Mutual Admiration Society: Sterling Ball Discusses Collaborative Album with Steve Vai, John Petrucci, Steve Lukather, Steve Morse and More

Although Music Man CEO Sterling Ball has spent most of his adult life building a brand, the guitar has always played a important role in his own personal development.

There’s also a deep, mutual love and respect that exists between Ball and the artists his company serves. That’s probably why, after word got out that Ball was working on an album of his own, guitarists like Steve Morse, Steve Lukather, Steve Vai and John Petrucci were eager to join in.

The resulting compilation, The Mutual Admiration Society, is an eclectic mixture of songs and tasty guitar work done in a way only the best of friends can do. In addition to showcasing Ball’s own impressive guitar virtuosity, the album also allowed the guest guitarists to step outside the box of what they’re known for, and explore other areas of their musicality.

Whether it’s Morse’s fretwork on the Dobie Gray classic, “The In Crowd,” Steve Lukather’s Delta Blues version of “Baby, Please Don’t Go,” John Petrucci’s Disney medley or Steve Vai’s rendition of the Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs’ hit, “Sugar Shack” (one of Vai’s favorite songs as a youth), Mutual Admiration Society is a record of appreciation and admiration for both the instrument as well as each other.

Guitar World recently spoke with Ball about The Mutual Admiration Society and more in this new interview.

How did the The Mutual Admiration Society come about?

Over the years, I’ve toured Australia with Steve Morse and Albert [Lee]. We’ve also played in England and Germany and done club gigs as a combo in places like L.A. and Atlanta with Luke [Steve Lukather]. It was fun and low key, but I always kept the idea of doing an album on the back burner because I didn’t want to present myself in any way as a peer.

A few years ago, I did an album called Better Late Than Never. Everyone was very supportive of it and gave me confidence. So, I asked John Ferraro (drummer) about doing another album—just him and me. We got some of the basics together and I played them for Steve Morse. Steve really liked it and gave me advice for some things to try. I later sent him back the updates and the song, “The In Crowd.” He said, “You know? I really love that groove. It’s something I’ve never been able to play on since we were in our band.” I said, “Steve, what are you asking?” and he said, “Can I put the guitars on that track?” [laughs]. There went the idea of doing a record with the drummer. You don’t say no when Steve Morse asks to put guitars on your track!

I talk to Luke just about every morning and one day he called me and said, “Hey, Morse told me about the record you’re working on. I want to play on it too.” Then came [John] Petrucci, who said, “Hey, I don’t want to be the one left out.”

Read the rest of my
Interview with Sterling Ball by Clicking Here.

Interview: Singer/Songwriter Emma Taylor discusses her new single, ‘My Dear’

Photo: Tia Elisabeth Glista

Since releasing her debut EP, Hazy, last year, singer/songwriter Emma Taylor’s success and maturity as an artist has grown by leaps and bounds. Songs from the album speak of the challenging transition the beautiful songstress encountered while making the move from the familiar confines of her L.A. home to the hustling vibe of New York. One of the songs from the EP in particular; the appropriately titled, “New Found Sound,” struck a chord with audiences, going from 8,000 streams to more than 55,000 overnight.

Taylor’s new single, the haunting and ethereal “My Dear” marks another new chapter in the singer’s career while continuing her evolution as the consummate artist. Dealing with vulnerability amid torn relationships, Taylor’s message in “My Dear” offers us hope to push past the bad times in order to get to the good.

AXS recently spoke with Emma Taylor about her new single and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How would you describe your style of music?

Emma Taylor: The first thing that comes to mind is that it’s very singer/songwriter. I like to pay homage to my influences with my music and place a lot of emphasis on lyrics. It’s very natural.

AXS: What’s your songwriting process like?

ET: I usually always have a notebook that I carry around with me wherever I go. Throughout the day, whenever I become inspired or ideas pop into my head, I’ll write them down. Other times, if I want to create a full song, I’ll start by writing a guitar melody. Then, I’ll come up with a cool progression for a verse or chorus and go back to my notebook to find an idea that fits within the melody and build it from there.

AXS: What can you tell me about your new single, “My Dear”?

