Stream Griffin House’s Latest Release on AOL Music

Just over a year ago, I featured Griffin House as artist of the week. A colleague introduced me to him and I haven’t been able to stop listening since. His honesty and sincerity are evident in each song and he is one singer-songwriter to be on the lookout for.

Tomorrow, he releases The Learner but you can listen to the album in it’s entirety on AOL Music here. House blends the emotional with humor on his upcoming disc. Complete with songs about following your dreams (“Gotta Get Out”) and chasing an unobtainable girl (“She Likes Girls”), The Learner has much to offer listeners. Taking a step away from past albums, his LP has a much edgier feel.

“Feels So Right” is an upbeat track that’s bound to get your feet tapping with heavy musical accompaniment including piano, percussion, horn and guitar. Though the album is definitely a step in a new direction for the Nashville singer-songwriter, longtime fans will be pleased that his meaningful lyrics and deep vocals never falter as tracks like “Let My People Go” and “Native” can attest.

Be sure to give Griffin House’s new album a listen here and stay tuned for upcoming tour dates on his Web site. You can download “She Likes Girls” for free below.

Val Emmich

Last week, I covered New Jersey based singer-songwriter Val Emmich’s acoustic set at Turtle Club in Hoboken. Before and during the show he took fan requests. Emmich said with six albums, it’s often difficult to teach his full band each individual song. “For these acoustic shows, I feel like I need to pay back my fans and play what they want to hear.”

Afterward, we chatted about his songwriting process, life at Rutgers, and how his acting roles on hit television shows like “Ugly Betty” and “30 Rock” influence his life. Read on to find out how the former American Studies major got his start in music and advice he has for you. Be sure to visit Val Emmich on MySpace and stay tuned for a new album in the upcoming months.

What is your songwriting process like?
The songwriting process for this album was a lot different. Previously, I would usually find myself in some mood. Frustrated, sad or hyper, I would pick up a guitar or set up a piano and it would come out in some way. Then, I would sing a melody that came to me naturally and work on lyrics. It usually happened in that way; music, melody, lyrics. In this case, I worked with this production team called Near Records. We just sat there and co-wrote together. I’d sit at the piano or someone would play guitar and I’d sing. It was fun for me because it got me out of my own head. Being a solo artist can sometimes have its limitations. It’s also very freeing because no one’s saying no to you.

You went to Woodstock by yourself to write a few albums ago. Do you find it better to be by yourself?
I guess it’s an ongoing search. At that moment, let’s call it a bad breakup with my record company. So, I needed to find what I loved about music again and find a rebirth. I really did feel like a child going away to learn from square one. It was really liberating. I would just sit there. I woke up in the morning, drank coffee and wrote whatever came to me. I know I wrote songs alone there with no distractions that I would have never written anywhere else and couldn’t write today because I was putting myself in that situation. I was lonely. I was isolated. I had a big beard. I was unkempt and I just feel like I had nothing to do but write, and it made me feel safe to write.

I think it’s about finding new challenges and new ways to get you out of your habits because I think you could become predictable. Often, people like first albums of people and then they think they went off. I think it’s hard to keep it fresh. This new album was the same thing. I tried to come up with a new process.

You’ve been in a bunch of TV shows including “Ugly Betty” and “30 Rock.” Do any of those experiences find their way into your songs?
Into the songs, no, but into me as a person. Anytime you can meet new people. Today I met this guy who was talking like he had a frog in his throat. I was just obsessed with his voice. Maybe a year down the line, some voice lyric will come. Or a character in fiction I write. I just feel like you should be open to life. The TV stuff, it puts me in touch with fear because I’m always scared when I do those things and I’m meeting new people and they’re used to what they’re doing and I’m the newcomer. But it’s a challenge. It makes me feel alive.

Some of your songs come across as being sad, but the music is often upbeat. Why is that?
On my last record, I wanted to try to do it all by myself with literally no one else. The Woodstock stuff, Sunlight Searchparty, I wrote by myself but then played it live for the band. For Little Daggers, I did it by myself in my bedroom. I wanted no one else to get in my head. I sent a bunch of songs to a producer friend of mine, Jason Cupp and he said, “What I like about these songs is that they sound happy, but they’re kind of sad. The good ones. You should get rid of these and focus on these other ones that have that weird juxtaposition.” He pointed it out to me. That was intentional, but it was something that came out naturally.

