Your Country's Right Here: Andrew Osenga Gets Spacey with Folk

Andrew Osenga has taken folk music where, arguably, no artist has gone before”space.

How else to explain the Nashville-based singer/songwriter/producer/musician Osenga’s “story” Leonard, The Lonely Astronaut, released on September 18. Perhaps the album’s theme was born of his love of science fiction and folk? Sure, rockers have explored this concept for years”David Bowie‘s 1973 album Aladdin Sane and Pink Floyd‘s 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon come immediately to mind”but it’s fairly new territory for folk. Credit Osenga’s eclectic taste in music for the turn.

“I was into grunge and then Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, all the shows on the big stages,” he said of his early influences. “The music was heartfelt but they could hide the fact that they were heartfelt by putting on a big show. When I moved to Nashville I became friends with folk artists and really got into Paul Simon, Emmylou Harris…..And I’m a huge literary nerd, too, so that helped make this.” (more…)

Exclusive Q and A: Chris Carrabba Talks 'Penny Black,' Reuniting With Further Seems Forever

It’s been more than a decade since Further Seems Forever recorded new material with their original vocalist, Chris Carrabba. After Carrabba left the band in 2000 to pursue his solo project, Dashboard Confessional, his shoes were competently filled by subsequent vocalists Jason Gleason and Jon Bunch. Still, hardcore fans held out hope that someday the original FSF lineup would reunite and maybe even release new songs. To the elation of all of those who have waited a long decade, Carrabba and Further Seems Forever have finally joined forces once again and are set to release Penny Black, the band’s fourth album, this October. We caught up with Carrabba to talk about the band’s older material, the meaning behind the album title, and the enduring artists that he aspires to emulate.

OS: What influenced the band’s decision to release Penny Black on Rise Records?

Chris Carrabba: We had heard such great things about how the label was run and the people who run the label.  There are a lot of bands on the label that I like a lot and some of them are my friends and they all raved about their experience being on Rise.

OS: The Penny Black was an early British postage stamp from the 1840s. What connection does that idea have to the lyrical subject matter of the album?

CC: I was reading a book that was set in the mid 1800’s and a major theme in it was the tendency of those in power to be driven only by the desire to amass more power.  The stamp wasn’t mentioned in it but I connected them for some reason.  The stamp was a paradigm shift in communication.  It made the world smaller, like the Internet has done in our era, but it also gave those in power to spread that power wider and wider


Jesse Terry's Planes, Trains, And Automobiles

Reading Jesse Terry’s list of tour dates from the past few years is a lot like looking at an actual calendar. Almost every single day corresponds with yet another gig, often in an area hundreds of miles away from the previous night’s show. A self-described “road warrior,” Terry has played his way across the contiguous United States multiple times by now, and the wanderlust evident in his musical travels plays a major role on his new LP Empty Seat on a Plane. Whether he’s describing Montana’s Bitterroot Valley or the dusty back roads of Tennessee, it’s clear that Terry isn’t merely going through the lyrical motions. He’s been to each place, soaked up its essence, and reproduced it in the form of gorgeously sung folk songs. Even if he isn’t doing the traveling himself, Terry is busy imagining the voyages of others to far-away locales like Portugal, Spain, or France. He envisions cars, trains, and planes carrying people off to the bright new lives they want, or at least think they want.

That is not to say that Terry doesn’t maintain a strong sense of groundedness amidst his travels. Woven throughout the various narratives on Empty Seat on a Plane is an enduring sense of Americana. In Terry’s lyrics, home is less a single place than a group of ideas and images (ballparks, carnival rides, and wide-open roads) that conjure the unified feeling of America as one expansive home. Specific nods to gospel, funk, and blues instrumentally achieve a similar effect, compressing America’s vast musical history into portable tuneful mementos that give listeners a coherent sense of place no matter where they might be. Never crowded or ostentatious, Terry’s arrangements give each instrument just enough space to make these musical influences clear, and his soothing vocal delivery is calming without being sleep“inducing, which is a rare feat.  While Terry has been accurately compared to the likes of Ryan Adams and James Taylor, Empty Seat on a Plane shows that now he may be well on the way to becoming a reference point for other up-and-coming singer-songwriters himself.

The Re-Launching of Fiona Apple

Here we go again again! Another online article where the subject is Fiona Apple. For the last few weeks, it seems, it’s been virtually impossible to turn on the computer without stumbling across a new headline about the 34-year-old singer-songwriter. I can’t think of any other musical celebrity this side of Kanye West who, in recent memory, has gotten quite so much mileage out of being both ridiculously talented and endlessly quotable.

And Apple doesn’t even tweet (yet)”or date a reality TV star!

Her musical gift and her gift of gab pretty much ensured that the June 19 release of her fourth album, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, would arrive with more fanfare than the expected critical gushing. In fact, after one week of release, the new set sold 72,000 copies, good enough for a No. 3 debut on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart, immediately making The Idler Wheel… the highest-charting album of Apple’s career.

