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I recently inquired as the whereabouts of The Neptunes given Pharrell Williams’ solo success and stint on ‘The Voice.’ He’s returned to his roots with N.E.R.D., featuring Pharrell, Chad Hugo, and Shay Haley. They’re back with Rihanna by their side for “Lemon,” and the video is hypnotic. Directed by Todd Tourso and Scott Cudmore, it features Mette Towley, a Minnesota native with a BA in Dance who has worked as a touring dancer with Pharrell for years. Catch them in action at ComplexCon.
Selena Gomez has some good friends, one of which is Francia Raisa, who willingly donated her kidney to Gomez after Gomez suffered the severe symptoms of Lupus. The story is insanely moving, but it certainly got me thinking. Other than my immediate family, I doubt I’d donate a kidney to save a friend’s life. Watch below as the two discuss the process.
It might seem odd to say that a singer’s voice is his best asset, but in the case of David Gray, it’s worth noting. His voice perfectly punctuated the power of his beautiful music, yet the rougher, more masculine tone gives it a mesmerizing juxtaposition. I’m guessing he’s aware of this because he stepped right onto that Los Angeles stage at The Greek Theater for an Acapella rendition of “One Fine Morning”, which roused the audience the moment he arrived (see video below). He then effortlessly moved to the piano, where he delivered a stadium worthy performance with the feel of a small dive bar. And just when you thought it couldn’t get better, the multi-instrumentalist grabbed his guitar.
It feels as if you’ve just discovered David Gray. As if you’re about to run home, CD in hand, hijacking your friends stereo to introduce them to this great underground artist they just have to hear. Nowadays, that process comes in the form of a link, but it’s all the same love for music with an immediate desire to share that love with the world.
David Gray is a live artist. Artists come in many forms, and some of my personal favorite albums aren’t quite up to snuff with what happens on stage. There’s many reasons for that, but when a musician exceeds the album, it’s magic. My favorite song of the night was “The One I Love,” given that Gray slightly changed the arrangement to give the tune a more upbeat, live-band feel. He saved “Babylon” for the end, along with “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye” and “Nightblindness.” Though one might think “Babylon” served as the evening’s highlight, I must reiterate that because each and every performance was better than the next, this was not a wait-for-the-hits concert. Every second was used wisely, and I’ll now be attending every Gray concert possible from now on.
Gray’s 10 album, 25-year career has positioned him as one of the UK’s leading artists. The Grammy-nominated musician’s latest studio album, Mutineers, set itself apart from previous albums, while simultaneously satiating his oh-so-loyal fan base. Gray also released a greatest hits collection entitled The Best of that included a re-recorded 25th Anniversary version of “Shine” and new tracks “Smoke Without Fire” and “Enter Lightly.” He is currently in the studio recording a new album which is set for release in 2018.
As for Alison Krauss, she certainly does not need my accolades. She’s a polished live performer with a stellar backup band and a very loyal audience who appeared to be hyper-focused on her every move. It takes a top-notch artist to command such respect, and Krauss proves she’s worthy, time and time again. In fact, as the Gray/Krauss show neared its end, my inner monologue was on overdrive as I thought, “Wow, here’s two people who proved what a show looks like when it’s just about the music. Here I am, under the stars at one of the best venues in Los Angeles, watching the purest of people share their gift with the world. The audience’s attention span reflected that. Just pure, unaffected joy.
The alt-folk duo known as Stables sent this video for “Reverie” my way, and I dig. There’s an obvious comparison to The Lumineers here. Their debut album, “Beyond Brushes” is worth a listen, as is their song below. Their new album drops next year. Check it out.
Looking for your next underground artist on the rise? Meet RIVVRS, also known as Brandon Zahursky, who is an interesting mix between Mike Posner and Hozier. I don’t know Mr. Zahursky personally, but I’d imagine he’d take issue with the Posner comparison, but that’s a compliment on the vocals front. He adds an interesting layer of depth to this lane, which happens to be a sweet spot on my playlist, thus making me the perfect person to review his new lead single, “Don’t Give Up On Me.” The song can be found on his full-length album, ‘Cosmic Dream’, which will be released in 2018.
I can’t take full credit for finding RIVVRS, though. He’s has over 30 song placements on network television shows, and over eight million Spotify streams. In fact, his debut single “I Will Follow You,” was written into the script of an episode of ‘About A Boy’ in 2014. Prior to his full-time career as an artist, he worked in the wine industry. When he left, he couch surfed, played house concerts, and performed at a coffeehouse in San Luis Obispo, which is where another artist told him to attend the Durango Songwriters Expo near Santa Barbara. It was there that he got the attention of the Hollywood music supervision community. Sometimes it pays to take a risk, and judging by his new single, he made the right decision.