I love your song “Hurt More Later.” What was the inspiration behind it?
I think it’s so joyous to get into a relationship even when you have a feeling, “I don’t think this girl is the right one for me ultimately. But it feels good now. I kind of feel like she’s a cheater maybe or she’s not being totally honest. But, we have a good chemistry and the sex is good.” So, you let yourself go even though you know you’re going to hurt more later. That was the feeling I was trying to capture. Throw caution to the wind.

What’s going through your head when you’re performing? I noticed you close your eyes a lot.
Not always. This was a peculiar situation where people are right there and I didn’t have a stage. Usually when you’re on a stage and the lights are there, you’re shielded a little bit and you see nothing and that helps to open up. I did go into my own shell today.

My thoughts wander and I try to follow them if I feel like a lyric hits me and I’m angry I go with it. Or, if I feel hyper I let my body do it. I’m just trying to find a new way of enjoying it. This sounds so crazy, but I just thought [performing] does remind me of sex where someone will do something and you’re like, “Oh wow. Woah, I never thought of that. Let me do that,” and you follow the feeling just because it feels good. Same thing onstage. You’re like, “I’m going to go over here. Woah.” It’s about being open to that and I think some people are too scripted and they get into routines and they don’t feel spontaneous onstage.

Do you feel a song comes out better when it’s based on real life, or do you draw from fantasy as well?
Both. There are literal songs where this literally happened. “Shock,” a song about deceit literally happened and I just wrote what happened, my blatant feelings. There are other ones that I take an emotion and I let it wander. I find that the ones that aren’t bound to truth are usually more interesting. It’s just like acting. If you go for a role as a killer, do people assume you’re a killer? No. You just feel like, “Oh, I’ve felt anger before. I’ve felt out of control before. I can imagine taking the next step and killing. If I could just think there.” It’s the same thing with songwriting. If I feel sad I can sometimes make myself feel sadder in songs. Who wants to hear a lukewarm song? You want to hear the most extreme feeling you can and the most potent.

I went to Rutgers also so it’s always nice to see fellow alumni succeed at what they love. What was your background there?
Sometimes I wish I went to the Fine Arts school there, Mason Gross. Part of me is artistic and part of me is really cerebral and I like factoids and more scholastic stuff. [My major was] American Studies. It’s a focus on America in all different facets. So it’s history, literature, economics, politics. So many people just get a narrow focus. They only major in politics or only major in economics. I get it all, so it’s probably a metaphor of me as a person just trying to be well rounded. Someone important in my life always tells me I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none. Which, she doesn’t really mean as a compliment I don’t think. But, I do like to dabble. Maybe I’d be better off just focusing on one thing and being excel
lent at it. At Rutgers I did
the same thing, I minored in English and minored in Philosophy because I just wanted it all. I still want it all.

What’s your advice to aspiring singers?
I followed what I wanted to do. Luckily my parents weren’t the kind of parents where I came home and they said, “American Studies. What job are you going to get with that?” They supported the music I wanted to do so I was fortunate in that way. If you have a bunch of people telling you “No,” it’s a lot harder. Another person in my life found me in college and said, “I really think you’ve got something here,” and it made me believe I could do music. I really believe the nurturing of art and artists is important, which is why I always try to talk to people and answer emails because you never know when your email might be the thing that they go, “Maybe I could do this.”

My inspiration: surround yourself with people who make you believe. A friend from Rutgers was here tonight who I haven’t seen since Rutgers and he said, “It makes me feel comforted that you’re still doing what you love.” And I got what he meant. I’d be upset if some of my friends stopped doing what they love. I would lose faith. I feel like you just take examples from other people and if I’m an example to someone, then that’s an amazing thing.

Song of the Week

Song of the Week: “You and I”

Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Jenna Bryson sent me  her new single last week and I instantly fell in love with it. Her airy vocals sounds familiar and beg reference to fellow Californian Colbie Caillat, but with distinct personality. Her music has been described as, “If Kelly Clarkson and Sarah McLachlan had a baby and then sent it to be raised by Jewel.”

