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Amy Stroup Wins Ernie Ball Singer-Songwriter Competition

Amy Stroup, a longtime OurStage favorite, with seventeen different chart placements in the Top 40 or better, has been selected as the winner of our Ernie Ball Female Singer-Songwriter competition. With its compelling combination of mellow electric piano, drum loops, and rich, sweet vocals, her song Chin Up impressed the judges, who had a tough choice with some serious talent to choose from. Stroup’s prize is a year’s supply of strings and accessories from Ernie Ball “ that should come in handy for this gifted multi-instrumentalist, whose songs have been heard in such high-profile spots as Grey’s Anatomy, Pretty Little Liars, One Tree Hill, and more. Read our recent piece on her here, and hear more Amy Stroup on OurStage. Check out her winning song below.

 

Superlatones: Cutest Couple

Lately, it seems that we are hearing more and more from new, unexpected partnerships between artists of different genres. This is why, through Superlatones, we are creating our very own directory”a musical wish-list, if you will”of artists who have yet to join the collaborative bandwagon.

 

Ah, Valentine’s Day: a day for romance, wining and dining, long walks on the beach and candle-lit dinners. But whether or not we’ll be spending the day with a special someone, there’s one thing that always ensures we will never feel alone: music. And who better to show us the brighter side of life than the cutest couple in music today.

The Dynamic Duo:
Ingrid Michaelson and Greg Laswell


 

 

 

 

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Industrial Revolution: "Grey's Anatomy" Killed The Radio Star

It’s official. TV is the new radio. Television is now the primary medium through which casual and even passive listeners with a general interest in music stand the greatest chance of discovering new music and artists.

Whether through serial dramas, sitcoms, commercials, or reality programming, television is absolutely soaking up hip indie rock bands and singer-songwriters as well as unsigned and often unknown artists. Sometimes it lends them cache “ a coolness factor that comes from being associated with something that sounds new. In the case of some higher-profile bands, like the ubiquitous Black Keys, this can cost them a chunk of change. Subaru and HBO, among others, are shelling out to feature the fresh-retro sound of a band like the Black Keys, which appeals to both young, in-the-know music fans and to an older generation who are so excited to hear something familiar-yet-new that they jump online (or, depending how old they are, to¦the record store) to find the genesis of this sound. Other times, and this is best case for the television show or advertiser, they spend relatively little on an unknown song from a licensor’s roster that either sounds fresh or sounds like another act they can’t afford or don’t want to pay for.

They wouldn't spray paint it if it weren't true.

In both cases, it’s a win-win. The unknown artists get the kind of instant and national exposure that they wouldn’t get even if the biggest commercial radio station in their town started playing them. And the TV shows are getting these artists cheap, so they’re cramming more music into their shows AND often giving them a credit somewhere during or after the show. The bigger acts, meanwhile, are benefiting by getting bigger “ in the course of six studio albums, the Black Keys have only in the last year or so, with an increase in song licensing, jumped out of a comfortable cult status and into the consciousness of people who are neither savvy toward new music discovery nor particularly interested in getting savvy. Even if they really like good music, they know they don’t need to work that hard to find it. Just wait for the new iPod commercial, do a Google search, and, boom, you’ve discovered The Submarines. Bands, likewise, no longer have to pander, as in years past, to the corporate powers-that-be at major commercial radio. If you have that one song that perfectly captures the ennui that apparently comes standard with having a medical degree, you might get yourself on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy”ladies and gentlemen, The Fray (whose success on that show’s soundtrack has led to more and more such opportunities, many of which the band reports turning down for fear of overexposure).

And bands no longer grapple with the concept of selling-out. Television has always needed music, but bands used to be reluctant to accept offers to have their music synced with a commercial or any images they don’t control. Now, that wall has come down. For bands, getting on television is not only an acceptable way to distribute your music, but an enviable achievement. A band with a song on MTV’s The Real World will remind their friends and fans on Facebook to tune in, posting it as they would a good review. And they see instant results. YouTube views hit the thousands literally overnight even after a brief clip on such a high-profile show. And the next check from iTunes or CDBaby might be a nice surprise.

There are still quality commercial radio stations out there but, over the last ten years, many have become stale and afraid to take chances on untested music. Some major commercial stations began testing alt-rock hits from the mid-90s on listeners, finding that they liked them”they still liked them” and so they put Stone Temple Pilots back into heavy rotation, fifteen years later, rather than risk valuable airtime on a relatively unknown artist.

