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Rock ‘n’ Roll Call: Throwback Suburbia

Don’t be surprised if Portland, Oregon’s Throwback Suburbia instantly remind you of Death Cab for Cutie or The Shins. After all, their album was created with the help of the same legendary producers who worked with both bands, plus John Lennon, The Who and David Bowie among others.

Though this roster is certainly impressive, Throwback Suburbia are well on their way to great achievements themselves. Their 2007 single “Circles” earned regular rotation on LA’s KROQ radio station and became the most played song by an unsigned artist on several other national stations. They also landed television spots on Fox and FuelTV and were named Eastwood Guitars’ favorite new act.

It’s always nice to have a breath of fresh air in the pop-rock scene, even when the sound is, well, a throwback. This power pop quintet boast some retro ’60s charm in their clean and simple song structures, perfectly timed harmonies and complimentary keyboard parts. The sweet and sugary “Head Over Heels” will definitely get you dancing, as the piano, bells and vocals make this feel-good tune a stand-out track. Soft-rock ballad “You’ll Never Know” could easily be a Beatles song. The track is surprisingly hopeful as vocalist Jimi Evans sings, “Clear those cobwebs inside/Don’t wait for tomorrow/You’ll never know ’til you try.”

After spending 23 weeks in the Top 100 on our Best of Pop Charts and sharing the stage with Rooney and The Gin Blossoms, Throwback Suburbia are on the fast track to hitting it big. Be sure to check out their latest album, Throwback Suburbia, on their official Web site!

Q&A With 311

After interviewing another member of The Unity Tour earlier this summer, we were excited to sit down with the tour’s founding and headlining band 311. The easy going nature of their music and unique blend of multiple genres are perhaps their most striking attributes not to mention the band’s work ethic and glowing chart track record. Everyone one of the band’s releases have peaked within the Top 15 on the Billboard Top 200 album list. With catchy songs, charting albums and industry respect, we were curious to pick guitarist/vocalist Nick Hexum’s brain about the band’s techniques, releases and accomplishments. Check out what he had to say!

OS: You’ve been doing the Unity Tour for 5 years now. What has the name come to mean and why has it become such a staple for the band?

NH: “Unity” is one of the coolest words in language.  It means oneness.  It has always been associated with us. First, it was the name of the first CD we ever put out—that was a huge deal in ’91 Omaha “311 actually has a CD! They are big time!” It also is a song on our first album and in 2003 we started branding our summer tour with that moniker.  In order, our main support for the Unity Tour has been:  OAR, The Roots, Papa Roach, The Wailers, Matisyahu, Snoop Dogg, Ziggy Marley and this year, The Offspring.  What a great way to spend a summer!

OS: The Unity Tour has featured quite an eclectic lineup of support acts (Snoop Dogg, The Dirty Heads, The Offspring, etc). How do you decide on who will come along on the tour each time?

NH: We want to make sure the bands have the right attitude.  No shoe-gazers or anger merchants for the Unity Tour. We invite bands that are going to be fun and put on a good show.

OS: You’ve called Uplifter your “heaviest” record. What inspired a release like this?

NH: Some of it is heavy.  As always, you get an eclectic blend with 311. “Too Much Too Fast,” “Two Drops” and “My Heart Sings” from the new album are not heavy at all.  We try to take both sides, the hard and the beautiful, farther each time around.  Perhaps our next album we will attempt to put the hardest and most beautiful into the same song.  The possibilities are endless.

OS: Bob Rock produced the latest album (perhaps one of the reason for its “heavier” sound). What was the artistic process like with a guy who’s worked with bands like Metallica?

NH: We learned so much from him.  His vast experience was an endless well for us.  He’s a really nice guy, too.

OS: You’ve all had a positive, easy-going attitude on and offstage throughout your career. How has the band been able to maintain this during all of your hectic schedules and the stresses of being such a noteworthy band?

NH: We work hard on ourselves on and off stage.  You only go around once so why not do your best to face your issues and help mankind?

OS: 311 celebrates 311 day every year with shows, sales and live streaming. How did this whole thing get started?

