Category Archives: Art

Brandon Victor Dixon Talks Motown, Production and Scottsboro Boys

BrandonDixon2Actor Brandon Victor Dixon is no stranger to the musical spotlight. Raised with an artistic passion in a educational environment filled with music and theater, it was inevitable that Dixon would find success. Success that would eventually lead him to productions of ‘The Lion King’, ‘The Color Purple’, ‘Rent’ and most recently, ‘Motown: The Musical’ – where he not only takes on the role of Motown founder Berry Gordy, but also got to chance to collaborate with the legend himself.

After nearly 575 performances as Gordy in Motown, Dixon is moving on. This fall, he’ll be reprising his role as Haywood Patterson in “The Scottsboro Boys” when the musical arrives in the West End at London’s Garrick Theatre.

“The Scottsboro Boys” tells the true story of nine young black men (aged between 12 and 19) traveling on a train in search of a new life when they become falsely accused of rape by two white women. Although their court treatment was a tragic miscarriage of justice, all nine were eventually convicted and their subsequent trials deeply divided the nation.

Dixon’s talents don’t just lie with the acting stage. Last November, Dixon (along with longtime friend Warren Adams) formed Walk Run Fly Productions and quickly found success by co-producing two of the most highly anticipated shows of the theater season: Hedwig & the Angry Inch (Neil Patrick Harris) and Of Mice & Men (James Franco and Chris O’Dowd).

I spoke with Dixon about Motown, Scottsboro Boys and what he loves most about theater!

At what point did you realize that music and the theater were going to be your calling?

I’ve known for as far back as I can remember that entertainment, the arts and acting was what I wanted to do. Growing up, I was fortunate to have attended schools that really understood the importance of arts in education. My school also did three musicals every year as well a Shakespeare play. I was in an educational environment that established a focus in the arts and that really helped develop my love for it as well as my skills.

What attracted you to Motown: The Musical?

I’ve always liked creating original work and taking on real life characters. Whenever I see a meaningful, lasting story that gives me the opportunity to create something that will last, then it’s something that I want to be a part of. Just the history and legacy of the artists and music of Motown — it was an extraordinary opportunity. Then to be able to work with Berry Gordy? It’s something that you just don’t turn down.

What was it like not only getting to portray Berry Gordy, but also getting the chance to work with him on this project?

It’s been a very singular experience. We became friends very quickly. Berry loves the creative process and was so welcoming. He was always open to ideas and the collaborative experience.

What did you enjoy the most about the production of Motown?

I loved the entire process – building it, rehearsing and experimenting with different scenes and songs. I also enjoyed learning from my fellow performers. It really is all about the performance and we have the most talented and extraordinary cast on Broadway. Our show is such an interactive one. We also know that everyone in the audience comes in with a knowledge of the music. Music that has changed their lives and directly ties to different portions of their own personal history. They bring that into the show and it really heightens the whole experience.

BrandonDixonWhat do you do to prepare for a role in a project?

One of my favorite parts about building a role is doing the research. I’ll read books, and not just ones about my character but also ones about the characters around me. I do everything I can to gather that information. I really enjoy the immersion and personal education I can get about the character I’m playing.

What made you decide to branch out and start your own company – Walk Run Fly Productions?

I think that as you develop your skills in one area, it becomes a natural progression. As an actor, I started thinking about how things like music, sound and the sets all affected my performance. For me and my partner Warren, we wanted to start developing projects that we really want to do. We want to build something that will grow and move on long after we leave. It’s not only about being able to manifest your own projects, but also about maintaining ownership of the things that you create. I’ve worked on projects about James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke and Berry Gordy and ownership was one of the main tenets that each of them preached. It would be really foolish of me to miss that big lesson.

How would you describe the story of The Scottsboro Boys?

It’s based on the Scottsboro Boys Trials of the 1930’s. Nine black boys who were falsely accused of raping two white women on a train in Scottsboro, Alabama. It’s really about their trials and experience and how the world forgot them. I really love that the project highlights this unique story and really put names to these individuals who were a part of our historical evolution.