Well, it’s their loss and the beneficiaries are the TV shows and the artists. The world would be a slightly better place if commercial radio were more adventurous and compelling, but in the meantime, at least there is a new and effective outlet for bands. Television has a broader reach and a more engaged audience to pitch to. Unlike radio listeners, people watching TV aren’t driving or reading or playing with their kids. They’re watching TV, so shut up, dammit, I’m trying to Shazam the song in this Target commercial.

Sound And Vision: Five Music Stars With Family Members You Didn't Know Were (Almost) Famous

For many an aspiring singer, having the right last name can provide a considerable career boost. Though the pop flames of many celebrity offspring and siblings burn out after a handful of hits, if that many (poor Julian Lennon, Jakob Dylan, Lisa-Marie Presley, Wilson Phillips, Nelson, Lalah Hathaway, Louise Mandrell, Stella Parton and Ashlee Simpson), a precious few have managed to sustain significant music careers. (Natalie Cole and Liza Minnelli come immediately to mind, as do Rosanne Cash, Pam Tillis and Nancy Sinatra.) Meanwhile, Sean Ono Lennon has never troubled himself with the pursuit of mainstream success, and the jury is still out on Miley Cyrus and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith‘s brood.
Francis Bean Cobain, your move.
While we’re waiting for the daughter of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love to claim what would seem to be her birthright, we’ve got plenty of big names from musical families to entertain us”though many fans might not even realize their impressive lineages. Family value may have given these performers opportunities early on, but in the end, like Nancy Sinatra’s dad, they did it their way”not because of their surnames. Yes, nepotism is alive and well in pop”and it probably will continue to be”but these brothers and sisters (and sons and daughters) are doing it, for the most part, for better and worse, for themselves.

Ke$ha

The woman who is responsible for some of the trendiest pop hits this side of Katy Perry’s breasts is actually a little bit country. Seriously. Though I wouldn’t expect her to break out into yodeling mid-song, in-between swigs of Jack, I also never say never. Her mom Pebe Sebert cowrote “Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle To You,” which was  No. 1 country hit for Dolly Parton in 1980. I once interviewed Parton, and when I told her that “Old Flames” was one of my favorite of her songs growing up, she feigned indignation and snapped, “Oh, and it just happens to be one I didn’t write!” So not only is Ke$ha responsible for throwing “Tik Tok” on an unsuspecting world, but thanks to her mom, I incited the ire of Dolly.
Albert Hammond Jr.
I didn’t think it was possible, but the dad and namesake of the Strokes guitarist might be even cooler than his little boy” if you happen to be a fan of ’70s and ’80s soft-rock. I saw an infomercial for his most recent album, Legend, on Australian TV recently, and I was shocked by all of the major hits the singer and producer has written (from his own “It Never Rains in Southern California” and the Hollies’ “The Air That I Breathe” to Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias’s “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” and Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”). His most recent high-profile production: Endlessly, the sophomore album by Welsh singer Duffy, who, contrary to popular belief, is not the daughter of Shakin’ Stevens.
Chord Overstreet
Why don’t the Glee kids give more props to country music? After all, one of their very own, Overstreet, the blond-haired, pout-lipped actor who plays the blond-haired, pout-lipped Sam Evans, is directly descended from Paul Overstreet, one of the biggest country stars of the late ’80s and early ’90s, with nine straight Top 10 hits, including two No. 1s. Though the cast of Glee have yet to make it to Billboard’s country singles chart, Overstreet the elder must be proud that over on the Hot 100, his Nashville-born son is part of the act that’s now had more hits than Elvis.
Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum
Speaking of country, Lady Antebellum has two members who are part of the family business. Hillary Scott’s mom, Linda Davis, had a No. 1 GRAMMY-winning hit duet with Reba McEntire in 1993 called “Does He Love You.” Charles Kelly’s big brother Josh is a singer-songwriter who’s married to former Grey’s Anatomy star and current rom-com regular Katherine Heigl. Thanksgiving dinner at the Kelley’s house must be some star-studded affair. I wonder if there’s a red carpet leading to the turkey?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Get Your Song Placed In Kiefer Sutherland's 'The Confession'!

Exposure. Exposure. Exposure. Everyone knows that the right exposure can make all the difference in the music business, and it’s every artist’s job to find the best ways to get it. Over the years, song placement in movies and TV shows has become one of the best ways for artists to reach potential new audiences. Take for example shows like Grey’s Anatomy and SKINS, who have given up-and-coming artists a platform to launch their careers. The Confession, a new web series featuring Kiefer Sutherland, is hoping to give emerging artists a launching pad and are looking for talent on OurStage.

