You Sing I Write Celebrates 5 Years!

It’s hard to believe it’s been 5 years since I wrote my first blog post for You Sing I Write. Started simply as a creative outlet to keep up my writing after graduation, it’s helped lead to numerous freelance gigs at dream publications like Rolling Stone and Billboard as well as land a full-time gig at CBS writing about music every day. I couldn’t be happier, but it was no doubt a long and arduous journey.

This past week CMJ was back in town and hundreds of music fans and bands descended on the city to catch live music and attend music industry related panels giving advice of how to make it in the business. I attended one on music journalism and knew each of the panelists having worked with or met all at one point over the past 5 years. Each had insightful things to say about working in the industry but I couldn’t help but feel a little depressed afterward. The fact of the matter is the business has changed dramatically over the years.

When I first started it was the dream to live vicariously through Almost Famous and go on tour with bands. Unfortunately that rarely happens anymore Caryn Ganz, Editor In Chief of SPIN said. Another panelist, Jessica Robertson of MTV Hive, said she spends 90% of her time in business meetings and the other 10% in creative meetings.

If I was a college student hearing this I would have been discouraged, but at the same time my “prove ’em wrong” mentality would have kicked in. So, my advice: if you’re passionate about something you’ll find a way to succeed. It won’t be easy but I’m living proof that it’s possible.

Growing up a pop music junky I never would have dreamed I’d be interviewing boy bands and some of the biggest pop stars heard on the radio. Through my blog and freelance gigs I also discovered my love of country music and after suggestions from friends even started a country blog. Along the way I’ve met and interviewed some of my favorites including John Mayer (!!!), Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, Darius Rucker and Switchfoot. Not to mention toured with a band and witnessed some amazing live shows.

I’m not quite sure what the next 5 years will bring but if it’s anything like the past 5 have been they will be nothing short of interesting. Thanks for supporting me over the past 5 years. Here’s to 5 more!

Come celebrate 5 years of You Sing I Write at W.i.P. in New York on November 3rd. The night will include performances from some of my favorite acts I’ve covered over the years including Mary Bragg and The Ramblers. Stay tuned for more details!

Artist of the Week Band of the Week

Band of the Week: SafetySuit


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.

Artist of the Week CD Reviews

Artist of the Week: Brooke Fraser

New Zealand’s Brooke Fraser has been readying the release of her stand-out third album, Flags. With angelic vocals reminiscent to singer-songwriters Ingrid Michaelson and Colbie Caillat, Fraser’s 11-track LP combines descriptive songwriting with remarkable musical accompaniment.

Flags begins with the energetic “Something In the Water.” With a catchy beat and a chorus that is bound to stay stuck in your head long after the last verse is sung, Fraser kicks of the album strongly. Next track, “Betty,” co-written by Fraser, Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman and The Real Efforts of Real People’s Ben West, segues nicely with horn features, a driving percussion beat and Fraser’s relentless vocals.

Of Flags, Fraser says, “I’ve never used as many characters or as much narrative in my songwriting as I have on this record. On my previous albums, I was singing completely as myself, which is why I think I got so burnt out from touring.”

Last album, Albertine, Fraser says was inspired by “incredibly significant events and people and every time I’d sing I’d go back to that moment where my heart was ripped open. So singing such heavy songs nearly every night for three years took a toll … On Flags, it’s still me speaking, but it’s me speaking the voices of different characters and their stories. It’s more survivable.”

A new character is woven into each of Fraser’s 11 songs while her angelic voice captivates on all. “Orphans, Kingdoms” impresses with a steadfast drumbeat underneath her slower singing style while “Ice on Her Lashes,” a beautiful ballad, introduces soaring string features for the first time.

Continuously showcasing her versatility, on “Jack Kerouac” soulful electric guitar accompanies the Caribbean folk influenced track while moving ballad “Sailboats” displays Fraser’s more serious side. With a release this strong, Americans can expect to hear much more from the New Zealand native.

