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Exclusive Q and A: Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr Talks ‘The Whippoorwill,’ Songwriting, and Zac Brown

Blackberry Smoke

Blackberry Smoke‘s recent release of The Whippoorwill has fans and critics calling the Georgia-based band the next generation of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Little Feat, Kid Rock, and other legendary southern rockers with a foot planted in the country. Since signing with Southern Ground Artists, the label founded by Zac Brown, the band have been on the road with Eric Church, the Zac Brown Band, and many other high-profile performers. It seems only a matter of time before Blackberry Smoke become headlining powerhouses themselves.

Charlie Starr, leader and main songwriter of the band, took time out from his schedule to talk about writing The Whippoorwill, how the songs were selected, and just what he hopes fans hear in the band’s latest release:

OS: You must feel great about having The Whippoorwill released.

CS: Yes, it was such a long time between making this album and the last album (Little Piece of Dixie from 2010). I had a lot of songs written that we had been playing live already. We were were excited to record those even though they weren’t new to us and our fans anymore. We definitely had those down!

OS: I’m always curious about the songwriting process. Are you the kind of writer who works on the road or do you have a certain place you prefer to write? Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr Talks ‘The Whippoorwill,’ Songwriting, and Zac Brown’

Exclusive Q and A: Owl City Talks EDM, Touring, and Purple Rain

Last year, Owl City was riding a huge wave of success, buoyed by a multi-album major label deal and collaborations with GRAMMY award–winning producers.  It was hard to imagine that Adam Young’s star could rise any higher. Leave it to him to prove us wrong. Since we last spoke to the singer-songwriter, his electropop project has gotten even bigger. He recently teamed up with pop queen of the moment Carly Rae Jepsen to record “Good Time,” a chart–topping summer smash, and released his fourth studio album, The Midsummer Station in August. We caught up with Young to chat about the collaborative process with Jepsen, his love of Dutch DJs, and his literary inspirations.

OS: “Good Time” was a huge hit this past summer. Did you go into the studio with that goal in mind, and how did the process of collaboration work?

AY: I definitely didn’t expect the reception the song has been getting. It is an honor when you see and hear such positive feedback. Carly was an absolute pleasure to work with. It turned out she was a fan of my music and our managers knew each other, so I asked her to be on the song, sent her the stems, and within a day she sent her parts back to me.

OS: “Good Time” has the lyric “What’s up with this Prince song inside my head?” Which song are you referring to? As a fellow Minnesotan, are you a Prince fan?

AY: “Purple Rain” and yes, massive fan. Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Owl City Talks EDM, Touring, and Purple Rain’

Riffs, Rants, And Rumors: Los Lobos Look Back On ‘Kiko’

It was 1991 and Los Lobos were pissed. “We had recorded [1990 album] The Neighborhood and toured that record nonstop,” remembers saxophonist/keyboardist Steve Berlin. “The Neighborhood took us about a year to make, for no good reason. We had a co-producer who had an agenda, and we were dealing with his agenda and not trusting ourselves. We came home from that tour pissed-off, broke, we had sort of bought this idea that we were big rock stars and that we needed to have all this rock-star stuff, like lights, and two buses, and lots of stuff that we really didn’t need, or even want, for that matter.” Continue reading ‘Riffs, Rants, And Rumors: Los Lobos Look Back On ‘Kiko’’

Exclusive Q and A: Gloriana’s Mike Gossin Talks about the New Album, Celebrations, and the NFL

The old saying “living well is the best revenge” is certainly proving true for the three members of Gloriana.

Not that brothers Tom and Mike Gossin and bandmate Rachel Reinert have ever offered anything but charitable words about former member Cheyenne Kimball who abruptly left the group in July 2011. But the departure left the three original members somewhat stumped — Kimball had reportedly left without any notice — and scrambling to finish the follow up to their self-titled 2009 debut album.

