Category Archives: A Conversation With

‘It Happened Again Last Night’: Multi-talented Actress and Filmmaker Gabrielle Stone Talks New Project

GabrielleStoneSome know actress Gabrielle Stone for her inspiring performances in such horror films as “Speak No Evil,” “CUT!,” and “Zombie Killers”. But the beautiful daughter of legendary actors Dee Wallace and Christopher Stone has a creative side few have seen –that is until now.

This fall Stone, along with her project partner, Roze will unveil their new short-film, “It Happened Again Last Night”.

A passion project for Stone, the film not only features a group of seasoned actors –including Amanda Wyss, Randy Wayne, Chris Mulkey and Alex Lynn Ward, but was also written, directed and produced by the creative duo of Stone and Roze. Stone also takes on the emotional role of Paige in “It Happened Again Last Night”, showcasing her versatile acting prowess.

The producers have set up an Indigogo campaign (with some really amazing perks) where fans can contribute to help with the film’s completion.

 I recently spoke with Gabrielle Stone about “It Happened One Night” and more in this exclusive new interview.

When did the idea for “It Happened Again Last Night” begin?

 I initially wrote a script I wanted to do as an actress, but once I brought in Roze [co-writer/co-director] things quickly evolved. After we had settled on our final draft, it was clear what a powerful story we had. The subject matter of domestic violence is not often spoken about publicly and we wanted to depict it in a real and truthful way. The LGBTQ themes were also in the script from the very beginning. I have a lot of people in my life who are in same sex relationships and I really wanted to do a piece that shows the strength I witness in all of them.

How would you describe the story?

It’s the story about a woman [Paige] who’s struggling to own who she really is. Paige is stuck in an abusive relationship with Stephen (Randy Wayne) while her heart is with Kris (Alex Lynn Ward). In the end, she must choose between fear and love before she has no choices left to make.

 What can you tell me about your character, Paige?

Honestly, it was a very emotional experience playing Paige. There was a real sense of responsibility in bringing realness to this character. I remember after we had finished a highly emotional scene, Alex (Lynn Ward) came into the make-up room and looked like she was about to burst into tears. Alex and I have been friends for years and she’s always been the funny and lighthearted one in the room. She was so affected by watching me in the state I was in and feeling the reality that women actually go through this that it really hit her.

There are a lot of notable actors involved in this project. What can you tell me about them?

They’re all amazing. We were incredibly lucky to get such great talent on board and I think most of that has to do with them believing in the material. Every person brought everything they had to set and everyone gave incredible performances.


Do you have a tentative release date for the film?

We’ve already got a picture lock and it’s currently with sound and color correction. We’re now in the process of raising the last bit of funds to cover post-production costs, marketing, and festival submission. Our goal is to be finished by mid-September to start submitting to festivals.

What are some of the perks fans can receive by supporting your Indigogo campaign?

We genuinely appreciate everyone who believes in this project and has been helping us by donating or sharing. I truly believe this film is going to affect people and hopefully will help heal some as well. We’ve got some great things to offer as a thank you. Everything from fully signed film posters, digital downloads, scripts signed by our entire cast and even dinner with Randy Wayne and I.

Are there any other projects you’re working on right now?

My film, “Ava’s Impossible Things” is currently available on Vimeo and I have “Death House” and “Dance Night Obsession” coming out later this year. I’ve also recently signed on to a horror film that hasn’t been publicly announced yet.

What’s the best bit of advice your mom has given you as an actress / artist?

Be authentic. Live in love. Don’t act.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about the creative process while working on this project?

This entire process has taught me to trust my instincts and has reassured me that I know what I’m doing in the creative world. I also have a greater understanding and new appreciation for people on the other side of the business. This is a passion project I’ve held close from beginning to end and to finally be able to show it to the world and have people experience what we’ve been working on will be incredible. For me to say “I’ve made my first film” is a huge accomplishment for me and I couldn’t have picked better people to be involved with it. It’s something we’re all truly proud of.

‘Disappearance At Devil’s Rock’: Author Paul Tremblay Discusses His New Emotional Thrill Ride

DrockFollowing the success of his psychological thriller, “A Head Full of Ghosts”, author Paul Tremblay spent most of the summer of 2014 trying to figure out what his next book would be about. He began by asking himself the same question most horror writers do – “What scares me?”

Tremblay eventually found the answer to his question while spending time in the woods near his home. The result would become his page-turning thrill ride, “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock”.

Although its title may conjure up images of 1970’s Hardy Boys mysteries, this is a 21st century tale of fear and intrigue. Elizabeth Sanderson gets the call in the middle of the night that all parent’s dread. Her son, Tommy is at a sleep over at a park when Tommy suddenly wanders off and disappears.

The supernatural element and emotional struggles of the family and neighbors in their desperate attempt to find Tommy make “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock” one of the highlight reads of summer.

Tremblay is no stranger to accolades. His previous book, “A Head Full of Ghosts” was recently awarded The Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Novel. It was also optioned for the big screen by Focus Features and has even received praise by the master of horror himself, Stephen King. A U.K. version of “A Head Full of Ghosts” will be available in late September.

I recently spoke with Paul Tremblay about the new book and more in this exclusive interview.

Where did the idea for “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock” begin?

I started by asking myself the question, “Of all the things that scare me now, which one scares me the most?” As a parent myself, the obvious answer would have to be to have one of your children go missing. Then I started thinking about Borderland State Park. It features prominently in the book and is a real place I used to hike in all the time. I decided to put those two things together, and make one of my favorite places kind of creepy.

Can you tell me a little about your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’ve done both. With “A Head Full of Ghosts” I did a lot of plotting and pantsing. For this one, I started by doing a sixteen-page summary that took quite a bit of time to complete. I learned a lot about structural work as I prepared for the story; right from the beginning and through the whole process of writing. The first draft took about eleven months to complete. When I first finished, it was by far the longest thing I had ever written.

