‘The Killing of America’: Director Sheldon Renan Discusses U.S. Release of Ominous Documentary

killingofamericaWhen they asked Sheldon Renan to watch The Killing of America at a recent film festival, it was the first time the director had seen the film he had worked on since it was released thirty-five years ago. Afterwards, Renan remarked how amazed he was at how well the film played more than three decades later and how relevant its message still was in 21st century America.

Originally produced in 1981, Renan, along with co-producers Leonard Schrader and Matachiro Yamamoto set out to document America’s seemingly unending love affair with violence. From iconic newsreel footage to chilling interviews with convicted killers, Renan and his team sought to depict a terrifying aspect of Reagan-era America through a brutally honest lens. Despite some limited theatrical showings, the documentary has never received an official American release, until now.

The Killing of America is told in narrative style. Describing horrifically tragic events of the last half-century with pinpoint accuracy and chilling realism. But perhaps more than anything else, the film is an ominous reminder that social, economic and racial injustice as well as the proliferation of personal firearms has not abated in the thirty-five years since the documentary’s creation.

I recently spoke with Renan about The Killing of America and more in this exclusive interview.

How did you become involved in The Killing of America project?

I had done a lot of heavy research in the world of homicide and gun culture in preparation for a script I was working on when I met Leonard Schrader and Matachiro Yamamoto. They wanted to use the film Faces of Death as a springboard for this new project they were working on about homicide and violence. They were looking to put together a team of young filmmakers that were very ambitions and loved films, but they were having trouble finding clips. I had come out of the film archivist world and put together some clips for them. It was exactly what they were looking for and they asked me if I could help them.

What was the initial reaction like to the film when it premiered and why has it never received a proper U.S. release until now?

The film was initially made to be released in the fall in Japan. It was the seventh highest grosser there that year as well as a hit in a number of other countries. The company that bought the rights to distribute the film in America did a preview for coming attractions, but a high ranking official thought it was taboo and would terrify people. I even remember at the cast and crew screening about a third of the people walked out.

Aside from the fashion and vintage cars, the documentary looks like something you’d see on the news today.

Although it looks like a documentary, nothing is fake or has been rigged. The only change is that the sound has been enhanced in some places. Len’s writing is incredible and Chuck Riley’s voice in the narration could cut through metal. He was telling a complete story. A narrative arc about the subject. By the end, you’re inside the mind of killers, which isn’t very comfortable.

What are some of the parallels you see today as compared to when the film was made?

It’s the same pattern. The main thing is that the person pulling the trigger is usually someone who has a very bad sense of self-esteem. I remember the L.A. coroner telling us that it comes down to the person deciding whether to kill themselves or someone else. When you’re unhappy about something in yourself, you tend to project that flaw onto other people.

What have you learned about us as a society by making this film and seeing it again thirty-five years later?

You observe that if you don’t treat people well or if they’re not raised well and given structure and self-esteem, you’re going to pay for it later in a very bad way. You also can’t let emotion rule you because the long-term effects can be enormously devastating. The third thing is that people have to have the right to have access to and have guns as it says in the Constitution–but not one that can punch a hole in a tank and not without background checks.

Is there a message you think viewers should take away from watching The Killing of America?

If you’ve had a lot of violence in your life this is a film you shouldn’t see or show to your kids, as you’ll find it very upsetting. Early on, the coroner’s office allowed us to film and the day we were there L.A. was in the middle of a crime wave and they were running six autopsy tables at one time. This is a complex phenomenon and something you can’t run away from. This film is one step in thinking about and understanding violence and how epidemic it is in American culture and recognizing that you cannot escape the connection between it and the easy availability of guns. People also need to be careful about this loose talk about destroying our infrastructure because you don’t like one party, candidate or president. Because what lies on the other side is nothing we want to go back to.

Michael Sweet Discusses Stryper’s 30th Anniversary ‘To Hell With The Devil Tour’, Memorable Moments

When multi-platinum, Christian rockers Stryper donned their iconic yellow and black costumes and kicked off their 30th Anniversary To Hell with the Devil Tour in September, they were greeted by legions of fans longing for one more taste of the band’s biggest album.

