Monday, July 20, 2009
“Play That Funky Music White boy” was a huge hit for Wild Cherry back in the seventies and still gets major airplay today. Little did we know how appropriate of a song it would turn out to be for Richmond’s Elliott Yamin. Most of you know Elliott from American Idol Season Five where he came in third place. He recently released his sophomore CD, not counting his holiday CDs, entitled “Fight For Love”.
Elliott was in Roanoke,VA on July 17 to perform a special concert at the opening ceremonies for the Coventry Commonwealth Games of Virginia. The games are for male and female athletes of all ages and is similar to an Olympics type competition. I was fortunate to sit down with Elliott backstage before the show to ask him a few questions.
“It’s been a lot of fun so far. I love coming back to Virginia to perform. I have met a lot of great kids here too. I’m a diabetic and I met several kids who are also. It was great to share stories with them since we have that in common. Exercise definitely helps out with your diabetes. I love playing basketball myself,” said Elliott.
I asked him how the reaction has been to his new CD “Fight For Love”? “We’ve been very happy so far, given the landscape of the whole industry and the economy itself from the release of my first CD, we have been very pleased. It’s harder in the market being an independent artist, but I’m very satisfied with the response from radio and the fans.”
It has to be tough figuring out what songs to release to radio. How do you determine which ones? “We do a lot of testing at radio and we also listen to what the fans have to say on the websites. In Japan we released “You Say” as the first single because it tested so well, where here in the states we released “Fight for Love” as the first. I think we’re going to release “Can’t Keep on Loving You” as the next single here. We’ll send it to AC (adult contemporary) radio and see how it does,” responded Elliott.
Speaking of singles, I asked Elliott what happened to a song that I viewed on YouTube of he and Jermaine Dupree called “When I’m Gone”? “That is actually on the Japanese version of my new CD as a bonus track. I loved working with Jermaine. We got along great and the chemistry was awesome. To me, it’s an honor to be able to say that I actually got to work with him.
You know, Jermaine and I actually started working on a second song together but we never finished it. So, I can’t wait to get be able to work with him again.”
Elliott is a very busy man these days promoting his new CD. He had a gig in Modesto, California the day after his appearance in Virginia. He will be singing the national anthem at the WNBA All Star game. He also told me that he will be heading out on tour the day after Labor Day for six weeks with the band Thriving Ivory. “Their lead singer Clayton has the most amazing voice. It’s so unique. I’m looking forward to going out on the road with them,” said Elliott.
I always like to ask two questions of all artists that I interview to give a little insight to their fans. I asked Elliott if he had any “guilty pleasures”, if printable, that would surprise his fans? “Well, I don’t get a lot of down time, but when I do I just like to lay around and do nothing. I have a Shitzu named Buster and I like to spoon with him on the couch.” My other question was if you were trapped on a desert island with only one store bought CD, what would you want to have there with you? “Only one? Oh, without a doubt, it would have to be “These Songs For You Live” by Donnie Hathaway. I have worn that one out so many times. I love it!”
Elliott’s show that night was an acoustic set with his keyboardist Joonie and Russell Ali on guitar. He played a mixture off of his two CDs. Newer songs such as Can’t Keep on Loving You” and “You” and “You Say” translated so well acoustically. Elliott also mentioned that that show was the first time that they had performed “You Say” here. The stripped down arrangement combined with Elliott’s emotional vocals actually gave me goose bumps several times. An artist who is willing to play acoustically is very brave for it exposing one’s vulnerability. Elliott pulled it off flawlessly in Roanoke that night.
For those wanting to know, the set list consisted of : “Free”, “Know Better”, “Find a Way”, “One Word”, “Can’t Keep on Loving You”, “You”, “You Say”, “Fight for Love”, “Wait For You” and “Movin’ On”.
Elliott hung around after the show and signed autographs and posed for pictures with his fans. Being accessible like this really has a big impact on his fans. He’s such an amazing performer and human being. He listens to his fans and loves communicating with them. He is genuine and sincere and it shows. Elliott may play the N Club in Greensboro, NC on his tour. He is definitely worth the short drive down to check out. My thanks go out to all of his people who were so nice to me and the people involved with the games. A special thanks to all of the Etrain members that have contacted me and shown so much love and support. Thank you for welcoming me to you family. Thanks Covie for the amazing clip that I included on here from Roanoke.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
One part sex, one part attitude, one part determination and one part talent. If you put all of those together and blend carefully you come up with one delicious combination. That would be one way to describe Rachelle Ramm: delicious. She is a treat to all of the senses. First off, it would be hard to look at her and not notice that she looks like a model. She definitely knows how to milk sexuality out of the most uncommon elements. Secondly, there is her voice. It's a mix of the rock attitude of Pat Benatar and the emotion of the Wilson sisters of Heart.
