Author: James Wood

Influenced by life, love and the pursuit of the perfect song is what best describes my passion. I’m a closeted classic rock/metal-head from the 80′s who loves to write.

Interview: Stop Thrust’s Jordan Kai Burnett and Claron Hayden Discuss Their Unique Brand of Blues-Punk

Rising from the musical landscape of Astoria, a neighborhood in Queens, NY, blues-punk band Stop Thrust has been slowly making a name for themselves.

What makes the band so incredibly unique, aside from the often dual-perspective comparison to acts like July Talk and The Dead Weather, is that all four members of the group are seasoned pros of the musical theater. This offers another dynamic layer of craft to the band’s already impassioned performances.

The band will be performing at the legendary Rockwood Music Hall on Monday, July 8th before celebrating the release of their long-awaited EP at The LetLove Inn in Astoria, Queens on Wednesday, August 14.

Stop Thrust is: Jordan Kai Burnett (vocals), Claron Hayden (vocals, guitar), Will Schnurr (bass) and Matt Wills (drums).

I recently spoke with Jordan Kai Burnett and Claron Hayden about Stop Thrust and more in this exclusive new interview.

How would describe your brand of music?

Jordan Kai Burnett: We went down a rabbit looking at all kinds of bands we love and how they identify themselves and the way that music has evolved. When it comes down to it we like to call it blues-punk.

Claron Hayden: We’ve been influenced a lot by the associated acts coming out of Third Man Records — Jack White from The White Stripes, who’s now with Alison Mosshart [The Kills] in The Dead Weather. There’s also a Canadian band, July Talk, that’s inspired us. They add two perspectives the entire time and not just in a one or two song thing.

JKB: They’re a huge influence because of the male/female dynamic and the gritty, sexy nature of their music.

How did Stop Thrust come together?

CH: All of us have worked professionally in theater and other projects in music. Matt and I have actually known each other since we were kids. Jordan was in the process of developing material for a solo project and the two of us had done a few songwriting sessions where we compared notes and music. It came to a head that what we both actually wanted was to build a band that was fun, energetic and had a shared, dueling perspective between both angles inside of a relationship.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Stop Thrust by Clicking Here!

Advertisements

Goodbye Palmer Elementary

It was the suddeness of the hypnagogic jerk that roused me from my sleep. It’s centrifugal force igniting every molecule of my brain back into consciousness. My eyes opened to the sight of the ceiling fan gently rotating above my head. Nearby, the metal vents on the floor rattled with a soothing clinking sound as cool, conditioned air made its way from the basement into the living room where I lay.

I’d been power napping on the couch for a little more than five minutes. Something I tend to do frequently on weekends these days, especially when I’m out late the night before. Although I do enjoy these afternoon breaks from reality they rarely last longer than fifteen minutes. What can I tell you, I’m old. Not “Hey you kids! Get off my f#cking lawn” old, but more of a “It’s Saturday afternoon and I feel like taking a nap” old. There’s a difference.

I gazed over at the clock and noticed the time: 2:00 p.m. I sat up quickly and pursed my lips. “There’s something I need to be doing today,” I thought to myself. “Somthing important and, if I don’t act quickly enough, something I’m going to miss.” I fished the cell phone from my pants pocket and glared at the calendar app, where I saw the overdue notification blaring on the screen:

“Walk Through.. Palmer School”

I rose from the sofa with all the energy of a grizzly bear that’d just woken from a winter hibernation. With cracking knees and slight disorientation I grabbed the keys from the kitchen counter and made my way to the car.

Palmer Elementary is part of the Easton Area School District and, if memory serves me correctly (remember, I said that I’m old), it’s the oldest one still being used under the same name. The school is unique because it’s actually two buildings in one. The original one is called The Cole building and the other attached structure, built a few years later, is referred to as The Auld building. About the only thing I remember about Palmer Elementary was its odd, sprawling shape, and the green-tiled walls and wooden stage that were now riddled with the ghosts of generations of students who’d spent kindergarten through fifth grade roaming it’s corridors from September until June each year.

The school is now scheduled to be demolished and replaced with a new, state of the art strucuture, but the district was kind enough to let people walk through its hallowed halls one final time before it’s leveled into dust. I only attended Palmer for one year, fifth grade, back in 1979. A mind boggling thought to consider forty years later.

All Purpose Room

As a fifth grader, I was confined to The Auld building and as I entered the door to that part of the school again I felt a wave of emotion rush over me. My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to find the homeroom class where I’d spent most of my time. Heck, I couldn’t even remember the room number, even though I suddenly recalled it was something familiar that I could easily associate with.

As I trudged through the corridors I found myself walking in a certain direction. I passed something that was once called The All Purpose Room; a large room with filing cabinets, chairs and even a stage for talent shows. It was there that I recalled it’s significance. On June 5th, 1980 this room served as the location for Palmer’s Silent Spelling Bee where me and a bunch of my teammates came in second place.

It was the most exciting thing that ever happened to me at school up to that point, because the entire Spelling Bee was being filmed live on this crazy new contraption called a video recorder. Our tiny little selves could actually watch our performances on the television screen almost instantly after it happened!

As I walked out of that room my thoughts raced back to the Second Place ribbon I’d kept from that day. One that, almost 40 years later, still resides in a curio cabniet is my office.

I exited the all-purpose room and into another winding corridor that led past the gym, where the smell of old wood and the blood, sweat and tears of youth still lingered heavily. It was then that my strides began to come more in earnest, as if I knew there was some place I needed to be. I walked past doors with signs printed on them that said “Janitor,” “Teachers” and “Boiler Room,” along with black, scuff-marked floors from decades of abuse by children’s boots and shoes. Each sign and scrape as oddly familiar as the nose on my face. Finally, I came to the beginning of a single long corridor, and my heart skipped a beat.

“It’s down here,” a youthful voice inside my head said. “Down here on the left! Take your time. It’s not the last room, but the one just before it.”

Room 409

I started doubting myself. Could it be possible that I’d actually remember the exact location of my homeroom? A school that I’d only spent one year of my life in? I trudged the corridor, peeking into each room on the way down as I slowly made my way toward the end.

Finally, with my heart still racing, I came to the second to last classroom on the left. I peered at the number that hung above the door and laughed out loud. It was Room 409. The same number as that f#cking cleaning product, Formula 409. THAT was how I’d always remembered my 5th grade classroom!! I stood there, staring at those three digits for the longest time, remembering the ten year old boy who regularly walked through it’s archway and into learning. Although I was hesitant about entering nearly forty years after I’d last walked out, I nonetheless forced myself inside.

Room 409, just like all the other classrooms in the building, was completely empty, but my mind quickly filled in the blanks. I could once again see the desks that were occupied by me and my classmates. I could see my teacher, Ms. Reiersen, with her dirty-blonde bob, standing at the blackboard near her desk lecturing. I remembered looking out the window at the monkey bars and longing for recess. I recalled the hottest of days in May when the open windows did little to relieve the unbearable heat. It was in this room where I learned about reading and social studies. It was also where me and my friend Steve came up with the idea of auditioning for the school talent show by wearing paper bags over our heads and doing a skit called “Unknown Comic News.”

If you don’t know who The Unknown Comic is, look him up on YouTube.

I walked the room very slowly taking it all in, running my fingers softly along the walls and reading the memories people had scrawled on the chalk board. I pushed on the closet doors to see where my childhood coat once hung. Yes, it still took a herculean effort to open them. I thought about all the kids that went to school with me at Palmer and how forty years had passed by in a blink of an eye. That’s when it hit me that all of us will be turning 50 this year

Well, they are, I can’t possibly be THAT old.

After what seemed like a lifetime (in reality, it was) it was time to say goodbye to Room 409, Palmer School, and that long ago part of my life. I’m not afraid to admit that I looked back several times through glassy eyes to see if time would stop. Of course, it didn’t.

I’d taken a lot of pictures to remember this day but something still felt missing, and then I realized what it was. I walked back to the board, grabbed a chunk of chalk from the tray and, the same way I would’ve done forty years ago, scribbled a final message.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview: Caly Bevier Discusses Her Edgy New Single, “Hate U Sometimes”

Photo: Lindsey Byrnes

It’s been a surreal four-year journey for L.A-based pop artist Caly Bevier. Following a trajectory that included overcoming a stage-three cancer diagnosis, earning herself a Golden Buzzer on NBC’s America’s Got Talent — where she was sent directly to the semi-finals by judge Simon Cowell — and an insatiable debut single, “Head Held High,” the inspiring singer-songwriter is back with her brand-new track. The edgy and ethereal “Hate U Sometimes.”

The song is a hauntingly inspired, groove-ridden track with universal appeal. One that describes the empathetic, and at times confrontational, feelings between significant others, partners, and family members.

All relationships have their ups and downs, but Bevier’s message resonates on much a deeper level. A sentiment that says even though we may not always agree, at the end of the day, we can still hold firm to our commitments to each other and say, “You know I love you, don’t you?”

I recently spoke with Bevier about “Hate U Sometimes” and more in this exclusive interview.

What can you tell me about your new single, “Hate U Sometimes?”

Normally, I’ll write all of my songs, but “Hate U Sometimes” was one that was sent to me. I could relate to it on so many different levels. I went in and helped re-write a few parts and the bridge. That’s how it came about.

What’s your typical songwriting process like?

It all happens naturally with producers and writers. Sometimes I’ll go into a session with a bunch of ideas that I may or may not use. Typically, the producers are the ones who will start a track, and then I’ll go lay down some melodies and lyrics.

How would you describe your sound?

I’ve been living in L.A. the past few years building a sound that I’d consider to be edgy-pop. What’s cool is that, in the future, I can go deeper into a more alternative-pop sound. Artists that inspire me are Halsey and Billie Eilish.

You’ve gotten to work with songwriters like Bonnie McKee, who’s worked with Katy Perry among others. What was it like collaborating with her?

It was extremely cool. Bonnie was in one of my first sessions and taught me how to do melodies and be comfortable with getting my ideas across. As a woman, you sometimes feel shy and might not want to say the line. She taught me to be confident and that’s really helped me grow as an artist.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Caly Bevier by Clicking Here!

‘Out of the Blue’: Mike Rutherford Discusses New Mike + The Mechanics Album, Gear, Genesis and More

Photo credit: Patrick Balls

Mike + The Mechanics’ ninth studio album, Out of the Blue, captures the spirit and power of some of the band’s most beloved hits. Featuring music from throughout their 35-plus-year-career, the new album also gives fans a glimpse of the band’s future with three brand new cuts, “One Way,” “What Would You Do” and the album’s title track.

A special deluxe CD version of the album features six newly recorded “as-live” acoustic versions of “Don’t Know What Came Over Me,” “The Best is Yet to Come,” “The Living Years,” “Beggar On a Beach Of Gold,” “Another Cup Of Coffee” and “Over My Shoulder.”

In June, the band will meet up with an old friend, Phil Collins, joining him for the first six shows of his European tour.

Guitar World recently spoke with guitarist Mike Rutherford about the new Mike + The Mechanics album, touring, gear and more.

What prompted the new Mike + The Mechanics album?

We’ve been touring the last eight years with two singers, Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar, and I observed the way the old hits have become something else. The two singers have made them their own with different interpretations. The sound was something quite special and I thought it would be nice to capture that in the studio.

What’s your writing process like these days?

It always starts with some chords, drum machine programming and bass pedals and guitar synths. Just making a big racket to get some starting ideas. Normally a title comes first but the best ones are when you get the words with the chords.

Let’s discuss a few of the new songs from the album, beginning with the title track, “Out of the Blue.”

I really like the title. In this day and age it has a positive statement on life. It’s fast and, in a sense, it’s also written a bit like a love song. Sometimes you’re looking for someone special in your life and you try and try. Then suddenly, out of the blue, something comes along. At the same time it applies to life and the aspirations and hopes you’re trying to achieve.

How about “One Way”?

I went back to the old Akai to get that crunchy sound again. The intro is my drum machine programming and the strings are me plugging away on the Akai. It’s a nice sound.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Mike Rutherford by Clicking Here!

Interview: Kansas’ Ronnie Platt Talks Upcoming Show At Sands Event Center, Classic Hits and New Music

Photo: EMily Butler Photography

With a career spanning more than four decades and more than thirty million in album sales alone, Kansas has firmly established itself as one classic rock’s most iconic bands. Since releasing their debut album in 1974 the band’s hits like “Carry on Wayward Son,” “Dust In The Wind,” and “Point of Know Return,” have become staples of classic rock radio and continue to be used in film, television and video games to this very day.

In 2016, Kansas released their acclaimed fifteenth studio album, “The Prelude Implicit,” and spent most of the next two years touring it as well as celebrating the 40th anniversary of their landmark Leftoverture album. With even more tour dates, including performing albums in their entirety, and the talk of even more new music, Kansas shows no sign of slowing down.

On Thursday, May 30, Kansas will be bringing its Radio Classics Tour to The Sands Event Center in Bethlehem, PA. A show that promises to feature material that spans the groups legendary career as well as a few surprises.

Kansas is: Phil Ehart (drums), Richard Williams (guitars), Billy Greer (bassist/vocalist), Ronnie Platt (vocalist/keyboards), David Ragsdale (violinist/guitarist), Tom Brislin (keyboards) and Zak Rizvi (guitars).

I recently spoke with vocalist Ronnie Platt about the band’s upcoming performance in Bethlehem, new music and more in this exclusive new interview.

What can fans expect from Kansas’ upcoming performance at The Sands Event Center in Bethlehem, PA?

Fans are going to be in for a fantastic, high-energy, music-packed show. Songs from album number one all the way up to “The Prelude Implicit” and everything in between. Bring your extinguishers because the band is on fire.

What do you think makes the music of Kansas, and classic rock in general, so timeless and special?

I think it’s the depth, diversity and dynamics of the music. It also doesn’t hurt that Kerry [Livgren] was also influenced by classical music. Today, people are still listening to Mozart, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. These are guys who lived hundreds of years ago. Their music is still being played because there’s a level of musicality and intensity that makes it remain timeless. Kansas has that same element. It warms my heart when I see young kids and teenagers at our shows getting into it and aren’t just sitting there waiting for “Wayward Son.” It’s cool to see an appreciation of this music at all age levels.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Ronnie Platt by Clicking Here.

Get Neapolitan Sky FREE This Weekend!

To celebrate all the amazing moms out there as well as the one year anniversary of the release of my novella, “Neapolitan Sky“, I’m giving away the e-book version of the story FREE this weekend – May 10-12!

Here’s a synopsis:

Dreams of becoming a professional writer are abruptly put on hold for college student Nica Mitchell following the unexpected death of her mother and her father’s cancer diagnosis. Forced to return home when he’s hospitalized after encountering a near death experience, Nica learns that her father has been keeping a dark secret. Something in between the stages of life and death that, when revealed, will change her life forever.

Watch the trailer for Neapolitan Sky here:

Click Here to download the book at absolutely no charge and with no strings attached. Please share this article with everyone you know!

Hope you enjoy!

Interview: Styx Bassist Ricky Phillips Talks Touring, Music And Career Highlights

Classic rock pioneers Styx has gone through waves of change over their legendary forty-seven-year career. But perhaps at no time in the band’s history has it shown more diversity, musicianship or the ability to adapt and fire on all cylinders than in 2019. In addition to showcasing its arsenal of radio hits on its current tour, Styx is able to draw material from deep in its catalog, much to delight of diehard fanbase.

Tracks from the band’s most recent release, The Mission, also find their way into the band’s set list. The concept album, an adventurous forty-three-minute thrill ride chronicling the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the first manned mission to Mars, conjures images of the band’s mid-70s sound with with 21st-century appeal.

On Tuesday, May 21, Styx — Tommy Shaw (guitars/vocals), Lawrence Gowan (keyboards/vocals), James “JY” Young (guitar/vocals), Todd Sucherman (drums), Ricky Phillips (bass) and Chuck Panozzo (bass), will bring its well-oiled machine to The Sands Event Center in Bethlehem, PA for what’s sure to be a night to remember.

I recently spoke with bassist Ricky Phillips about the band’s upcoming performance in and more in this exclusive new interview.

What can fans expect from Styx’s appearance at The Sands Event Center?

Every show is different but what I can guarantee is that Styx is running like a well-oiled machine. We still do close to 100 shows a year and are on the road most of the time. We’ll play the hits everyone expects, like “Renegade,” “Come Sail Away” and “Blue Collar Man,” but we also try to go deep into the catalog and find little nuggets like “Snowblind,” “Suite Madame Blue” and “Castle Walls.” We also have a new record out called The Mission and we’ve been having fun playing some of the new songs as well.

Speaking of The Mission, didn’t the band recently do a show in Las Vegas where you performed the album in its entirety?

We did. It was only one night but it was a blast. We had people fly in from all over Europe and Japan just to see it. The Mission is a concept album about NASA preparing its first manned flight to Mars. The music and storyline is right in Tommy’s wheelhouse. He created characters and a storyline that runs throughout the album. It has a sound like the Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight period of the band, with vintage instruments and analog recording. It was a great feeling to create something that sounds like was recorded in the 1970s.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Ricky Phillips by Clicking Here!