Overall, what do you enjoy most about the theater and being part of an ensemble?

I like that every project creates a family. I have my “Motown” family, my “Rent” family, my “Color Purple” family and my “Lion King” family. Theater is such a community, in the moment experience where you get to share real emotions. Not just with your cast members but also with audiences. I love how that moment in time is there for all of us.  The relationships that you build throughout the process get to last and continue to enrich your life.

The Freezing Snowman: Author B. Hagen Discusses New Children’s Book / Guitar Duel

Freezing SnowmanGuitar fans already know about B. Hagen (The Commander-In-Chief) from the amazing guitar duel she recorded with Thomas Valeur. The video of the 24 year old Norwegian guitarist performing Pablo de Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen Op. 20 went viral and became one of Guitar World magazine’s top viral videos of 2013. But Hagen’s creativity goes well beyond the instrument. She’s just released her first children’s book, “The Freezing Snowman”.

Written and illustrated by Hagen herself, this beautiful 46-page book tells the magical story about a snowman suffering from the elements and unable to help himself. For young readers, the story demonstrates not only the power of persistence, but also the rich rewards for helping those around them.

I spoke with Hagen about her book, the guitar duel and the other projects she’s currently working on.

What made you decide to write a book?

Originally, I thought it would make a cool Christmas present for my younger siblings. But when the rest of the family figured out what I was up to, they all pushed for me to self publish it.

How did the idea for the story come about?

I was making a snowman with my two youngest siblings back in the winter of 2012. I remember needing a hat and a scarf for him so I asked my youngest brother Eric if I could borrow his. He was not at all interested in any of HIS things being used, so I told him that the snowman was freezing and desperately needed something to keep himself warm. That was how the idea of the Freezing Snowman was born.

What is the real story behind The Freezing Snowman?

It’s about many things and can be interpreted in many different ways. At first, I was thinking it was about someone being utterly miserable; in a situation they cannot influence. The snowman is not really happy until he starts melting, which is obviously ironic. The kids hold on to him though, just like kids do when they have a pet that is suffering. It might be better for the snowman to “die”, but that would be terrible for the children as they refuse to let go of who they love. They have given him an identity and perceive him as living. The mother of the children (who is a grown up) doesn’t see this. That of course leaves the question of whether or not the snowman is alive or only exists in the imagination of the children. Ultimately, I think this book is about love.

How long did it take you to write and illustrate the book?

I started making the drawings during the winter of 2013. I showed them to my then 7-year-old brother just to see what he thought and he got very excited about the story and wanted more. The writing took me a bit longer, as I waited to get feedback from my 19-year-old brother and mother. I remember there was a major discussion in the family about the ending. I then re-did all of the illustrations later in the year using different materials. The original drawings were all made on cardboard, which I cut myself.

CommanderInChiefDo you come from an art background?

I do. I had my first exhibition when I was 13, when I was doing geometric abstraction. My big dream since I was 5 was to become a designer. I got accepted into my high school’s advanced art program and later took classes with Linda Cohn and Kirsten Leenart at the Hyde Park Art Center. Everyone expected me to pursue a career in visual arts, but I took a 4 year break from art to focus on my music. I still design my own stage outfits and in late 2012 started doing art again. All of the illustrations in the book were made on Langton watercolour paper using Faber Castell watercolour pencils, Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolours, Derwent Inktense Blocks and Staedtler pigment liners. I also used a variety of brushes and a very handy sponge!

Tell me a little about your Guitar Duel. How did you choose the song and how long did it take to prepare?

I grew up listening to classical music. Itzhak Perlman’s recordings were always played, and the “Zigeunerweisen” was a personal favourite. It was my manager/mother (Elisabeth) and my idea to do a guitar recording of it. It took me 5 months to prepare and I even got injured: dislocating my collar-bone while practicing. But I always like a challenge, and it feels really good to be able to play such a fantastic song. I’m thrilled at how well it has been received!

What other projects are you working on? 