Although losing a member would cause some bands to fracture and others to completely fall apart, the three members of Gloriana soldiered on. The result is the award winning band’s July 31 release, A Thousand Miles Left Behind that debuted at #2 on the Billboard Country Album Chart and #10 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart. In addition, the single “(Kissed You) Good Night” debuted at #4 on the Billboard Country Singles Chart, marking the group’s first Top 5 single. Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Gloriana’s Mike Gossin Talks about the New Album, Celebrations, and the NFL’

Exclusive Q and A: Kreayshawn Talks Gucci, BAPE, Debut Album

About a year ago, a relatively unknown rapper from Oakland,  Calif. dropped a song that took the web by storm, gathering millions of YouTube hits in a matter of weeks. Kreayshawn’s track, “Gucci Gucci,” was a goofy, subversive send-up of brand label mania, and immediately earned her equal amounts of praise and scorn. People called her an amateur rapper, an industry fad, and a one-hit wonder. Now, she’s out to prove them all wrong. Kreayshawn’s debut major label album Somethin’ Bout Kreay will be released this September on Columbia, and the Bay Area rapper is ready to take her haters head-on. We caught up with Kreay to chat about the inspiration for the album’s title, her love of BAPE, and why nobody really seems to “get” the meaning behind her first hit.

OS: You recently teamed up with Tragik, Grimes, and Blood Diamonds on the track “Don’t Smoke My Blunt Bitch.” Are you all planning on doing more music together as L$D, or was that just a one-off deal?

K: It was just four musicians hanging out in a room who ended up making a song. We really just did it for fun. It was like, “Let’s make a song in ten minutes!” We literally said that before we made the song. Maybe if we all sit in a room together someday it’ll happen again, but it was really just for fun. It was like that for the video, too. We shot it the next day. Tragik is a legendary-ass filmer and editor, and she was able to turn it around in less than a day. It’s cool to see something like that happen.

OS: Obviously you’re more focused on the new album right now. What can you tell us about the title? It immediately brings to mind the ’98 Farrelly brothers movie…

K: It definitely has that same type of feeling. It basically started when I was talking about how hella guys are in love with me. Well, not hella guys. But there are always guys who are trying to talk to me through a friend. They’re all like, “Hook me up with Kreay! Hook me up with Kreay!” This was in the middle of me trying to name my album about anything that I saw. I’d be like, “Look at that pole! Let’s name the album…Really Long Pole.” So I’m thinking of album names, and my homie’s like, “Damn. There’s just something ’bout Kreay that makes the guys go wild!” And I was just like, “That’s it! Something ‘Bout Kreay. That’s it!” It came from that, but I realize there’s also just something about Kreayshawn that people either really love or really hate me. It’s never in between. It’s always something about me that either makes them hate me or makes them love me.

Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Kreayshawn Talks Gucci, BAPE, Debut Album’

Exclusive Q and A: Elaine Roy of The Roys Looks Ahead to a “New Day Dawning.”

It’s difficult to believe that the latest recording by The Roys, New Day Dawning, is only the siblings’ sophomore effort for Rural Rhythm Records.

The brother and sister who embraced bluegrass as elementary school children in New England have such a solid, signature sound — in the style of their idols including Bill Monroe and Ricky Skaggs — that it feels as if they have always been part of the bluegrass community. Perhaps that’s because the music of the reigning Inspirational Country Music Bluegrass Artists of the Year is a true staple on radio, in concerts, and during high-profile events including the PBS television special Pa’s Fiddle and on such television shows as Fox & Friends.

Now Elaine and Lee Roy are again candidates for nominations in ICM award categories — this time for Entertainers of the Year, Vocal Duo, and Inspirational Bluegrass Artist. As if that isn’t enough, the duo are ready to release their next recording this month. Elaine Roy took time out of her hectic schedule to chat about the duo’s music, album, and fans.

OS: New Day Dawning is a great title for your album. How did you come up with that title?