Watch Brooke’s video for “Something In the Water” below and be sure to visit her Web site to download “May Waltz.”

Related Links:
Band of the Week: NEEDTOBREATHE
Band of the Week: Vanaprasta
Band of the Week: MayOrWest
Band of the Week: The Boxer Rebellion
Features First Person

Music As Religion?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve turned to music when questioning life and making major decisions. While some find solace in prayer, going to church or synagogue, I simply go to my iTunes playlist.


To some.

For me, not so much. My criteria is simple.

Major life questioning: Switchfoot

Simply unwinding: John Mayer

Nostalgic for my childhood: Backstreet Boys

And my most recent addition:

Sheer disbelief and being thankful: Pat Benatar

For my complete article, visit Busted Halo.

CD Reviews

Album Review: Switchfoot’s “Hello Hurricane”

Their first album in nearly three years, Switchfoot have said Hello Hurricane has been the hardest record they have ever made. The band tracked over 80 songs out of 150 written, the end result being 12 remarkably cohesive tracks. Between the aggressive rock numbers and powerful ballads, Hello Hurricane is a solid release embodying tales of struggle and loss intertwined with the overlying theme of hope and love. Their seventh studio release, Switchfoot prove their music is as important now than ever.

A press release explains it best: “Where the multiple-Platinum selling The Beautiful Letdown became an anthem for a generation of fans to leave a life of complacency with songs like “Dare You To Move,” “Meant to Live” and “This Is Your Life,” Hello Hurricane takes the message a step further, encouraging fans to live for something beyond themselves.”

Energetic tracks like current single, “Mess of Me” and opening song, “Needle and Haystack Life” reassess this message. “Don’t let go/Don’t give up hope/All is forgiven/You breathe it in/The highs and lows/We call it living/All is not lost/Become who you are/It happens once in a lifetime.”

Frontman Jon Foreman further explains the record’s concept. “Hello Hurricane acknowledges the storms that tear through our lives. This album is an attempt to respond to those storms with an element of hope, trying to understand what it means to be hopeful in a world that keeps on spinning.”

Known for their introspective lyrics and heartfelt ballads, the heavy rock entrance on the record may surprise longtime fans at first. High-energy, arena-friendly tracks can be heard early on Hello Hurricane, something the Switchfoot concert buff will enjoy but the average music fan may take a few spins to appreciate. In a four-minute album trailer Foreman provides clarification while talking of the difficulty in tracking the album. “They didn’t feel like the type of songs you wanted to die singing. For Hello Hurricane, that became the prerequisite for the song. If you’re not crying, why are you singing it? If you don’t believe it with every ounce of you, then there’s no point in singing it.” It is this quote that best describes the album.

Hello Hurricane takes the listener on a journey. The upbeat start of the record eventually takes a turn midway through, ending with three fitting ballads. Let me be clear, this is not an album of singles; it is an album that rewards those who listen to it in its entirety.

Slower track, “Your Love Is a Song” recalls earlier Switchfoot track, “Let Your Love Be Strong” and “Your Love Is Strong” off Foreman’s solo EP while “Bullet Soul” is a welcomed rebirth. Opening with excessive guitar fuzz in the speakers, it’s as rock as you can get. Listeners can easily picture Foreman jumping off the drum kit while screaming the lyrics at a live show.

Switchfoot thrive on their ballads and the emotional “Enough” is just one example. With soft guitar accompaniment and percussion, Foreman’s voice blends well as he sings, “Do you love me enough to let me go?/To let me follow through/Let me fall for you my love/Do you love me enough to let me go?” Possibly the simplest track on Hello Hurricane, the depth behind “Enough” is immeasurable.

“Free” follows “Enough” and is a song many can relate to. In a tale of the struggle breaking free of our own vices be it debt, greed, or our past, Foreman sings, “I’ve got my back against the wall/But I still hear the blue sky call/The chains that hold me back inside/Are the prisons of my mind . . . I try to live the light of day/Why would I do what I hate.” With dark guitar tones and percussion the song leaves an impact on the listener.