Listen below to his latest release, which you can also find here.
If Malcolm Gladwell’s10,000 Hour Rule applies to anyone, it’s the Goo Goo Dolls. The Buffalo bred band began their music career nearly a decade before their breakout success with “Name” in 1995 on A Boy Named Goo, which was their fifth studio album. But that was just the beginning. They’d follow it up three years later with Dizzy Up the Girl, which featured “Slide,” Black Balloon,” “Dizzy,” and “Broadway.” And who can forget the heart-tugging “Iris,” off the City of Angels soundtrack, which was ranked #1 on Billboard’s “Top 100 Pop Songs 1992–2012” chart. The multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated band includes founders John Rzeznik (lead singer, guitarist) and Robby Takac (vocalist, bassist), who have garnered an impressive 14 top ten radio hits and 12 million album sales. I had the pleasure of catching them on tour at The Greek for their latest EP release, You Should Be Happy, and it’s my first time seeing the band live. Those in my inner circle are aware that nearly all my free time is spent attending the concerts of earnest up-and-comers, but every so often a girl wants to go to The Greek to celebrate a seasoned act. And the Goo Goo Dolls delivered. In fact, they far exceeded my expectations. Rzeznik’s interaction with the audience creates an intimate, small-venue vibe, which is hard to do at the illustrious Greek. As for Robby Takac, he has a rare raw energy which could fool you into thinking this is the first time they’ve played these songs live. They’re grateful to their devoted fans, and it shows. I was fortunate enough to pick the brain of Robby Takac, whose colorful career extends beyond the Goo Goo Dolls with his own label, festival, and more. Read below to learn the secrets of The Goo Goo Dolls’ success and longevity.
In researching your band, I discovered that you were hustling for a decade before your breakout success.
Yeah, making punk rock all over America.
Do you know the exact turning point? Was there some sort of creative shift?
I think we got to live out a decade in public that most bands get to live in their basement. In that time, we learned how to play, we learned how to sing better, and we learned a little bit more about album making and the music industry. The stars lined up, and we had a hit record.
I also read that you had a less than stellar experience with your label at the time.
We were signed to a label that I won’t give the press to right now. It was two labels, actually, before we signed to Warner Bros. Records. I’m the sort of person, personally, who looks at every experience as leading you to where you are today, and we’re in a really great place today. I don’t think I would’ve changed any of that history, honestly.
When you look back at that 10 years before you broke out, was there a period where you thought this just isn’t going to happen and maybe I should shift my career?
I don’t think I ever really thought that. I think it crossed John [Rzeznik]’s mind a bunch of times, but I’m always the guy that’s trying to pull everybody back in the van again for 10 years. It was just persistence. We got lucky and things happened for us right at a time where most bands don’t make it 10 years.
[In that time], we felt marginally successful because our first record sold 6,500 copies, our second record sold 30,000 copies, and our fourth record sold 100,000 copies. We were making progress. But right around our third record is when bands like us all of a sudden started getting real record deals. Our heroes were selling 30,000 copies.
Do you think it was also a sign of the times?
Absolutely. Every hit record is a sign of the times. It’s a reflection of what is allowed to happen in popular culture at that particular moment.
You’re making really good new music. Do you ever get sick of playing the hits?
John jokes about that sometimes during the shows. He’ll say, “Please don’t run for a beer right now. We’re about to do a new song.” What I’ve found is we used to put out a new record and there was a long process for people to get to those songs. They had to get to the store, buy it, unwrap it, get to their house, put it into their stereo, listen to it a few times, maybe make a tape, put it in their car, etc . . . Now, they just have to say, “Hey, phone. Play the new Goo Goo Dolls record.” New music is literally at the end of their arm. When people come [to the show], they know [the new songs] because of that ease of access. There’s all this talk about death of the music industry, all that kind of stuff. People have more of a connection to music than they ever had. It’s modernization and rebirth.
The same great talent still rises to the top. Music might be more accessible, but the standouts are a very small number. You might get YouTube hits, but very few people can fill The Greek. Do you agree?
I absolutely do. Cream always rises to the top. It doesn’t always become huge, but it always rises to the top. But when you remove the physicality from music, it becomes less of a part of your life. It becomes data. When I was a kid, I went through my record collection in my room. Those records — Deep Purple’s Made in Japan — are part of my life, man. When you remove that physicality, it removed a bit of the mysticism. This weird physical connection to the music is gone. We just released our first five albums on vinyl, for the first time. The plan is to release the next six on vinyl.