I spoke with Rachelle recently after discovering her on MySpace. Her first Cd “City Of Sin“ has been out for a while and Rachelle has been gaining a building a following with her aggressive take no prisoners attitude and amazing vocals. I asked her how long she had been performing. “Well, when I was very young, I had a small tape recorder. All of my neighbors knew that I loved the movie Grease. I think I was like 3 or 4 years old and I was so into Olivia Newton John. I would sing 'Hopelessly Devoted To You' for them over and over. My poor neighbors! I really loved to perform for anyone who would listen. My family was also very into music. My mom was into the Doors and Hendrix and my dad loved Stevie Wonder,“ said Rachelle.
Rachelle does have a wide array of musical tastes and influences. I asked her who her influences were and what I would find in her ipod. “I have so many influences, where do I start? I absolutely love Heart! I also like alot of rock such as Metallica, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Guns And Roses, Hendrix, I could go on and on. Now, when I chill out I like to listen to Cat Power or Sting. I like to mix it up. As far as what's in my ipod? I have a wide mix in it now. I have some Cat Powers, Kings Of Leon, early Chris Cornell, some classic Janis Joplin, Zepplin and alot of others.“
Rachelle aggressive attitude and determination may be traced back to her love of extreme sports. “I am a very active person and I am very hyper. If you give me coffee late in the day or at night, you better look out! I have swam competitively since I was six years old and continued through college. After that, I got into wake boarding. My true passion is snowboarding. I also enjoy mountain climbing, anything that pushes myself.“
Given the fact that this woman is in excellent shape, I had to ask her if she thinks that there is a double standard in the industry as far as women are concerned? “Well, I think there is, but I don't work out and eat right because of the media. I do this because it's a healthy lifestyle that I choose. I mean, I do want to look my best but I like to push myself and challenge myself. The whole double standard thing, yeah, it's sick and twisted I guess. I call myself healthfully insane because of the challenges I like to take on.
Let me tell you people, after five minutes with this woman, you can see that she is on full throttle. Most people would kill just for an ounce of her energy. She is truly a dynamo!
So, with all this passion and energy, how does she channel that into songwriting? Is there a method to the madness for this energetic lady? “Most of my lyrics come off the top of my head unless I am playing around with the guitar. Then again, maybe something is inspiring to me and I run with that. I ask myself 'how it can relate to people?'. Sometimes, Hank Shermann will give me a riff and I will play with it. It strikes me sometimes late at night, there may be a situation that I am going through in life and I will write about it. I have so many little scraps of paper and napkins and anything that I could find to write on when an idea came to me.“
So let's talk a little bit about your CD “City Of Sin“, can we? “You better believe we can! I had so many ideas that I wanted to try on this CD that we could have done two full CD releases. It was a “DIY”, do it yourself CD. Next time, maybe it would be wise to get with a label so that they could help with advertising. I would love to be in the situation to have financial backing for another CD. It's on its way though, don't worry. We did record a new single not too long ago called 'Asphalt Lucky Lust'. It was quick and easy. Hank and I created the idea in one day!“
Her CD “City Of Sin“ is a great tool for her to showcase her amazing voice. It also has a bit of a mix of styles on it also to show her versatility. “Not Ordinary“ has a punk/pop kind of feel to it while “Animal Attraction“ is a slower tempo song yet not quite a ballad. I told her that I would love to hear her slow it down and sing a real ballad on the next CD. “It's funny that you say that because I have been feeling that too lately. I want to record a very sultry, powerful and emotional ballad soon, “ said Rachelle.