Did you have to do much research in preparation to write?

My son was actually my Minecraft expert. Both he and my daughter grew up playing the game. I didn’t know a whole lot about Snapchat, and most of that research was done online and figuring out what police would be able to get from it. There’s this idea of how using social media makes us safe and closer than we actually are. I decided to use it to make it harder to find Tommy.


Do you have a set daily goal of time or words in mind when you sit down to write?

I usually don’t set a time when I’m working a project but I do try to set a goal of 500 words a day—and that could be in the morning, afternoon or night. I always try to fit it in but also give myself permission to miss that mark. More times than not, I’ll make those 500 and some days will even surpass that.

Did you encounter any challenges while writing “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock”?

This book took me out of my comfort zone a little bit. All of my previous novels were done in first person point of view. This one was third person jumping around to different characters. It’s good to push yourself as a writer and continue to get better.

What’s the best bit of advice you can give to aspiring writers?

For someone starting out the biggest thing is read…read… read! If you want to be a writer, you can’t sacrifice anything else for reading. Also, give yourself a reason to be patient. If the first book doesn’t sell, use that process to stick with it. You’ll learn a lot as a writer from being rejected and from listening to what editors say. Take their comments about your work and use it to get better!

You’ve recently won The Bram Stoker award and Stephen King has even mentioned how much he loves your work. As a writer, when comes to mind when you think about those things?

 It’s very affirming and humbling. I actually started writing because of Stephen King. So getting accolades from one of my heroes tells me that the work has paid off. Winning an award by a horror association is also one of the highlights of my professional life and something I’ll never take for granted.

What would you like people to take away from reading “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock”?

I don’t want to add to the culture of fear and have people be freaked out and afraid for their children. But I’d really like for people to come away feeling empathy for all of the characters –even the ones that don’t do good things. As a writer, that’s important to me. Readers don’t always have to feel sympathy for the characters but they should understand the decisions that they make and why they do what they do.

‘All I Ever Wanted’: Actress Ashley Watkins Discusses Emotional New Film

Ashley Watkins

Ashley Watkins

With a resume that encapsulates the realms of horror, drama, comedy and dance, actress Ashley Watkins has quickly become one of Hollywood’s most versatile artists. Her beauty equally matched by talent and an innate ability to draw emotion from the human connection.

Watkins will soon be seen in the Markiss McFadden and Mason Troy film, “All I Ever Wanted” – a gritty new drama about family, hope and forgiveness and how they all come together when we need them the most.

Inspired by real-life events, “All I Ever Wanted” represents Troy’s first foray into the writing world and promises to be a story that touches the heart and soul.

I had the chance to speak to this amazing actress about her new film and more in this exclusive interview.

What was it that attracted you to the project and story of “All I Ever Wanted”?

Markiss McFadden is one of the most focused and motivated entrepreneurs I know. He’s an actor, director and producer all in one and is super-talented. So I already knew going in that working with him would be amazing. Then after the first day of shooting, I got to meet Mason Troy. We went over a really deeply connected scene together and that’s when I realized just how important this story was to him. I’m not sure how true this story was to his past but he feels it. He’s lived it. The story, the emotion, the human connection. I instantly connected with that.

How would you describe the story of “All I Ever Wanted”?

It’s a story about Mason’s character, Ace, who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and for years got stuck in this world of selling and dealing drugs. Ace wakes up one morning and realizes everything he has he doesn’t really own. It’s all drug money. He realizes that he has this inner talent and wants to do other things. He also wants to rekindle his relationship with his sister and stepfather. It’s the story of the coming together of all of those things.

Ashley Watkins & Mason Troy

Ashley Watkins & Mason Troy

What can you tell me about your character, Rose?

Rose is Ace’s sister and is a little more difficult. She grew up depressed and had a lot of social issues. She was also bullied in school and had anxiety attacks. She’s incredibly smart and someone who once had a great relationship with Ace but is struggling with her own demons. 

What was the filming process like?

Being on set with Markiss each day was just what I imagined. He was an absolute professional. And because he’s also an actor, he was so aware of what was needed. Working with Mason was also amazing. This was his first film where he wrote, produced and acted, which was huge. After we had finished filming I remember telling him not to worry if he heard any quirks about the film. I said, “You’ve just completed a film. Just the fact that you created and completed a film and that it’s right here, right now is bigger than anything.” We were all taken into a piece of Mason’s world and brought into it in such a beautiful and vulnerable way.

There’s an interesting musical scene in the film. What can you tell me about it?

Yes! There is a scene where I am singing. My character, Rose used to play the guitar so Ace buys her one and pushes her into going to sing at an open-mic night. She does and it actually becomes a window into Ace’s world and reflects what she’s trying to do for him. He’s trying to tell her that she’s got talent and needs to do what she needs to do — and she’s doing the same for him. It’s a beautiful moment.

Is there a message people can take away from watching “All I Ever Wanted”?

Follow your dreams. Don’t let anyone stop you, control you or tell you that you’re not capable of doing something. 

What other projects are you currently working on?

I recently finished filming “The Young Pope”, which is a HBO series that stars Jude Law and Diane Keaton. I can’t say what it’s about but it was a dream role that I’ve wanted to film ever since I was a kid.

Photo by: CA Photography

Photo by: C.A. Francis Photography

Have you ever given thought to getting on the other side of the camera at some point – writing or directing?

I’ve been asked about that a lot of times. Being on the other side is a craft of its own. After a few more years of experience I think I’d be able to transition over. Right now though, I like to become the characters and live through them. But when I do decide I want it to be a project that is dear to me. Much like the way Markiss and Mason have done in telling a story of their own. When an actor and director can get to the same level of connection, creative thinking and understanding, it’s a beautiful thing!

