Soundtrax: California Dreamin'

With winter just around the bend, it’s hard not to wish you were out where the palm trees grow and the beach is hot year-round. As we head into the season of snow, let’s kick back and dream about California with eight pop songs that feature the state’s name. This mix features OurStage artists Ron Pope, Natalie Creel and Big Bottom.

Congratulations To Shallow Royale, Winners Of The Guitar Player "Take The Lead" Competition!

The results are finally in! For weeks, OurStage guitarists have been battling each other and melting faces with their gnarliest riffs and licks, all for a chance to win our Guitar Player “Take The Lead” Competition. However, there was only one band mighty enough to take the lead and conquer all. The winner of this ongoing shredfest is Shallow Royale for their song “Son Of Liberty.” Based out of American Canyon, Calif., this three-piece has stuck it out through many obstacles, recently with the addition of a new bassist, to keep their big sound alive. The winning guitar solo is played by Chase Crow, one of two brothers who are founding members of the band. Check out Chase’s incredible riffs in the playlist below.

As their prize, not only will they be featured in an upcoming issue of Guitar Player magazine, but they will also be taking home a year’s supply of Ernie Ball strings and accessories! So congratulations, Shallow Royale. Your axe-wielding skills have fared you well. May the rock be with you.


Get Back Loretta Take Ernie Ball Pop Grand Prize

A month of fierce competition has passed and California’s Get Back Loretta have risen through the ranks to be crowned the Grand Prize Winner of the Ernie Ball Pop” Competition with their track “Gotta Believe.” Founded in 2004 by five friends out to create a sound that could not be easily defined, Get Back Loretta have spent the past eight years making their goal a reality. “Gotta Believe” embodies this idea, blending contemporary alternative rock with lyrical prowess of a Top 40 pop single into one catchy and rhythmic tune. If you like The Fray or Jack’s Mannequin, give Get Back Loretta a spin. Congratulations to Get Back Loretta”enjoy a year of touring and writing without worrying about costly string purchases.


Darryl Williams Proves Jazz Is In His Blood, Walks Away With Free Strings From Ernie Ball

Ernie Ball was feelin’ “all that jazz” in August”sponsoring the OurStage Jazz Channel for the month and offering artists a chance to win a years supply of strings and accessories. The fastest fretting, hardest hitting, six string slinging jazz cats entered for a chance to win, but only one killer artist could take home the grand prize.

That artist is California composer, bassist and producer Darryl Williams. Williams’ distinctive chops have landed him gigs with the likes of Chaka Khan, Brenda Russell, Tevin Campbell and many more. With a fresh supply of strings, Williams is sure to be be-boppin’ his butt off into 2012.

For a sample of his fine fretting, check out the playlist below.

Live Wired: Controversy Of Airing Festivals Online

Technology is changing the world as we know it every day. We all know that new technology and advanced knowledge may lead to incredible achievements but they also result in criticism. When technology is used properly, an industry can do great things. But there will always be the people who want things done “the old-fashioned way”. Within in the music industry, new technology has completely changed the way things are done and the opportunities available. From social-networking Web sites to digital music and illegal downloading, the way that people consume and connect with music has changed drastically in recent years.

One prominent example of this involves music festivals. Not able to afford a ticket? Live thousands of miles away? You no longer have to worry because most of these events now bring the entertainment to you for free…and you don’t even have to leave the house! This year, many of the big music festivals began live streaming their performances online. Coachella used YouTube, where fans could choose between three different stages at any given time to watch their favorite acts. NPR Music and Limelight Networks provided SXSW with the means to stream featured performances over the course of the festival.  HullabaLOU Music Festival, Pitchfork Music Festival and Bonnaroo Music And Art Festival also followed this growing trend. In addition to festivals, Ben Folds even took to Chatroulette during one of his live performances last year and improvised songs about the random people he was connected with through the Web site. Overseas, BBC aired performances from the huge Glastonbury Festival, which takes place every year in England.