Bryson’s voice soars over the music beautifully on “You and I” and switches gears midway through the song with edgier percussion and more forceful vocals. It’s unexpected and puts her in a category of her own.

You can listen to “You and I” on MySpace, Facebook and Take your pick, and let me  know what you think! You’ll be hearing much more from Bryson in the upcoming months as a new record is on the way.


MaryAnne Marino

I chatted with New York singer-songwriter MaryAnne Marino last year as she was boarding a flight to New Orleans for a performance. She filled me in on her new EP, A Little Something, the transformation from being in a band to a solo artist and songwriting.

While she has garnered comparisons to Carole King and Joni Mitchell, Marino explains her music as Sarah McLachlan meets Aimee Mann. “But not as ethereal as Sarah McLachlan and not as alternative as Aimee Mann. If they were to have to have a child, maybe [I’d be] somewhere in between,” she said.

Read on to learn more about MaryAnne Marino, and give her a listen on MySpace.

Tell me about your EP. Was the recording process any different from a full record?
It was. I initially had gone into it thinking I would be a doing a full record. I had enough material to do a full record. My first solo record was done in one shot. It was a little more on schedule, whereas with the EP it moved in different phases. I recorded 9 or 10 songs and I just thought, “You know what? I’m just going to stick to doing an EP right now.” More importantly, just getting it out and having new material out. With digital distribution, I don’t know how many people are buying records these days unless you go to a show. I still go and buy records, but not as much as downloading digitally. So, I thought if that’s what people are doing, it doesn’t really matter.

You recorded nine songs. How do you decide what fits on the EP?
It just felt right, as far as the arrangements and what was coming together naturally, and that was really important for me. Sometimes when you record songs, if it doesn’t feel right you don’t want to push it to make it something. That’s the pace I was in. Although, the songs I put on the EP I really like. It made sense to wait and I think I’m probably going to do another EP, or maybe I’ll do a full record. It’s to be determined at this point. It’s what came together that felt right and natural and made sense.

You were originally the vocalist of the November Project and then you decided to go solo. What sparked that decision?
You know it’s funny; I was solo before I was in the November Project. And, actually going into a band was really different for me. I was nervous at first because I had always thought of myself as a singer-songwriter on my own. But, it was such a great opportunity and I loved the material. It was a good way to break into a scene that was new to me. It made sense at the time and that’s why I did it.

Was there a change when you decided to go solo again?
It really wasn’t because at the same time I was still continuing to play gigs [as a solo act]. I continued to do my own thing. That never stopped. November Project was just my main focus at that time. It felt really natural because in my mid-teens I was in bands. I think if the chemistry is right with the people, then it feels good.

You’re focusing on your solo career now. Do you think there will ever be a time you’d want to go back to a full band setup?
I try not to say never, but you never know. I’ve been playing with a lot of the same players for a long time. Actually, the drummer of November Project and I still play together. In a way, I always feel like when I have a band that it’s a band in my mind. It’s always nice to have the support so you don’t feel so alone. There are times when you’re trying to move your career forward and it’s so hard to do it by yourself.

What are you thinking about when you perform?
It changes. Depending on the audience or even the room, sometimes you just go off the energy of a room. That’s what I think is great about music, it always changes. Even when you play the same song, it always changes because the audience changes, the energy, or how you’re feeling or how the music is feeling. I always try to focus on what I’m doing at the moment but of course sometimes you think, “Is this right?” But you try to stay in the moment and play the music.

You’ve been compared to Carole King and Joni Mitchell. How do you feel about that?
I don’t know. I don’t think these people are…its like are you sure? Are we talking about the same people here? I’m pretty modest so I find that over the top flattering. Those are people that I completely admire. I hope to be at that level some day.

I know artists hate this question, but how would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
I have to do that all the time. Right now, I’m at the airport and the security was like, “So what do you sound like?” You’d be surprised how many times that comes up and you never seem to find the one-liner. Maybe I should come up with that. When people ask, I always say its singer-songwriter, folk pop but with an organic and almost a tinge of ethereal. I always think Sarah McLachlan meets Aimee Mann, but not as ethereal as Sarah McLachlan and not as alternative as Aimee Mann. If they were to have to have a child, maybe somewhere in between.

