Monday, July 28, 2008
The 2008 GRAMMY Camp® expericence was capped off with a showcase at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles. Among the various media outlets in attendance, Fox was there to capture some footage from soundcheck and the showcase. Click HERE to watch thier coverage.
Friday, July 25, 2008
I finally found them in a room working hard on singer/songwriter Joseph LeMay’s original song, “Just To See Those Blue Eyes.” They had about an hour and a half to finish the song so they could perform it the next day for the showcase/Capitol Records auditions. “We’ll finish it. It’ll work out,” says bass player Edwin Carranza.
After changing rhythms, chords, and the style, the song started to really come together. All the elements mixed really well and had a nice groove. Adam Gertner kept nice steady beats and breakdowns on the drum set, while Grahm Bailey played a catchy tune on the keys. Adam Zuckerman also created a guitar solo that added a nice touch to the whole song.
Each member made sure to perfect their parts for Joseph’s song. The guys bounced ideas off of each other and their music producer, Ian Arnold, gave suggestions to improve their overall sound. I could definitely describe the song as a “head bobber.”
As a whole, the band had great showmanship and energy, even though it was only rehearsal. They also play well as a group, even when they’ve only been together for two weeks. “You guys are really good. One of the best,” says Joseph about the combo.
We went to the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles with concert promotion instructor Susan Rosenbluth. We toured the entire facility, from the tunnel connecting Staples Center, where we saw the X-Games load-in, and the Nokia, to side stage during Steely Dan's soundcheck. We met with industry professionals such as the band's tour management, the venue staff, the artist liaison, the promoter reps, and venue managers. We were able to learn about budgeting, production, and settlements, and stand in an elevator with Walter Becker.
We even got to experience backstage tour catering. Kwasi Fordjour, Jenay Ross, Dertrick Winn, Julia Berlin, me, and our journalism instructor, Steve Baltin enjoyed full service gourmet catering from Culinary Underground. While music engineers were working tirelessly at Capitol Records, music journalism/concert promotion students learned how to enjoy the perks of working on major tours. "This is the best thing ever," said Jenay Ross as she ate the homemade donuts. I couldn't stop myself from sampling every one of the vegetarian entrees and about ten of the desserts.
Once we were able to walk again after stuffing ourselves we went up to a private box with a great view of the stage. Steely Dan came on and the crowd erupted and the two-hour long set began. The musicians playing behind Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were absolutely incredible. As an aspiring drummer I was most impressed by the drummer; I couldn't believe his creativity, endurance, and skill, and I made a mental note to go home and practice. We were all grateful for the opportunity to see such an influential band play live.
After the show, we all felt like big shots as we walked through the VIP area and went back to the production offices. We realized how spoiled we've gotten after going to a Fall Out Boy show in a stretch limo, and getting this all access Steely Dan experience. Naturally we felt a little guilty about getting all these incredible GRAMMY Camp sponsored opportunities, so we made sure to photocopy a Steely Dan set list to give to our incredibly jealous parents. As we got back to the dorms, we passed our friends in the halls. When they asked us where we had been we replied, "No big deal, we were just backstage at a Steely Dan show."
Though all the counselors have different backgrounds and interests, each share a love for music and a desire to be a part of the GRAMMY Camp® experience. Cris Maurera, a first-year counselor who studied audio engineering at the SAE Institute in Los Angeles, reflects on his teen years growing up in the Philippines. “After seventh grade I started doing a lot of stuff,” he says. “I joined a Tae Kwon Do class, played basketball, and joined this community summer program. It was just for middle school kids, but when you got in high school you got to join the leadership program, so being a part of GRAMMY Camp reminds me of what I used to do when I was younger. “
Each counselor has experience with making music, whether it be audio engineering, singing and writing songs, or just playing an instrument. Seth Costner is a counselor who sings, writes his own songs, and plays guitar, and though he wasn’t able to do something like GRAMMY Camp when he was younger, he’s had some pretty big opportunities. “I actually came in third place in Atlanta Fest, which is a popular music festival,” he recalls. “That led to me being able to sing in the Estes Park Seminar in the Rockies. I was invited as a guest artist in this seminar to sing alongside people like Steven Curtis Chapman and a lot of my inspirations when I was little.”
Most of the counselors that play instruments began playing at an early age and are very skilled, but they are still very impressed with the talent of the kids here. “It’s fabulous, just to be around these kids that are so talented is inspiring,” says Rebecca Campbell, who plays the flute, piano, banjo, and guitar.
Ima Uko and Chris Dollar are both songwriters who practice their music in different ways. Ima does what’s known in the industry as “demo work,” which is when a vocalist performs a song for a certain artist to shop it to different people or listeners. Chris Dollar, who also plays guitar, practices busking, the proper name for street performing.
Out of all the different hobbies the counselors have, music is definitely their primary occupation. Whether it be reading novels, playing sports, watching movies, or just “hanging out,” music is in there somewhere. “It just all comes back to the love of music, and it’s that passion that got me here,” says David Edwards, a first-year counselor and trombonist.
As the two weeks comes to an end, a strong bond between the counselors and the students has been created. It will be hard to say goodbye, but our memories of the GRAMMY Camp 2008 counselors will live on forever.
