Shelton is hopping in his tour bus once again and will kick off his 2017 “Doing It to Country Songs” tour at Rabobank Arena Feb. 16.
“Rabobank Arena is excited to welcome back Blake Shelton to Bakersfield,” said Rabobank Arena Marketing Manager Nick Wynne. “Blake is one of our most-requested performers and we anticipate a sold-out crowd for what is sure to be one of the concerts of the year in Kern County.”
Wynne added that fans can expect an amazing show featuring Shelton’s hits, as well as songs off his new album, “If I’m Honest,” along with an exciting opening set by rising star, RaeLynn.
“I’ve been playing Bakersfield since the early part of my career, so I can’t think of a better place to kick off our 2017 tour. There’s so much country music history associated with Bakersfield and the fans are so great,” the country crooner said.
“God Made Girls” singer and former contestant on “The Voice,” RaeLynn, will get the show started that night.
“I’m so excited to be back on tour with Blake. He’s family to me and has been such an incredible friend and mentor over the years. I feel really blessed to join him again along with his amazing band and crew,” said RaeLynn.
RaeLynn will sing her current single “Love Triangle” and other songs from her debut album, “Wildhorse.”
“We’re going to have a blast with Sundance, too! So excited to get this tour on the road,” she added.
Just added to the lineup for the evening is “The Voice” season 11 winner Sundance Head, who was on Team Blake.
There isn’t much Shelton doesn’t do. He’s a coach on NBC’s “The Voice,” an underwear model for Gildan and most recently, he announced his next entrepreneurial endeavor as a businessman. He plans to open a restaurant in Nashville in 2018 after his well-known hit, “Ol’ Red.”
“Can’t wait to be ‘Doing It to Country Songs’ with y’all on Feb. 16,” said Shelton.
The tour will end on March 18 in Omaha, Nebraska.
The show begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are currently available at the Rabobank Arena box office, over the phone at 888-929-7849 and axs.com, ranging from $27.50 to $77.50. VIP packages are also available.
Hunter Hayes continues to write his “Storyline”
Hunter Hayes is living the dream.
He’s touring the country as a musician, writing and playing his own music. Hayes’ musicality is wise beyond his years, but you’d never know from the soulful instrumentation and lyrics he provides.
Not bad for 23, when most college students at that age don’t even know what they’re going to have for breakfast.
Currently on tour with Lady Antebellum and Sam Hunt, Hayes still took the time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions via email.
Some might think Hayes is just getting started, but he’s actually a veteran to the industry, having made TV appearances since the age of three, including “Rosie O’Donnell Show,” Nickelodeon’s “Figure It Out” and even playing the famous Grand Ole Opry stage as a child.
From there, and like other artists, Hayes was discovered on MySpace, by Cyndi Forman, who is now his publisher at Universal Music Group Publishing. Forman sent him a message asking if he had written and demoed it himself, like the description said.
“I thought it was a joke or a lie at first, and she had to send another message before I realized she was actually legit and very serious,” Hayes said. “Kind of funny looking back that I didn’t think it was real.”
After deciding to pursue the message, Hayes’ career just picked up from there.
The country singer has released two albums, “Hunter Hayes” and “Storyline,” but lately, Hayes has been posting new singles, which have been available to listen to on Spotify and for download on iTunes. Some of the singles include “21,” “Where It All Begins” and the latest, “Young and In Love.”
“I love to write, I love to demo [and] I love just being part of the creative process,” Hayes said. “We’ve created so much music for past projects that never make it out of the studio.”
Hayes added that with streaming these days there are many ways to put new music out and he’s “excited to see what the possibilities are for the future on what these releases are going to be.”
Hayes added the concept of a record is changing and ultimately, he wants to give the fans what they want.
One of the recent singles, “Where It All Begins,” features Hayes’ tour mates, Lady Antebellum, and could be considered an anthem to many as they start a new chapter in their life . He explained that the four of them had to schedule way in advance to make sure that all were free for the day.
“So, we booked the day and started talking about multiple ideas— then it became this story of how the hardest moments of your life become the most defining moments of your story,” he said.
He added that he’s really proud of how it came together.
“I think some days it even reminds me of what I need to hear.”
Hayes has come a long way, even just since 2011 when his first single “Storm Warning” debuted on the radio. Growing as an artist, he said he hopes to continue to become more and more curious as he goes. He said that he learned that worrying is not productive whatsoever and wished he knew that sooner.
“I’ve always believed worrying can drive you to be productive, but worrying in itself is not productive at all, instead, let it inspire you to move,” he said.
Hayes is a dreamer through and through. While he’s had a lot of success, he continues to set new goals for himself.