I’m currently preparing for a new guitar duel with a very successful British based classical guitarist. We have picked two of the pieces already and will have our first rehearsal soon. As far as my solo career is concerned, I have another tv appearance at the beginning of next month. I’ll get to play two of my original songs on ”Good Morning Norway” and will also be interviewed. I’ll also be performing at the Musikkmesse in Frankfurt, which I’m really looking forward to! And I was just a guest on the biggest Saturday night TV talk show in Norway. More than 600,000 people saw the program so that was very cool!

Do you see yourself writing more children’s books in the future?

That would be great! I have tons of ideas for more stories, both picture books and morbid short stories for older children. Most of them, if not all are inspired by my siblings or my own childhood.

What satisfies you the most having completed your first book?

The illustrations look good in print! Now it’s time to see what children think about it!

For more info on The Commander-in-Chief and The Freezing Snowman
check out the Official Website by Clicking Here!

In the U.S you can purchase a copy of the book here!

Beautiful Colors: Author Andrew Golub Discusses Unique Duran Duran Book

BeautifulColorsAuthor Andrew Golub is not your typical Duran Duran fan. Over the course of three decades, the Pacific northwest native has amassed a rather impressive arsenal of band memorabilia. It’s a collection that includes everything from rare articles and artifacts to carefully restored posters and prints that document every chapter of Duran Duran history. Selections from Golub’s archive have already been showcased in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum as well in an A&E Biography, two film documentaries and several public exhibitions.

Golub’s 260-page book, “Beautiful Colors: The Posters of Duran Duran” presents an interesting perspective of the band’s career as well as his own fandom. Through the use of full-color posters from 1978 to the present, Beautiful Colors documents the band’s evolution through vintage artwork and stunning photography by Christine Born.

The book has received overwhelming praise from members of the fan community as well as from Duran Duran themselves, with keyboardist Nick Rhodes contributing a touching forward. Beautiful Colors is a book for any fan of Duran Duran or those with a penchant for 80’s nostalgia. Moreover, the book is a true testament to the power of music.

I spoke with Golub about the book and his fascination of all things Duran Duran.

Golub3What was your primary motivation behind the Beautiful Colors book?

A book was always a possibility given the breadth of my collection and I’ve received many gentle urgings to produce something like this from friends and fans over the years. From exhibitions to my website, I strived to make my collection more accessible to the global fan community as well as the band. Due to their sheer size, posters tend to be the most dramatic category in the archive and the type of memorabilia I feel most proud of. So the concept behind Beautiful Colors felt like a natural decision.

How did you determine which pieces to include?

Since the collection is bursting with treasures, selecting posters for inclusion was a challenge. But once I decided to focus only on official promotional posters (from record companies, concert venues, etc), the choices became clear. Posters are designed to capture attention and ignite the imagination. They represent memories and milestones, for the band as well as the fans. I feel as if I’m working to preserve history through a medium that would otherwise be lost in time. My book may commemorate Duran Duran’s history, but the memories on each page belong to fans around the world.

When did your love of Duran Duran begin?

The first strains of Fab Five Fever nestled into my DNA when I was 13 – the later part of 1984. The combination of charismatic photo sessions, captivating videos, and spectacular, memorable music was all it took to activate my inner Duranimal. My days were soon filled with trips to supermarket magazine racks, brainstorming on how to fund purchases of DD material and of course, taking good care of the items in my growing collection. Hard to believe there was a point when my whole collection fit inside my bedroom. A fortunate thing since my mother refused to build an annex on to the house for memorabilia maintenance [laughs].

What was it about their music that really interested you?

Nick’s soaring keyboard arrangements against Roger’s rock-solid beat, John’s velvety funk-infused bass, Andy’s electrifying guitar licks, and Simon’s lush, wonderfully cryptic lyrics. Every song offered something fresh and exciting with each new listen. “Seven and The Ragged Tiger” was my first album, launching a full, swift occupation of my senses. The synthesized rapture of “The Reflex” captured my imagination first, followed by the harmonized bliss of “New Moon on Monday,” and the rest of the record overwhelmed with awesome. I found Duran Duran’s music stayed with me long after I stopped listening, and I felt myself yearning for more—discovering other albums, learning about the members, and essentially assembling a portrait of the artists behind my favorite tunes. The music was my gateway drug.