Your songs all have moving tales within them. Do you feel a song is better when it happened to you?
You write from all kinds of places. It could be your own experience, somebody else’s experience. If you write from an honest place, no matter whose experience it is, if it’s coming from an honest place and you’re not forcing it, then those songs always feel personal and good.

Do you find you get responses from songs that are more personal to you?
Sometimes. There are a few songs that always seem to go over really well. My song, “Conversation,” which is funny because [the lyrics are] a stream of consciousness, people really gravitate to and seem to like that one. “Dear Mom and Dad” is pretty personal and people can relate to it, for the obvious. I think certain songs do resonate with people more than others. Probably the ones that I also feel closest to translate better. I have songs that I don’t play live because I don’t feel connected to them, so I guess that makes sense.

Do you ever hold back because you don’t want to be so revealing in your songs?
I guess there’s a way to be personal, but not be revealing. There’s a fine line and it’s better to have a little bit of mystery in my opinion.

You’re headed to New Orleans to perform. I’ve heard they have a great music scene.
It’s unique to be here during this time. I’ve never been in a place that you can feel change and feel like you’re contributing to rebuilding something. It’s hard to explain because the city’s different since Katrina happened. A lot of natives left and people that remain there, it’s almost like they want to recruit people to their city to rebuild it.

It’s very different from New York. There’s no business there. That’s what it feels like. It’s more that they just love music and they love a certain type of music and that’s what is really important to them. When you go to New York or LA it becomes a hustle bustle of “Let’s get songs placed and let’s be famous.” You can’t forget the business part of it. In one way, it’s great because it’s how you grow your business and do the things you want to do as an artist. On the other hand, it’s interesting. I’m doing shows in New Orlean
s with some of the local musi
cians and they have a very different perspective. It gives you a whole other perspective.

What is the biggest struggle you face as a singer-songwriter?
There is so much out there. It’s really being heard and with the business part of the music industry changing, it’s hard to get out there and find your place. With the industry changing so much, it’s very challenging for female singer-songwriters. I think of Lilith Fair and how wonderful it was and there was a movement with great female singer-songwriters. I don’t know what happened with that, they’re not as valued as much or there’s so much else with pop music that it’s easy to get lost in it.

What is it about the music that keeps you motivated?

I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It keeps itself going in a way. Even if you’re down about it, it’s something that you do. I couldn’t imagine not doing it.

Artist of the Week

Artist of the Week: Sahara Smith

Texas-based singer-songwriter Sahara Smith‘s vocals are a unique blend of rustic and angelic. An old soul, the 21-year-old’s lyrics are descriptive and well beyond her age.

While tracks like the twangy “All I Need” relax, others, like seductive “The Real Thing” intrigue the listener.

“I used to think that happiness was hiding in the dark/I believed in everything but love,” she sings emotionally on “All I Need” with light guitar and percussion accompaniment.

Born in Austin, Smith started performing locally at 14. She garnered national attention at 15 after she was selected to compete in A Prairie Home Companion’s ‘Talent from 12-20’ contest and took home second place. Since then, she has been pursuing a career as a singer-songwriter and hasn’t turned back.

Smith will be making her New York debut June 14-16th supporting her upcoming August release, Myth of the Heart. Overseen by the legendary T Bone Burnett and producer Emile Kelman, the album will feature many of Burnett’s first-call session players including drummer Jay Bellerose, guitarist Marc Ribot and bassist Dennis Crouch.

To hear more from Sahara Smith, visit her on MySpace

Related Links:
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Band of the Week: 6th Street
Artist of the Week: Ari Hest

Q&A Videos

Video Interview with Colbie Caillat

Photo and video credit: Wendy Hu

I sat down with Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat this past Sunday before her performance for VH1 Save the Music at W Hotel in Hoboken. Caillat filled me in on co-writing, dealing with stage fright and her two Grammy wins. For the complete article, visit Hoboken Patch.