Legendary lead singer of the rock band The Who, Roger Daltrey has been vocal about his aversion to the concept of airing live music festivals. In speaking to BBC Radio in Scotland last month he certainly didn’t hold back, saying that the TV coverage makes him “want to puke”. He elaborated by explaining that “most of the mystique is taken away” with this recent development. He also criticized the idea because he doesn’t believe artists are able to benefit much from it. Daltrey commented on the industry as a whole, saying, “I think the record industry has been decimated by free downloading and touring is becoming incredible expensive”. Having been a part of the music world for a long time now, he certainly has a different perspective on the way it has been shifting. But, are his complaints valid? (more…)

Interview With Ernie Ball Indie Pop Winner Buckeye Knoll

April was a good month for indie pop on OurStage.  Why you ask? Because Ernie Ball sponsored the Indie Pop Channel in search of one choice artist to award a year’s supply of free strings and accessories. What they got was a tidal wave of great artists and a tough call to make.

They landed on I Roll from California pop-folkies Buckeye Knoll. The trio is fronted by songwriter Doug Streblow”self-proclaimed James Taylor mega-fan and a sucker for hooks, harmonies and storytelling. We caught up with Streblow to chat about the win, his influences and his strategy for making it in today’s music biz. Check out the interview below and stop by Buckeye Knoll’s profile for a closer look.

OS: Who are some of your biggest influences when it comes to songwriting?

DS: I was introduced to James Taylor’s music a long time before I picked up a guitar and it had a profound effect of me. My choir director growing up had the choir sing all kinds of arrangements by him, and I started taking a liking to them immediately largely due to the fact that the songs were often arranged with the tenor part being the melody which I sang. James Taylor writes well-crafted songs with accessible melodies, lyrics and a whole lot of genuine emotion. I got hooked on that, and those attributes have found their way into Buckeye Knoll songwriting. Other than that, I’m a sucker for great hooks, big harmonies and great storytelling regardless of genre or particular songwriter.

OS: If you could list the top three guitarists who’ve inspired you the most who would they be? Any particular reason why?

DS: Obviously James Taylor first and foremost. He manages to bridge an incredibly complex folk finger-picking style with pop hooks, R&B rhythms and that solid rock/blues foundation. This guy isn’t just jamming out 4 chords over a 4/4 rock beat, he’s playing melodies and harmonies and driving a rhythm section with just his acoustic guitar and voice and everyone is feeling it. I strive to bridge genres and write guitar parts that are both melodic and very rhythmic at the same time and I learned this from James Taylor’s playing style. Other than that I’d say I’m influenced by Cat Stevens and more contemporarily Brett Dennen.

Photo courtesy of Gino DePinto


OS: In your experience, what are the best new ways for artists to promote themselves online?

DS: Primarily we use Facebook to keep up to date with our fans mostly because it’s so easy for any band member to use and edit content. Second to that we use YouTube and Vimeo regularly to promote upcoming shows, tours, releases and anything else where we want to get the word out about something happening in Buckeye Knoll world. We make videos that are both fun for us to make and fun for people to watch, and hopefully will encourage people to spread the word about our band.

At the end of the day you have to have a couple of key things. Without them no amount of Internet wizardry will get you to where you want to be. In our experience we’ve found these things to be:

  1. Great music that people will like.
  2. A well developed and interesting brand (photos, videos, online media) that will attract people and keep them engaged.
  3. A genuine and authentic story and message.
  4. Determination and a kick ass work ethic.
  5. A huge love for what you’re doing and the music you’re making.

If you’ve got these things, you’re on the right track.

OS: How does it feel to cross guitar and bass strings off the shopping list for a whole year?

DS: Awesome! If you’re a musician, you know it costs money to maintain your instrument. For guitarists the main reoccurring cost is your strings, and if you’re playing a lot like us, you can go through them quickly which can add up on the old pocketbook. Not only are we stoked to take the cost of strings out of the equation for a year but we’re stoked to be playing Ernie Ball strings and trying out some strings we wouldn’t have bought otherwise. All around, it’s awesome.

OS: How did it feel to win the Ernie Ball grand prize?

DS:  Like having a milkshake for the first time; delicious, refreshing and cool.

OS: Any shout-outs you’d like to make to the fans who helped you snag the Grand Prize?

DS: We’d like to thank Oprah, Charlie Sheen and Barack for taking time out of their busy television, drug dealing and political schedules to lay down some thick votes for Buckeye Knoll.