For most, this was the first time they’ve seen the band’s original line-up in full gear performing deep cuts like “Holding On” and “All of Me” in nearly three decades. A once in a lifetime opportunity to be sure.

Stryper

Stryper

For metal fans who may not be familiar, Stryper’s “To Hell With The Devil” album is a masterpiece of 80’s metal. The Grammy-nominated, third studio release was also the first to achieve platinum status as well as giving the band — which consists of Michael Sweet (lead vocals/guitars), Robert Sweet (drums), Oz Foxx (guitars) and Tim Gaines (bass), crossover appeal to mainstream metal with songs like the title track, “Honestly,” “Calling On You” and “Free”.

For this tour, Stryper will be performing To Hell With The Devil in its entirely from start to finish, followed by another set of the band’s biggest and most well known hits.

I recently spoke with Michael Sweet about the To Hell With The Devil: 30th Anniversary Tour, his upcoming projects and some memorable moments of his career.

When you look back on the To Hell With The Devil album now with thirty years of perspective, what thoughts come to mind?

It was a special time and definitely the highlight and heyday of the band. I’ve always said that it was the album that took us from performing in theaters to arenas, and the song, “Honestly” literally took us from gold to platinum status. It was our biggest, most celebrated and popular album to this day, and just the fact that we’re doing it now with the original line-up thirty years later is mind boggling and I love it!

How has reaction been to the new tour?

It’s been fantastic. We start with a little video documentary of the band and its history. Then we come out and do To Hell With The Devil in its entirety. Then we take a five-minute break and come back out and do another full set after that. It’s almost a two-hour show.

What’s it been like revisiting some of these songs?

It’s been great. There are actually a few songs, like “Holding On,” “All of Me,” and “Rockin’ The World” that we haven’t played since the 80s. Playing them now every night is a reminder of just how cool those songs are and how much we missed playing them. The crowd loves them and the response has been phenomenal.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from To Hell With The Devil, starting with Honestly. Can you tell me how that song came about?

I had a Roland keyboard sitting in my garage that always inspired me to write piano ballads. I remember sitting down at it one day and playing some chords. It actually came together fairly quickly and wound up becoming the song that charted the highest of any we’ve ever released.

At the time, did you know it was going to be special?

I had a feeling about that song and the whole album actually. When we started tracking and listening back to the mixes I had a gut feeling it was going to be big and a turning point for the band.

How about the track, To Hell With The Devil?

Rob wanted to give the album that title, so I wrote the music and Rob and I wrote the words together. It’s an iconic title that a lot of people remember us for and a catch phrase people love to say. It’s a powerful statement because we believe that’s where he [The Devil] is going. The original album cover was very controversial because there was a pentagram being pulled from Satan’s neck and it upset a lot of the Christian bookstores that were carrying it. We wound up changing the artwork.

Calling on You.

That song is a good merge of pop sense and metal. It’s got this edge along with a great melody and harmonies. It was the first video we made for the album and the first that went to #1 on Dial MTV. It’s been a staple in our set since the 80s.

Michael Sweet

Michael Sweet

Your most recent solo album, One Sided War also received a lot of critical acclaim. Do you have plans to tour to support it next year?

Absolutely. I’m going to do some acoustic shows next year as well as ones and a full band. I’ll also be starting a new Sweet & Lynch album in February and I can’t wait to do it.

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

Right now, I’m working on some songs for Joel Hoekstra / Michael Sweet super group project. I’m also thinking about another new solo album already.

You’re one of few artists from the era who continues to write, record and create new music. What’s your reasoning behind it?

You know what it is? I’m still just as excited about it now as I was when I was sixteen. And it’s not just about the touring and performance as much as it is the writing and recording. Creating. I’m passionate about it.

Of all of the highlights of your career as an artist, are there any that stand out to you as most memorable?

As an artist, the one that pops in my mind instantly is the first performance I had with Boston [Note: Sweet performed as singer and guitarist for Boston from 2008-2011]. I remember it was a very sad night because we had been celebrating Brad Delp’s life and I was really nervous because I was stepping up to the plate and singing songs for Brad. I wasn’t sure how the fans would accept it, but I just remember singing the first song and hearing the crowd roar. It was a special, emotional moment for me. Of course with Stryper, there are so many. Just the days of performing in some of these venues, traveling and seeing the world together as a band. There are so many special moments.