NH: People had been suggesting that perhaps our name was in reference to a date.  We realized we could turn this into a holiday and it’s been gaining steam ever since.  This last one was the greatest night of my professional life so far.  There was so much love in the room you could taste it.

OS: Many of your albums and songs have ranked well on the Billboard charts. Is there a song or an album that you think really captures the “311 sound” the best?

NH: I’m quite fond of Uplifter right now.  It’s standing the test of time.  We plan to make the next one our best yet!

311 has schedule a cruise to celebrate March 2011 that sets sail on 3/3/2011. In the meantime, check out some of the band’s fall dates:

10/16- DeLuna Festival, Pensacola, FL

10/17- Alabama Theatre, Birmingham, AL

10/19- LC Pavillion, Columbus, OH

10/20- Sherman Theatre, Stroudsburg, PA

10/21- House of Blues, Atlantic City, NJ

10/23- Pier Six Pavillion, Baltimore, MD

10/24- Charlottesville Pavillion, Charlottesville, VA

10/26- Tennessee Theatre, Knoxville, TN

10/27- House of Blues, Myrtle Beach, SC

10/29- The Fillmore,  Charlotte, NC

Needle in the Haystack Follow Up: Hannah Miller

It was great fun working with this week’s Needle in the Haystack winner Hannah Miller. Hopefully you learned a lot about her and, more importantly, discovered why we think she is worthy of the NITH title. With the free track on Monday, Q&A with MTV on Tuesday, Tweet & A with us on Wednesday and a phone interview yesterday, it’s been a very busy week! Keep up the great work, Hannah!

OurStage music fans, definitely have a listen if you haven’t already. You won’t be disappointed! To wrap things up, we’ve posted a video featuring Hannah below.

Stay tuned for next week’s Needle in the Haystack artist!

Q&A With KT Tunstall

It’s no surprise that KT Tunstall has a passion for culture. Growing up in England with Irish, Scottish and Chinese blood, Tunstall was instantly and independently drawn to musical performance at a young age. In 2004, her debut record Eye to the Telescope spawned worldwide hits “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” “Other Side of the World” and “Suddenly I See.” Following further success with 2007′s Drastic Fantastic, KT has returned with her third effort, Tiger Suit. We caught up with KT and talked about her confidence crisis, recording in a legendary studio and the inspiration behind this eclectic and organic new record.

OS: Growing up in a family with no musical background, what caused you to learn several instruments and eventually pursue a career in music?

KT: It was pretty freaky! It was a weird, very innate thing, where I just gravitated to music straight away as a little kid, and nobody else in my family really did. It’s kind of funny because my mum found a diary that she kept of when I was a baby and she said when I was six months old, she found this diary entry going, “I’m really worried because Kate screams louder than anybody else’s baby.” (laughs) But no, I was asking for piano lessons by the time I was six and playing a bunch of instruments when I was quite young. It was just always something that I found really natural and an easy way of communicating, through music. It’s just always been there.

OS: Tiger Suit is the title of your new record, and refers to a recurring dream you’ve had when you were younger. How have you interpreted the dream and how does it relate to your music?

KT: Well, it’s a really cool dream where there’s a tiger in my garden and I go out and I start stroking it…and I’m a kid in the dream. It’s not until I come inside the house and look at the tiger through a window that I’m really afraid, and think, “What the hell was I doing? It could have eaten me.” And I can’t see myself in the dream, so I thought, “Am I disguised as a tiger? Am I also a tiger?” But there’s something going on where I am able to commune with this beast and it’s not attacking me. And I suppose that, even now, as an adult, makes me feel how I feel about music. A lot of the time…where I’ll just jump in and do something and not really think about it, and then afterwards, just go, “Oh my God, that could have gone so wrong!” But also, the title is kind of referring to when I go on stage. I go on stage as myself. I’ve never had, like, a character. But I suppose after six years of touring…I think this last year, I had to write and stuff, it just made me realize that I’ve got this kind of armor and it’s this kind of, Joan of Arc warrioress, “I’m gonna do what I fucking want,” armor (laughs), and I get on stage and be who I want to be. And at the same time, I’ve got to take that off when it comes to writing and I’ve got to be as vulnerable and as real as possible. It’s a protective thing, but also a really fierce thing…I’m a huge fan of Where The Wild Things Are, the movie that just came out, that was my favorite book as a kid. Max wears his little wolf suit and I was just convinced that if he wasn’t wearing it, he would just be eaten in about five minutes. He’s got his magic suit on that keeps him fierce.