Follow Up With Coors Light "Search for the Coldest" Midwest Winner Billa Camp After His Baltimore Bash With N.E.R.D. And PacDiv

Billa Camp charmed listeners with his ode to his favorite state in “California” and reigned supreme in the “Coors Light Search for The Coldest” Midwest Channel. The result: Billa got to fly to Baltimore to open for N.E.R.D. and PacDiv, and has a chance at being crowned the “Coldest MC”! We caught up with Billa after his performance in Baltimore to see what it was like to open for heavyweights N.E.R.D. and PacDiv and how he plans on winning the Grand Prize”a performance at ESSENCE® Music Festival in New Orleans.

OS: How did you react when you found out that your song was the winner of the Midwest Channel?

BC: I was hyped! There were plenty of worthy emcees from the Midwest. It’s an honor to have came out on top.

OS: What inspired you to choose California a song about your love of the West Coast, to be the track you submitted into the Midwest competition?

BC: Personally, I love the entire make up of the continental United States. You can drive from one end of the country to the other and feel as if you’ve stepped into different worlds. I was born in New York, became a man in Chicago, but I was always intrigued by how filmmakers portrayed California life. Being from the Midwest you’re in the middle of it all. I feel the song connects with people not only from the Midwest, but all over. Simply because, mostly everyone has dreamed of going somewhere or doing something to escape the realities of everyday life.

Billa Camp performing in Baltimore

OS: What was it like opening for N.E.R.D. and PacDiv? Were you a fan of them before you entered the competition?

BC: Of course, I knew who both the groups were. It was sick, crazy, bananas, inspirational, motivational and any other complimentary word used to describe a situation. Actually, six months ago I had an interview where they asked me: “Who would I most like to work with”? I answered “N.E.R.D.” Positive thinking goes a long way!

OS: What was the most memorable moment from the show for you?

BC: Just being there was memorable, but if I had to pick one thing it would be…Seeing N.E.R.D & Pac Div on the same bill for “free”. Priceless!

OS: What are your plans for promoting yourself to earn that Grand Prize”a performance at Essence Music Festival in New Orleans?

BC: I’d rather not say right now, but all you can do is go BIG.

OS: What kind of impact do you think this will have on your career going forward?

BC: I want to use this as a stepping stone, and these are definitely steps in the right direction.

OS: Any shout outs for the fans and your supporters on OurStage who helped California win in the competition?

BC: I want to say “Thank You” to everyone who voted and took the time to support independent music. Without them, there would be no independent artists.

OS: After seeing Eclectic Approach performing live, what do you think of the competition in the finals?

BC: Jowed is dope. He’s got good crowd control. It was a great experience and I had fun. You can’t beat that.

Check out Billa Camp’s winning track below:

Congrats To Buckeye Knoll From OurStage And Ernie Ball!

Every good band begins with an interesting back-story, and for Buckeye Knoll, it all starts with Doug Streblow. The young songwriter took a “sabbatical from life” in the woods of California”what resulted was a book of hand-crafted songs that would form the foundation for the California-based trio. The group consists of two guitarists and a bass player, so they doubtless go through a lot of strings. Lucky for them, we’ve got that covered.

OurStage and Ernie Ball are happy to do our part for Buckeye Knoll by supplying them with a year’s supply of guitar and bass strings. For this, they can thank you, the fans, who put them in the Top 10 of our Indie Pop Channel for April 2011. Congratulations to Buckeye Knoll for winning the April Ernie Ball Indie Pop Grand Prize, may you rock them in good health.

If You're Happy And You Know It …

The Mowgli's

Barking dogs, idle chit-chat, jubilant whoops”the background noise of The Mowgli’s is almost as interesting as what’s going on in front of the mic. The California band’s relaxed approach to recording creates the effect of a soundtrack to a boisterous campfire sing-a-long. Five vocalists make for a rag-tag choir where improvisation is always welcome. Take, for instance, Waiting For The Dawn/Blues”an unruly and earnest folk-blues revival. Let’s change the world! the choir shouts. With one vocalist, the line might sound cheesy. But when everyone sings it, you’re more inclined to roll with it. The Great Divide is simpler, sweeter terrain. As a composition, it’s stripped back, but the choir helps fill the void with feral, joyful singing. Think of The Mowgli’s as a laid-back Fleetwood Mac, high on life. In San Francisco, a loose and shambling folk rock song, the choir sings, Do you feel the love? We do. Now it’s your turn.