Watch the video below.


Related Links:
Colbie Caillat Debuts New Music Video
Song of the Week: “Lucky”
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Artist Profile: Colbie Caillat

Blast From the Past: Q&A with Colbie Caillat

Tomorrow I will interview Colbie Caillat in Hoboken when she performs at a special event for VH1 Save the Music. The California-based singer-songwriter is an ambassador for VH1 Save the Music and has collaborated and won two Grammy’s for her songs with Taylor Swift and Jason Mraz. Her sophomore album, Breakthrough has received rave reviews and was also nominated for a Grammy.

I chatted with Caillat just about two years ago before her US summer tour began with John Mayer. To listen to Colbie talk about how her life has changed, writing songs in the bathroom and advice from John Mayer click here. For advice from Colbie to aspiring musicians, MySpace and why she thinks “Bubbly” is such a hit, click here. Feel free to read the full interview below and check out her MySpace to catch her on tour this summer. Stay tuned for my interview tomorrow in the upcoming week!

It’s been just about a year since your debut album came out. How has life changed for you?
So much. A year and a half ago I was just working at a tanning salon and I was recording my album. Now, I’ve been to . . . I can’t even count how many different countries playing my music all over the word, living on a tour bus. It’s a lot different, but it’s fun.

Did you ever imagine MySpace would have had such a huge impact on your career?
Not at all. No, I had no idea. I didn’t even know what MySpace really was or could do. My friend made the page for me and told me about it and he helped me upload my songs and everything so I had no idea.

How did the whole process on getting your record deal come about?
Well, because I was on MySpace and was eventually on the top of the unsigned artist chart. I was No.1 and I was easily noticed by people and the record labels would notice me easily and that’s how they found me and then offered me a record deal.

You pretty much had your songs written before the record deal happened, right? Did you have a certain concept for the album?
Oh yeah, the whole thing was written. The label came into it a month and a half after we were already into recording the album. I wrote these songs and every time we’d go into the studio we’d add instruments up until when we felt like they were complete. I just wanted the music to sound good, laid-back and really pretty and uplifting and sunny and that was the concept I guess.

I read that you write songs in your bathroom.
Yeah. I do. [Laughs]. It sounds good in there. Usually when I was at home in my bathroom, I felt like no one could hear me because I was in my own little world. It echoes in there so it makes your voice sound pretty and your guitar has some reverb on it. And now, on tour, being in my hotel room I go into the bathroom and close the door because if I sing really loud, people can hear me down the hall. It’s my comfort zone.

Do you remember the first time you heard “Bubbly” on the radio?
Yeah. Well, the first time I heard it I didn’t really count it because we were on our way to that radio station. But the first time I heard it randomly, I was back home on a little break from tour and my family and I, we went out to lunch at this restaurant we always go to. Halfway through lunch, we were outside and “Bubbly” came on and my family of course started freaking out. My mom got up and started dancing. It was really exciting.

Are you tired of playing “Bubbly” yet?
There are times when I am. Usually it’s for TV performances because I get so, so nervous on TV that I always mess up the song and then I just dread singing it the next time. Lately, we just went back on tour a week ago, so now I’m actually excited to sing it again. I just need little breaks from it.

You’re starting up a summer tour with John Mayer, you must be so excited!
Yeah. I’m kind of freaking out. [Laughs].

Has he given you any words of wisdom about the music industry?
Yeah, he has. I met him six months ago and we were talking. I told him I have stage fright and lots of fears. So he just told me to have fun up onstage and not worry because anything you do up there, people laugh at. Even if you mess up they kind of appreciate it more. As far as making decisions, like business decisions, he just said to do what you feel and go with your gut so I do that and it works.

Has your stage fright gotten better over the past year?
It has gotten a little better, but it’s honestly different depending on the situation. If it’s not as big of a deal TV show I’m fine. If it’s Leno or The Today Show I freak out completely where I cry right before I go on. I do vocal warm-ups with my band before and breathing techniques and I have to remember to smile. Sometimes, depending what time of day it is, I will have a cocktail before I go onstage just to calm me down a little bit.