“Well, out of all the things that have happened I feel ridiculous listing anything else, but there really are more dreams you create for every one you see come true,” he said.
Moving forward, Hayes said he wants to continue build big shows.
“I love the creation of what aspect of what I get to do, but not only writing music, I love production and building an experience,” he said. “I’ve barely scratched the surface with the few headlining tours we’ve done, so I can’t wait to dig deeper and search for new ways to make the shows more exciting.”
To all of the other 20-something dreamers, Hunter Hayes has a little advice for you, too.
“Every day there is going to be something new that you literally have to literally ‘figure it out,’” he said. “The only way to get through it all is to be positive and know that you will figure it out. Believing in a dream is one thing, believing in yourself is infinitely more critical and being happy is a decision you have to make for yourself with whatever the day gives you.”
STAGE AND SCREEN: ‘CHASING LIFE’ PROVES TV CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
As someone who has always watched a lot of television, I know how rare it is to come across a show that really tugs at your heart. Shows like “One Tree Hill,” “Gilmore Girls” and “Parenthood” have always stood out to me as being more than just an hour of entertainment. In between reality shows about housewives and finding the love of your life, it can be hard to find something that goes deeper than just the surface. Every once in a blue moon, I’ll find something that stops me in my tracks and reminds me that television can be used for a bigger purpose; something that can help all of us.
The latest show I’ve gotten into is ABC Family’s “Chasing Life.” I was drawn to it, because it was so original from anything I’d seen before, not just on TV, but period.
The lead character, April, is a 20-something journalist in Boston, who ends up being diagnosed with cancer. Sure, the cancer line has been done before in films like “A Walk To Remember” or more recently, “The Fault In Our Stars.” But, this isn’t necessarily a story of loss. It shows us what we can gain in the midst of trial and how to fight back when plans don’t go our way or dreams don’t turn out the way you’ve always envisioned. It’s something that many 20-somethings can relate to, whether or not they’ve been affected by cancer. Sometimes, though, that path can lead you to something better than before.
“She has taught me never to give up on your dreams and keep fighting no matter what,” said Italia Ricci, 28, the show’s lead actress.
As a journalism major, I was drawn to April’s ambition and passion. But, like so many others, I’ve also been affected by cancer. My grandmas on both my mom and dad’s side of the family died from the disease. I saw how hard it was for them and how cancer not only affects the person who has cancer but the entire family in a big way. I can’t imagine what it’s like to hear that you have cancer in your 20s, just as your life is getting started and you’re finally making your own decisions or pursuing a career.
“It’s a real story with real people,” said Ricci. “April could be the person across the street. ‘Chasing Life’ is a reality that exists for so many reasons.”
April starts learning to live her life day by day, and in a lot of ways, many 20-somethings, whether having been affected by cancer or not, can relate to that.
Ricci adds that being part of the show has helped her define what matters most to her in life, and that if something isn’t on that list, then it isn’t worth her energy. I think that’s a great mentality for all of us. Why waste time on something, if it isn’t what you love?
While Ricci has been able to share April’s story and connect with those who have had cancer, and has given her a chance to get involved with organizations that are trying to fight the disease and connect on a more personal level with those who have been affected. Ricci says it’s one of the things she’s most thankful for.
“I’ve volunteered in the past, but never quite so actively,” said Ricci, “I always thought about working with charities and foundations, but never had the push to do it. ‘Chasing Life’ definitely pushed me and I’m so glad.”
“Chasing Life” airs on Monday nights on ABC Family at 9/8c.
DAN + SHAY TO PLAY BUCK OWENS’ CRYSTAL PALACE
(Originally published on The Runner Online’s website)
New country music act, Dan + Shay, are quickly climbing their way to the top of the charts, and Nashville is starting to take notice.
Dan Smyers, one half of the duo, spent several minutes chatting with me about the new album, their headlining tour, being nominated for a CMA Award and how country music continues to evolve.
It was Dec. 7, 2012 when Smyers and Shay Mooney first met. Smyers was hosting a house party in Nashville and a mutual friend introduced the two. Mooney grabbed a guitar (after all it is Nashville, and those are just lying around) and the two guys started singing some covers and harmonizing and quickly became friends.
The two had been solo artists, doing their own thing at the time. Mooney was signed to T-Pain’s Nappy Boy Entertainment, and Smyers had been in the group Bonaventure.
“I listened to country music my whole life. I was living in Pennsylvania and Shay was doing his thing. We’d always just listened to country music,” said Smyers. “I wasn’t living in Nashville, but I was like, ‘I gotta move to Nashville if I want to write country songs’ and that’s what I was writing.”
