that dedicated to him?
Yes. Dedicated to Michael and my good friend Diane who passed, who was only 25. Losing them within two months of each other was really hard. Going through that, writing a song that just means a lot to me. Every time I sing it, it’s pretty emotional. It’s an emotional track.

Have you performed it?
Actually, I did. I was hosting a viewing of This Is It and I played it before the movie acoustically.

What is your songwriting process? Do you work from guitar riffs first or do lyrics come to you?
Both. The writing process is always very different, whether it starts with lyrics or a melody or guitar riff or chords. That’s the exciting thing about it; it never starts the same way. It keeps it interesting. And, working with different people while collaborating, it’s a lot of fun. Sitting in a room and by the end of the day coming up with a song you didn’t think you would have. I actually wrote a new song two days ago.

You’re such a stand-out performer and well respected among guitarists. I saw an interview with Carlos Santana where he said he wants to pass his baton onto you.
It’s so awesome to have the support of your idols. Santana and Steve Vai. Writing a song with Steve Vai for the new record was so much fun. My first ever support was opening for Steve when I was 15 in Adelaide, Australia. Getting Santana’s support, he was the reason why I picked up electric guitar when I was 11, so having that is just so awesome. I look up to them both immensely. I don’t think you can ever stop learning off of players like that.

How do you feel being a woman in such a male dominated industry?
Playing guitar growing up and going to school wasn’t easy for me because guitar is a guy’s thing. I’d get picked on a lot and school wasn’t exactly the easiest time. When you’re lined up at auditions with other guys and you’re going for the same part, they’re like, “You shouldn’t be playing guitar.” Actually, my teacher told me I should play the harp, it’s more feminine. It’s kind of like being a male ballerina in a way.

I think there should be more female guitar players. But, it was really hard going through school so I can see why maybe some would pick it up and then give it up. If they’re going to the same auditions or playing in a band and they’ve got a lot of problems from the guys. Some guys are really supportive, but quite a few weren’t. It was an interesting time for me, but I loved playing guitar so much that I stuck at it. For me, I just want to inspire more girls to pick it up and stick at it and believe in themselves with whatever they do and guys too. You know, you just have to follow down your path. Whatever you get in life, just keep on going down that path.

That goes along with your song, “Feels Like Home.” The lyrics are so inspiring: “Failure never crossed my mind/I will take a chance every time/And spread my wings/I’ve never been afraid to try/Put everything on the line.” It seems like you had this motivation to keep going no matter what anyone else said.
Yeah. ?
??Feels Like Home” is one of the first tracks I wrote coming over from Australia to LA. It feels like home in America now because I have great people around me, awesome friends, people I work with. It just feels like a second home for me. It’s a great place. Ever since I was six and I picked up the guitar for the first time playing along with Elvis songs and looking on the back [and reading ] Made In America, I wanted to come over to America to make a record one day. It was a dream come true to have made the record and to hold the hard copy not too long ago. It’s been crazy. It’s been a real journey.

I love “Think Like A Man.” What was the inspiration behind that song?
Well, it’s pretty lighthearted track with the lyrics, “I’m gonna shorten my attention span/Think like a man.” Actually, Doug [Robb] from Hoobastank, the lead singer, is singing backup in the chorus. I got him to sing the harmonies. He’s like, “Wait a second; I’m bagging men in this song.” He realized after he sang the song. I’m like, “Yup. Sort of, not really.” It’s all in good fun. It’s got a real AC/DC vibe to it as well. The lyrics are really lighthearted. We love playing that song live.

What’s going on through your head when you’re performing?
Lyrics. Chords. Leads. There are quite a few things to remember, but to have fun is the main thing for all of us. We love playing our instruments. I just want to inspire more kids. Mike, my drummer, wants to inspire more kids to play drums. He still has that childlike enthusiasm for playing. I think everyone does in the band. We just try to do our best, but at the same time have fun with it. It’s been a pretty crazy few months. Getting to play full sets has been awesome, when we get to actually play for 45 minutes. I just have a lot of fun playing with my band.