Keyboardist Geoff Downes Discusses New Dance Orchestra, Asia

GeoffDownesDo you remember where you were when you first heard it? I do. It was June of 1982 and I was sitting in seventh grade music class during one of the last days before summer vacation.

The school was one of those two-story brick structures that had no air conditioning and by mid-morning temperatures in the classroom had risen to almost unbearable levels. The open windows and portable fans that circulated hot air throughout the classroom provided little relief to a bunch of teenagers waiting for that final bell to sound.

As a sort-of end of year gift to the class, the teacher allowed students to bring in some of their albums to listen to while we cleared out our desks. That was when this kid named Danny put it on the turntable. As needle met vinyl and the crackling hum and hiss began, it was the first time I heard that now infamous guitar riff and opening line:

“I never meant to be so bad to you. One thing I said that I would never do …”

“Heat of The Moment” became the coolest thing ever to me on that apropos day. The day I joined the eventual 8 million other people who bought the band Asia’s debut album.

Since then, I’ve been a fan of keyboardist Geoff Downes. Not only for his experimentation of all things keyboard, but also for his songwriting ability. In addition to having the best selling album of 1982 with Asia, Downes also holds the coveted distinction of being part of the very first video ever played on MTV (Video Killed The Radio Star).

Today, in between his work with Asia and Yes, Downes finds time to work on other projects as well. His most recent, New Dance Orchestra’s “Electronica” features the phenomenal vocals of Anne-Marie Helder (Panic Room, Mostly Autumn) and utilizes sounds from the latest computer technology. The result is a collection of virtual orchestrations that defy standard definition. Blending elements of classical, new age, pop and electronica, Downes uses rich textures to take the listener on a journey of spiritual enlightenment.

I spoke with Downes about Electronica as well as the forthcoming Asia album Gravitas, which features founding members Downes (keyboards), John Wetton (bass) and Carl Palmer (drums) as well as new guitarist Sam Coulson. He also tells me about some of the most memorable moments of his career.

NDOElectronicaHow would you describe the sound of Electronica?

It’s a good combination of a lot of the influences I’ve had over the years. From my time with The Buggles to session work and some of the other projects I’ve been involved with like Yes and Asia. It’s a nice variety of music and an amalgamy of many of the things that I’ve been through over the course of my career.

How do you approach songwriting for a project like New Dance Orchestra as opposed to one for Asia or Yes?

When I create songs for New Dance Orchestra, there’s a lot of experimentation that I like to do. Some of the material comes from me tinkering with the latest sounds on computers. I’m very much into the technical aspect of the keyboard and like to experiment a lot with them.

How did you connect with Anne-Marie Helder?

I had worked with Anne-Marie on the Icon project I did with John Wetton. She came in and did vocals on a few of the tracks. She’s one of the top prog-rock vocalists and is very much in demand. 

To listen to samples from Electronica, Click Here

Asia: Gravitas (2014)

Asia: Gravitas (2014)

When Steve Howe announced his retirement as guitarist for Asia, was there ever a moment where the band thought about slowing down?

The rest of us always felt that it was worth continuing. Steve has his reasons for wanting to move on and concentrate more on his solo material. He’s pretty much been on the road for the last seven years doing solo material and his trio in addition to having the extra pressure of Yes and Asia. He felt it was time to try other things, which is fine.

We brought in Sam (Coulson), who was recommended to us by Paul Gilbert. He’s a different type of player from Steve and brings with him his own sound. The actual emphasis was never to change direction but to evolve.

What can you tell us about the new Asia album, Gravitas?

We finished the album just before Christmas and it’s going to be released the last week of March. The cover was once again designed by Roger Dean. It’s another Asia album with songs written by myself and John Wetton.

What’s the writing process like when you and John get together?

Generally, we’ll both come in and open our ‘war chests’ of musical ideas. Whenever we get together in a session, it’s rare that we don’t come out of it with at least one or two songs.

Can you tell me the origin of “Only Time Will Tell”?

That one started off with what became the chorus part. It was something I had actually written for a jingle company. I had the basic idea for what became the chorus and I played it for John. That’s when he said “Hey, I think I’ve got something that might go with that” and started playing me the first verse. Originally, the song was going to be called “Starry Eyed”.  It was a very in-depth collaboration with a very proggy, sentimental arrangement. It’s one of my favorite pieces that we’ve ever done in terms of Asia’s history because it has such depth and texture to it.

When The Buggles released “Video Killed The Radio Star” did you have a feeling of how special it was going to be?

We knew that it was a great song and a great record when we finished it. Trevor Horn and I both thought that if we were ever going to have a hit, this one would be it. I remember we presented it to Island Records and they were a bit skeptical. They didn’t even really like the name “The Buggles” either, but it ended up being our first major hit in the UK.

Have you ever given thought to writing a book chronicling your life?

I’ve been thinking about that recently. It really has been an amazing journey and is something I’ll definitely be looking into… when I have the time [laughs].

With all of your success with The Buggles, Yes, Asia, New Dance Orchestra and all of your other projects, is there anything that stands out as most memorable?

There are so many. Obviously, you have to look at the first Buggles album because it was the one that introduced me into the business. The Drama album is very satisfying because more and more die-hard Yes fans can relate to that album as time has gone by.

Then of course there’s the first Asia album.

I’ll never forget sitting in the car with John Wetton. We had just arrived in the States shortly after the album had come out and “Heat of The Moment” was playing on the radio. I remember we changed the channel and at that exact moment another station was playing “Only Time Will Tell.” To have those tracks both playing simultaneously on two different radio stations in the same city was surreal. At that moment we both knew what we had was going to be something really special.

For more on Geoff Downes:

Geoff Downes Official Website * ASIA Official Website * Yes Official Website

Ender’s Game: Actress Andrea Powell Discusses New Sci-Fi Blockbuster

Andrea Powell (Photo Credit: King PDT)

Andrea Powell (Photo Credit: King PDT)

For actress Andrea Powell, it’s more than just a sci-fi blockbuster. It’s a story about real people in extraordinary situations.

Powell, whose impressive resume already includes “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn” and ABC’s “The Gates” joins Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and Asa Butterfield in “Ender’s Game” [based on the novel by Orson Scott Card and opening November 1st].

Powell plays the role of Theresa Wiggin, the mother of Ender (Butterfield), a boy chosen to save the world from alien invasion.

Ender’s Game will certainly give people a lot to talk about. It’s big and splashy, with breathtaking special effects (some done in ways that have never been seen before), and retains many of the great messages from the book.

I spoke with Powell (a hero herself) about her role in “Ender’s Game” as well as her involvement in team DetermiNation, a program which raises funds and awareness for The American Cancer Society.

How would you describe the story of Ender’s Game?

It’s a futuristic sci-fi story about an extraordinary young man who has the fate of the world in his hands. Asa Butterfield’s performance as Ender is fantastic. For such a young actor, he has a lot to bear carrying the movie and he’s completely up to it. It’s definitely a blockbuster, but it’s also a story about leadership, ethics and morality.

What attracted you most to this project?

I loved the idea of a science fiction novel that has big things to say about leadership, morality and the retaining of values in difficult situations. The way Gavin Hood [Director] approached the film was also interesting, because he did it from the perspective of the people involved.

Tell me a little bit about your character, Theresa Wiggin.

Theresa is a brilliant strategist. She’s a mom at her core and wants to protect her family and instill good values in her children. But she’s also got a struggle ahead of her. When Ender is chosen, he has to go away and there’s a certain amount of pain and loss that’s associated with it. At the same time though, she understands that what he’s doing is truly for the good of the world.

Let’s discuss your involvement in team DetermiNation.

Team DetermiNation is a group of endurance athletes who run races and raise money and awareness for The American Cancer Society. I’ve been heavily involved with them for years as both a spokesperson and running three half-marathons. I lost my father to cancer more than ten years ago and also have a lot of friends and family members who have been touched by cancer. It’s a terrible disease and too many people have to deal with it.  

Do you have any advice for up and coming actors?

I always encourage people who want to become actors to primarily try to live an interesting life. Travel, learn about art and music, make friends and observe people. If your entire life is all about acting, then you won’t have any “real people” experience to draw from.

Andrea Powell (Photo Credit: King PDT)

Andrea Powell (Photo Credit: King PDT)

What’s next for you?

I have a holiday movie called “Christmas in Conway” that’s premiering December 1st on ABC. I play Cheri Oteri’s side kick and get to do a little comedy.

What satisfies you the most about your Ender’s Game experience?

The opportunity to work on such a wonderful script with a truly kind-hearted and talented director. When it’s all going on, you have no idea that what you’re working on is a gigantic Sci-Fi blockbuster, but then you look around and see Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and all of these other wonderful artists and you quickly realize that what you’re doing is part of something really special.

Time In A Bottle: Maury Muehleisen’s Sister Discusses Her Brother’s Music, Time with Jim Croce

Maury Muehleisen in 1973

Maury Muehleisen in 1973

It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years since the lives of Jim Croce, Maury Muehleisen and four others were cut short when the twin-engine plane in which they were traveling crashed shortly after takeoff on September 20, 1973.

In the years since the accident, Muehleisen’s sister Mary has been keeping her brother’s memory alive. In 2006, she re-released Maury’s only album, Gingerbreadd, on CD. She also released early recordings made by her brother, whose guitar arrangements are synonymous with the classic Jim Croce sound.

On September 21, Mary Muehleisen will be in attendance for Time in a Bottle: A Tribute to Jim Croce, an event taking place at the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, to remember the lives and music of Croce and her brother.

Because Croce graduated from Upper Darby, proceeds will go to the Upper Darby Arts and Education Foundation for a scholarship fund in Croce’s name. In addition to Croce song performances, the evening will feature the music of Maury Muehleisen as well as stories from the people who knew them best.

Maury Muehleisen & Jim Croce

Maury Muehleisen & Jim Croce

I spoke with Mary about the 40th anniversary tribute as well as her brother’s music and his legacy. You can read the rest of my Guitar World Interview with Mary Muehleisen By Clicking Here!

For more information on the Tribute To Jim Croce Click Here!

For more on Maury Muehleisen or to order a CD Visit:

Winds Of Change: The Chronicles of Singer Chris “Breeze” Barczynski

breezeChris “Breeze” Barczynski is a true success story. Born and raised in small rural Pennsylvania towns, he aspired to one day play professional football, but fate had other intentions.

In the early 90’s (following a devastating football injury while playing in London) he returned home to discover his true calling did not lie on the grid iron but rather with a microphone and a guitar.

For the next twenty years, Breeze would sing lead vocals and perform with a variety of bands like “The Honey Buzzards”, “Sweet Brother Rush” and “Citizens of Contrary Knowledge”. During that time, he not only opened up for some of the biggest names in music, but also licensed his songs to hit television shows, became a semi-finalist on Star Search and even sang as a regular on the hit TV show, The Singing Bee.

Now, after spending the last dozen years honing his craft in the New York City area, the former Lehigh Valley, PA resident is ready for another change. He’ll soon be making the move to California in search of new adventures and inspiration. He’s also in the process of finishing a book about his life experiences thus far.

I spoke with Breeze about his days performing in the local music scene as well as his forthcoming book chronicling the life of a music man.

Tell me a little about your upbringing.

