It’s been over three months since my Website crashed and this has been the longest I’ve gone without updating since it launched in 2007. While I’ve definitely been keeping busy, I miss having You Sing I Write as a constant outlet to write about whatever band I want to, no matter how big or small.
I’ll try to fill you in on everything that’s been going on in my world as much as I can. I’m still at CBS full-time where I cover Top 40 (most recently interviewed Hanson — see photo above!) but I’ve also been branching out and doing on-camera reporting. While being on-camera sounds glamorous to some it is not at all that way for me. Never the outspoken one, you can definitely say I have a bit of stage fright.
Luckily, my co-workers are extremely supportive and have been helping me get over that fear. My debut as a host of Radio.com’s Country Rewind launched a few months ago and while every morning I have to go on camera I wake up with a huge knot in my stomach, things are slowly becoming more comfortable. Here’s my first episode in which I chatted with Ashley Monroe and Randy Houser.
It’s no secret Taylor Swift is one of my favorite artists out there. Last month when I headed to her RED Tour at Newark’s Prudential Center I was happy just to be there. So, imagine my shock and excitement to learn that I wasn’t just sitting anywhere at the arena–I was in the front row! As a kid, it was always my dream to be front row at a concert and I never really thought it would be a possibility. If you haven’t seen Taylor live, I highly recommend it. She puts on a phenomenal show, unlike any concert I’ve seen.
Every now and then I get the pleasure of interviewing artists more than once. When I learned Parachute (formerly Sparky’s Flaw) would be coming to work to chat I couldn’t help but remember the first time I talked with frontman Will Anderson. He was still in college on his way to class and the band would tour on the weekends. They went on to have hit radio singles, go on some major tours and write with Lady Antebellum. One of the first bands I interviewed for this blog, it was nice to have familiar faces in the studio who felt like old friends.
That really is my ultimate goal as an interviewer: hope our conversation is comfortable enough that they’ll want to come back next time they’re in town. I have a slew of interviews lined up in the coming weeks and some impressive new artists I’m excited to introduce you to. Stay tuned!
It’s often unexplainable. You never know when a song is going to hit you or a band is going to leave a lasting impression.
Back in 2010 I headed to Bowery Ballroom with friends to see Parachute. One of the first bands I interviewed for You Sing I Write back when they were known as Sparky’s Flaw, they’re a band I try to see whenever they’re in town. I still remember when I was interviewing frontman Will Anderson during my first job out of college. I was on my lunch break and he was headed to class and he told me about the crushes he wrote songs about and whether or not they found out.
Their concert that night was how I was first introduced to Nashville act SafetySuit. Their set was full of energy and I had a hard time wondering why they weren’t the headliners.
Currently on their own headlining tour it seems they’re finally getting the recognition they deserve. Though it’s been a few years I still have several of their songs on my iPod that they played that night and can’t seem to take them off. Songs like “Someone Like You,” “Stay” and the poignant “Annie” hit you in the heart and their followup album, These Times does just the same.
First track, “Believe” draws listeners in with soaring guitar parts and Douglas Brown’s ethereal vocals. “You gotta believe in what you got…If you gotta cry then let it out, if you gotta scream let it out.” Memorable guitar licks alongside Brown’s powerful vocals are just an introduction of what’s to come on the album. In fact, SafetySuit’s introspective and questioning lyrics at times brings to mind that of Switchfoot.
String features introduce “Get Around This.” Asking for forgiveness, it’s hard not to take Brown’s side. Meanwhile, title track “These Times” was written out of a social need. Discussing hard times everyone faces the band manages to uplift without sounding cheesy.
The band worked with several outside producers and writers for These Times including OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder and the guys from Espionage who helped write Train’s mega hit “Hey, Soul Sister,” giving the Nashville-based act a more pop friendly release.
On the heels of their new EP Hallelujah and in the middle of their U.S. headlining tour, SafetySuit show no signs of slowing down. Be sure to catch them in New York at Gramercy Theater Wednesday, September 12. To keep up-to-date, visit the band on Twitter.
Both of these interviews have been transcribed in earlier posts, but I thought you might want to listen to them as well. I talked to Martin Smith back in January, just before he and some of his singer/songwriter friends got together to write some songs of which all the proceeds made will be donated to charity. Listen here as he explains his project, Compassionart. Visit the website to learn more about it!
My next interview is with Will Anderson, frontman of Virginia-based band Sparky’s Flaw. (Think a mix of Maroon 5 and The Fray.) He and two of the other band members are in their last year of college, touring Thursdays – Sundays and recording their debut full-length album between winter and spring breaks. Listen to the interview here and check out their website to hear music and get info on upcoming shows.