(ED note – We weren’t able to get time with the very busy and popular Catie Bellinger and Matt Jones, but they were an integral part of the GRAMMY Camp experience)
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Already a veteran performer, Richard came to camp in hopes of learning more about how to market his music and present himself to his audiences. He says that GRAMMY Camp has "opened his eyes" to ways in which he can promote his music and market himself as an artist. "I definitely want to be a musician and I'm going to school to study jazz voice, and that shows that I don't have a fall back plan, I'm putting myself on a limb and hoping it works out" he explains. While he knows what he is getting himself into he is ready to work hard in order to excel in the industry.
Richard was also a member of the Gibson/ Baldwin GRAMMY Jazz choir. He will be performing at the Monterey Jazz Festival with the Next Generation Ensemble, and is very proud to admit that he was the first vocalist to ever tour with the group. "I'm in a weird spot because after high-school I realize I don't have a set track, I can only depend on my songs and my voice." He may be a bit unsure about his future, but with his natural talent and newfound knowledge of marketing and presentation he's well on his way from GRAMMY camper to GRAMMY winner.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
He started his musical career playing drums, but is now devoted to playing bass, an instrument he has quickly found an affinity for. After only playing for a few years he is already in both a metal and a reggae/ska band. Nick, whose favorite groups range from Megadeath and Iron Maiden to Matiyahu and Avenged Sevenfold, was pleasantly surprised to find out that the manager of Avenged Sevenfold was one of GRAMMY Camp's guest panelists and he took time to speak with him after the panel. Nick's unique taste in music and his ability to play many different genres has allowed him to thrive in the GRAMMY Camp environment.
He gives credit to his instructor for "making [him] work on scales and technique" and believes that this extra practice will "make me a better musician.” And he’s taken full advantage of the many GRAMMY Camp opportunities, even performing a Kelly Clarkson song with one of the combos for a mini-concert. He laughs when he explains the process of performing a Clarkson song, admitting that although it was something he "wouldn't ordinarily play," it was still "pretty great.”
GRAMMY Camp is certainly not a place to get complacent, and Nick is more than happy to expand his musical repertoire when he teams up with a combo for the final showcase or recording at Capitol Records.
Both agree that GRAMMY Camp has changed a lot since last year, as the campers have less free time, but more work is getting done. They enjoy the USC campus and the increased camper work ethic.
Grahm first applied to GRAMMY Camp after his music teacher recommended it to him. "I didn't really know what to expect, but it seemed like it would be an amazing experience, and it was,” he says. “That's why I came back." This year the talented keyboardist took advantage of the open mike night and performed a song he co-wrote last year with Alex Hausner (singer/songwriter). “I love to accompany singer/songwriters," he says. And while he's used to playing pop/rock, he's really been exploring jazz at camp this year. "I've been really paying attention to the panels this year and learning about the steps I need to take in order to really have a career in this business,” he says. Grahm has learned to be conscientious about the lifestyle of being a professional musician, and he's not sure if he wants to be a touring musician because it might interfere with his future family life, but he is sure he wants to work in the business, and wants to pursue composing and arranging.
Grahm notes that his favorite thing about GRAMMY Camp 2008 is that he got to attend “Starry Night.” "I was disappointed when I didn't get to go last year, but this year all the campers got to go and it was really amazing to be there and in that setting.”
Eighteen-year-old Adam has returned for his second and final year of GRAMMY Camp and has found the experience "completely different from last year,” but nonetheless enjoyable. Adam is undoubtedly an incredible percussionist, but this year he took the opportunity to showcase his unique dancing style at the Red Shield community center. Adam was the first to get up in front of the stage and dance along to GRAMMY® campers performing “Billie Jean,” by Michael Jackson. Adam also performed with fellow campers and Ozomatli on press day. His personal music taste reflects Ozomatli's style; eclectic, diverse and open-minded. Though his favorite type of music is funk, he plays in jazz bands at home, and just loves "listening to music in general, any type of music." Adam hopes to eventually tour with a band and continue playing music for the rest of his life.
Both GRAMMY Camp "vets" have enjoyed the unique 2008 experience, learning from panelists, instructors, and fellow campers. As instrumentalists, Adam and Grahm are working with their combos and are eager to showcase their respective talents as part of the bands, either playing or recording the songs they've written with singer/songwriters.
Earlier that day, I interviewed one of the band’s lead singers, Asdru Sierra. I figured if the rest of the band is half as cool as this guy, they should put on a really good show, and that’s exactly what they did. During the first song they invited any GRAMMY® Campers who played instruments to join them in their performance. Their second song, “After Party,” was a nice up-tempo, rhythmic tune that was really hard to sit still to.
They were all ready to start their next song when a question came from one of the audience members. “Hey, can any rappers join you [on stage]?” The band replied with a hail of “Yeah” and “Sure, dude, go ahead.” As the crowd applauded once more a new feeling of excitement came over me. Though I am here as a journalist, I am also a performing rap artist, and was taught to take advantage of any opportunity to perform. As they began their next song, my feeling turned to nervousness. I began to question myself: “How will the crowd react to a fellow camper doing rap music? Will I get laughed at? And furthermore, what would I say?”