So, for a woman who cannot stand to sit still for a long period of time, what are her long term goals for her career? “First and foremost, I want to be happy and share my passion for music. You should never start in this business to become rich or to just do it for the money because it will make you miserable. I think my biggest goal right now would be to tour around the world. I want to perform live for as many people as possible and inspire happiness. What a feeling to look out and see that you're making people smile and feel it with you.“
My last two questions were more about what makes her tick. One was what is your guilty pleasure, if printable and the other was if you were trapped on a desert island and could have only one store bought CD, what would it be? “My guilty pleasure? Well, I guess it would have to be Absinthe alcohol. As far as the CD goes, that's difficult. In this moment, I'd say Guns And Roses 'Appetite For Destruction', I have extreme fond memories during the time it was released.“
I have to tell you that my interview with Rachelle was so refreshing and entertaining. She is like a whirlwind spinning in every direction! You should check her out at www.myspace.com/rachelleramm or at her official website, www.rachelleramm.com. She has a powerful voice that will reaches out and grabs you be your neck and demands your attention. Check her out and see what all the fuss is about.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Mama always told me never to judge a book by it's cover and man is that so true. I first saw pictures of Alissa White-Gluz in Revolver's Hottest Chicks In Metal. I have to admit that she is a very striking woman. A pure natural beauty, whose hair is a wild combo of purple and blue. So, I decided to check them out. I picked up their first Cd entitled "Only Once Imagined" and popped it in my player and was shocked. I knew they were a metal core band but it was Alissa's vocals that caught me by surprise. She has the amazing ability to go from a growling type of screaming to singing in this very melodic tone.
I saw them a while back at Volume 11 in Raleigh,NC and shortly after go ta chance to talk with Alissa.
JP- "Hi Alissa, let me start by thanking you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me."
Alissa- "No problem! We have been very busy on the road touring to promote our latest CD 'Lullabies For The Dormant Mind'."
JP- "I'm curious as to when you first decided that this was what you wanted to do with your life, take off on the rock and roll journey?"
Alissa- "In 2003 I was in my first band called Dream Theater. We were a progressive metal band. I always performed in school programs and plays."
JP- "Now, I saw where the band was first called Tempest and then changed its name to The Agonist. How did that come about?"
Alissa- "We were called Tempest until Simon joined. That's when we found out that there was another band with the same name. There were some legal problems, so we decided to change our name to The Agonist. I really didn't think the old name fit us very well. This one is more appropriate."
JP- "Your vocal styling is very amazing. I was blown away when I saw all that power and emotion coming out of such a small person. I can't get over how you go from growling to singing very melodically. How do you accomplish such a feat?"
Alissa- "Well, thank you. I have to take care of my voice to make sure that I don't strain it. I have to watch how much I use it before a show and I even have to watch what I eat."
JP- "You are such a creative person that I am sure you must have a wide range of influences?"
Alissa- I am actually inspired for songs from painting. I love Salvador Dali. I am also inspired by Gwen Stafani, Poe, Freddie Mercury and Andrew Lloyd Webber. I also love Angela Gossow, who I know, of Arch Enemy. I think she is just amazing."
JP- "The lyrics that you write are not typical in this day and age. Your lyrics do have somewhat of a serious tone to them. You have very strong beliefs that you express through them."
Alissa- "That's true, my lyrics are a mixture of things, but mostly I write about what I believe in. This is entertainment and it's art. I know that people who listen to our songs may not share my beliefs but I would still want them to listen to what I have to say. If they don't share my beliefs they can still enjoy our music. I don't try to shove it down their throats or anything. I just want to share a different look on things."
JP- "So, what are your best and worst road stories?"
Alissa- "I have so many great road stories, not many bad ones. We just get to meet so many amazing people out on the road. we crash at alot of peoples houses while we are touring. We actually got to crash at Bam Margera's house not too long ago. We found out that he is a huge fan of the band. That was very cool."
JP- "Do you have any guilty pleasures , if printable, that may surprise your fans?"
Alissa- "I love Vegan ice cream, I could eat a whole tub of it. There is this cappuccino flavor that I just love"
JP- "On your new CD, at the beginning of '....And Their Eulogies Sang Me To Sleep', it sounds like a vocal slip. Was that a blooper or what?"
Alissa- "That is so funny, you are actually the first person who has asked me about that. Our producer Christian Donaldson likes to keep all of the tape of my exercising my vocals and all the bloopers that may come along. When he's mixing the finished product, he likes to sneak those slip-ups in and see if anyone catches them. I actually liked that one and we left it in."
JP- "One last question, if you were trapped on a desert island and could have only one store bought CD, what would you want there with you?"
Alissa- "Wow, I would probably want to have something by Arch Enemy or 'The End Is Begun" by 3."
The Agonist is definitely a standout in the growing genre of metal core. Musically, they are a tight unit. Lyrically, I challenge you to find a band who has more to say in their lyrics. You can check them out at www.myspace.com/theagonist.