Speaking of record sales, everyone says musicians need to tour longer because people are buying less records. Do you find that?
We’ve always toured a lot, but we never have those entire years off anymore. We used to take a whole year off and rehire a crew after a year, and we’d spend that year making a record. We don’t do that anymore. I think our crew has been on staff now for the past six years. [Bands] play more now, but I think that’s how you get great.
Do you like the business element behind the music? Do you ever think, “I just want to play music, and I don’t want to do all the other stuff that goes along with it?”
It’s probably different for us. I’ve had the same manager for almost 27 years now, the same record label for 22, and the same booking agent for 20 years. They’re all like family so things are a lot different for us than they are for a lot of bands.
Many bands argue and break up and get back together constantly. Does it say something about your specific personality that you have been able to sustain those connections for decades?
It’s not about any one person’s particular temperament. Everybody in this organization has been a complete a-hole at one point or another, but it’s about knowing who ultimately has your back. Most of [our team] have proven themselves and those who haven’t have weeded themselves out along the way. Sometimes it’s sad when that happens, and sometimes it’s a joy.
A lot of our successful peers went away for a while to be actors or do solo projects. Nostalgia has come around and it’s valuable to put their band back together and make money. That’s not what we did. We have the distinct advantage of having worked at this that entire time and, hopefully, gotten better.
Can you take me quickly through how you and John met?
I played in a band with our first drummer, George [Tutuska], and I also played in a band with my cousin who played with Johnny. Johnny was in that band, too. John and I just got to be friends and got an apartment together and decided that we were going to take over the world with our amps, guitars and a lot of hairspray. We started playing around the country. We’ve been friends ever since.
How did you decide to swap the lead vocals? I know you started as the lead singer.
We’d audition lead singers constantly and never found anybody. We had a studio so I just started singing. John sang one or two songs and then it became the opposite. John started finding his own voice. It’s pretty amazing what happens when you actually let something find its own course.
How do you determine which of your songs land on the record?
I usually bring in five or six songs. When we listen to those, it becomes pretty obvious which ones we’re going to start working on for the record. John will then have a few ideas that he’s been putting together with a producer on that song. We work on them one by one.
Are you precious about your material?
It’s an uncomfortable mixture of being precious and knowing what we want. I understand the value of someone else’s expertise and ideas. That comes with growing up. When we were kids, it was a fight with every single producer. We would argue as if they were the camp counselor or the teacher. That can happen now in the course of being creative, but I don’t think [it’s the same].
I started by signing a few bands in Buffalo that I really liked. I quickly found out that if you want to make enemies in your hometown you start a record label and sign bands. It’s just hard. There’s so many bands [that say], “Why not me?” Because my band was successful, the expectations were high. I was ready to shut my label down after about five years.
One of my bands, The Juliet Dagger, went to Japan and worked with a band called Shonen Knife who I had been a fan of for my whole life. They’d been together longer than my band. As I was about to close the label, Shonen Knife called me up and said, “Hey, what do you think about doing a record for us?” I couldn’t say no. I then signed a couple other bands from Japan. It’s been fun. There’s a band over here right now, actually, called Pinky Doodle Poodle that’s on tour. I’ve worked with Pinky Doodle Poodle and Shonen Knife directly in the studio. I’ve also produced records for The Molice.
We started it 15 years ago with just one stage and 10 artists. Now it’s 125 displaying artists and 15 stages.
Are you very hands on with the creative process?
I do it all, and I have a great staff of people that work for the organization in Buffalo. We do camps for kids and we do Battle of the Bands for adults. This festival has become sort of the flagship. It’s pretty great.
For more information on Goo Goo Dolls and their current release, click HERE. Listen to “Use Me” below, which can be found on You Should Be Happy.
Should Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton know better than to suggest it’s “funny” to “hear a female reporter talk about routes,” especially in today’s climate? I once worked for a boss who used to say my detailed quest to understand the ins and outs of my job was “cute.” At the time, I ignored it. In retrospect, it reeks of Cam Newton, whose much-talked-about remark was made to reporter Jourdan Rodrigue of The Charlotte Observer when she asked him about receiver Devin Funchess’ route running. It’s clear Newton is thrown off by the specific question from Rodrigue.
