Hard to believe, but SXSW has announced yet another round of new artists, bringing the total to an amazing 2,000-plus acts. But after seeing that the new additions include The 1975, Against Me!, and St. Vincent we have to admit it’s worth expanding an already enormous lineup. Also performing will be Kelis, Damon Albarn, Chromeo, Ingrid Michaelson, Kylesa, Speedy Ortiz, SZA, Lucius, Jacques Green, together PANGEA, Women’s Hour, Betty Who, and Lost in the Trees. You can view the full lineup here (warning: it’s going to take you a while to sift through), and catch SXSW from March 7-16 in Austin, TX.
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
OurStage artist Marie Hines has been making music for as long as she can remember, beginning to write songs at the age of twelve. The depth of her songwriting abilities, musical vision and vocal ability make for a truly breathtaking combination”both on her records and in live performance. Its clear to see why Marie has ranked high in the Best of the Best Charts on OurStage, as well as had other great success on and off the site. Marie is currently creating another five-song EP that will be released in February. We had a chance to catch up with Marie and ask her about her musical background and what has molded her into the phenomenal singer-songwriter she is today.
OS: You say you started writing songs at the age of twelve but when did you begin singing, and when did you begin formal voice training?
MH: I guess you could say I’ve always been a singer. I used to walk around my house at ages three and four belting the theme song for The Little Mermaid at the top of my lungs… My poor parents! I sang all through middle school and high school, but didn’t start formal voice lessons until my senior year in high school”I needed help preparing for my audition for the School of Music at Belmont University in Nashville. I was accepted as a Commercial Voice major at Belmont, and studied there for four years, graduating with a degree and a hefty load of vocal training under my belt.
OurStage artist Xoe Wise is not one to sit still. Having lived in various parts of the US and tried numerous hobbies and activities, she ultimately realized that her heart was set on making music. Her laid-back and soulful tunes have reached the Top 10 four times here on OurStage, including a Number 1 win in the Pop Channel last February.
Twenty-year-old Xoe has had a busy year. She filmed a music video, released a full-length record, played at the Microsoft Store and is slated to play a massive benefit concert for Michigan cancer foundation Believe in Miracles in 2011. We caught up with the quirky and passionate singer-songwriter to hear about her life, her music and how the two continually inspire each other.
OS: You started getting involved with music at a young age when you took up the flute. What eventually made you decide to pick up the guitar and become a singer-songwriter?
XW: As a kid, it’s almost silly how many foods, instruments and dreams I tried out before I decided to stop eating everything on trees and stop pushing the concept that a kid could really grow up to be a mermaid. While this may seem semi normal for a little kid, the scattered passions and curiosity that was in my heart grew strong into my high school years where my plans ended up towards a soccer scholarship in SC. Sometimes I’ve wondered what it would have been like…I’ve learned to respect the destiny of my realizations though…the love I feel for sound and art held intensity, leading it to surface past a million other activities I felt decent love for. I do remember my dad having a guitar in his woodshed and I would write songs for baby goats we were raising. As moving as those goat songs probably were, I don’t consider that my origin of songwriting. Like everything, singing and songwriting’s surfacing point parallels love. We can go through events and relationships bitter and confused, but at some point, even by contrast of another human being, love will surface. It’s not that flute wasn’t enough for me at the time, but eventually my heart fell deeply in love with music, so deeply that I wanted to ask it to marry me, scream it from the rooftops, or become a musician perhaps.
OS: Your music is very influenced by the beach, but you’re currently living in Chicago. Without the beach close to you, how do you spend your free time in the city?
XW: This question is so important because I had to ask it to myself after moving here. In a lot of ways I’ve been able to write about the sea, and feel its intensity and importance from a new perspective. I have a huge interest in geographical relationships. Do some people need to be in the sun? Feel the salt? Humid air? Does it have to do with our ancestors or experiences? There are places, people, and smells that we feel at home with and sometimes it hits us later in life. The idea of a soul mate transcends into the world of geography. Where I sit and write music and who I sit with, are very similar questions. This long distance relationship with the East Coast has helped me know the world better through its resonating and haunting memories, therefore again I write. More specific activities in the city consist of open mics, running, spending time with my god moms and friends, making tea, writing, I daydream on my apartment floor a lot. I like finding weird spots and imagining who and what was there before. If this is too heavy for some of you who wanted to be my friend until you realized how much I’m absorbed in thought…I also like eating sour straws…no talking…just eating…walking around hardware stores and listening to music while I pretend to need something. In the end I always leave happy with a few random plants and bolts. I take some classes at a schoolhouse too.