What’s next for you? Do you have any more dream collaborations?
I would love to do a song with B.B. King. That would be awesome. Keith Urban would be amazing. I want to do a song with a rapper, I think that would be pretty awesome to play some leads while someone raps. Timbaland or Jay-Z, that would be really cool. To win a Grammy award would be amazing. And to go on a world tour, just to play around the world and put on an awesome show. I’m already thinking lots of sparkles and pyro extravagance.

Do you remember the first time you picked up your guitar and the moment you decided, “This is what I want to do the rest of my life?”
Yeah. It just felt right picking it up when I was six. I don’t know, it probably sounds weird, but when I first picked it up I remember that feeling of it being almost familiar. It was a challenge, yet it felt familiar. I just have such a passion for it. I want to continue to learn as much as I can from musicians that I jam with. It’s an instrument that’s not an easy thing to play, but every day picking it up and wanting to move forward so when I’m 80 and look back I’ll think that I’ve progressed and evolved as a musician.

What’s your advice to aspiring guitarists?
Practice as much as you can. Play out as much as you can. Form a band. Write as many songs as you can and put it on a CD. Record yourself and send it out to people that you respect. Just get yourself out there. I get a lot of emails like, “What do you suggest I do to make it?” And all I just said is what I did. I put myself out there all the time. If someone came into town that I wanted to support, you just send your CDs to them. Bombard them.

I bombarded Carlos. He probably thought, “Put this girl out of her misery and meet her.” When he came to town I was 18 and I got to meet him and I thought he was going to sign my guitar but I got to meet him and I got to jam with him. His support, that’s how I came over to the States. He was showing the DVD of us jamming. It’s been a crazy dream. It’s a lot of work, but if you have a passion for something just go with it. You can’t just sit in your bedroom hoping it will be handed to you on a platter. If you want music to be your life, acting, whatever you do, do your best, put yourself out there and play as much as you can.

Features News

Faithful Departed: Michael Jackson

While music fans often cling to memories of their first concert experience, I vividly remember the very first music video I watched — Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” It was at my cousin’s house sitting on her mom’s plastic covered couch while our parents sat in the dining room having coffee. “Thriller” gave me nightmares for weeks, and I still cringe every time I see Jackson transform from sweet guy on a date at the movies to a character from the crypt. But, that is the job of a true entertainer — leaving your audience with something to remember. Lucky for us, Jackson has a legacy that will last for years to come.

I don’t know what first sparked my interested in music, but I know Jackson had something to do with it. He paved the way for so many artists, inspired and let each know it was okay to step outside his limits and express his creativity through music. Maybe that’s why I chose music journalism as my career path. Interviewing bands who worked with and were influenced by Jackson has been a humbling experience. Who knows where they’d be, or where I would be, today without that kind of presence in this world.

Growing up, all I ever listened to was New York City’s oldies station, WCBS-FM 101.1. It was my dad’s favorite. The Jackson 5 was part of my childhood, along with Elvis Presley, the Temptations and the Beatles. Songs like “I Want You Back” always put a smile on my face. At nearly three minutes long, it was an endearing track about wanting a girlfriend back. I had no clue what the song was about at the time, but loved it regardless.

His influence and power to inspire go on
Jackson’s life was a rollercoaster ride and there’s little doubt that he was a deeply troubled soul. Over the last few months of his life, Jackson was rehearsing for his upcoming tour dates at the O2 arena in London, which he hailed as his “final curtain call.” It was also supposed to be the answer to the enormous debt Jackson had amassed. He died less than three weeks before his first show, and the rehearsal footage made it to the big screen as This Is It. The film provides a glimpse into what could have been Jackson’s most electrifying performance yet. While watching the film, I was moved by the opportunity to witness what such an incredible performer was really like up close.