Some more exciting news! I’ll be going on tour this weekend with Army of Me and the “Get A Life” tour featuring The Used, Straylight Run and Street Drum Corps. I’m not sure if I’ll really have any computer access . . . but I’ll try to update my blog sometime next week to let you know how it went! Feel free to leave questions/things you want to know about in the comments!
No, unfortunately I wasn’t one of the lucky ones to attend the festivities in Austin, Texas, this past week, but hopefully one of these years I’ll cover South by Southwest! Anyway, below is a list of some bands that a bunch of music mags/websites have been covering as well as some of my picks. I’ve been lucky enough to have covered quite a few of the bands that attended this year’s festival for my blog, and at least one band on this list is bound to impress you. Be sure to check out sxsw.com where hundreds of songs are available to listen to from many of the bands that performed at the festival.
Who the music mags and websites are telling you to check out:
I was covering a show at the Knitting Factory a month or so ago and met some guys from her record label, raving about her, telling me that “my homework” was to go home and MySpace Duffy. Well, I slacked a bit on my homework assignment and a few weeks passed, but her name kept coming up all over the summer festival lists so I finally checked out Duffy’s website and was quite impressed with her vocals. She’s been compared to Amy Winehouse, but to me sounds a bit more sophisticated with an old school ’60’s vibe. Check out her catchy song, “Mercy.”
My Morning Jacket
I’ve read that they play incredibly live. A blend of rock and folk music, one of their songs, “Gideon,” featured on their MySpace vaguely reminds me of U2.
Be Your Own Pet
South by Southwest seems to be the preview of their international tour promoting latest album, Get Awkward, available in the U.S. March 18th. The female-fronted punk rock band definitely has lots of energy and plenty guitar riffs to satisfy any guitar-fiend.
Their MySpace groups their music as punk/new wave/classical, an eclectic combination of genres for sure. Interestingly enough, by listening to them, you can see a bit of each genre resembled in their music. Could there be a flute in their song, “APunk”? Take a listen for yourself.
This New Zealander was named a Rolling Stone “Artist to Watch” in 2007 and I can see why. His mix of folk rock is intriguing to listen to. Check out “Second Chance” on his MySpace, the song starts off with a soft drum beat that blends well with his voice, later slowing down for an instrumental feature mid-song before picking back up again.
From the beginning chord in their song, “Under Control” I was hooked. I also love the back story on the band – four friends from high school + 1 college roommate = Sparky’s Flaw. Not to mention, three of the guys are in their last semester of college and are recording their debut full-length album (due out this summer) during winter and spring breaks. It’s a pop/rock mix comparable to Maroon 5 and The Fray with a soulful blend of saxophone, keyboard and guitars.
This Brooklyn-based female-fronted band has been building up a strong fan base over the years, playing gigs throughout NYC and D.C. while their debut full-length album is due out this April. While some songs are a bit down-tempo, “Radio” is one of their most upbeat, energetic songs and definitely showcases the strength of the band.
When I caught up with them at a recent show of theirs and asked how they would describe their music, they couldn’t. Which I think is a good thing. They compared it to many different genre’s, not wanting to put it into one certain category. “Its classic American rock music,” guitarist Yuhei explained. “It has a little bit of everything. We take influence from the Chili Peppers to Radiohead to older bands like The Who. I think the cool part is just whatever anyone thinks it is. I’ve learned to like the fact that you can’t be like, ‘Yeah, they’re like this.’ There’s potential for a lot of people to like our band.”
The Switchfoot frontman has been getting much praise for his recent solo EP’s from both critics and fans alike. Two of the four EP’s released, titled “Fall” and “Winter,” have that stripped down acoustic feel of being in his living room while watching him play.
Sia’s live performance showcases her incredible vocals and her stage presence is impeccable. Constantly interacting with the audience, taking song requests and nailing high-powered crescendos in many of her songs had the audience erupt in applause and screams at a recent NYC show. This Australian singer definitely is making her name known in America.
There were well over 1,000 bands featured at this year’s SXSW so there’s no possible way any music magazine or blogger could have it all covered. Check out sxsw.com to listen to some of the featured artists and for more SXSW coverage from people who were actually there, check out Rollingstone.com as well as MTV’s concert blog.
Take four friends from high school, add a college roommate to make the band total five, mix in a recent record deal, touring Thursday through Sunday to keep up with classes and you get the current life of Sparky’s Flaw. Frontman Will Anderson took some time out on his way to class for a phone interview and told me all about the band, their album plans and the story behind the band’s name. Listen to the interview here.