Produced by Mike Elizondo, (Eminem, Dr. Dre, Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor) Hello Hurricane is a new beginning for the band. While certain tracks rock harder than others, it is the stories within the songs that leave the greatest impression.

The title track is said to have been inspired by a woman who lost all she knew in Hurricane Katrina. Last year, with Habitat for Humanity, the band helped rebuild a woman’s home who relocated to Baton Rouge. As she learned to walk as an amputee, Foreman explained her mantra: “I walked out of my house and my life in New Orleans on my own legs; I’m going to walk into this one the same way.” Of “Hello Hurricane,” he explained, “This is the spirit that I wanted to capture with this song, and moreover with this record. The storms of life might take my house, my loved ones, or even my life- but they cannot silence my love.”

After learning the story behind the song, the track hits home. “Everything I have I count as loss/Everything I have is stripped away/Before I started building/I counted up these costs/There’s nothing left for you to take away/Hello hurricane/You can’t silence my love.”

The beautifully emotional ballads, “Always,” “Yet,” “Sing It Out” and “Red Eyes” close the album on a high note. Last track, “Red Eyes” brings the album full circle with Foreman singing the chorus from “Needle and Haystack Life” to the fadeout of the song: “We are once in a lifetime…” It is within these songs that Switchfoot truly shine. While the faster paced rock anthems introduce Hello Hurricane, it is the ballads of hope, love and yearning that end the album, leaving the listener with newborn faith, freedom and strength. Foreman explains it best:

Hello Hurricane is an attempt to sing into the storm. Hello Hurricane is a declaration: you can’t silence my love. My plans will fail, the storms of this life will come, and chaos will disrupt even my best intentions, but my love will not be destroyed. Beneath the sound and the fury there is a deeper order still- deeper than life itself. An order that cannot be shaken by the storms of this life. There is a love stronger than the chaos, running underneath us- beckoning us to go below the skin-deep externals, beyond the wind, even into the eye of the storm. Hello Hurricane, you’re not enough- you can’t silence my love.”

Hello Hurricane hits stores Tuesday, November 10. Are you planning on picking up a copy? I’d love to know your thoughts!

Related Links:
Q&A; with Jon Foreman
Q&A; with Chad Butler of Switchfoot
Audio Interview with Tim Foreman of Switchfoot
Switchfoot Raise Over $67,000 on Tour Benefiting Habitat for Humanity


Switchfoot Album Preview

I’m typing this blog as I’m working on an in-depth album review of Switchfoot‘s forthcoming release, Hello Hurricane, due in stores Tuesday. (Hoping to get the review up for you tomorrow!) In the meantime, take a look at the album trailer and their latest single, “Mess of Me” below. Their first album in nearly three years, the band proves they’re still alive and rocking. What do you think?



Related Links:
Q&A; with Jon Foreman
Q&A; with Chad Butler of Switchfoot
Audio Interview with Tim Foreman of Switchfoot
Switchfoot Raise Over $67,000 on Tour Benefiting Habitat for Humanity


Poll of the Week: What Fall Album Release Are You Looking Forward To?

This fall is jam packed with album releases from many established artists, as well as hot up-and-coming bands. The next few weeks I’ll be making multiple trips to the record store (Yes, I still buy albums — does anyone else?). My question for you in this week’s poll is:

What Fall Album Release Are You Looking Forward To?

Alicia Keys
John Mayer

Above are some albums I’m looking forward to, but I really want to know which release you’re most excited about. Leave your answers in the comments!
Song of the Week

Song of the Week: “Twenty-Four”

I still remember the first time I listened to “Twenty-Four” on Switchfoot’s album, The Beautiful Letdown. I was 18 at the time and 24 seemed far in the distance. However, as 25 creeps closer and closer (now, a few hours away) the song has grown deeper in meaning.