Before I could say to myself, ‘‘Dude, just do it,” my friend and fellow camper Trevy Kiy took the stage alongside Ozomatli. He was handed the mic and began rapping as the band continued to play. It was just the extra boost of confidence I needed. Trevy finished up as the crowd applauded, and that’s when I made my move. I took my place next to Trevy, shook his hand, and anxiously awaited the cue from the bass player, who was singing into the mic at the time. The bridge slowly approached, as the bass player (who I later found out was Wil-Dog Abers) finished singing the hook and handed me the mic. I didn’t waste a second, performing hard, moving around and shouting into the mic, finding pieces of songs, freestyling, and thinking as fast as I could. It went on about half a verse before I just felt like a rap machine if you will. I didn’t really care about anything but the music and the lyrics. But unfortunately, I couldn’t stay up there forever. I eventually finished a second verse, accepted my applause, and stayed by the stage for the rest of the song. It was definitely a GRAMMY Camp highlight, and an experience I won’t soon forget.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Outside of her own music, she enjoys bands such as Avenged Sevenfold, John Mayer, A Sky Lit Drive, System of a Down, and David Bowie. In her spare time she loves to write poetry and go to shows. “Lots and lots of shows,” she says.
Faith hopes to become a better songwriter during camp so she can make it into a career. “Someday I want to be in a band and sell my songs to other singers or performer," she says.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
At school she works on film scoring projects consisting of orchestral or flow jazz music. “It’s like going to sleep music,” she says. Kristin is thinking about pursuing a job dealing with commercials, jingles, or film/TV scoring. She also plays piano, flute, and piccolo and loves to listen to acoustic and pop music. One of her favorite artists is The Morning Of.
Originally she applied for the film scoring track, but since that’s not offered this year she decided to try something new. During her music production workshops, she is able to create mixes and learn about all the different programs. “It’s pretty chill,” she says.
Question: As a producer, how do the other styles of music that are popular during the time you are working in influence your work?
Answer: I was recruited by Motown in 1962 to be an artist, a songwriter, and a producer, and to help develop and write for the singers. My career as a singer was sort of put on hold because Motown needed more writers and producers for the artists that they had. I started to write for people like the Supremes and others. With all of these people I had 13 #1's in a row. Nobody had ever done anything like that and it made me kind of nervous, but made me feel good, and made my mother proud of me. I started writing songs for Marvin Gaye, "How Sweet it Is," and for the Four Tops, "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch," and it just kept going on and on. Now at last count I've had 70 top 10's, and out of the 70 top 10's, 56 of them were #1's. That's quite a record that I've built up for myself, thank God. I started writing songs when I was 11, actually writing poems, and from writing poems I taught myself to write songs. By the time I was 15 I was signed to Atlantic records. I've been doing it ever since, I'm now working on my first musical, First Wives Club. It was a movie in the ‘90s and now it's a musical, I'm having the time of my life because I've always wanted to be on Broadway.
Question: Are you optimistic about the future of the music industry?
Answer: Absolutely, that is why I do what I do for the GRAMMY®s; doing work and anything I can to promote music, make people aware, and help along would-be songwriters, people that want to get in the business. So many people want to get into the business but don't know how. It's a form of payback for me because music has been so wonderful to me that I want to continue that legacy, make hits, keep recording artists. Anyway I can help I'm here to do my bit because music has been my life's blood in more ways than one.
Question: What advice would you give kids, like those at GRAMMY Camp, for maintaining a career in the music industry?
Answer: You have to be committed. You have to have that drive and passion because there's so much competition. You have to have your blinders on, like when people ask you "Why would you want to do something like that?" It's hard, but everything is hard. You just have to have the heart, a big enough heart and thick skin to with stand all of the negative things. I knocked on doors when I was a kid, anybody I thought had a recording studio that could record me or do something for me. I just wouldn't give up.
Justin’s friend, who is involved in GRAMMY Day, mentioned the camp to him, and encouraged him to go in 2007. “Last year was pretty different. This year it’s more organized and the counselors are more interactive with the tracks,” he says.
He mainly enjoys playing R&B and jazz tunes on his sax and listens to all genres besides country. He hopes to network with other musicians at camp and wants to gain more knowledge about music itself.
When asked about his “napkin origami,” he explained the making of his newfound hobby: “It originated at GRAMMY Camp in 2008 at the USC cafeteria. I decided, while I ate a cheese omelet, that I needed a special talent. I looked at my napkin and developed napkin origami. First I crumble a napkin and then fidget with it. After a while, I see what I abstractly made and then I create other things.”
Rosenbluth kept the communication between the campers and panelists open by asking questions such as, “Just how much would you pay to see your favorite band?” Shout outs ranged from $75 to $300. Additionally, she touched on the familiar debate of purchasing CDs versus downloading to get the business perspective of the managers. Jacobson discussed his overseeing of the A7X merchandise -- from each design to the printing company, thus bringing A7X near the top of the list in band merchandise.
Yet you can still be a success and have fun while losing thousands and thousands of dollars, as proven by the first two Coachella’s in 1999 and 2001, according to Tollett. The California-based festival has long since broken even, but Tollett taught GRAMMY Campers that the moral of having fun and losing money is not simply giving up but sticking with your inspiration…and also to have good sponsors.