I still remember hearing the news of his passing and realizing the effect he had on the world. Whether it’s up-and-coming indie band Lights Resolve titling a song after him, Justin Timberlake or Black Eyed Peas’ praising his work, it is evident that his influence goes far beyond what any of us realize.

Jackson himself was very conscious of his desire to inspire others: “That’s why I write these kinds of songs,” he said in This Is It. “It gives some sense of awareness and awakening and hope to people. I feel so blessed that I can give the world that.”

I couldn’t agree more. Whenever I’m out and I hear a Michael Jackson song come on the radio, I can’t help but smile. His songs will remain an important part of my life. Jackson’s music not only jumped musical hurdles, but cultural and spiritual ones as well. His music is a form of escape, giving people faith and belief that everything will be okay. And, from a three-minute song, sometimes that’s all you need.

This article was originally posted on Busted Halo last week for their Faithful Departed series. You can read it here.



Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” Breaks Records

This Is It is a must-see for music lovers and above all, Michael Jackson fans. The film showcases rehearsal footage for Jackson’s upcoming dates at The O2 arena in London, to which he hailed as his “final curtain call.” What was quickly regarded as being his comeback performance, 40 shows were added to the initial 10, all of which quickly sold out. Dying less than three weeks before his first show in London, This Is It is a glimpse into what could have been Jackson’s most electrifying performance yet.

For nearly two hours, the movie theater is transformed into the stage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles where backup dancers, musicians, and concert directors prepare with The King of Pop. The viewer is taken backstage as the dancers audition, Jackson instructs the musicians down to the last chord of a song and the pyrotechnics and backdrop is revealed.

The film showcases Jackson’s showmanship and attention to detail, even having one band member state, “Michael is a perfectionist and you don’t really find that in pop music today.” I couldn’t agree more. Throughout the film, fans watch the production of MJ classics transform on the stage including “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin,” “Smooth Criminal,” “Thriller” as well as Jackson 5 hits such as “I’ll Be There.”

While the box office numbers report $101 million on its worldwide opening, the US failed to perform at the level Sony wished for, bringing the domestic total for this past weekend’s run to $21.3 million, Rolling Stone reports. US outlook aside, since being released Oct. 28, This Is It has become the highest-grossing concert film of all time.

A fitting tribute to The King of Pop, This Is It brings the fan up close and behind the scenes of a music legend after his tragic death. Although he is gone, the film and his music will live on and continue to break barriers. No one can state it better than Jackson himself: “That’s why I write these kind of songs. It gives some sense of awareness and awakening and hope to people. I feel so blessed that I can give the world that.”


For an in-depth review of the film, read Peter Travers’ take in Rolling Stone here.


Saturday Song Addiction: Halloween Edition

Halloween has always been my favorite time of the year. Maybe it’s my chocolate addiction or the fact that you can dress up and be whoever you want for one day. Either way, here are a few songs to get you amped for tonight’s festivities.

Michael Jackson “Thriller”


Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett and The Cryptkickers “Monster Mash”


Backstreet Boys “Everybody”

I really can’t help but always be reminded of this video around Halloween. Come on, werewolves, vampires, Jekyll and Hyde? Now if only I was coordinated enough to learn that dance . . .

Watch the “Everybody” video here.

What songs did I miss? Is there a track that always reminds you of Halloween?


R.I.P. Michael Jackson

It has been confirmed that Thursday, June 25, Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, passed away at the age of 50. Conflicting reports mentioned a coma, but it has been confirmed that Jackson died of cardiac arrest at 2:26 p.m. PST at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

While many may remember Jackson for different aspects of his life and career, it is his role in the music industry that is most pertinent. From his early rise as a child star in popular group, the Jackson 5 to branching out to a solo career, it is his music that inspired many and was the foundation for numerous artists to pursue a music career of their own.
Hundreds of articles are flooding the Internet with obituaries and recaps of his death, but I figured I’d post two that stood out to me. You can read the LA Times piece here and Rolling Stone‘s recap as well as look through a photo archive of his RS cover stories.
What do you think of Michael Jackson’s death? What are some of your favorite songs of his? I still remember the first time I saw the music video for “Thriller” at my cousin’s and had nightmares for weeks!
Song of the Week

