Aris Has his Voice on the Pulse of Some Hot Tunes

I’m always honored to be asked to review the work of my artist friends. ESPECIALLY when I’m already a fan of their work. If you follow me on Twitter, you know I’ve been listening to Aris Ziagos’ new album Pulse on repeat since it came out last month. To be honest, it has been on repeat in a mix that includes Donna summer, Lady Gaga, and Tina Turner.

The moment I heard clips of the songs and a few full songs in a car ride with Aris, I immediately thought of Donna Summer. This actually began my renewed desire to throw on a few of my favorite Donna hits. The first single from Pulse has been out for a while now and it has been making me want to move since first hearing it. I have said that I’m almost embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve probably listened to it but I am someone who has at least one ear bud in my ear even while I’m working. A good beat keeps me going and in a good mood no matter how much work I have to do or how intense it is.

I listen to very few albums all the way through without pushing past a few songs, even from my favorite mainstream artists so when I can thrown on one album and listen all the way through that is saying a lot. Pulse is definitely a collection of songs that is good for a long car ride, a hike, a workout, or just while you are cleaning and cooking.

The first song, Love (Thank you) features artist Paula Cole. It remind me immediately of Donna Summer’s hit I Feel Love with it’s sexy, breathy repetition and underlying sexy rhythm. Rain is a storm of emotion, desire, passion, and pain. I’ve said I felt like he was in my diary at some point, especially when I hear this one. It just feels that personal and I think it will to many people.

Speaking of Donna Summer, the title track has a sample of I Feel Love and I can actually hear Donna performing this one with approval. Handle It is definitely for anyone who has been wronged by a lover or just not appreciated for who they are. To me, it sounds like a dare to handle me in all my fabulousness if you think you can. But if you can’t, well the hell with you. It is reminiscent of a Beyonce empowerment piece. Basically, take me for what I am or everything you own will be in a box to the left.

Next, I want to talk about the Reborn remix. I do enjoy a good remix, especially when it is different version of the song that brings a new way to enjoy it. This remix does that for me by giving it a new beat. Make sure you check it all out for yourself at Aris’ website and follow him on social media because you are also going to want to check out his covers.

Brecik is Shaking up the Music Scene

I was recently introduced to an artist from Australia by the name of Brecik. His music is a merger of Pop, Rock, Dubstep, and Club sounds and I think he is more than ready to take on the U.S.. His song, “Stay” is such a beautiful piece but will also have you up nd moving. I was so glad to be able to get an interview with Brecik before he takes over the music scene world wide and hope you enjoy it!

Q: You are from Australia, can you tell me a little about the music scene there and how does the US differ from it?

Brecik: I am from Australia yes! g’day! ;) ooh good question…. the music scene in Australia is honestly really boring…. theres no diversity – unless you do acoustic sets or are a pub cover band theres not really much of an outlet for you… The US has so many different styles and sounds that are all embraced – its amazing!! its like in Australia you either fit the pub band mold or you go on one of those terrible reality singing shows… its like Australia hasn’t developed fast enough to appreciate diversity in music… its sad but you never actually make it anywhere in the music industry in Australia unless you have made it big somewhere else first…

Q: Tell me a little about the song, “Stay”. It is a truly amazing dance song.

B: Stay was originally recorded by Shakespeare’s Sister back in the early 90’s. Shakespeare’s Sister really moulded me as a person through their music -they were the first band i ever got really into. Stay was always such a beautiful track and Mz Ari and i were looking for a ballad to do together and i just couldn’t get it out of my head! Whilst being very conscious of comparisons – I was so happy with our version of the song and the ease that it came about – the passion in Mz Ari’s voice compared to the roughness of mine and the way the producer had taken the music into this day and age. it was heaven to record and i still get goose bumps listening to it! Then me being ‘Brecik’ just had to do a dance version – cause thats just what i do – and jeffo turned it into a real party sounding track… maybe a little anthemic sounding…;) There are 2 Shakespeare’s Sister covers on my close to being released RezErection album… I wonder if anyone will be able to work out which the other one is…

Q: You are a gay artist but do you think there will be a day where everyone will just be referred to as artists and orientation will no longer matter so much?