ET: I wrote that song a few months ago when I was over in London. I’ve always been able to draw a lot of inspiration from my surroundings, but living in London was a whole new experience. It was very foreign, so I was already in a vulnerable place. But I was also going through some difficult times in my relationships and wrote the song about what I was going through. It’s a hopeful song, but it’s also a heartbreak song. It’s hopeful because I’m saying that I want this relationship to change. Heartbreak, because the change hasn’t happened yet.

AXS: Have you noticed a maturity in your songwriting since the release of Hazy?

ET: Absolutely. I originally wrote the songs for Hazy about two years ago. Then it took another year to create them into what they eventually became. I’m constantly growing and evolving and each time, the music gets better and better. I’m excited to continue growing my style and my experiences so I’ll have new things to build on.

AXS: What are your current tour plans like?

ET: A big part of artistry is performing, so I try to gig as much as I can. Right now, I’m working on a few dates for April as well as a tour this summer. I’ll be announcing things soon.

AXS: Did you always know that you wanted to have a career in music?

ET: I did. My parents always loved music and artists like Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Carole King were always playing in my home. I’ve often said that my dad could have been a music executive in another life because he loves talking about it so much. Growing up, I took voice lessons and did theater. Once my parents realized this wasn’t going to be a phase, they were very supportive of my decision.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Emma Taylor by Clicking Here!

Interview: Megan Nicole Discusses Her Infectious New Album, ‘My Kind of Party’

Singer/songwriter Megan Nicole’s new EP, My Kind of Party is the next chapter in the evolution of one of music’s rising stars. And with more than four million subscribers to her YouTube channel, the beautiful songstress’ latest collection continues to showcase why her hook-laden songs, catchy grooves and mature approach to songwriting appeals to such a wide variety of fans.

My Kind of Party captures Nicole’s infectiously familiar, signature sound on tracks like “Checklist” – a tongue-in-cheek, play on words about finding the right relationship. Other songs like “My Kind of Party” expose a different view of what the perfect night might be like. Then there’s the tender surreality of “Take Me Back,” a song which ponders the longing of second chance.

For such a young artist, Nicole’s musical inspiration spans four decades. From legends like Stevie Wonder and Earth Wind & Fire to refined, female-fueled songwriters like Michelle Branch. All are ingredients infused into her tasty musical stew.

AXS recently spoke with Megan Nicole about My Kind of Party and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How would you describe My Kind of Party in terms of its sound and maybe how it relates to some of your previous work?

Megan Nicole: I think My Kind of Party is a mature evolution of what I’ve done in the past. It’s fun, feel-good pop with a little bit of throwback R&B and funk mixed in.

AXS: What inspires you when you write and create?

MN: The interesting thing about creating music is that inspiration can come from many different areas. Sometimes, I’ll be out somewhere and I’ll get an idea for a melody. Then I’ll record it on my voice memo, so I can remember it for later. Other times, just a title may inspire me and I’ll build off of that. Then there are times when the inspiration will come from my own life and the people around me who share stories.

AXS: Let’s discuss a few tracks from My Kind of Party, starting with the song, “Checklist”.

MN: “Checklist” is a fun, tongue in cheek song about relationships and wanting to find your perfect match. It’s playful and light-hearted and that’s the thing I really love about it. I used to find myself always going on dates (or talking to guys) and in the back of my head I’d be thinking, “All right. Do I have my “standard” guy here?” [laughs]. Dating life can be hard and the song asks the question, “Where is my perfect match?”

AXS: “My Kind Of Party.”

MN: That was one of those songs where I had a title in mind. I remember walking into the session and going through my notes and that title instantly stuck out to me. I wanted to write a song about what my kind of party would look like. And for me, that’s a night in, where I’m just ordering food and relaxing at home [laughs]!

Read the rest of my
Interview with Megan Nicole by Clicking Here.

Interview: Christa B. Allen and Johnny What discuss new project, Pour Vous and single, ‘The Flood’

Dark, sexy and subversively naughty are just some of the words that describe the musical collaboration between actress Christa B. Allen (ABC’s “Revenge”, “13 Going on 30”) and songwriter, producer Johnny What (Bråves). A project appropriately called, Pour Vous.

Allen’s hauntingly ethereal vocals on the duo’s first single, “The Flood” bring us a personal introspection of the love and emotion within their relationship. The structurally sound, groove-ridden track is the first song in what promises to be a busy year of music for Pour Vous.