Song of the Week: “Thriller”

To this day, Halloween is still one of my favorite holidays. Maybe it’s the chocolate. I still remember the first time I saw the music video for Michael Jackson’s song “Thriller.” I had nightmares for weeks! Watching it now, it still creeps me out, but it’s such a classic. I can’t embed the video below, so check it out on YouTube or just watch the dance portion below. Happy Halloween!



Lights Resolve

Back in April I met the guys of Lights Resolve while touring for a few dates on the “Get A Life” tour. After winning Samsung’s “Unsigned Battle of the Bands” contest, Lights Resolve opened up each night of the national tour followed by Street Drum Corps, Army of Me, Straylight Run and headliners, the Used.

I caught up with Matt, Neal and Sherman of Lights Resolve this past Saturday when they were playing at Maxwell’s in Hoboken and learned more about the three-piece band, their music and tricks of the trade in getting concertgoers to remember them. Their set Saturday was incredibly energetic — one of the most lively I’ve seen in a while — at times Matt and Sherman even jumped off the stage to play in the crowd.

Afterwards, they gave tickets away to their show this Saturday at Blender Theater in NYC, which you can still get tickets to (for free!) by emailing Lights Resolve here. I’ll be there covering the show so look back for a review next week and, if you haven’t yet, check out their tunes on MySpace, I think you’ll dig. Read below to learn a little more about the band.

Here are the names and instruments they play so you get a better idea of who is answering:

Matt — vocals/guitar
Neal drums/percussion
Sherman bass guitar/piano/vocals

Tell me a little about Lights Resolve. You were all in another band together, right?
Sherman: We were in another group, been around the block, had fun, got to travel to Southeast Asia, East Coast, the States. We were a four-piece and then one day we came to the bridge where we needed to downgrade to three and Matt started singing lead vocals, Neal stayed on drums, I was still rockin’ bass and we’ve been Lights Resolve since two years, since 2006.

You guys were just on the “Get A Life” tour with the Used. How did that come about?
We saw that Samsung was running a contest for a band to open up for the Used and being Used fans, thought it was a good opportunity so we just posted a song called “Lost and Jaded” on the site and ended up getting more votes than anybody. It was something like 200,000 votes or something crazy and then we won. They ended up giving us a nice, fat check to go on the road with them and we got to go on the whole “Get A Life” tour with the Used, Straylight Run, Street Drum Corps and Army of Me and we just had a blast.

That was the first big tour as Lights Resolve. We had done two national tours before, they were each a month and a half or two months each so we had a good bit of real touring experience, but this was more luxurious touring. The venues actually had people in them and we had catering and all that stuff and we were playing with really good bands as opposed to before, we had to work our asses off to get 10 or 20 people in the room to play for them. It was really good that we had that experience beforehand because we knew a lot more. Once we got on the Used tour we knew what to expect and now we know even more so what to expect after being on that type of tour. So, we kind of covered it all besides the Rolling Stones tours or anything. We haven’t done that, but that’s next. [Laughs].

What did you learn from watching the other bands on the “Get A Life” tour?
Just learned how to perform a little better, learned how to function on the road a little better, learned what not to do, learned what to do, learned what works when trying to get people into your music and trying to get them to walk away with a t-shirt or a CD or just something from the band. Some interesting stuff. One of the things we saw was when we put up our gobo, which is a light shining through a little cut and our logo shows up as a background for our set, we ended up selling 50% more merch then when we didn’t have it. So we learned that a logo does something, it gives people something to remember. We were the first out of five bands on that tour so we really had to make our mark on them because there was a circus after us with Street Drum Corps. So, we had to make our mark and we found that that was one way to do it. Another way was we were out there peddling our stuff and working our asses off to try to get people into the band. Dedication.