Groovin’ with Peter White: Guitarist Talks New Album, Gear and Al Stewart’s ‘Year of the Cat’

Photo by: Lori Stoll

Photo by: Lori Stoll

Peter White released Groovin’, his third album of cover songs, today, October 28. This time around, the guitarist puts his unique spin on timeless tunes from the late Fifties through the early Eighties.

Taking up where White’s previous cover albums—Reflections (1994) and Playin’ Favorites (2006)—leave off, Groovin’ is a nostalgic and adventurous slice of instrumental groove and playful guitar melody.

The disc, which takes its title from the Rascals’ tropical-hued 1967 hit, is chock full of White’s instantly recognizable guitar sound. He applies it the Beatles’ “Here, There and Everywhere,” Stevie Wonder’s “Do I Do,” Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Sleep Walk,” a Number 1 instrumental hit by Santo & Johnny from 1959.

I recently spoke with White about Groovin’, his gear and his time working with Al Stewart on Year of the Cat, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year.

There’s a 23-year period of music you cover on Groovin’. Was there a particular theme or concept you had in mind when choosing songs?
There was never any great concept or theme, except for me to remind people that music was really good back then. For this album, I wanted to put together a collection of songs that I really like. They’re all songs with great melodies that work well on the guitar, but I wanted to approach them in a different way. I think if you can take a song everyone knows and give it a spin and make it your own, it really defines you as an artist.

Why did you choose to cover the Beatles’ “Here, There and Everywhere”?
I grew up learning to play guitar by listening to the Beatles on the radio. There are so many Beatles songs I love, but that particular one works so well on guitar. It’s very whimsical with a beautiful melody.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Peter White Here!

Andy Timmons Talks New Album, ‘Theme from a Perfect World’

Photo by:  Simone Cecchetti

Photo by: Simone Cecchetti

Andy Timmons Band’s eighth album, Theme from a Perfect World, is an inspired, guitar-driven affair made up of 10 hook-filled instrumentals that are sure to satisfy even the pickiest of guitarists.

Produced by Timmons and his longtime bassist, Mike Daane, Perfect World is the ideal balance of melodic virtuosity and inspired songwriting.

In addition to his solo work—which includes his critically acclaimed 2011 instrumental take on the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club BandTimmons’ resume includes work with Danger Danger, Kip Winger and Simon Phillips.

I recently caught up with the busy guitarist to ask him about Theme from a Perfect World, his gear and memorable moments from his career.

How would you describe Theme from a Perfect World in terms of its sound and how it relates to some of your previous work?

I think it’s a bit of a departure from my last two records [Revolution and Andy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepper]. I remember when we recorded Revolution and I was listening to the basic tracks. I wasn’t feeling inspired, but then I remembered something Steve Vai told me; he said he loved those earlier sessions I did when I was recording songs that just had guitar, bass and drums—ones where you could hear the fingers on the frets and there wasn’t a lot of stuff going on.

That stuck in my mind, and I asked myself, what if I switched gears and did the whole record like that? Just stripping it down to a one-guitar performance and assimilating all of the important elements into one. It became fun and a challenge. That same idea spilled over to the Beatles songs.

This new album is in the direction of the last two records in that we’re still keeping things as natural and organic as possible, but we also gave ourselves the “keys to the kingdom.” It’s given it a vintage kind of feel. I’m very proud of the songwriting and the playing on this record.

Is there a different way you approach writing an instrumental album as opposed to one with vocals?

I don’t find it that much different. Things that have resonated with me a certain way are stored in muscle memory and my melodic ear will always steer me. As a writer and improviser, you’re always trying to create an “in the moment,” but with just music, you’re not confined to any limitation and can go much deeper. And the deeper your connection is to the instrument, the better your ability is to do that.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Andy Timmons by Clicking Here!

‘Insecure’: Actress Veronica Mannion Discusses New HBO Series, Career

(Photo credit: Anne Marie Fox)

(Photo credit: Anne Marie Fox)

Veronica Mannion is fast becoming a rising force in the celestial world of the Hollywood scene.