Your debut album, Coco, is approaching it’s year mark later this month. Are you working on another album?
Well, the third single comes out in August for “The Little Things.” We just shot the music video for that in Hawaii a couple weeks ago. But yeah, I’m working on the next album. I’ve been writing for the past year and we’ve already recorded some of the songs. We’re not recording the full album until January and it won’t come out until next summer so we have a while to work on it still.

I know you worked with Jason Mraz on his most recent album. Are you hoping to collaborate with anyone on your next album?
I’m not sure. We haven’t talked about it for my album. I’ve done a song on Taylor Swift’s new album and Jason’s album and then a couple artists from different countries. I’m not sure about doing any on mine yet, but I would like to for sure.

Your fans have been included a lot on your MySpace, often picking the next single you release. Are you planning on continuing this for the new album?
That’s what I’m trying to figure out how to happen. I definitely want that, but I’m not allowed to put the songs up on MySpace. So now I’m trying to see, maybe having my band learn all the songs first and then we’ll start playing them randomly at shows, but that’s still not the best way to do it so I’m trying to figure out a way to do that.

Your songs were taken off of MySpace for a while.
There was some disagreement with MySpace and Universal. So everyone from Universal had to take either their songs off or put shorter clips. I was trying to fight that because as much as I want to respect my label, MySpace was what got me started and my fans, I felt like that was being disrespectful to them. There was a lot of negotiation, so I was able to put my original demos up for the meantime until the lawsuit passed.

What is your advice to aspiring musicians and singer-songwriters?
I would defin

itely recommend learning your c
raft, whatever it is. Take vocal lessons if you sing or piano lessons or guitar lessons, whatever instrument you want to play. Practice all the time because I didn’t and I wish I would have more now. I can play guitar and I can play up onstage, but I’m not a great guitar player so it kind of makes me nervous. So if you just practice your craft well so that you just have it in the bag. Write your own songs that mean something to you and just be in control of your career. As far as MySpace, make your page look all cute and post bulletins, keeping people involved in what you’re doing. That’s mainly the best thing, to keep them involved.

Do you have a favorite song on the album?
My favorite is “One Fine Wire.” Every time I hear that one come on I just like the melody and the music behind it, it’s just very uplifting. I wrote that song about my stage fright and how to overcome it, so that song just means a lot to me.

With MySpace, do you feel it’s more important to get fans that way rather than TV show appearances?
Well, it’s just different. My MySpace fans are the original ones that know everything about me. They know when I had all my original pictures up of me playing guitar in the bathroom, they were the ones from the beginning that heard all the demos. They’re different kind of fans than the ones that see me on TV. They [TV fans] become more of, I guess the screaming fans and the MySpace fans are the ones that are like, “I want to say that I’ve been listening to you forever.” They’re both different, but they’re both appreciated.

Why do you feel “Bubbly” has had so much success?
I think it’s because the song is about love. Well, it’s about having a crush on someone and all the things that I wrote about in that song, everyone has either experienced before, they’re feeling it right now or they’re dying to fall in love or have a relationship. I think by people being able to relate to a song, I think that’s what does it.

What would you be doing right now if it wasn’t for the music?
I was really into photography, so I would have tried something for that or I would have gone to school for interior design. I had fun with that, I was going to school for that a couple years ago. Otherwise, I’d still be singing and writing songs, maybe for other people.

If you haven’t yet, to listen my interviews with Colbie click here for part one and here for the second half of the interview. Check out Colbie’s MySpace for more info. on upcoming tour dates and music!


Dave Barnes

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

Well known in the Nashville scene, singer-songwriter Dave Barnes is often referred to as Nashville’s favorite non-country artist. He’ll be playing Dierks Bentley’s benefit this Sunday, opened for Lady Antebellum in New York last Monday and just wrote a song for Billy Currington. Not to mention, Amy Grant and Vince Gill call themselves fans.

During his opening set at Nokia Theatre last week, Barnes joked with the crowd, had them cheer on cue and even brought out Lady A’s Hillary Scott to share the stage. “Dave Barnes is one of the sweetest and most talented guys I know,” Scott told the sold-out audience.