Neal: I think the biggest thing for us was, when you’re playing bigger rooms it’s very easy to only play to the people in front of you, but I think we learned how to play to the entire room. That means, if kids are in the back or to the side you’ve got to basically play to everybody. I think playing with enthusiasm and excitement really rubs off to the other kids so when they see that you’re putting your all into it, it’s kind of like cause and effect. I think that was really important, learning how to perform on a big stage especially because we’re only a three-piece so we have to cover a lot more ground than maybe a four-piece. We definitely learned a lot about performance.

Is it harder being a three-piece?
Matt: It’s way harder. Every note that you hit is an obvious note and if you hit a wrong one, you’re fucked. It’s the generic thing to say, but there’s more weight to pull for each member being a three-piece. The way we try to fill that out is we try to . . . at least I try to use a lot of delays on my guitar and try to fill out the sound. Sherman plays the bach organ on his bass, Neal hammers the drums. We try to leave as little space as possible unless it’s warranted for what we’re playing. It’s all about filling the space.

Neal: If your guitar breaks a string, you’re in deep trouble. If your bass player cuts out, it’s two people.

What do you do differently during a show being the opening act vs. the headliner?
Say the headliner’s name a lot.

Neal: Yeah. I think your job as an opener is to get the crowd warmed up and ready to go, so I think you just have to go out there with no fear and just have to lay it out on the line and have fun and be exciting. I think that’s what translates. You can’t think of yourself as the opener you just have to say, “You know what, I’m about to play. Let’s do it! Let’s have fun and kick ass.”

How much does the audience’s vibe affect you as a performer?
Well, I think it’s a lot better when the audience is into it. You feel a certain type of energy that you can’t really explain it, it’s just there and you can’t help but feed off it. Sometimes when the crowd isn’t into it, or they could just be into it but maybe they’re just not as animated, you still have to do the same thing and look past it and play. Play for yourself, play for whoever you can, it’s the best thing you could do.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?
We’re definitely working on new material right now. We’re taking the summer to do just that, we have a bunch of new songs. I think our plan is probably in the fall to do some kind of tour, whether it’s either September do the Northeast and branch out in October and do something, possibly a national tour. We’re focusing on new songs right now and just getting those ready and possibly recording soon as well.

Matt: The reason that we’re playing so many shows right now is because we want to test the new music that we’ve been working on. We never went into a studio and just recorded a song that we haven’t played live yet, so we’re hoping that we can get all the songs that we’re writing and play them live and see how they translate on a stage because that affects what we think of the song a lot of the time. So if you’re doubting a song and you bring it out there it could work and its great, or you can bring it out and it can fail miserably. We only want to do stuff for the stage, because we have more fun playing live on a stage than in a recording studio, that’s just how this band works.

What is your writing process like for each song?
Sherman: Well, we have a cool process. Every song sometimes will take a different toll, but typically we’ll have a melody in mind or some sort of progression, like an order of chords on the guitar where we’ll bang it out in our rehearsal space, in Neal’s basement. We have all our gear down there and the kit and we just build off of simple progression. Vocals tend to be . . . would you say later, Matt?

Matt: I usually end up using the first thing that comes up, just because that’s the most pure and untainted. Not all the time, but that’s my favorite thing to do — just use the first thing that I come up with, just because it sounds more natural and unforced. We haven’t had the best recording experiences thus far. Our first CD we’re not that happy with, the actual recording process that we went through. And we learned from that for the second EP that we did.

Our friend Ryan Siegel, who is now in a band called The Urgency, he recorded that for us with a guy named Brian Chasalow and the two of them just helped us on that as well as Alex Ferzan helped us. That one we came to the table with a little more knowledge of what we wanted with this band and the certain energy that we wanted to capture. At the same time it was limited because it was in Brian’s house. We just set up in his house and went for one weekend and we took three days to do it so that was also limited. So this next recording we kind of know exactly what we’re looking for and we’re hoping to get into some kind of, I don’t know about real recording studio or what, but we know what vibe we’re looking for and we know we want to capture the energy of our live show, which I don’t know if we’ve fully done yet. This one we will definitely do that, there are no questions, we’re not compromising.

