Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Musical Exploration: Tribute Bands

At one time or other, we have all wondered just what it would feel like to be a famous musician, touring around the world performing the music we love, with a crowd of people singing right there along with us. I personally, have put on a show or two for a huge crowd of fans (albeit, imaginary) in the comfort of my own living room, hairbrush in hand, and enough confidence to make you think I do it for a living.

However, though many of us dream about it, few ever actually get to experience that feeling. That is, unless you are a part of a tribute band.

I have to say, I was pretty unfamiliar with this world, but I've discovered that people love tribute bands

Some things you may be surprised to learn:
  • They aren't trying to deceive anyone. In fact, a majority do this as a side gig and are just having a lot of fun.
  • They have a huge prominence in markets like Seattle, Portland, and the scene in LA has actually been called oversaturated!
  • They have their own festivals such as Harefest, The Great Cover Up and The Big Fake Festival
  • Some of the real artists even end up performing at some time or other with their tribute bands. 
  • Many up-and-coming musicians start out in tribute bands before launching their careers. 
  • Replacements for the real band members have been found within tribute bands!

Some of the reasons why people start tribute bands in the first place:
  • Bring the music to places that don’t have a big music scene (which the crowd appreciates!)
  • Express a deep love for the music and/or pay homage to the bands they grew up listening to.
  • They were a real-life doppelgänger and thought "Hey, why not!"
  • Revive the culture, community and camaraderie that's felt at the real band's shows.
  • Art. Replicating a band or artist as well as they do is seriously astounding to me.
  • And, because well, nostalgia.

I could continue sharing all that I've uncovered about tribute bands (which has been quite an interesting exploration), but instead, I'll introduce you to Greg West, the 'first Jason Aldean tribute artist in America.' Turns out, the Florida native dreamed of making music in Nashville, and when he finally made the move, he was often mistaken for Jason Aldean (seriously, it's remarkable how much he looks like him). Because West already loved Aldean's music so much, he thought he'd give the tribute act a whirl, and now tours nationally playing casinos, fairs, festivals and more on The Ultimate Aldean Tribute experience. It may never be you and me, but I suppose some do get just a little closer than the rest of us. 

When the lights come on and everybody's screamin'
Lighters in the sky yeah everybody's singin'
Every word to every song
To the girl they're takin' home tonight



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

You Don't Know What You Don't Know... But You Should Know

What do you get when you combine a music video director, a father of two, and an actor and underwear model? 

One of the hottest and most interesting trios in country music right now. 

I bet that's not what you expected, but yes, the band Midland is lighting up the country music landscape right now. Made up of Mark Wystrach (lead vocalist), Cameron Duddy (bass player) and Jess Carson (lead guitarist), the band just released it's debut album, On the Rocks (Big Machine), and it is fire. In fact, I loved it so much I sent a copy to my mom in Florida the day it was released, and have been listening to it on repeat ever since. 

Drawing inspiration from the likes of George Strait, Gary Stewart, Merle Haggard and even the Eagles, it's no surprise this album has a throwback sound that will keep you tappin' your toes every bit of the way through all thirteen tracks. The band is even wearing Nudie suits on the album cover; I mean come on. It's a fabulous mix of 70s country and 80s crossover, yet is somehow still so modern, and I'm sure that can be partially credited to the other contributors on this album -- Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne and Dann Huff. No matter what kind of country music, or music fan you consider yourself, you'd be lying if you said you didn't love this album (or at least like it just a little).

Of course there's Drinkin' Problem, but my other personal favorites from the album include: Out of Sight (mom loves this one, too) and Somewhere on the Wind. I'm also a huge fan of how they so cleverly play on words with every track, but most obviously with songs like Altitude Adjustment and At Least You Cried. Though to me seemingly indescribable, the band says this is "music made for wide-open skies, endless deserts and wondering where the road is going to take you next" and I could not agree more.