ER: I don’t even know who came up with the idea. We started talking and somebody said “New Day Dawning” and we wanted to write it as a song. There’s such negativity in the world so when it came time to name the album we thought it was the perfect title of the album.

OS: Well, I have to ask if it also signifies a new day or turning point for The Roys.

ER: We hope it’s a turning point! We’ve struggled long and hard to get where we are today. We are really grateful for all that has happened to us and we look forward to a new day dawning and great things ahead.

OS: Now this recording isn’t a full album. Why is that?

ER: Right, it’s seven tracks. I think for us it was trying to turn out more music quicker for the fans. When you record a complete album, that’s a very long process. We just wanted to get music out there for our fans.

Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Elaine Roy of The Roys Looks Ahead to a “New Day Dawning.”’

Exclusive Q and A: Vanna Talks Family, Friends, and Monsoons

“It’s time to get out of this town. It’s haunting, this presence.” If the verse lyrics from post-hardcore band Vanna’s “Safe To Say” ever referred to their hometown of Boston, Mass., we’d never guess it now. After kicking off 2012 with tours through Europe and the U.S. from February to April, then almost immediately turning around and jumping on the Warped Tour, Vanna front man Davey Muise and guitarist Joel Pastuszak told us about how great it was to be home at the Warped Tour stop in Mansfield, Mass. Apart from touring, in the last six months Vanna have picked up new members Pastuszak and Erik Gross, and have begun working on a fourth LP after releasing their third full-length album, And They Came Baring Bones in 2011. Muise and Pastuszak talked to us about friends, family, and tour craziness over the last few months.

OS: You guys are playing back in your hometown, that’s got to be great. What’s it like to be back?

DM: It’s awesome to be back, all of our families are here and you know, we’re just looking forward to our New England date to prove to the rest of the tour that we are a ‘worth it’ band [laughs].

OS: You haven’t played with Four Year Strong in a long time, how does it feel to be touring with some hometown friends again?

DM: It’s cool, it’s cool ‘cause like Four Year [Strong], Transit, A Loss For Words, Man Overboard, Make Do, and Mend (even though they’re kind of from Jersey), it’s a lot of New England bands on this tour and it just feels really really good to tour with bands from New England; slash I apologize to everyone who’s not from New England on this tour because we can get pretty rowdy and obnoxious. It’s cool; it’s definitely cool to have everybody out. Four Year’s killing it, A Loss For Words is killing it, all the New England bands are doing so well, I’m just proud of my friends.

JP: We pretty much just took over the whole tour.

Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Vanna Talks Family, Friends, and Monsoons’

Exclusive Q and A: Yeasayer Stop And Smell The ‘Fragrant World’

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsIndie blogosphere darlings Yeasayer have bucked the boom and bust trend of internet hype once already. Following up their buzzworthy 2007 debut All Hour Cymbals with the grand experimental pop of 2010′s Odd Blood, the Brooklyn-based band proved that it’s possible to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump that too often accompanies massive amounts of online exposure. Now, more than two years later, Yeasayer are back with Fragrant World, their third full length and most ambitious record to date. We caught up with bassist Ira Tuton to talk album art, film scoring, and the process of writing and recording Fragrant World.

OS: During the writing and recording process, you guys reportedly had enough material to do two separate albums: one of three-minute pop songs, and the other of more experimental tunes. Which type of album did Fragrant World ultimately end up becoming?

IT: I’m gonna go with the poppy one, just because we’re dealing with hooks, refrains, verses, and choruses. I think we used a lot of the ideas involved with making an experimental record and translated those aesthetics into the format of pop songs. We just honed down our focus and both types of music kind of bled into each other.

OS: Is there any chance we’ll ever get to hear some of those sidelined tracks?

