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Exclusive Q and A: Lauren Alaina Talks “Wildflower,” Fans and Steve Tyler

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsLauren Alaina may not have won the two Teen Choice Awards for which she was just nominated — Choice Female Country Artist and Choice TV Female Reality Star for American Idol — but she’s got plenty of other successes to celebrate.

Not only is she looking ahead to joining Sugarland‘s “In Your Hands” tour in support of her debut album Wildflower, but her new single “Eighteen Inches” has been released to radio with great success. The song, written by Carrie Underwood, Kelley Lovelace, and Ashley Gorley, which references the space between a person’s head and heart, is something which resonates strongly with Alaina.

Recently the 17-year-old American Idol season 10 runner-up and Georgia native took time out of her schedule to talk about her music, her idols, and just what she learned from recording with American Idol judge and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler.

OS: Let’s talk about your album and how you chose such great songs like “Eighteen Inches.”

LA: In the process of making the album I was listening to quite a few songs. I had to narrow them down to what what was going to go on the album. When I heard ["18 Inches"] that reminded me so much of my mom. She has literally gone through the exact same thing as the song. Eighteen inches is the distance between the head and the heart. It delivered such a beautiful message. I remember being very proud of being the person who sings it.

OS: I know you admire Carrie Underwood very much. Was that another reason you liked it so much?

LA: I didn’t know she wrote it [when I first heard it]. I think [my team] didn’t tell me on purpose.

Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Lauren Alaina Talks “Wildflower,” Fans and Steve Tyler’

Your Country’s Right Here: Lucero Showcases ‘Women & Work’

Ben Nichols, frontman of the punk alt-country band Lucero, talks like a man who has been musically reborn.

Or maybe it’s more apt to liken his attitude to that of someone who worked and worked and then finally solved the New York Times‘ Saturday crossword puzzle — in ink, first time through. Sure Lucero has always had a cool punk, alt-country sound that won them fans well beyond the band’s Memphis, Tenn., home base. But now think of Lucero’s punk, alt-country sound as super charged, thanks to the addition of new players and instrumentation. You can hear it all on the band’s new release Women & Work, on ATO records, home of the Drive-By Truckers, My Morning Jacket, and other like-minded musicians.

“When we [recorded] Women & Work all eight pieces had been on the road for a couple years,” said Nichols of the group’s cohesive musical direction. “We had time to gel, as a complete unit and it was the first time everyone had been involved [in recording a Lucero record] since day one. We had discovered what was possible and went into this record knowing exactly where we stood and exactly what sound we were going for.”

Not that Nichols and the other original members of the 14-year-old band didn’t have the determination or talent or enthusiasm to find that musical sweet spot before. It’s just that, like solving a puzzle, they needed to find the key to the tricky questions. In this band’s case, it was how to whip Otis Redding soul into Lucero’s punk country sound and have a pleasing result.

Continue reading ‘Your Country’s Right Here: Lucero Showcases ‘Women & Work’’

Your Country’s Right Here: The David Mayfield Parade Poised for the Big Time

David Mayfield needs to come with a warning label.

Anyone who has attended one of this season’s music festivals and been lulled into the mind-numbing sameness of some performers will want to buckle up before Mayfield blasts onto the stage. Not only is his music a high-powered, joyous Americana with a dollop of rock, but Mayfield’s bouncing enthusiasm—jumping into the crowd, prodding them to join him in song—is beyond infectious. Think a Jack Black persona with first-rate Americana folk rock and you’re on the right track. Perhaps that’s why Mayfield is about the only person who may be surprised at his success, which includes recently raising double the cash he sought to fund his next album.

“I had no idea the first one would be so well received,” said Mayfield of his first album. “I’ve had lots of fans tell me that they proposed while listening to “Breathe of Love” or walked down the aisle while it was playing. I feel like it’s almost out of my hands now. I talked to [the Avett Brothers'] Seth Avett and he told me at some point, you will write something from a personal place and people will relate to it and it will become theirs, too.”

In a way, Mayfield has become part of the Avett success story, as well. It was the Avett Brothers—Scott and Seth—who “discovered” him when he was touring as the bassist for his sister Jessica Lea Mayfield. Soon Mayfield, who also wrote songs for Cadillac Sky, was sitting in with the Avetts at Bonnaroo and Merlefest. Not that the musical path has been completely smooth even for Mayfield, who was born into such a musical family and has found support among A-list musicians.

