Category: AXS Interview

‘Mixtape’: Executive Producer Natalie Barandes Discusses Infectious New AXS TV Series

One of the coolest, and most revealing, classic rock series has got to be AXS TV’s new star-studded “Mixtape,” which airs Thursday nights at 8:30pE/5:30pP.

Dubbed the story of a musical artist’s life through the songs that they love each of the eight-episode series shines a light on a different rock icon as they sit down to discuss some of their favorite songs of all time. In doing so, they not only share a personal playlist of music that shaped their lives but also tell stories of how the songs impacted their own musical trajectory. They also reveal things about themselves you may never have heard before.

The debut season includes appearances by such legendary artists as Mick Jones & Kelly Hansen (Foreigner), Kevin Cronin and Dave Amato (REO Speedwagon), Rick Springfield, Don McLean, Robby Krieger (The Doors) and Micky Dolenz (The Monkees). For fans of the classic rock genre this is a series and musical celebration that is not to be missed.

I recently spoke to executive producer and Natalie Barandes (Founder/Creative Chief Joy Factory) about “Mixtape,” her career and much more in this exclusive new interview.

What inspired the new AXS TV series, “Mixtape?” How did it all come about?

Natalie Barandes: I have a friend from high school who I used to trade mix tapes with. She’s always been a collector and one day she brought me over a stack of them. They had so much great music on them. I remember listening to them and seeing the variation of how it went from one song to the next to the next. It was a story of my life. That’s when I thought this could be a great format to profile a musical artist and the songs they grew up with and loved. We could understand them on a whole different level.

What’s the format of the show?

NB: Every episode has the same four-chapter format: Influences, The Rise, then the Deep Dive, which is a defining moment that usually has a nugget you may not know about. It ends with Today and Tomorrow, which is what’s going on with the artist right now and what they’re listening to. 

What were some of the interesting things you discovered while working on the show?

NB: When you look at the artists in the series as a whole you see a lot of similarities in age and musical influences, but then you realize how different their career trajectories became. For example, Mick Jones [Foreigner] talks about Buddy Holly and then so does Don McLean. They both had a lot of love for the same guy but had very different careers. On the classic rock side you can see The Beatles were a huge influence, but there’s also a lot pre-Beatles music that was important to their careers, like Cliff Richard and Gerry and The Pacemakers.

Photo courtesy AXS TV – Joy Factory

What were some of the challenges of putting together the series?

NB: I had to do an extensive amount of research and we were tied to a tight budget, timeline and turnaround. Once we booked the artist I had about ninety minutes to take a journey into their lives and the music that inspired them. It was a challenge but once we were in the room together it was amazing.

Was having a career in entertainment something you always envisioned?

NB: Absolutely. I grew up in New York and my family was in the entertainment business. My father and uncle were both involved in Broadway Theater so I saw everything when I was growing up. In the 80s I had the opportunity to work for MTV and did weekend promos for a few years. That formulated my background. Then when I moved to Los Angeles in the 90s a lot of my early work was doing video profiles for record labels where I did a lot of amazing interviews.

Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?

NB: One of the things we’re working on is taking the concept of “Mixtape” and playlist and expanding it into multiple genres, like “Mixtape Country,” “Mixtape RnB, Hip-hop.” There’s even interest in “Mixtape Gospel and Christian” as well as “Mixtape Comedy,” where comedians tell stories about their lives through the comedy that they love.

What satisfies you the most about “Mixtape” and what would you like viewers to take away from watching?

NB: I remember after we finished filming the episode with Kevin Cronin and Dave Amato from REO Speedwagon, I came out with tears in my eyes and told someone that I have the best job in the world. I got to sit five feet away from a band I loved growing up and talked music. The same goes for Mick Jones and Kelly Hansen from Foreigner, or getting to listen to Don McLean sing “American Pie.” These are songs that were my favorites growing up. “Mixtape” is an absolute gift for anyone who loves music and my hope is the show opens your mind to how much wonderful music there is in the world. Some of which you may never even knew existed.

 “Mixtape” airs Thursday nights at 8:30pE / 5:30pP on AXS TV.