“The next day we realized we were both songwriters and kind of linked up and said, ‘Hey, we should write today’ and we did,” he explained. “The first song we wrote was put on hold by Rascal Flatts, which was awesome because we grew up listening to Rascal Flatts.”
Rascal Flatts has since recorded two of Mooney’s songs on their latest album, “DJ Tonight” and “I Like the Sound of That,” which were also co-written with Meghan Trainor (“All About That Bass”).
“But, we kind of had a bunch of songs on hold for them and then we became a duo and kind of needed to start keeping songs for ourselves.”
He added that, “those guys have been really cool to us and kind of introduced us to a friendship with them. They’ve kind of been mentors to us and given us really good advice when we came out on the road.” He also hopes that they’ll be able to play more shows with them out on the road or write with them when they have the time off to get back to Nashville.
From there, the duo continued to write more and ended up with 80 or 90 songs in the first few months of knowing each other. They would travel around Nashville playing for publishing companies and record labels, pitching their songs to other artists and people started commenting that they sounded good together.
They found themselves playing a “random little showcase – South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, TX.” That was the moment that they looked at each other and thought, ‘You know, it’s cool to do things separately, but it’s such a better vibe to sing new songs together on stage.”
Smyers recalled that moment before adding that just last night they played to a sold-out crowd.
“It was just a kind of crazy whirlwind of a ride and we’re super lucky that we met that night.”
First and foremost, Smyers and Mooney are songwriters and that shows on the album. They take full ownership of the album, having co-written every track and Smyers producing it.
“It was the easiest way for us to do it, because we didn’t have any money and we couldn’t pay anybody else to produce our album, so we kind of had to do it on our own with just a laptop and that’s kind of still what we’re doing.”
The duo knows what they want and consider it “organic.” What you hear is purely Dan + Shay.
“It’s not somebody else coming in and telling us what we need to sound like. We’re very thankful that our record label has given us such creative control and freedom to make our own sound and pick our own singles, and kind of do what we want.”
Some of the duo’s musical influences include country artists, Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts and Kenny Chesney. But, they’ve also been inspired by a lot of groups from the 80’s, such as Scorpion and Motley Crue.
“I listened to a lot of rock stuff growing up, so like The Wallflowers and the Foo Fighters. That explains why there are a lot of guitars on the album,” he added.
Moving forward, they already have at least 30-40 songs written for the next album and are hoping “to beat everything they’ve put out there so far.”
With so many, it can be tricky to narrow down favorites for the album, which was a bit of a daunting process at the time.
“Probably the hardest thing we had to do for the first album, I remember we had just this big stack of songs,” said Smyers.
Scott Hendricks, a producer from their record label, told them to write the songs on pieces of paper and shuffle them around, because “you can kind of get lost and lose your mind on it.” After that, they asked for input from their family and friends.
For the most part, the decisions were unanimous, but there were a couple songs that they felt they needed to add, as well as help transition to where they’re going with the next album.
“Putting it in order was a pain. It took, like, three weeks and it was tricky, but I think we nailed it. Definitely tough, but it’s a good problem to have.”
Their first single, “19 You and Me” found a lot of success. The duo felt that it was a great way to showcase their songwriting and sound to the world. Do they feel the pressure for what’s to follow?
“Yeah, absolutely,” said Smyers. However, the guys were thankful to country radio and the fans for embracing the first song and getting behind them.
As for the current single, “Show You Off,” Smyers and Mooney noticed that people were going crazy and having a good time during the song. They knew they’d be touring a lot, so “that’s kind of why we picked the single.”
Aside from getting a lot of airplay on the radio, Dan + Shay have also been getting recognition, having been nominated for the ACM Awards, the CMT Awards, and more recently, the CMA Awards, which will take place take place Nov. 5.
“That’s a dream come true. That’s an honor,” said Smyers of the recognition. “I’ve watched those every year and never dreamed that I would one day be nominated.”
Smyers said that the guys would’ve either been watching or attending as fans, so to attend as one of the nominees is something they’ll be pinching themselves about.
The duo was in the Bahamas when they heard of the news. When Smyers was able to connect to WiFi, his phone started blowing up with text messages.
“I hadn’t been on the internet in awhile and everybody was like, ‘congrats, congrats,’ and I was like, ‘what are you congratulating me on?’”
He was finally able to see the video and started reading the blogs, which included their name. Luckily, they were in the perfect place to have small celebration with their friends.
As country music continues to evolve a little further away from its traditional bluegrass roots, some people aren’t necessarily on board. However, Smyers views it as a good thing.
“It’s more progressive now; People are coming in with different sound,” said Smyers. “Some people get angry about it and feel like it’s losing its traditional vibe, but I think, you know, it’s best for country music.”