The beautiful actress–who’s also spent time as a standup comedienne–can currently be seen in the HBO comedy series, Insecure. The show, based on series creator and star Issa Rae’s web series “Awkward Black Girl”, follows the exploits and racy tribulations of a modern-day African-American woman.

Mannion plays the recurring role of Kitty—Issa’s co-worker—who tries to be her friend throughout the season but almost sabotages one of Issa’s work projects due to her gossiping and prejudiced skepticism.

In additional to an impressive resume that includes stints on Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” and FX’s “American Horror Story”, Mannion has also written, directed and appeared in the film “Booze, Boys & Brownies”.

I recently spoke with her about Insecure, her career and more in this exclusive new interview.

How did your involvement in “Insecure” come about?

I was one of the lucky chosen to audition for the pilot. They booked me off tape so I didn’t even have to come in for a callback. I shot the pilot last September and then heard they wrote me into four more episodes in April. It was a dream come true scenario!

What was it that attracted you to the role?

Kitty’s the kind of person who tries too hard. She may be sweet but ends up coming across as annoying and judgmental. I think that I have that side to me, so it’s been fun channeling that version of myself.

What else can you tell me about her?

Kitty works with Issa at We Got Ya’ll and really thinks she’s making a difference at her desk job helping underprivileged kids.  She loves anything vintage, her co-worker Ken, and cats… obviously.

How would you describe the series? 

“Insecure” follows the awkward experiences and racy tribulations of a modern-day African-American woman, Issa Rae, and her best friend, Molly.  Some people are saying it’s like the black “GIRLS” or “Sex In The City”, but I think it’s what every HBO show wants to be: laugh out loud funny, authentic and with a lot of heart!

As a woman, what’s its like for you to be a part of a series that was inspired and created by Issa? 

Issa is an inspiration, not only to me but I think for all of us on set and for women everywhere. She’s so talented, funny, real and kind. She’s created not just an amazing show but a great atmosphere on set… and I think she’s going to change the world!

What’s the filming process like and working with Issa? 

A typical day can last from six to twelve hours. Since this was the first season the way it was shot and the tone (and even what our characters were eating or doing) was all a collaborative feeling. Issa definitely has a strong vision and point of view, but she was also open to people bringing themselves to the role. Everyone contributed to making Insecure the best it could be. It felt like one big family!

Did you always know that you wanted a career in entertainment? Was it something you always aspired to do?

I was one of those little girls singing in my living room, playing dress up and dreaming about the big lights of Hollywood.  My mom taught me that your thoughts create and to go for what you love to do. So here I am!

How did you become involved in doing stand-up comedy?

I started doing stand up when I moved to LA as a way to get on stage and get my acting fix! I realized that you don’t just have to tell jokes – you can do characters, sing, or even improvise with the audience. Stand up became my performance outlet. Somewhere where I could feel like I had power over my career just by making people laugh.

What’s the most challenging part of doing stand-up? What do you enjoy the most about it?

Probably the scene of it all and breaking through that next barrier. I don’t enjoy the bros, or the drunk hecklers but I love the immediate response of the crowd! You really have to be present during stand up because people will glaze over if you just go on stage and go on autopilot. You really have to be on your toes.

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

I just filmed a small role on “FEUD!” opposite Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange. It’s Ryan Murphy’s new FX show that premieres next year!  You can catch me in Episode 2.

What excites you the most about the new series and this next chapter of your career? What are you most looking forward to?

I feel very lucky to see my face on HBO!  I remember watching the second episode and thinking, “This is crazy! I’ve watched HBO all my life wanting to be on it and there’s my face!” I’m looking forward to more fun parts and more work with talented, good people! Whatever happens, I’m definitely enjoying the ride and feel so lucky to be apart of such a new awesome show.  I hope you watch and love it as much as I do!

Duane Allman’s Daughter Discusses Limited-Edition ‘Skydog’ Vinyl Box Set

Duane Allmän - Photo by John Gellmn

Duane Allman – Photo by John Gellman

Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective, Rounder Records‘ 2013 box set honoring the musical legacy of the late Allman Brothers Band guitarist, was a critical and commercial success.

On October 28, Rounder will offer a limited-edition vinyl version of the retrospective. Each of the 1,000 individually numbered copies will include all the music from the CD editions—129 tracks—on 14, 180-gram vinyl LPs.

