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.
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
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.
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.
- ATTENTION LADIES: Justin Timberlake is single!
- Sarah McLachlan says no more Lilith. Must be too busy making depressing SPCA commercials.
- Who on earth would let Charlie Sheen buy weapons?
- Grey’s Anatomy is totally trying to be Glee.
- Oh, no. There are pop stars even younger than Bieber.
- Pregnant Pink rocks a very revealing muumuu. Maybe not the best fashion choice.
- Willow Smith is the most legit 10-year-old we can think of.
- Oh snap! Kanye is not going to be pleased about this.
- Worst news ever: Trent Reznor isn’t scoring or appearing in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
- Megan Fox’s new film goes straight to DVD. Maybe you shouldn’t have quit Transformers, eh Meg?
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.
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.
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.
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