Tag: Music

Interview: Vocalist Arianna Neikrug discusses her inspiring debut album, ‘Changes’

Photo: Jacob Blickenstaff

Following her win at the Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition and subsequent performance at Montreal’s International Jazz Festival, singer/songwriter Arianna Neikrug will introduce audiences to her eclectically cool, groove-ridden sound with the release of her debut album, Changes.

Produced by Grammy Award-winning pianist and arranger, Laurence Hobgood, Changes features Neikrug’s inspired interpretation of songs from The Great American Songbook, as well as classic pop and R&B.

Tracks like Al Green’s R&B staple, “Let’s Stay Together” and the fusion of Joni Mitchell’s “Help Me” and “Be Cool” are instant stand-outs. Each revealing a depth of artistry well beyond Neikrug’s twenty-five years. The new album also contains two original tracks that take listeners on an even deeper dive into the beautiful songstress’ inner soul.

AXS recently spoke with Arianna Neikrug about Changes [which will be released on Concord Records on Friday, Aug. 24] and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: In your opinion, what do you think makes jazz so timeless and special?

Arianna Neikrug: I think it’s the delicate balance between something being complex and letting yourself go. The technical brain has to know so much about musical theory, but then you’ve got your natural voice (or instrument) to use as a vessel to convey it. Jazz to me is a platform for creativity. It’s about innovative thinking and improvisation, but it’s also about singing the most beautiful melodies and timeless lyrics.

AXS: How would you describe the sound of your new album, Changes?

AN: It’s definitely a groove-based album with reimagined style. It’s the fusion of singer/songwriter, pop and jazz moving in a modern, progressive direction.

AXS: How did you determine which songs from other artists to cover and include?

AN: It started by simply brainstorming. My influences are broad, and there are so many singers and instrumentalists I admire. But the thing that actually gave the most insight into what this album would become were the originals. Those songs were already there, so it was just a matter of finding and adapting the standards and other classics to make it a little more cohesive. The arranging part was the solidifier for the entire record. Finding things I love had an impact, but using the arrangement is what glued everything together.

AXS: Let’s discuss a few tracks from Changes. What can you tell me about your version of “Let’s Stay Together”?

AN: That was a Laurence pick. I remember we were working at his place and then decided to take a look at Rolling Stone Magazine’s 100 Greatest Hits of All Time. We took a stab at coming up with some harmonic ideas for some of the songs. Then he saw “Let’s Stay Together” and a lightbulb went off inside his head. It was magic. It’s a song that’s very close to my heart. From that point on, it was an exploration of the vibe.

You can read the rest of my
Interview with Arianna Neikrug by Clicking Here!


Interview: The Soul Rebels’ Lumar LeBlanc and Julian Gosin discuss music, songwriting and inspiration

Photo by Zack Smith

With a sound best described as hip-hop-funk ‘til you drop jazz, New Orleans-based ensemble, The Soul Rebels, have been mesmerizing audiences for more than twenty-seven years with their uncanny ability to infuse the sounds of traditional brass with elements of hip-hop, jazz, funk and rock. The eight-piece group, which began with the idea of blending traditional brass with the music of their own generation, has spent much of the last few years touring four continents and collaborating with or supporting such artists as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Bruno Mars and Lauryn Hill.

In addition to working on a new album, the group is also geared up for another run of dates, including back to back performances at Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World Festival and the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York on Saturday, July 21.

AXS recently caught up with The Soul Rebels’ founding member, Lumar LeBlanc and trumpeter, Julian Gosin, to ask them about the group, songwriting and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How did The Soul Rebels come about?

Lumar LeBlanc: The Soul Rebels started back in 1991. We were originally part of the family from Dejan’s Olympia Brass Band; a traditional, historic, brass band from New Orleans who wanted to have junior members carry on their tradition. We were playing the music that was prescribed to us, but we also had this other urge to play music that was connected to our generation: the funk music from Earth Wind & Fire and James Brown and from the emergence of rap and hip-hop. We’re revolutionizing the sound of brass band music in a positive way.

AXS: Julian, how did you become involved in the project?