Golub hard at work, peeling off layers of excess paper from the back of a rare poster.

Golub hard at work, peeling off layers of excess paper from the back of a rare poster.

What made you decide to start collecting pieces of Duran Duran memorabilia?

Being attracted to Duran Duran’s strong visual style, acquiring memorabilia seemed like a natural direction. Photos offered glossy, handsome images and magazine articles were often accompanied by fan-friendly, full-page pin-ups. But posters took Duran Duran’s exciting, photogenic persona to an even higher plane. While I’ve enjoyed filling out the archive with many odd and fascinating artifacts, the posters have always been the heart of my collection and the clearest visual representation of Duran Duran’s professional history.

How do you acquire pieces for your collection?

Much of my effort revolves around careful networking, reaching out to those within the concert promotion industry and building credibility with my archive. The biggest challenge comes with every new tour, when the whole world becomes a potential harbor for poster production. That is also when I become most aware and appreciative of all the wonderful friends and fellow fans keeping me in mind across the globe!

Do you have a particular favorite?

Without picking a single, most prized item, I would highlight the posters I’ve been able to find from the band’s earliest chapters. Whether testing new material in Birmingham clubs, cutting their teeth as a support act or exploring their New Romantic roots, Duran Duran’s formative years remain the most elusive to document through posters. I have moments of quiet incredulity and deep pride when I look at the first chapter of my book, populated with more posters than I ever expected to include.

Have you ever gotten to meet the band?

I have met the band on several occasions and each encounter has been intensely meaningful and ingrained as a life highlight. Every time I am fortunate enough to meet Duran Duran I am reminded of why I do what I do, why the band deserve nothing less than absolute lifelong celebration and I walk away with renewed commitment to my archival work.

The entire band captivated by Golub's poster in 2005!

The entire band captivated by Golub’s poster in 2005!

What’s your favorite Duran Duran song? Album?

I was introduced to Duran’s sound through the Ragged Tiger album, particularly “The Reflex”. That record and single will always occupy a premium spot for me. However, Rio is bursting with some of my biggest faves. Especially “Lonely In Your Nightmare”, “Save A Prayer” and “Hold Back The Rain”. Timeless classics which never fail to elevate my heart rate, tap my emotions, and transport me to a very happy place. In the band’s recent years, All You Need Is Now is nothing short of crazy-awesome, having re-captured the same visceral, joyous feel that got me hooked in the first place! “Runway Runaway”, “Blame The Machines” and the title track are pure brilliance that I enjoy down to the molecular level.

What has the band had to say about your book?

The band has been incredibly supportive through Twitter and Facebook, and after a recent trip to present the book to Duran’s management in New York I learned the band assessed Beautiful Colors as “magnificent.” It was important to create something that both the band and the fans could be proud of. In addition to charting the band’s history, I set out to honor the bond between the band and their faithful following as well as my own connections within the global fan community. This passion is a powerful common thread we all share, and I feel blessed to be part of something so special, enduring and so much bigger than myself.

For more information on Andrew Golub and
Beautiful Colors: The Posters of Duran Duran Click Here!

To See Golub’s portion of an American Collector’s documentary
(38 minutes in): Click Here

Doodle Book Contest

Earlier this year, Michele Quinn and I released our very first children’s book, “Doodle”. Shortly after it’s release, we decided to donate all profits from the book to the daughter of Michele’s friend, who was ill and in need of a bone marrow transplant. 100% of the monies we received as profit were used to help offset the family’s medical bills as well as raise awareness of Aplastic Anemia; the disease the daughter had been diagnosed with.

NewBookCover

Now it’s time to put out a call to all faithful readers of this blog. Michele and I are nearing the final stages of completing our next book, Doodle Meets the Pound Pup – a rhyming story that centers around topics that aren’t discussed much, but ones that are very important.

In order to help us decide which Animal Shelter or Rescue Organization to donate proceeds from sales of the new book to, we need to hear from you!!

