Tag: Entertainment

Interview: Michael Lington Discusses His Beautiful Holiday-Themed Album, ‘A Foreign Affair Christmas’

In his more than two-decade career as saxophonist, songwriter and producer, Michael Lington has released more than ten solo albums, toured extensively and even manages his own wine and cigar companies. But the one thing the multi-talented, Copenhagen-born artist had never done is record a Christmas-themed album. That is until now.

On A Foreign Affair Christmas, Lington serves up a plethora of holiday favorites and is joined by an arsenal of contemporary music heavyweights, including Vince Gill, Dave Koz, Rick Braun and Russ Freeman.

Christmas classics like “Silent Night,” “Silver Bells,” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” take on new life with fresh and unique arrangements. Other treasures include a tasty medley of “Winter Wonderland” and “Let it Snow,” with Koz, a silky and sultry take on George Michael’s “Last Christmas,” with Phillipe Saisse on vibraphone, and an inspired version of Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” featuring the legendary Vince Gill.

There is much to love about A Foreign Affair Christmas, making it the perfect soundtrack for a festive holiday season.

I recently spoke with Michael Lington about A Foreign Affair Christmas, his upcoming tour with Dave Koz and more in this exclusive new interview.

What made you decide to do a Christmas album at this point in your career?

Michael Lington: I’ve been thinking about doing one for a very long time. At first, I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to take, but then one year I was invited to Barbados to perform a show with a band that had worked up some really interesting, island-flavored, jazz Christmas songs. That got me to thinking: what if I based an album on the same concept. Taking familiar Christmas songs and flipping them around to do something unique with interesting arrangements. Then I took it a step further and incorporated musical friends from around the world and decided to call it A Foreign Affair Christmas. Once I had the vision, it all came together.

What was your criteria for choosing songs for A Foreign Affair Christmas?

ML: I knew I wanted to have a variety as well as do some of the classic ballads. I started out by writing down all the songs I could think of and then going down the list, narrowing it down to what was the cream of the crop for the arrangements I wanted to achieve. It quickly became clear which ones rose to the top.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Michael Lington by Clicking Here!

Firehouse guitarist Bill Leverty Talks Penn’s Peak Performance, Music and Career Highlights

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly thirty years since hard rock giants Firehouse released their monstrous debut album. A self-titled opus, fueled by hits like “Don’t Treat Me Bad,” “All She Wrote,” and the ubiquitous “Love Of A Lifetime” (a song that’s still a wedding staple), which ushered in legions of fans worldwide and gave Firehouse the coveted Favorite Hard Rock New Artist award at the 1992 American Music Awards.

These days, the band continues to tour and celebrate its legacy. Often joining forces with fellow rock legends like Warrant, Winger and Bret Michaels for sold out shows where they not only perform their arsenal of hits, but also salute our military and first responders.

On Saturday, November 23, Firehouse will once again return to Northeast Pennsylvania for a show with Warrant at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe, PA. Longtime fans of both bands will be able to enjoy an evening of hard rock as well as reminiscence about both bands early days and the glory of 1991’s “Blood, Sweat and Beers” tour.

Firehouse is: C.J. Snare (lead vocals/keyboards), Bill Leverty (guitars), Michael Foster (drums) and Allen McKenzie (bass).

I recently spoke with Leverty about the band’s upcoming performance at Penn’s Peak and more in this exclusive new interview.

What do you enjoy most about Penn’s Peak?

Bill Leverty: Penn’s Peak is such a great venue. It sounds amazing in there because of the acoustics, big stage, killer light show and the world-class PA system. The vibe is so full of energy, which comes straight from the fans. There’s something about Jim Thorpe, PA that makes people want to rock!

What can fans expect from the band’s upcoming performance?

BL: We’ve changed the set up a little bit this year and are playing songs we haven’t played in a while. It’s made everything fresh. We’ll also throw in a few surprises as well. Getting to play with Warrant again is always a great time. For anyone who saw us on the “Blood, Sweat and Beers Tour” with them back in 1991, this is your chance to come relieve those great, youthful days.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Bill Leverty by Clicking Here!

Mike Stern and Jeff Lorber: “Inspiration comes at weird times and you always have to be ready for it”

Photo: Raj Naik

Jeff Lorber first heard guitarist Mike Stern in the early 1980s when his Jeff Lorber Fusion project toured the same festival circuit as Stern, who at the time was performing with Miles Davis. But it wasn’t until bassist Jimmy Haslip, who’d worked with both Stern and Lorber over the years, suggested these two seemingly disparate musical forces come together that their new collaboration, Eleven, was born.

The resulting album is an extremely copacetic compilation filled with harmonic meat and aggressive soloing. From the melodic and catchy opener, Righteous, to Stern’s lyrical, African-flavored Nu Som and blues-drenched jams like Jones Street and Slow Change, Eleven is an inspired collection combining tasty elements from many different styles of music.