With his recent release, What We Want, What We Get, topping the iTunes charts, singles “God Gave Me You” and “Little Lies” receiving radio airplay and a tour with Brandi Carlile in the works, you can expect to hear much more from Dave Barnes in the near future. To learn about his latest album, songwriting process and the Nashville music scene, read below.

I caught your set opening for Lady Antebellum and the crowd loved you. Do you prepare any differently as an opening act than a headlining show?

Yeah. I really want to respect them and make sure they don’t feel like I’m trying to do my own thing too much. The deal with the opener is you’re trying to set up the closure to win. But it was fun, it was really fun.

Was the recording process any different on What We Want, What We Get from previous albums?

No. It was the same producer, Ed Cash. He’s done the last few records. The only thing that was different was that we rehearsed the songs before, which I’ve never done. I think it helped once we got in the studio, because we knew the songs and were a little more rehearsed. We took time off to record, so we had a chance to get them under our fingers so we weren’t walking straight in and didn’t have to figure them out on the spot.

I love “Little Lies.” What was your inspiration for writing it?

It’s as much to myself as it is to my wife. It’s a reminder to me that, “Hey it’s okay. Everything’s going to be alright.” And at the same time, it’s beating myself up about not being the man I want to be or the husband I want to be. I like the music because it’s still up. I really, really like it because it’s up and happy and it’s not too sad or distraught.

What’s your typical songwriting process like? Do you always carry a notebook around?

The beauty of the iPhone is that I can record so many ideas, both lyrically and melodically in there. It makes it a lot easier. I’m not having to struggle along and try to sing a melody 15 times so I remember it. I’m able to file stuff away which is so convenient. I’ve heard of guys calling their answering machines back in the day and all these different ways for remembering stuff, but now it’s just so much easier.

You wrote your current single, “God Gave Me You” about your wife. Do you feel it’s easier to write about real relationships or do your write about fantasy as well? (video below)

I try to keep it as real to life as I can. For me, I think I sing it with more conviction. And, it’s hard for me to write from a place that’s not true. It feels a little concocted.

Is there a song on the album that means more to you than the rest?

Lyrically, I really love “Amen.” I love what it has to say. But all of them, thank goodness, really resonate. It’s like children, it’s not that you like one more than the other, but they all mean something different.

You co-wrote two songs with Nashville artists, Trent Dabbs and Gabe Dixon. How is co-writing different then when you write by yourself?

By myself it is more work, which I really enjoy. I enjoy the work, not everybody does. It’s more of a challenge, but you also have more freedom whereas co-writing with someone is a lot quicker. The flow of ideas is faster paced. It can be so fun because sometimes by yourself it just gets so frustrating and laborious and it just feels like it’s taking forever. When you write with someone else, if you can’t find the groove they may be able to so it’s helpful.

What is it about the Nashville scene that’s so different from the rest of the country?

I really love the community of it. It’s such a healthy, vibrant place. So many people are rooting for each other. You’re not having contention and in competition with other people. Everyone gets to root for each other and cheer for each other and write for each other.

I’ve been reading so much about the floods. How can people get involved and help out?

There’s a lot of great stuff online. I’ve been following this one Twitter feed that is Nashvillest. They have tons of great ways to get engaged. I’m excited about getting home because I want to see what I can still do. Being gone the whole time has been really hard to watch from afar.

You went to Africa last year. How did you get involved with Mocha Club?

I got involved because my best friend runs it and he came to me about four or five years ago right when it started. He told me about it and then he took me on a trip to show me what they’re doing. I was in, I thought it was awesome. It was a pretty easy sell. It wasn’t something I was very skeptical of. It’s been awesome to see the amount of people that have joined with us as we do it. I think we may be going back this summer.

What are you thinking about while you’re performing?

It depends what show, what night, if I’ve eaten before. The Lady A show was a lot of trying to read the crowd and make sure everybody was into it and feeling it. ‘Cause you’re opening, you want to make sure everybody is interacting with you. Is there anything you could be doing to make them interact more with you? I’m just trying to make sure everyone’s with me and at the same time, trying to make sure I feel comfortable and I’m enjoying it and I’m always in it too.