I really like your latest EP, Currency and the first track, “The Hills and Michael Jackson.” How did you come up with that title?
It does go along with the song if you listen to the lyrics and you think about it for a little bit, it will make sense. The title came to me when we were in California and the song . . . I think the song came after the title, so I think that maybe the title influenced the song somehow.

Do you have a favorite song you like to perform?
Right now my favorite recording of what we have is “The Hills and Michael Jackson.” We all love playing “Lost and Jaded,” we love playing “This Could Be the Last Time.” I don’t know; all the new stuff. Whenever you write a new song, that’s all you want to play. You don’t want to revisit all the old stuff. It’s all about the new stuff every time you come out with something new. We want to rework some of the old songs. We found by playing them on the stage that some stuff doesn’t work because we’re a three-piece. We tried to record as a three-piece and in some cases it worked and in some cases it didn’t. So we’re going to end up reworking some of the songs to make them fit how we play.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge for Lights Resolve?
Not killing ourselves. Everything. Everything about being in an up-and-coming band right now is a challenge. I don’t know how to expand on that, there are too many things.

Sherman: For someone who has no idea about being an unsigned group — packing our own van, paying for the van every month, sometimes playing some odd gigs, it’s all a part of what we do. Every now and then we get a bone thrown to us where we get something prestigious and then packing the trailer right after. It’s a lot of different duties. We also have to be really good about being on the computer and stuff like that, as much as we may not like to because we’d like to focus more on the music, but we have a really great time communicating with all of our fans. They’re kind enough to send us messages and bake us cookies and whatnot. We have some very sweet fans, very thoughtful. Having really supportive fans makes us think really positive about this crazy business.

Matt: I remember when we were playing South by Southwest this past year back in March. We had a couple of shows that were not part of the South by Southwest festival and they were on the other side of the tracks at a place called Pete’s Bar which was smaller than this room and it was the Mexican part of Austin. It was all, probably first generation Americans, their parents were Mexican I think, or maybe some of them were Mexican. I don’t know, whatever it was, these people weren’t the normal people that would go and see a show with all the dyed hair and everything. These were just people going to have a drink or whatever and they didn’t know what to expect, they were just hanging out. We ended up playing and the people just were having a ball, they were just having a good time.

That’s when I realized it’s so great to just play music and have people enjoy it and it made it all worthwhile because I had been bummed being as SXSW and seeing so many bands and so many people’s noses in the air. SXSW this past year just wasn’t my vibe and then when I crossed over the tracks and met these “real people” and we had a good time with them, it kind of made it all make sense to me. It was funny because the drummer that we played the show with [in the other band] said the exact same thing so we had a similar experience.

What is it about Lights Resolve that makes you stand out from other bands out there? What would you say to convince people to come check you out?
Sherman: The tightest pants. [Laughs].

Matt: We just have fun. Not a lot of bands do. We have fun onstage, we’re all somewhat proficient in our instruments. We’re very tight as a band because we’ve been together for so long, through the other band and this band so the tightness is there. Maybe our only goal is to put on the best show that we could possibly put on. All the other stuff goes
with it — writing songs and having a hard copy so that people can go home and listen to it. But, we want them to live for seeing the live show. I guess word of mouth gets that out. I know on the Used tour a lot of people had checked us out for the first time and were impressed and even the other bands that we were on tour with were really excited that we were on the tour and we would walk into their dressing room and they would be singing our songs and it was just a cool vibe. It’s just about that. Right now, Will from Straylight Run is working on some demos with us and Quinn from the Used played guitar for “This Could Be the Last Time” with us at some of the Used shows, I got to sing “Box Full of Sharp Objects” with the Used. Why would anyone want to see us? I don’t know. If they want to see tight, white pants. Maybe Sherman. The smiley drummer.