Of “Twenty-Four,” frontman Jon Foreman has said, “I wrote this song near the end of my 24th year on this planet. Wherever we run, wherever the sun finds us when he rises, we remain stuck with ourselves. That can be overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like my soul is polluted with politicians, each with a different point of view. With all 24 of them in disagreement, each voice is yelling to be heard. And so I am divided against myself. I feel that I am a hypocrite until I am one, when all of the yelling inside of me dies down. I’ve heard that the truth will set you free. That’s what I’m living for: freedom of spirit. I find unity and peace in none of the diversions that this world offers. But I’ve seen glimpses of truth and that’s where I want to run.”

It was just two years ago tomorrow that I was scheduled to interview Switchfoot drummer Chad Butler — on my birthday. I always dreamed of interviewing notable bands, but never imagined it becoming a reality. I’m grateful the first band I interviewed for You Sing, I Write was Switchfoot.

In an interview I had with Foreman two years ago, I asked him about his songwriting process and his answer stuck out to me:

“My inspiration for each song is the specific place where I’m at in life. I’ve heard that books come from locations and I think songs are the same way. Songs can be a little bit more ethereal. So maybe it’s a little bit more of an emotional, spiritual place than a physical location. For me, most of my songs come from the problems in my life. When I’m happy I hang out with my friends and go surfing. That’s not when you write a song. You write a song when you’re depressed, angry and bitter and you’re trying to figure out the world.”

I guess what I’m saying in this lengthy blog post is, I never expected all the things I have accomplished by the age of 24. While my “job” isn’t the typical 9-5 and took a while for family members to accept, life is never what you originally thought it would be, it’s even better when you follow through with things that give it meaning. For me, it is writing about music and I’m just lucky I’ve been able to meet some of my favorite musicians in the process. As the hours close, in Jon Foreman’s words: at the “end of my 24th year on this planet” I find comfort in 25. Only bigger and better things can develop from here, right?

Watch the video for “Twenty-Four” below and take a good listen to the words.


Related Links:
Q&A; with Jon Foreman
Q&A; with Chad Butler of Switchfoot
Audio Interview with Tim Foreman of Switchfoot
Switchfoot Raise Over $67,000 on Tour Benefiting Habitat for Humanity

Features Q&A

Top 10 Interviews

While I’ve been taking suggestions on revamping my blog, some advised cleaning up the sidebar and deleting older interviews to make it easier on the eyes. After much thought, I really can’t just weed out certain interviews because each has a life of its own. Maybe its the frank musician that discussed exactly what’s wrong with the label executives, or the bass player that told me just how “gross” groupies are, regardless, each artist I’ve talked to needs to be showcased. So, when you’re bored at work or just surfing the Web, you have plenty of reading material on your hands.

While going through each interview I came up with my “Top 10” list of interviews that have surprised me or left an impact. Here’s my Top 10 list, in no particular order.

1. Jon Foreman of Switchfoot (photo above)
I’ve been listening to Switchfoot since high school. I’d buy tickets with friends and we’d travel to NYC together at least once a year to see them live. One year, when covering the show for MTV’s concert blog, I was able to meet the guys, and interview frontman Jon Foreman. To meet one of your favorite musicians and talk to him about life, his fears of being a songwriter and pretty much anything else you’d want to know was truly one of the best moments in my music writing career. Read the in-depth interview here.

2. Colbie Caillat
I remember my cousin from California mentioning Colbie Caillat on his visit to New Jersey right after her debut album was released. A few weeks later “Bubbly” exploded on the radio and I just had to buy myself a copy of her album. The next summer she was going on tour with one of her biggest influences (and mine) — John Mayer. I was able to set up an interview for the blog and was surprised at how humble and down to earth she was. Talking about her stage fright before performing and thoughts on just why “Bubbly” took off, Colbie shared insight into her life before and after her music invaded the airwaves. Read all about it here.

