amazing icon

Oh My Darling

Separately, Elora Taylor and Dee Filc are just two twenty-something ladies from Oakville, Ontario. Together, they become something even better, a folk duo called Tallulah Darling that plays stripped down, bare bones rock and country. Though the two cite influences like Miranda Lambert, Loretta Lynn, Dixie Chicks, and Toby Keith, you’ll find more street edge in tracks like Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop. There, a serpentine bass, buzzsaw guitar riffs, and cheeky lyrics are loosely combined for raw, unrefined rock. Metal Heart, on the other hand, is a more lackadaisical meditation on love, wrapped up in acoustic guitars and falsetto vocals. Finally, on This Is Not A Joke, those country roots are unearthed. With the wistful, confessional appeal of Taylor Swift, Mulligan delivers her simple request: This is not a joke so please stop smiling. Mute adoration, however, is permitted.

Thursday, Decemeber 8th, 2011

Jenna Bryson Gains Insight From Industry Legend Don Ienner

Jenna Bryson isn’t your typical rising talent. You won’t find a long-winded backstory or moment of musical revelation in her bio”just Jenna, her songs and her humble personality. It’s these traits and more that helped the LA songwriter rise the ranks of the June Artist Access Premium Member Competition on OurStage, eventually landing her a mentoring session with one of the music industries most sought after resources”IMO president/ founder and former Sony Music and Columbia Records chief, Don Ienner.

In the nearly forty years of working in the music industry, Ienner has helped further the careers of legends like Springsteen, Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Billy Joel, Pink Floyd and has guided the passage of talents like John Mayer, Dixie Chicks, Alice in Chains, Jeff Buckley, Beyoncé, Matisyahu, Franz Ferdinand, Nas, Lauren Hill, Cypress Hill and many, many more.

Bryson and Ienner recently sat down for a chat in NYC and, well, we’ll let her tell you all about it herself. Check out Jenna’s video below”featuring a performance of her winnings song Happy and a personal recount of her mentoring session with Don Ienner. Want a mentoring session with industry powerhouse Rob Stevenson? Sign up for OurStage Premium Membership and enter the August Artist Access Competition now!

End of the Revolution: Has Pop Lost Its Social Conscience?

“You say you want a revolution,” The Beatles taunted in 1968. Seventeen years later, the Cult declared, “There’s a revolution.” When Tracy Chapman started “talkin’ ’bout a revolution” in 1988, she left the battlefield with multi-platinum spoils and two GRAMMYs. Pop music may be entertainment first and foremost, but at its most powerful, it’s also been an agent of change, social change, political change, inner change.
“A change is gonna come,” Sam Cooke sang on his 1964 classic. Surely he didn’t envision it eventually going down quite like this. I think the turnaround began in the ’90s, when U2, one of the most popular and influential political groups of all time, discovered girls and disco balls. Nearly two decades later, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Stevie Wonder and George Michael are off the singles charts, John Lennon and Marvin Gaye are still dead, and musical activism is mostly the domain of artists on the sidelines of the mainstream.
Meanwhile, in the middle of the road… Billboard’s Top 10 for the week of January 15” led by “Firework,” an anthem for doomed youth with none of the eloquence of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” from 2002”perfectly reflected the shallow mindset of 2011 pop. With its “boom boom boom, even brighter than the moon moon moon” refrain, “Firework” is more tiring than inspiring and ultimately comes across as a clunky excuse for Katy Perry to look gorgeous and set off explosives with her breasts in the video.
Further down the hit list, Bruno Mars is a fool in love”twice. Pink is getting another party started. Enrique Iglesias is flirting again. And the Black Eyed Peas”well, I gotta feeling that ripping off the Dirty Dancing theme was just a way to make more quick bucks. When it’s up to Ke$ha to bring the social commentary (with “We R What We R”), you know we’ve got a problem. Where’s the revolution, the signs of the time? There’s a grenade, yes, but it’s in the name of love, not war.
Every so often there’s a disaster”September 11th, Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti”that springs pop stars into action. For the most part, though, they’re all about gold diggers, teenage dreams and bad romance. There are still some iconoclastic talents out there, though they don’t frequent the Top 10. I’m still not sure how a call to action as powerful as Muse’s “Uprising” stalled at No. 37 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 2009. Maybe the band’s Twilight-obsessed fans prefer when Matthew Bellamy is singing love songs for vampires.
M.I.A. made an unlikely trip to the Top 5 in 2008 with “Paper Planes,” but when she tried to fight the system with last year’s brutal, honest and brutally honest “Born Free,” her video was banned almost everywhere, including on YouTube, for containing violent images that actually were no more disturbing than anything James Franco does in 127 Hours, or that crazed gunman did in last season’s Grey’s Anatomy finale. The same thing happened to Madonna in 2003, when she challenged George Bush with her “American Life” clip. She was strong-armed into filming a new version of the video, the single and CD flopped, and she retreated to the dancefloor for her next two albums.
Perhaps it’s the censors who are intimidating pop’s would-be revolutionaries into inaction. If you dare to clash with rigid, arbitrary standards of decency, as 30 Seconds to Mars’ “Hurricane” video recently did (the MPAA probably would have slapped frontman Jared Leto’s antics with a PG rating at worst), you can forget about airplay. Years ago, pioneering rap acts like Grandmaster Flash and Furious Five and Run-D.M.C. documented life on the mean streets without courting controversy. When Public Enemy came along, they raised the stakes and pissed people off, probably limiting their commercial potential. I can’t imagine any of today’s swag-obsessed rap acts offering oratory as scathing as Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” or Fear of a Black Planet.
These days, rap’s primary focus, mentally and musically, is boosting egos and making money. Wiz Khalifa’s Top 10 “Black and Yellow,” in particular, represents everything that’s gone wrong with the genre. Eminem occasionally shows flashes of a social conscience” dig deeper into the lyrics of “Love the Way You Lie,” and you’ll realize that it’s an indictment of domestic violence, not a celebration of it” but in hitmaking mode, he’s mostly looking inward, not outward.
Who’ll bring social and political awareness back to the mainstream? Dixie Chicks tried their last time out, and won the 2007 Record of the Year GRAMMY for “Not Ready to Make Nice.” Since then, Record of the Year GRAMMY contenders mostly have been about sex, love and rehab. Rhythm and romance, like sex and candy, will always have a place in pop music, but who wants to party all the time? May the state of nations (wars, terrorism, collapsing economies, earthquakes, public shootings) inspire more of our stars to dim the party lights, turn some of the lust to anger, and get pop’s revolution back on track.