The Confession is hosting the The Confession Song Competition” on OurStage in order to give artists a chance to get their song featured on an upcoming webisode of the show. The Grand Prize Winner will receive one-of-a-kind exposure when their song is broadcast across the web via Hulu to the shows fans. So what are you waiting for? If you think your song has what it takes to make it to the show, enter by March 23, 2011 for your shot at this incredible opportunity. Your bright lights, big stage music career could be just a few clicks away.

By helping to select an artist winner, one Grand Prize Fan Winner can snag an invitation to the VIP screening of the show alongside Kiefer Sutherland and the all-star cast in NYC! Ten first place prize winners will win a poster from The Confession autographed by Kiefer Sutherland! Get to judging by March 31, 2011 for your shot at the above prizes and help one rising star get their big break.

Get Lyrical: Andrew Belle's "Make It Without You"

Last week, Get Lyrical gave you a taste of both the romantic and decidedly unromantic fare on OurStage. This week, we forego the happy love songs altogether and look into a break-up song that”despite being beautiful”is pretty much just depressing. The song is Andrew Belle‘s Make It Without You, from his 2010 release The Ladder. Grey’s Anatomy fans might recognize the tune from a May 2010 episode; it played while Alex signed her divorce papers and Callie and Arizona had their break-up talk. Grey’s music producers were spot on (as they usually are when they manipulate viewer emotions with a well-timed song), because Make It Without You is truly heart-wrenching.

At the song’s opening, Belle is planning to leave town when he gets a call from someone asking him not to go. He sings that he can’t stay, saying that somewhere, there’s a Northbound train. Those lyrics, paired with the song’s title, might initially cause listeners to believe that this song is intended to be an f-you to an ex. Lines like, This is the starting of a brand new day/I never liked this town much, anyway, only seem to prove this point. But despite this claim, and with the repeated mantra, I’ll make it without you, in the song’s chorus, Belle never appears certain that he actually will make it. His annunciation makes the track sound like a desperate attempt to convince himself that he’ll be okay on his own. And with a casual nod to his burgeoning alcoholism”I never cared much for the taste of gin/I still don’t now, oh, but it’s been helpin’” the listener has to wonder if Belle actually will make it alone.

Make It Without You fits perfectly as the tenth and final track on The Ladder, closing out a record whose major themes include transition and change. Its painful uncertainty and delicate melody make it an ideal song to play at the end of an album, a relationship or a tear-jerking television drama.

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.

Judges Needed For MTV's Score SKINS Music Project

Song placement in TV shows has long been a great way to expose up-and-coming artists to new audiences and, in some cases, propel these artists into superstar status. Take for instance shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, The OC, and One Tree Hill, all of which boosted the careers of artists like Bon Iver, Snow Patrol and Ray LaMontagne to name a few. Now, MTV is bringing England’s hit teen drama SKINS to the eyes and ears of US audiences, and is looking for undiscovered musical talent to include on the show. The MTV Score SKINS Music Project aims to give OurStage artists the chance to have their music featured when the show airs in 2011. Artists started submitting their material in the beginning of November with the hope that their song will make it to the airwaves. The competition is CLOSED to submissions and is entering the final stages of judging. Artists need YOUR votes now more than ever to make it to the ears of the music supervisors at MTV. By judging in the MTV Score SKINS Music Project you can be part of the process that helps break an artist to thousands of new listeners. You just might discover some great new music along the way. Click HERE to begin judging in the MTV Score SKINS Music Project today.

Folkin' Around: Q&A With Matthew Perryman Jones

We’ve brought you a lot of album reviews, OurStage artist features and playlists here on the Folkin’ Around series. If you recall our feature on Pocket Satellite, you may remember that the use of harmonies is a common and current folk practice. We showed you Matthew Perryman Jones’ and Katie Herzig’s performance of “Where the Road Meets the Sun” as an example of girl-boy harmonies (P.S., have you caught Katie Herzig with OurStage artist Andrew Belle in the new video for “Static Waves”?).  Well, we’ve now reached the end of our road here on Folkin’ Around and we’ve decided to bring you a Q&A with Matthew Perryman Jones himself.

Jones is an accomplished singer/songwriter from Nashville, TN, and he has the track record to support that resume. He’s been featured on countless TV shows and has toured the globe. Check out what he had to say about songwriting, television licensing and his current projects.