3. Marko DeSantis of Sugarcult
This was my first impromptu band interview. Before catching Sugarcult’s set at Starland Ballroom, I noticed a group of fans by the stage door talking to someone. My friend found out it was Sugarcult guitarist Marko, so I asked to interview him. Why not? He wrote down his email address in my notebook with the casual, “Just don’t show this around” and I emailed him questions a few days later. My first nationally published interview, it was featured on Jane Magazine‘s Web site. I still can’t believe I did that, but it paid off. Read the full email interview here.

4. Kris Roe of The Ataris (photo above)
I lucked out being able to interview Kris twice — first for Rutgers University’s entertainment section, Inside Beat, and last year for my blog. Having listened to The Ataris growing up, I attended a performance of theirs at Rutgers and was able to obtain an interview after talking to his manager. After interviewing him with my friend Monica, I remember leaving the room with the realization and determination that, “This IS what I’m going to do the rest of my life.” Haven’t looked back since. Read the full two-part interview with Kris from his performance at Maxwell’s last year here.

5. Joshua Radin
Incredibly honest about the music industry, Radin bought himself out of his five record deal with Columbia and put out his most recent release independently. Not to mention, it hit No.1 on the iTunes folk charts. Not too shabby. A class act to follow, Radin even performed at Ellen DeGeneres’ wedding. Read on for more of his take on the music business here.

6. Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind
I was extremely nervous for this interview. 3eb was one of the most recognized bands of the 90s and having read up on past interviews with the band I was a little worried how mine would pan out. Luckily, it went extremely well — good enough to be used as my first interview feature on! You can read it on Marie Claire here.

7. Vince Scheuerman of Army of Me (photo above)
Possibly the most open singer-songwriter I’ve interviewed, my chat with Vince revealed many of the stories behind his songs, the struggle of making it in the music business and a typical day in the life of a musician. Read on for more here.

8. Tyson Ritter of the All-American Rejects
Oh, Tyson. Brutally honest and never afraid to hold anything back. Though it was a quick 3-question on-the-spot interview outside his tour bus at a concert, it’s one that will always stand out in my memory. Laugh about it here.

9. Jeph Howard of The Used
Okay, I must admit interviewing Jeph on their tour bus was definitely a highlight of the interview. Possibly the longest interview I’ve had, he chatted with me for nearly an hour about life on the road, groupies, and struggles the band has faced. Read all about it here.

10. Sia
Australian singer-songwriter Sia was definitely the most captivating and lively phone interview I have ever had. With her infectious laugh and refreshing take on the music industry, it’s interviews like these that make me continue pursuing this crazy career. You can read the interview featured on here.

That’s my Top 10. What’s your favorite? Did I miss one that should be added?


SXSW: Day Three Recap

I woke up early Friday to head to Cedar Street Courtyard for my interview with Anya Marina. Before her set, Anya talked to me about the inspiration behind some of her songs, her recording process (which involved recording one song topless to get the right vocals for the song) and overcoming people’s expectations of her not making it in the music scene. I’ll be posting the full Q&A; in the upcoming days, so check back for that.

Anya’s performance was nothing short of enjoyable. The California native had all in attendance laughing along to her stories about eating goat milk yogurt for breakfast, quitting her job to be a musician, and visits to her therapist. Highlight of the set was stand-out single “Move You” and her acoustic cover of T.I.’s “Whatever You Like.”

Next band up for Filter Magazine‘s showcase was the phenomenal Idle Warship. Truly a must-see the band, consisting of Talib Kweli, Res, and Graph Nobel among others, Idle Warship had every hand in the courtyard raised in the air during their energetic set. The Brooklyn/Philly/Toronto members had the crowd rocking so hard at one in the afternoon, you would have thought it was 1 a.m. on a Saturday night. Highly recommend catching them if you get the chance as their impeccable blend of rock, R&B; and rap is impressive.

While Idle Warship was a hard act to follow, New Hampshire-based Wild Light held their own introducing some indie music to the crowd. Wild Light definitely had the indie diehards support in the audience while performing in the scorching Austin sun.