Besides playing his ESP Eclipse, he plays piano and violin. In the future, Adam would like to perform, compose, or work in any field of the music industry. "In reality I'd like to do anything in the music business," he says. Though he doesn’t go to as many shows as he would like, the last one he went to was a classical concert at the Disney Concert Hall in downtown LA.
Right now at camp, Adam is busy with his newly formed combo, G-Unit. “It’s fun. It’s like the ideal, playing anything you want,” he says about working with G-Unit. He finds it very easy to work with each of his band mates. Everyday the combo is exposed to a new style varying from rock to funk. "It's cool to be immersed in this music [camp] where I can play for a long time."
With those insights came some amusing anecdotes. For instance, DeLuca’s instrument of choice is the Dobro resonator guitar, known for it’s unique metal-produced sound and overwhelming volume. He remembers a time when he was performing a classic song, which (when performed with the resonator guitar) he thought was a very beautiful tune. But since the audience was unfamiliar with the sound of the guitar, their response was, “Hey, can you please stop tuning, and we’d like to hear a song now.” This comment, surprisingly, did not upset DeLuca, for he was pleased to know that he was introducing something new to modern music fans.
Besides her bright red hair, Sudol stood out most as the lead singer of the popular band, A Fine Frenzy. But unlike Loggins, Sudol wasn’t making music at such an early age. She was in her later teen years when she began performing her own songs. Sudol pointed out you can be any age when you find yourself in the music industry, but things move very fast when you get discovered by a record label, so the more you know about the industry the better. She also explained the importance of not letting fame go to your head, and that staying humble and working hard is essential to a successful career.
Everyone in the crowd recognized singer/guitarist Loggins from the popular television show, “Rock the Cradle.” The crowd cheered with excitement at hearing the familiar name. Loggins has lived amongst music his whole life, and it shows on stage whenever he performs. Though his father is the famous singer/songwriter Kenny Loggins, he claims that pursuing music is completely his decision. Furthermore, he tires of being referred to as “Kenny Loggins’s kid,” and he works hard to make a name for himself and his music.
Between all of the panelists, Poe was the one who got the most responses and laughter out of the audience. She used playful humor and ironic situations to make a personal connection with the young crowd and to get them to listen to what she had to say. She learned from her experiences as a child that it was always best to tell the truth, no matter what, and staying true to yourself is always the right thing to do, especially when writing songs and making music.
The Artist Story Panel was good for the campers because it gave them a chance to relate to young musicians and writers such as themselves. And as the first chance to meet popular performing artists it was a great way to kick off the first week of camp.
Parker Davis, a 16-year–old high school junior, has come from a place that is rarely talked about; triple W, Walla Walla, Washington. Although he wishes there was a film-scoring track here at camp, he is involved in music production. He hopes to someday end up living and working in LA. “It’s the place to be,” he says.
While his long-term goal is to become an amazing composer, at camp he loves to sit and play at the lounge piano by himself. He feels like that is the most production-oriented part of his day. But film scoring is his first love. Once, he scored a 10-minute film, which he and his friends created, in 30 minutes. He explained: “The music is kind of crazy with a lot of flutes and harp.”
Friday, July 18, 2008
What makes Stroud stand out is not that she is named after a character from Lord of the Rings but her extraordinary talent as a singer, songwriter, and guitar player of only two years. Back home in San Francisco, Stroud is home schooled which gives her the opportunity to practice for several hours a day.
However, there are negatives to every positive, a challenge she said is networking with other young musicians. Popular music websites such as My Space have been helpful in combating this obstacle. It was while “myspacing” (navigating My Space by going to profile to profile) that Stroud landed on Alexandra Kelly’s music page, which described her wonderful experience at GRAMMY Camp – for which she is attending for a second summer. While Kelly inspired her to apply for GRAMMY Camp, it was singer/songwriter Anna Nalick, signed to Columbia Records, who influenced Stroud to become a musician. “When I saw her perform live, her guitarist did an electric guitar solo behind his head,” recalls Stroud.
To date Stroud has written more than 50 songs but not all are completed. Stroud has plans to record a demo in September. When asked what advice she has for young musicians just beginning their music careers Stroud stated, “You have to be patient…[and] honest with your presentation and work.”
What brought FOB to perform a free show on the pier? Pinkapalooza, a Victoria’s Secret PINK event to promote their new back-to-school collection. The fun began at five PM with the Pier decked out in pink. The PINK merch area was a popular place as excited girls crowded around to check out the new college line.
Throughout the evening, UCLA and USC took part in several competitions involving water balloons and text messages. Although UCLA was confident that they would win, in the end, USC beat UCLA and won a special trophy.
But what had really brought out the youthful audience was FOB. Despite the fact it was a free show, the group played about an hour set that included Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”, Akon’s “Don’t Matter”, and even a bit of Panic At The Disco’s “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” The fans were deeply satisfied with the mix of old and new FOB originals, throwing up their diamond hand signs and singing on the top of their lungs as the groupperformed their anthem “Where is you Boy?” from their album Take This To Your Grave. To put the cherry on top of the night, Pete traditionally enveloped himself into the crowd during the closing song, “Saturday.”