Interview: Dan Rather Discusses The New Season of AXS TV’s ‘The Big Interview’

Photo: Stewart Volland AXS-TV

AXS TV’s acclaimed series, “The Big Interview With Dan Rather” shines a spotlight on some of the world’s most beloved and influential artists and performers. Each week legendary newsman Dan Rather is joined by members of entertainment royalty discussing each artist’s lives, legacies and careers.

The series returns for an exciting seventh season on Tuesday, April 16 at 8 p.m. ET with an exclusive sit-down interview with one of rock’s all-time greatest vocalists, Steve Perry. Future episodes include candid conversations with KISS frontman Paul Stanley; pop pioneer Cyndi Lauper; Foreigner members Mick Jones and Lou Gramm; REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin, Neal Doughty, Bruce Hall, Dave Amato and Bryan Hitt; Oscar-Winning actor, writer, director and musician Billy Bob Thornton; comedy legend Carl Reiner and his son, acclaimed filmmaker Rob Reiner; iconic Country star Travis Tritt; celebrated singer/songwriter and guitarist Boz Scaggs and multi-talented musician and radio host Paul Shaffer.

In this exclusive interview, Dan Rather speaks with members of the press, including Go Jimmy Go, Guitar International, KXEL in Iowa, Best Classic Bands and Focus On The 615, about the new season of “The Big Interview” and much more.

How did “The Big Interview” get started?

“The Big Interview” was Mark Cuban’s idea when he re-purposed what used to be known as HD-NET. When I started with Mark we were doing a news program on HD-NET, and when he renamed the channel to be a go-to place for pop culture, he proposed I do these kinds of interviews. I had some reservations about how they’d be but decided to try a few. The rest, as they say, is history.

You’ve interviewed a lot of top musicians over the course of your career. When did you become a fan of music?

I grew up in Texas in the 1930’s and 1940’s and in the early part of my life, if Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb or Roy Acuff didn’t sing it then I didn’t know it. I’ve never been musically inclined to play an instrument but as life went on I developed a liking for all kinds of music. My knowledge wasn’t broad or deep but in doing “The Big Interview” it’s increased. It’s been a real education for me.

Of all the shows you’ve done, what have been some of the biggest surprises?

I’ve had a lot of surprises. Steve Perry had a justified reputation of being a recluse and someone who didn’t welcome interviews. I was a little worried going in but discovered that just the opposite was true. He came to play and was really in the moment. Paul Stanley was another. Most know that he was born with a deformed ear. He was thoughtful and introspective about discussing it and talked about how it affected his life as a child and later, his life as an adult. When he was discussing that I felt we were really discussing one of our goals, which is to get to the interior of the person.

Are there any other country artists you’d like to have on “The Big Interview”?

I’d like to sit down with Alan Jackson. He doesn’t do a lot of interviews but he’s on my list. Then there’s Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown and Garth Brooks. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to get them all somewhere in the near future.

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve learned about interviewing that you can pass along?

There are two big things, whether you’re just starting out as an interviewer or have been at it for years. The fundamentals begin with preparation, preparation and preparation. Right behind that is being able to listen carefully. It’s one thing to hear. It’s another to listen carefully. Pick up on things your subject says as a way of forming questions. Don’t be chained to a list of questions you’ve written down or memorized. I’ve spent my life interviewing rock stars, celebrities, kings and dictators but the basics never change – prepare and listen carefully. The more preparation you do the better the interview is going to be.

REO Speedwagon with Dan Rather – Photo: Ian Vecchiotti The BMP Film Co

Sometimes an interview can become a conversation and can roll on and on. Have you found some that you wish kept going?

One that immediately comes to mind was with Sammy Hagar. He’s funny, has a great sense of humor and endless anecdotes and stories. Some of which may even be true [laughs]. Another was one of the early interviews with Jack White. I wasn’t familiar with Jack and didn’t know his music, but he was so intelligent and I could’ve talked to him for hours. Travis Tritt is another terrific guy and good person who has such a reverence for the traditions of country music, which I could relate to. Carl and Rob Reiner were also entertaining. I wish that interview could’ve gone on all afternoon. 

Are there any thoughts you’d like to share on the current state of our country and world?

Like most people, I’m concerned about what we’ve become as a country. I worry about the world in the sense of things like nuclear annihilation and climate change. But my overall thought is that if we stay steady and concentrate on the things that unite us instead of divide us we’ll be all right. I’m an optimist by nature. It may be a long valley but we’ll come out and be better on the other end. 

What do you find most gratifying about doing “The Big Interview”?

I never was or ever intended to be the smartest guy in the room, but I’ve always loved to learn. In doing these shows I’ve learned a lot about people. It’s like going to graduate school about humans. Having this program at my age and doing work that I really enjoy; my gratitude runs deep.

The Big Interview With Dan Rather” premieres Tuesday, April 16th at 8 p.m. ET on AXS-TV.

Season 7 Line-up:

April 16 – Steve Perry
April 23 – Paul Stanley
April 30 – Cyndi Lauper
May 7 – Foreigner (Mick Jones & Lou Gramm)
May 14 – REO Speedwagon (Kevin Cronin, Neal Doughty, Bruce Hall, Dave Amato & Bryan Hitt)
May 21 – Billy Bob Thornton
May 28 – Carl and Rob Reiner
June 4 – Travis Tritt
June 11 – Boz Scaggs
June 18 – Paul Shaffer

AXS TV’s Original Series, ‘The Big Interview’ Kicks Off 7th Season with Former Journey Front Man Steve Perry

AXS TV’s acclaimed series, “The Big Interview With Dan Rather” shines a spotlight on some of the most beloved and influential artists and performers. Each week, legendary newsman Dan Rather is joined by members of entertainment royalty discussing each artist’s lives, legacies and careers.

The series returns for a seventh season on Tuesday, April 16 with an exclusive sit-down interview with one of rock’s all-time greatest vocalists, Steve Perry. The hour-long episode features the former Journey frontman candidly discussing his life growing up and his decison to leave the band at the height of their success. A decision brought on by an overwhelming feeling that the passion for music had left him. Perry also reflects on his life growing up a child of divorce, the highs and lows of fame, and about finding the love of his life.

Sneak Peek: Steve Perry recalling the origin of the band’s monster hit, “Don’t Stop Believin” and sharing an amazing story of how the song almost didn’t make it into the season finale of “The Sopranos”.

Sneek Peek: Perry discussing his amazing new album, Traces. Later, he’ll take Rather into the studio for some behind the scenes secrets.

If you are a fan of Steve’s music or Journey, you won’t want to miss this episode.

The new season of “The Big Interview” also includes convesations with KISS frontman Paul Stanley; pop pioneer Cyndi Lauper; Foreigner members Mick Jones and Lou Gramm; REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin, Neal Doughty, Bruce Hall, Dave Amato and Bryan Hitt; Oscar Winning actor, writer, director and musician Billy Bob Thornton; comedy legend Carl Reiner and his son, acclaimed filmmaker Rob Reiner; iconic Country star Travis Tritt; celebrated singer/songwriter and guitarist Boz Scaggs and multi-talented musician and radio host Paul Shaffer, among others…

AXS TV’S The Big Interview With Dan Rather line-up  (Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET):

April 16 – Steve Perry
April 23 – Paul Stanley
April 30 – Cyndi Lauper
May 7 – Foreigner (Mick Jones & Lou Gramm)
May 14 – REO Speedwagon (Kevin Cronin, Neal Doughty, Bruce Hall, Dave Amato & Bryan Hitt)
May 21 – Billy Bob Thornton
May 28 – Carl and Rob Reiner
June 4 – Travis Tritt
June 11 – Boz Scaggs
June 18 – Paul Shaffer

Interview: ZFG’s Trev Lukather and Josh Devine discuss new music, debut tour

Prior to their creatively joining forces, guitarist Trev Lukather (son of guitarist Steve Lukather) and drummer Josh Devine (One Direction) were already friends, but each was working on separate, pop-oriented projects. It wasn’t until the duo decided to get together in the studio with the idea of crafting music with no rules or boundaries that ZFG (“Zero F#cks Given”) was born.

Rounded out by vocalist Jules Galli and bassist Sam Porcaro, ZFG combines anthemic hooks with a heavy, Earth Wind & Fire vibe to create a sound that not only captures the band’s vast musical influences and repertoire but also ushers in a refreshing landscape of insatiable tone and texture. A feat that’s evidenced with the release of their new single, “Special” — a funk-rock groove fest which features guest percussion by the legendary Lenny Castro. The new song could not come at a better time, as ZFG prepares to embark on its first tours this spring with Adelitas Way and The Winery Dogs.

AXS recently spoke with Trev Lukather and Josh Devine about ZFG, songwriting, music and more in this new interview.

AXS: How did ZFG come together?

Trev Lukather: Josh and I met through mutual friends. I’d heard a lot about him and knew that his playing was badass but at the time, he was in a project and I was doing my own pop-oriented thing. When we finally met the two of us hit it off right away.

Josh Devine: One day we decided to book a studio session and write a few songs without any rules. Something that would showcase us as players and songwriters but also the fundamentals of what we enjoy – rock-oriented music with great groove and melody. We got in and the flavor was right. At the end, we decided to name the session ZFG (Zero F#ks Given) because that was genuinely what the project was about. No one was telling us what to do or play. We did whatever we wanted. Then Sam and Jules came in and added their own unique flavor to the mix. ZFG was born.

AXS: What’s the band’s songwriting process like?

TL: It usually starts with me picking up a guitar and jamming some riffs. Then the rest of the guys join in and we all start jamming together, picking out parts and bringing them all together. In every session we’ve done as a band there hasn’t been one song that we haven’t gotten giddy about. It’s the perfect bottle of deliciousness.

JD: It’s rare to be with a bunch of people where everything you write is special. I think it’s because it’s authentic and we love what we do.

Read the rest of my
Interview with ZFG by Clicking Here!

Interview: Kenny Loggins Discusses Wynn Las Vegas Residency, Music and Memorable Moments

Photo: Leslie Hassler and used with permission

Following a successful debut earlier this year, multi-platinum and Grammy-award winning artist Kenny Loggins is making his return to the Wynn Las Vegas at the Encore Theater for a second headlining engagement that runs March 27, 29 and 30.

Dubbed “The Life And Times,” the performances will feature material that spans Loggins’ 40+ year career. From his early days with Loggins and Messina and successful solo career, to becoming the king of the Hollywood movie soundtrack in the eighties, fans can expect to hear an arsenal of hits that include “Danny’s Song,” “House on Pooh Corner,” “I’m Alright,” “Footloose” and many more!

AXS recently spoke with Kenny Loggins about his upcoming Vegas residency, some of his biggest hits, and one of the most memorable moments of his career in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: What can fans expect from your upcoming Wynn Las Vegas performances?

Kenny Loggins: It’s a hit show I call “The Life And Times” that covers the songs I wrote and the different stages of my career. From Loggins and Messina to the movie period in the eighties and the solo career. Turns out, there was a lot of music during that time!

AXS: What do you think makes your style of music so timeless?

KL: You can’t really explain it and it’s not a formula. I just think the way pop culture works, everything old is eventually new again. Mike McDonald and I recently wrote and performed a song with Thundercat, and all of a sudden it’s kind of cool again. If you stay on your feet long enough you might come back around.

AXS: Has your writing process changed much over the years?

KL: Not really. I still keep notes and lyrical ideas and will wake up in the middle of the night with melodies running through my head. It’s a habit of a lifetime. I started mentoring a lot in the last year. I live in Santa Barbara where we had the terrible fires and mudslides. In the process of recovery, I helped some local teenagers put on a fundraiser. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to go to a songwriters festival in Hawaii and mentored those kids as well. I really enjoy the process of mentoring. It’s very natural and creative.

You can read the rest of my
Interview with Kenny Loggins by Clicking Here!

Interview: We Three Discuss ‘Lifeline Tour’, Music and America’s Got Talent experience

Fresh off their stint on America’s Got Talent and following the release of their infectiously cool debut album, ‘Lifeline,”  We Three –which consists of siblings Manny Humlie, Joshua Humlie and Bethany Blanchard—have embarked on their very first national headlining tour. One that will take the AGT semi-finalists across the country to meet their legions of fans and perform their insatiable brand of pop/rock.

What makes We Three so special, aside from their groove ridden and story-telling songs, is their high-energy performances. The trio promises to perform their album in its entirety on this tour, which includes the emotionally powerful “Heaven’s Not Too Far” as well as their latest single, “Lifeline.” They’ll also unveil some brand-new material and a few surprise covers as well.

AXS recently spoke with We Three about the Lifeline Tour, music and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How has the Lifeline Tour been going so far?

Manny Humlie: It’s been absolutely amazing and a dream come true. Just coming off stage and knowing that we get to it, again and again, is so exciting. Watching people singing our songs and connecting with them is a surreal feeling. There are no words to describe it.

Bethany Blanchard: We’ve been in these amazing places and the venues are so beautiful. It’s something we’ve never experienced before.

Joshua Humlie: It’s been very emotional to see people right up in front singing every lyric to the songs. Even the newer songs in our set that no one has ever heard outside of the album.

AXS: What can fans expect from your live performance?

MH: A lot of energy and crowd participation. We don’t like people to be sitting down much. We’re having a party on the stage and would love for them to come  join us. We’ll be playing the whole record, some new songs as well as a few covers.

AXS: How would you describe the sound of We Three?

BB: We like to say that our songs are married to each other, both lyrically and melodically. It’s pop-rock and there are a lot of artists we pull from. All of our songs tell stories.

AXS: What’s your writing process like?

MH: For me, I have to set a mood and a tone. I think Ed Sheeran said it best when he said songwriting is like studying for a test. I’m constantly writing down ideas and phrases so that when the heavens open up I’ll have a lot of ammunition ready to go. I may not use half of what I write down but I’ll always have something to work off of.

Read the rest of my
Interview with We Three by Clicking Here!

Interview: Brian Justin Crum discusses new single, ‘Circles’ plus America’s Got Talent experience

Fresh off his acclaimed performances on America’s Got Talent: The Champions, powerhouse vocalist Brian Justin Crum is back with his brand-new single, “Circles.”

The hook-laden song, which discusses breaking out of the circle of toxicity and rediscovering your love, is as infectious as Crum’s show-stopping renditions of classic rock songs from Queen and Elton John that won him the hearts of America.

AXS recently spoke with Crum about the new single and more in this exclusive new interview:

AXS: What was your experience like on America’s Got Talent: The Champions?

Brian Justin Crum: It was awesome. It was long days and a lot of hours but an incredible opportunity to showcase what I do to the world. I wish I could’ve had more say into what I did and how I did it but that’s the nature of the beast. You just have to take the opportunity that’s given to you and run with it.

AXS: Were there any extra nerves going into an all-star competition like this?

BJC: Not really to be honest. The show’s never been about the completion for me. We all do very different things and we’re all very good at what we do. I just had a good time watching people shine.

AXS: You’re known for your infectious rendition of Queen classics like “We Are The Champions” and “The Show Must Go On”. What is it about their music that appeals to you?

BJC: The music is timeless. It plays as well, if not better, now than it did back then. Freddy [Mercury] was not just a singer. He was an artist and a poet. His music has energy and speaks so beautifully to what it feels like to be a queer person. I love singing the lyrics because I feel like it was written for me to tell my story. I will always have a love for that music because I feel joyful when I sing it. It just feels right.

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

BJC: We’ve all experienced that relationship where we find ourselves having those same fights, discussions and toxic things creeping in. The song is about wanting so desperately to break that cycle with the person you love. It was therapeutic to write and sing about something I’ve experienced myself. I’m so happy that people are responding to it and that it’s being so well received.

You can read the rest of my
Interview with Brian Justin Crum by Clicking Here!