Tell me a little bit about Sparky’s Flaw. I read that four of you were friends growing up, did you always want to start a band together? We were all best friends in high school – the four of us – and then our drummer actually started a band with a couple of guys and we all got really jealous. He was our friend and he was playing for this other band. We all played instruments, I played guitar and the other guys play, some of them played or just picked it up for the sake of joining the band. We decided despite our drummer, who was in this other band, we were going to start a band and then he decided he wanted to join our band so it worked out well. We played all through high school, tried to play as much as we could around town. Then we got to college and met our great guitarist, who was my best friend going through college. I’ve known him all four years so it worked out well.
So are all of you in college? Three of us go to school. Two of us go to the University of Virginia, myself and our guitarist, and two of the guys are not in school and the other one goes to Mary Washington which is about an hour up the road.
How do you deal with prioritizing school, touring and working on your record? That’s a great question. We’re still trying to figure that out. I’m going to class at and then we leave for Philadelphia at so I’m going just so I can get the check saying that I was here. We missed a week of school going to L.A. recording our CD. It’s a struggle, but we’ve all sort of gotten the hang of it. And the teachers are pretty cool when we tell them what we’re doing. They seem to live vicariously through us, so we just show up and let them know what we’re up to.
So you just signed with Mercury Records and you’re working on your first album, how is that going? We’re working on it right now. We’re halfway through with it. We did basically six songs over our winter break and we’ll finish up the rest of it this month and then over spring break through the big chunks of free time that we all have at the same time. We will go back to L.A. the first week of March and knock it out.
Do you have a name for it yet? No, we haven’t really thought of it. We still have the other six songs to choose. We don’t even know what songs we are going to do yet. We’ll figure that out when it comes, but definitely nothing yet.
Do you have a tentative release date? It’s supposed to come out in the summer I think. Sometime in the summer, I don’t know when.
What can fans expect from it? Its cool. Its rock, its very rock. Its rock with pop twists and soul. We’re still honing the sound, trying to get some continuity to it. It’s definitely rock ‘n’ roll, but it’s good. I think they’re catchy songs and they’re fun to listen to. We’re just trying to have fun and hopefully when they listen to it they will too.
I read that your song, “The New Year” was featured in the Rose Bowl. How did that happen? Yeah, it was crazy. Our managers got an email from ESPN saying “Hey, we like the song and we want to use it in the Rose Bowl.” We didn’t really think it would actually happen but yeah, we were all watching the Rose Bowl and there we were. They played it during highlight reels and stuff. It was pretty crazy because we had no idea it was coming and thought it was a passing thing and it wouldn’t follow through. We were all watching at home in the off chance that it would and it did. It was sort of out of nowhere. It was a good boost of encouragement.
Since you write all the songs, what is your typical writing process like? I have a really weird sleeping pattern so at I’ll start writing songs. Actually, I sit down and write every night because it’s a good habit. Ninety-five percent of time it’s stupid stuff that I write and I usually give up after about a half hour. But on a night that something good does come up it’s one of those all-nighter things where at 5 ‘o clock in the morning I’m banging on our drummer’s door, screaming, “I got a good song, listen to this,” and wake him up and make him listen to it. It’s usually an all night sort oftrance thing where I go into the zone and knock it out as quickly as possible. Often times I’ll come out with it and come back and rewrite all the words in a few weeks once I realize how terrible the idea was. Usually the music comes first and lyrics come later. But you definitely know very quickly if it’s a good song or not.
I’ll have the entire song laid out, the lyrics and the melody and then the guys will add their opinions to it. It’s just a matter of they add their little twist to it eventually. But I usually come in with a full song ready.
Where do you find the inspiration behind your songs? Everywhere, really. Often times, if it’s about somebody I’m very specific about who I’m writing the song about. If I meet somebody interesting or hear an interesting story about somebody usually that’s a big one for me. And then sometimes just fiction, and random things that I think about.
I really like your song, “Under Control.” What was going on in your head when writing it, what inspired it? That’s a funny song. I used to do this thing where I’d advertise, ‘cause on the east coast sororities, especially in the south, are huge. So to advertise for shows I would go into sororities and sing to the girls. It’s like 130 girls, college-age, it’s the perfect age – who we’re shooting for basically. I wrote that song with the melody and I had this crush on this girl for probably about three years all through college. She had no idea who I was. So, I wrote that song in the off chance that she would hear it and realize it was
about her. But unfortunately,
she did not and she still does not know who I am. It’s kind of weird. I don’t think she has any idea that she has that song written about her. It was definitely for that one girl who I met at that one sorority and who I still see all around and she went to that school.
Is your band really named after one of your friends, Sparky? Yeah. When we were in high school there was this kid who we called Sparky and he was a cool kid, he used to wear tailored suits to school every day so he looked really good every day. The only problem was that he also wore duct tape shoes to school every day. So that was his only flaw. We were desperate for a name and we came up with Sparky’s Flaw and it sort of stuck.
How would you explain your music to someone who’s never heard it before? Its catchy songs, but its rock and roll and soul.
Do you have a favorite song to perform? “Under Control” is probably my favorite song to play. We do some cover songs, “Under Pressure” by Queen. Our saxophone player and keyboardist sings it, it’s an incredibly high song so it’s fun to watch him sing it while I get to sit back and not do anything.
What are your plans for the rest of 2008? We graduate in May. So we’ve been doing Thursday through Sunday touring. It’s crazy, but we’ve been doing that this semester so far. The moment we graduate we’ll hit hard and I don’t know who we’ll tour with. I know they have names in mind but I don’t think we can confirm them. But we’ll definitely be out all summer and through the fall and hitting it hard. Which is fun, we’re excited about that.
For more info on Sparky’s Flaw, be sure to check out their website here.
The Tap Room of the Knitting Factory was packed by the time Sparky’s Flaw took the stage shortly after 9:30 p.m. Friday night. Those in attendance could feel the energy coming off the stage as it permeated throughout the crowd, having many dancing or singing along to their songs. Playing a 40-minute set, Sparky’s Flaw showcased songs from their current EP as well as a few new tunes which will be featured on their first full-length album, due out this summer on Mercury Records.
If Maroon 5 were to have younger brothers, Sparky’s Flaw epitomizes them. A mix of Maroon 5’s catchy beats and strong vocals with a little bit of The Fray’s keyboard style combined with smooth sounding saxophone features encompasses the five-piece band, Sparky’s Flaw. Their songs have strong keyboard and saxophone features as well as catchy hooks in practically every song that it’s hard not to have them stuck in your head long after their performance is over. Frontman Will Anderson leads the band alternating between vocals, keyboards and guitar.
Friday night was just a brief introduction to NYC as to who Sparky’s Flaw is. With their recent record deal and their album being recorded on the band’s winter and spring breaks (three are seniors in college) the world is sure to hear much more from this up-and-coming band in the near future.
Sparky’s Flaw started off their set with catchy pop song “Under Control.” With lyrics like, “Because I’ve kept my heart under control/But lately all this time has taken its toll/I said I tried to but I can’t hold back what’s deep in my soul/So darling please forgive me I want you and you’ll just have to know” they sure know how to make a girl’s heart swoon. What’s great about most of their songs is the saxophone feature. A lot of the time it’s so soft you don’t pay attention to it right away because the drums and guitar sound are a bit stronger, but the saxophone definitely adds to their music tremendously.
“All That I Am,” another song featured from their self titled EP, slowed down the night for a bit while Will started out on keyboards and alone on vocals. You could definitely feel the emotion in every note he sang. “Words Meet Heartbeats” as well as a new song, “Give It Up” had a strong guitar feel to it while extra keyboards and drums helped the strength of the song.
Crowd favorite of the night was their last song, “The New Year.” Interestingly enough, this song was a featured song during the Rose Bowl in January and I could see why as they performed it. The energy just leapt off the stage into the crowd while practically everyone in front of the stage was singing along with Will at the top of their lungs. It was probably the most solid song, both instrumentally and vocally, of their set, definitely a great way to end the night.
First performer of the night was Phil Bensen, playing a 35-minute set. Bensen started out his performance with “High Heels and a Miniskirt,” a soulful number with impeccable vocals and solid guitar and drum accompaniment for a two-piece band.
Bensen’s voice really blew me away. His high falsetto vocals are very soulful, reminiscent of the Jackson Five with a blend of John Mayer or Jason Mraz. He definitely is a musician to be on the look out for, having toured with the Jonas Brothers as well as being featured in New Jersey’s Bamboozle Festival for the third year in a row.
His set included eight songs, some featured on his MySpace such as “Not Good Enough,” and “Bruised”as well as a few songs that will be on his upcoming album and his soulful closer, the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”
The Scott Harris Project followed Bensen with a nine song set. Their set was a bit more heavy than Phil’s, and was a four-man band made up of guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard. Scott introduced his song, “Hit” as a song being about the wrong girl. The band’s music revolves around Scott’s vocals, definitely strong and catchy. “Level” had a solid instrumental feature in the middle of the song while he had many fans in attendance singing along to “Live It Up,” a song somewhat reminiscent of a combination of Third Eye Blind and Jason Mraz.