That would be chump change in the coffers of Adele or Lady Gaga, but considering that Apple released her last album, Extraordinary Machine, way back in 2005, before the world had heard of Adele, Gaga, or Katy Perry, and the year in which Rihanna released her debut album, it’s as extraordinary as one-half of her last album title.


Riffs, Rants & Rumors: Sifting Through The Paul Simon Story

There was a lot of action in the Paul Simon world in 2011. In and of itself, that statement might not automatically signify much, since Simon’s album releases tend to be few and far between, and he’s generally more inclined to labor lovingly over his work than to flood the marketplace in a flurry of activity. Nevertheless, the past year has seen a steady flow of Simon-centered news regarding projects brand new, archival and curatorial. It all began with a bang back in April, when Simon unleashed his latest batch of songs, So Beautiful Or So What, his first new album in five years. These days, no one expects Simon’s albums”or anyone else’s, for that matter to”be doing Graceland-like business, so it was no huge shock when the album’s aesthetic excellence wasn’t quite matched by its (nonetheless respectable) sales figures. The important thing was that we had Paul Simon back in our collective bosom; here he was playing the snaky, sardonic “Rewrite” on late-night TV, there he was taking his band out on the road to greet audiences with Simon songs old and new. All along, it was lost on few pundits that the quintessential boomer troubadour, who mused “How terribly strange to be 70” back in 1968 would be achieving septuagenarian status this very October.

Whether the impetus was the big birthday, the new album or simply a certain shift in the psycho-sonic continuum, the folks at Sony decided that no one would leave 2011without the opportunity to immerse themselves in Simon’s solo catalog, kicking off an ambitious reissue campaign of deluxe re-releases encompassing everything from Simon’s self-titled 1972 album through 1990’s Brazilian-flavored Rhythm of the Saints. To top it all off, there’s also the Songwriter anthology, a double-CD affair whose first disc is occupied mostly by hits and signature songs, but whose second half focuses on the less-traveled pathways in the Simon catalog, concentrating on tunes that are mostly known only to hardcore Simon mavens.


Ernie Ball Winner Lee Coulter Sits Down For A Chat

In June, Ernie Ball offered to pick up the tab for a year’s supply of strings and accessories for one artist from the Singer-Songwriter (Male) Channel.  Aussie transplant Lee Coulter knocked the fans and judges off their chairs with his song Photograph, and ultimately claimed the prize. Coulter weaves mellow folk with funk grooves and pop hooks for an irresistible blend of So-Cal gold”perfect for fans of Jack Johnson, John Mayer and Jason Mraz. We recently caught up with Coulter to find out a little more about his music, influences and more. Check it out!

OS: Who would you list as your favorite songwriters and primary influences?

LC: Hands down, Paul Simon is my favorite. He writes everyman songs without being cliché. And I’m still trying to figure out how. Newer influences include fellow Aussie, Butterfly Boucher. Her debut album Flutterby is brilliant. I highly recommend it.

OS: As a guitarist, who has inspired you the most?

LC: I never claim to be a “guitarist” as I play to write and perform relatively simple songs. But I love the rhythms of Paul Simon and Jack Johnson, and I suppose they are who I’ve come to most closely emulate.

OS: You use the term Funkacana to describe your sound. Tell us about how you came to define it.

LC: I’m drawn to intellectually stimulating music, namely folk and some adult contemporary, but when it comes down to it, I also like to move… especially to funk and hip hop. So “Funkacana” is a blend of the acoustic sound that moves my soul and the grooves that move my feet.

OS: It’s been seven years since you’ve moved stateside”what do you think the major differences are between the music scenes in Australia and the US?

LC: I honestly wasn’t much a part of the scene in Australia as I only started playing live when I moved here. But it seems like there are more places to play here and more people to play to. So that’s a good thing.

OS: How does it feel to cross guitar strings off the shopping list for an entire year?

LC: Sweet! Now I can change strings when I should instead of when I must.

OS: If you got stuck in an elevator with the world’s biggest label executive, what would you say?

LC: I’m not sure anymore. I believe I’ve learned that the whole thing is a prime example of a crapshoot. If someone wants to sign me, they’ll make an offer. If they don’t, I’ll continue to figure it out on my own.

OS: What do you think are some of the most important online tools for rising artists to use?

LC: Obviously using iTunes or another site to sell your product. Other than that, I’ve seen it help to have a regular presence online like giving something fans and potential fans to look at (live or behind-the-scenes videos, blogs, free MP3s etc) on a weekly basis or at least a few times a month. Then post them on all the networking sites. I’m still learning as I go.

OS: Any shout-outs you’d like to make or fans to thank?

LC: Just to anyone who has helped me or continues to support what I do. Fellow musicians, family, friends, backing band members and fans. They keep me going when it doesn’t always seem to be the completely logical conclusion.  And thanks to OurStage and Ernie Ball for creating an avenue to be heard.