Julian Gosin: Prior to joining, I had always been coming around the band for years. I got acquainted with the guys and was always a fan. I had even played a few gigs with them. So, when a position became available, it was just an easy, natural fit.

AXS: How would you describe the sound of The Soul Rebels’ music?

JG: It’s very organic and rich with soul. There’s a lot of freedom in the music and there are no barriers.

Read the rest of my
Interview with The Soul Rebels by Clicking Here!

DevilDriver’s Neal Tiemann Discusses The Band’s Country-Gone-Metal Album, ‘Outlaws ‘Til The End: Vol. 1’

Although they’ve always proudly charged against the musical grain, DevilDriver have never made a record quite like Outlaws Til The End: Vol. 1. It’s the perfect combination of country grit and neck-wrecking metal, a game-changer delivered by true heavy metal outlaws.

The band rebuilt classic country songs from the ground up, and injected them with DevilDriver’s signature sonic assault, and vocalist Dez Fafara’s unmistakable roar. The album also features guest appearances by John Carter Cash, Ana Cristina Cash, Hank III and Mark Morton of Lamb of God.

With songs like “(Ghost) Riders in The Sky,” “Whiskey River,” “If Drinking Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will)” and “Country Heroes,” Outlaws ‘Til The End might be one of most invigorating records DevilDriver has ever made.

Guitar World recently spoke with Neal Tiemann, the band’s guitarist, about the new album and more in this new interview.

What made the band decide to do a country-themed album?

It actually started with Dez. Like any band, we’ll all be sitting in the back-lounge listening to music as we’re getting ready for a show. So, there was always the fair share of Pantera and In Flames, but he’d also be listening to Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Hank Williams Sr. The rest of us never batted an eye. For me, growing up in Texas, I heard them a lot. One day, Dez suggested we do a country covers record. We all laughed at first but then took a step back, and it slowly came to fruition. But it really all started with that back-lounge hang.

How have fans reacted to the new album?

Surprisingly well. We weren’t sure how people would take to singing on a DevilDriver record but everyone we’ve talked to on this run has been taking it in and loving it.

What was the criteria used in determining which songs to do?

We tried to pick songs that had some kind of meaning to us. Dez was adamant about doing the Willie Nelson song, “Whiskey River,” and whenever I hear Dwight Yoakam, it reminds me of fond memories with my dad. So, “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” had special meaning. We listened to a lot of back catalog but also dug deeper to find songs that had a good melody or could transfer to metal. Then we took it from there.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Neal Tiemann by Clicking Here!

‘Custody Road’: Actor Josh Daugherty Discusses New Film, Career

With over twenty years experience as an actor and more than seventy national commercials to his credit, it’s safe to say you’ve probably seen some of Josh Daughtery’s work. His impressive resume includes notable commercial work for Budweiser and Kellogg’s as well also appearances in films like “We Were Soldiers” and “John Carter”, and in television shows like “Supernatural”.

But perhaps no role has given the multi-talented Daugherty the flexibility and creative freedom to dive deep into his craft than in his new film, “Custody Road”.

In “Custody Road”, Daugherty plays the role of Logan, a struggling stand-up comedian who goes to extreme measures to prevent his ex-wife her from winning sole custody of their young son.

Written and directed by John Lacy, the world of “Custody Road” is described as “Desert Gothic Noir”. A hauntingly desperate, violent and at times, tender landscape that audiences are sure to embrace. The film, which also showcases Daugherty’s vocal ability as a singer, in addition to his acting prowess, also stars Erin Fleming, Frank Crim and Andrea Muller.

I recently spoke with Josh Daugherty about “Custody Road,” his career and much more in this exclusive new interview.

How did your involvement in “Custody Road” come about?

The director, John Lacy, and I have been circling each other for the last ten years. He’s an incredibly talented actor with an amazing body of work. We both knew of each other and had shared words, but never really had an opportunity to get to know each other. We eventually became friends during an acting class where he told me about this idea he had brewing. In addition to being an amazingly talented actor, he’s also a phenomenal writer. He showed me some of the pages he’d written and I loved it. I told him I didn’t know where he was going but I wanted to be a part of it.

What was it about the project that appealed to you?