AXS recently spoke with Christa B. Allen and Johnny What about the new single and more in this exclusive interview.

AXS: How did the song, “The Flood” originate?

Christa Allen: The beginning of a relationship is always the honeymoon phase where everything’s perfect, but this was a song written after we’d had our first little “lover’s quarrel.” It was written out of that first jolt of fear you get when you fight with someone and then say to yourself, “Why is this happening? This is supposed to be perfect.”

Johnny What: It was one of the more memorable songwriting experiences I’ve had because I was writing a song about the possibility of breaking up with the person I love the most. It was a bit confusing and intense but Christa put me at ease. I’m thankful for the experience because it helped me to grow. Not only as a songwriter but also as a person.

AXS: What’s your typical songwriting process like?

CA: Johnny has a very specific process for songwriting. It’s a formula that consists of specifically choosing chords, picking melodies and then writing lyrics to pull it all together. The actual content –the lyrics–usually comes as you work on the song. Certain words just seem to fit perfectly into the melodies that you choose.

JW: For me, the melody always chooses the lyric. I never limit myself by trying to force a concept into a melody. I prefer to have a melody find the words that sound best with the notes and then writing it from there.

AXS: Do you have plans to release more music and do live shows?

JW: Yes. We’ll be doing a single-based strategy of releasing songs and will be putting out another single soon.

CA: As far as live dates go, we’re going to take the temperature and see how people respond to the music, which so far has been overwhelmingly positive. It feels really good. We’d also like to release a few more singles before playing live, so people have something to sing along to.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Pour Vous by Clicking Here!

Stone Temple Pilots’ Dean DeLeo Discusses the Band’s Rebirth, New Self-Titled Album and Singer Jeff Gutt

Stone Temple Pilots highly anticipated, self-titled album will be released this Friday, March 16. It marks the band’s first collection of new material with their new lead singer, Jeff Gutt.

The album features songs like “Meadow” and “Never Enough,” both of which channel the guitar grit and swaggering rhythms the band first perfected on their monster 1992 debut, Core, while tracks like “Roll Me Under” glide along with nimble bass lines and massive choruses.

Guitar World recently spoke to Dean DeLeo about the new Stone Temple Pilots album, touring, gear and more in this new interview.

How does the new album relate to some of  Stone Temple Pilots’ previous work?

I like to think everyone’s playing has evolved with this record. Everyone has evolved into a new place and has gotten better. Robert [DeLeo, the band’s bassist] actually said something about the album recently that was beautiful. He said, ‘This record breathes resilience.’

How did Jeff Gutt get on the band’s radar?

Robert was doing a gig in Detroit [where Gutt is from] with the Hollywood Vampires. After the show, someone came up to him and mentioned that he needed to check out this singer. So, after Robert got home, Jeff came out and played with us. He was one of the last five people we auditioned over a very lengthy period of time.

I think for Jeff, he wants to honor our catalog with the utmost dignity and respect, and he does just that. For us, we’re just as thrilled about delving into this new material with him. He’s an extraordinary singer and we’ve very fortunate to have met one another.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Dean DeLeo by Clicking Here.

Interview: Black Star Riders’ Damon Johnson discusses new tour with Judas Priest

Photo by: Richard Stow

In the past five years, Black Star Riders has released three critically-acclaimed albums and toured regularly all across Europe. Although U.S. fans have long been clamoring to see guitar hero, Scott Gorham (Thin Lizzy), as well as Damon Johnson (guitars), Ricky Warwick (vocals), Robert Crane (bass) and Chad Szeliga (drums), the band has been unable to gain a steady foothold of touring on American soil.

That is, until now.

Black Star Riders—which evolved out of Thin Lizzy after the band decided to record new music—is about to embark on an extensive North American tour with metal legends Judas Priest on their Firepower Tour along with veteran rockers, Saxon. The tour, which begins March 13 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. , will have the band traveling across the United States and into Canada.

Black Star Riders’ third album, Heavy Fire (released last year) was a monumental step forward. From the trademark, Lizzy-inspired, dual-guitar attack on songs like “Testify or Say Goodbye”, to the to the dirty bass groove on “Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed”, Heavy Fire has firmly established the band as one of the world’s premier rock acts, and one not to be missed.