One reason Mayfield calls his group a “Parade” is that players tend to come and go. Sure everyone wants to play at such high-profile gigs as DelFest, which Mayfield and his players did after accepting a personal invitation from bluegrass great Del McCoury, but when the bar gigs roll around some players tend to drop out. But that doesn’t stem Mayfield’s enthusiasm in writing and performing his original songs not to mention an occasional cover or sitting in with Luther Dickinson or other A-list performers.

Continue reading ‘Your Country’s Right Here: The David Mayfield Parade Poised for the Big Time’

Exclusive Q and A: Hunter Hayes Talks Carrie Underwood, Joe Walsh and the Young Woman who Inspired ‘Wanted’

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsHunter Hayes has hit gold with “Wanted,” the second single from from his self-titled debut album. Between that song and the first single from the album, Storm Warning, Hayes has also watched digital sales move beyond the one million mark.

Although Hayes is only 20, he is a virtuoso performer, writer, and producer who played every instrument and writes or co-writes every song on his album. The 2012 Academy of Country Music (ACM) New Artist of the Year nominee is on a musical fast track touring with household names including Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Trace Adkins, and Hank Williams Jr. As he continues his own tour and looks ahead to joining Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away” tour this fall, it’s clear his star is continuing to rise. Recently he took time out from his jam-packed schedule to talk about his music, performing and one special inspiration for his latest hit single.

OS: Congratulations on your recent success! You’ve certainly had a lot of great news lately. It has to feel surreal in a way.

HH: Just about five years ago or so when I was a freshman in high school, I was dreaming of this day. I was dreaming of traveling in a tour bus and playing theatres and [large venues]. Now I’m dreaming about traveling with several tour buses and playing arenas. This really is all a dream come true.

OS: So you co-wrote the song “Wanted.” What is the song about?

HH: I co-wrote it with Troy Verges. I had this idea about what I wanted to tell this (female) friend of mine who I just want to spend time with every time I’m home. So we were talking about that and he was helping me with what I’d say. So that’s really how the song came together.

Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Hunter Hayes Talks Carrie Underwood, Joe Walsh and the Young Woman who Inspired ‘Wanted’’

Your Country’s Right Here: Keller Williams and the McCourys Team up for ‘Pick’

Keller Williams was trying to balance a tabletop fan on an ice chest inside his assigned tent at DelFest during the Memorial Day Weekend when members of the Travelin’ McCourys stopped by to chat.

As Williams worked, trying to ensure the fan didn’t fall into the ice, the group began brotherly ribbing about the trip to the DelFest site in Cumberland, Maryland, their music, and their families. Sure, there were almost 10,000 fans lined up to see the McCoury family, Keller Williams, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, and other bluegrass royalty play, but an onlooker would never know it from the casual camaraderie of the Williams and the McCoury band. The musicians were clearly as comfortable as if they were going to just jam with friends, which in a way they were.

“Bluegrass has always been a part of my show,” said Williams when asked what led him to record the just-released album Pick—with the Travelin’ McCourys. “There are different types of music that burn in my head—like jazz, electronica—but it circles back.”

Fair enough. There’s a reason that Williams is known as a one man jam band, after all. One has difficulty summoning other musicians who move quite as easily among divergent formats—bluegrass to folk to rock to reggae and beyond—and playing it all with the ease of a multi-instrumental virtuoso with the joy of a fan, both titles that he holds. Indeed, Williams’ sets at DelFest, named after the much-loved and honored bluegrass stalwart Del McCoury, ranged from some of his classic hits to bluegrass tunes to “Hot Stuff” in tribute to the recently-deceased disco queen Donna Summer.

Continue reading ‘Your Country’s Right Here: Keller Williams and the McCourys Team up for ‘Pick’’

Exclusive Q and A: Bucky Covington Proves ‘I’m Alright,’ with New Album, Sold Out Tour, and More

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsBucky Covington was riding high in 2007 when his self-titled debut album debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Top 75 chart, the biggest unit debut from a country artist that year. Covington’s album also had the best first week sales and was the highest Top 200 debut from any new country artist in 15 years. Several singles from that album hit the Top 10 on the charts. But the finalist from the fifth season of American Idol hit bumps early in his career when his label Lyric Street Records closed and he was unsigned for more than a year.

Now signed with E One Entertainment, he is touring behind his new single “I Wanna Be That Feeling,” from his next album I’m Alright that will be released later this year. Fans can hear the new songs and his hits this summer as he travels the U.S. on his Hometown Tour.