We recently spoke with Mike Stern and Jeff Lorber about Eleven and more.

How did this collaboration come about?

Jeff Lorber: It’s a small music community, especially when you get into guys who play fusion and jazz. And although we’d never met I’ve known about Mike for a long time. An early version of my Jeff Lorber Fusion Band had even opened up for Miles Davis back in the Eighties when Mike was in the group. I’ve been working with Jimmy Haslip for more than ten years, and when Jimmy was with the Yellowjackets he did a collaboration with Mike. Jimmy was the one who suggested it’d be something interesting for us to do.

Mike Stern: It was fresh because me and Jeff were in different orbits and had never played together. So when Jimmy presented the idea to me I thought it would just be to play a few gigs, but then he suggested that Jeff and I record together. One thing led to another and now here we are.

Jeff, what was it about working with Mike that appealed to you?

Lorber: The Jeff Lorber Fusion has always been saxophone-focused, so working with a guitarist as the main sound was really appealing to me. Of course, Mike is a virtuoso player who has terrific command of bebop vocabulary as well as rock and blues. He also has a free and fluid approach in the way he improvises and plays melodies. I thought it would be a great challenge because he’s such a high-level musician and I was excited to see what would come out of it.

What was the writing process like for Eleven?

Lorber: Each of us basically wrote half the album. Mike had a chance to re-cut a few songs he wanted to take a new look at and I wrote a bunch of new music as well. We got together and cut all of Mike’s stuff live with Jimmy on bass and Dennis Chambers on drums. For me, I’ll usually start with a chord sequence or groove and try to get melodies involved early on. The song Righteous is a good example. It’s a four-chord pattern with a Motown groove. After I write something I usually let it marinate for a while to see where it needs to go. The element of time is something that really helps.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Mike Stern and Jeff Lorber By Clicking Here!

Interview: Music Director/Drummer Todd Waetzig Discusses His Role In Blue Man Group Las Vegas

Photo: Lindsey Best

Since its inception in 1987, more than thirty-five million people have witnessed the imaginary, multi-sensory world of Blue Man Group, and it’s no surprise. The worldwide phenomenon combines an explosive arsenal of music, comedy and color that captivates audiences of all ages, languages and cultures.

Perhaps no venue offers more intimacy and spectacle than the specially designed Blue Man Theater at the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV, which features exclusive performance content that can’t be seen in any other Blue Man show.

Although the sight and sound is spectacular the heart of the show is the Blue Man character, which creates an immediate connection with the audience and a unique experience at each performance. The Blue Men do not speak but their band is considered their “tribe.” Contributing to the energetic and immersive sounds that BMG creates.

The Luxor band includes music director and drummer Todd Waetzig, who’s been with BMG for more than twenty years. I recently spoke with him about his role in Blue Man Group and more in this exclusive new interview.

How did you become involved in Blue Man Group?

Todd Waetzig: I was in Boston going to school at The Berklee College of Music and was in a rock band that played around town and wrote music. The guitarist in the band was also friends with one of the drummers from the Blue Man show in Boston and one night, he came to see us play at a local bar. He really liked the way I played. At the time, they were looking for a substitute drummer to fill in some shows and he invited me down for an audition. I went down and met some of the guys from the band and they asked me to do some crazy things on the drums to see if I could do it. Shortly after that they invited me to play drums with Blue Man.

Had you heard about Blue Man Group prior to being invited to audition?

TW: I knew a little about Blue Man but never knew exactly what it was. When I saw the show for the first time, I remember sitting there in the middle of the theater watching what was going on. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. It was overwhelming in a really cool way and I was completely blown away.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Todd Waetzig by Clicking Here.

Interview: Actress Katie Callaway Discusses Her Versatile Career

It’s not often you meet a woman with the trifecta success of musical theater, film and television, but such is the case for Katie Callaway.

The beautiful actress began her journey studying classical ballet before attending Belmont University and graduating with a BFA in Musical Theatre. During her time there, Callaway appeared in no less than six different musical productions, including the first ever collegiate production of “Les Misérables.” She also wrote, directed, and starred in her senior thesis production of a one-act comedic musical parody of “The Hunger Games.”

With a powerful vocal equaled only by her acting prowess and charm, Callaway served as a key participant in several master classes and workshops by such notable Broadway influences as Jason Robert Brown (“The Last Five Years,” “Songs for a New World”), Benj Pasek & Justin Paul (“Edges,” “Dogfight,” and “A Christmas Story”) and Jen Waldman (Artistic Director at the Hangar Theatre and a part of the Original Broadway Cast of “Wicked”).