Smyers believes that it has expanded the genre to a new audience and more people are starting to embrace it.
“Whatever it takes to get people to let country music into their heart – They can discover the classics and really fall in love with it,” said Smyers. He likes that it has given a new generation the chance to get into the music.
“There are more listeners to the country radio than there have ever been,” he claims.
After touring with some of the best in the business, Dan + Shay have picked up on a few things, for their own headlining tour, which starts Oct. 9, which starts in Minneapolis, MN.
“Blake Shelton has just such a great command of the audience and his live shows are just so natural. That’s one thing we try to do is not make it too forced or choreographed or anything like that; Just be real,” said Smyers of their time with Shelton on his Ten Times Crazier tour.
Smyers added that humility is another thing they’ve learned from Shelton.
“He’s on top of the world as an artist. He’s just a normal guy, and I think if you have that attitude, you stay like that, you can stay on top for a long time. As soon as you start getting an ego, that’s when things start to fall apart for you.”
Former tour mate, Hunter Hayes has also taught them a thing or two.
“Hunter’s a great guy. I learned that I probably need to practice guitar a little more, because he’s crazy. He’s a menace,” he joked with a laugh.
The guys can’t wait to play longer sets, which will include being able to play their full album. But, they also can’t wait to get “up close and personal with the fans,” since some of the bigger arenas limit that right now, due to stage set up. Playing smaller venues and clubs, will allow them to meet the fans.
The duo will be playing in Bakersfield on Oct. 1 at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace, but it won’t be their first visit in town. They stopped here during their radio tour and everyone told them they needed to play here.
“We’re super excited to be playing there now! It’s gonna be a blast,” said Smyers. “It’s a very historic venue. We follow our social media a lot and a lot of fans have tweeted that they’re excited about that show.”
The show is part of the KUZZ concert series, which is sponsored by Barber Honda. You can purchase tickets here: http://vallitix.com/venues/buck-owens-crystal-palace/2124/. The show starts at 7:30 p.m.
Gabbin’ with Gavin DeGraw (originally published on The Runner Online)
The Bakersfield Fox Theater will soon be graced with singer-songwriter, Gavin DeGraw, who is currently on his “Make A Move” tour.
I was able to contact his management team, and DeGraw gladly answered a few of my questions via e-mail, despite his busy schedule.
Shelby Parker: Your first album came out over 10 years ago. How would you say your songwriting and even the process of making an album has changed for you?
Gavin DeGraw: Wow, has it been that long already? Well, when I wrote my first few albums, I insisted on doing it alone and over the course of the last two records I got into the concept of cowriting and having multiple producers on each album which has really added another dimension to the music as a whole. Working with other people brings into play all of those other creative people’s influences and it’s made for not only albums with a variety of material, but adds excitement to the love performances, being that there’s so much more in the arsenal to choose from. When you get a chance to work with guys like Butch Walker, Kevin Rudolph, Ryan Tedder, Martin Johnson, etc, you jump at the opportunity and say ‘Let’s do this.’
SP: What was it like being nominated for your first Grammy back in February?
(*He was nominated for nominated for Best Song Written for Visual Media with “We Both Knew” from Nicholas Sparks’ film, “Safe Haven.”)
GD: Let me start by saying what an honor it was to be nominated. When Colbie got together and wrote the song, we were really inspired and we were having the time of our lives on tour together performing nightly to our fans and just having the best time. We had a special invitation to join the cast, crew, and execs to the premier of Safe Haven and did the red carpet and press together with Relativity Media and such and of course you enjoy the moment and go about touring after all that to continue the madness of playing music and the. The phone rang months later regarding the nomination. We couldn’t have been more excited. It might have been Colbie’s fourth. Woah. It was my first, so it was very special. We love the song and feel it translates really strongly live. Gotta love a duet. Takes me back to “Islands in the Stream.”
SP: Your song, “I Don’t Want To Be” was used as the theme song for One Tree Hill, and you made a few appearances on the show, as well. Do you think your involvement with the show helped get your name out there in the early days of your career?
GD: One hundred percent without the partnership of One Tree Hill, I don’t know if the song or my album “Chariot” would have seen the light of day as far as exposure was concerned. The show added an element to the promotion of the song that I was definitely needing to spread the word and get my foot I’m the door. The best part about it is that the show happened to be a hit and also happened to have a cast and crew of some really great people, which added to the experience as a whole. They’re a really great group of people.
SP: Recently, you recorded duets with two of the biggest female vocalists in country music, Sara Evans and Martina McBride. How did that come about?