OS: Your style seems to combine folk songwriting with electric arrangements. At what point in the writing process do these extra layers come in, and do you work with producers to achieve them?

That’s the stuff that goes back to when I was younger”REM, the old-school U2. So I’ve always lived that, and I really wanted to make some records that incorporated more of an environment for the song; I wanted to create with different instruments. I did a record in 2000 which is definitely more of a folk-based thing. But during the last couple of records, I’ve been working with a producer that I really like”how he arranges the songs and the sounds he’s been able to get. I just didn’t want to be the guy with the guitar. I was personally getting tired of that”I spent most of the nineties just me and my guitar. So I really wanted to explore creating a musical environment for the song. It’s funny because the next record I do is probably going to be more stripped down. You kind of tend to swing one way or the other, because you get tired of one thing and you’ve got to just go to the next thing. So the next record might be completely different than the last two.

OS: Some of your most striking accomplishments are effective song placements (probably Grey’s Anatomy is the most notable). Do these placements change your outlook on the songs?

MPJ: Oh, that’s an interesting question. I don’t know if I’ve really thought about that too much. Every time it’s been really cool”I don’t see every one that airs. I’ve noticed on most of them, they’ve been really cool. I felt they were really appropriate; they want to hear a certain kind of emotion. Even thematically, the song may be a different thing, but there’s an emotion that they’re going for. The folks that work in film and TV that are placing the songs are really tasteful. So it doesn’t really change my outlook on the song.

There was a song called Swallow the Sea off my last record that was on Royal Pains. They played it during a time where there was this guy who was a drug addict and he was going through withdrawal. That was one where I was like Man, they really got the feeling of the song. It’s a song about futility, and it was kind of like the culmination of this guy’s story, coming up to his withdrawal. The film/TV thing that’s going on today, what I really appreciate is that the people really do listen to the music. They’re not looking for a hook or how short the song is. They’re like what does this song mean and what does it feel like? They’re putting it up against real life drama, so they want it to be real. Which is the refreshing part about it. They want something that’s human, that’s real, that’s emotive. It’s really what music should be.

OS: “Where the Road Meets the Sun” is a very interesting collaboration with Katie Herzig. How did you two work together as far as writing this song?

MPJ: There’s actually a pretty cool story to this song. We write together quite a bit. It was probably about two or three years ago; we just got together and wrote the song in my kitchen. We came up with it and really liked it. It was originally about a scene in Central Park. Angel wings spread over water, one wishes. It’s that famous fountain in Central Park that everyone goes to with the angels over it. It’s just a story about two people. So we wrote it, and it just kind of sat around. We put the lyrics and GarageBand recordings on both of our computers. And it happened that both of our computers at different times had crashed and we lost all of it.

We were actually asked to have a song in a movie that I think was called Dear John. They had asked us to write a song together for the movie. I was like, What was that song we wrote a while ago . . . ? Katie was like, Well, I lost it when my computer crashed. We thought it would be awesome if we could remember but we were really having trouble. Then I got a text from Katie at like 2 in the morning saying that she remembered it. She apparently was just going to sleep and the song just came to her. So she got up, went to her computer and recorded everything she could remember. So we got together and finished the song. And that’s how it came about. The Dear John people decided it just didn’t fit for the scene. We had recorded it and everything, and like two weeks later it ended up going onto the season finale of Grey’s. I’m glad we rediscovered it, because I really like it.

OS: You’ve got a show coming up with Herzig. When was the last time you played with her?

MPJ: I’ve done some shows and she’ll come up and sing with me. If she’s around, we’ll try and do that song together. We’ve done a couple tours together, but that’s been a few years. There was this one time where she was playing in Atlanta and I was at home in Nashville, and people were requesting Where the Road Meets the Sun. So she called me on the phone and I basically sang the song on speakerphone into the microphone live in Atlanta. I don’t think it really turned out that well, but it was probably pretty entertaining for the people there.

OS: It’s been a while since you’ve done an official release. When can we expect a new one?

Currently, I’m actually working on a new full-length. I’m just in the thick of writing for it. The goal is to maybe have it out by the first of the year, but I’m not sure if that will happen. I have a lot of stuff that’s different, so I’m trying to take the time to make something special.

Stay tuned for Jones’ new album and, if you missed him with Herzig, stay tuned for more fall dates. Here are a couple already announced:

9/15 Vienna, VA ” Jammin’ Java

9/30 Birmingham, AL ” Samford Univeristy