If you know of or represent a worthy Animal Shelter or Rescue Organization, we’re asking you to please write in and tell us which organization you feel is most deserving, but even more importantly… why you believe so. We’ll choose one entry that we feel best explains their cause to receive our donation.

The winner of the contest will also receive two signed copies of the new book; one for you and one for the winning shelter or rescue group!

To submit your entry, post it on our Facebook page
Or send us an email by Clicking Here

If you don’t have an organization to nominate, please consider sharing or Tweeting this article so we can get the word out.

More information on “Doodle Meets the Pound Pup” as well as a release date will be made soon. Thanks in advance for your help!

Doodle Interview On WFMZ TV

A lot of people have been asking about my interview with Eve Tannery of WFMZ.  So for those who may have missed it or just want to watch it again, here it is. Enjoy!

Thanks go out to Eve and everyone at WFMZ for taking the time to hear about the book.

You can read more of the “Doodle” story and purchase your own copy
by Clicking Here

Get Julie Piekarski on Dancing With The Stars

Julie Piekarski

Julie Piekarski

Last summer, I had the pleasure of speaking with the amazing Julie Piekarski Probst. Although her name may not ring a bell, chances are if you were a fan of “The Mickey Mouse Club” or “Facts of Life” back in the day, you’ve seen her.

Now, the beautiful actress and dancer is embarking on a journey to get on this season’s ‘Dancing With The Stars’ and I’m doing a re-visit of that interview to help her on her quest.

Julie is no stranger to the art of the dance, having honed her chops from a very young age performing in front of huge audiences at The Muny, the nation’s largest outdoor theater located in St. Louis, Missouri. She took time off from perfoming in the mid-1980′s in order to raise a family, but is now ready to enter the biggest ballroom in prime time.

In just the short time that we spoke, I found Julie to be a warm, infectious person with a love of life and the arts. She would be awesome on the show.

Consider this:

1. Julie would be the first Mousketeer to appear on the ABC show, which coincidentally also owns Disney.

2. With another ‘Fact of Life’ alum, (Lisa Whelchel) having made a successful run on the TV show ‘Survivor’, a “Facts of Life’ battle for TV ratings could be in order.

3. As a side note (and in another odd twist of fate) Julie and Lisa were BOTH Mousketeers and first worked together on ‘The New Mickey Mouse Club’.

You can read the rest of my interview with Julie here

Please help me help Julie by clicking this link and letting producers from Dancing With The Stars know you want Julie on the show. You can point them to my article if you like, but let’s make it happen. It would be very cool to say we played a role in getting Julie on the show and then cheering her on to victory!

Here are a few clips from Julie’s career:

Julie on The New Mickey Mouse Club

Here’s  Julie from Facts of Life:

Julie on the show, Quincey M.E

Julie Returns to Walt Disney World:

Losing Street Cred

HomeYesterday, my friend (and fellow blogger) Kat posted her review of the new Phillip Phillips CD called “The World From The Side Of The Moon“.

I always enjoy reading Kat’s album reviews because she has no bias, and just tells it like it is. She’ll dissect every track piece by piece and tell you exactly what she liked, and what she thought was lacking.

Although her review gave me some insight as to what to expect on his new record, for me personally Phillip Phillips’ music has been “tarnished”; and it’s not even his fault. The blame for it lies with two people: Drew Pearson and Greg Holden, the writer’s of Phillip’s song, “Home”.

“Home” was actually quite a good song, that is before it became fodder. Not only has the song now been played ad nauseum on radio (a travesty into of itself) but its also been used in no less than three advertisements for television shows. I’ve heard “Home” played in its entirety multiple times at the Olympics, on “American Idol”, as the soundtrack for “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and even as the goodbye song on “America’s Got Talent”. I started out liking it. Now, I HATE it.

Usually, congratulations are in order when something has that much success. But as far as I’m concerned, new songs (and subsequently the artists who perform them) lose a bit of street cred when they allow their songs to be whored out to every Tom, Dick and Harry.