GD: It’s always humbling to have another artist invite you to join them on any project and these two, well, what can I say? Such beautiful talented people. And I’ve been a fan of both of theirs. The fact that Sara wanted to do one of mine, which I wrote with my buddy Ryan Tedder, was very flattering. I was excited to hear a Nashville take on “Not Over You” and I was NOT disappointed. She put HER OWN stamp on it (so fantastic) and the new version takes that song to a whole new level. And then of course my friend, the great Martina McBride. When we went into the studio and I knew we were cutting some Sam Cooke, I was so excited because I’m not only a huge fan of hers, but of Sam’s as well and have been singing Sam Cooke since I was a kid, played the Sam Cooke induction to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame with Solomon Burke(May he rest in peace), Aretha Franklin, Taj Mahal, & Elvis Costello, and even covered him on one of my own records. So… The invited to sing with Martina, well, I was ALL IN. That’s GOOD company and he really brought “IT” and you can hear it all over that record. So great!!! “Bring It On Home” is just one of those Everlasting songs and I’m proud to have been given to chance to sing a legendary song with somebody legendary. And one more thing. Kelly Clarkson is on that record too. Good choice Martina. Fantastic.
SP: Speaking of country music, you have a house in Nashville and opened the music club, The National Underground with your brother. Would you ever like to venture into the country music genre a little more?
GD: Joey and I are musicians first and foremost and since that’s our passion we felt we belonged on Nashville with the community of musicians a fine city such as Nashville hosts. It’s been a dream come true being part of the local scene and the community has been incredibly supportive. Hopefully the National Underground will continue to grow and we’ll be lucky enough to enjoy years to come of some of the finest live music ever created. Cheers Nashville.
And well, we grew up hearing a lot of country. On fact my first musical memory is being at my grandparents house listing to “Hey Good Looking”. Gotta love Hank. Plenty of Marty Robbins and Roger Miller too. If you don’t know “El Paso,” you’re not allowed in the house.
SP: Your last record, “Make A Move,” seems to have a few different elements to it, but fans can still recognize your signature sound. Was that intentional while recording?
GD: I appreciate that. My goal was to evolve, but not stray. You always want to deliver new sounds or new elements to the music, yet always keep your foundation solid and not alienate yourself or your audience. I’ve been really lucky to have an audience of music lovers and I think they give me a lot of room to experiment. Don’t get me wrong, it’s never too EXPERIMENTAL. I just like to mix it up a bit. It’s the Billy Joel approach. Variety. Don’t be predictable. Have fun. It’s just music.
SP: What advice do you have for those 20-something’s who are out there chasing a dream right now?
GD: My only advice is to only do it if you truly love it. It’s not a part time job. It’s a lifestyle… And I really love it.
SP: What can fans expect from your show at the Fox Theater in Bakersfield?
GD: We’re gonna have a great time. If we’re not having fun, I’m not doing my job right? It’s that simple. It’s only showbiz. I’m gonna be up there sweating and singing and I promise, I never leave the stage wishing I woulda tried harder. See ya there. Let’s party.
You can purchase tickets online through Valltix.com or by calling (661) 324-1369.
Doors open at 6:30. Show at 7:30.
Introducing Life with Dillon
The band, Life of Dillon, might be new to the music scene, but with their new single “Overload” and a tour in the works, big things are in store for these British musicians David Keiffer, Rob Griffith and Joe Griffith. I was able to chat with the band via email to talk about the newness of their career, getting ready to open for Meghan Trainor and shooting their first music video. Check it out!
How did you guys form the band and decide this was something you wanted to pursue as a career?
We have known each other for about 8 years and have been writing/ producing pretty much since day 1. It was never out intention to form a ‘band’, we see ourselves as more of a collective/production team, we just love to make songs! We always wanted to pursue music as a career, even through studying our various courses at university. I guess we were a little naive, as so many people want to follow their dreams of becoming a successful musician but very few actually do. We’re so grateful to be in a position to do what we love to do and will never take that for granted. – David Keiffer
Who are some of your musical influences?
We all listen to very different music ranging from more soulful singer-songwriter styles from the likes of Ed Sheeran or John Mayer to more Hip Hop/R&B or Afrobeats type of music, ranging from Mavado to Timbaland and Lauryn Hill. – Rob Griffith
What has been the biggest ‘pinch me’ moment of your career so far?
The first day we arrived in NY City we met the CEO of SME, Doug Morris, and the CEO of Epic Records, LA Reid, and seeing them get so excited about all of our music has definitely got to be out biggest ‘pinch me’ moment. – David
What’s the story behind your first single, “Overload?”
“Overload” was a song we wrote for fun. We weren’t trying to make a hit record or anything like that and we never knew the impact it would end up having on us. At the time we had been making music for a while since we all left university and nothing had really happened for us, we were still unsuccessful starving musicians and it was reaching a point where I started to think about going back to University or getting a job… This is when we wrote Overload and I guess besides it just being a fun summer song it also expresses some of that frustration. When it says “I can’t stop it” and “you can’t control it” it’s because we felt like this is what we were supposed to do in life and no one could take that away. I couldn’t imagine a world where we didn’t make music just because we were getting outside pressure to follow more conventional paths to success… we’ve been doing this since we were kids and the way we crossed from starving musicians to being signed to a major was nothing short of a God send. – Joe Griffith
What has the response been so far with the release of the single and video?
The response has been unbelievable! People from all over the world have been reaching out to us, its been amazing!! We’re so appreciative for all the support we’re getting with our song ‘Overload’ and the video! – David
You recently shot the music video for the new single as well. What was that like?
It was such a pleasure working with everyone on the video shoot. It was our first ever shoot and to be honest when we arrived on set we thought someone else was shooting a video! We couldn’t believe all that gear was for us! We started at 4am and it ran on till about 10pm that night…needless to say we all slept like babies that night. I think David actually threw up from heat stroke…ROCK N’ ROLL! haha – Rob
You guys have been doing quite a bit of traveling lately, what have some of the best experiences been so far?
We recently traveled to Napa Valley, and we have to say that place is gorgeous! We played ‘Live in the Vineyard’ and it was our first ever performance to a crowd of that caliber. We’re studio rats born and raised, so being able to get out there and really connect with people through our music on an intimate level was unreal, I’ve never felt anything like it! – David
You guys are getting ready to go on tour with Meghan Trainor this summer. How did that come about? What do you have planned for those shows?
We’re label mates, so that was an easy thing to hook up. Meghan’s a great singer/songwriter and we can’t wait to go on tour with her! We’ve got a few surprises planned, including some fun audience participation, but we don’t want to give too much away, you’ll have to come along to check it out! – Rob
Where do you guys hope to be in five years, career wise?
In five years time we want to be house hold names and playing all the biggest festivals and arenas. But beyond that, I would hope that we are able to achieve such a status that we can reach more and more people to the point where we are able to make a positive impact on their lives through music. Nobody can live without music, especially good music. – Joe
‘Nobody puts SomeKindaWonderful in a corner’
I sat down with alternative Los Angeles based band, SomeKindaWonderful’s Matt Gibson (guitar), Jordy Towers (lead singer) and Ben Schigel (drums) before their show at local bar, B Ryders, to discuss their new single, the career they are trying to build and why they’re doing things their own way.
Like their sound, the name of the group is very unique. Towers explained that the word “wonderful” came to him in a dream, and he knew he wanted to incorporate that with their name. “I come up with my best ideas while I’m sleeping,” said Towers. He also added that’s how he usually gets the melodies of his songs as they wake him up in the middle of the night.
As for how they became a band? That was a matter of being in the right place at the right time and a lot of luck. Matt and Ben had known each other prior to their future collaboration, and were at a bar in Ohio one night. Towers, though originally from L.A., was visiting family in Ohio and wandered into the same bar.
“Me and Ben were talking at a dive spot — Jordy (Towers) walks in and is humming along to the song almost before he even introduces himself,” said Gibson. Towers also added that he had been hearing the same tune as the guys had been playing. It seems that fate had a way of catching up to them.
The guys had an instant connection and decided to go to Schigel’s studio, Spider Studios, which was just up the street. About three hours later, the guys wrote their current single “Reverse.” Towers had been staying with relatives but decided to crash with Ben and Matt after that, because they thought they were onto something.
Towers was signed to Interscope Records at the time with a $3 million deal. It was difficult to get him out of that. Towers said being signed to a major label was all about fighting for attention and playing the game — something he wasn’t on board with. He explained that he won’t go back to a major label unless he, as the artist, has more control. They are on a major label, however, with Capitol Records overseas and are currently Downtown Records in the U.S.
Currently, they are the only indie band on the top alternative charts while everyone else is from a major label. That says a lot about how far the band has come.
Much like their natural progression and coming together as a band, their process of writing music is the same way.
“We wanted to make music that we wanted to hear,” said Towers.
“And that we wanted to make, too,” Gibson quickly added.
They don’t force the music. They allow it to happen naturally in a very organic way.
“We weren’t going for a specific genre. That’s why the album is genre-less. We’re all from different backgrounds, so we had to stay true to each one of us,” Towers said.
Gibson adds that it wasn’t really intentional while they were recording to make blues or any other specific genre of music. They each take a bit of their own style and see what happens.
“I think that’s what happens when the three of us get together,” explained Schigel.