Poetic Justice

Poema

Here’s something that happens, well, never. You’re a new band, playing a show, and an A&R guy from a favorite label happens to be there. You give him your demo, he invites you out to Seattle to showcase, and a week later you have a deal. Thus goes the serendipitous back story of Poema, a folk-pop sister duo from Albuquerque signed to Tooth & Nail Records. Growing up in a musical family, sisters Elle and Shealeen Puckett had ample time to perfect their vocal harmonies and learn their instruments (piano and guitar). The results of their woodshedding can be heard on 2 AM, a catchy acoustic pop number that puts the Puckett sisters’ talents on full display. A sugared ditty about first-date recriminations, the song is cheerfully woeful and rings oh-so-true. But even more than the subject matter, we love the lilting vocal harmonies and hooky melody, which call to mind a youthful, more mainstream version of the Dixie Chicks. Poema’s story is just beginning”can’t wait to hear more from this sister act.

Spurs Of The Moment

OSBlog02_SpursMoment_Week3_Jan10“Spurs of the Moment” is your up-to-date source for all happenings in the country music community. Make sure to check in bi-weekly to see just what’s going on with your favorite country singers and stars!

For the most part, January 2010 has been pretty low-key for many country music stars. However, the devastating effects of Haiti’s earthquake brought out their power in force for the victims and their families. These humanitarian efforts come as no surprise to those of us who know that country stars readily flock to the aid of others, no matter where or for whom, at the first sign of distress. Now, as the world anxiously watches, the giving hearts of millions is truly showcased. America’s sweetheart Taylor Swift, and apparently Haiti’s too, represented the country community during MTV’s Hope for Haiti Now telethon that aired Friday on MTV. Keith Urban and Sheryl Crow also joined T. Swift to raise funds to aid the relief efforts of the disastrous effects from the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked Haiti on January 12th.

(more…)

COUNTRY CALL 'EM: COUNTRY STAYS CURRENT

OSBlog02_CCE_MASTERNo matter what is going on in our country”from the magnitude of presidential elections and impending war, to the circus that is our nation’s media”everyone seems to have something to say. Country stars are no different. By using their songs as platforms, country music fans always know just what their favorite stars are thinking, whether we want to or not. Ironically, we hold their relatable stories of love, loss and Friday nights on a pedestal but when it comes down to something we see on the news, many fans suddenly prefer that these innate songwriters turn a blind eye. Country stars have boldly confronted national issues for years; some have been applauded for their honest portrayal of national concerns, while others pay for speaking out with their careers.