Covington recently chatted about his new record label, his album, and just why he’s such a great guy to his fans.

OS: Life on the road has to be so different. I think I’d be exhausted all of the time!

BC: Yes, it was when I first went on the road. It was weird to be moving [on a tour bus] when I was sleeping!

OS: Carrie Underwood is just one of the country stars that has made her way into the major leagues after being on American Idol. But I know some people still think that’s an easy way to get into the music industry. What’s your response when people say that?

BC: When you come off a show like American Idol, they say you don’t pay any dues. But that isn’t true! My [first] label [Lyric Street Records] closed and I was unsigned for about 1 1/2 years. Now I’m with eOne [Entertainment One, a Nashville label].  It was a difficult time [when I was unsigned]. Hey, dues paid. The way I see it, coming off a great show like American Idol, has been fantastic. It was great to have my [2007 debut] album do so well and I was as happy as a lark. But it’s not as open and shut as people think. It  took me about 1 1/2 years [before I signed with another record label]. Once we got the contracts and all those things signed and behind us, I was very happy. The biggest thing is that I enjoy the label but there was a lot of stuff I skipped. So I didn’t know anything about the business [when I first entered it]. I’ve had to catch up. When you trade anything for money, it becomes a business. And there are a lot of different levels in the business. When my [first] label shut down, all I could think was “Now what the hell do I do? Where do I turn?” I didn’t know which way to turn, but I was sitting back and learning a lot. Now I’ve got a new record label, a business management company and am very, very happy.

Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Bucky Covington Proves ‘I’m Alright,’ with New Album, Sold Out Tour, and More’

Your Country’s Right Here: Don DiLego ‘Walks the Line’ with New Alt Country Release

A funny thing happened when Don DiLego sat down to record a new album—he found he had written two.

The singer/songwriter who you likely know from his songs that have been featured on such television shows as Dawson’s Creek and Roswell and various films has just released  the Western & Atlantic EP. Working with Colin Killilea (Pocketknife), Marwan Kanafani (City Breathing), Erik Olsen (DiLego’s longtime writing partner), and Gregg Williams (Dandy Warhols, Sheryl Crow), the result is a stroll back to the Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell sound that intrigued DiLego as a child. Perhaps that’s not surprising when you consider Rolling Stone dubbed him “alt-country’s next poster boy.”

“Just this morning I was watching ‘Walk the Line’ [the 2005 biographical drama about] Johnny Cash,” he said when asked about his decision to gather all the players in a studio and record Western & Atlantic live except for minimal overdubs. “It is only in today’s era that having recorded everyone live [while the players are] together means anything. In the history of music, that was just the way you recorded things.”

Not that DiLego is that far away from the roots of country. After all, he and musical partner Bree Sharp have a loyal following for their folk, alt-country duo Beautiful Small Machines. In fact, the duo’s recent cover of a banjo version of MIA’s “Paper Planes” was just selected as a Top 5 Pick of the Week by The Guardian of London. But in order to juggle his hectic musical schedule, DiLego will often use modern recording tools, like most other musicians, to finish a project. Perhaps the back-to-basics recording process for Western & Atlantic is what makes the early buzz around the EP so heartening.

Continue reading ‘Your Country’s Right Here: Don DiLego ‘Walks the Line’ with New Alt Country Release’

Exclusive Q and A: Sarah Lee Guthrie Talks Woody, Rock and the Guthrie Family Legacy

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsTalking to Sarah Lee Guthrie, daughter of Arlo and granddaughter of Woody, you’d never know she is folk music royalty. Even though her relatives have created some of the most enduring songs in the American music catalog—everything from “This Land is Your Land” (written by Woody in 1940) to “Alice’s Restaurant” (released by Arlo in 1967)—Guthrie seems perfectly comfortable embracing her own rock style of music while honoring her folk legacy.

Although Guthrie and her musical partner and husband, Johnny Irion, are in the midst of creating their next album, the two have halted work to join Arlo and the rest of the Guthrie family on the “Guthrie Family Reunion” tour that will wind its way to a dozen venues and music festivals. To honor what would have been Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday on July 14, the family will perform sets that include Woody’s songs, Arlo’s songs, and new material written by the Guthrie family. Sarah Lee and Johnny will sing their original songs as well as “Airliner” by Wilco, whose members Jeff Tweedy and Pat Sansone are producing the duo’s latest album due in 2013.