OS: You have called your new music “Nature Techno.” Can you explain what that means and how your sound has evolved since Eye to the Telescope and Drastic Fantastic?

KT: Yeah, it was kind of a concept of what I wanted to try out…I haven’t like, made a house album. But it was really just about the fact that I’ve realized I’m a huge blues fan. I love up-tempo blues as well, more rockabilly stuff…Eddie Cochran being one of my favorites. And it just made me realize when I was digging deep to kind of find out what was going to turn me on the most in terms of making a new album, I really rediscovered my passion for dance music. I’ve been a big fan of Leftfield and DJ Shadow, The Chemical Brothers and a band called Lamb…and I realized that that music makes me feel quite similar to when I’m listening to up-tempo blues music. It’s got this really primal, four-to-the-floor pulse…I just find myself getting lost in it, in the rhythm. When I’m dancing around a campfire, I end up feeling pretty similar to when I’m dancing in a club. I just really wanted to mix those two together and see what happened. And I think the big difference with this album is it’s the first time I’ve gotten quite experimental. It’s been quite traditional instruments up until this point and this was the first time we kind of used electronica, synthesizers, drum machines and that kind of thing. I also feel like there’s just a wilder streak to this album, where I’m not too worried about technical perfection in terms of my singing and it’s more just about being a bit freer and expressing myself a bit more.

OS: Between records, you took an international trip that had a huge impact on you. Can you tell us more about the trip and its effects on you personally?

KT: Yeah, the first part of the trip was to the Arctic, to Greenland, which was a really incredible landscape that I dreamt about for many years and wanted to go and see. I went with this group called Cape Farewell and they took 20 scientists and 20 artists on this boat. So I’m on this boat with Jarvis Cocker, Martha Wainwright, Feist, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Vanessa Carlton, Robyn Hitchcock, Laurie Anderson, all these amazing artists….and because it was right in the beginning of starting to make a new album, my ego just attacked me with a huge machete and just went, “You suck! You’re not nearly as good as these people, you’re never going to make an album that’s going to excite you as much as you want to excite yourself.” I just had this big confidence crisis where I felt like life had become quite complicated. I was in this beautiful place where the Northern Lights come out and there’s whales in the water and icebergs floating that are the size of skyscrapers and I just felt like, “I could really just get off the boat and stay here for awhile.” And that was really what that song was about,”Uummannaq Song.” It’s the first song on the record, which has got that very tribal feel to it. All of the places I visited over my travels had this very strong indigenous culture, and I also felt there was a real, rooted musical culture. I traveled South America, went to New Zealand and went to India and heard incredible music. I think traveling just basically really fired up my imagination in terms of, with this album, I’ve sort of given all of these songs location. I think they’re set in places in my mind and what I saw and experienced in my travels really helped fuel that.

OS: You recorded Tiger Suit in the famous Hansa Tonstudio in Berlin, Germany. What was that experience like?

KT: It was awesome. It was so cool. I’d recorded most of the demos at my place in England and it’s really cool, but it’s quite small, so I wasn’t really going to be able to make the record there. And so I went to Berlin, and it’s just this amazing legacy, where Bowie recorded Heroes, U2 recorded Achtung Baby and Iggy Pop recorded there. It’s got this energy for me that I just felt like I wanted to play better. I recorded with a live band for the first time and we recorded vocals live and we were just so energized by the history of the place. It looked so cool and Berlin’s an amazing city. Very vibrant.

OS: You released two different singles in the UK and America, “(Still A) Weirdo” and “Fade Like a Shadow.” The songs are very different from each other. How have the two been received in their respective countries?