OS: You recently released your first full-length album, called Echo. What would you say are some of the main themes of the album?
XW: Echo in the end became not only relevant to this album, but future albums, past albums, in fact all art. There were some great people bringing this album to life. My godparents helped connect this dream to reality, my mastering master Collin Jordan, Arthi Meera doing some great vocals, Chris Blasingame on pedal steel, and Ryan Neuschafer engineering. I collaborated with an amazing producer. His name is Ethan Stoller and he is one of my greatest friends. They say that Cancers and Leos don’t get along but we truly had some solid musical chemistry. His wife, who is just as fantastic for listening to Echo for months, is also a Leo and they are are a beautiful couple. Anyway, both of our minds helped to make this album with talk of heartbreak, some hope, falling in love, a lot of talk about driving, summer in cars..some of it is for everyone’s imagination. “This is our love, thought you should know, this is the sound of our love’s echo” is a line from the song “Echo.” It’s hard to remember what happened, but somewhere inside of me, something knows, that love has an echo. A song is an echo of love. This is why it’s hard to pinpoint themes; because essentially the songs are as far as I could go with labels of feelings. I do believe this album is a testimony to trusting love as well. Love can take us away from our comfort zone and sometimes things turn wild and unforgiving. Relationships can create confusion as to what we even want, and make us really dig into ourselves. Love also can take away this pain. In a round about way I think that represents how we HAVE to love ourselves and believe in ourselves.
OS: You have a music video for the song “Before Waves.” Can you tell us the story behind the video?
XW: The song “Before Waves” regards a love story where two people fall in love by the ocean. The lovers do not realize their connection to the warm air and sea until returning to where they first met. I think we constantly do this in life. We feel something and then explore it more and watch our heart expand its senses to other beauties of the earth. Things we don’t even realize impact us, will resonate in our souls and play a role in our destiny. The video was directed by Ryan Eakins with help editing from his friend Lev. Ryan and my God moms and my friend Casey contributed to stunning ideas like Ryan’s concept of our walk creating words. The idea of our journey painting love in sand absolutely parallels this love story. Emily Blood is a character in the video who not only did beautifully on camera but is one of the most hilarious and life filled people I’ve met. Her presence added to what love is.
OS: Some of your influences include singer-songwriters like Joshua Radin and Ingrid Michaelson, which is clearly heard in your music. Are there any artists that people would be surprised to learn inspire you?
XW: I do have a pool of artists that inspire me. Jason Reeves, John Mayer, Andy Davis; they are all amazing. On a more surprising note perhaps I’ll mention Yann Tiersen. I have a large fascination with accordions. When I first saw the film Amelie, I would blast the soundtrack on my way to surf early mornings. Also Joí£o Gilberto and Stan Getz give me quite the Brazilian comfort I need sometimes. On a completely different side of things, Jimmy Rodgers truly entertains me and makes me want to eat popsicles and play scrabble or something like that. I have a huge respect for some artists I’ve found along the way of really long YouTube journeys. Chelsea Lee, JayMay, are some brilliant upcoming artists. When I’m thinking of the sea I’m inspired by Mishka. People laugh at me for this one, but Taylor Swift and Frank Sinatra are absolutely on a ton of my playlists together…just the two of them…that’s another story…love story…ha.
OS: You’re playing a benefit concert in March with Zach Chance and Jonathan Clay. Can you tell us more about that?