California Hard Rockers Lucid Fly Win Free Strings From Ernie Ball

The Ernie Ball Competition on OurStage has awarded free strings to some of the hottest artists on the site, giving them that extra little push they need to keep the music coming for a whole year longer. With their ethereal vocals, driving rhythms and soaring choruses, west coast hard rockers Lucid Fly are no exception. The California quartet climbed all the way to the top of the Hard Rock Channel in March with their song Blind, and landed themselves a year’s supply of free strings and accessories from Ernie Ball. We recently caught up with guitarist Doug Mecca to get a little insight into their musical world, their influences and to find out what’s on the horizon for this up-and-coming act. Check out our exclusive interview below, and for more information and tunes, hit up Lucid Fly’s OurStage profile. Don’t forget that artists in the Indie Pop Channel are currently battling for the Ernie Ball grand prize, so if indie pop is your bag, go show them some love in the judging department!

OS: You guys relocated to Los Angeles from Florida a few years back, how has that change affected your fan base? Any major differences between east coast and west coast followers?

DM: Since we moved we’ve had to connect virtually (mostly online) with our fans back east while building a name as a new band in LA.  We’re in a much bigger city now and the diversity and numbers out here are amazing.  We were attracted to that more of everything that LA exemplifies and we’ve been loving that”both as artists and as music fans ourselves!! If anything we realize more the similarities”word-of-mouth is still the greatest way to find new music and to be found. We all enjoy sharing things that move us.  Every week we find new music and fans not just from the east and west coasts but also Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, Japan, Australia¦ with the technology of  the web and social networks, Internet radio, podcasts and of course sites like that give independent bands a platform to be discovered!!

OS: You mention in your bio that as a band, you are constantly evolving. What are the next steps for Lucid Fly?

DM: We’ve been writing our next CD so we can’t wait to start recording that and then get out there to tour and perform these new songs for everyone. The new music seems to be evolving in a more dramatic way and naturally lends itself to something more visual both onstage and in video.

OS: Who are you listening to right now? Is there any band or artist in particular that’s had a noticeable impact on your writing style?

DM: We’ve been really into some amazing bands from Australia like Karnivool, Dead Letter Circus, Birds of Tokyo¦ there’s something going on there and we can’t get enough of whatever that is! Also bands like Katatonia and Baxter are still getting serious rotation in our playlist lately, both from Sweden incidentally.  Music from there seems to have this dark and mellow quality even when it’s heavy. Maybe it’s the cold weather and dark winter thing but we like it. Haha.

OS: How do you utilize online tools to reach new fans? What do you think are some of the most important things for bands to do to reach new audiences online?

DM: We jump on any new social network that helps us find like-minded people”especially the ones that will filter people based on their music interest.  Sites like, and play songs mixed in where there’s a good chance of overlapping tastes and we get lots of activity from those as well. The first thing we do when someone mentions an artist that we don’t know is typically go straight to one of the big social sites because we want to hear the music!  The easier it is to find and hear, the better so we try also to make our songs easy to find. We feel that just connecting with like-minded people in general, online or off, is key.  Music is meant to be shared so we believe in genuinely interacting with people because it’s rewarding, not for any motive. The more tools that make that easier, the better!

OS: What was your reaction when you found out you’d won the Grand Prize? Are there any shout-outs you’d like to make or people you’d like to thank?

DM: Woohoo!  It feels fantastic to be recognized and to know that people out there enjoy listening to our music as much as we do making it.  To be supported by Ernie Ball and OurStage is huge for us and other independent bands to be able to do this.  Everyone knows that it costs money to tour and record so a year’s worth of strings and accessories was a very welcome and appreciated surprise! A lot of people have helped us get here and continue to create and we appreciate you all!! For sure everyone who’s ever listened, downloaded or shared our music with their friends¦ you make this happen for us and we can’t thank you enough.  Big love to OurStage and Ernie Ball for hooking up unsigned bands like us get heard!

Lucid Fly currently plans to get back into the studio some time this year so if you like what you hear, be on the lookout for more music coming soon.