There’s something very important to mention here, and it’s that Jourdan Rodrigue’s hands are not clean. The scandal has drawn attention to her racist tweets of the past, which has forced her to offer an apology. I’ve read her apology, and I reject it. She says, “I apologize for the offensive tweets I made 4/5 years ago. There is no excuse for these tweets and the sentiment behind them. I am deeply sorry and apologize.” First, why mention the timeline? Whether it’s five years ago or two days ago, she should know better, as should Cam Newton. And if we can assume that Cam Newton is sexist person based on one remark, then can’t we also assume that Jourdan Rodrigue is racist based on more than one tweet? The evidence is analogous, and I’d go so far as to say that any suggestion otherwise might be based on skin color. She mentioned that timeline because she thinks it’s relevant. She wants people to know how long it’s been, as if it offers her a pass. Second, Jourdan did not offer Cam Newton any leeway in this situation, and she in fact piled on. This man is a human being that could perhaps be enlightened rather than admonished, and if you won’t offer that to him, then we should not offer it to you. While I understand that Jourdan says she talked to Newton after the comment was made, it’s completely unclear what was said, and I cannot draw any conclusions from that.
I love that social media holds people accountable, but does the punishment always fit the crime? And if you live in a glass house, perhaps you shouldn’t so greatly capitalize on an opportunity to derail someone’s entire career over one remark. Newton has since apologized, and I’m also not a fan. Much like my criticism of Kathy Griffin, the timeline is too close to the infraction. He lost endorsements, panicked, and said what he needed to say. As a writer, it’s also important to note that saying “if you are a person who took offense” suggests what he said isn’t generally offensive, but perhaps just offensive to those who are especially sensitive. Newton is not alone here. There are plenty of men who have deeply ingrained ideas about women, and until these things are pointed out over and over again, they won’t change their viewpoint. But change is in fact possible, and it doesn’t occur by bullying someone into seeing your side.
Though I’ve always known Lisa Bloom is a joke, I’m still in disbelief that she’d take Harvey Weinstein’s case given that she, at the very least, has championed herself as some sort of civil rights activist. Movie Mogul Harvey Weinstein joins the ranks of many powerful men in the entertainment industry accused of sexual harassment, and he has stepped away from his post to allegedly seek help. His many out of court settlements documented by the New York Times didn’t serve as enough a jolt, but instead, the public firestorm showed him the light. The Time explains how he got away with this below:
Dozens of Mr. Weinstein’s former and current employees, from assistants to top executives, said they knew of inappropriate conduct while they worked for him. Only a handful said they ever confronted him.
Mr. Weinstein enforced a code of silence; employees of the Weinstein Company have contracts saying they will not criticize it or its leaders in a way that could harm its “business reputation” or “any employee’s personal reputation,” a recent document shows. And most of the women accepting payouts agreed to confidentiality clauses prohibiting them from speaking about the deals or the events that led to them.
The Times furthers that:
Across the years and continents, accounts of Mr. Weinstein’s conduct share a common narrative: Women reported to a hotel for what they thought were work reasons, only to discover that Mr. Weinstein, who has been married for most of three decades, sometimes seemed to have different interests.
As for Weinstein himself, he got some bad advice for his apology, beginning it with an excuse (which he says is not an excuse) about how he “came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.” He has also put a spin on why he comissioned Ms. Bloom’s services, saying:
Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go. That is my commitment. My journey now will be to learn about myself and conquer my demons. Over the last year I’ve asked Lisa Bloom to tutor me and she’s put together a team of people. I’ve brought on therapists and I plan to take a leave of absence from my company and to deal with this issue head on. I so respect all women and regret what happened. I hope that my actions will speak louder than words and that one day we will all be able to earn their trust and sit down together with Lisa to learn more.
If I were advising handsy Harvey, here’s how my statement would read, “I’m clearly sick and in need of help. I’m disgusted by my behavior, and I deeply apologize to each and every woman I’ve harmed. You will not hear from me until I’m healed.” That’s all I would say. As for the culture of the 60’s, that’s akin to saying, “everyone else was doing it,” which I imagine would not fly with Harvey’s children either. Consent, respect, and fidelity (Harvey is a married man) were alive and well in the 60’s and the only thing that’s changed is accountability and social media. That being said, it’s astounding that he got away with this so long.
You’ve got to hand it to Julia Roberts. She still looks great, and she’s just as likable as she’s ever been. Plus, she sure can promote her flicks with the same fierce fervor as she did as a rising star. Watch below as America’s sweetheart reminds us of her entire career in the span of nine minutes, with a little help from James Corden. You’d never know that they once called her “Tinkerhell” on the set of hook.
Those who know me are aware of my after-dusk You Tube deep-dives, which usually entail watching endless interviews with my favorite stars. One such star is Kevin Costner who made an appearance on Graham Norton and dropped this little gem about how one of his most iconic roles came to be. Watch below as Costner reveals the very funny relationship with his close friend who stayed just a little too long on his couch.