How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
I think it’s very atmospheric, somewhat anthemic. For the three-piece that we are, we try to produce this big sound that’s meant for, hopefully someday a big arena. There are a lot of dynamics. I think it’s really this big rock sound is what we are.

Matt: Its cinematic alt-rock I think. It’s a bit theatrical.

What are your hopes for the future?
We hope to become rich and fat. [Laughs]. We hope to just write the best music we can write and come up with the best show ideas that we can come up with, be on as many tours as possible, reach as many people as possible. I mean, it seems like the pretty standard thing for any band to say. Try to figure out something in this changing industry right now that could be cool to do that nobody else has done. We’re still working it out.

Do you feel that a band needs to have a record contract to be successful?
I think at some point it’s necessary for a band to have some kind of funding or some kind of promotion behind it. That’s usually a record label, whether it’s an indie or a major, just somebody financing the band. Money does play an important role because you can’t do a lot of the stuff that you want to do without money and you can’t accomplish a lot of the things you want to accomplish without somebody pushing your material and it’s hard when it’s just the people in the band pushing your material. I don’t know whether it’s a label or whether it’s money or what it is, but at some point you need to step it up and have somebody else take the business reigns out of your hands.

Sherman: I would agree with Matt completely, but being unsigned thus far, we’ve had more success then a good percentage of cats out there. So, we’ve been really, really lucky so far without the big bucks behind us.

What keeps you going?
Every time somebody says they like your band or they like your song. We just came across a video of a girl on YouTube that a girl sent us, actually there were a bunch. First, there was a girl from Bakersfield, California, who played beautiful guitar and sang beautifully, she did a cover of “The Angel Sings,” one of our songs, and she did her own version of it and just did it really, really cool. I didn’t expect it to be so amazing, but she did and that was really cool to see. The other one was this girl, she filmed it in her garage with her cat on a leash, and she was just dancing in her own world, loving it. I would never even be able to dance that way if I wanted to try, but she had her own thing, so that was cool. Really cool. It’s just the little things. It’s people saying hi. I also sometimes snoop around on the net and read people’s blogs and stuff about their experience at the show and you never realize, you never think what people do in order to make your show. They have to take the train and the cab and do all this stuff just to see you. That made me appreciate it more.

Neal: I think playing live is just the best thing anybody could do. If you can make a living out of it and performing, it’s the most incredible thing. It’s so raw and real and that’s what we love doing the most. Having people you like to play with helps too. It’s doing what you love with people you want to be with.

If you checked Lights Resolve out on MySpace and liked what you heard, pick up a copy of their EP’s on and catch a show when they’re in the area! Below is a live interview I found of them talking more about their music and influences as well as clips from various shows and performances. Let me know if you’re planning on attending the Saturday show! And be sure to email them if you want tickets!



Phil Bensen

Fellow New Jersey native Phil Bensen sat down with me before his performance at The Knitting Factory. Bensen’s music is the perfect blend of soulfulness reminiscent of the Jackson 5 intertwined with pop influences of musicians like John Mayer and Maroon 5. Before warming up for his set, Bensen took some time to discuss his musical influences, hopes for the future and the inspiration behind some of his songs. Be sure to check him out at the Bamboozle Festival this May and visit his MySpace for more tour dates and album tracks.

I read that you started out performing in college.
I always wanted to get into music but I never had the patience to sit down and do it. My college was a real liberal arts school, it was very artsy – people playing music in courtyards and stuff like that. They had these coffee houses and the first night I went to one of those I was like, “I have to do this. This is what I have to do.” And that’s when I started to play. I had played before that, but I really got inspired. I loved it. So then I started playing, never thinking it could be a career. And then just getting better and my voice developing, writing some songs it was a natural progression. Here I am two years later, there you go.