As a film and television actress, Callaway’s impressive list of credits includes a recurring role on ABC / Lionsgate’s “Nashville,” as well as being featured in films like “The Clapper” and “Prize Fighter.” She’s also branched out into commercial work and music videos as well. Her latest film, “Inheritance,” is slated for release in 2020.

I recently spoke with Katie Callaway about her career and life in this exclusive new interview.

Did you always know that you wanted to have a career in the arts and entertainment?

Katie Callaway: Absolutely. I’ve always loved performing and the theater and stage. I started really young in life studying classical ballet, and didn’t think being an actress could be a viable career until I was in my pre-teens. That’s when I asked my mom and dad to get me an agent and some head shots. I remember they were a little hesitant at first, but it’s always been on my radar and something that I loved to do. Following your passion and dreams isn’t selfish. It’s a responsibility.

What was it that attracted you to theater?

KC: I’m a big fan of stories and being able to have that one on one, call and response connection with an audience when something beautiful or dramatic happens on stage. There’s something magical about live theater and having an intimate relationship with the people you’re performing for.

You’ve done live theater, movies, commercials and television. As an actress, what are some of the similarities and differences?

KC: They’re all different but it’s all the art of performance. The beauty about live theater is the adrenaline rush you get knowing you only have one shot to get it right. Every night is completely different. In film or TV commercials you might do the take a few times, but once it’s locked in you can put it to bed. You can do a live show twenty to thirty times and still find new ways of falling in love with the character.

Are there any projects you’re currently working on?

KC: I recently filmed an episode of “General Hospital” that aired this past July, which was very exciting. I also have a supporting role in a thriller starring Lily Collins and Simon Pegg called “Inheritance” that’s slated to be released in 2020. There are a few other exciting things coming up that I can’t really discuss except to say stay tuned!

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself as an artist so far?

KC: It’s hard to pick just one thing but I find out more about myself as an artist by the characters I portray. The arts are about questioning the status quo, relying on things that have happened in the past, thinking about what lies ahead and then using the art of storytelling to share it.

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

KC: One thing I’m looking forward to is the opportunity to travel for different roles. It’s nice that the hub doesn’t always have to be L.A. anymore. I’m excited to get more stamps on my passport and seeing different parts of the world.

What’s the best bit of advice you can give to someone who may just be starting out?

KC: Keep your foot on the gas. If it’s something you feel called to do then don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. It’s a viable career for anyone as long as you’re willing to put in the hard work. There’s a lot to be said for talent and networking but at the end of the day it’s all about perseverance. Always work to better your skillset and self as a human being. We need to follow the things we’re called to do.

Interview: Savannah Outen Discusses Her Infectious New Single, ‘The Hard Way’

In the years since Savannah Outen’s began her artistic journey at the age of fifteen the beautiful songstress has found unprecedented musical success. For, in addition to becoming a fixture on the Radio Disney charts her ubiquitous renditions of various cover songs have garnered her more than 120 million views on YouTube.

Last year, Outen’s hauntingly ethereal track, “Sad In The Summer” spoke about letting go of the past and finding freedom. With her infectious new track, “The Hard Way,” the beautiful artist has managed to discover something else — a sound like no other.

Not only does “The Hard Way” feature Outen’s hook-laden melodies and distinctly powerful vocal prowess but the track showcases a deep level of emotional artistic maturity, proving that she’s becoming an even bigger force to be reckoned with.

I recently spoke with Outen about “The Hard Way,” songwriting and more in this exclusive new interview.

How did the new single, “The Hard Way,” originate?

Savannah Outen: For this track, I was in the studio with writer, Adam Melchor, and producer, Giulio Cercato. It was the first time the three of us had worked together and there were great vibes right from the start. I like to live a song before I write about it and that day we were all venting about the music industry and our individual takes and experiences. I was telling them how long I’ve been pursuing music and that there was a period I went through where I was feeling a little bit of doubt. We started with that idea. There’s a phase in your life when you’re in your twenties and maybe just getting out of college. A time when you love what you do but nothing’s happening. It’s a song telling you to keep going and trust your gut. Even if it takes longer than you thought. We wanted it to be fun but not too serious, with a cool 60’s/70’s vibe. It’s a song about my life and I’m so glad it’s out for everyone to hear.

What was the recording process like?

SO: Since we already knew what we wanted to say we needed to find a groove to match. The thing I love about this track is that it steers in the sonic direction of where I’m going. I loved infusing synths and live instruments and diving deeper into a gritty alternative world.

What can you tell me about the video for “The Hard Way?”

SO: I made the video with a great friend of mine, Ryan Espinosa. The video is fun and lighthearted and I even got my band involved. The cool thing is the song, artwork and video were all done with people that are close to me, which makes it even more special.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Savannah Outen by Clicking Here!

‘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.