I’m from the “old school” way of thinking, where a hit song needs to have an aura of mystery surrounding it. Something that let you know that it’s not going to be played all the time. So that when it finally is played, you enjoy the listening experience even more.

At first, it was cool to see Phillip performing “Home”, and even cooler when it started making the rounds on radio. But, when it started getting into the regular rotation of television shows and commercials, it drove me crazy.

Case in point. Over the last year, the following could be heard every night in prime-time:

Randy Jackson (American Idol): “You’re going to Hollywood BABY!”

Phillip Phillps Music: ♬ ♬ “Settle down, it’ll all be clear…Don’t pay no mind to the demons….They fill you with fear” ♬♬

*

Howie Mandell (America’s Got Talent): “I’m sorry, the road to Vegas ends for you now!…”

Phillip Phillps Music: ♬ ♬ “The trouble it might drag you down – If you get lost, you can always be found…” ♬♬

*

Ty Penninton (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition): “We’re gonna build you a new house and Sears is going to pay off your mortgage.”

Phillip Phillps Music: ♬ ♬ “Just know you’re not alone…Cause I’m going to make this place your home.” ♬♬

I know what you’re thinking: the placement of the song makes sense. People on ‘American Idol’ are finding their “Home” by living the dream. Others are actually going “Home” on ‘America’s Got Talent’. And then there are the people who are actually getting a physical “Home” on ‘Extreme Makeover’.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against new songs being used for marketing and merchandising purposes. But I am of the opinion that some period of time needs to pass before they should be used to peddle things.

Great music needs to run its course naturally, otherwise it diminishes it as art.

Channeling My Inner Nerd

spider700When I was six years old I became a HUGE comic book and Spiderman fan. In fact, I’ve still got the huge collection of comics I amassed as a youth stored securely away in boxes that I hope will one day fund my retirement (or at least supply me with a few months worth of Polident). Back then, if a comic had a Spider, a Hulk or a guy on a flaming motorcycle on it, I bought it.

In the early eighties, my friend and I would make weekly pilgrimages to the downtown district to purchase the latest tales of Spiderman, Incredible Hulk and Ghost Rider (among others). This place was one of those cigarette shops that sold lottery tickets and magazines but also had a few swiveling metal racks with comic books on them. It was in front of those racks where he and I would have deep discussions about the important issues of the day: like why we thought Spiderman could beat the Incredible Hulk if the two of them ever got into a fight.

Even into the early 90’s (when I was still a major geek), I’d drive to comic book shops every Friday where new issues had been reserved for me. What was cool about it was comic books at the time cost $1 each. So for a ten-spot, you’d have plenty of superhero whoop ass to last you for quite a while.

I’m not exactly sure when it ended, but I gradually began to lose interest in buying comic books. Looking back, I think the signs may have started when I began noticing that there were no hot chicks in the comic book stores. I mean let’s face it, regardless of what other’s might say; comic books (for the most part) are chick repellant.

Recently though, the current rage of hit movies bringing these heroes to life on the big screen began to pique my interest in comic books again. I had even heard a rumor that the latest issue of Spiderman (#700) was going to be a milestone issue. It didn’t take long for me to decide to channel my inner nerd and go roam the halls of a comic book store again and so yesterday, I made the trip.

Brick and mortar comic stores are quickly going the way of the dinosaur, but thankfully there are still a few in my area. As I walked inside, there was an immediate feeling of deja vu. Walls and walls of old comics, graphic novels and action figures greeted me and a feeling of giddiness washed over this now forty-something year old kid.

I noticed that a group of young individuals (all male – go figure) were blocking the middle of the room and making conversation with each other. Under their arms, each held their weekly fix of comic and I kindly asked them to move out-of-the-way so I could make my way over to where the latest issues were. I have to admit, I loved the feeling that this was going to be the first time I purchased an actual comic book in at least twenty years. A rush of euphoria came over me and I felt kind of, well… nerdy about it!

Sitting there on the rack was the object of my quest: Amazing Spiderman #700. I quickly picked it up and held it in my hands. The number of pages appeared to be less than I remember for a comic book and the artwork had changed quite a bit from the style I was used to from the late 80’s.