When you told the crowd it was your birthday and you wanted them all to scream, were you afraid that they wouldn’t?

Oh yeah. I’m always like, “Man, this is a risk. We’ll see if this goes well.”

The music industry isn’t the easiest to break into. What has kept you motivated?

A lot of it was, it’s just such a muse. It sounds redundant because it’s in the name, but it really is. There are so many things I want to say, so many ways I want to say it. There is still so much to be conquered and explored.

Related Links:
Song of the Week: “God Gave Me You”
Lady Antebellum Talk Dating, Drunk Dialing and Dylan
Lady Antebellum Bring Nashville to New York at Sold-Out Show
Artist of the Week: Billy Currington
Song of the Week

Song of the Week: “Honey And the Moon”

Last night, I caught Joseph Arthur‘s impressive set at Maxwell’s in Hoboken (review to come). One of the most unique shows I have witnessed, Arthur painted at the start of end of his set, his artwork up for sale at the end of the night.

In addition to painting, Arthur looped drum, guitar, and harmonica alongside his vocals with the help of multiple loop pedals and took many eager fan’s requests shouted out to him. One of my favorites was his acoustic performance of “Honey And the Moon.” A beautiful ballad with descriptive and relatable lyrics, it demonstrates Arthur’s talent as a singer-songwriter.

Watch the video of Joseph Arthur performing “Honey And the Moon” a few years ago on the “Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn.” To listen to his music, visit Arthur on MySpace.


Temporary People
Artist of the Week

Artist to Watch: Amber Rubarth

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

During Amber Rubarth‘s first night back in New York after touring Japan, she invited several friends to share the stage. Performing for nearly 90 minutes, Rubarth’s girl next door charm and witty, emotion-filled vocals captivated all at the newly opened Stage 2 at Rockwood Music Hall.

Being familiar with the New York music scene, I quickly realized how close knit the singer-songwriter crowd is. Having interviewed numerous New York musicians, Amber Rubarth’s  name has come up on several occasions as a source of inspiration. I quickly realized why last Friday.

Rubarth kicked off the night with the moving “In the Creases.” With oboe accompaniment and her comforting vocals, the room stood still. Throughout the night musician friends took the stage to provide backing vocals, piano and guitar accompaniment or perform tracks of their own.

The rustic country-esque “This Is Real” showcased Rubarth and Peter Bradley Adams on vocals and Tony Maceli on bass while jazzy ballad “Full Moon In Paris” introduced Ian Axel on piano. French songstress Julie Peel took the stage for “Song to Thank the Stars,” a track Rubarth joked about writing in France. “It’s a lot harder to write a love song than a breakup song. So I only have one,” she said.

Before crowd favorite Ari Hest took the stage, Rubarth concluded, “It’s more like a party than a show tonight.” And that it was. The audience, mostly filled with fellow musicians, didn’t seem to mind.

Debuting her newest song, “Letter From My Lonelier Self,” alone on guitar, Rubarth reminded everyone why they were there. With moving lyrics, “You’ll hear the answers if you listen/When it’s love don’t wait to say what it is/And don’t trade love for an aimless embrace of the wind/Please don’t lose your love like I did,” and her wavering vocals, the song struck a chord.

Original tracks “Pilot,” written with Nate Campany, “Good Mystery,” “Edge of My Seat” and the award winning “Washing Day,” co-written with Adam Levy, rounded out the set with additional guest appearances. Ian Axel, Greg Holden and Ari Hest performed a few songs of their own before Rubarth and Hest closed the night with a cover of Tom Waits’ “Hold On.”

While Rubarth’s touring schedule takes her to Europe next month, New York fans will be relieved to know Rockwood remains her favorite venue. “This is the greatest place I’ve ever been. Hands down. Expanded it’s more beautiful then I ever imagined,” she said.

Fellow singer-songwriter Nate Campany summed up the night. “Amber is a rare talent and we’re all lucky to have her as a friend and inspiration.”

For the latest tour dates and music, be sure to visit Amber Rubarth on MySpace.

Related Links:
Introducing the Vespa Experiment
The Vespa Experiment Recap
Q&A; with Greg Holden
Artist of the Week: Ari Hest