If you want even more Midland, you can listen to their Spotify Sessions, which is where I first fell in love with their music (and it's got me dying to see them live). Lucky for me and all my little country concert-goers out there, you can see Midland on The Breakers tour with Little Big Town and Kacey Musgraves, but you'll have to wait until 2018

Bye bye baby


P.S. Rolling Stone felt them coming, and also directed this article at me.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Music That Speaks to Your Heart(beat)

Have you ever had one of those moments when you know you're in the right place? When you look around the room and think to yourself, "This is where I'm supposed to be. This is what I'm supposed to be doing. And this is how I'm supposed to feel." It feels good. It feels right. It's almost as if the Universe is saying to you, "PAY ATTENTION. THIS IS IMPORTANT." It feels like you're free. And for that moment, it's as if nothing else really matters. 

Rewind to a Thursday night at Gramercy Theatre back in March. Somewhere between the harmonica-blowin', the tambourine-shakin' and the boot-stompin', I had one of those moments, and I've come to this conclusion: A Drake White show is a celebration of living.

It's doing what feels right.
It's loving life.
It's all country, blues and funk at the same time.
It's feeling energized.
It's singing about all of the things that matter.
And it's good for your soul.

Aside from knowing I was exactly where I needed to be that night, I found myself wishing I was a member of the band, known as The Big Fire. For one, they're all so cool, like you just want to be a part of their club. But you can also tell that they are truly having fun, though I can't imagine who wouldn't enjoy playing feel-good music for a living. At one point during the show, Drake said, "Can you dance like this?" and for a solid two or three minutes, danced around the stage to whatever came to his body. Not choreographed. Not perfect. Just purely dancing how the music came to him. And somehow, he managed to even make that look cool.

If the fun, funk-soul vibes don't pull you in, then surely the voice will. Because that voice. It is literally chill-inducing, and paired with songs like Makin' Me Look Good Again, it will give you all sorts of feelings. That man was great with just an acoustic guitar (flashback: Housing Works Songwriter's Series) but add a band and a few amplifiers, and he falls into the category of best live performances I've ever seen.

Drake White and his music are all kinds of right. And in the craziness that is life, it has the power to pull me back to real, back to me. We spend so much time trying to figure out who we are and what we love, when the signs are usually right in front of us. Whether a Drake White show, or something else, do more of what feels good, and what feels right. You know what that is. And if you need any help trying to figure it out, I know just the guy.

Back to free
Like we used to be
Yes, you and me
Let's get back to free


Monday, May 15, 2017

I Like BobbyCast, And I Cannot Lie

It's a typical weekday morning. I've just recently opened my eyes, had a shower and made my first cup of coffee. The next thing I do is load the purple podcast app on my iPhone to see what new BobbyCast episode is in store for me today. Then, I push the power button on my speaker, press 'play' on my phone and I'm transported to Bobby Bones' living room, hanging with what feels like a group of my friends.

I never know exactly what I'm going to get out of each episode, which is half of the fun. Today I might learn how much Kelsea Ballerini and I have in common, or what a kind and down-to-earth human-being Jake Owen is, while tomorrow I might discover that Charles Esten was on Whose Line Is It Anyway? way before he was even considered for the hit TV show, Nashville. It's all interesting stuff. But, aside from the sneak peek into their personal lives, Bobby also uncovers the stories behind their music, and all of the things that had to happen before a song even made its way to my ears. No matter what surprises are in store though, I'm a fan of them all, and it's a guarantee that when the episode comes to an end, I always hop on the subway feeling energized and excited for the day. 

Perhaps the reason why I love this podcast so much is because I literally cannot get enough of country music (truth), but maybe what's even more exciting is that Bobby asks interesting questions - not the boring stuff. I've always said that if I had the chance to interview anyone famous, I wouldn't ask them 'who's your biggest inspiration?' or 'what's it like to perform on stage?'. I would ask them what their favorite Netflix shows are, what's on their "Get Happy" playlists (we all have one), and what keeps them up at night. Bobby gets it. And he's always searching for the honest-to-God truth.

Since listening to the BobbyCast, I've learned so much... not just about the individuals themselves, but about the importance of doing what you love. Hearing these people talk about chasing their dreams, and witnessing Bobby's clear passion for learning about it, is inspiring. Dierks Bentley may seem like a hero at times, but in all reality, he's just a human like you and me, singing Carley Rae Jepson's Call Me Maybe to his son.

Thank you, Bobby, for bringing me closer to the music and the people. <3 

Every day is a good day
It's how you see it, that's what I say
When you wake up in that mind frame
Singing with the Blue Jays, sipping on a latte
Every day is a good day


Saturday, May 13, 2017

2016, That's a Wrap.

[This post has been a long time coming]

2016 was spent in and out of concert halls, stomping around stadiums and fields, and racking up a record number of swipes on my MetroCard. I spent countless nights singing my heart out with some of the greatest artists and musicians I know, which gave me all sorts of feelings. And, because I cannot possibly find a way to make beautiful, flowing sentences out of it all, lists will have to suffice. 

Places I set my boots down:

A farm in Nowhere, Tennessee.
A polo field in the middle of San Francisco.
A National Historic Landmark in upper Manhattan.
A home stadium for two National Football League franchises in New Jersey.
A cozy bookstore in Soho.
An 18,000 person arena in Brooklyn.
And many, many more.

Me attempting do my feelings justice: 

Energetically entertaining
Beautifully honored
Wildly empowered
Home sweet home
An electrifying awakening of the soul
Feel-good feelings
Timelessly talented
Emotionally captivating
Unapologetically liberating
Rebelliously young
Dancin' on the ceiling
Exactly how summertime should be
Magically connected
Deeply understood
Member of an underground club
Admiration and appreciation
For the love of the music
Don't mess with Texas

An assemblance of all the tickets:

Needless to say, it was really great. 

I'm not sure what was more challenging, nailing a whole year down to just a few words or a creating a playlist that spans less than 2 hours, but nevertheless, I've attempted both. Listen to my 2016 here.

I tell myself I’m not in love
But one more time is not enough
One last kiss and then you’re a goner
And I’m here wishing you could stay a little longer


Friday, May 12, 2017

Music: The OG Time Machine

It's pretty incredible that a song has the power to transport you to another place and time. Just like a movie, when the screen cuts to a completely different scene, you almost forget what is real; or like pulling into your driveway wondering how you got there because you were thinking about something else the entire time. The song comes on and those feelings come rushing back as if you're literally in the moment again.

We've all been there. 

What triggered the flashback this time? Old Dominion, of course. I know what you're thinking... I talk about them all the time, but they put me in a good mood (hence, why you'll find me listening to them on the morning subway commute). First it was Wrong Turns and all of the sudden I was back at Jenk's, having the actual best summer of my life. And then came Song For Another Time and I'm in a basement with maybe 50 other people, so close to the amp I could literally feel the music in my chest. The irony of that song title is too real. 

I happen to crave those magical moments, because as I mentioned in my last post, I love feelings. Of course though, if I get to relive the good moments, I also have to relive the not-so-good: realizing it's over. And knowing I'll probably never get to see Old Dominion in that small of a venue again is a very hard thing to come to terms with.

But to end on a positive note, it's New Music Friday, and that means welcoming a beautiful new Brett Eldredge tune (listen here).

That's the power of a song
When it grabs you by the heart
It's gonna find you when it wants to
No matter where you are


Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Brains Behind the Operation: Songwriters

I've always been a lyric person. Play me a song that's raw, real and full of emotion and you've got me hooked. Sure, the notes, instruments and incredible voices are a huge part of what makes a song a song, but the most interesting part to me has always been the words. I suppose it's because I like to feel things (you could say I'm an emotional person) especially when those feelings are familiar. Songs just seem to explain my life better than I know how to.

You may remember the time I attended my very first guitar pull (or if not, you can read about it here), which was my introduction to the world of songwriting. Since that day, I've spent a lot of time learning the 'whys' and the 'whats' and the 'hows' (and ultimately the 'whos') behind all of my favorite songs. Nothing is more fascinating than hearing the story behind why a song was written, and in my opinion, nobody can sing it better than the one who wrote it. 

Which brings me to the point of my feeling explosion... the Nashville Songwriters Series at Joe's Pub.

If you've listened to any country music at all, there's a good chance you've heard something written by Shane McAnally, Luke Laird or Bob DiPiero. In fact, take a pause right now and listen to just a few songs that never would have existed without them:

Great. Now you understand why I felt so lucky to get a glimpse into their world for an evening, let alone be in the same room. I got the chance to hear three of the best songwriters in country music tell the story behind why and how they wrote songs like Follow Your ArrowBlue Clear SkyDrink In My HandPontoon and Body Like A Back Road. How freaking cool is that?!

I could sit here and tell you stories about the music and what the words mean all day long, but what I think is more important is to share the epiphany I had that night: I belong in Nashville.

Sitting in that audience, I felt like I was amongst my future neighbors and friends, and instead of waking up the next day sad and wishing it wasn't over, I woke up motivated. Motivated by Luke Laird's story of starting out as the merch guy for Brooks & Dunn. (He now writes songs for some of the biggest names in country music). Motivated by three individuals sharing their music with a crowd of people for no other reason than because it's what they love. Motivated.

The best part of it all though, was Shane McAnally telling me that not only had he read my blog, but that it was good. Yep... I'm still waiting to wake up from that dream. Witnessing others doing what they love is quite contagious. And hearing words of encouragement from someone you admire is sometimes all it takes to keep you pushing forward... to Nashville.

There are very few days that can top April 19 in my book. It was one of those moments when you realize the universe really is on your side. And I will never forget it. 

Say what you think
Love who you love
Because you just get so many trips round the sun
Yeah you only, only live once


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

In Case You Didn't Know: Brett Young

Talk about a man that has it all... Brett Young is any woman's dream. Not only is he devilishly good-looking, but boy is he talented. He released his self-titled album less than a month ago and I was in love from the first time I heard it. A few of my personal favorites include Like I Loved You, Back on the Wagon and Memory Won't Let Me. Sealing the deal though, was his recent stop on Luke Bryan's Kill The Lights Tour at Madison Square Garden where he performed an emotional, You Ain't Here To Kiss Me -- the man's real life experience ending a 6-year relationship (yes ladies, that means he is single). 

You should probably figure out how to see him live, but if that's not an option, Spotify will do. Throw on some Brett Young today. Trust me, you won't be disappointed. 


Sunday, March 5, 2017

LB & The Bretts

What happens when you mix Brett Young, Brett Eldredge, Luke Bryan, a piano and the words to Let's Get It On? Every woman's dreams come true. 

Forget the fact that individually, each of those men are musical geniuses. In the middle of Luke Bryan's set, they actually performed a mash up of Ed Sheeran and Marvin Gaye right before our very eyes (and ears). Seriously, can somebody please play THAT again?

The opening performances by each of the Brett's would've been enough for me, but throw in a set by Luke Bryan in a sold out Madison Square Garden and I'm done for. If you've ever seen LB before, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. Basically, beer and bathroom breaks are impossible... because hit, after hit, after hit. 

Looks aside (well, kind of), highlights from the evening include: 
  1. Every single song
  2. Discovering a new crush, Brett Young
  3. Luke tossing beers to the crowd from his Yeti
  4. Brett Eldredge pouring out his heart during Wanna Be That Song (dude, you already are)
  5. Luke Bryan on the piano & backup vocals for Brett Eldredge (pretty sure this is when I died)
  6. Eldredge's mention of a new album (you really do always find a way to mess me up and drive me wild!)
  7. Learning the emotional inspiration behind Young's You Ain't Here To Kiss Me. Gotta love a man who ain't afraid to share his feelings (but seriously, who's crazy enough to let him go?)
  8. Wishing I was dancing around on stage during Something I'm Good At
  9. And this moment: 

I literally cannot think of a more good-looking group of men... guess you could say that was my kinda night.

And all you keep trying to do is slow it down, soak it in
Keep trying to make the good times last as long as you can
But you can't, man
It just goes too fast