You’ve been on tour the last two years, right? How has it been touring with bands like Lifehouse and the Jonas Brothers?
Well, technically I guess the last, yeah two years. But not really always on tour. Kind of getting shows here and there and recording and getting all that stuff ready to go. I only played one show with Lifehouse. The Jonas Brothers have been great to me. It’s not like, the best fit for me musically, but it works. For them to be playing sold out House of Blues and stuff like that and to invite me along because they like my music is a really cool thing. And so I’ve done shows with them, toured the west coast with Secondhand Serenade and Powerspace and just shows like this, up and down the east coast with Sparky’s Flaw. Bamboozle. Two years ago I was there, but it was on the small stage and no one knew who I was. Last year I played on the main stage and it was really cool. This year I don’t know yet. I know I’m in the line-up.

What inspires your music?
The great songs with great hooks, songs that are not cheesy, that are real music, you know? Like The Beatles, Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, Maroon 5, Bright Eyes I love. There are so many. I’ve always been a big fan of Elliott Smith. My stuff is . . . I don’t know, I’m kind of breaking away from the acoustic ballady kind of stuff and going more towards funky, cool, more pop-rock sort of stuff. That’s sort of the direction I’m going in. But also having some of the ballads too.

I really like your song, “Paper Airplanes.” What’s the story behind it?
It’s actually a good story behind that song. I was playing an open mic, trying to get anywhere in music, and there was a guy singing a song, “Paper airplanes fly so high” and I’m thinking to myself, “No they don’t. That’s kind of a dopey thing to say. They crash. It’s a piece of paper.” And I thought, “Hey, that might be a cool concept.” You know, with something delicate and beautiful and it gets destroyed. I thought it’d be a cool thing to pair that to life in general. It’s sort of a pessimistic view on the world.

There are all these stories within the song, what inspired those stories?
A lot of times, especially when I was in college, after partying it’ll be like 2 in the morning and it was always cool to look up at the sky and just see planes go by and I don’t know, it was just almost like a somber, sad kind of place. And then, the train story in there was a real thing. You see yourself and you see a guy that’s 20 years older and a guy that’s really old and you’re like, “Wow, that guy was once my age, once this young.” And there was this guy on the train ready to die. I don’t know. That’s my song. It’s almost like a Catcher in the Rye inspired song in a sense where the guy in Catcher in the Rye wants to be protecting all the kids jumping over the cliff and there’s no way he can do that.

Do you have a favorite song to perform?
You know, it changes every night. It’ll be like, “Wow that song felt really great or that song didn’t.” I like to play “Bruised.” I think it has a bit of a dynamic. It’s just a MySpace special, but it will be on my next album. Then there’s this song called “A Little Respect” that I like to play. “Not Good Enough” I like to play. There are more, but I like to play the more upbeat songs because they’re just more fun to play.

Do you have a favorite venue you’ve played at?
I played the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and that was awesome. There’s so much history. The people there were so nice and they kind of carried on the tradition that old-folk, country singers have and they’re so into that tradition of music. They’re like, “Hank Williams was here and he did this and this and it’s so great to have you guys here.” The venue itself is really cool. The balcony wraps around and so you’re almost covered in the audience. That was cool. It was the Jonas Brothers’ show and there were thousands of people there. It was really cool.

What are your hopes for the upcoming year?
I hope to get a big deal like Sparky’s Flawless and I don’t know, write a song like “Who Let the Dogs Out” part two [laughs]. I really want to get a deal and write a record. My record’s gotten out, but something that people listen to and are like, “Wow! I love that!” That’s my goal. And really continue to build a fan base.

How would you explain your music to someone who’s never heard it?
I try and do that all the time. I’m like, “You know Maroon 5? You know John Mayer? Well, it’s kind of like a mix of those two.” That’s like the best way to describe it. Sort of like a soft pop/rock/soul/jazzy. Jackson 5 too.