Towers later said that alternative music isn’t even a specific sound anymore; it has evolved and is constantly changing.
“I feel like to stick with the same sound over and over again is boring,” Towers added.
SomeKindaWonderful isn’t afraid to take chances, and they don’t want to box themselves into anything. This way, they get a chance to experiment and each day is like a new adventure for them.
“Nobody puts SomeKindaWonderful in a corner,” Gibson joked, referring to the line from the 1987 film “Dirty Dancing.”
The band has their own style and their own way of doing things. However, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t inspired by other bands. They credited Foster The People, Arctic Monkeys, New Politics and Bad Suns as some of their current favorites.
They also appreciate a lot of older music.
“Half of my favorites are probably no longer living,” said Gibson.
If they were to collaborate with anyone, they dropped names such as Bob Marley, John Lennon and John Bonham.
“Once you start getting a little older and you’ve been playing music, it’s not that you don’t listen to new stuff anymore or what’s going on, but you get used to what stuff you listened to as kid,” said Schigel. “It sticks with you.”
“It helps form you,” Towers added.
You hear a lot of stories about band members not getting along, but so far, these guys haven’t had a major disagreement yet. If they can’t agree on something, it’s usually about what kind of pizza to order. If ever there is a serious argument, the band’s manager, Nima Nesseri, steps in to give his opinion.
Working on the production of their album was very much a team effort. Sometimes Matt would be working on a melody, Jordy would come up with something, and Ben would add a little more. Other times, it was just the band in the studio, starting from scratch. It doesn’t always happen the same way, but that’s what has worked so far.
“It makes us better friends,” said Gibson of the way they work together.
The group just finished filming their first official music video for “Reverse,” which was directed by Marc Klasfeld. Klasfeld has worked with artists such as Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Katy Perry, and approached SomeKindaWonderful about working with them. The guys said it’s really that first step of branding themselves and will take them to the next level: Worldwide.
“It was an experience,” said Towers of the project.
Gibson commented to let the project speak for itself.
Nesseri asked if I wanted to see a short clip of their music video. From what I saw, it does just what Gibson hoped in letting it speak for itself. It includes shots of the band with detailed graphics in black and white, giving it a very classic element.
They didn’t say a date, but fans can expect the video very soon.
Schigel commented that it’s “cool” to see how far they’ve come from that night of writing their first single to now. They hadn’t planned any of it, but they’re at a really good place right now. They’re excited to be doing things on a much larger scale these days and to see what happens.
SomeKindaWonderful is set to go on tour with New Politics this fall.
“It’s all pretty top secret at this point, but it’s going to be spectacular,” Gibson said of the show they’re planning. They’re also working on branding a few things, but nothing has been set in stone at the moment. Just expect a lot of passion and mixture of blood, sweat and tears.
UPCOMING ARTIST CELEIGH CHAPMAN
Bakersfield native, Celeigh Chapman, released her EP, “Happy Now” in March after 10 years of making a solo record, as she was focusing on school. If the title is any indication, Chapman seems to be saying that she really is happy now.
Chapman moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music, after graduating from University Southern California, which she attended for their “incredible music program,” she explained.
Though, it wasn’t always an easy road, Chapman kept her eye on the prize, singing music.
“We’re our own worst enemy,” she said, adding that it was a bit intimidating when she moved to Los Angeles. There were so many people from different backgrounds, and she started comparing herself to others. It was a matter of overcoming that noise and reminding herself that she loved what she was doing, and many had encouraged her to take this path.
Chapman’s distinct voice, much like the stylings of Stevie Nicks or Bonnie Raitt, are also reminiscent of 90s country and its classic storytelling. She explained that it’s a bit of a throwback, and it is. However, it’s not so out-of-date that it will lose your interest.
The EP contains five songs, with a mix of up-tempo and ballads.
The first track, “No Words,” has a true country essence to it with a twang in vocals and guitars in the background. Plus, with a catchy hook and repetitive lyrics, you’ll be singing along in no time.
“It’s a losing fight when it comes to love,” Chapman cries with a soulful voice.
“Coming Back To You” has a rockabilly feel, heavy with drums and guitar. It’s a song about a tumultuous, back and forth relationship. However, with the sweet melody in the background, it seems rather on the playful side.
The EP’s title track, “Happy Now,” has the flavor of a Fleetwood Mac song in the 70s to 80s era, along with country flavor. While it’s a bit slower, the rhythm moves it along nicely. The song tells a story of a relationship that went bad, but “life keeps moving on/It’s funny that way,” as the girl in the song wonders whether she looks “happy now.”
The other two tracks are titled,”Iowasposta” and “Man Down.”
Bakersfield and country music seem to go hand in hand, and Chapman agrees that it inspired her with her craft today, which easy to see.
“I think how fortunate I am to have been raised in a city with such a rich country music tradition. There were nights when some of the older guys I was playing with would nudge me, remember I was like 12, and say ‘Hey that’s Buck Owens watching you sing.’ or ‘That’s Red Simpson you’re playing with.’ I knew it was a big deal, and I was honored, but I couldn’t really process those moments,” the bio on her website reads.
“I think I didn’t realize how much it affected me until I moved to Los Angeles,” she said. “We’re so prideful here,” and the people in Los Angeles don’t necessarily understand that. At least when it comes to Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, or the impact they’ve had on us.
She notes Linda Rondstadt and Trisha Yearwood as musical influences, because they have similar vocal ranges and she seemed to connect with their music more.
“If you love music, you love all music,” she added and explained that she listens to all genres. It’s easy to hear that she isn’t just classified in one genre.
Now, in her late twenties, Chapman is pursuing music full-time and has been for the past six years. It allows her to focus on “writing, performing and being a musician,” which is what she enjoys.
The sky’s the limit for Chapman, as she says she would like to win a Grammy someday or even write for an Oscar-nominated film.
As for highlights, there are so many great ones for her, as she has already recorded two songs that have found their way on major motion picture soundtracks for “A Little Help” starring Jenna Fischer and Tyler Perry’s “A Madea Christmas.”
But for now, she hopes people like the record so that she can continue to make more, and proves that you really can have it all.
“You can go to school and pursue music,” Chapman stressed. Chapman herself was able to attend school, while perusing music on the side and knows that it can be done.
“For me, there’s such a value in education,” and she doesn’t want other college students to feel that they have to choose one or the other.
It isn’t every day that Bakersfield rolls out the red carpet for a Hollywood style showing, but Sunday afternoon at Maya Cinemas, Walt Disney Pictures premiered their new movie, “McFarland, USA” based on the 1987 true story.
Several of the up-and-coming actors showed, but everyone was anxiously awaiting Kevin Costner’s arrival.
Costner portrays coach, Jim White, who moves to McFarland, a primarily Latin community, and ends up stumbling upon a few talented runners, who also come from migrant farm worker backgrounds. White then decides to start a cross-country team, and eventually the guys get on board. Although the odds are stacked against them, they prove that the underdogs are the ones with the best stories to tell.
What did it mean to Costner to play the part?
“Well, first, it’s a job,” Costner joked. “No, I mean, I have to decide what I’m going to do in my life, right? I can only do one or two movies a year. So, you know, you look around and you see movies that have a level of heart and truth, and this movie had both of those things.”
Having gone to school in Visalia, the story seemed to resonate with him on a more personal level. He was familiar with driving a lot of the highways, seeing the workers in the fields and understood what they were working so hard for.
“There’s always something that comes with playing a true character. We took a little license in a couple areas, so it wasn’t really as important for me to walk the same way as Jim did, talk the same way – There’s an essence of being a coach, of trying to be in front of kids to try to influence them, and there’s a steadiness that he brought to his community. Kids responded to it, and that’s what I was able to do.”
Costner also added that he was able to spend time with White before shooting, as well as on set. He said that White was very quiet, and never tried to tell him what to do, and he thinks White was happy with what they came up with.
After speaking with Jim and Cheryl White, they liked the way the film turned out, but there are still some differences between life and screen, as is usually the case.
“It’s exciting. It’s a little bit of Hollywood, as far as the movie goes. But, we’re adjusted to that; It’s a beautiful movie,” said Cheryl White, Coach Jim White’s wife, who was glowing and teared up at the excitement buzzing around her.
However, this movie magic didn’t happen overnight. Jim White said that it has been a long process, even starting as long as 15 to 17 years ago.
Jim was also glad that Disney was the one who ended up in control of the production.
“I think between the real stuff, the truth and Hollywood, it’s a very, very good movie,” said Jim. He also advised bringing tissues when you do see the movie.
We all know how this story ends going into the theater, but it’s the journey along the way that will captivate audiences. There’s a little bit of something for everyone who watches. This isn’t just a movie about sports, it’s about humanity. It celebrates life, the value of hard work, friendships, family, going after a dream and not letting obstacles stop you. Isn’t that why we all watch sports movies?
Many locals from the community of McFarland were also occupying the theater, so watching the film, you could certainly feel a sense of pride. When certain landmarks were shown or exciting moment took place on screen, you knew exactly where the locals were sitting because they were cheering and clapping through it all.
The movie’s tagline, “Champions can come from anywhere,” really is what it’s all about. “McFarland, USA” opens everywhere Fri., Feb. 20. and is rated PG.