And then it happened.

I peered down and noticed that the price of the comic was no longer the dollar I had once enjoyed. In fact, it was far from it. The latest issue of Spiderman was now almost eight dollars!

And that was the moment when “Fiscal Jim” put “Nerdy Jim” in a headlock and made him put the comic back down in the rack. When a comic book costs as much as a Playboy, something is wrong (not that I would know how much a Playboy costs mind you). But you can keep your comics, I’ll just stick with watching the movies.

On my way out of the store, I passed by the gaggle of guys standing around with their comic book bounty again. They were in deep discussion with each other about the conditions required for Bruce Banner to turn into the Incredible Hulk. I laughed to myself because thirty years ago, that was me pondering that same question.

At least some things never change.

Jessica Gahring Is Making Her Mark

Jessica Gahring has unleashed her full potential.

From the moment I first met her, I knew it was only a matter of time before the artist, actress, model and Mom put down the moniker of “Shop Manager” of NY INK, pick up her own tattoo machine and open Ms. Dixie’s Tattoo & Pin Up Parlour in Troy, New York.

With the unique shop layout that reflects the 1950′s and her love of pin-ups, Jessica is about to make her own mark on the business.

Her love of art began at a very young age and was nurtured by family and through education. On the television show, she may have been portrayed as a person with limited experience in the art of tattooing. In reality, quite the opposite is true. Jessica is already gaining notoriety for her work from people all over.

I had the chance to speak with Jessica as she prepares to open the doors to her shop for the very first time. She may have butted heads with Ami James for entertainment purposes, but in “real life” Jessica Gahring is making her dreams come true.

goJimmygo (gJg): Jessica, it’s so great speaking with you. Congratulations!

Jessica Gahring (JG): Thank you! This was definitely a long time coming.

gJg: How are you doing?

JG: I’m doing great. I’m tattooing full-time now, which was a given. I have people who want to travel and come see me!

gJg: Did you always have the dream of opening your own shop?

JG: That was always the plan. Even when I worked with my friend Lydia years ago we almost bought a studio together. It didn’t end up happening at the time, so we decided to wait. I went into banking to get more into the business side of things. I knew I wasn’t going to be there long.

gJg: Why did NY Ink choose not to showcase your talent?

JG:  The producers didn’t think it would make much of story. Even though I was already working with Lydia, they didn’t want to reveal that I had any sort of real background in the industry.

The truth is, we play characters in a “reality-type” show. The public wants confrontation and that’s what sells. But the person they showed in the first season is not who I really am as an individual.

gJg: What makes Ms. Dixie’s different from your typical tattoo shop?

JG: I’ve got a pin-up modeling theme; with a 1950′s, vintage feel to it. It looks like it belongs way back when.  It’s classy and something completely different from all other tattoo parlors. I’ll be tattooing full-time at one of three stations. I never wanted to have a huge studio. I wanted something that felt like home when people walk in and I think I’ve accomplished that. It’s very true to what I imagined it to be. 

gJg: Do you have anyone else helping you in this endeavor?

JG: Yes, my boyfriend Christian is my business partner and he’ll be scheduling and managing appointments for the shop. He’s the one that holds it all together.

gJg: Do you have any other artists lined up to work with you?

JG: I have an amazing artist, Jon Abbott, who will be working with me. He’s a traditional style artist. The third slot I’m going to leave open for guest artists until someone else comes along. I’m not sure what will happen down the road but I am really excited about where I am at right now!

gJg: Where did your love of art begin?

JG: I’ve always loved art even as a child. My Dad painted and drew pictures and even from a young age I was amazed that you could actually look at something and put what you saw down on paper.

I have art awards from elementary school and graduated high-school with a fine arts degree. Even when I went to college; I studied sociology but still took art classes. Art has always been a huge part of my life.

gJg: Where did your interest in tattooing begin?

I grew up in a very conservative family where tattoos were sort of taboo and something that was untouchable. I think because of that, it made me want to understand it more.