IT: Yes, totally. I’d also love to explore some long-form compositions in the future. It’s something we haven’t really done. There are a lot of things we haven’t done, so we have the opportunity to move in many different directions in the future. There are certain things that didn’t make the record that are going to come out in the next year. Right now, though, the whole focus is on the album first.  There’s so much thought in terms of that, because it’s not just the release, but it’s also dealing with our live show, making sure the arrangements are where we want them to be, and perfecting the visual aspect of our live show. A lot of things are more pressing matters on our end at this moment.

Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Yeasayer Stop And Smell The ‘Fragrant World’’

Exclusive Q and A: Ballyhoo! Plan To Bring Back ’90s Ska Punk

Take a look back at the original Warped Tour lineup from 1995 and you’ll see bands like No Doubt, Sublime, and Supernova. With the festival’s rapid expansion and desire to include more diverse artists, today’s lineup is a far cry from the original punk-centric focus of the tour. Luckily, Ballyhoo! frontman Howi Spangler has a plan to bring back the nostalgic sounds of ’90s ska punk with the band’s new material. The Aberdeen, Md. four-piece just recently completed the entire run of the Vans Warped Tour and are already back on tour until the end of September.

We had the chance to chat with Howi about life on Warped Tour, sharing the stage with reggae legends, and what the band hopes to accomplish with their next record.

OS: You’ve had a busy summer already! Tell us about the performances you’ve done so far.

HS: It has been busy! We started the [Warped ]Tour in Salt Lake City, and we’re doing the whole thing. Every day’s been awesome, the kids have been really great. We’re getting a lot of new listeners that come up every day, so that’s awesome. We have a guy in a sombrero that’s out there selling CDs in the morning to the line, turning new heads. We hooked up this thing called the “Ghetto Blaster,” it’s basically our handtruck and we have a speaker, a generator and a mixer, and our set time on it, and it just blasts our songs. So he takes that out in the morning and it just puts it right in their face, like, “This is Ballyhoo! Listen up!”

OS: What has been your favorite stop/state on Warped so far?

HS: Chicago was awesome, Chicago was really good. That’s the first one that comes to mind. We had a really great crowd. San Francisco was amazing as well, we had a really good time there. We had five or six hundred people out there. Boston was really great today, too!

OS: What other bands have you most enjoyed seeing at Warped Tour?

HS: Motionless in White, those guys are sick. Just heavy screaming, heavy guitars, they paint themselves black and white…the crowd was nuts, it was really cool to see that. New Found Glory’s killing it, Yellowcard’s killing it every day. Tonight Alive, We Are The In Crowd, A Loss For Words…there’s just so many good bands.

Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Ballyhoo! Plan To Bring Back ’90s Ska Punk’

Exclusive Q and A: Elizabeth Cook takes up the ‘Gospel Plow’

Dazzling Elizabeth Cook had no sooner come off an incredible run with her Don Was-produced album Welder that she turned around and gave country fans another jolt with her latest album Gospel Plow, which offers southern gospel tunes with a folk-bluegrass flair. Once again, the much loved and lauded singer-songwriter has served fans a power-packed album full of vibrant, soulful songs wrapped around Cook’s lush southern vocals. As Cook prepares to again take center stage at the annual Americana Music Festival, held each September in Nashville, she took time out to talk about her latest album, her future music plans, and just what might change the whole trajectory.

OS: A lot of fans were surprised that after Welder you did Gospel Plow. What does Gospel Plow represent in your career?

EC: This is a little slice of what I do. It’s not all that I do and all that I appreciate. There are many, many layers to my connection to music.

OS: When did you first get into gospel music?

EC: It way very, very early on in my life that I began to appreciate that music. My parents send me to a Pentacostal church in my neighborhood. They didn’t go too much but they would send me. They believed in all ages in the same room at the same time and there was all kinds of great music around. That always stuck with me. I recognize it as a musical genre that I love. Elvis Presley, so many other artists that came up through the charts, loved it too.

OS: Do you see yourself doing more of this music?

EC: I may never make another album of this kind again and I may do another at some time. I don’t know.

Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Elizabeth Cook takes up the ‘Gospel Plow’’

 


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