B: I’m really confidant that day will come! it doesn’t matter to me now, i don’t see myself as anything in particular – I’m just me – I love singing and performing! sexuality shouldn’t even be a factor in this industry – does it matter who i choose to love? i love everybody!! boys, girls, Lisa Vanderpump – its all good!!!!

Q: Are you planning to perform in the US?

B: I would love to perform in the US! id love to do a full pride circuit next year – that would be so much fun! I’m definitely going to be hitting up quite a few clubs when I’m there and chatting to DJs. So tell me where are all the good clubs in LA, Vegas and New York? ;)

Q: Where can we find you and your music online? 

B: I’m most active on my Brecik Facebook page, twitter and Instagram – can’t resist that stuff! i also have myspace and reverberation and all my music is available on iTunes. if you head to www.brecikmusic.com – it will take you to all these other pages. I’m one of this people who really enjoys social media and get a bit distracted with it – so you will always catch me on one of the many forms… ;)

Q: What’s up next for Brecik?

B: I’m so excited to release my RezErection album in the next couple of weeks! this album has taken just over 3 years and 4 different producers to put together and get right! i can finally say that i am over the moon with the finished sound and quality of the tracks! Every song has a personal meaning to me from the high i feel when I’m with my other half – to the frustration i felt watching Gina Liano get treated in the Real Housewives of Melbourne – to the sadness of Charlotte Dawson passing, I’m hoping that they will also touch everyone who listens to them in their own way! I’ve already started writing songs for my next album and spoken to my producer Jeffo about them – i get so excited with new music!

Can’t Stay Hush about The HUSH

If you love great music like I do, you will really love The HUSH. The band seems to have a knack for incorporating everything that is good about music in one place.  The HUSH consists of vocalist and lyricist, Jazmine Giovanni, guitarists Lee Landrum and Greg Pajer, drummer Blake Paulson and bass player Andrew James.  Each one is a perfect combination of talent and heart that is so obviously expressed in their music.

Take a look at their video for Hold You Down and you will find classic Rock mixed with modern sounds lead by Jasmine’s powerful voice. Then be sure to run over to iTunes to get their EP “Scene of the Crime” and check out their new singles “Tip of the Tongue”.  If you are in the LA area be sure to catch them performing at venues like The Viper Room, Troubadour,  and House of Blues.

I was honored to have the privilege of speaking with Jasmine and Lee recently for a very honest conversation about the band, the music industry, and a few other interesting things.

Q: First, how did you all meet? Did the band come along because you were all friends or did you meet because of the band?

Lee: A combo of the two. I first met the guys (Andrew, Blake & Greg) about five years ago while working on another project. When I started this band, they were my first call.

Jazmine: I was introduced to the band through Blake. We went to college together and he called me in to audition for the gig.

Q: Tell me a little about each of you. Who is the most serious? Who is the class clown? Who is the most parental?

Jazmine: Haha. Blake is an interesting combo… definitely the most serious, and yet he is sharp as a tack and comes out with some pretty hilarious moments. Lee is our band leader but very laid back. He really allows everyone their own process. AJ is the resident pretty boy; he will cut you with that hair, affectionately known as The Peacock. Greg is a Leo. Need I say more? And me? I’m hard to pin down ;)

Q: This one is for Jazmine. How is it for you, being the only female member? Do the guys tend to look out for you? Any overprotective moments?

Jazmine: I feel really lucky in this department. I grew up around only females, so naturally I gravitated towards men as friends. In my adult life I’ve become the broad in every group of guys I hang with. It’s pretty great. I hear their stories, share in their jokes. They take me in as one of their own. The boys in the band are great to me.

Q: Your sound is not like the other bands out there. It really incorporates many different genres of music. Who are some artists/bands that influence you most?

Lee: Between the five of us you can list just about any band and most genres as influences. I most admire the guitar based bands. Rock and roll, classic and new — from Van Halen to Muse it all inspires me. Now and then my inner Flamenco comes pouring out of my acoustic, I have no idea where that comes from.

Jazmine: I grew up singing jazz and pop music. Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, Freddy Mercury. These are the voices that shaped my passion as a singer.

Q: What artists/producers/musicians would you like to work with?

Lee: I think working with Red Hot Chili Peppers would be fun. I like their energy. I dream about the perfect producer…and I hope to meet that person some day.

Jazmine: I’d kill to do a record with Trent Reznor.

Q: The music industry has been changing so much. How do you keep going and adapting to the changes?

Lee: For indie bands. the changes in the industry are good. The old system spiraled downward quite a few years ago making the music business full of more DYI opportunities than ever before. Label deals are few and far between and while I would like this band to be signed one day, we don’t necessarily need that to keep moving forward.

Q: Social Media has become HUGE for anyone in any part of entertainment. How do you think it helps or is used best by artists/bands?

Lee: Social Media is the best way for us to personally connect with our fans. It started for us in ’09 on MySpace.  Our first songs went on MySpace first and the response was great.  We got tons of feedback from strangers, they are more honest than friends and family. Then came facebook, not as easy to talk with fans there but we keep it up to date with info, pics and more. Twitter is a favorite, the quick connections every day are fun. For the past three years we have had incredible conversations with people all over the world, it’s been amazing. From a war torn civilian in Croatia to a rock-and-roll bus driver’s daughter from TN, we’ve met and connected with some great people. Some fans fly across the country to go to our shows. That’s HUGE!

Q: Speaking of Social Media, where can we find you online?

Lee: Our website has links to most our social pages, iTunes, cdbaby and you can watch our ‘Hold You Down’ video there, too: www.THEHUSHrockband.com
We talk on twitter daily – @THEHUSHband – and most days check into facebook – /THEHUSHband – join us!

Q: There is always a catch 22 when it comes to being booked. You need to have a certain number of bookings to be taken seriously but you can’t always get those first bookings so easily. What advice could you offer to those who are just starting out? Lessons you have learned along the way?

Lee: If a new band can get a local residency they not only have the chance to build an audience but work on their stage performance along the way. You have to come in the first night and kill it to come back the next week but with each show the act gets better and better while the audience grows. Most clubs really only care about how many people you bring in, some don’t even match-up the line-up very well. We’ve shared the stage with rap, country, punk and even a comedian one time. Make sure to find out who else is in the line-up if you can. Your fans will appreciate a solid night of good music and come back to see you again.

Q: What is the craziest thing that has happened to you so far while touring or performing? Any over zealous fans out there?

Lee: I made the mistake of giving out my phone number to a few people early on. After getting three calls a day for a week from one of them I had to change the phone number.

Jazmine: Many zealous fans. It comes with the territory but it’s always slightly unnerving. I’d rather not get into specifics but… yeah.

Q: At the end of the day, music is a business but how do you continue to have fun while making sure your business is in order?

Jazmine: Separate the two. There’s a beauty to both. We tackle each with a gratitude to be involved in such an ever-changing and prolific industry. This is the soundtrack of people’s lives and what moves us all.

Lee: Most of the fun happens on-stage when we connect with the audience and each other. As soon as I pack up my guitar and get home its back to work. Though, have to say, turning your passion into your day job is the only way to live.

Q: What are some of your favorite songs to perform? Yours as well as covers from others?

Jazmine: I’ve become attached to our cover of Bowie’s ‘Afraid of Americans.’ I’d love to record it.

Lee: A piece of my soul goes into each original so those will always be my favorite. Our version of ‘Americans’ is really strong. Fire by Hendrix and Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me by U2 are also fun to play on-stage.

Q: Who would you have liked to work with that is no longer with us?

Lee: Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, of course. Would have also like to work with John Bonham. Those guys are all legends.

Q: What’s up next for The HUSH?

Lee: We have another single to release, ‘Hanging by a Thread’ and might do a video with that song. There are few shows in the works, one across the country, and we are back in writing mode. The new material is coming along great, I really look forward to our next recording session.

The 2012 U.S. Army Soldier Show

The 2012 U.S. Army Soldier Show was designed to showcase the talents of active-duty Soldiers who are selected by an audition held throughout the Army. These men and women are amateur artists who have a passion for music, dance and performing. They come from all areas of the service such as information technology, human resources, food services, signal systems support, petroleum supply, combat medicine, aircraft structural repair, and other tactical units. The show is put together in five weeks, and then they tour for six months.

There are new cast members selected each year as aspiring Soldiers worldwide submit applications that include videotapes, biographies, photographs, and letters of recommendation from their commanders. Soldiers must have an outstanding record in their units as well as demonstrate musicality, movement, stage presence, and versatility.  Their applications are screened by an audition panel made up of  Soldier Show artistic staff, Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation program directors, Soldier peers, and selected senior Army leaders. They are also scored by a panel of judges on showmanship, talent, and poise, the finalists must pass physical training and drug tests, uniform inspection and even a dance audition. Then audio and lighting technicians are selected based on their military and civilian theater experience and training, recommendations, and military record.

The new cast and technical crew spend six weeks at Joint Base San Antonio rehearsing under the direction of an artistic staff led by producer/production manager Tim Higdon, artistic director Victor Hurtado, music director Joey Beebe, and choreographer Amy Lynn Miles.
The performers days are usually 12- to 16-hours and begin with military formation that includes aerobic workouts, vocal coaching, dance
training, and learning how to assemble and dismantle the stage trusses. The technical crew learns computer-based lighting and audio and video functions while designing the lighting, sound and special effects.

In addition to learning choreography, performers memorize as many as 40 songs, ranging from country, R&B, gospel, rock, oldies, soul, and patriotic songs combined in solos, duets, group and high-energy, fast-paced production numbers that make up the 90-minute show. Once on the road, Soldiers work an average 14-hour day, seven days a week for seven months. In addtion, the cast and crew offload, load, assemble, and dismantle 18 tons of equipment at each stop on the tour, including four miles of cable and 100 theatrical lights. During the tour, they will handle more than a million pounds of electrical, sound, stage and lighting gear. Some Soldiers have described it as their toughest duty outside of combat. Military drivers rotate shifts driving a 44-passenger bus, two 18-wheel tractor trailers, and a 15-passenger van to transport personnel, staff, costumes, and stage equipment to their stateside destinations.

The 2012 U.S. Army Soldier Show is sponsored by Army G-1’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program. Five motivational “I. A.M. Strong” commercials appear during each performance, featuring songs written and performed by Soldier/rap artist SGT Daniel “Danny Bee” Bullock and the commercials made by the SHARP Program Office. I. A.M. STRONG is the Army’s campaign to combat sexual assaults by engaging all Soldiers in preventing sexual assaults before they occur.

For complete info and photos you can visit the official media release and be sure to check out the list of Tour Dates to find out when they will be performing near you. If you are in NYC, the soldiers perform at noon and 3 p.m. on Thursday, June 14 at the Military Recruiting Station in Times Square.

 

Brian Larsen: Taking Over the World, 4 Albums at a Time

Brain Larsen is a veteran of the music business, having started at age 11 and working ever since.  Brian has just released his second solo album, Building (April 17), is touring to promote it, and (luckily for me) doing interviews.  He also has a day-in-the-life video comedy series (vlog) on YouTube and is already working on 4 new albums.  No wonder he likes answering emails and interview questions from the bathtub!

Brian’s sound has been compared to John Mayer, REM, Lindsey Buckingham, the Byrds, and the Beatles.  His music is described as alternative-folk-rock-pop but I think it best for you to experience it for yourself in order to get the full impact.  I love this quote from his website, “Everything about my entertainment career is just about me being natural and being myself. If people can connect with that — if they can relate to me and what I do, then that’s great. Since my infancy, all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life is to entertain people, so every day along this journey is a new opportunity for me to continue realizing my lifelong dream.” It really expresses what type of person and entertainer he is.

I was really honored that he agreed to do this interview with me.  I find Brian to be a very introspective person and someone we could all learn something from.  Its hard to believe he is only 25, he has such a mature view of life and really “gets it” when it comes to what his music should be about. I also love that he is working on a few charity projects because it shows that he really understands how to handle his good fortune and influence.  This is someone that talks the talk, AND walks the walk.

Q: Your new album, Building, is your 10th (including the albums you made with your former group Twilight’s Moon).  What have you learned from being in the business for such a long time and from the young age of 11?

A: How much time do we have? [laughs]. This coming September marks 15 years since I released my debut album as Twilight’s Moon. I’ve learned how to record and produce with proper techniques and attention to detail. I’ve learned about the industry and what it takes to get heard and not become lost in the clutter of hundreds of thousands of other bands that are also actively releasing music. The industry has changed so much due to piracy and the economy, and yet in some strange, distant way, I really am the same person I was back then, despite the fact that I’ve obviously grown so much (both literally and figuratively) since I first started making music.

Q: Tell us a little about the new album and the songs.

A: My new album, “Building,” is definitely the best thing I’ve ever done. The songs are more or less about trying to “build” oneself up after a traumatic event (a serious breakup, death of a loved one, etc.). The songs are energetic and passionate and cover a tremendous amount of ground, sonic-ally speaking. I’ve got some really powerful rock songs in there, a few really sweet pop songs, and a few ballads, and a few unique songs. There are definitely some twists and turns on this album, and despite how different some of the songs sound from each other, they work together really, really well… there’s something very cohesive about this album.

Like most of my previous albums, I produced these recordings, but a good friend of mine, multi-platinum producer and mixer Michael James mixed the album. Michael is unbelievably talented, and he really helped me to take my songs to a totally different level. I’m playing all the instruments on every song except for the drums on several songs, for which I brought in my incredibly talented touring drummer, Lydia Lewis, and I was really fortunate to record her drum parts at the legendary Inner Ear Studios with Don Zientara, who is another amazingly talented producer and engineer.

Everyone who worked on the album expressed having a real passion for these songs, and that has been fantastic… it’s one of the greatest feelings in the world to have people whom you admire and respect verbalize how much they like your work.

Q: What is different about being on your own as opposed to a group? You did lead the group but is there more pressure when its all you?

A: The music that I make is so intimate and honest that I don’t really think of the “pressure” of what I do… it just feels like I’m sharing my feelings in some cathartic way. I’ve learned to accept that making music, which is my true passion in life, requires me to give up a lot of privacy… now that I’ve accepted that, I don’t even think about “pressure” anymore.

I will say, though, that writing, recording, performing, and producing every song from scratch is an incredibly intense process and sometimes there can be an uncomfortable showing of emotions there, but I think you get used to that, too. In some instances, I’ve written songs about a woman that I was dating at the time and then have had to record the entire song in her presence. It’s interesting to see the look on someone’s face the moment that they find out that a song that you’ve written that starts out “Are you happy now?” is about them [laughs]

Q:  Who are some of your inspirations in the music business? How about outside of the industry?

A:  My musical influences are all across the board. As a child, I was raised on classic rock, so my parents were always playing The Beatles, ELO, Fleetwood Mac, Queen, and tons of others. By the time I was a teenager, I developed an interest in classical and world music, so my more Avant-garde influences are as far-reaching as Philip Glass, Ravi Shankar, Yoko Ono, etc.  I think I can find inspiration in any kind of music, and even from life itself. There is musical and artistic value in everything we see and do, and hopefully I’ve never lost sight of how inspiring it is to be alive.

Outside of music, I’m inspired by everything and everyone… no, really. I’m inspired by friends and girlfriends and exes and strangers and everyone around me.

Q: Who are some artists you would like to collaborate with?

A: Well, I’ve always wanted to work with Dave Stewart, and I did have the opportunity to collaborate with him very briefly last year, but I’d really like to get together with Dave and work on a couple of songs sometime next year when our schedules are in sync.

I’d love to work with Jeff Lynne, who is one of the most amazing musicians and producers ever to walk the face of this planet. Would also love to work with Kate Pierson of the B-52’s (which I’m working on doing sometime in 2013) and Belinda Carlisle, who, along with her son Duke, are buddies of mine. Belinda is just such an unbelievably talented woman, and her discography speaks for itself.

Q:  Tell me a little about your YouTube “vlog”, how did that come about? What has been the most rewarding part of it?

A: Well, in 2006, I brought cameras in to document the process of recording what became my 2007 EP “In The Meantime,” and suddenly I realized that I loved to interact with the camera. I would make jokes in-between takes and talk directly to the camera, and at some point, some friend of mine suggested that I compile the funny material and think about releasing videos.

This was in the early days of YouTube, so at some point when I was recording my “Breaking” album, I decided to actually sit down and start making silly videos, the first of which would be me eating this huge cake in one sitting, and for some reason, people loved it! [laughs]. At that point, I decided to make the vlog a permanent aspect of my career. The experience has been incredible and has introduced me and my music to tens of thousands of people who wouldn’t have otherwise heard of me.

Q: In addition to YouTube, where else can we find you?

A: My official website is http://brian.am, which is constantly evolving to be the single best source for any information about me. I’m working on a couple of charity projects and other things that will be posted on the site as soon as possible.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

A: “There was never a time when you and I did not exist, nor shall there be any future in which we will cease to be.” (from the Bhagavad Gita). I think it really sums up my feelings about life and the world around me.

Q: Best piece of advice you have ever gotten? Who gave it to you?

A: Actually, I’m going to have to cite a very recent conversation that I had with my mixing engineer, Michael James. Michael is this incredibly talented producer and engineer who’s worked with The New Radicals, Hole, Chicago, and tons of other incredible bands, and he mixed my most recent album, “Building.”

Since that time, he’s become a very good friend, and a few weeks ago I was asking him for some relationship advice. I felt hurt by something someone did to me and I asked Michael how he would respond, and he immediately told me to “take the high road” and to be loving, nice, and caring to her, which the opposite of how I wanted to respond. Ultimately, though, he was right… as corny as it may sound, it’s better to spread love than hate. It made me feel like a better person, and helped my relationship tremendously.

Q: Best piece of advice you have ever given? To?

A: I can’t think of a specific time, but whenever a friend or family member asks me for advice, I always try to encourage them to be positive and mindful… just being present and “in the now” has completely changed my life and I truly believe it can change the life of anyone who’s willing to look within themselves for an answer.

Q: What advice would you give to young people who have aspirations of getting into acting and/or music?

A: I would encourage him/her to be smart about how they approach a potential career. The entertainment industry can oftentimes be extremely brutal and it’s easy to lose sight of why you got involved in the industry in the first place. Also, I would tell them to be realistic about their expectations and to have a “backup” plan and a college education just in case. Having said that, though, I’d also encourage them to never stop believing in themselves and to aim as high as possible. Each of us is capable of changing the world, if only we are willing to put in the effort.

Q: What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

A: Hmm… Milk Duds and Jeopardy [laughs].

Q: You have a very busy schedule. Walk us through a day in your life these days.

A: A lot of people tell me that they feel tired just thinking about a day in my life, but I love what I do. I get up at around 6:30am or so, do a little bit of yoga and then take a bath – that’s right, a bath — during which time I respond to emails from the previous evening. I love doing work from the bathtub for some reason. Then I start working on new music, which lasts a few hours, and after that I take care of business stuff related to the record label I own, Protocol Records. I’m also mentoring a band, Ivy Rose, and they were on “America’s Got Talent” this past week (http://www.nbc.com/americas-got-talent/video/ivy-rose/1403101 — yours truly appears on camera for about 3 seconds [laughs]). I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time working with them to prepare for their audition and then to prepare for our trip to Vegas last month, and I also co-produced their new EP that was released last week… if I told you any more, I’d have to kill you.

But yeah, I do all that stuff, then a few interviews every day, create some more music, and then repeat the process until about 1:30am when I crash. I’ve gotten really good at learning to operate and feel great on about 5 hours of sleep.

Q: What’s up next for Brian Larsen?

A: Right now, I’m working on four different albums at the same time… I know, I’m insane [laughs]. I’ve got a rock album that I’ve started, a very dark experimental album that I’m really excited about, which is going to be released under a different name, then a folk/acoustic album, and also a synthpop record. About 80% of the songs for all four records have already been written. I’ve never had so much energy and creative drive, and I love the music that I’m creating nowadays.

Also, I’m going to do some more touring, both solo acoustic shows and full band shows, to further promote “Building,” which will probably continue through the end of 2012, at which point I’ll be ready to release one of these follow up albums.
Basically, I feel great, and I’m excited to share this energy with the world!