Question: Your name is Poe and I’m assuming you’re a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe. Are you in love with him?
Answer: I’m not in love with him seeing that he is dead and that would be a sad life to live. But no, my parents actually read me a story called “The Masque of the Red Death” when I was a little kid. When I was eight, I went to a costume party dressed as the plague. After that I called myself Poe and I was only eight so I thought everyone would get it. It was just friends of my parents, but the name Poe stuck. My mom’s friend called her up and said, “How’s Poe?” And then I embraced it. The next year at school they called me Annie and I said, “No, I prefer to go by Poe.”
Question: What are some childhood lessons that you apply to the music industry?
Answer: No matter what it costs, you always tell the truth. And it pays off in the end in everyway that’s important when it comes to making music and actually contributing as opposed to what people think who have guided you.
Question: How does it influence you working with different musicians?
Answer: If you pick something to do that you love there’s no greater influence than someone that’s better than you, someone that has knowledge that you don’t. I recently spent a lot of time with an upright player by the name of Dave Carpenter…he played with like Miles Davis. He’s one of those guys that’s so gracious that he would sit there and do blue scales with you for six hours -- total ultimate patience and kick your ass and tell you why you’re not hearing it, but never hurt your feelings. In my life there have been a number of those people, but there are very few who can challenge you without shutting you down; someone who pushes you further without challenging your faith in yourself. I’ve had a number of those musicians in my life that I’m constantly learning from. The beauty of music is the fact that you never really get good at it. Every time you sit down to play a chord you’re like “Why didn’t I hear that before?” Every song [you wonder] why isn’t it working? It’s this thing you have to crack and when you do it’s this monetary high for like 10 seconds and then the next ones brutal again, but it always teaches you something.
Question: What artists working today do you think deserve more appreciation?
Answer: The sad thing is that they're all people that you wouldn't have heard of. The greatest cello player in the world is a guy named Cameron Stone; he has an amazing voice as well. He plays cello like Hendrix played guitar. I kid you not. The guy grew up with two classical musician parents. You can sing something to him and he can write it down. When he hit age 16 he decided he needed to be a punk rocker so he starting improvising on his cello and got a big stack of Marshall pedals. The thing is he's one of those rare combinations of a guy who has the technique of a Yo-Yo Ma, but was able to let that go and dive into improvisation in the modern sense, and I actually want to make that guy's record. I'm a huge fan. He toured with us so I know him well. There's a guy named Darren Johnson who's a piano player, the guy's so gifted, it's insane. These are people you would not have heard of. Darren Johnson you probably would have heard, he's a big session player, he plays on everyone's records, and he's also a guy that plays with Miles. These guys write songs that are just mind blowing, I watch some of the things these guys go through as far as people trying to fit them into the industry or to do this or do that, but talent like that is timeless.
Question: I was on your blog and I saw all these phoots on there. Did you take those yourself?
Answer: I just snap shots.
Question: Is that like your second love after music?
Answer: Yeah, I always have some kind of visual. When I walk around the city I just take shots of what I find interesting or strange.
Question: What are you most proud of as a musician?
Answer: I'd have to say I'm most proud of the chance to connect with other people and find each other through an art form. It's been the most giving thing about the whole process.
Question: I’ve read that you lived with Johnny Cash and June Carter. What did you learn from being around them?
Answer: I stayed with them for a bit and I learned osmosis from being around people that are just that natural at their art. I was a big fan at the time and mostly my brain was mashed potatoes, so I think I don’t realize what I learned till a lot later. I was just in the presence of people that have been doing what they love for a very long time and when you’re around that and you see how comfortable and natural they are in that environment it’s cool.
Question: Did they play a role in influencing how you go about performing and your music?
Answer: With them mostly it was about character. They held themselves very well and I just learned that they were good people. They treated people really well around me and they treated me very good and I was wide eyed at that.
Question: What’s a phrase or statement that you’ve never forgotten and why?
Answer: I was reading a book by John Ruskin and he had a statement saying, “That which gives life is supported by life.” It is a great phrase because it constantly reminds me that in any decision you make it would be nice to contribute.
Question: So how can the GRAMMY Campers apply that quote to their career aspirations?
Answer: Well I think anybody in the arts will be confronted with decisions [on] whether or not to contradict their art. Always take the time to create not focusing on the product or how audiences may react to it. Naturally gravitate towards always making and creating regardless of what the result may be. Make it because you need to make it!
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Question: What did it mean to you to perform "Across the Universe" for Sir George Martin?
Answer: Oh my god, it was pretty overwhelming, to tell you the truth. When they told me that I was going to have this opportunity I kind of didn't believe them; it sounded outrageous, like they were kidding. I grew up listening to their songs so that's sort of where I learned what real songs should sound like. And "Across the Universe" is something we played on tour and all over the world in places they don't speak English people know the words to that song. So to actually get to stand up there for Sir George, get to express my gratitude, just say, “You're amazing,” flow power into him and get everyone singing along was something I'll never forget.
Question: What are some of the elements in a song that make it your favorite?
Answer: I think for me it's listening to lyrics that make me feel something in a different way. Like eye-opening lyrics, something that is witty or clever, something that 's just unforgettable with a melody that's sweet but powerful; basically something that you find yourself humming later on. The best way I can describe it is when a song is really great it's not trying to be great, you don't here the nuts and bolts that go into it. It just affects you; to me that's what makes a great song.
Question: Your band name, A Fine Frenzy, comes from Shakespeare. If you could be any Shakespearean character, who would you be?
Answer: Oh god, that is such a good question. I don't know. I always kind of think of Ophelia because of how passionate she is. But then she never comes to a friendly ending. So it's kind of a bummer, but she is really passionate. I don't know, maybe Juliet. I know that sounds trite but to feel that passionately about somebody and to feel so sure on your decision and to be willing to risk everything you know for love, I think that's amazing.
Question: What literature has been the most influential to you in your life?
Answer: I think literature is a sum of its parts, I think everything I've ever read has been gone into me and just been absorbed into my being. Growing up I read the C.S. Lewis books, The Chronicles of Narnia. Also Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, fairytales and things like that, and they all sort of helped me shape a world that was more than just the things that you encounter in daily life. There's some element of mystery and magic in life, and those are things that I carry with me every day. Now I read more Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy, though Thomas Hardy is pretty cold; he's the most amazing descriptive writer, but he's pretty mean about his characters. Charles Dickens also; they all just change you a little bit, when you read these books they make you approach life a little differently.
Question: Do your hobbies and outside interests such as religion and watching the Discovery Channel have an influence on your music?
Answer: I don’t think that there’s anyway that an artist’s outside actives couldn’t have an influence in some way or another. Most of my hobbies don’t seem to directly influence my music to me, but I know that they do. Subconsciously, my views and whatever my personal views are on religion, theology, and the world in general make their way into my music. When I try to get away from simply boy girl themes in songwriting one of the themes I like the most to work with is life and secret to life and what are you gonna do to get yourself together.
Question: What, if anything, is your biggest challenge as an artist?
Answer: My biggest challenge as an artist is just conquering self-doubt in a general sense. And I don't think that ever goes away. I don't think you wake up one day and stop critiquing your own work. Especially coming from a background where I was raised in music, I'm very critical of my own work. Managing that inner voice is always something that will be part of my wok as an artist. I think it's a good thing to point out that that's very universal, everybody has that and it kind of doesn't matter what you do. Whether you're a chiropractor or a rock star you're going to have similar doubts about your ability to accomplish what you set out to do.
Question: So, you were on “Rock the Cradle,” but I heard that you turned it down three times before you finally agreed. Why did you turn it down before and why did you agree?
Answer: I turned it down before because I’m pretty serious about music. It’s an art form that affects me deeply [and] I don’t generally consider reality television the best way for people to discover my music. [But] it also was a tremendous opportunity. The music business has really shifted in the last five or so years. The biggest radio station has become television. That’s been a challenge for a lot of artist who don’t see themselves in a frame of being visual celebrities. I was really interested in sound and the people I was most inspired by when I was a kid weren’t given visual faces. So I never really knew what they looked like. I had a lot of apprehension on being involved with “Rock the Cradle” because of the obvious risk on being on a reality TV show. Those are some of the reasons I turned it down. The reason I took it was because of the opportunity. I wasn’t quite as good as Mr. David Cook, but I kind of became an overnight household name. That’s a huge leg up. And I learned a lot. I recognized at the last moment that the show would be a really big personal challenge. It’s harder than being on the GRAMMYS®, where you know what’s going to happen. This is a live television show where you don’t know what will happen.
Question: What are some of your musical inspirations that affect your music?
Answer: Some of my biggest inspirations are generally early 70’s singer/songwriters such as Jackson Brown and James Taylor. They pretty directly affect and influence my music because I write in a similar name. It’s not like I was really into show tunes as a kid and now I’m into rock music; my musical influence is pretty direct.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Like most students returning to the camp, Edwin was very excited on his first day. “The first thing that I was doing when I saw everybody was trying to say hello…trying to get everybody pumped up.” But reflecting on his previous years, Edwin remembers being more nervous than excited. “I remember my first year I was a little timid. It's kind of nerve racking, you see some of the guys who're here their second year [and] it's kind of intimidating.”
GRAMMY Camp is truly an experience that “opens doors” for young artists looking for a career in the industry. Not only do the campers have fun, but they work hard and learn valuable information along the way. When asked what to expect from the camp this year, Edwin replies, "Expect everything, it's the Grammy Foundation, this is what it's for, everybody's trying to win a Grammy and this is the foundation that does it. So with that said anything that the foundation does is legit. You're going to be learning from the top people. And just when you think you're seen it all, something new pops up."
The panel, which was held the first full morning of GRAMMY Camp®, opened with an in-depth introduction by the panelists. After recalling how they were recruited into the music business the quartet of music industry heavyweights gave a brief summary of their careers and the roads they took to reach their positions. Cohen then initiated the discussion by speaking about the humble beginnings of the music business and how the creation of the Compact Disc changed people’s perceptions of music and the amount they purchased. But what really sparked many responses from the GRAMMY Campers was the topic on illegal downloading and DRM.
The campers were asked if they were illegal down loaders or honest buyers. Cohen responded to the campers that honestly admitted that they are illegal down loaders by stating, ”We are in the age of recommendation. It’s not about file sharing anymore; distribution is trivial.” He recommended websites that can indeed distribute music worldwide. But the question that really ignited back and forth banter between the campers and the panel was, “If we are out of the age of illegal distribution why is their DRM Protection on music?”
This question began a dialogue on how file sharing is being replaced by subscription because the average consumer doesn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on music to put on a portable device. The conversation was then directed towards Amanda, Tim, and Matt, who discussed the details and motives of DRM. They returned the conversation to the campers, asking them about their average buy of music for their IPOs and the majority of shared music on their Ipods. Stimulated campers wanted to know in return how file sharing affected the music industry and were labels turning to the internet to market artists. “But if the music industry is moving towards a technical age what is the point of a major label if an artist can do it independently?” The panel responded by stating an artist can market themselves on their own but in order to receive international coverage they need a label that has the right resources. All in all, the panel got GRAMMY Camp ’08 off to an informative start.
“I feel that I would take away more information about the music industry and places I can take my music to get it exposed to the public,” said Ramond Harris, a Music Production student.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Saturday morning I woke up at 4:00 AM for a 6:50 flight out of Newark Airport to Los Angeles. Then add a long plane ride and a three-hour time difference and you would have found me on the red carpet in Los Angeles with the four other GRAMMY® Campers in the Concert Promotion Production/Music Journalism career track. We stood at the end of the media line -- a 70-foot span of photographer and journalists -- at The GRAMMY Foundation®’s Starry Night event to honor Sir George Martin.
All of us were in awe at the music legends that did interviews from only a few feet away. People such as Jeff Beck, Lamont Dozier, and Jimmy Jam spoke about their delight to honor Sir George Martin and their admiration for his work. At the same time, to my disappointment, Ringo and Sir Paul were unable to attend.
Yet standing almost five feet from Yoko Ono and nearly ten from Sir George Martin was an experience that not many 18 year olds have. The best moment of my night was meeting Joe Walsh—but not as an adoring fan. Out of the 530 graduates of Montclair High School’s class of 2008 I was one of six students to receive the William R. McClellan Award, a $1000 scholarship funded by Mr. Walsh in honor of a music teacher. Thank you cards were sent to the Alumni Association and were then passed on to Mr. Walsh. I introduced myself and watched his uncertain expression burst into a smile. The opportunity to thank him personally was truly unimaginable.
When asked to play one of her songs she picked up her guitar and performed an original acoustic pop ballad called "Young Hearts.” Though Jillian isn't shy about playing in front of an audience, she admits that she's "open to criticism" and here to become a better songwriter. "I came to GRAMMY Camp because I knew it would be an awesome experience,” she said. “It's a great opportunity to learn songwriting techniques and what it's like to be a professional musician."
Jillian, who hopes to learn from both her teachers and fellow campers, believes that GRAMMY Camp is the perfect place to do just that. Like many campers, Jillian hopes to ultimately become a professional musician and finds that one of the most rewarding things in her life is affecting people with her music. As she put away her guitar she said that she wants her music to not only entertain, but to also help people overcome "difficult times." Jillian is the only member of her family that is involved with playing and writing music, though her great-uncle was a member of the 80s rock band Hero. While impressed by her great uncle's success, she isn't interested in becoming a huge rock star. With her talent for singing and playing both piano and guitar she just wants to write songs that "express her feelings and creativity."
After finishing writing her chorus she explained that she was excited to start working with her combo and finish her song. Just two days in she already loves GRAMMY Camp. She's even considering joining in a rap battle that a few of the drummers and audio engineering campers have started. "GRAMMY Camp is full of opportunities," she said. "All the campers are skilled and passionate, ready to learn, and willing to have a good time while they're at it."
Kamari, who’s working hard in his Music Production track, has fallen in love with all the amazing equipment where he can throw down some beats. “The equipment is beautiful and everyone’s really chill,” he says. “It’s cool.”
Talking about where his love of gaming originated, he recounts a story of receiving his first video game system. When he graduated from kindergarten, his grandmother snuck him a Game Boy. He played it everyday and fell in love with video games. With a confirming nod he states, “I love my grandma.” He has many favorite video games, one for each of the many systems that he owns. On his XBOX 360 he loves Ninja Gaiden 2, Super Smash Brothers Brawl on his WII, and Little Big Planet on his PS3.
Now he’s working on creating his own game though. One day, Kamari had been reading the Bible when he decided he wanted to make “Revelations” into a game. “It’s my favorite and it sounds like a movie to me,” he says. When he shared his ideas with a tech geek friend, his friend, who already had the tools for creating a game, loved it. So they started with creating a main character. As they put more work into their project, it became into an apocalyptic game with angels and demons. Nightmarish dreams become reality and the players choose their own path. They can either be good or bad by fighting angels or demons. Whichever path they take determines how they will play the game. Not only did Kamari create the idea for the game, he also scored the music for it. He describes it as “raw and intense” with a lot of horns and violins in each piece.
Maybe one day we will have the chance to see the finished product on the shelves at Game Stop. Going back to the topic of GRAMMY Camp, Katari talks about what he hopes to get from his two weeks here, namely friendship, connections, experience, and most importantly, fun. “If you’re not laughing, you’re not living," he says.
Monday, June 30, 2008
2008 GRAMMY Camp Selectees And Tracks
Ian Arnold - Bethesda, MD (Music Production)
Jessica Aycock - San Rafael, CA (Singer/Songwriter)
Grahm Bailey - Michigan City, IN (Keyboards)
Taylor Barner - Houston, TX (Music Production)
Julia Berlin - Montclair, NJ (Music Journalism/Concert Promotion)
Tadjh “iTALY” Brooks - Cincinnati, OH (Audio Engineering)
Vincent Camerano - Belingbrook, IL (Drums)
Jordan Carillo - West Covina, CA (Audio Engineering)
Edwin Carranza - San Fernando, CA (Bass)
Kamari Carter - Los Angeles, CA (Music Production)
Daniel Clark - Mableton, GA (Drums)
Scott Cohen - Pacific Palisades, CA (Music Production)
Natalie Cressman - San Francisco, CA (Trombone)
Joshua Crumbly - Palmdale, CA (Bass)
Parker Davis - Walla Walla, WA (Music Production)
Jef Derderian - Dinuba, CA (Trumpet)
James Dieffenbach - Pleasantville, PA (Singer/Songwriter)
Nicholas Diiorio - Petaluma, CA (Bass)
Gregory DiMartino - Sherman Oaks, CA (Bass)
Doron Dina - Beverly Hills, CA (Audio Engineering)
Sam Doniger - Los Angeles, CA (Guitar)
Andrew Ecklund - Lake Villa, IL (Music Production)
Toby Ellis - Wellfleet, MA (Drums)
Kwasi Fordjour - Houston, TX (Music Journalism/Concert Promotion)
Adam Gertner -Englewood, CO (Drums)
Josh Goldenberg - Piedmont, CA (Music Production)
Jillian Grutta - Coeur d’Alene, ID (Singer/Songwriter)
Faith Hahn - New Hope, PA (Singer/Songwriter)
Katie Hale - La Cañada, CA (Singer/Songwriter)
Barry Harris - Glenolden, PA (Singer/Songwriter)
Ramond Harris - Atlanta, GA (Music Production)
Mike Harrison - Dearborn Heights, MI (Guitar)
Travis Henry - Divide, CO (Keyboards)
Jordan Holt - Inglewood, CA (Music Production)
Tycho Horan - Santa Monica, CA (Music Production)
Edward Jay Jackson - Atlanta, GA (Music Production)
Ryan Jarvis - Darien, IL (Bass)
Alexandra Kelly - Fair Lawn, NJ (Singer/Songwriter)
Trevy Kiy - San Diego, CA (Music Production)
Justin Klunk - Torrance, CA (Saxophone)
Benjamin Kreitman - Palo Alto, CA (Trumpet)
Kristin Kuraishi - Irvine, CA (Music Production)
Joseph LeMay - Dyersberg, TN (Singer/Songwriter)
Rachel McClusky - Evanston, IL (Singer/Songwriter)
Sammy Miller - Rolling Hills, CA (Drums)
Nick Paton - Colorado Springs, CO (Audio Engineering)
Ben Pedrosa - Los Angeles, CA (Audio Engineering)
Max Plisskin - Danville, CA (Music Production)
Lana Ray - Concord, NC (Keyboards)
Steven Ray - Concord, NC (Guitar)
Jenay Ross - Rodeo, CA (Music Journalism/Concert Promotion)
Ashley Miracle Ruiz - San Antonio, TX (Singer/Songwriter)
Ashton Ruiz - San Antonio, TX (Singer/Songwriter)
Richard Saunders - Simsbury, CT (Singer/Songwriter)
Julian Sharifi - Long Beach, CA (Keyboards)
John Shippey - Santa Monica, CA (Guitar)
Shane Silver - Studio City, CA (Music Production)
Branduin Stroud - San Francisco, CA (Singer/Songwriter)
Talia - Scottsdale, AZ (Singer/Songwriter)
Sarah Tither Kaplan - Los Angeles, CA (Music Journalism/Concert Promotion)
Meryl Williams - Oakland, CA (Keyboards)
Dertrick Winn Jr. - Austin, TX (Music Journalism/Concert Promotion)
Adam Zuckerman - Santa Monica, CA (Guitar)
Friday, June 20, 2008
GRAMMY Camp® will culminate with an exciting Showcase Concert featuring some of the work that has been created by the students during their time at camp. Family, friends and supporters are encourages to attend this incredible evening of original music and media.
Tickets are free but space is limited so click here for the reservation form.
Monday, June 16, 2008
The star-studded event will feature performances by some of the most celebrated artists in the world and multi-GRAMMY Award-winning producer and former GRAMMY Foundation Board member David Foster will serve as the evening's musical director. An outstanding array of musical luminaries will perform including acclaimed pianist and singer/songwriter A Fine Frenzy aka Alison Sudol, America, Burt Bacharach, Jeff Beck, Chris Botti, Natalie Cole, Kurt Elling, Dave Grusin, Tom Jones, Michael McDonald, Naomi Sommers and Jimmy Webb. In addition, members of the Gibson/Baldwin GRAMMY Jazz Ensembles will perform. Other special guests and performers will be announced shortly.