The set also includes a 56-page booklet full of rare photos and essays by journalist Scott Schinder and Duane’s daughter, Galadrielle Allman, who compiled the collection with producer Bill Levenson.

This retrospective includes classic Allman Brothers Band songs plus a collector’s cache of rare singles and long-out-of-print album tracks. The songs range from Duane’s early recordings with Gregg Allman in the Escorts, Allman Joys and Hour Glass, to his studio work with Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Boz Scaggs and Delaney & Bonnie. There’s even a live jam session with the Grateful Dead.

Below, check out our exclusive Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective (vinyl edition) unboxing video—plus a new interview wth Galadrielle. We discuss Skydog, her father’s legacy, her career and more.

What would you like people to take away from this new vinyl package?

The real desire with this package—and also with my book—is to humanize Duane, to take him out of the pantheon of the gods and return him to the mortal world. One where you can actually fall in love with the guitar, work really hard and achieve. The albums hang together really well and there’s a story there about his growth and style strengthening and developing. If you listen chronologically, you can hear him growing and changing. By the end, you hear the full-blown master of improvisational rock guitar.

You mentioned your book, Please Be with Me: A Song for My Father, Duane Allman. What made you decide to write it?

I‘ve always been focused on writing and really had a sense of being born into his amazing story. I actually started it in my twenties but backed off because of the scale and scope of it. But when I turned 40, I said that if it’s going to happen, it has to be now. I took the better part of three years doing the research and the next two years doing the writing. It was an incredibly fulfilling and satisfying experience.

Was there a particular moment in your life when you realized the enormity of your father’s contributions to guitar and music?

There really isn’t one particular time that I remember of becoming aware. When I was a child in the early Seventies, they are at the peak of their power playing stadiums. Some of my earliest memories are of being at concerts, but the thing that’s incredible is that the legacy and admiration for my father has only grown during my lifetime. He was a revered guitar player, but a lot a people didn’t know that he played on Layla and all of the other work he did outside of the Allman Brothers Band. Just the depth of his session playing and the incredible way it goes through every genre of American music. It’s an incredible accomplishment for somehow who lived for less than twenty-five years.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Galadrielle Allman Here!

Bryan Adams Discusses Gear and His New DVD, ‘Wembley Live 1996’

Photo by: Andre W. Catlin

Photo by: Andre W. Catlin

It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Bryan Adams performed to a crowd of 70,000 at London’s Wembley Stadium. Adams was in top form that summer night in 1996, and it didn’t hurt that his multi-platinum album, 18 til I Die, had just reached Number 1 in the U.K.

To celebrate the anniversary, Eagle Rock Entertainment will release Bryan Adams: Wembley Live 1996 on DVD October 14.

This incredible live performance is packed with Adams’ guitar-driven hits, including “Summer of ’69,” “Cuts Like a Knife,” “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started” and “Run to You,” as well as a storming rendition of “It’s Only Love” featuring Melissa Etheridge.

I recently spoke with Adams about the new DVD, his time working with producer Mutt Lange, his gear and more.

Other than it being the 20th anniversary, what made you decide to release this performance on DVD?

Fans were asking for it. I kept saying there was no film, but then I discovered a box of tapes in my basement and remembered I had filmed it. I’d just forgotten.

What made this particular show so special?

After touring for so many years around the world, this was the high point for all of the songs and albums I’d released in the Eighties and Nineties.

What’s it like to perform at such a high level at Wembley?

It’s so hard to describe now after so long, but it was certainly daunting and quite unbelievable. In the end, your senses take over on gigs and you just get on with it. But walking out there was incredible, and leaving the stage even more so.

What was the vibe like in the band at that point of your career?

The band was in top spirits. We’d been playing a lot of other music on our “b-stage,” so we were not drawn to doing the same songs every night. There’s a Japanese bootleg somewhere out there that has 40 or 50 different cover songs that had been recorded by fans and compiled onto a CD. The quality is poor, but the collection is outstanding.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Bryan Adams by Clicking Here!

‘The Caretaker’: Actress Meegan Warner Discusses Supernatural Thriller

thecaretakerWritten by Jeremy Robinson and directed by Jeff Prugh, “The Caretaker” is a new character-driven thriller that tells the story of a young woman who returns home to care for her gravely ill grandmother.

The film stars the beautiful Meegan Warner (Mary on AMC’s critically acclaimed series, TURN: Washington’s Spies) as Mallorie, an empathetic young woman who wants to do well by her grandmother. But in the process of staying in her grandmother’s vast Victorian home, Mallorie encounters bouts of sleepwalking and envisioning spirits, all while uncovering dark secrets about her family’s past.

“The Caretaker” was an official selection at Indie Horror Film Festival where it took home three awards, including the Director’s Choice Award. The film was also an official selection at FilmQuest, HellaCon, Gasparilla and the Fantastic Horror film festivals.

I recently spoke with Warner about “The Caretaker”, the final season of TURN, her career and more in this exclusive new interview!

How did this project come about for you? 

It was a pretty standard procedure. My agents sent me the script, I went in and taped with the casting directors and was later asked to come in for a chemistry read with [co-star] Sean Martini. Then a few weeks later, we were all on set!

What was it that attracted you to the role?

I remember coming in for the chemistry read and workshopping the audition scenes. It was the first time I met Jeff [Prugh], who was completely open to improvisation and suggestions. Meeting everyone and seeing how passionate and determined they were really drew me in. I just remember walking out of the room really wanting to be a part of the project.

How would you describe the story of “The Caretaker”?

“The Caretaker” is a character-driven thriller about a young woman named Mallorie who returns home to care for her sick grandmother only to discover that things aren’t as they seem. 

What can you tell me about your character, Mallorie?

Mallorie was such a gift to play because she had so much going on. She grew up with the knowledge that her mother abandoned her and her grandmothers health is deteriorating, She also struggles with her own mental heath problems and sleep disorders. I liked that she wasn’t your typical damaged horror movie girl though. She has great relationships outside of her family life. 

Meegan Warner (left) and Sean Martini in The Caretaker

Meegan Warner (left) and co-star Sean Martini in The Caretaker

What was the filming process like?

The whole experience was amazing. It was one of those projects where you didn’t want it to end. Jeff and Jeremy were awesome to work with. So open to ideas and encouraged improvisation. It was a very creative set to be on. The house we shot in was incredible and definitely added to the film. I remember Jeff saying something like he wanted the action taking place downstairs to feel like a drama and the events taking place upstairs to feel like a thriller. He really wanted the upper level of the house to have a dangerous vibe.

What do you think makes horror such a great genre? 

I think like any genre, it’s that escapism –the thrill and adrenaline. I love horror movies. If I’m choosing a movie to watch I usually gravitate towards horror. When you think about it, scaring yourself is a pretty strange thing to enjoy!

Did you always know that you wanted to have a career in entertainment? Was it something you always aspired to do?

The thought of being an actress never really crossed my mind when I was a kid. That whole world seemed so far removed from my upbringing. It wasn’t until I was fourteen that I decided acting was something I wanted to do. I did the school play and just loved the whole experience. I don’t remember the exact moment when it went from being a fun thing to do to a career option, but it happened quickly and from that point on I was pretty determined to figure out how to make it work.

What are you most looking forward to about with the final season of “TURN: Washington’s Spies”? What can fans expect from the show and from your character, Mary?

I’m really excited and curious to see how the writers will wrap it up: if we’ll have time jumps and finish the war or if we’ll just continue on from Season 3. I know absolutely nothing, so I can’t tease anything! But I can’t wait to read the first script, and I hope Mary continues to surprise!

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

TURN will start filming soon, so over the next few months I’ll be working on that. After we wrap, who knows? That’s the exciting part about this job. You never know what’s next! I’d also like to give a shout out to another horror film I did in Australia. It’s called “Scare Campaign” and it’s getting a U.S release later this month. So please keep a look out!

“The Caretaker” is available now in multiple formats.

‘The Art of Elegance’: Kristin Chenoweth Discusses Timeless New Album

Photo by: Gian Andrea di Stefano and used with permission

Photo by: Gian Andrea di Stefano and used with permission

With a magical career that transcends Broadway, television, film and music, Kristin Chenoweth has firmly established herself as one of the preeminent artists of our generation.

After conquering the musical realms of country, Christian and Christmas music, the charismatic Tony and Emmy-award winning singer/actress showcases her interpretive prowess with her latest release, The Art of Elegance. A beautiful, 13-song package featuring Chenoweth’s unique take on classics from The Great American Songbook.

Songs like “Someone to Watch Over Me” (George Gershwin) and the sublime “A House Is Not A Home” (Burt Bacharach / Hal Davis) take on new life while tracks like the haunting “I’m A Fool To Want You” (Frank Sinatra/Jack Wolf/Joel Herron) and the apropos “I Get Along Without You Very Well” (Hoagy Carmichael) deliver timeless sentiment.

AXS recently spoke with Chenoweth about her beautiful new album and more in this exclusive interview.

AXS: What inspired The Art of Elegance project?

Kristin Chenoweth: I cut my teeth at a young age hearing the music from this era. This is my sixth album and throughout my entire career, this is the music that speaks to me the loudest. Obviously, I’ve looked up to many icons, certainly Ella Fitzgerald, Linda Ronstadt and Diana Krall have all been instrumental and are examples of women who have done it before me. They’re all very different and put their own stamp on their versions. That’s what I tried to do here. I also wanted to pay homage to the composers of the time.

You can read my complete AXS interview with Kristin Chenoweth Here!

Actress Kristen Li Discusses The Powerpuff Girls and Career

Kristen Li (Photo by: Ryan West)

Kristen Li (Photo by: Ryan West)

It’s not often you get to speak to someone whose as versatile and multitalented as Kristen Li. After spending nine years as a competitive figure skater, Li found her niche as an actress and voice over artist.

Li is best known for her role as the voice of ‘Bubbles’ in Cartoon Network’s reboot of the Emmy-nominated “The Powerpuff Girls”. The show, which originally ran from 1998-2005, centers on three girls (Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup) who use their superpowers to defend their town from villains while dealing with normal issues that young children face.

Li’s additional voice credits include Disney Pixar’s “Monsters University” and the video game “Broken Age”. She’s also appeared on such shows as Nickelodeon’s “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn” and “Days of our Lives”.

I recently spoke with Li about her role on The Powerpuff Girls and more in this exclusive interview.

You began your career as a competitive ice skater. What made you decide to transition into acting?

I was a competitive ice skater and also did modeling from an early age. I did print ads and commercials which expanded into theatrical/commercial roles. I made the transition when I had to choose between the two because of my hectic schedule. It was a hard decision because I love both. Both were competitive but I love acting because I love to be many characters. It is fun to entertain and meet actors and actresses that give me inspiration.

What did you enjoy most about competitive ice skating?

I love to win! The thing about ice skating is not just practicing the moves on the ice, but the technical part of it. There are techniques that involve the height of the jumps, spins and the moves with the music. It was challenging! I practiced from four to eight hours a day, which taught me to be disciplined. I loved to dance all over the ice with the music, and I love to entertain.

What are some of the differences between doing voice-over work as opposed to typical acting or doing a video game?

There are similarities and differences between acting and voiceover work. For voiceover, you can perform different voices and characters without actually dressing up for the part. For on-camera roles, you can only be one character for the show or a movie. But for both acting & voiceover, you have to study and be knowledgeable about the character and the project!

How would you describe Bubbles? What’s she like?

Bubbles is sweet, gullible and the most sensitive of the group. She is also really smart! She knows how to code, talk to animals and loves helping others. She is powerful.

Did you have to do research to take on the character?

Yes! I researched the show which took several hours. Then I had to study Bubbles and the emotions that she has. After listening several times, I practiced to see how I sound doing it. I keep doing that over and over again. With auditions, it takes hours of studying and practicing.

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

I have some things in the works that I can’t talk about just yet….but stay tuned!

When you’re not acting, what are some of the things you enjoy doing?

I like to spend time with my friends, go ice skating and skateboarding. I also like to do Tae Kwon Do for self defense and Pilates for my core. I like to be active!

What excites you the most about the future and the next phase of your career?

Going forward, I am excited to pursue theatrical roles and perfect more voiceover characters. That’s my goal!

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