KT: It’s been really interesting because I’ve not had that happen before, releasing different singles. “Fade Like a Shadow,” for me, was really good…I understood the record company going, “Yeah, let’s go with that,” because it’s so upbeat and it’s quite urgent. It’s about exorcising this ghost of someone who’s still alive, who’s haunting you. It’s got that electronic influence on it. And then in the UK, “(Still A) Weirdo” is such a strange choice for a single, I thought, “What are you doing, putting that out as a single?” It’s like the weird little runty puppy on the album, this very eccentric little fragile song. But they said, “it’s really emotional. It’s very different from a lot of what else is out there and it makes people feel something.” And I think it’s the same for “Fade Like A Shadow” as well, it’s a pretty emotional song. But they’re going great, I’m really pleased. They seem to be popular, as far as I can tell.

OS: You’re heading out on tour, first to the UK and then across America. Will your stage show be different this time around to accompany your new sound?

KT: Well, I have a slightly different band. I don’t know if any of you guys remember a British band called Ash, they were quite big. They had this girl guitarist called Charlotte Hatherley. She went off and did her own thing but she’s joined the band for this tour. So we have a girl on lead guitar, which is so cool. And we have a Welsh rock ‘n’ roll boy on bass, but I have the same drummer and same keyboard player. But it’s basically quite full tilt. Rehearsals were like, going clubbing, for awhile. We play a lot of beautiful, really down-tempo numbers as well, and I’ll play some stuff on my own. I always like to keep it quite diverse. I also have an awesome backdrop being painted with UV paint, which I’m very excited about.

Check out KT’s fall tour throughout the UK and the US:

10/19 Cambridge, UK – Junction
10/20 London, UK – O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
10/21 Manchester, UK – Ritz
10/23 Glasgow, UK – Barrowland
10/24 Wolverhampton, UK – Wulfrun Hall
10/31  Portland, OR - Crystal Ballroom
11/1   Vancouver, BC - Commodore Ballroom
11/2    Seattle, WA - The Showbox SODO
11/4    Spokane, WA -  Knitting Factory
11/5    Boise, ID - Knitting Factory
11/7    Reno, NV - Knitting Factory
11/8    San Francisco, CA - Warfield Theatre
11/11  Los Angeles, CA - The Music Box
11/12  San Diego, CA - House of Blues
11/16  Denver, CO – Ogden Theatre
11/18  Minneapolis, MN - Epic
11/19  Indianapolis, IN - The Vogue
11/21  Chicago, IL - Vic Theatre
11/22  Detroit, MI - The Crofoot
11/23  Toronto, ON - Phoenix Theatre
11/25  Montreal, QU – Club Soda
11/26  Philadelphia, PA – The Trocadero
11/27  Washington, DC - 9:30 Club
11/29  Boston, MA - House of Blues

Q&A With The Goo Goo Dolls

Last month, OurStage teamed up with the Goo Goo Dolls and Clear Channel to offer upcoming artists a chance to open for the band on a future tour date. Artists across the US entered their music into 10 regional “SUBWAY FRESH ARTISTS™” Competition Channels for their chance at making it into the Finals. The Top 50 artists from each of the regional channels are now competing in the “SUBWAY FRESH ARTISTS™” National Finals Competition Channel.

The 1990s saw many bands come and go, but the Goo Goo Dolls have proven that they are here to stay. With their new record, Something For the Rest of Us, the Dolls are back on tour and ready to take the world by stormagain. We got a chance to chat with bassist Robby Takac about the new album, the tour and what it’s like to spend 25 years in one of the most recognized bands in the world.

OS: The new album, Something For The Rest of Us, was written to be a voice for the average person dealing with difficult times. What inspired that concept?