XW: Yes this is a very moving and exciting event. Believe in Miracles is a non- profit organization based out of Troy, MI, that helps children fighting life-threatening illnesses by granting them wishes. The mission of Believe in Miracles is to enrich the lives of these children by bringing joy and hope to their lives. On Wednesday, March 2, 2011, Believe in Miracles will host its 1st Annual “Believe in Miracles: A Benefit Concert” with performances by singer-songwriters Jonathan Clay, Zach Chance and myself in the O’Rena of Oakland University in Rochester, MI. The goal is to raise $15,000 for the organization and have 1,500 people from the university and surrounding communities in attendance. All profits will go directly to Believe in Miracles. I am proud to be part of this concert and am looking forward to being a part of art’s healing ways. You can also get more information on the Facebook event page.
OS: You also played at the Microsoft Store. How did that opportunity come about? How did you feel about playing on the same stage that John Legend and Colbie Caillat have played on?
XW: The Microsoft store was so much fun. All the staff treated me wonderfully during their grand opening weeks where they were featuring musicians. My manager reached a development specialist for the store and we went from there. There may be a future appearance there as well. It’s fantastic to have had the opportunity to play shows where I feel connected to great artists like Colbie and John. All three of us have been best friends since the third grade where we would do word searches and jigsaw puzzles together. Just joking…and I’m not sure that third grade is a jigsaw puzzle kind of age anyway.
OS: Are you a Mac or a PC?
XW: (Laughs) PC.
OS: Is there anything else you’d like to say to your fans on OurStage?
XW: Well, I think it’s important to live a romantic life. I’ll send that out to everyone. Be romantic in everything you do. If you’re picking a flower, treat the flower nicely. If you’re walking across the street talk about the beautiful eyes you see. Treat yourself this way too. Tell lots of knock knock jokes.
Check out Xoe’s video for “Before Waves” below!
The coveted Grand Prize at OurStage is as illusive as it is dangerous. We were curious about what happened to previous Grand Prize winners, so We put on our “Where are they now?” caps and found an astonishing truth. The OurStage Grand Prize may be just as cursed as opening an umbrella indoors. Sure, there’s glamour, exposure, and of course that $5,000, but something the artists didn’t plan on was an end to their band. That’s right, we’ve found a few cases where an artist will rise to the top only to find that their days as a band are over. Don’t believe in black cats and broken mirrors? Check out these groups and their stories. Draw your own conclusions about the curse of the Grand Prize.
Inspired by Coldplay and U2 (among others), Northern Room has been a familiar face on OurStage. Building synth melodies, energetic drumming, and soaring vocals are just a few of the characteristics that afforded this band a grand prize win in July of 2008 with their song “Last Embrace“. They were even featured on our blog during the July competitions, showcasing an interview between OurStage’s Alyssa Jayne Hale and lead vocalist, AJ. Despite their large scale aspirations, just months after winning the grand prize, the band played a farewell show and called it quits. Thankfully, the band’s inspirational and uplifting music can still be heard on their OurStage profile. Check them out and pay your respects to a timeless grand prize winner from deep within the OurStage archives.
Dig even deeper into those archives and you’ll find Oddway, a female-fronted rock band from Boston. Their sound can be compared to artists ranging from Sublime to Alanis Morisette. The bluesy, soulful melodies of singer Petrina Foley pair so well with the skillful guitar playing of Ryan Ordway that they seemed destined for greatness. After winning the first ever grand prize at OurStage in March 2007, the band enjoyed a month or two more of success in the charts. Then they met their fatal end, the well-meshed sound was just not enough to prevent artistic conflicts of interest that lead to the breakup.
Two well-accomplished OurStage artists have since risen from the ashes of Oddway. Singer/songwriter Ryan Ordway has recently enjoyed success in the charts; fronting his own solo act has given him the artistic control he needed to thrive as a musician. Additionally, lead singer Petrina Foley has also posted her own badges of honor in the singer/songwriter (female) channel. Her style brings back memories of Oddway with a slightly more indie sound, suggesting hints of Ingrid Michaelson or even Regina Spektor.
Of course, a curse is only what you make it. The truth is, these bands achieved the highest honor that OurStage has to offer, and their music supports the award. So maybe the Grand Prize isn’t cursed after all. Oddway produced some phenomenal solo artists and Northern Room’s lead singer is optimistic about future musical goals for the band members.
So go ahead, keep listening, because in the music industry, you make your own luck. Our artists will keep submitting their songs even if a few of them will be throwing salt over their shoulder or knocking on wood.