CB: I was born in Reading, PA and went to grade school in and around the Hershey area. I came up playing trumpet and drums and when I was in 6th grade, we moved to the Lehigh Valley. I knew that in order to get to college, I was going to have to pay my own way, so I played sports. I played football, ran track and wound up going to college on an academic scholarship with every intention of having a professional football career.

When did music become your main focus?

CB: I played professionally for two years in England in the Budweiser League (before it became the World League) and suffered a severe knee injury that ended my childhood dream. I returned to the U.S. and sank into a deep depression.  I was 23 years old and beginning to think that I had nothing to live for.

Then one night, I went to an open mic blues jam in Dayton, Ohio and sang a Muddy Waters song. That experience rekindled my love of music; which literally saved my life. I came back to the Lehigh Valley in 1991 and auditioned for a blues band. Soon after that, I started The Honey Buzzards and we played the area from 1994-2000.

What are some of the best moments you remember from that time?

CB: We got to open for a lot of great acts like Green Day, Collective Soul, Blue Öyster Cult and Kansas. We opened up for Sugar Ray in front of 12,000 people. We also opened for Hootie and The Blowfish on the same day that the video for their song “Hold My Hand” had its world premiere. I remember standing with Darius Rucker staring at the television screen and watching it for the very first time. That was a cool experience. We wound up signing with a management group who had worked with bands like LIVE and Fuel. We had some success with a song called “Fighting Gravity” and almost won a record deal through Garage Band.

What did you find most difficult about those days?

CB: We were trying to be an original band but were playing in cover rooms. That was the catch 22. With our management, you had to either be cover or original. Trying to do both was difficult. We were always walking the fine line between original and cover band and it was really confusing people. So, we decided to change the name of the band to “Sweet Brother Rush” to try to secure a deal. We came close, but it didn’t work out.


Why did you eventually make the move to New York City?

CB: I really wanted to put together the band that I had always dreamed of. A band where everyone respected each other as both men and musicians. One without ego and a band that just made great music: Citizens of Contrary Knowledge. We’ve had great success; licensing songs to things like Showtime’s “The Tudors” and a few indie films as well. Nickelodeon also licensed our entire CD for two of their kid shows: “Drake and Josh” and “Zoey 101”.

Tell me about how you wound up on The Singing Bee.

CB: In addition to Citizens of Contrary Knowledge, I was also been performing with a 22-piece big band that did a lot of corporate events around the country. Through that band, I met a keyboard player named Russ Graham who ended up becoming the Assistant Music Director on The Singing Bee. They were in LA trying to audition singers for the show, but it just wasn’t working out. So, Russ called me up one day and told me that the gig would be perfect for me. He said, “Do whatever you can to get here. We need you!” [laughs]

From all of my years playing cover music, I have about 2,000 songs running in my head that I know the lyrics to and can sing along with. Because of knowing so many, I just knocked it out of the park. I met with music director Ray Chew, who I’ve also worked with on several other projects since. When I get to LA, I’m going to reconnect with him and also look at putting together another band on the west coast.

Photo: Gary Jenker

Photo: Gary Junker

Have you ever taken vocal lessons?

CB: I haven’t. I came up singing a lot of rhythm and blues and my voice blended well for that genre. There was a time though where I did reach out to a vocal coach to learn proper technique and taking care of the voice. I remember there were situations where I was playing 6-7 nights a week with The Honey Buzzards and at one point, I did 12 one night shows in a row. It was a lot of driving around and singing and that put a lot of strain on my voice.

How about your guitar playing?

CB: That’s a work in progress. I picked it up a long time ago when I first started playing in the Valley. I consider myself a singer who plays guitar. It’s the only instrument that I write with.

What’s your songwriting process like?

CB: There’s no real formula for it. Some songs I’ve written in ten minutes and others, I’m still writing ten years later. I’m more into being a lyricist and writing melodies and find it easier to write with a co-writer who plays piano or guitar. I love collaborating.

Tell me a little about your new book.

CB: It’s called “The Chronicles of the Music Man“. I grew up in the small towns of Pennsylvania and was taught certain things by my parents and teachers, as well as by government and idols. I’ve gotten to a point in my life now where I know most of what I was told or learned about was just bullshit. The book is my attempt at taking people through the “Forrest Gump” stories of my life. Explaining what I thought before, what I went through and learned and why I may not necessarily believe what I did before. I want to take people through that process and maybe get them to think a little differently about the world. It contains surreal stories of my life and the lessons I’ve learned from them as well as lyrics and poetry. I’m also recording a CD of music inspired by the stories to accompany the book. I’m editing it now, and hope to have it out in the next few months.

Godspeed to you Breeze on your next adventure!

Article first published as Winds Of Change: The Chronicles of Singer Chris “Breeze” Barczynski on Technorati.

A Conversation With Actress Elina Madison

ElinaWhile growing up, Elina Madison recalls being at her grandmother’s house watching TV and being so enthralled with what was on that she turned to her grandmother and told her that she wanted to become an actress. From that moment on, she’s never looked back or lost sight of her dream.

Elina found that there weren’t a lot of opportunities to act in her home state of Wyoming so she eventually made her way to Los Angeles where she has since become a sought after model and actress and been awarded the title of “scream-queen” based upon her memorable roles in the realm of horror.

In one of Elina’s latest projects, “HUFF” she plays Lorelei, the dysfunctional wife of Huff, an abusive and asthma suffering stepfather who’s involved in a lucrative drug deal. Seemingly oblivious to the abuse that’s going on around her, Lorelei (a stripper by trade) delivers one of the most memorable lines in the entire film:

‘We need the money and the pole’s not going to dance by itself.”

Lorelei eventually comes to her senses and realizes that she has to get her children out of there. She secretly takes the money intended for the drug deal and gives it to her daughters to flee and start better lives for themselves. This series of events triggers a chain of rage-induced asthma attacks as Huff attempts to locate the three runaways and recover his money. Elina’s amazing, emotional scene on the couch with co-star Charlie O’Connell (Huff) sets the mood for the entire second half of the film.