RT: Difficult times, I think! I think when you try to put a record together that talks about what happened for the last few years since you’ve done that last, you take a look at the stuff around you and if you’re doing something that’s relatively honest to what’s going on at the moment…I think you can’t help but to feel what some other folks are feeling right now. I think if you look at the news, or if you read the newspaper at all, and you see the things that are going on out there…obviously the general sentiment within the country right now is that things are a bit tougher than they have been in years prior. I think that concept itself is something that is pretty universal at the moment, aside from that top 1% that keeps making more and more money. And I think if you take a look at that entire scenario that I just mentioned, there’s a huge problem there. I’ve been asked, “What does ‘the rest of us’ mean?” and I think it’s pretty much everybody at this point. I think all the major decisions that are being made at this point are made to benefit that top 1% and that’s a very scary thing, because there’s not a huge remedy or any outcome other than this getting worse if we don’t change that idea. So, I think we really just took a look at what was going on around us and did our best to represent that.

OS: Instead of working with one engineer and one producer for the whole album, the band opted to work with numerous people. Why was that decision made?

RT: That wasn’t really a conscious choice. We made the record with Tim Palmer…we went and started it on our own and then we brought Tim on after a few months of work. We worked with Tim at our studio in Buffalo and then we went back out to L.A. and finished the record with him there. He moved to Austin and we had some time between when we finished the record and when we were going to put it out, so that gave us some time to listen to it and start to think to ourselves, there’s some things that we would probably would have done differently. So we ended up spending some time working on some stuff on our own with some of the guys in our touring band and a couple of opportunities opened up…we always wanted to work with Butch Vig, he’s been a friend of ours for a long time and we never really had the opportunity. He’s a staff guy over at Warner Brothers now, so we were able to work with him and do a song with him…and a friend of ours, John Fields, who we were always interested in working with…we were able to go in and record a song with him. That’s really the only song that we recorded from scratch; “Home” is that song. We went in and actually recorded that song when the record was done, we recorded one extra and it turned out to be that one. I think it ended up being the single because it was just the freshest in our mind, the most current-sounding. So that’s what we ended up leading with.

OS: What were some of the second-round changes made before the release?

RT: Korel Tunador, our touring singer and keyboard player, came in and played an awful lot of stuff. We went back in and re-sang some background vocals and just kind of tightened stuff up a little bit more. I think we just felt like the record could have been a little bit more focused than it was, and so we spent the time going through all the tracks and finding the things that worked and fixing the things that didn’t….we put real strings on stuff, too. Originally, we had sampled strings on some of the songs, so we went in and recorded some real strings, as well. Most of the changes were fairly minor, but I think when you put them all together, it was a pretty large amount of changes, although they’re barely discernible, probably, to most people.

OS: The Goo Goo Dolls have been a touring band for 24 years. When going out in support of a new project, how does the band balance out promoting the release while also honoring the older material?

RT: I think we know the songs that have made their way into normal life for folks through the radio, or walking through the supermarket, or whatever it might be. I think we’ve got a pretty good handle on what those songs are, so we try our best to get those thirteen, fourteen songs in that we’re pretty sure that someone has come there to hear and might be disappointed if they don’t. We do our best to work in about half of the new record, about six songs, and then throw in a couple that we think are gonna be big numbers in the show that aren’t necessarily the most popular on a mainstream level. Those moments that we think are representative of what we can do that are a little bit outside of what people know of us.

OS: How have Goo Goo Dolls fans changed over the years?

RT: Some of them got older, many of them have had children and they’ve been bringing them to the shows, which is one of the more interesting things that we’ve seen over the years. There are some kids that come to see us play, they’re fifteen, sixteen-years-old and they don’t know the world without this band. I mean, not that they focus on it all day and night, but we just always have been. If their parents were fans, our records have been around their house. If their parents were fans in college, then they’re maybe a little bit more knowledgable about what we did…but at the least, they’ve heard “Iris” somewhere, so they have some sort of connection to what we do, be it good or bad. I think having those concepts gone on within what we do, the crowds have gotten pretty varied. There are kids, there are older people there…we don’t draw 4,000 goth kids, we don’t draw 4,000 housewives, we don’t draw 4,000 accountants or 4,000 hipster kids…it’s like we draw 1,000 of each of those to the show. And I think that’s what makes our crowd pretty interesting.