Next band I caught at the Filter showcase was Manchester band The Whips and boy did they have the crowd’s attention. From the energetic fans surrounding me (most likely from Manchester), I felt like I was at a dance party with their computer generated electronica and strong bass and drum beats. Everyone around me was jumping with their fists pumping in the air. I headed out after their set, but still have their single, “Trash” stuck in my head.

Headed to catch Fanfarlo with the roomies after some much desired (and delicious) ice cream on 6th Street. Every indie music lover’s band, Fanfarlo switched up the typical expected showcase with a variety of instruments — from clarinet to violin — they represented indie music at it’s best at Emo’s Annex Friday afternoon.

My favorite performance of the night goes to Jason Reeves. Playing at Live.Create. Lounge as part of VH1’s Save the Music showcase, he impressed the audience with his heartfelt stories and adamant view on the importance of music in schools. Playing tracks off his most recent album, The Magnificent Adventures of Heartache (and other frightening tales), it is evident that he is a hopeful romantic as many of his tracks deal with relationships.

Before introducing “Someone, Somewhere” Reeves told the crowd the song is about “being in love and being hopeful when everyone is telling you it’s not going to happen. We have to fight and stand up for that.” With his hushed singing style towards the fade out of the track, you could sense the emotion in every song played throughout his set.

About VH1’s Save the Music campaign, Reeves said, “What’s happening in this building is so powerful. I believe music changes lives. It’s one of the only truly beautiful things we have left as human beings. This is not letting music die. Please do everything you can to save music, otherwise we’re all going to die.”

The rest of the night was a bit of a blur as plans kept changing once realizing I couldn’t catch a few bands I hoped to see (Lights Resolve, Tinted Windows, Lady Sovereign) but all wasn’t lost. I caught part of Solange‘s set at the Convention Center. Dressed to the nine, seeing Solange and her band perform had that New York City lounge feel as the lighting and dance contribution by her and her backup singers was stellar. How she dances in those heels I’ll never know, but she wowed the crowd with songs off her recent release. You can catch her set live on Direct TV so be sure to check your cable listings to be part of SXSW.

I was dying to catch Luna Halo‘s showcase after seeing them open for Switchfoot over a year ago. By far the best opening band I have ever witnessed, their blend of indie rock is impressive and their performance last night was nothing less than stellar.

Perhaps the most interesting venue to catch a show had to be Lisa Hannigan‘s set at 11 p.m. at the Central Presbyterian Church on 8th Street. While she’s no doubt an impressive talent, the dimmed lighting and laid-back vibe definitely was soporific and after catching a few songs I headed back to 6th Street to catch Nashville-based band Shirock (see below).

What Shirock has been doing in relation to promoting their debut album, Everything Burns is inspiring. The band has launched a non-profit organization called Everything Burns as a way to encourage and enable people to help those in need by providing awareness of various charities throughout their tours. The idea behind Everything Burns is “not to get stuck in the mundane,” said frontman Chuck. “Engaging in culture and getting involved [is what’s important]” he continued. Truly a stand-up example to all musicians, I’m interested to see where Shirock will be in a few years.

Wow, totally didn’t realize I caught 10 shows until I finished writing this post! Definitely the place to be for the music addict, SXSW obviously has the most versatile line-up you’ll see anywhere. Didn’t catch Metallica or The Decemberists unfortunately but the rest of the festival looks promising as I’ll be seeing Third Eye Blind‘s performance tonight at Stubb’s! Keep reading for updates throughout the rest of the weekend and into next week!

P.S. Hopefully I won’t be losing all respect from you readers, but one of the highlights of the night had to be running into Chris Kirkpatrick from ‘N Sync right off 6th Street. My inner 13-year-old obsessed boy band fan came out and I’m still regretting not taking a picture with him. I know, I’m a music journalist and gotta be professional but ‘N Sync! Takes me back. Cue “Tearin’ Up My Heart” . . .