"The Angry American"

"The Angry American"

An artist that has always been able to pack a punch lyrically is none other than Toby Keith. Back in 2001, after the tragic events of September 11th, Nashville started cranking out song after song in support of the country. Keith was no different. His single, Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American) certainly stirred up emotions throughout the country music community. With lyrics like, Justice will be served, and the battle will rage. This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage. And you’ll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A.’Cause we’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way, Keith was literally and lyrically threatening the forces that sucker punched our country on that fateful day. Because of its sentimental value, Keith had originally decided to only perform this song when touring for troops, but after Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, James L. Jones, told Keith it was his American responsibility to record the song and lift the morale of the troops, Keith could not keep this rabble-rousing song to himself. However, after the release of this single, reviews were mixed on Keith’s in-your-face, vengeful lyrics. Natalie Maines, lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, came forward against the song, saying she felt it was ignorant, and it makes country music sound ignorant, fueling a long and tiresome feud between the two. The opposition didn’t stop there. When Keith was asked to perform on a patriotic special on ABC, host Peter Jennings requested that he tone down the aggressive lyrics in this song. Keith refused and did not play in the special. But, in a 2003 interview, Keith responded to all the heavy opinions of the single with this, It wasn’t written for everybody. And when you write something from your heart”I had a dad that was a veteran, [who] taught me how precious our freedom is”I was so angry when we were attacked here on American soil that it leaked out of me.

On the other end of the lyrical spectrum, Brad Paisley wrote a progressive and historically-relevant single with his Welcome to the Future. In it, Paisley references the many ways in which our country has evolved, from technology to the growth in equal rights through the years. He sings about a black friend of his from high school who had a cross burned in his front yard because he asked out the Homecoming Queen, and how he wished he could see how far we’ve come. He calls Wake up, Martin Luther. Welcome to the future! When Paisley was invited to play at the White House for President Obama and family, he recalls choking up as he sang the lyrics. Obama says of the song, and country music; It’s captured our restlessness and resilience, and told so much of our story in the process.” Usually a comical lyricist, Paisley’s song is subtle, poignant and graceful as it delicately exhibits his hope for continuing growth in our country.

Single appeared on Brad's "American Saturday Night" album

Single appeared on Brad's "American Saturday Night" album

For Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks, a song was born after a media fire storm no one could have ignored. In March of 2003, Maines made comments at a London concert regarding the band’s views on the impending Iraq War, the President and their shared Texan roots. To be specific, she declared to the crowd, Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence. And we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas. But, after the doctored, Just so you know¦we’re ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas hit the American media outlets, all hell broke loose for the trio. After country music radio stations boycotted the threesome’s music, and protests sprouted throughout the country, it seemed as though the Chicks’ career was over.

Mag Cover to address the Chicks' controversy

Mag Cover to address the Chicks' controversy

The group’s songs were no-where to be heard in the country community, who felt that disrespecting the President on foreign soil was nothing less than an unpatriotic sin. However, with hard work just as resilient as Natalie’s unforgettable words, the Dixie Chick’s determination and talent could not be quelled. In 2006, the women came back with their seventh album, Taking the Long Way, with their first single being Not Ready to Make Nice. The single frankly addresses the public reactions and disturbing events that followed their defiant stand against the war and the President. While they aimed for a universal interpretation, and not a literal one, there are lines in the song that cannot be translated otherwise. In reference to a particularly rattling death threat Maines received, lyrics question And how in the world can the words that I said, send somebody so over the edge that they’d write me a letter, saying that I better ˜Shut up and sing’ or my life will be over? The Chicks also filmed a rockumentary appropriately named “Shut Up and Sing,” chronicling their ordeal post comment-heard-round-the-world. Both the film and comeback album did shockingly well, Taking the Long Way earning five Grammy Awards in 2007.

As country music fans, we are rooted in the honesty and integrity of our favorite songs on the radio. We love that these are real stories that we can relate to and believe in. But, when a song is written that has such a strong message that it can either polarize or unite their fans, paradoxically, we must accept this rarity as the most raw form of art and songwriting. Appreciation for these frank testimonials of American life must be a priority for country fans, or all we will be left with are empty verses leaving us cold and needing more from our favorite artists.