AXS recently spoke with Damon Johnson about the new Black Star Riders tour with Judas Priest and Saxon and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: The obvious first question to ask is, what can fans expect from Black Star Riders on this new tour?

Damon Johnson: You can expect to see a collection of guys who are energized about having an opportunity to be in North America playing our songs on some big stages. We have a huge following in Europe and the U.K. and have spent a majority of our time there. And even though we haven’t really toured in the United States to any great degree, we know that there’s a lot of interest in our band in the States. We’ve also done it right by having three albums to build our repertoire. Although there may be some people who don’t know who we are, we’re confident the songs will stand on their own and that people will want to check us out even more.

AXS: As a music fan, what thoughts come to mind being on tour with metal legends like Judas Priest and Saxon?

DJ: My thoughts immediately go back to when I was just out of high school. It was a magical time when I was really starting to branch out and listen to more hard rock players like Randy Rhoads. I remember I was in a band and our drummer had this insane album collection. He had all the [Judas] Priest, [Iron] Maiden and Saxon. I have such respect for that music and their legacy. Point of Entry is my favorite Priest album that I still listen to this very day. Being out with these guys is going to be incredible.

AXS: What can you tell me about your Signature Epiphone guitars you’ll be bringing with you on tour?

DJ: I’m so proud of my relationship with Epiphone, which actually dates all the way back to 1993, when the first Brother Cane album came out. They make a lot of great stuff and I’ve been playing their black Custom Pro Les Paul. I’ve also always been a big of fan of Korina wood but have never had a Korina V.  I thought, what better guitar to pull out on a Judas Priest tour than a Flying V? [laughs]. It’s a great partnership and I’m looking forward to continuing it while I’m out on tour.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Damon Johnson by Clicking Here.

Interview: Marq Torien discusses new BulletBoys album, ‘From Out Of The Skies’

From their inception on the streets of Los Angeles more than thirty years ago, BulletBoys have proven themselves to be one of the most enduring and hardest-working rock/blues bands to come out of the so-called “glam metal” scene.

Written from founder and frontman Marq Torien’s introspection and love for the City of Angels, the band’s new album, From Out Of The Skies (which will be released on March 23) showcases the BulletBoys’ continued growth and longevity as musical heavyweights. The album is chock full of the familiar sound that’s made the band a mainstay of rock radio while simultaneously opening up new avenues of funk; soul, and at times, something akin to the tasty “California Sound” of the early 1970’s.

Recorded at the famous Foo Fighters’ Studio 606, the first single/video from the new album, “D-Evil” also features guest vocals from Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal.

AXS recently spoke with Torien about From Out of The Skies and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How does the sound of From Out of The Skies compare to some of BulletBoys’ previous work?

Marq Torien: Musically, we took big risks on this record and really wanted to do something that celebrated life. It’s a very peaks and valleys record with a lot of emotion. Lyrically, I tried to convey uplifting feelings about love, family and life in general. The feelings I get about being born and raised in Los Angeles has a lot to do with what’s on the album. It’s a combination of that as well as me going back to my punk rock roots; funk; soul; R&B and hard rock all thrown together.

AXS: Where do you draw inspiration for songs?

MT: There are always things around to inspire me. These days, I really try to be a lot more upfront with my feelings and share them. The BulletBoys have always been able to write and grow. From the get-go, we’ve always done records that were congruent but also had a different vibe and feel. We have our own sound and with this record, I wanted it to have a rhythm and funkiness and a feeling of the streets of L.A..

AXS: Let’s discuss a few tracks from the new album, beginning with “Hi-Fi Drive By.”

MT: On that song, we were trying to emulate Earth Wind And Fire. I’ve always been a big fan and we did some things vocally that made the song have this real dreamy, surreal effect. The title actually comes from something that happened years ago when we used to go into the studio. We’d always drive by people’s houses, open up the car doors and then crank our demo tapes. I remember we used to tell everyone that we were going to do a Hi-Fi drive by on them [laughs]. The song is basically an introspective story about me.

AXS: “D-Evil.”

MT: That’s a straight-out song about the people here in L.A. We live our lives like it’s the end of the world every single day. One of my favorite bands is Eagles of Death Metal and I asked Jesse Hughes (who’s a rock hero to me) if he’d be interested in coming in and singing on the song with me. He came into the studio and just killed it. It sounds amazing.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Mark Torien by Clicking Here!