Sarah Lee Guthrie took some time out to talk about her family, her music and why she thinks her 9-year old daughter Olivia Nora Irion—known to the family as ONI—may well contribute to the family’s music catalog.

OS: Your own personal music—which you make with Johnny—is more rock than folk. Yet you also embrace your folk heritage. How do you balance the two formats?

SLG: It just comes naturally, really. Johnny and I love all kinds of music and we always put them all into the show. Johnny loves to rock but we also love to tip our hat to history. That is so important. But really, we just love experimenting and finding new voices. That is what [our career together] has uncovered. We really have a good time doing that and can’t wait to create more. It is very exciting for us.

OS: A lot of second- or third-generation artists talk a lot about the fans that come to their shows. Some find it frustrating that the fans are there more to embrace the past than to listen to the newer music. You’ve never really voiced displeasure about any of that.

SLG: I have to say that for the most part, actually the whole part, the fan interactions I’ve had have been very positive. They always talk about how much Woody’s music meant to them growing up and how much Arlo’s songs have changed their lives. There are moments where it worries me and I wonder what they expect of me. But they’ve been very positive and very gracious. It’s really been a great thing to have fans embrace the legacy.

Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Sarah Lee Guthrie Talks Woody, Rock and the Guthrie Family Legacy’

Your Country’s Right Here: Madison Violet Begin to Blossom in U.S.

For all the heavy-duty bluegrass star power at the most recent DelFest in Cumberland, Md., it was the Canadian folk duo Madison Violet that arguably was the most exciting “find” of the event.

Known individually as Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac, the duo has won an array of awards and has ardent fans throughout their native Canada, in Europe, and beyond. Yet the two are just now making a name for themselves in the U.S. An unexpected illness forced the duo to cancel the last two dates of the U.S. tour behind their latest album The Good in Goodbye, but the pair hope to be back in American clubs soon.

“We haven’t toured in the U.S. very often in the 13 years we have been playing together,” said MacEachern citing work permits and other red tape that has kept them away. “Now we have more of a focus on the States and that’s great. Our music shouldn’t be a struggle in the States; it’s kind of got an Americana feel.”

Although that’s true, the music clearly also has international appeal as underscored by the many fans— especially from Germany—that fly to Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere, to catch Madison Violet shows. Perhaps that’s not surprising when you consider the judges, including Elton John, Wyclef Jean and Mary J. Blige, that chose Madison Violet as the 2009 Grand Prize Winners of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. The duo are the first Canadians to win the award.

While the prize certainly bolstered the group’s confidence in their own abilities, they still see a long road ahead as they work to establish their names in the States. The joy for them is that fans are fans and seem to have similar responses to their music, wherever they play. If they can just get before a crowd, as they did on Memorial Day weekend at DelFest, chances are they’ll win converts.

Continue reading ‘Your Country’s Right Here: Madison Violet Begin to Blossom in U.S.’

Exclusive Q and A: Jo Dee Messina Talks New Music, Concerts and Kids

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsJo Dee Messina may be a major country music star with a host of awards and No. 1 Billboard country singles, but her focus most days is her two young sons, Noah, 3, and Jonah, who was born in January.

Just like any parent with a full-time career, Messina knows her way around a diaper bag, can easily recite all the ways to entice your child to nap, and will has a list of reasons to avoid air travel with a travel companion whose age is a single digit. Plenty of fans have enjoyed hearing about Messina’s life via her single “A Woman’s Rant” and even more so through her Blog Fumbling Mom, published in the Tennessean Newspaper.

Messina took time out recently to chat with OurStage about kids, exercise and, oh yes, her award-winning music.

OS: Wow, you really juggle a lot between your career and family. What are your secrets?

JDM: You just do it. You go out on stage and pray to God you don’t have spit up on you! My blog lets people know me in my “other” life. It’s a hard balance but a good balance.

OS: I bet it’s tough having a child to worry about as well as a music career!

JDM: What is harder than having a kid is having two! My head is spinning.

OS: You mentioned somewhere that you’ve been intent on getting back in shape since your son was born. What are you doing?

JDM: I’m working out two to three hours a day. In this business, you can’t be overweight.  [Fitness is] just part of the job, one of the job requirements. If I choose to do this, then I need to run five miles a day.

Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Jo Dee Messina Talks New Music, Concerts and Kids’

 


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