10 Questions with Steve Herrera

10 Questions with Steve Herrera

The 10 Questions Series is back in 2016 and we’re very excited about this one! Steve Herrera, a veteran musician with several thousand miles of touring under his belt has been gracing Charm City with his tunes for the past 10 years and shows no sign of slowing down. Check out what he has to say…

10 Questions with Kelly Bell

Kelly Bell

Unless you’re new to the Maryland scene or have been living under a rock then you should know the name Kelly Bell. Imagine Muddy Waters wearing a Bob Marley T-shirt riding on Black Sabbath’s tour bus on their way to a Parliament Funkadelic concert, listening to Sammy Davis Junior on an 8-track tape humming a Run DMC song - that would be close to what he does (according to their bio). Check out the latest installment of our 10 Questions Series with the man himself!

1. Tell us about your musical background, how you got into songwriting, and any current projects you have now.

Many moons ago, I was in a band called Border Patrol (a heavy metal cover band, fresh out of high school). After that, I was a rapper in a band called Caprice, and then I had a hiatus from performing, before joining the Fat Tuesday band, where I was strictly a background singer and percussionist. 20 years ago, an opportunity presented itself to Fat Tuesday through one of my bouncer jobs at the 8x10 in Baltimore City to back up Bo Diddley. The members of Fat Tuesday declined the opportunity, but Automatic Slim said that I should put a band together myself. Thus the Kelly Bell Band was born.

The first song I ever wrote for the band was called “Say Hey’, which only appears on our first cassette tape (haha dating myself on that one!). My song writing style is a hodgepodge of life experiences, both mine and others. Sometimes I sit down to purposefully write about an experience, and sometimes it happens while I’m in the bathroom!

Our current project is mixing and mastering the Kelly Bell Big Band for our 11th release, which is a live recording from Quiet Waters Park this past summer. It includes a 22 piece big band playing Kelly Bell Band favorites from the past 20 years.

2. What influences you as a songwriter?

My most powerful influence as a songwriter has been my complete and utter failure at relationships. I write great songs, but I’m sure as any one of my ex’s would tell you that dating me is like being Goldilocks breaking into the 3 bears house. Life is first too hard, then too soft, and rarely as the last choice, just right.

3. What do you think about the current state of the music industry? Do you think it’s more difficult to build a career in music today than say 20 years ago?

Yes and no. Long gone are the days of big expense accounts for record execs developing new bands, molding them and shaping them into money making machines. Long gone are the efforts to make a complete album that flows from beginning to end, taking you on a ride and challenging your emotions. Music listeners are more eclectic these days and that presents a challenge to record companies who attempt to force feed us what our ears are supposed to enjoy. Our song “Popstar” is about just that.

4. Who are some of your favorite songwriters right now?

Corey Taylor from Slipknot, Willie Dixon (bass player of the Muddy Waters Band), and the guy that wrote the Spongebob theme.

5. If you haven’t already, are you open to working with another songwriter or a team of songwriters?

The Kelly Bell Band is a team of songwriters. Although it’s called the “Kelly Bell Band”, every song is very much a collaborative effort of everyone in the group.

6. How important is outside opinions of your working songs?

I recognize as an entertainer, my job is to provide a relief from people’s everyday struggles and hardships. I’ve been lucky enough to make the music I care about, with people I care about, and have other people just happen to care about it too.

7. If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Bobby Blue Bland because when I saw him as a child, he completely captivated me. At the end of his first performance, every woman in the building was fanning themselves frantically, from 18-80. At the time I didn’t understand what flustered meant. My father explained to me one day it would all makes sense to me. I can’t say that I understand women, but I definitely can tell you something about the Blues.

8. What’s the most unique location you’ve ever written a song?

The USS John C. Stennis. We have been honored to have provided entertainment for all branches of the US Military for the bulk of our career. The KBB was flown on board the Stennis by Navy Entertainment to entertain the troops for the last leg of their deployment, for the “Tiger Cruise”, where family members are also allowed to board the ship. We had started writing “Don’t Go”, and a service member heard the writing process- and insisted we play the song that night. So we finished the song, and performed it at our first show.

9. You guys have played tons of shows, what is one of the most memorable moments you’ve had playing live?

After we opened for James Brown, and the 9:30 Club treated my Mom like royalty, they put her in the front row of the balcony, front and center. When I went to check on her to see if she needed anything, and asked her how she felt, she said “I’m watching James Brown, the man I have admired in music for as long as I can remember. And my baby child brought this opportunity to me by opening the show. This club is treating me like a Queen. How do you think I feel?”

10. What’s your favorite song of 2015 so far?

This is not a slight to all the songwriters who work so hard to put out music today, but when I listen to an Otis Redding album, I just don’t hear anything today that stands up.

Wow! What a colorful background in this crazy business. Thanks again to Kelly and we wish you and the group continued succes.

10 Questions with Marc Cashin

We are really stoked for this next interview! Marc from FIVES was gracious enough to sit down with us and talk about his current project that yours truly is working on. There are some great industry insights in these answers so make sure you read them all, and check these guys out!

1. Tell us about your musical background, how you got into songwriting, and any current projects you have now.

I started playing guitar at 7 years old.  My grandma gave me a starter electric guitar and I can remember sitting in front of the TV playing along to Raffi songs.  I’m not sure if anybody actually remembers Raffi, but he was a really popular children’s singer when I was growing up.  Who could forget such hits as Baby Beluga and Apples and Bananas? I started my first band while in college, which is actually where I met my friend Matt White who helped start our current band, FIVES. From there I went to Nashville for a few years where I studied music business. I was fortunate enough to work with a great production team and really learn what happens behind the artist. As for songwriting, I think I wrote my first song in the early 2000’s.  I honestly don’t remember what it was, but it was probably about a high school girlfriend.  It couldn’t have been very good since she wasn’t my girlfriend for very long, but I’ve been writing ever since. Currently I’m in a band called FIVES out of Rockville, MD.  We’re working on a new EP with Steve and Nate from SongBuilder Studios and it’s going really well so far.  

2. What inspires you as a songwriter?

I’m always looking for a good story.  I don’t know if I have a “muse” or one thing I can always count on though. I try to draw inspiration from my own experiences but I like writing in a way that isn’t too specific. I enjoy writing the foundation of a story and leaving just enough space for the listener to be able to insert themselves into the song. I think that’s how people connect with music and get inspired by the music. I really believe that if a person feels like you’re saying what they couldn’t say, or maybe just saying it a little bit better than they could, then you’ve done your job as a songwriter. I just think you have to be ready to accept whatever inspiration appears.  It could be my wife or daughter, and it has been many times, but it might also be car accident or a broken window or whatever. I always have a pen ready to wright that stuff down.      

3. What do you think about the current state of the music industry? Do you think it’s more difficult to build a career in music today than say 20 years ago?

I think the music industry is in a little bit of turbulence right now. It’s trying to figure out how to deal with a diminishing profit model caused by .99 cent downloads and online streaming. Nobody is buying full albums anymore. We buy our favorite song from the record and ignore the rest. It hurts the business side of things but it really screws with the up-and-coming artist who might not have the reach needed to make any sort of real money off of their single on iTunes. I think there are two ways to answer the “is it more difficult now” question. In some ways, yeah, it’s much harder now.  There is so much noise out there that a great band or a great song can get smothered by some skateboarding dog on YouTube.  Every songwriter has either a studio in their house or the ability to record a good quality demo and post it on the internet.  On the other hand, bands that broke in the 90’s and earlier had to travel around the country in a small van, playing three shows a night, making little money, and hoping that some A&R rep. would hear about them.  Don’t get me wrong, touring to promote your music is absolutely essential. I’m just saying that there are other avenues now that allow musicians to reach millions of people without ever leaving their basement. If it were up to me, I’d be in a smelly van.

4. Who are some of your favorite songwriters right now?

My favorite songwriter is Dave Matthews but I love the Beach Boys and think Brian Wilson is a genius. I also really like Chris Thile from Nickel Creek and now Punch Brothers. I’d throw in some John Mayer stuff too: Billy Joel, Sting, early Chris Martin.  I love that they actually write songs with meanings and messages.  I love songs you have to think about.  Ones that don’t spell it out for you in black and white.  I think there are some people who do that now, but I don’t think they’re the norm anymore.  I like Ed Sheeran a lot. Marcus Mumford is another one. I think he’s brilliant.

5. If you haven’t already, are you open to working with another songwriter or a team of songwriters?

The first time I ever worked as a songwriting “team” was on this current FIVES record. For the most part I would start writing a song by myself, acoustic guitar and scratch lyrics, then bring it to the guys in the band for their input. With this current record, we’re working a lot with Nate and Steve on formulating the music and trying to build a song around a melody which was something totally new for me. I already had a lot of lyrics written for these songs, some we wrote in the studio, but it was a new experience for me having so many people focusing on lyrics. We’re definitely going to do some more co-writing in the future though.  I think these new songs are stronger because of it.

6. How important is outside opinions of your working songs?

I have a core group of 3 or 4 people who I ask to give me feedback on a song before it is finished, in addition to the guys in the band of course.  I think it’s good to have people outside of the band review your work since they are not emotionally attached to it.  With that said, I think a songwriter or a band should first trust themselves and their instincts over anyone else’s opinion. Outside opinions are great, but I use their feedback in correlation with how the band feels. If the band loves it, for me at least, that’s the most important thing. Otherwise I think it becomes very easy to fall into the trap of trying to please everybody and ultimately pleasing nobody.  

7. Do you think it would be beneficial to have an unbiased team of songwriters in the studio with you while you record music?

I don’t know if I would work well with a bunch of people in the studio making sure I checked all of the boxes on the hit song check list. I could see it more if I were a solo artist or making a solo record.  Then I think having a few extra sets of ears would be beneficial.  I’m in this band with a great group of guys who are all extremely talented. If something stinks, they’ll tell me about it because their names will be on it too. If you have a good band and good producers, then I think you’re all set.  I trust the guys I’m working with.  Otherwise why make music together?

8. What’s the most unique location you’ve ever written a song?

I write in the shower a lot.  I take really long showers.  I could be done in 2 minutes but there’s something about a hot shower that is really relaxing.  I guess that’s not too weird.  I should have said the zoo.

9. Who would win a drum off – Carter Beauford or Jamaal Turner?

Our drummer Jamaal is a very humble guy, so I know he would say that Carter would win.  I don’t think there are too many musicians out there like Carter.  What he can do on the drums is amazing.  Jamaal has a lot of those same qualities though which is really fun for me.  Sometimes when we’re playing he’ll do an amazing rhythm or syncopation and I’ll look back at him with this goofy smile on my face.  Half of the time I need to remind myself to keep playing because I’m too busy listening to all the cool stuff that Jamaal is doing. Jamaal for me is the mood ring on stage.  He tells me how I should be feeling.  If he’s having fun then I feel like I can relax and open up.  If he looks serious then I know we need to step up our game.

10. What would be a dream tour for FIVES to be on and why?

A dream tour… I know there are three venues that I’ve always wanted to play; The Gorge in Washington State, Red Rocks in Colorado, and Giant Stadium in New Jersey. I know that last one is a bit different, but I’m from Jersey originally and I saw my first concert there.  It was a co-headlining tour of Billy Joel and Elton John.  I think I was 10 or so.  The Gorge and Red Rocks I think are two of the most beautiful and iconic places to play music and it would be amazing to make loud noises there.


I think we’ve all imagined playing alongside of our musical heroes so any one of them would be a dream. Honestly, being able to go around the country playing our own songs is what it’s all about.  Putting on a great show remembering that when we play live we are literally someone’s Friday or Saturday night.  That’s a huge privilege and whether its in a 200 seat bar or a 10,000 seat amphitheater, just being on the road and on stage, that’s what this band lives for.

Good stuff Marc, thanks again! Make sure to check these guys out on Facebook and show ‘em some love.  

10 Questions with TMJ

This month we have a very special message for our 10 Questions Series as we were able to catch up with Sound Empire recording artist TMJ. If you don’t know him yet, you better get familiar. He just released his new single “Ugly”, featuring the very talented Cecilia Grace (if you don’t remember, they were also part of our 10 Questions Series). Not only are we happy to announce this single, but we are excited to join him in the fight against bullying. Read on to get the scoop…

1. Tell us about your musical background, how you got into songwriting, and any current projects you have now.

I got into music after my father put on a gospel rap album around 1992. I told him I could do that but I never even attempted to write a song at that point. I just thought the songs were wack, the beats were wack and if that impressed him, surely I could do better than what I had heard. After that I started writing songs about how I felt. Mainly just to prove to my father I could do it. Before I knew it, it became a hobby and later a big part of me. Ugly was one of the songs I created during my child hood writing days. So when I started working on this New Age album, given the state of bullying I decided to rewrite the song and put it on this up coming album that will be released in the fall.

2. What influences you as a songwriter?


Life experiences influence me, I like real life music! Love, pain, struggles, student loans (laughs), your car broke down, happiness, success! The pursuit of happiness! I hear a lot of songs where rappers  are talking about buying out the bar and expensive watches and chains and that’s cool but I mean how many of us ever woke up in a Bugatti? Might have woke up on a strangers porch from partying too hard though.

3. What do you think about the current state of the music industry? Do you think it’s more difficult to build a career in music today than say 20 years ago?

Well that’s a tough one because it’s both difficult and easier at the same time. It’s difficult because we live in a “on to the next thing era”. I still have a tape deck in my truck, one of those tape/CD player things that was high tech years ago! I put in Mary J’s real love tape and because I couldn’t skip forward so easily; I just let it play. I was able to enjoy the whole album as if it were back in the day again. People hardly buy whole albums anymore, let alone listen to the whole album. We buy ninety nine cent singles and some just rip your songs straight from the internet. That mixed with the fact record labels hardly invest in building artist for the long haul and you have the wild west in the industry! However it’s easier because it’s the wild west (laughs). If an artist can do the ground work to build core fans by utilizing social media, they can reach fans from all over the world, with out ever leaving their city! However I still think grass root fan building still works. Taylor Swift is the best at it. She’s never too big to crash a fans sleep over.

4. Who are some of your favorite artists right now?

I’m always old school. My favorite artists are Tupac, DMX, and Eminem because they weren’t that big on bragging to us about what we the fans helped them pay for. It’s a lot of raw emotion in their songs. I like that, however if I had to pick I would say J Cole at the moment.

5. If you haven’t already, are you open to working with another songwriter or a team of songwriters?

Oh I love working with writers, but not in a “ guy write my rap verses kinda way; you won’t call me out Meek Mills style (laughs). I like working with writers that can push me so as of late, I haven’t been working with other rappers. The album I’m about to release only have features from singers and one spoken word feature. I’m doing all of the heavy lifting on this album.

6. How important are outside opinions of your working songs?

It depends! My emotional songs like the song Liquid Windows from my mix tape, I don’t care who says what. I keep it raw, honest and truthful. If it’s a fun song, or a feel good song; I welcome opinions. Because those songs are for the public. I’m trying to capture what the public is feeling, but on my emotional songs, I’m trying to put you in the mood of how I was feeling when I wrote that particular song.

7. Do you think it would be beneficial to have an unbiased team of songwriters in the studio with you while you record music?

Always! Like I said I like to be pushed. You can’t get better when yes men telling you that you’re hot! I’d rather have people around who are going to tell the truth for the love of the music and for the sake of the song.

8. What’s the most unique location you’ve ever written a song?

I guess I can say, from my bed only because some will find it strange. I will randomly wake up all times of the night and write down lyrics I said in my dreams. Besides that…my favorite thing to do when I was younger was to jump on a bus and end up where I end up! Get out and write. I kinda miss those days. I was a smoker back then so I use to love to escape the city, which was at three hundred plus murders a year at that time in the nineties. I would go to some far away park and just write.

9. Congrats on the new single Ugly! What was the inspiration behind it?

My childhood was inspiration. I grew up like Everybody Hates Chris. My older brother was so handsome and slick the females would say, then there was me -  big nose, big ears, short, skinny, and nerdy! I got teased so much growing up because of my nose! One time they were handing out those disguise glasses at my friends birthday party and they say “all Ty needs is the glasses his nose already big”! That’s my favorite one. Funny now, hurt back then though. All the girls I had crushes on were laughing at me. Later I started to see everybody got joked though, one of the original lines I wrote as a child was ” You get joked for being fat, joked for being skinny, joked for big breast, joked for not having any!“ People will joke you for fifteen minutes and yet it will stay with you a lifetime! So I wrote this song to empower people. So words don’t hurt, because the only thing that matters is what you think and what you become. I want kids to know. "you young now, but things change when your older, and that’s how I got this chip on my shoulder!”.

10. What is the #NotUgly campaign? How can people get involved?

I have a theory that is we all are art and God’s the artist, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I want people to behold their beauty. Realize you are a piece of art and some will appreciate you and some won’t. The only opinion that matters is yours! So I’m asking people to share that art with me and the world by uploading a selfie to our Sound Empire Entertainment Facebook page, my TMJ Facebook artist page, or my Instagram and Twitter profiles @ Break_out_star_tmj.

Bullying is a big problem in our country that should not be taken lightly. It’s refreshing to know that there are artists like TMJ out there that are willing to take a strong position. Make sure you check out the video and help him spread this important message!

10 Questions with Joey Odoms

image

We are very excited about this next 10 Questions interview! Not only is this artist extremely talented and has served in our military, he is the OFFICIAL National Anthem singer for the Baltimore Ravens. Here is 10 Questions with Joey Odoms…

1. Tell us about your musical background, how you got into songwriting, and any current projects you have now.

My musical background began in theater. As a homeless teen I wandered into a community based theater in Baltimore called Arena Players. It was during my time there surrounded by so many talented people that I realized I could actually sing. I started writing music not long after my father lost his battle with cancer. The roller coaster of emotions from the joy of having this new artistic family; who knew little about my personal life versus watching my father die after rehearsal in a hospice, directly behind the theater ironically was tough. So I started writing. I recently wrote a self proclaimed anthem for the city of Baltimore produced by Stephen Antonelli and Nate Lanzino entitled  "Like A Raven". After the riots I felt so helpless. So many opinions from people who didn’t have a clue of what it meant to be from Baltimore. So I literally flew into Baltimore to start working on it. 

2. What influences you as a songwriter?

Listening to compositions from musical theater for so many years has an enormous influence on how I hear melodies, if or when to change tempo, choosing the best words based on their cadence and vowels. I could go on. 

3. What do you think about the current state of the music industry? Do you think it’s more difficult to build a career in music today than say 20 years ago?

That depends on what goals you have. If mainstream stardom through a record company is what you seek, I think it’s extremely hard to somehow be unique but at the same time be safe enough that people feel comfortable investing in you financially. As a minority songwriter trying to walk that path it gets even harder if you’re not willing to fit into the “Urban Box”. But if you’re ok with not being a super star, it’s much easier to go indie and build your own fan base. Make money doing what you love and share your gift with as many as willing to listen. I could ride that wave for a very long time. 

4. Who are some of your favorite songwriters right now?

Amos Lee, John Legend, John Mayer, Ed Sheeran, Darius Rucker, Eze Jackson… And I won’t even get into the greats who I’m sure inspired them. 

5. If you haven’t already, are you open to working with another songwriter or a team of songwriters?

I would love to have that experience. I often find myself wondering what my songs would become with the influence of other professionals. 

6. How important are outside opinions of your working songs?

Opinions are very important for me. I need feedback to know if I’m a productive member of the artistic community or not.

7. Do you think it would be beneficial to have an unbiased team of songwriters in the studio with you while you record music?

I think it’s the ideal situation. If everyone is on the same page as far as a vision for the project it can be a recipe for magic!

8. What’s the most unique location you’ve ever written a song?

Well I wrote an entire album while in a war zone. But if we’re talking specifics, the flight line of Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.

9. Tell us how your relationship with the Ravens started and what that means to you.

My relationship with the Ravens started a half a world away in Afghanistan after a chance meeting with Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. I simply asked him if he knew who I should contact to possibly get a chance to sing for a single game once my unit got home. That split second decision to ask him a simple question changed my life in so many wonderful ways. 

10. What’s next for Joey Odoms?

I plan to produce a long overdue album for the many loyal supporters I’ve gained over the years and my new fans due to my success with the Ravens. I’m really excited about it!

Thanks again Joey for the interview. If his story doesn’t inspire you, then we don’t know what will! Make sure you also check him out at https://www.facebook.com/Joeyodomsacoustic.

10 Questions with Jordan Lally

This month we are honored to interview Jordan Lally.  Jordan is a singer/songwriter, best known for his work with his own alternative rock band Fiction 20  Down, Jordan has written and produced over 50 songs on 5 studio albums. As frontman for Fiction 20 Down (also known as “F20D”), Jordan has toured  throughout the United States, including appearances at festivals like California Roots, Millennium Music and others.  This guy is the real deal!

1. Tell us about your musical background, how you got into songwriting, and any current projects you have now.

I started my career in music as an audio engineer, recording & mixing for other artists, initially at a commercial studio and then eventually at my own independent studio. I’d always loved music, but the studio experience exposed me to songwriting at all different levels across various genres, and really ignited my own passion for songwriting. Currently my primary outlet for songwriting is my band F20D - a hybrid of rock, hiphop & reggae which def keeps things interesting as a songwriter. I’m also currently working on a more intimate singer-songwriter EP to be released under my own name. I say intimate cause I’m using light percussion instead of live drums, acoustics/ukulele/cello instead of electric guitar, etc. I’m also currently producing a few projects with other artists that I co-write a bit on.

2. What influences you as a songwriter?

My primary influence as a songwriter is my own life experience, and that of those close to me. I can’t write about something that I haven’t experienced or witnessed in some fashion. I don’t lean too much on modern radio, except when it comes to maybe structure or tempo, things like that, but that’s really getting into more production rather than songwriting.

3. What do you think about the current state of the music industry? Do you think it’s more difficult to build a career in music today than say 20 years ago?

Unfortunately nowadays it’s less about the music, and more about image. That’s how I’d sum up the music industry. It’s not enough just to be a great band anymore. The waters are too muddied, everyone is releasing music, so you really need that image to be well thought out and fine-tuned in order to stand out.

I’d say it’s probably easier nowadays to built a modest career as an indie artist, kinda like starting a small business, but on the flip side it’s significantly more difficult to grow that small business into something more legitimate. It was easier to become a “rock star” back in the day, but now it’s at least easier to scrap together a living as a working musician.


4. Who are some of your favorite songwriters right now?

My favorite songwriters of all time are Damien Rice and Bradley Nowell. Currently I’m not tuned in too too much, but clearly whoever’s the songwriter in Imagine Dragons is doing something right! Bruno Mars and his team are some great songwriters as well!


5. If you haven’t already, are you open to working with another songwriter or a team of songwriters?

I have certainly worked with other songwriters within my own band. And as a producer, I get the opportunity to co-write with artists as well. I would be open to any & all collaborations with other songwriters in small numbers, especially in the producer/songwriter dynamic. But if I’m being honest, the thought of working with a “team” of songwriters sounds like a bad idea to me… when you try to please too many people, the art gets lost. 

6. How important is outside opinions of your working songs?

I believe that nothing matters more than your own opinion. I have to personally love something I’m going to put my name on, otherwise what’s the point? That said, objective perspective is invaluable. I have a stable of people who I shoot new songs to for feedback… some of the feedback I agree with, some of it I don’t… but listening to their opinions helps me crystalize my own. The key is to be able to balance other’s opinions with your own gut feeling. 

7. Do you think it would be beneficial to have an unbiased team of songwriters in the studio with you while you record music?

For a pop artist trying to appeal to everyone, sure. But for me, one or two co-writers, invested in the project as producers or performers, that would be perfect. Any more and I think you start to get into trouble. Too many opinions can quickly take any song to a point of diminishing return. Songwriting is about unique perspective. That unique perspective becomes watered down as you involve more people. Bring in a team of producers to oversee the production of an already completed song, now that makes sense to me. For a song to be relevant on radio it needs to be framed in whatever the current contemporary format is… multiple producers could help in that regard. But in my opinion, songwriting is best left to those intimately connected to the subject matter and the project itself.

8. What’s the most unique location you’ve ever written a song?

No where interesting really… shower, couch, tour van… basically anywhere there’s idle time enough for inspiration to creep in. A few weeks back I wrote an entire song while mowing the lawn:-) I’m pretty excited about that tune, it’s got alot of potential. I actually already started pre-production on it, and I’m headed into the studio with my bandmates in a couple weeks to record.

9. Fiction 20 Down won “Breakout Artist of the Year” and you were nominated as one of Maryland’s best songwriters at the Maryland Music Awards – congrats! What’s next for you and the band?

Thank you! We’re taking a step back from touring and focusing on the production of a few singles we’ve put together. We’re also in the midst of bringing in some new management, so we’ll be spending some time with that transition. Beyond that, we’ve got some cool things on the horizon!

10. Any advice for a songwriter who is starting to make a go at a career in the music industry?

Welcome outside opinions, but at the end of the day, trust yourself. Anyone can learn to play guitar, or program a hiphop beat, but what separates you from the pack is your own unique perspective shaped by your personal experiences. Use that, it’s your greatest tool.


Thanks to Jordan for the interview.  We’re wishing you much success with your music and career in this crazy business we all know and love!  Check out and listen To Jordan Here: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, ReverbNation

http://www.jordanlally.com/

10 Questions With Wesley Spangler

image

This month we have a treat for ya’ll!  Wesley Spangler is a singer/songwriter from Southern Maryland. This guy has opened for such acts as Rodney Atkins, Colt Ford, Sam Grow, Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Zac Brown, Jimmy Buffet, Tim McGraw and many others.  He’s  been featured on over 15 different radio and internet stations in 4 countries.  Check out what he has to say about music, songwriting and the music business in Maryland.

1. Tell us about your musical background, how you got into songwriting, and any current projects

I got into music through a friend in high school (Brian Feldmeier). He played drums when I met him and he said to me he was looking for a guitarist to form a band. I said “I play guitar!”  …then I tried my best to learn and borrowed Brian’s dad’s guitar and away things went! LOL!!

2. What influences you as a songwriter?

Life and my social activities influence my songwriting most. All the songs on my current CD are based on stories in my life. Good or bad, they are parts of me and my life I felt I needed to share.

3. What do you think about the current state of the music industry? Do you think it’s more difficult to build a career in music today than say 20 years ago?

It seems to me the current state of music is based a lot on the current needs on people for “instant gratification”. I feel big record companies, and most small ones want you to basically hand them a finished product to market instead of the idea I had of a record company working with artists from the start in all phases from recording to promoting. I don’t know this from personal experience, and hope I am wrong.

4. Who are some of your favorite songwriters right now?

Some of my favorites are Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, and hundreds of others and many different genres. There are tons of great writers out there!

5. If you haven’t already, are you open to working with another songwriter or a team of

I’ve written every song I have recorded on my own and would definitely welcome the idea of collaborating with others in the writing process. I have a ton stories in my head to tell through songs but the ideas of others can in some cases, take a good song to the next level and make it a

6. How important is outside opinions of your working songs?

Outside opinions are crucial to help develop songwriting skills! The more, the better. You can’t learn based on you own idea of what is good.

7. Do you think it would be beneficial to have an unbiased team of songwriters in the studio with you while you record music?

I can only imagine that an unbiased tem in the studio could help. I think the right suggestion while listening to a song could help, and what better time to change a song, then while in the

8. What’s the most unique location you’ve ever written a song?

The most unique location I have written at was a Walmart parking lot for the song Brand New Good Old Days. I was on my way to the studio to record a song and forgot my lyric sheet. I was not sure of the words and had an idea for another in my said, so I said: “What the heck, I’ll just write another.” It has ended up being my more requested originals to date too.

9. You’ve performed alongside some house hold names like Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, etc… What is your dream tour to be a part of?

My dream tour would be performing with…..well, there are tons of artists I’d love to perform with! I have had the honor of performing alongside with several greats, any of which I’d love to do a tour with, from Blake Shelton and Brad Paisley to Zac Brown and Colt Ford.

10. What do you think of the scene in Maryland for your style of music?

The Maryland scene for country music is doing well! It’s full of great musicians and better, great people! The fans are the best! They always go above and beyond when it comes to support. I can’t say enough that I appreciate them coming to shows. It’s a tough thing to make time for and isn’t always free. It means the world to me every time I see familiar faces at shows! It is the reason I give back as much I as can! Especially to our military! I can’t thank them enough for what they do and I do shout outs at EVERY show to let them know!


Thanks to Wesley for the interview.  We’re wishing you much success with your music and career in this crazy business we all know and love!  Check out and listen To Wesley Here: YouTube, FaceBook, Twitter

10 Questions with Jocelyn Faro

This young lady was our third place winner (out of over 1,400 entries!) for the SongBuilder Studios songwriting contest.  She‘s an Annapolis favorite and the real deal.  A meaningful songwriter and a voice that will have you singing Hallelujah!  See what she has to say below about writing songs, opening for Andy Grammer and her thoughts on the music industry.

1- Tell us about your musical background, how you got into songwriting, and any current projects you have now.

Even though I’ve always loved music, I didn’t start until high school when I first signed up for guitar classes. Even though I was seriously awful at it, I made a bet with my dad that I could write a song and perform it at the school talent show that was coming up. It was terrifying, but I loved being on stage so I continued with music after that. For the past few years, I’ve been playing solo throughout Maryland, but I just started my own band which has been a great experience.

2- What influences you as a songwriter?

For me, songwriting is all about telling the story, so a lot of my songs are influenced by my personal experiences or pieces from other people’s lives. Especially while working on my last album, I noticed that it was a lot easier for me to write songs about love or heartbreak. Those are the songs I have always connected best with, so I would say that’s absolutely influenced the type of artist and writer I’ve become.

3- What do you think about the current state of the music industry? Do you think it’s more difficult to build a career in music today than say 10 years ago?

The great part about the music industry, in my opinion, is that it’s never going to die off. There are always going to be new styles and artists because music is an important part of our culture. Having said that, I do think it’s more difficult to build a career in some ways. While we do have a lot more online media resources to get publicity, today’s industry is so saturated with artists that it takes a lot more to get noticed.

4- Who are some of your favorite songwriters right now?

John Mayer, Paolo Nutini, Hozier, Grace Potter

5- If you haven’t already, are you open to working with another songwriter or a team of songwriters?

I’m definitely open to working with other songwriters and musicians. I think that sometimes we can get stuck in the habit of writing the same types of songs, whether they all sound the same or are written about the same topic. And for some people that works. But when I take the time to sit down with other people it forces me out of my comfort zone and makes me analyze my work.

6- How important is outside opinions of your working songs?

I think that getting outside opinions when I’m starting a new song is really important. I always play new songs for my parents and my roommates at college − they’re basically my test audience. I like hearing the feedback to know if I should continue with an idea or go a new direction before I play it live.

7- Do you think it would be beneficial to have an unbiased team of songwriters in the studio with you while you record music?



For sure. I love playing music for my family and friends because it gives automatic feedback, but it’s not always as critical as I need. With an unbiased team of songwriters someone could assess my songs from a different point of view –lyrics, melodies, etc. If a song sucks, than it sucks. I’d rather someone tell me and help brainstorm before I take the time to record everything.

8- What’s the most unique location you’ve ever written a song?

A lot of my best writing happens in the shower and the car. I think that’s pretty common for most musicians, but I’m sure it seems weird or unique to other people.

9- Congrats on opening for Andy Grammer, what was that experience like?

It was great! First off, Andy Grammer and his band were really down to earth which made the experience a lot less stressful. Second, it was really incredible to perform on a stage in front of a crowd that had so much energy. One funny part of the night was when I climbed up on a set of closed bleachers in my dress and heels, and ended up getting stuck. I didn’t get to meet Andy when he came around to introduce himself but luckily he stuck around for a while after the show.

10- If you could collaborate with anyone right now, who it would it be?


It would absolutely, without a doubt be John Mayer. He writes the types of songs that I could listen to on repeat and never get sick of. I would love to experience the process he goes through when he’s putting together a new song.




Thanks to Jocelyn for the interview.  We’re wishing you much success with your music and career in this crazy business we all know and love!  
Listen To Jocelyn Here: YouTube:https://www.youtube.com/jfarolife FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/jfaromusic Twitter:

https://twitter.com/jfaromusic

  ReverbNation:

http://www.reverbnation.com/jocelynfaro

10 Questions with Shane Guerrette

1- Tell us about your musical background, how you got into songwriting, and any current projects you have now.

I come from a very musical family. My older brother has been playing drums for as long as I can remember and my older sister is a singer/songwriter who plays piano and guitar.  After learning guitar, I began experimenting with songwriting, and it just fell into place.

2- What influences you as a songwriter?

My influences vary, as I’m constantly influenced by whatever my current situation may be. It changes from day to day, and it’s hard to exactly pinpoint those influences as my songs are pretty much all written in a day where the only influence was what mood I was in during that time.

3- What do you think about the current state of the music industry? Do you think it’s more difficult to build a career in music today than say 10 years ago?

I think the current state of the music industry is very difficult. Even though social media exists now a days, it is still very hard to get discovered because many people are trying to do the same thing online.

4- Who are some of your favorite songwriters right now?

Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, Sam Smith, and John Mayer are some of my favorite songwriters.

5- If you haven’t already, are you open to working with another songwriter or a team of songwriters?

Yes, I would be open to working with another songwriter, as it could be more effective for a song. I have yet to try combine thoughts with another to create a song.

6- How important is outside opinions of your working songs?

I always appreciate constructive criticism, it helps me to reevaluate what others may prefer with my music.

7- Do you think it would be beneficial to have an unbiased team of songwriters in the studio with you while you record music?

I think I might prefer someone who is slightly biased and honest, to help make the song the best it could be.

8- What’s the most unique location you’ve ever written a song?

I’ve never completed a song in a unique location, but am always inspired to jot down lyrics at any given time.

9- Your YouTube channel has over 36,000 subscribers. What do you attribute your success on that platform to?

I try to pick covers that I enjoy, or that are currently popular.

10 - Where do you see yourself in two years?

In two years I hope to have a fan base big enough that allows me to tour.

Thanks to Shane for the interview.  We’re wishing you much success with your music and career in this crazy business we all know and love!  
Listen To Shane Here: YouTube: www.youtube.com/shaneguerrette FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/ShaneGuerretteMusic Twitter: www.twitter.com/shaneguerrette

10 Questions with Maria K

1- Tell us about your musical background, how you got into songwriting, andany current projects you have now.

Well, I’ve been singing since Iwas about 8 and got my first paid job singing a voiceover song forNick Jr. I can still sing the Dora The Explorer song:) I was scoutedat ll by a producer(Matt McGurk) who managed Asher Roth. He signed me as the first of three for a girl pop group. During this time, I also performed at Madison Square Garden 2X and recorded a demo with an all boy rock band and collaborated with producer Solomon Silber who is a world class guitarist. When the group did not work out, I was approached by the Stereotypes (producers of Justin Bieber, Far East Movement) and eventually signed with them and RCA to do an album. Unfortunately, only one song was released (Starbucks Smile), hoping someday the rest will come out! Currently, I have been pretty busy with working on a TV show project, but I have worked in the last year with some pretty amazing people.

2- What influences you as a songwriter?

Believe it or not, the struggle. Even when I was younger, it was easier for me to write about not being a normal kid or having a sad or empty moment. My favorite songs I wrote were “Breaking Free” on my reverbnation page and “Radiowaves” which was part of my album never released with RCA.

3- What do you think about the current state of the music industry? Do you think it’s more difficult to build a career in music today than say 20 years ago?

Do you want the truth? Disappointed in some ways. I got caught in the “middle” of these industry changes going on when I was about to release my album. I’m only 20 yrs. old so I really can’t compare to “back then” but my mom tells me back then things were more audio, you heard a great voice and you were intrigued by it, now your on overload (audio and visual)plus you have alot of amazing talent out there. You also have to financially invest in yourself . So what do you do? College, trade school, or recording artist?

4- Who are some of your favorite songwriters right now?

Chris Martin and Coldplay . When I listen to their music, I’m like damn, I wish I could of wrote that..lol I have even covered some of their songs.

5- If you haven’t already, are you open to working with another songwriter or a team of songwriters?

It would have to be an intimate party of 2. Writing to me is such a personal thing, you’re letting someone into your life and deepest thoughts. I think a large team of writers would make me lose that feeling.

6- How important are outside opinions of your working songs?

When I was younger and signed, I think maybe I was worried about if “they” would like it or think it was a good song or not. Now I feel I have more confidence in my work.

7- Do you think it would be beneficial to have an unbiased team of songwriters in the studio with you while you record music?

I guess if you want a commercial radio hit you may want some kind of support, but honestly, I think it could hinder or make you second guess yourself and your artistry.

8- What’s the most unique location you’ve ever written a song?

In my REM cycle.

9- Congrats on the No Guilt Girl show! How do you manage juggling that with music as well as all of your other interests?

Thank You:) Honestly, its not easy, but I always loved acting, singing, writing and the camera. They really all are an art. My manager calls it “branding” lol.

10-You’ve collaborated with a lot of well-known musicians in the industry. Tell us about an exceptional memory or a story from those experiences.

I have been in alot of top studios. When I was in Philly with the Pop Group, I remember working with Kwame who worked with Christina Aguilera, he was tough but gave me the endurance to record very late nites in the studio! Working out in LA with the Stereotypes and watching all the well known artists come in and out the door was crazy. I had fun working with Pop Wansel (wrote for NIck MInaj Pink Friday) it all seems like a lifetime ago. My fondest memory was working with Solomon Silber, one of the most talented dudes I ever met. World Class guitarist and man did we write some deep stuff in the basement of his home, not some fancy studio. He let me be myself and we had so much fun together! We worked together in New York City with a super talented drummer Scott Robinson, they always made me laugh, these were good times for the memory bank!

Thanks to Maria K for the interview.  Wishing you much success with your music and career in this crazy business we all know and love! 
Listen To Maria Here: http://www.reverbnation.com/MariaK  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Maria-kacandah   Twitter: https://twitter.com/MariaKacanda