OS: Many OurStage artists have named Goo Goo Dolls as a big influence in their careers. What advice would you offer to them?

RT: Make sure you like what you’re doing, because you might be doing it 25 years later. Be as honest as you can…at some point, you might get called on it. And aside from that, remember that success—monetary success or commercial success—is a by-product of doing something well. The success is not the product, and I think that’s what you need to keep in your mind. Just because you’re doing something and you are not making great financial strides, doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. And I think that that, to me, is the most important thing you can keep in your mind. It’s your craft, it’s your art, it’s your ideas and if those are good ideas, not whether anyone else likes them—that’s a whole ‘nother issue. But I think you’ve got to hold that stuff close to your heart and know for yourself that you’re doing the right thing.

Continue to judge in the “SUBWAY FRESH ARTISTS™” National Finals Competition and you could win big, too. The fan who earns the best predictor score in the channel will win two tickets to see the Goo Goo Dolls perform live along with a meet and greet with the band!

Check out this video of “Broadway” from the Clear Channel Radio performance we attended in NYC! Also, make sure you check the tour dates below the video to see the Goo Goo Dolls on tour this fall.

10/6 Stranahan Theater -Toledo, OH
10/7 Indianapolis, IN  - Murat Theatre
10/10 Green Bay, WI  - Weidner Center
10/ 11 Sioux Falls, SD - Augustana College
10/ 15 Myrtle Beach, SC  - House of Blues
10/ 16 Chattanooga, TN  - Tivoli Theatre
10/ 18 Montclair, NJ  - The Wellmont Theatre
10/ 19 University Park, PA - Eisenhower Hall
10/ 20 Kingston, NY  - Ulster PAC
10/ 23 Latrobe, PA - St Vincent College
10/ 24 Mansfield, PA - Decker Gymnasium
10/ 26 Portland, ME  - State Theatre
10/ 28 Fairfield, CT  - Pitt Center
10/ 30 Salamanca, NY - Seneca Allegany Casino and Hotel
11/ 07 Glasgow, UK  - Academy Glasgow
11/ 08 Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK – Academy Newcastle
11/ 09 Leeds, UK – Academy Leeds
11/ 11 Birmingham, UK – Academy Birmingham
11/ 12 Manchester, UK – Manchester Academy
11/ 13 London, UK – Academy Brixton
11/ 15 Norwich, UK – Norwich UEA
11/ 16 Bristol, UK – Academy Bristol
11/ 17 Leicester, UK – Academy Leicester
11/ 20 Liverpool, UK – Academy Liverpool
11/ 21 London, UK - HMV Forum
12/30 Thackerville, OK – WinStar World Casino
12/31  Thackerville, OK – WinStar World Casino

Rock ‘n’ Roll Call: Colorfire

Combining the synth-laden beats of Owl City with the vocal stylings of MuteMath, Colorfire is poised to become one of the next great electronica acts.

The Nashville, Tennessee trio released both an EP and a full-length in less than a year. The self-titled full-length dropped back in March, showing that the band can be both laid-back and upbeat, soothing and energizing. Programmed drum beats and piano parts are woven tightly into every track, along with swirling, layered vocals that are refreshingly free of autotune. “One Way Love” is a standout track, with bright, spacey instrumentation backing vocalist Landon Austin’s breathy, “It’s such a beautiful sight when you keep me running/You let me look, but you’re just a one way love.

In addition to winning the coveted opening spot in our Shout it Out with HANSON Competition, Colorfire has also shared the stage with Rooney, The Undeserving and This Is the Good Fight. They were also selected by Coldplay for a feature on the band’s official Web site, where their video for “One Way Love” was displayed to thousands of fans.

Check out some tracks from the full-length album (now available on iTunes) below and pick up a free download of “By My Side” on Colorfire’s official Web site.

Needle in the Haystack: Hannah Miller

This week’s Needle in the Haystack winner writes music that begs to be licensed. It’s easy to hear the emotion behind each song and this clearly speaks to both the general listeners and music licensors. Hannah Miller joined OurStage in 2008 and has been tearing up the OurStage charts ever since. Miller has four independent releases under her belt, the last of which was  produced by Ian Fitchuk and Justin Loucks. She quietly seeks inspiration for her music from her husband, her dogs and the interesting people she meets on a day-to-day basis. In addition to being asked to open for Land Pigg, Patrick Davis, Katie Herzig and Langhorne Slim, Miller was a finalist in the International Song Writing Competition thanks to her track “The City and Salt.” Her song “Keep it Simple” was featured on NBC’s hit show, Mercy. Naturally, it’s an honor to have her as this week’s Needle in the Haystack winner.

We have plenty more  Hannah Miller in store for you as the week goes on. For now, take a listen to her free download “Way About Ya” below.  

Walking the Line

Alanna Clarke

Years ago, you knew a band was the shit if they played The Peach Pit on 90210. Younger generations had The O.C. as their musical zeitgeist. And the new guys now have the Canadian teen drama Degrassi to tell them who to pay attention to. Alanna Clarke may not have made an appearance on the show herself, but her song “Fine Line” did, and it’s an effective ambassador for the 18-year-old singer. The tremendous pop hook of the chorus alone is enough to send the nearest teenage girl flying to her computer to start downloading. (OK, maybe a 30-something one, too). Clarke’s voice is a gemalternating between lilting and feathery coos and full-throated warbles. “Bedroom Window” is a supple pop number, where strings and pining sighs in the background infuse the tune with adolescent restlessness. “Can’t Turn Around” is just as pretty, but with a darker, bluesy bent, thanks to a low cello moan and some emotive strings. To her credit, Clarke’s able to indulge some of the sugar addiction of her age group, but proves she’s also capable of sophisticated songcraft that’s palatable for geezers like us.

Q&A With Bruno Mars

He’s the man providing the bright, soulful hooks of two of this summer’s catchiest songs, Travie McCoy‘s “Billionaire” and B.O.B’s “Nothin’ On You.” Bruno Mars may be 2010′s greatest overnight success story, but he actually got his big break behind the scenes as one of the songwriters behind 2009′s smash “Right Round” by Flo Rida and Ke$ha.

Bruno released his full-length album Doo-Wops and Hooligans this week, and he’s also the musical guest on Saturday Night Live tonight at 11:30 PM EST on NBC! In a few days, he will be performing live on some of Maroon 5 and OneRepublic‘s west coast tour dates this month, followed by some European dates with Travie and some US headlining dates in November. OurStage caught up with Bruno to talk about life leading up to international fame, his new record and his live shows.

OS: Most people know you best from your guest appearances on B.O.B’s “Nothin’ On You” and Travie’s “Billionaire.” They were both huge hits, but they’re very different, musically. Is your new album mostly one style or does it span a few different genres?

BM: No, it spans a few different genres! [laughs] I just write whatever I feel. One day, I felt like writing a love song, and I came up with “Nothin’ On You”… and the other day, it was a reggae song. Not too much thought behind it, I just want to like it, you know, as I’m recording it.

OS: In addition to being a vocalist, you’re also 1/3 of a songwriting team called The Smeezingtons. Following the success of “Billionaire” and Flo Rida’s “Right Round,” do you have plans to continue writing for other artists as well?

BM: Yeah, we’re actually really excited…we had a couple songs that came out. We did a song for Mike Posner, which is “Bom Chicka Wow Wow,” it’s a fun song. But we’re really excited  about the song we wrote with Cee-Lo. “Fuck You,” it’s called.

OS: Yeah, Cee-Lo’s great…he was on your EP.

BM: That’s right, that’s how we got introduced and we ended up working with him again and we came up with that little jam.

OS: So, you grew up in a family full of musicians. How did seeing your family members perform influence your own live show?

BM: A lot of different things. My father was a great drummer and I wanted to learn how to play the drums. My uncle was an incredible guitar player, he made me want to play guitar. He was a great singer, he made me want to sing. I just came from a live performance…that’s more of my background. I’ve been doing that longer than I’ve been songwriting and producing…that’s kind of my comfort zone. I’m a lot more comfortable being on stage than doing interviews [laughs].

OS: You play guitar, piano, drums…do you play all these different instruments during your live show or just stick with one?

BM: Yeah, well…we’re gonna really fine tune our show. If it makes sense, you know…I’m not trying to go up there and look like a “boy wonder.” If it makes sense for me to play drums in said song or piano in said song, we’ll do it…but I don’t want to do it just to self-indulge.

OS: So you’re going to be on tour with Maroon 5 and One Republic, playing at some huge, sold-out venues. Besides the size of the shows themselves, how will this tour be different for you?

BM: It will be different for me because I’ve never done anything like it! [laughs] I’ve done a couple of stadiums with B.O.B…just two, actually…but I finally get to do my own thing, with a band. And I’m in great company. It’s exciting.

OS: So you’re going to be playing all solo material? Will you be adding anything else to your set?

BM: We’ll see…that’s the thing, every time we go on stage, I’m always throwing new things out to keep everyone excited and keep everyone on their toes, so it’s never the same show.

OS: That’s awesome.

BM: But yet, it’s always amazing! [laughs]

OS: Of course! Now, you write music of all different styles, as we talked about before… so you must have a wide range of musical taste. Which three albums would you highly recommend to your fans?

BM: Wow, good question! Off the top of my head, I would say: get Michael Jackson’s Bad album. I’d say get [Prince's] Purple Rain…and I’d say get Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys.

OS: Very nice choices. Have those influenced your writing this time around for Doo-Wops and Hooligans?

BM: Yeah, actually, they have.

OS: You’ve said that your EP was titled It’s Better If You Don’t Understand because you feel that people are constantly trying to fit you into one category. What would you like new fans to know about your music and you as a musician?

BM: I just want them to know how passionate I am about it and I’m really doing it because I believe in these songs…that’s the goal, is to focus on the song and to think about the live show. So when you hear these songs, it’s like…we’re trying to make a movie. We want people to just get involved with this movie and want to come and see the movie.

OS: So before we wrap things up, I wanted to say, “Congratulations”… your song “Just The Way You Are” is Number 5 on iTunes today!

BM: Yeah, I’m just trying to beat that damn Katy Perry! [laughs] That’s another thing that’s just incredible…the people that are in front of me are like, Eminem and Katy Perry…

OS: That must be insane, to see your name on there with those names…

BM: Right, right. But…I’m happy!

Check out Bruno Mars on tour this fall:
10/14 - Save Mart Center, Fresno, CA
10/15 - Arco Arena, Sacramento, CA
10/16 - Viejas Arena, San Diego, CA
11/16 – Slim’s, San Francisco, CA
11/20-  Martini Ranch, Scottsdale, AZ
11/23 – The Loft, Dallas, TX
11/24 – Warehouse Live, Houston, TX
11/26 – Pops, Sauget, IL
11/27  - Bottom Lounge, Chicago, IL
11/28 – Grog Shop, Cleveland, OH
11/30 – Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA

Where the Wild Things Are

Buckeye Knoll

Leaving civilization behind and heading into the wild to get back to a simpler way of life can lead to one of several outcomes: You eat some sort of poisonous plant by accident and it’s game over, or you return to society an enlightened version of your former self. Buckeye Knoll is the happy outcome of songwriter Doug Streblow’s wilderness sabbatical. Taking a backpack, notebook and guitar into the California woods, Streblow emerged months later with songs that would seed his new project. There’s no doubt that Streblow is a pop-punk kid at heart. His strident, earnest vocals have emo written all over them. But for Buckeye Knoll, Streblow’s pop instinct is tempered with an appealing folksiness. “I Roll” has the singer trading verses with singer Emily Moldy, a harmonic call and response that gives way to a crashing chorus. If you’re looking for more evidence of Streblow’s pop pedigree, see “The Melody Scene,” a driving melee of grungy, chugging guitars, thrashing drums and the singer’s sinewy vocals tethering it all together. The woods can make you wiser, but they can also make you more feral. We’re digging the combination.


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