John really had his thumb on this character, Logan, who’s this incredibly flawed guy. A guy who’s a bit of an idealist in a lot of ways. Logan is a stand-up comedian and philosophizer who parses out the bullshit of everyday life. Sometimes, that’s done with philosophy and other times it’s through comedy or music.

How would you describe the story of “Custody Road”?

It’s a tough tale because it’s about male-female relationships and how, in some ways, it seems like they’re doomed from the get go. Men don’t under women; women don’t understand men; and egos, DNA and conditioning can all get in the way. It’s an unromantic look at the male/female condition and asks the question, “Are we really supposed to work out?”

What was the filming process like?

I love shooting independent films because you really get to immerse yourself in the process. It wasn’t a large crew, and we sometimes had to work in extreme conditions, but you really got to see the best in people. It was instant family.

Click here to watch the trailer for “Custody Road”.

What was it like working with John?

It was great. As a team leader, John set a wonderful tone for keeping things light and focused and fun. He’s one of those guys I think of as a close friend. My dad told me years ago that business was relationships, and that is never more true than in creative endeavors. John was very open for me to shape this character. I remember when we started talking about music, he even suggested I play a few songs. He had a great beginning for the project, and for me it was like, “O, Captain! My Captain! Take the lead. I’m in!” [laughs].

You mentioned playing a few songs in “Custody Road”. Was singing always a part of your life?

Oh, yeah. I come from a musical house, so music has always been a huge part of my creativity. I grew up doing musical theater and was even a vocal jazz major in college. The fact that John welcomed that and embraced it for my character and film was a lot of fun.

Was a career in entertainment something you always envisioned for yourself?

From the age of five, I knew this was what I was going to do. I can still remember my first time setting foot on stage doing musicals with my dad. I didn’t notice it at the time, but looking back now I can envision that moment clearly. I walked onstage, turned around and saw an empty house. At that moment, it was almost as if God had tapped me on the shoulder and said, “This is what you’re going to do.”

I have to ask you about your work on the show, “Supernatural”. What was that experience like?

That was really the first dark, evil character I played and it was a terrific experience. It was such a tight cast and crew. They’re a wonderful family, and Jensen [Ackles] and Jared [Padalecki] were such great guys.

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

One project I’ve been working on for the past few years is called “Nobody”. It’s a project I created with my partner, Felicia Willson, who’s an Emmy-winning writer. It’s an intense project about sexual trauma. And now with the #MeToo movement, it’s even more current and relevant. People are finally able to talk about their experiences and find healing. The project’s gotten incredible feedback and we’re looking to put together the right team and make it come to fruition.

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

With regard to the film, I’m looking forward to seeing all those days of long hours finally pay off. John is a master storyteller and I’m excited to see how he’s put it all together.

Custody Road” is available on iTunes and VOD July 24.

Interview: Candice Night discusses new Blackmore’s Night Summer Tour

Photo credit: Michael Keel

Hailed for their skills by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, guitar legend Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple, Rainbow) and singer/multi-instrumentalist, Candice Night, Blackmore’s Night has released ten studio albums over their twenty-year career. The band continues to captivate audiences in venues and castles alike. Their live show is a passport to a time gone by; a  world where eclectic troubadour folk and Renaissance rock meets visual melody and deep emotion. Inspired by legend, nature and love, Blackmore’s Night is more than just music by a guitar legend and his beautiful wife. These are meaningful songs that paint storytime pictures in your mind.

Blackmore’s Night is about to kick off a string of East Coast tour dates, and AXS recently caught up with Candice Night to discuss the new tour, music and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: What can fans expect from this new Blackmore’s Night tour?

Candice Night: Expect it to be predictably unpredictable. We never play the same setlist twice. So, if people have seen a show before, the songs they hear will be different almost every night. We even ask for requests from the audience. It’s like an intimate gathering at our home and an escape from the pressures of the modern-day world through music.

AXS: It’s been more than twenty years since you and Ritchie formed Blackmore’s Night. What inspired the project? 

CN: We started writing songs in this style back in 1995 when Ritchie reformed Rainbow and the rest of the guys were in the studio doing their backing tracks. It was our escape from what the rock world had become and all the pressures that the corporations in the music industry had created. We wrote songs strictly for ourselves as an escape from what the world of music had become. It wasn’t long before record companies started asking to hear our new songs and wanted to put them out.

AXS: Most know Ritchie for being the “hard rock guy” from bands like Deep Purple and Rainbow, but Blackmore’s Night is a big departure from that. How would you describe your sound?

CN: I think what’s kept Ritchie in this band for more than twenty years is the fact that he has the creative freedom to play whatever he wants to, whenever he wants. He isn’t in a box that fits neatly into a genre. We play rock, renaissance, folk, tavern gypsy music, instrumentals, ballads. It’s a great variety of music. He likes to call us Renaissance rock. There’s truly something for everyone within the songs.

AXS: In your opinion, what makes Renaissance music so timeless and special?

CN: I don’t think it’s just the music. Renaissance faires go on all year round. There’s something magical about looking through the veil to a simpler time. To castles on the hills and bonfires lighting the countryside. To star-filled skies with no ambient lighting. To escaping modern day technology. The best thing about being in this time period is to be able to look back at eras gone by and figure out what you appreciate and relate to and incorporate those things into your life now.

AXS: Last summer, you released the compilation album, “To The Moon And Back: 20 Years And Beyond”. How did you determine which songs to include?

CN: It was hard for us to be able to narrow down songs, so we took to our greatest resource: our fans. We asked then via social media what songs meant the most to them, and they all had amazing stories about songs that helped them through hard times or songs that were with them celebrating their happiest times. We also revisited some songs that we’d already released and added new songs and instrumentals. We even included some backstage, never-before-seen antics on the DVD footage that was included.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Candice Night by Clicking Here!

Interview: Lou Gramm discusses Foreigner reunion at Sturgis to celebrate 40th anniversary of ‘Double Vision’

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Foreigner’s multi-platinum album, Double Vision, the band behind such iconic songs as “I Wanna Know What Love Is,” “Cold As Ice” and “Juke Box Hero” has announced the first ever ticketed event that will reunite all original members of Foreigner at this year’s Sturgis Buffalo Chip Rally in Sturgis, SD on Saturday, Aug. 4.

For one night, Lou Gramm, Dennis Elliott, Al Greenwood, Ian McDonald and Rick Wills will join Mick Jones and the current line-up of Foreigner to rock through some of the songs from Double Vision as well as other material from the band’s arsenal of hits that spans more than four decades.

Double Vision (released in 1978) is the band’s sophomore album and features such classic rock staples as “Hot Blooded” and “Blue Morning, Blue Day,” as well as the equally as infectious title track. Fans of this legendary band will not want to miss this once in a lifetime event.

AXS recently spoke with Lou Gramm about the Foreigner reunion, the Double Vision album, career highlights and more in this exclusive interview.

AXS: What prompted this all-original member reunion concert?

Lou Gramm: For a number of years, whenever the current band came to town, a few of us would sit in and play a song or two. But as the idea of putting the original band back together started to gain momentum, we wanted to tie it into something special, and you couldn’t ask for a better tie-in than the 40th anniversary of the Double Vision album.

Because it honors the album, the original band will play songs from that album as well as a few other ones. Then the current Foreigner will play a cross-section of hits and, toward the end of the show, everyone will take the stage and play. There’s even a short, acoustic segment.

AXS: What goes through your mind when you think about this reunion?

LG: When I think about doing those songs and realizing it’ll be the guys on stage with me, it makes me think back to those old times and how wild and fun it was to perform in front of thousands of people and know they just loved the music.

AXS: Let’s talk a little about the Double Vision album. Where does that rank in terms of your favorite Foreigner albums?

LG: For me, Double Vision ranks #2.  is my favorite album with Double Vision right behind it.

YouTube video courtesy: trinchera 86

AXS: Foreigner’s debut album was so monumental. When you think back to those sessions working on Double Vision, was there any sense of pressure from the record label about having to deliver the goods again? 

LG: They didn’t put as much pressure on us as we put on ourselves. Because we didn’t just want to deliver, we wanted to do better than we did the first time, and that first album set the bar pretty high. We recorded with Keith Olsen, and he had just come from doing Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors. He was great helping us produce and making the songs sound the way they should sonically. We had good ideas. It just took a little time to craft them into the songs they became. It was fun and exciting all the way through.

AXS: Let’s discuss a few tracks from the album. What do you remember most about “Hot Blooded”?

LG: We used to work at Mick’s apartment and he would just keep playing one guitar riff after another. Just playing whatever came into his mind. When he started playing that riff, I remember saying, “Wait! Stop! What’s that?” Mick said it was just another riff. So, I started singing along to it. We eventually got the idea of what the chorus would be and then started working on the verse lyrics. Once they were put together it naturally led to the “Hot Blooded” verbal line. I remember we were jumping off the walls when we cracked the title of the song.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Lou Gramm by Clicking Here!

Interview: Brooke Josephson discusses her upcoming Los Angeles show, songwriting

Since the release of her new album, Sexy N’ Domesticated’, singer/songwriter Brooke Josephson has been on a whirlwind roll. The five-song EP, which has already received acclaim from both press and industry, celebrates female-empowerment and showcases Josephson’s knack for combing introspective storytelling with catchy melodies and a groove-ridden backbeat. Songs like “Mr. Fix It,” “Crazy Called Normal” and “Horrified” are all autobiographical in nature, but also contain a deep level of musical maturity.

The beautiful songstress will soon take her infectious, multi-genre blend of music to the Silverlake Lounge in Los Angeles, CA for a performance on Friday, July 20. In addition to songs from Sexy N’ Domesticated, fans can also expect to hear tracks from her debut EP, Live And Let Live, which was released five years ago this summer.

AXS recently spoke with Brooke Josephson about her upcoming performance at The Silver Lake Lounge, Sexy N’ Domesticated and more in this new interview.

AXS: How has the reaction been to the new EP, Sexy N’ Domesticated?

Brooke Josephson: It’s been great. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from press and from bloggers. A few of them will be coming out to the show. We had such a great turnout the night of the EP’s release. I remember when the curtains opened, there was a sea of people who were wearing Mr. Fix It hats and Sexy N’ Domesticated bandanas. It was a lot of fun.

AXS: To those who might not be familiar, how would you describe your sound?

BJ: It’s definitely a melting pot of all the genres I’ve been influenced by. My biggest influence being Beck’s Odelayalbum. For this new album, I sampled sounds and gave myself the freedom of not having to choose one specific genre.

AXS: What can fans expect from your upcoming performance at The Silverlake Lounge?

BJ: I’ll be doing a mix of songs from the new EP as well as songs from my first EP, Live And Let Live, along with a few covers. I’ve been doing a version of Bonnie Raitt’s “Love Me Like A Man” and an encore performance of “Zombie” by The Cranberries. The band I have is awesome and it’s a lot of fun performing with them.

AXS: Can you tell me the origin of the track, “Horrified” from the new EP?

BJ: It was inspired when I was doing an auction at my daughter’s preschool, which was something I had never done before. Sometimes when you collaborate with other people creatively feathers can get ruffled, and there was a mother who was pretty fired up about something as simple as the color of tablecloth and napkins I had chosen. She took it upon herself to write a pretty nasty email to the parents and administrators of the school about me and how horrified she was by my decisions. I wasn’t prepared to encounter something like that at this stage of my life, so I took a step back and then took the time to write a song about it.

AXS: Do you usually draw inspiration for your songs from life events?

BJ: Carole King once said that the songs from her Tapestry album were snapshots of moments in her life that she wrote about. I embraced that philosophy for writing. The songs are inspired by things that have actually happened, but I also take some liberties to create characters and use third-person. Some of it is me and some of it is fiction or blended with people I’ve met along the way.

AXS: This year marks the fifth anniversary of your EP, Live and Let Live. How much have you learned and grown as an artist since then?

BJ: When I listen to the first EP and then Sexy N’ Domesticated  I’m usually like, “Wow! Is this the same person?” [laughs]. That’s how much I’ve grown. Not only in the writing but in the producing as well. I did all the demo production on the songs for this EP. Everything from laying down the parts and guitars to learning about plug-ins. Lyrically, I gave myself the freedom to blend genres and be more literal instead of just having a sound that was metaphoric or poetry-driven.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Brooke Josephson by Clicking Here!