During high school and college, I would often design tattoos for other people. To me, tattooing is art on the ultimate canvas: the skin. I think that’s very cool!

gJg: What’s one thing everyone needs to know about getting tattoos?

JG: Be knowledgeable. My first tattoo was a butterfly on my upper back that I got right after high school. Unfortunately, it was done poorly and I ended up covering it up.

Most people between the ages of 18-21 usually either hate their first tattoo or end up covering it, so it’s really important to understand what makes a good tattoo and the health and safety aspects of getting one.

gJg: Which of your tattoos is your favorite?

JG: I really don’t have a personal favorite; all of them mean something to me. I have some that represent my daughter that are very special and the very first tattoo I ever did was on myself, so that has importance as well.

gJg: When is your official grand opening?

JG: We are open for business right now but we’re having our huge grand opening the week of Aug 11th. That’s where we’ll have the ribbon-cutting, balloons and prizes. I will be tattooing two radio DJs live on-air during the Grand Opening week: one from Jamz 96.3 and the other from our local country radio station, 104.9 The Cat.

I also happen to turn thirty on August 12th, so it’s perfect timing.

I figure, if I’m going to do thirty, what better way than by opening a tattoo shop?

For information on Ms Dixies Tattoo Pin-Up Parlour  Click Here

Article first published as Jessica Gahring Is Making Her Mark on Technorati.

New York Groove: My NY Ink Story

The Stencil For My Tattoo

It was a bright sunny day in August. I remember it well because I was in my upstairs bathroom shaking like a leaf. It was around 3 pm and I was getting ready to head over to South Bethlehem for sound check.

It was the summer of 2004 and my band was going to be the opening act for Clay Aiken at Musikfest. On the biggest stage of them all. The fastest sellout in the festival’s history – 6,500 people. We had the greatest female singer ever in our arsenal that got us there. But I was a nervous wreck.

I had dreamed about this forever. Since the first day I picked up my grandmother’s hand held potato slicer and pretended it was a guitar (true story). The callused fingers, the long walks downtown to Ken Brader and Son’s music store for lessons on brutal summer days. The countless number of  hours spent practicing after school.

While other kids went out and played sports or hung with friends I was trying to figure out how Eddie Van Halen got his kung-fu. I even used to write journal entries in high school of what my life was going to be like after I “made it”.

And now here I was, sitting in my bathroom next to the bowl for fear of losing my lunch. I’m still not sure how I held it together.

But somehow my “Rock Star Moment” was here. And I wasn’t about to let it slip away.

Ironically, it was being part of a country band that gave me this opportunity. The last thing you’d probably ever expect from a guy who grew up playing Survivor, Bon Jovi, Ozzy and AC/DC .And yet it was because our singer had won a regional vocal competition that we were invited to be the opening act.

So, a METAL head in a COUNTRY band gets to open for POP star. Musical irony.

Imagine the day in the life of your favorite chart topping artist as they arrive at a venue to perform. That was me that day.

Megan Massacre

All the crew members doing whatever it takes to make you comfortable so you could ready yourself for a night of great music. Ushering you off away from the adoring public. Ok, so this “public” was there to see Clay Aiken but this was my “moment” so I could think what ever I wanted.

Clay had just placed second in season two of American Idol but was almost on the same level as Justin Bieber is today. People were going bonkers for him.

Surreal.

This was the story that I told Megan Massacre as she tattooed me. This was the reason for getting my very first tattoo: to commemorate the day my dream came true.

Although my segment with her never actually aired there is a brief glimpse of Megan tattooing me during a transition between scenes as you can see in the one photo.

Frankly, I’m still wondering if this picture justifies me having my own IMDB listing… I can see it now:

Actor: James Wood:  Appeared in: “NY INK Season 2″… In the role of:  “Arm being tattooed by Megan Massacre“.

I honestly can’t say enough good things about my experience at Wooster Street or the tattoo that Megan did. What’s even better is that I now have a story within a story to tell when people ask me about it.

And I couldn’t ask for anything cooler than that. What do you think?

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 248 other followers

%d bloggers like this: