10 Questions with Cecilia Grace

We’re honored that our “10 Questions” Interview this month is with singer/songwriters Cecilia and Tessa Sugerman, otherwise known as Cecilia Grace. Cecilia, a Baltimore American idol winner, and her sister Tessa write and perform live from here to Nashville.  With a busy YouTube page promoting originals as well as a wide array of covers these ladies are making a mark.  We sat down with Cecilia to discuss her take on songwriting.

image

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

I grew up in a very musical household, constantly listening to show tunes, classics, and my parents’ favorite music. When I was about 12 years old, I was inspired to start writing songs. With the melodies down, I realized I needed to learn guitar to accompany myself. So I started singing and playing my favorite songs and my own original songs along with my older brother, Benzi. Inspired by all the fun, our little sister, Tessa, picked up the guitar and the knack for songwriting, and we all played together. So we became sort of a family band, uploading singing videos to YouTube and creating a decent following for ourselves. Eventually, we were able to frequently play out at open mic nights around town and thoroughly enjoyed performing for people and the experience it brought us. Ever since, we have made a home on the stage and play at every opportunity we find. We’ve played all over the country— from Sacramento, to Nashville, to Fort Lauderdale, to Boston, and of course, to our home town of Baltimore. However, we have an international following, one of our biggest being in the Philippines, where we had an opportunity to play several shows this past summer. Our current project is working on some new songs to record with Stephen Antonelli. We’re also doing a lot of song writing!

 2. What influences you as a songwriter?My biggest influence is other music. When I hear songs that make me feel something, they inspire me to write so that others can feel that same way.

3. What do you think about the current state of the music industry?

I think there is a lot of really great music out there right now, and though many may disagree with me, I think a lot of that is in the pop genre. Today’s pop is being influenced by 70s disco and 80s pop, which makes for some really fun jams! However, I wish that more singers wrote their own songs— songwriting is what makes a person stand out!

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

I’m in love with the writing of Tori Kelly. Her stuff is so down-to-earth and real; she inspires me to be more genuine. I also think that Ed Sheeran and Adam Levine are fantastic song writers.

5. Have you ever worked with another songwriter or a team of songwriters? If so, how did it go?

The only other person I’ve ever written with is my sister, Tessa. She usually inputs more of the awesome instrumental part and I’m all about lyrics. It’s definitely different two write with someone else, but writing with her allows me to step out of my comfort zone a little bit.

6. If not, would you be open to it?

I would totally be open to writing with other songwriters! I like to see how people think—it’s humbling.

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

That is an interesting thought! Yes—that would be very helpful to me because people who don’t know me as well are more likely to help me think about what sounds best, rather than what I’m comfortable with.

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

To be honest….I have written some of my best songs in the shower. I just start singing whatever I’m thinking about, then I write it down when I get out! I also write a lot of songs when I’m just going about my business at work. But I work at a shoe store, so it’s still a pretty random place to write!

9. What’s it like working with a sibling? Do you think it’s easier or more difficult?

Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s difficult! The good thing is, we really get each other. The bad thing is, we really get each other! We can get along and click so much better than any two given people can, but we also really know how to get under each other’s skin—It’s a whole lot of fun.

10. What is the best concert you’ve ever been to?

There’s this amazing country band that my family loves called Eden’s Edge. They came to the Recher in Towson about 2 years ago, and it was a fantastic show with two great openers, Mike McFadden and Striking Matches. All did a great job of connecting with the audience and showcasing their original music! Unfortunately, the Recher is gone and Eden’s Edge has since broken up, but it was a show I’ll never forget and will always try to emulate.

Thanks to Cecelia for the interview.  Wishing you much success with your music and career in this crazy business we all know and love. 
Listen - www.reverbnation.com/ceciliagracemusic
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/ceciliagracemusic
Twitter: @ceciliagracemusic
#songbuilderstudios #ceciliagracemusic #10questions

10 Questions with Julie Cymek

This is a special “10 Questions” Interview, with songwriter Julie Cymek.  Julie is the lead singer and lyricists with the band Sweet Leda. Stephen Joseph Antonelli (owner/producer of SongBuilder Studios) is producing Sweet Leda’s new record “Let It In” so he’s had first hand experience working with Julie as a songwriter.  Here is an interview with Julie where she explains her approach to writing.


1. Tell us about your musical background, how you got into songwriting, and any current projects you have now.                       When I was a kid, I took piano lessons and sang in a cappella groups. I was always singing. In my senior year of high school, every single one of my electives was a different chorus class! I directed an a cappella group in college. I never thought I could direct until people started approaching me about it! Then a year or so after college, I met a boy who played in a band. I married him! We’ve been playing music together ever since! Our band is called Sweet Leda. And a current project?  We are releasing a new CD in early 2015 called “Let It In”. We’re soooo excited! We did it all live in the studio to tape. It sounds amazing!



2. What influences you as a songwriter? (Anything! Everything! I don’t even know.)
I’m sure many things influence me without me even realizing it. Whenever I feel inspired about a concept and I’m not at home, I type the general idea in my phone. Or I sing a chorus and record it, so I can revisit it later.


3. What do you think about the current state of the music industry? Do you think it’s easier for artists to build a career in this modern music industry?
Instead of forming an opinion about the state of the industry, I will just accept it for what it is and go with it! Because of social media, it’s a lot easier to spread the word about your music. Bands don’t have to necessarily tour anymore to get the word out. And today, bands can do more stuff themselves. They can be in charge of  everything! It’s great.


4. Who are some of your favorite songwriters right now?
John Mayer, Jordan Sokel of Pressing Strings, Joey Harkum of Pasadena, India Arie, Brandi Carlisle, Allen Stone


5. Have you ever worked another songwriter or a team of songwriters? If so, how did it go?
Sweet Leda writes most of our music together as a band but I write the lyrics and vocal lines. One of us brings an idea to practice, and then we just go with it. It’s wonderful, collaborative, frustrating, challenging. We all write our own parts. I do like to write some songs on my own. I think writing by yourself and writing together are two experiences that we should all have! Both have pros and cons.


6. If not, would you be open to it?
Sure!



7. Do you think it would be beneficial to have an unbiased team of songwriters in the studio with you while you record music?
Sure, if the chemistry is good. But too many cooks can be tough. Everyone has an opinion. And some opinions are weird. Ha. But yes! I think that’d be great to try at least once.



8. What’s the most unique location you’ve ever written a song?
The car. Happens pretty often!



9. If you could describe Sweet Leda’s sound as a cocktail name what would it be called?
Sweet ‘n Naughty



10. What’s your favorite music venue in Annapolis or Baltimore?
The Whiskey! RIP

Thanks to Julie for the interview.  We wish you much success with your music and career in this crazy business we all know and love. 
Listen - www.reverbnation.com/sweetleda
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/sweetleda
Twitter: @sweetledaband
#songbuilderstudios #sweetledaband #irkostudiobeat #10questions

From Soldier To Ravens National Anthem Singer: Baltimore Man Lands Dream Job

Check out our good friend @joeyodoms, Raven’s National Anthem singer, on WJZ 13! What a humble dude and a great story. #baltimore #ravens #songbuilders #joeyodoms 

Had another Skype session with @knoxhilldmv! It’s night time over there and we’re still working! If you need production, mix, or master and you live on another continent, no problem, let’s work together! #songbuilders #Europe #Skype #USA #Africa #Australia #Global #mix #master #production #ProTools #instagram #logic #knoxhilldmv

Had another Skype session with @knoxhilldmv! It’s night time over there and we’re still working! If you need production, mix, or master and you live on another continent, no problem, let’s work together!
#songbuilders #Europe #Skype #USA #Africa #Australia #Global #mix #master #production #ProTools #instagram #logic #knoxhilldmv

10 Questions with Jimi Haha

Here is our second “10 Questions” Interview, with songwriters from our region.  This time we have, Jimi Haha (Jimi Davies).  This guys needs no introduction but we’ll give him one anyway… Jimi has played, sang and written for Jimmy’s Chicken Shack for over 20 years!  Jimi is also a talented artist/painter, an avid promoter of the Maryland music scene and an all around radical dude. 
We sat down and asked Jimi 10 Questions about his music, influences and the industry in general.  Check out what he had to say:

image

1.  Tell us about your musical background, how you got into songwriting, and any current projects you have now.
My first acapella performance was in first grade at a talent show.  I started playing guitar and writing songs at 12. I got expelled from school when i was 15 and that day I started singing while playing guitar. I started a band called Ten Times Big in 1987. We played with bands like The Psychedelic Furs, The Smithereens, Violent Femmes and Flock of Seagulls. In 1993 I started Jimmie’s Chicken Shack. In 2003 I started Jarflys. In 2009 I put out a record with Burn the Fields. I am about to record a solo acoustic record. Jimmie’s Chicken Shack and Jarflys still play shows.


2.  What do you think about the current state of the music industry?
I don’t think much of it one way or the other. I think there is good music and not so good music. I think there’s a plus and minus to all of the things that have happened in the industry in the past 15 years.  Being an artist of any kind involves being adaptable if you want to survive. Some areas are more difficult and some have become easier. All in all the music industry is an industry. You can exist outside of that and just create music. You can exist within it and create music but you also have to treat it like a business. I like music. I don’t like the music industry. I think there is a different dynamic to building a career now than there was 20 years ago. Back then the internet was hardly viable. You made records, hit the street, played as many gigs as you could, hand stamped post cards that you hand addressed every month to tell people about your upcoming shows. Today, well we know how different things have become. It’s much easier to reach out to your audience immediately. There is also a lot more people reaching out. Back then you had to be able to play music and play it well. You recorded to tape. If you sucked, you did it over. Today it’s all digital and auto tune. You also can build a fan base without ever playing one show. My opinion is that’s kind of cool and that kind of sucks at the same time. 

3.  If you could talk to your 18 year old self, is there anything you would tell yourself about what it takes to make it in music?
I would tell myself to have fun. Oh wait, I have had fun. Nevermind, I wouldn’t tell myself anything. I would just let me be.

4.  Was there a specific moment in your career when you realized you had “arrived” or knew that your career was taking off?
No. I just always knew I was where I was supposed to be and that I would end up where I was supposed to end up. There is no defining moment. It has always been a collection of defining moments that hopefully have not fully defined themselves yet.

5.  Who are some of your favorite songwriters right now?
There are so many. Bob Schneider. Patty Griffin. Lake Street Dive. Pinback. Kermit de Frog.


6.  Have you ever worked with another songwriter or a team of songwriters? If so, how did it go?
Jimmie’s Chicken Shack’s “Re.present” had collaborations with Butch Walker, Art Alexakis, John Wozniak, Aaron Lewis and Mark Tremonti. It is fun to write with different people. I had a blast.


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 is beneficial to create in any way possible.


8.  What’s the most unique location you’ve ever written a song?
I guess on the toilet. Thankfully it wasn’t a shitty song


9.  If you could make a dream team band around you, who would it be? Living or dead.
Bob Marley, John Lennon, Elvis, Jesus, and Mark Twain. I think I would name us The Nobodies.


10.  What’s one of the craziest things you have seen or have happened to you on the road?
“On the advice of my counsel I respectfully exercise my fifth amendment right and decline to answer that question,”



Thanks
Jimi for the interview.  We wish you much success with your music and career in this crazy business we all know and love. 
Listen - ReverbNation - http://www.reverbnation.com/jimmieschickenshack, http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/jarflys
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/jimihaha
Twitter - https://twitter.com/jimihaha 
@jimihaha

10 Questions with Shelby Blondell

Here is the first of our “10 Questions” Interviews with songwriters from our region.  First up,  Shelby Blondell.  Shelby is a super talented singer, songwriter, and performer from MD. She’s had some amazing opportunities to play with Howie Day, Aaron Carter, Ginny Blackmore and others.
We sat down and asked Shelby 10 Questions about her music, her influences and the industry.  Check out what she had to say:

1.  Tell us about your musical background, how you got into songwriting, and any current projects you have now.
Growing up music has always been a big part of my family. My dad played in Baltimore bands, and my oldest sister played violin and sang.  My love for music started at age 5 when I got a violin.  A few years later I decided that I also wanted to learn how to play piano.  Before lessons I would teach myself guitar at the music store where lessons were held!  High School is when songwriting came into play for me.  Songwriting became a hobby unlike any other.  Through a song I could tell a story and show an experience.  Currently I have 4 new songs that are ready to be out for the world! Be on the lookout for my next EP!

2.  What influences you as a songwriter?
As a songwriter, personal experiences influence me.  Personally an influence for a song can come from a relationship, something happy or sad, confusing or completely random. 


3.  What do you think about the current state of the music industry?
The music industry today is a very interesting and crowded place.  I think it is amazing the amount of incredible talent that is out in the world.  The music industry is filled with so many outlets for every kind of artist. In the  industry today it is extremely hard to break out into as a full time career. 

4.  Who are some of your favorite songwriters right now?
I have to say that Sara Bareilles has to be one of my favorite songwriters.  She always has a message behind her songs.  Sara does a really nice job with the words she uses to portray her stories. 


5.  Have you ever worked another songwriter or a team of songwriters? If so, how did it go?

I have worked on some teams in the past.  Two guys, Scott Robinson & Joe Mach, and I have worked together on a few songs and it went great!  We sat down and tried to decide first what the song really was trying to say and then went from there. In the end we came up with two really amazing songs that I cannot wait to share!


6.  If not, would you be open to it?
Yep!

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 an unbiased team would be good in some instances.  There are some songs that are really close to an artists heart. In that case it is important to make sure you have a team who you know will keep your head where it needs to be. 


8.  What’s the most unique location you’ve ever written a song?
The most unique location I have ever written a song…. good question! A phone is a magical thing! There have been many times that I am out and a line word or melody comes to me! There have been a few times in a grocery story that parts of a song have been cultivated!


9.  You’ve shared the stage with some big acts, what is one of the most memorable moments you have playing live?

There have been two shows in particular that stood out.  The first concert I went to was Aaron Carter; getting to share the stage with him the night my first CD came out was pretty rememberable! Playing with Howie Day was also great. I remember during his soundcheck him walking off and coming over to introduce himself to me; that was pretty great!


10.  If you could build an all-star team around, who would you bring on board?
An all star team is a hard question! I wouldn’t change the group of guys that I have around now for the world! I think It would be incredible to get to work with Sara Bareilles, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry or someone like Justin Timberlake.


Thanks
Shelby for the interview.  We wish you much success with your music and career in this crazy business we all know and love. 
Listen - ReverbNation - http://www.reverbnation.com/shelbyblondell
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Shelbyblondell
Twitter -  http://twitter.com/shelbyblondell
   @shelbyblondell


-SongBuilder Studios