“HUFF” will be released domestically in April and under the title “Big Bad Wolf” for international markets.

Elina’s resume includes roles in “Halloween Party” (a dark comedy available now on DVD), Barracuda, and The Corporate Cut Throat Massacre. In addition, you can also find Elina playing the Mother in the promo / trailer for Alicia Keys’ children’s educational app: “The Journals of Mama Mae & Lee Lee.”.

Elina’s next film role will be as the wife of the Prince of the undead in Creep Creepersin’s Dracula.

Aside from her beauty and acting prowess, Elina is one of the most down to Earth and coolest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with.

gJg: What’s the premise of HUFF?

EM: HUFF is actually a twisted version of the story of “The Three Little Pigs” with Huff being the wolf and the daughters being the three little pigs. Huff also has asthma which goes along with the lines of the story of “huffing and puffing”. Huff is up to no good and making a deal with drug money that’s not his. My character finally has had enough and realizes that she has to get her children out of there. So she steals the money, gives it to them and tells them to leave. It’s because of her actions that there are some unbelievable consequences.

How did you prepare for the role of Lorelei?

EM: Lorelei is just so caught up in her own little world. She’s an alcoholic mother in denial about what’s going on between her daughters and Huff. I’ve done some crazy characters before, but never one this complex. Getting into that kind of mindset took some work.

Tell me a little about your next film, Creep Creepersin’s Dracula.

It’s a different spin on the classic story but it’s also more about the perception of Dracula and the reality of everything. I play Francine, his wife who you don’t know whether is a “good” wife or an “evil” wife up to no good. Everything is taken completely different depending on how you’re looking at it.  It’s scheduled to be released in January.

What other projects are you currently working on?

EM: Right now I’m shooting a show for Spike TV called ‘Urban Tarzan’. I play a well to do wife who didn’t go to college and got married for money and have been enjoying a life of leisure. My husband and I live in a big house and we’re going through a divorce. He wants me to take this horrible deal and I wind up fighting him for the house. He ends up putting a crocodile in the swimming pool hoping i jump in and don’t notice. [laughs]

It’s funny for Spike and has that crazy element to it.


Elina Madison is a rising star who will be seen all over the world in the coming months! Her career is truly on fire.


– In April 2013, she’ll star as the desperate mother and abused wife Lorelei in Huff (with Charlie O’Connell).

– She plays an edgy, flirtatious Cave Girl in Halloween Party twisted comedy (just released on DVD).

– In January 2013 Elina stars as Francine, the beautiful and loyal wife of Dracula in Creep Creepersin’s Dracula.

– Look for her in the highly acclaimed film Barracuda, starring opposite Christine Oldham as the well to do socialite “Lisa.”

Also coming in 2013 Elina plays the lead Alana Wilson, a caring mother and housewife in Ramone Menon’s psychological thriller The Black Tape.

Article first published as A Conversation With Actress Elina Madison on Technorati.

Guitar World Interview Russ Freeman and The Rippingtons Are ‘Built To Last’

In the early 1980s, a few years before Russ Freeman gathered a bunch of his L.A. musician friends together to create the groundbreaking Rippingtons debut Moonlighting, the multi-talented guitarist and composer spent time on TV sound stages listening to orchestras play. On the band’s new album Built To Last,  Freeman pays homage to those days, working with orchestral textures for the first time in addition to opening up new realms of creativity that transcend expectation.

Built To Last also celebrates one of contemporary jazz’s most enduring legacies; a twenty-five year journey that spans nearly twenty albums. The album has universal appeal, with elements of jazz, rock, pop and country combined into one eclectic mix of sonic art.

But Freeman and the Ripps really go for broke on the metal world with the music mash “Monument Monolith,” a freewheeling blast of intensity on which Freeman complements his acoustic guitar with a little of everything you’ve never heard before: “angry cannibals with boiling pots” on percussion, orchestra, solo violin and a blistering solo by heavy metal great Zakk Wylde for good measure!

I spoke with Freeman to get his thoughts on the new Rippingtons album and on celebrating a quarter century of great music!

Read the rest of my article and interview with Russ Freeman by clicking here.

Extended Interview: Actress Julie Piekarski’s Mission: Dancing With The Stars

Julie Piekarski

Julie Piekarski is on a mission.

The former “Mouseketeer” and “Facts of Life” alum is on a quest to join the cast of the ABC hit show, “Dancing with the Stars”. 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.

In the mid-1980′s, Julie took time off from acting in order to marry and raise her three children, and keep the artistic talent they inherited from their Mother alive in their own way.

I had the opportunity to speak with this amazing woman as she prepares to become the first Mouseketeer to do the Fox Trot in prime time.  In this interview, Julie discusses her career, including her time on “The Mickey Mouse Club” and “The Facts of Life”.  She also talks about a certain celebrity she rebuffed for a date and why she believes now is the perfect opportunity to once again showcase her dancing talent.

goJimmygo (gJg): Tell me a little about yourself and how you got started in acting?

Julie Piekarski (JP): Growing up, my mom enrolled me in dance classes. When I was five, one of the ladies there thought I had potential, took me under her wing, and became my mentor. She saw that I was a quick learner and had that “X factor” gift that can’t be taught. I started participating in community theater and shows as well as professional venues like The Muny Opera.

gJg: How did you get involved with The Mickey Mouse Club?

Disney was doing a nationwide talent search for their new TV show and several of my relatives, friends, and teachers were asking me to try out. After sending in a resume and photo for the preliminary casting, I received an invite to come for an audition.  I traveled to Chicago for a two-day audition. At the time, I remember thinking that I’d be really lucky if I could just be made an “Honorary” Mouseketeer and appear on the show just one time. Instead, after the auditions were complete, I got a call to go to a local TV station for an on-camera interview and eventually was chosen for the show! Out of the 15,000 kids auditioned, only 12 were picked.

Mickey Mouse Club

gJg: What was that experience like?

JP: It was amazing! Such an awesome experience to be that age and to work with Disney. Imagine growing up and hearing about Disney and seeing all of the animated movies and now I was actually getting to be a part of that.

It was such a “family” working there. We went to school for 3 hours a day and then either filmed a segment, skit, or musical number, or were in rehearsals. The show was on every day. That meant that the turnaround time for new material was fast and a lot was expected of us. But we loved it. It never felt like work for me. In the summer and for our Friday segments, we would get to film in Disneyland. I will never forget that. We were in the park before it opened sometimes remained even after it was closed. Only a handful of people would be in the park.  It was magical.

Though the taping of the show was fun, I loved performing live at Disney land and Disney World. We did 3 shows a day and 2 parades for five days a week for 13 weeks. On our lunch breaks, we were allowed to come in the back way and ride the rides for free. But it was hard on me when it came to my family. My mom stayed with me since I was only 13 and my dad and grandma stayed back with my sister in St. Louis to allow her to continue her life uninterrupted. So I’d usually work for three months and then come home for two weeks. That’s when I would go back to my school and take tests or exams (this was before email remembers), make up for lost time with friends, and catch up on family time with my sister and Dad.

Julie on Facts of Life with Lisa Whelchel (left) and Charlotte Rae (right)

gJg: That’s where you met Lisa Whelchel (Facts of Life) for the first time!

JP: Yes, Lisa was there too. There were eight people from the LA area and four of us from out-of-town. Lisa was from Texas and I was from St. Louis. We both bonded quite a bit during our time together. Since we were the out-of-state “Mice”, we tried to get lodging near each other and do things together on the weekends or after work.

The show was really doing great.  They were talking about making dolls of each of us, touring across the U.S., and cutting a record (yes I said a record). I remember plans were being made to come to everyone’s home over the summer break and film special segments about each of us and what our home life was like and our other passions, but all of sudden we received word that the show was cancelled.

gJg: What happened?

JP: “The Black Hole” movie came out. It was the first big, one of kind Sci fi movie that Disney had poured everything they had into. They made a choice and obviously chose wrong since the movie didn’t do very well. We still continued performing and doing appearances at Disneyland and Disney World as well as the TV movie for another year or so but the show part of it was over.

By this point I had acquired an agent and started doing more television work: The big Dr. Pepper campaign “I’m a Pepper” commercials, Taco Bell Girl, made guest appearances on “Three’s Company”, Quincy, General Hospital and others. That was when “The Facts of Life” came along.

gJg: Coincidentally, that’s also where you were reunited with Lisa again!

JP: Yes! What’s funny is I honestly don’t remember her being up for a part until close to the end of auditions. One day, I literally walked in and found out that we would be reading together. [laughs]

Facts of Life Cast

gJg: What was your experience like on that show?

JP: I enjoyed it. The seven of us girls got along great. Actually, Kim Fields and I became very close and still keep in touch. I looked forward to going in every day. I also enjoyed doing the photo shoots and publicity events. I was thrilled to be chosen to be on Hollywood Squares with Charlotte Rae.

But most of all, the charity events really touched me and I was honored to participate and help out in any way. As for our show, we’d usually rehearse on a Monday, then there would be re-writes over the next few days and finally, we’d do a taping in front of a live audience. Now that was the best part.

It was like doing real theater again for me. It’s such a high to hear the immediate response of the audience.  It was a great process.

gJg: Why do you think they down-sized the show and decided to only go with four girls?

JP: I heard that the reason was they didn’t feel audiences could relate to all of the different characters. They couldn’t find enough specific “niches” for each girl to conform to and identify with. Maybe the writers were not able to write in that many characters for only a half hour sitcom? Even Julie Anne Haddock’s character (Cindi), who was sort of a tom-boy, wasn’t quite as “tough” as they wanted. That’s when they decided to bring in Nancy McKeon as Jo.

gJg: Do you still keep in touch with people from the show?

JP: Lisa and I have kept in touch a little. When she comes to town with her Christian Women’s Group, we try to get together. I’ve been involved with a great bible study, CBS, for the past ten years and that’s how I found out that Lisa was coming to St. Louis. Kim Fields and I talk more often.

gJg: From there you went on to a show called “The Best of Times” which not a lot of people know also starred Nicolas Cage and Crispin Glover (Back To The Future).

JP: Yes, they were on that show too. I remember them both being really nice guys. Nicolas Cage was a riot. To think back then I was considered top bill. Now look at him! <laughs> That sitcom was more a variety style production. It was a good entertaining show but just way ahead of its time. It would’ve fit in perfectly now with shows like Glee, Smash, and High School Musical.  I enjoyed it because I got to sing and dance again. Plus we did outrageous comedy skits. It reminded me of “The Carol Burnett Show”. Now I am really dating myself.  <laughs>

gJg: Why did you decide to take a break from acting?

JP: Education was always important to me. It’s something that no one can ever take away from you.  While in LA and still pursuing my acting career, I was going to school at UCLA and originally considered getting a degree in biochemistry because I was into genetics and cloning. But the workload became intense and something had to give. Instead, I decided to go into business and communications.

That’s also around the same time when a boy from St. Louis came out to visit. He was going to dental school and had a promising dental practice waiting for him back home. When I went home for the summer, we started dating and ten months later we got engaged.  I knew I wanted to raise a family away from the craziness of Hollywood and unfortunately around that same time my father passed away. A lot of things pointed me to being home. So I moved back. And then once I started having children I knew I had made the right decision.

But I still do industrial films, spokesperson projects, and training videos here in St. Louis. I also am involved with three worthwhile charities that keep me busy beside all my volunteer activities for my children’s schools and extracurricular activities.

gJg: Tell me about your kids!

JP: I have three absolutely amazing children: Patrick, Jacqueline and Christian. I feel so very blessed and am thankful that I was able to be a stay at home mom for them. And you know what, that term is so ironic because I was never AT HOME when I was “being mom”. I was running all over the place with them. <giggles>

Patrick Probst

Patrick, my oldest, graduated from SMU with a double major in Biology and Economics and a minor in Spanish and Chemistry is now in his first year of medical school. He wants to be some type of surgeon. He’s an avid sports fan and a really strong soccer player. And he also has a creative side. ….  He has a beautiful voice and performed professionally at The Muny, The St. Louis Rep, and Stages St. Louis while growing up. He was President of Southern Gentlemen; an A Capella group at SMU where he arranged the music and helped produced their CD as well as sing solo on it.  He’s also starred in two films: Logan and Moon Ring. 

Jacqueline Probst

My daughter Jacqueline is now in her junior year at Alabama…Roll Tide! She received a full scholarship and is part of the prestigious Fellows program as well as in the Honors College. She was actually recruited to be a gymnast for Bama.  She was an amazing gymnast and it truly is her first love. She qualified at an early age to go to a special program with Bela Karolyi and was well on track to accomplish great things. It is a grueling sport and does take a huge toll on one’s body.

Unfortunately, after two months at Bama her old back injury returned and she had no choice but to retire. Luckily for her, she is extremely gifted in dance and singing as well. She too has performed professionally at The Muny, Stages St. Louis, and The Cincinnati Rep. She is now dance captain of her college show choir and choreographs for Phi Mu, her sorority as well. She is also teaching gymnastics and ballet while focusing on getting her degree in order to become a physical therapist. Check out YouTube under her name to see her gymnastics demo and some of her performances.

Christian Probst

My youngest, Christian, really wants to pursue entertainment.  He truly has that special something that you can’t help but notice. He has this amazing smile that just lights up a room. I am proud to say that he is a freshman at Yale and plans to double major in theater and economics. Though he’s a state champion racquetball player, I am trying to convince him to take up squash for Yale. He has been blessed with major roles in professional theater since the age of seven. He’s been very close to landing a Broadway role several times in shows like Mame, Tarzan, Billy Elliot and most recently Newsies where he was kept as part of the final 20 and sang in front of Alan Menken. They said he was just too young. He just got the lead in the musical at Yale as a freshman and is part of the infamous a Capella group The Dukes Men. He studies ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, and lyrical. Tap is his favorite. YouTube his name and “I love a piano” and Once in Love with Amy” to see him.

When my children started showing talent and a desire to perform, I consciously chose to cut way back on what I did.  I really wanted them to earn anything they would get because they deserved it and not because I was their Mom.

gJg: What’s your plan now?

JP: Now that my kids are all grown and on their own, I’m opening up the door again and getting back into the business. Last year, I portrayed Elle’s mom in “Legally Blonde” at The Muny and I recently performed the role of Lilly St. Regis in a professional production of “Annie”.

Which brings me to my next endeavor: I’ve begun a crusade to get on “Dancing With the Stars!”

gJg: You would be terrific on that show!

JP: I really think I could do it. I’d like to get a following going to show the producers I’m serious about it. And besides, they’ve never had a “Mouseketeer” on there!

It’s been a while since I focused on myself. I’ve spent these last years putting my energy into being a mother and wife. My children are now situated, happy and confident. I couldn’t ask for more. Now it’s my turn! [laughs]  I really miss the dancing and the singing and I think “Dancing with the Stars” would be a great opportunity for me. I would thoroughly enjoy it: high kicks, splits and all!

gJg: What’s it like when you go back to Disney now?

JP: It’s surreal. It honestly seems like yesterday. There are times when I go there that, in my head; I think that I’m 18 again. Then I suddenly realize that I’m actually there with my own children! [laughs] It’s still such a rush to think I am a part of Disney history.

gJg: Do you find that people still recognize you?

JP: Yes people do and a lot of times it’s because of my voice. It’s funny, here in St Louis where there are so many private high schools, the big question isn’t so much: “Do I Know You?” but rather: “Did I go to high school with you?” So, when I see that look on their face that they know me but not sure why, I’ll usually wait until it really starts bugging them and then give them a hint. I’ll say something like: “Well, it may be because of a TV show…” and then they’ll realize who I am.  They usually say something like I knew it but yet couldn’t imagine why you would be here in St. Louis. Then it’s nice to hear that they think I still look the same and haven’t changed at all.

gJg: Tell me something not too many people know about you from those days.

JP: Here’s something that always cracks up my fellow women friends: When Tom Cruise was first getting started; I had met him on several audition calls. It was on one of these occasions where he actually asked me out on a date. You know, this was before Tom Cruise became “Tom Cruise” and I remember… I turned him down! 

I thought at the time he seemed a bit full of himself! [laughs]

gJg: Do you have any regrets?

JP: Honestly I don’t. Life happens for a reason and it takes you down a certain path. The only “regret”  I think about as I get older is the amount of money that’s being made out there in Hollywood that people could use for good things rather than squandering it on things like drugs and alcohol. There’s money that can be used for education or to build a foundation or for charity.

I always tell my kids: “Leave this world a better place then you found it.” And most of all, What you are is God’s gift to you, what you make of yourself is your gift to God.

Click Here to Tweet your thoughts to Dancing With The Stars!

Help Get Julie Piekarski on the show!

Be sure to check out Julie Piekarski’s Websites: Official Site * Facebook 


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 279 other followers

%d bloggers like this: