Sir Joe

 Sir Joe

Perhaps one of the most interesting and complicated artists to emerge on the modern music scene, Sir Joe has made a global impact with his synth-pop/alternative rock fusion. What's next for this intriguing new artist?

Sir Joe is the solo project of Italian musician Sergio Bersanetti, who currently resides in Cracow, Poland. He uses only a laptop, a Midi keyboard and loads of plug-ins and samples to create his songs. Upon hearing Sir Joe's debut radio single, one immediately gains an appreciation for the songwriting and melodic sensibilities of this new aritst. While his ideas drift in from the ether, he has an obvious knack for taking those ideas and shaping them into memorable songs in a range of styles. ‘End of the Line’ is the opening track of his second album, ‘Universal Laws, released by Scent Air Records in October 2013. Reporter Lily Clark recently caught up with Sir Joe to learn more about this intriguing new artist, his artistic motivations and plans for the future.

LILY: When did you first discover your love of music?
SIR JOE: As a child I was raised in the bar of a small Italian village, where my mum used to work. I always wanted to sit next to the jukebox, and I spent most of the time begging any customer passing by to insert a coin in the machine so I could listen to some music. Anything would do, as I really loved most of the sounds coming out from that fascinating appliance. I bet it was good business for the bar too, as it is quite difficult to say no to a three year old toddler.

LILY: Your song 'End of the Line' has been a big hit on radio. What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
SIR JOE:Obviously I was thrilled. I always thought that ‘End of the Line’ was a special song, but because of the way it develops I was not sure of what kind of reaction it would receive.

LILY: What was the inspiration behind your debut radio single 'End of the Line'?
SIR JOE: As it happens with most of my songs, I suddenly woke up one night and the melody of the whole song was there, in my mind, just waiting to be translated into something that other people could hear too. I wrote the lyrics later and I did my best to make them match the mood of the music.

LILY: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as your debut radio single?
SIR JOE: Not really and that’s because, as mentioned, I don’t write a song but it’s the song that comes to me. On the album ‘Universal Laws’ in fact you will find different moods, although all tracks share an electronic feel.

LILY: How would you characterize yourselves as a musician? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving…)
SIR JOE: Whatever I do in my life, I like to be professional but at the same time I avoid taking myself too seriously. This attitude helps me to deal with the inevitable disappointments that such a profession bring with a light heart.

LILY: Did you come from a musical background? Are there other musicians in your family?
SIR JOE: Although I record all the songs by myself, I never learned to play any instrument properly. A distant relative of mine is a great drummer, and also one of the biggest producers of percussive instruments in the world. His name is Remo and several years ago I had the pleasure to work for him in Los Angeles.

LILY: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician? What do you find most challenging?
SIR JOE: The most rewarding thing is when a complete stranger contacts me to let me know how much my songs speak to him. In those moments I feel blessed because the main reason why I release music is to reach other people by sharing my feelings. The biggest challenge is … survival! In a world where most people think it is stupid to buy a song when you can easily get it for free, it is very difficult for an artist to find the financial resources to produce an album.

LILY: Who are your role models in music?
SIR JOE: Hmm, I guess I’m too old to have a role model lol. But seriously, there are of course some artists who influence the way I turn the melodies in my mind into music. Depeche Mode is the first name that pops up, but I’m also a big fan of artists like Kate Bush, Joe Jackson and Air.

LILY: Do you have a music video for your hit single? If so, what can you tell us about it?
SIR JOE: You can find the video of “End of the Line” on YouTube and other platforms, along with my previous single and other stuff I released. It was shot in a theatre in Northern Germany and directed by Asmodi Caligari for The shooting was a lot of fun, as you can see in the ‘making of’ video also available on YouTube. A couple of scenes required the actors to drink some wine and apparently the task was performed with much pleasure by everybody.

LILY: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
SIR JOE: First, make sure you are doing this for the love of music and not just for money. Second, connect with musicians, producers and any other people related to the music business. Third, never give up and trust your intuition more than anything else. There are lots of sharks out there but eventually it’s up to you to get hurt or not.

LILY: What's next for Sir Joe? Is there a new single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
SIR JOE: Currently I am hosting a radio show on It is called ‘Electric Delights’ and it promotes electronic music from all over the world. I suggest you check also the other programs on that channel, as they play very cool music. I am also working on new material but I’m not sure when it will be released. The best way to keep in touch with me and my music is to visit regularly my website

LILY: Excellent. I will be sure to do that! Thank you for sharing your story with me. I wish you continued success!

Mista Switcha

Mista Switcha

His adrenaline-pumping fight anthem 'Messin With A Champion' has slugged its way to the top of the charts. What's next for one of hip-hop's newest and most versatile artists?

Mista Switcha is a rap artist-producer out of Dallas, Texas who is known for his dirty beats and versatile rap style. Fans of Young Jeezy, Pitbull and Ludacris will find much to like about Switcha's gruff voice and immaculate flow. Now, the world is getting a glimpse at this newest rap contender with the explosion of his debut single on national and international radio. Reporter Lauren Thompson recently caught up with Mista Switcha to learn more about this exciting new artist-producer and what he has in store for fans this year.

LAUREN: When did you first discover your love of music?
MISTA SWITCHA: The first time I realized I had a passion for music was when my brother and I heard Notorious Thugs - Biggie and Bone Thugs. I remember jumping on the bed, jamming out to that track on repeat and freestyling. Love that jam.

LAUREN: Your song 'Messin With a Champion' has been big hits on radio for its third straight month. What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
MISTA SWITCHA: I was excited to hear the outcome of my songs radio placement. I've had music on the radio before, but this track has seemed to get the best result and feedback. Everyone that hears this track tells me it's one of my best yet.

LAUREN: What was the inspiration behind 'Messin With a Champion'? Was there a particular experience or moment that inspired you to write this song?
MISTA SWITCHA: 'Messin With A Champion' is one of those tracks that you keep in your workout playlist. A high adrenaline, loud pumping, in your face track that gets you ready to take on anything. That no matter what you throw at me, you will not move me or bring me down.

LAUREN: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'Messin With a Champion'?
MISTA SWITCHA: I do have similar songs, but a lot of my tracks are very different from each other. I've made real life struggle songs, to fighting song, slow jams and even dance. They don't call me Switcha for no reason.

LAUREN: How would you characterize yourself as an artist?  (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
MISTA SWITCHA: It's funny because a lot of people who meet me and know my music, can't believe it's me rapper. I am a real laid back, down to earth cat, but when I rap, I am loud and in your face. I like to put all my emotions into my music and I believe you can really tell the difference when someone has passion about their words.

LAUREN: Did you come from a musical background?  Are there other musicians in your family?  
MISTA SWITCHA: My Paps was a drummer in a alternative rock bad and my brother is one of the most talented vocalist I know. I've always had a good ear for music though.

LAUREN: What do you find most rewarding about being an artist?  What do you find most challenging?
MISTA SWITCHA: The most rewarding thing to me is knowing that you, as a musician, have the right to speak your mind and people listen. I love getting feedback that my music really hit a key for someone. Music is art, that's why the call us artists. The most challenging to me is promoting. As an artist that manages and promotes his own music, it gets tiring, but it's worth it in the end.

LAUREN: Who are your role models in music?
MISTA SWITCHA: Definitely Pac and Biggie. Bone Thugs and Busta. I'm a old school type of cat.

LAUREN: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
MISTA SWITCHA: Do music because you love music. Once music turns into job or a task, it's not fun anymore. So do it because you love it, and always be real. There's a lot a scammers out there that say they can help promote your music. Always read up and check before you invest your money into something or someone. Keep grinding!

LAUREN: What's next for Mista Switcha? Is there a follow-up single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
MISTA SWITCHA: Right now I am working on a mixtape called 'The Invasion', a hot, uptempo mixtape that will definitely keep you on your feet. I will also be putting out a lot of music videos and shows. Nothing but big things in the future, so stay tuned and stay up, the invasion has begun.

LAUREN: Well, it sounds like you've got a lot on your plate! I wish you continued success and good luck!



Her attitude, skills and infectious anthem helped make 'DownSouth' a radio hit. Now this sassy hip-hop artist is gearing up for the next level.

One of the most intriguing and entertaining new entrants to the field of hip-hop this year is without a doubt NinaCasse', an award-winning rapper and singer-songwriter from Memphis, Tennessee. She's topped Reverbnation as the #1 Rap/Singer/Songwriter in the Memphis area. Her single ‘DownSouth’, with its heart-pounding beat, anthem-like chorus and tight production has rocked the airwaves and clubs this summer. It seems clear that NinaCasse' possesses the style, skills and talent to continue on her upward trajectory, and with her debut album ‘Introduction to NinaCasse, a.k.a. B.B.’ due to be released this year, her timing is impeccable. Reporter Brandon Scott caught up with NinaCasse' recently to learn more about this dynamic new artist.

BRANDON: When did you first discover your love of music?
NINACASSE': I've had a love for music since I was a child.  I rediscovered my love for music in 2005. 

BRANDON: Your song 'DownSouth' has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
NINACASSE': I was like "Oh my goodness" I started jumping up and down and smiling so hard. It made me feel good!!

BRANDON: What was the inspiration behind 'DownSouth'?  Was there one particular night out that inspired you to write this song?
NINACASSE': The inspiration behind 'DownSouth' was the beat! It made me move! It got my attention immediately!  

BRANDON: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'DownSouth'?
NINACASSE': Because I am a multi-genre artist, all of my songs don't have the same mood. I rap and sing Soul/Jazz, R&B/Pop and Inspirational/Gospel.

BRANDON: How would you characterize yourself as an artist?  (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
NINACASSE': I am a down-to-earth artist who works hard and loves to laugh, and can easily vibe with other musicians.

BRANDON: Did you come from a musical background?  Are there other musicians in your family?  
NINACASSE': Yes, I do have a musical background.  I learned how to read and write music in junior high band.  I received a singing scholarship at the age of 17.  I'm the only musician in my family.

BRANDON: What do you find most rewarding about being an artist?  What do you find most challenging?
NINACASSE': The most rewarding thing about being an artist is I truly love having the ability to sing a song to someone, a stranger and make them either smile or feel better.  It's PRICELESS!!!  Being an indie artist has been challenging but through it all I have overcome and for that I am grateful!

BRANDON: Who are your role models in music?
NINACASSE': Pattie LaBelle, Yolanda Adams, Mary J Blige and Phil Collins were my role models in the music industry. 

BRANDON: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
NINACASSE': The advice that I would give to young, aspiring musicians is to first believe in yourself (Trust yourself)! 2) Buckle up it’s gone be a bumpy ride...(Shake dem haters off!) 3) Stay focused! Keep your drive! Keep your determination (You can do it)!

BRANDON: What's next for NinaCasse'?  Is there a follow-up single in the works?  If so, what can you tell us about it?
NINACASSE': I will be releasing my debut album ‘Introduction of NinaCasse' aka B.B.’ in the next couple months.  I'm so excited! I  I have worked very long and hard for this moment.  I'll be starting my promotional tour right after. I have a follow-up single and it’s called 3-10 Remix.  It's a make-you-move song.  I call it my army song.  I serve in the army. 

BRANDON: Well, it sounds like you've got a lot in the works, soldier! I wish you continued success and good luck!

Vitor Vieira

Vitor Vieira

With wisdom and focus beyond his years, this young rapper out of São Paulo, Brazil is demonstrating global appeal with his debut radio hit 'Eu Rezo Por Nós'.

Raised in Guarulhos City, São Paulo, Brazil, Vitor began listening to rap when he was only seven years old, writing songs and rhymes over beats for fun. Influenced by Eminem and the new school of Brazilian rap, he made his first love song at thirteen years old called ‘Amor Da Minha Vida’. Since then, he's never stopped writing, recording and producing with his studio partner Iuri Stocco from "Coisa Simples" Studio and DJ Stuart. With songs relating to love, friendship, family and perseverance, his first studio album ‘Cartas’ was released in April 2011 with acclaim. Now, at the age of seventeen, Vitor is bringing a fresh new style to Brazilian rap, on the strength of his second album ‘Só o Começo’, which has already garnered numerous awards. Determined to build on his momentum, Vitor has performed alongside influential artists such as Projota, Bonde da Stronda, Pentagono, Haikaiss, Thaíde, Art Popular, Inimigos da HP, Os Travessos and Edson e Hudson. Reporter Lily Clark recently caught up with Vitor to learn more about this intriguing young artist and what motivates him to create his music.

LILY: When did you first discover your love of music?
VITOR: I started small. My grandfather was a musician and my father always had this artistic voice so I’ve always lived in that environment. My passion grew each day. When I was seven years old, I started playing guitar and writing and I have never stopped. 

LILY: Your song 'Eu Rezo Por Nós' has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
VITOR: It was very rewarding. Honestly, there was this feeling of accomplishment. I am eternally grateful for everything that has happened to me. My fans, my family, my team and God- I owe everything to them.

LILY: Was there a particular life experience that inspired you to write 'Eu Rezo Por Nós'? 
VITOR: There was no one particular experience, but I believe everyone has their moment of weakness and hope is what keeps us alive and whole. To face any kind of problem, the world needs more of that hope and that's why ‘I pray for us’ (Eu rezo por nós).

LILY: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'Eu Rezo Por Nós?
VITOR: I would say yes, but each song has a different shape and different point of view. Whenever I compose, it could be about my life, a particular fact or something that motivates me. All the songs are intended to bring positivity and hope to people around the world.

LILY: How would you characterize yourself as a musician? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
VITOR: I believe that I am a musician who is improving every day, studying a lot, writing forms and flows. The approach has helped me to become better every day and is what I hope to continue to do.

LILY: Did you come from a musical background?  Are there other musicians in your family?
VITOR: Yes, my grandfather and my father. My grandfather is my biggest inspiration. I always saw him playing piano. He was also a composer and my father always played percussion. We played together and made music and that's a fond memory that I have. 

LILY: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician? What do you find most challenging?
VITOR: The fact that you can change people's lives, be it with a song, an attitude, or a verse, is more than rewarding. It keeps me alive. You hear people saying that your music changed their life and makes them happy. You bring love and peace to people through music and it is the best thing in the world. There is no real hard part when what you believe in and choose to pursue feels so right and so magical. 

LILY: Who are your role models in music?
VITOR: Eminem because of his life story and how he made ​​it happen. You feel the vibration and energy in his lyrics. And Justin Bieber because he is extremely talented, professional and a complete artist. They inspire me to do amazing things with the gift we have- music. 

LILY: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
VITOR: You have to have an ideal and above all, know what is right or wrong. In this profession, you face many temptations- money, fame, women, etc.- but they are fleeting things. You have to focus. Do music for you and not as something that can change your material lifestyle, but as something that can reach millions of people. Do not cling to a style, segment, or particular audience. Music is universal- there are no race or class differences when it comes to music. Do art, do what makes you feel good, have fun, and try to get other people to have fun, too. This is Vitor Vieira. 

LILY: Excellent advice! Thanks for taking time out to share your story. I wish you continued success and good luck!

Animal Man

 Animal Man

Given the blazing speed of his flow, you may only catch every fourth word of Animal Man's dancehall hit 'Gal Dem Predator', but this new artist is quickly turning his unique adrenaline-charged flow into a hot global commodity.

The first time Animal Man held a microphone was when he was thirteen-years-old, after listening to creation sound tapes and dancehall artists like Papa San, Super Cat, Lt Stitchie and many more. However Animal Man's dancehall journey did not begin in Jamaica but in London, England where he was born. It was here that he developed his musical tastes and interests. Animal Man's music would correctly be categorized as dancehall music. Experimenting with tongue rolling and word play on dancehall instruments and on many more instruments led to the development of the unique style and flow he has today. As his confidence grew and his style developed, he soon saw a loyal following begin to grow and he became a popular local hit. Animal Man's debut single‘Gal Dem Predator' and second single 'This Is England' became radio hits and have propelled him into the spotlight. Reporter Alexis Adams recently interviewed Animal Man to learn more about what inspires him to create his unique brand of music and what we can expect from Animal Man in the near future.

ALEXIS: When did you first discover your love of music?
ANIMAL MAN: I discovered my love for music from a really young age. I was brought up around music and listening to music gives me a natural buzz.

ALEXIS: Your song 'Gal Dem Predator' has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month. What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
ANIMAL MAN: It’s always good to hear your music being played on the radio no matter if it’s the first or twentieth time. However, my initial reaction was like, ‘Wow, is that my song on the radio and is that how I sound?!’ But it’s even better to know that your song is being played on the radio and it is gaining popularity.

ALEXIS: What was the inspiration behind 'Gal Dem Predator'? Was there someone in particular you were writing about?
ANIMAL MAN: I think that most musicians and songwriters will tell you that most songs were written about someone and that is the case with ‘Gal Dem Predator`. Let’s just say it was a bad experience that I had learned from. I try to turn negatives into a positive.

ALEXIS: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'Gal Dem Predator'?
ANIMAL MAN: I try to make most of my songs different, with different melodies, flows, topics and tempo. The only thing that will sound the same is my voice which is probably marked as my signature.

ALEXIS: How would you characterize yourself as a musician? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
ANIMAL MAN: I would describe myself as a down-to-earth joker as I think that laughter is an important part of life. You can’t be serious all the time.

ALEXIS: What was it like creating and shooting the music video for this song?
ANIMAL MAN: Shooting the video for this song was fun, but it was a long day!

ALEXIS: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician?  What do you find most challenging?
ANIMAL MAN: Making a song that people like and listen to is one of the most rewarding things about being a musician to me. I don’t really find anything challenging musically as I am always pushing myself to excel.

ALEXIS: Who are your role models in music?
ANIMAL MAN: I mainly listened to dancehall and rap music growing up and would probably say some of my role models were Super Cat, Papa San, Wu Tang and KRS One.

ALEXIS: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
ANIMAL MAN: As an aspiring musician you've got to stick with it if it is what you really want because there will always be hurdles that will make you want to give up. However, you also have to remember that nothing happens overnight and you've got to put in the hard work first.

ALEXIS: What's next for Animal Man? Is there a follow-up single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
ANIMAL MAN: I have followed up ‘Gal Dem Predator` with ‘This is England` which is also on rotation. ‘This is England` is about everyday life and news that we face in the world today. ‘Coulda Neva Be` will also follow which has a really quick flow. This will also be followed up by a ‘Gal Dem Predator` Remix and two remixes of ‘This Is England` and more that will be released in the forthcoming months.

ALEXIS: You've got alot on your plate! I'm grateful you could take time out to share an inside look at your music. I wish you continued success and good luck!



Go huge or go home. This pop rock group from Los Angeles, California is betting heavily on their new single 'Wide Thing' and that bet is paying off.

You might have thought you had figured out the group Millennium until they invited you to take a walk on the ‘wide’ side.  Their second single ‘Wide Thing’ off their upcoming album is an interesting hip-hop/rock fusion, mildly reminiscent of The Troggs 1966 chart-topping hit ‘Wild Thing’.  Like the 60’s anthem, Millennium is betting heavily (no pun intended) on this hip-hop/rock track to have the same, well, wide appeal. Beyond a doubt, this is a song that people can groove to, even as they ponder the possible meaning of ‘wide thing’, sung over and over again throughout the pulsating, bass-heavy chorus. Reporter Alexis Adams recently caught up with Millennium to learn more about the inspiration behind their latest hit and plans for the future.

ALEXIS: When did you first discover your love of music?
STRYKER: We're all classically trained musicians from a young age so I think we discovered that love early on, even before the influence of radio. Sapphire was classically trained on piano throughout her childhood and I grew up playing piano, cello and bass. We’re fortunate to work with two other very talented musicians, drummer Brad Dawson and guitarist Gaku Murata. Brad's got impeccable timing and an impressive command of different musical styles. Gaku is a quiet guy who lets his guitar do the talking and he can solo longer than anyone I know.

ALEXIS: Your song 'Wide Thing' has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month. What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
STRYKER: I thought, 'Damn I sound nasally' (laughing). No, we were all very stoked to hear it. We were even more grateful for the response it received from listeners.

ALEXIS: What was the inspiration behind 'Wide Thing'? Was there a particular experience or moment that inspired you to write this song?
STRYKER: A friend of mine was thumbing through a porn site on his phone looking at pictures of girls with these enormous rhino butts. I kept looking over at him, like, are you serious? You're into that? He was. Not long ago, hip-hop culture was all about excess: big money, big cars, big chains and big women. With this song, we wanted to revisit that era and reminisce on the gloriousness and ridiculousness of it all.

ALEXIS: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'Wide Thing'?
STRYKER: God no. There'd be no hope for us if they were. Wide Thing is a parody and I'd be lying if I said we weren't a little uncomfortable with the subject matter. But that's what art is all about- evoking emotions. We like to explore many different moods and styles in our music, whether it's pop, rock, hip-hop, reggae, funk or dance/electronica.

ALEXIS: How would you characterize yourselves as artists?  (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
STRYKER: We're each pretty different. Brad is real cool and down-to-earth, Sapphire is fun-loving and carefree, Gaku is calm and self-disciplined, and I'm probably more serious and dark as an artist.

ALEXIS: Did you come from a musical background?  Are there other musicians in your family?  
STRYKER: We were the first musicians in our families to do this professionally. Our dads wanted us to go into medicine. That's such a cliché isn't it?

ALEXIS: What do you find most rewarding about being an artist?  What do you find most challenging?
STRYKER: Being full-time musicians with Millennium means we can exist outside of the system.We don't have a boss to answer to so we can live in a creative flow that is very appealing and natural. The downside is, you have to be very self-directed and self-disclipined or the years can roll by with little to show for it.

ALEXIS: Who are your role models in music?
STRYKER: Personally, I've been most influenced by artists from the 70's and 80's, such as Phil Collins & Genesis, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Don Henley and others. Each of these artists was a songwriter, musician and singer - something you don't see much nowadays.

ALEXIS: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
STRYKER: Believe in yourself.

ALEXIS: What's next for Millennium? Is there a follow-up single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
STRYKER: Yes, we just finished editing the music video for our next single 'Roll'. It's a ballad about having the person you love walk out on you. Obviously it's very different from 'Wide Thing'. However, before we release the new single, we'll be putting out a rock mix of 'Wide Thing' with just vocals, drums, bass, guitar and keys. I like releasing acoustic versions like that because it reminds me of what made us fall in love with music in the first place.

ALEXIS: I look foward to hearing the new songs! Thanks for taking time out to share your story with me. I wish you and the group continued success and good luck!

Millennium Website:
Wide Thing Music Video:
Twitter: /

Tiki Black

Tiki Black

Her profound lyrics and beautiful vocal and piano arrangements are quickly garnering this singer-songwriter global respect, as her debut single 'Listen' soars up the charts.

It is a paradox that fragility, pain, fear and struggle are, in fact, the greatest fuel an artist can have. Few demonstrate this knowledge more than Tiki Black, a singer-songwriter who was raised in France and Cameroon and currently lives in Manchester, England. Her passion for words and music sustained her during challenging teenage years when family hardship forced her to become self-reliant. Her songs reflect her many and varied experiences and her multicultural influences. Tiki crafts profound lyrics with beautiful piano arrangements, to produce a captivating, rich sound. Audiences are taking notice. Her debut single 'Listen', a ballad written and delivered in the style of an African storyteller, has vaulted up the national and international radio charts. Tiki is now finalizing shows in the UK, Europe and North America to promote her debut album ‘Out of the Black’. Reporter Brandon Scott caught up with Tiki recently to learn more about this extraordinary artist and her plans for the future:

BRANDON: When did you first discover your love of music?
TIKI: I keep on falling in love with music and each time it feels like it is THE first time. I felt so when my gran sang, when I met two of my favourite musicians ever, when my mum explained song lyrics to me, the first time I touched a piano, the first time I heard Chopin, the first time I played Chopin, when I wrote and performed my first song, when I hear a new piece... I just can't quite remember when it all started... or if it truly has started at all.

BRANDON: Your song 'Listen' has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
TIKI: The only way I have been able to deal with it has been to distance who I am, a regular music fan, from the music I hear, that of Tiki Black. Since my stage name is different from my every day name, it is tremendously easier. It is a lot more difficult when someone tries to tie the two. I don't really allow myself to truly realise or understand what it means. I feel that it keeps me 'sane'.

BRANDON: The lyrics for the song 'Listen' are very poetic.  What was the inspiration behind this song?
TIKI: The African storyteller, the griot, tells his people stories that remind them of their heritage (values, beliefs and where they come from), their legacy (their contribution to life through children and work) to remind them of who they are (as individuals and as a community) and what they can do (their power). He/she starts this with words like 'hear hear' or 'Listen'. He/she is the voice within, set in poetic and melodic style. It is a lot of what I wanted to emulate, this time, speaking to my people, the human race. 

BRANDON: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'Listen'?
TIKI: There are some commonalities with the other tracks on the album from which 'Listen' is extracted since the whole album has the same theme, carried mainly by piano and voice. However, each song expresses different aspects of the theme and carries its own individual touch, be it musically (through its own instrumentation), lyrically or stylistically. The mood will change, I suppose, on another album to match the theme and my own personal evolution.

BRANDON: How would you characterize yourself as a musician? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
TIKI: I suppose I would characterize myself as a bit of a researcher (or is it seeker?). I am constantly looking for the note and lyric that expresses the human mind. In addition, I constantly question everything I know, so sounds always feel new because I keep on hearing or expressing them from a new perspective. So nothing is really set and everything is still to be discovered or rediscovered. 

BRANDON: Did you come from a musical background?  Are there other musicians in your family?
TIKI: I did the whole going to church and being in choirs thing as I was growing up. I met quite a few musicians in the meantime because one of my uncles was a producer, but the exposure was never a voluntary one, quite the opposite. The only exception was when my mother consciously introduced me to two well-known musicians because of how much she knew I loved their music. There are some musicians in my family but my immediate family, as I was growing up, would not readily consider music as a 'proper' career/job.

BRANDON: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician? What do you find most challenging?
TIKI: What is most challenging about being a musician is also what is most rewarding about it and vice-versa. For me, it is having the opportunity and luxury to weave your pain around a melodic, to unleash the magic and strength of humanity in creating out of the apparent mud of life (fragility, pain, fears and struggles) the beauty of art and the power of its expression. That alchemy is what life is to me and I am extremely grateful to have eventually realised that music was my means to experience and express that. I am also grateful when I can partake in printing that art in the tapestry of time.

BRANDON: Who are your role models in music?
TIKI: I have a soft spot for Dolly Parton and Nina Simone because of their musical sensitivity and true 'soul' music. I also love the ambassadors of social truths like Georges Brassens, Eboa Lotin and more recently Karine Polwart. I really admire Manu Dibango because he is a musical genius. Finally, I would love to live in Chopin's head to understand how one can capture the most complex emotion in the simplest chord change.

BRANDON: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
TIKI: For me, the most important thing is to stay true to oneself. Music is not just a job, it is a way of life. Know what you want and work with passion to achieve it.

BRANDON: What's next for Tiki Black?  Is there a new single in the works?  If so, what can you tell us about it?
TIKI: I am currently recording a new version of one of the album's tracks ‘Free Like Smoke’ with a really talented artist. This single will celebrate ‘One Year Out of the Black’ as it will be a year since the release of my debut album ‘Out of the Black’ from which 'Listen' is extracted. I have also started writing my next LP and am currently finalising the first single. This track will set the theme and ambiance of this second album and I am hoping to release the single in a few months.

BRANDON: I look forward to hearing it! Thanks for taking time out to share your story. I wish you continued success and good luck!



Their eclectic grooves and positive message are winning over fans and making their unique style of Hawaiian music a global phenomenon.

Kapala is a group of music veterans and close friends that decided to make their own ‘imprint’ on today’s music scene, which has certainly been the case with their debut radio single 'Come On Home'. The members of Kapala have been part of some of Hawaii’s finest groups and it is from this experience that Kapala draws its inspiration and desire to make their own mark. Kapala combines traditional and contemporary Hawaiian music with country, ethnic, jazz, rock, urban, and soul influences, creating a style of music that is infectious, memorable, and rapidly moving to the forefront of today's musical tastes. Reporter Alexis Adams caught up with Kapala recently to learn more about this group and their particular take on the 'good life'.

ALEXIS: What events led to forming the group Kapala?
KAPALA: Friendship is what brought us all together. We are all veteran musicians and have known each other for many years some as far back as elementary school. We decided to form a band and try to avoid some of the mistakes we had made in our other bands.

ALEXIS: Your song 'Come On Home’ has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
KAPALA: We were thrilled to hear that it was doing well in other parts of the country. It really hasn’t done very well here in Hawaii. lol We are happy that others are enjoying the song.

ALEXIS: What was the inspiration behind ‘Come On Home’? Was it drawn from a particular personal struggle?
KAPALA: One of our band members lived in the mainland US and had a difficult time adjusting. Another band member lived in LA for 16 years and always wanted to return home to Hawaii. It is a combination of these two stories that is the inspiration for the song.

ALEXIS: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'Come On Home’? Do they all have a feel-good Hawaiian vibe?
KAPALA: Yes, most of our songs are upbeat, and positive. It’s hard not to be positive living in such a beautiful place as Hawaii. We have a saying here, “Lucky we live Hawaii”.

ALEXIS: : How would you characterize yourself as musicians?  (Ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...).
KAPALA: We are serious about our music. We devote a lot of time to improving our music through study, rehearsal, and education. We love to be together and have fun but we do take our music very seriously. Four of the band members are full time working musicians and have been for many years.

ALEXIS: What was it like creating and shooting the music video for this song? 
KAPALA: It was a lot of fun. Anytime we’re together there is lots of laughter. We are friends first and band mates second.

ALEXIS:What do you find most rewarding about being musicians?  What do you find most challenging?
KAPALA:The most rewarding thing is to see the emotional response our audience has when we play one of our original songs. It lets us know that we have connected with them in a very personal way. The most challenging is trying to get everyone to rehearsal and gigs. We have six band members with families, kids, jobs; it is tough to coordinate everyone’s schedule.

ALEXIS: Who are your role models in music?
KAPALA: Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Steely Dan, Little Feat, Victor Wooten, Keith Jarrett, Sting, Miles Davis, just to name a few.

ALEXIS: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
KAPALA: Never stop learning, follow your dreams with passion, persistence and faith. Practice with a purpose. Try to learn something from everyone you play with even if it’s not what you're into. Pick good role models.

ALEXIS: What's next for Kapala? Is there a follow-up single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
KAPALA: This song is actually from our EP ‘Come on Home’. We have two other full length CD’s ‘Imprint’ and ‘Legacy. We are currently writing new material for our fourth CD project. We recently returned from a Northern California tour and will be going to Las Vegas and Los Angeles in the summer and the Pacific Northwest in early 2015.

ALEXIS: Well there's lots to look forward to! Thanks for taking time out to share your story with me. I wish you and the band continued success!

Danny Vash & Nite Wolf

Danny Vash & Nite Wolf

Eschewing theatrics for real musicianship, Danny Vash & Nite Wolf have carved out a reputation for hard-hitting, steel-bending rock, paving the way for their first major radio hit.

 Nite Wolf is a three-piece, hard rock power trio from the Albuquerque, New Mexico area featuring Danny Vash singer/songwriter/guitarist, Mike Alberts on bass guitar and Bill Weber on drums. Their sound and style influences ranges from Ozzy, Priest, and Rush to UFO, Mountain, and Hendrix. All self-taught musicians, Nite Wolf delivers a riveting, hard rock sound that combines influences from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, to present day. When you hear Bill Weber's hard-hitting beat, Mike Albert's thumping bass lines and Danny Vash’s wailing lead guitar sound that screams like bending steel, you're in the presence of Nite Wolf. In addition to headlining many of their own shows in the Albuquerque area, Nite Wolf has shared the stage with industry moguls such as Robin Trower, Pat Traverse, Blue Oyster Cult, Frank Marino & Mahogony Rush and Savoy Brown. Perhaps it's the fact that they write, record and produce all their own music- qualities noticeably absent in today's pop music culture- that has fans all over the world vibing to their debut radio hit 'Passion Dreamer'. Reporter Lauren Thompson caught up with Danny Vash recently to learn more about this intriguing band and their plans for the future.:

LAUREN: What events led to forming the group Danny Vash & Nite Wolf?
DANNY: Bill, Mike, and I moved to New Mexico from different parts of the country. We were all perusing engineering careers within the semiconductor industry. With common backgrounds and a love for music- we all had some experience playing and gigging with bands in the states we grew up in. We all ended up in Albuquerque working for a high tech company that was starting a new Wafer Fab. We met at work, jammed a few times, liked the chemistry we had and the sound, and so Nite Wolf was launched.

LAUREN: Your song 'Passion Dreamer' has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
DANNY: Everyone who writes and plays their own music has that dream of one day hearing your song on the radio. It was exciting and there was also a feeling of accomplishment that just feels good. You think about a lot of things including, “will they like it or will they hate it?” If people like your work, it makes all the time and effort you put into creating it meaningful.

LAUREN: What was the inspiration behind 'Passion Dreamer'?  Was there someone in particular you were writing about?
DANNY: There is no one in particular that inspired that song. I like to write songs about every day events that happen to ordinary people. Things that everyone can relate to. Have you ever had anyone you know tell you they had a dream about you last night? A passionate dream? Everyone has had a passionate dream now and then. This happens to everybody no matter who you are. Our subconscious just seems to take us there when we least expect it. That was the inspiration for Passion Dreamer.

LAUREN: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'Passion Dreamer'?
DANNY: No I wouldn’t say the mood of Passion Dreamer and our other songs is in the same vein. The power, the sound, the style and feel, yes. It is a solid rock beat followed by crunchy guitar riffs, and vocals that tell a story. The slow part in the middle sets the dreamy mood, and it is specific to this song to set a dreamy mood. It follows the words of the song into the slow part to give the listener that connection. My other songs would be of the same genre but each has a unique theme to it.

LAUREN: How would you characterize yourself as musicians? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
DANNY: Dedicated and passionate about our music. We are not eccentric or deliberative, however we are competitive when we need to be, but most important we like to have fun. We get along really well and actually enjoy making music together and enjoy each other’s company. We are just ordinary guys with a love of making music.

LAUREN: Did you come from musical backgrounds?  Are there other musicians in your family?
DANNY: My Dad played in a band when I was a kid. He was a big inspiration for me. He is a grandpa now and is still the front man, singer and bass player for a blues band up in Washington state.  Both of my brothers are Bay Area musicians as well and I have played in bands with them over the years. I started at a very young age and it has always been a big part of my life. Mike and Bill both started playing in their teen years and stayed with it playing in bands and gigging. As far as I know they have no other musicians in their immediate families.

LAUREN: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician?  What do you find most challenging?
DANNY: The most rewarding part is getting a positive response to the music you write and play and know that people are enjoying it. The most challenging thing is getting the good gigs, getting your music out there, and getting someone’s attention at a record company or radio station.

LAUREN: Who are your role models in music?
DANNY: First off, my Dad was my inspiration. Then I would have to say I have always been a firm believer in paving your own way. I can’t really think of a role model. I don’t want to sound like someone else or look like someone else. It’s more of a challenge to be original and unique. The best players have always stood out from the crowd and had their own sound and style. I believe that self-taught develops unique style and vibe. We are all self-taught musicians in Nite Wolf. We have our favorites like anyone who plays music, but I wouldn’t say they are role models.  I believe in this- what one man can do, another can do.

LAUREN: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
DANNY: Believe in yourself. Don’t be easily discouraged. Trust your intuitive insights and have confidence in yourself. Partner with others that have strong self-assurance and unique talents that harness the same energy level as you.  Try to always aim for new initiatives and don’t develop tunnel vision. Win others over with your talent and embrace the challenge of meeting new people and getting them to like you. Derive satisfaction from your creative genius to be original and unique. Unsatisfied needs create tension, uneasiness and stress so aim high but have fun and do it your way.

LAUREN: What's next for Danny Vash & Nite Wolf? Is there a follow-up single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
DANNY: I’m always writing new material and refining old material. I would certainly jump at the opportunity to have another song considered for airplay, and I have good songs recorded and ready. We have quite a few songs that we think would do as well as Passion Dreamer, so we are anxious to get more of our music out there to the listening audience.

LAUREN: I look forward to hearing it. Thanks for taking time out to share your story with me. I wish you and the band continued success!



He's becoming one of the hip-hop's hottest new artist/producers, collaborating with a host of fresh new talent, and recent radio hits are only fueling his meteoric rise.

Reflect (aka OneSixTwo) is a young self-taught, American music producer, beat maker, editor, vocalist and songwriter from Mendocino County, California. He has been producing, creating and collaborating in music since he was seventeen. Reflect works with local renowned artists Dave Parker (a.k.a. Mercury Storm), Michael Marshall (a.k.a Mike Meezy), Deedub, Equipto, and Opio from Hieroglyphics, all of whom will be featured on OneSixTwo's upcoming album. OneSixTwo currently holds the #1 spot on the Oakland Hip-Hop charts on ReverbNation and has a rapidly growing fan base. OneSixTwo was featured on the Global Attack Mixtape Album,Vol.5 released in 2012 and currently has multiple singles climbing the national and international radio charts. Reporter Lauren Thompson recently caught up with Reflect to learn more about his story and what motivates him to record and produce such diverse and cutting edge songs.

LAUREN: When did you first discover your love of music?
REFLECT: I found my love of music when I was a kid. I would record myself on tape recorders having tons of fun telling stories. As I got into high school, my friends and I got more involved in making music and I have been doing it ever since. 

LAUREN: Your songs 'Dreamin' and 'Unconditional Love' have been big hits on radio for their third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your songs playing on radio?
REFLECT: I was very happy to hear that my music did so well. It is something that I have wanted to happen for quite some time now.

LAUREN: What was the inspiration behind 'Dreamin' and 'Unconditional Love'?
REFLECT: The inspiration behind ‘Dreamin’ is the way of the world- the history of the world is what brought the song together. For ‘Unconditional Love’, I found inspiration through making a song for someone that is down and out, and how maybe the song could help them with what they are going through.

LAUREN: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'Dreamin' and 'Unconditional Love'?
REFLECT: Yes they are all quite alike in their own good vibe, positive way.

LAUREN: How would you characterize yourself as a musician? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
REFLECT: Definitely a down-to-earth type of guy that takes my music seriously.

LAUREN: Did you come from a musical background?  Are there other musicians in your family?  
REFLECT: My father plays the piano and my sister wrote poetry.

LAUREN: What do you find most rewarding about being an artist?  What do you find most challenging?
REFLECT: The most rewording part is having people tell you that your song is one of their favorites or how your song helped them out. The most challenging is to not let the problems in my life interfere with my love for music.

LAUREN: Who are your role models in music?
REFLECT: Dell, Kid Cudi, Sublime, Tom Petty, Korn, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Cold, Outcast, Jack Johnson and Linkin Park.

LAUREN: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
REFLECT: To follow their hearts when they are writing their lyrics and to not rush it. Also it’s not always what you say but it’s how you say it. Your presentation is everything.

LAUREN: What's next for OneSixTwo?  Is there a follow-up single in the works?  If so, what can you tell us about it?
REFLECT: Next month I’m going to release my new album with a lot of big names on it. It's got a good vibe to it. On top of that I’ve got my MixTape! That's coming out the same time as the album and it also has some big names on it, but also more of the local Mendocino county talent.      

LAUREN: Excellent! I look forward to hearing both! I wish you continued success and good luck!



Known as a rapper with a comedic flair, Shattrholik's debut single 'Under The Influence' has exploded on radio and put this New Zealand-born emcee on the world map.

Hip hop means everything to him. Take it away and he feels like a nobody. This is the sort of eccentric and complicated person Shattrholik is. He's someone who can pull himself out of the backwaters of New Zealand on the strength of his mixtapes and, a few years later, have an international radio hit. From the days of casually throwing down rhymes with friends in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand to becoming one of the most respected new talents on the global music scene has been a tough journey to say the least. Yet, few rappers have proven to be more determined and capable than Shattrholik, which probably explains the long list of high-profile collaborators eager to work with this young rising star. Shattrholik's upcoming album features world class artists The Outlaws, D12 (Kuniva, Swifty McVae) and Royce Da 5'9). Reporter Alexis Adams recently caught up with Shattrholik to learn more about this intriguing artist and his plans for the future.

ALEXIS: When did you first discover your love of music?
SHATTRHOLIK: When I was nineteen, my friends were trying to be rappers. I made up songs to make fun of them and to have a friendly laugh. Not until five years later did I really start to love music and enjoy what I’m doing.

ALEXIS: Your song 'Under The Influence' has been a smash hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
SHATTRHOLIK: I was very happy that it made it on radio and to have people loving the song. It was a surprise to me that so many people liked it. I didn’t think much of the song when I recorded it.

ALEXIS: What was the inspiration behind ‘Under The Influence’?  Was there one particularly crazy night that inspired you to write?
SHATTRHOLIK: I wrote the chorus eight years ago when I was nineteen just for fun. It popped in my head a few years ago, so I changed a few lines in the chorus and wrote verses about the events of my twenty-first birthday. It is a true story, haha.

ALEXIS: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'Under The Influence'?
SHATTRHOLIK: There are a few songs in the vault that are kind of the same vibe as that song.

ALEXIS: How would you characterize yourself as an artist? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
SHATTRHOLIK: As an artist, I would say I’m very serious with my music. Everything has to be perfect now. I am very fussy with attention to detail. I’m very focused. Music is my comfort zone- it gives me peace of mind and levels me out. I like to bring the beat to life and I blend my voice in sync with the music. I like to stand out. I am an emcee. I use music to express myself and my life experience.

ALEXIS: Some of your listeners have asked us if a music video for 'Under The Influence' is on the horizon. What can we tell them?
SHATTRHOLIK: I have not thought about a video because I did not think it would gain a buzz. But if it continues then I may have to do one, haha.

ALEXIS: What do you find most rewarding about being an artist?  What do you find most challenging?
SHATTRHOLIK: To me the rewarding part of being an artist is the reaction from listeners. Whether the music has a positive or negative effect on someone, I love the feeling of knowing people have my music in their life. Music triggers emotions differently depending on the individual. I find what is most challenging is keeping focused on the current project I’m working on. I could be working on a song and all of a sudden, a million other ideas force its way into my head. I never get writer’s block.

ALEXIS: Who are your role models in music?
SHATTRHOLIK: Role models in music…well there are so many. All I can say is I have the upmost respect to the creators of hip-hop and the people who keep the hip-hop genre moving forward. People who made a difference. I can name a very long list.

ALEXIS: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
SHATTRHOLIK: Keep doing what you love doing. People are going to hate, people are going to love. Keep doing what makes you happy. There will be obstacles. It’s up to you to work through them or surround yourself with the right people to help you. Most importantly be yourself.

ALEXIS: What's next for Shattrholik? Is there a follow-up single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
SHATTRHOLIK: I’m looking at moving overseas. I have not decided yet. I want to perform. I’m working on a mixtape called ‘Liquid Metal Saliva’, which has an old school and 90's vibe to it. It will be out soon. From this mixtape, I plan to release five songs: 'Medicine' featuring Layzie Bone from legendary group Bone, Thugs n Harmony & Morgan Kingi; 'No Comment' featuring Morgan Kingi; 'Dollar Signs' featuring one of Australia's best rappers named Fortay; 'Appetite' and 'Groovin', a remake of the UB40 classic, featuring Casey Burton. All songs will be available for download on Reverbnation.

ALEXIS: Excellent! I look forward to hearing them! I wish you continued success and good luck!


Amen Alibi

 Amen Alibi

Their adventurous style of alternative folk rock has caught the attention of audiences worldwide, but to this group out of Freetown, Massachusetts, it's simply about sitting down to play good music together.

There's no denying that the backbone of Amen Alibi is Rick Couture, a song writer of thirty years, who plays acoustic guitar, drums and keys, and sings backup vocals. Rick has been recording for years on his iindie label Ravaka Records. Through the years, he has worked with an impressive array of talented musicians, who've helped him to bring his musical compositions and ideas to audible life. Amen Alibi's live performances pretty much reflect how they like to do things at home- fellow musicians sitting around and playing together, united by a shared love of good music. Amen Alibi's debut album ‘Leap of Faith’ was released on July 4, 2013 and will soon be followed up by ‘Addicted’. Rick has been busy putting together musicians for the first Amen Alibi tour.  Reporter Lauren Thompson was able to catch up with him recently to learn more about what motivates him and his group to create such extraordinary music.

LAUREN: When did you first discover your love of music?
RICK: Well, I remember I was around five when I was using a stuffed teddy bear as a guitar (lol), but my mother has a picture of me younger than that, playing drums with her pots and pans on the floor. I started begging her for drum lessons at eight and I finally got to take them at age ten.

LAUREN: Your song ‘Go Some More’ has been a smash hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?  
RICK: Just a big smile!

LAUREN: What was the inspiration behind ‘Go Some More’?  Was there a particular life challenge that inspired you to write 'Go Some More'?
RICK: It was actually written as an Irish folk song about a young man telling his story of striving for political and religious freedoms and the reactions he got from his elders on those ideas, which were very discouraging. He ignored them and did it his way, ran his own life and was glad he did it that way.  It is not a song about me. Well, maybe just a little. I'm not Irish (lol). 

LAUREN: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as ‘Go Some More’?
RICK: Some yes, a lot of protests going on in some of my songs but not all.

LAUREN: Did you come from a musical background?  Are there other musicians in your family?
RICK: No, not at all.  Some of them tried to pick up an instrument after they saw how much fun I was having, but they never accomplished mastering their chosen instruments. I had an aunt that played the organ, an uncle that played guitar, and a cousin who played trumpet. I don't know if that counts (lol).

AUREN: How would you characterize yourself as a musician?  (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
RICK: Wow, there are so many sides of me when it comes to writing music, but in the end, it needs to move me one way or another emotionally. But I always like to keep it fun.

LAUREN: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician?  What do you find most challenging?
RICK: The most rewarding part about being an artist is the creative process and listening to that final "something" that I just created.  What I find most challenging is when I have some great lyrics or music, but not the other, then trying to write the missing part without ruining the original idea or sound.  

LAUREN: Who are your role models in music?
RICK: Frank Zappa was my first and most favorite musician and songwriter of all time\, but, it was John Fogerty's music (CCR) that taught me how to write songs. 

LAUREN: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
RICK: You must be critical of your music. Just because you wrote it, doesn't mean it's great.  Take the time to refine and perfect your sound...your sound. Don't try to be or sound like someone else.  If you can do that, then go for it and never give up.

LAUREN: What's next for Amen Alibi? Is there a follow-up single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
RICK: A tour (we hope)!!  The next single will be ‘Break Down and Cry’ from our second album ‘Addicted’ and the video is in post-production. We also have a live DVD coming out soon, which is in post-production as well.

LAUREN: Thanks for taking time out to share your story. I wish you continued success and best of luck with the tour!

Alexis Erin Pond/ Jim Richardson Jr.

Alexis Erin Pond/ Jim Richardson Jr.

He is the pen and she is the voice behind their debut hit single 'Butterfly Feeling', a collaboration that seems destined to flourish.

Jim grew up as a badly abused child in a household of two brothers, one sister, and his mother. Yet he managed to stay strong and never let his childhood negatively affect who he wanted to be. Having gone on to lead a successful life, Jim puts his passion and emotions into songs. He has sponsored Dream Catchers for Abused Children and continues to write songs addressing other forms of abuse, including drug abuse, sexual abuse and other social issues. In spite of this early adversity, Jim never looks at the bad side of life, instead choosing to look at how he can become better. Alexis was surrounded by music at an early age and has been singing as long as she can remember. Reporter Lily Clark recently interviewed Alexis to learn just what inspired her recent collaboration with Jim Richardson Jr their and smash radio single.

LILY: When did you first discover your love of music?
ALEXIS: I first discovered my love for music when I was 4 years old. My dad had a huge sound system and he would play country music every morning and I would stand on our vacuum cleaner and sing along with all the songs using the handle as my microphone. I loved singing. Everywhere and anywhere I was it didn't matter. 

LILY: Your song 'Butterfly Feeling' has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
ALEXIS: I was actually at work when I heard my song on the radio and I was telling everybody about it and when it came on I started yelling at everyone, "sssshhhhh!!! Everyone be quiet this is me!!!! That's my song on the radio!!!" I was so beyond excited I couldn't even put it into words because we've come such a long way with that song it was rewarding to finally hear it on the radio.

LILY: What was the inspiration behind 'Butterfly Feeling'?  Can you describe the special person who inspired this song?
ALEXIS: The writer of the song, Jim Richardson, his inspiration for the song was for his wife Karen. When he sent me the song I instantly fell in love with it but there was so much more I heard for that song to make it much more heartfelt. I wanted to create a beautiful song for him so I added the violin and steel guitar to really make that song pop. His love for Karen inspired me to make that song what it is today.

LILY: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'Butterfly Feeling'?
ALEXIS :I would have to say some of them are. Some of them are more upbeat dancing songs, others are a country rock.

LILY: How would you characterize yourself as a musician? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
ALEXIS: I would describe myself as a musician as down to earth, laid back, fun loving country girl.

LILY: Some of your listeners are wondering if a music video for this song is on the horizon. What can we tell them? 
ALEXIS: There will be an amazing video to this song very soon. 

LILY: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician?  What do you find most challenging?
ALEXIS: What I like most about being a musician is the fans and people who believe in what I do. I love to make music that can change peoples lives no matter what they are going through in life. Without the fans and people I have around me I wouldn't be where I am today and I'm truly thankful and blessed for all of them. What I find most challenging is finding goals that can challenge me. I love a good challenge just so I can prove I have what it takes to accomplish anything. 

LILY: Who are your role models in music?
ALEXIS: My inspirations in music vary from Patsy Cline, Martina McBride , CarrieUnderwood to Miranda Lambert and others. I love all of them. Their vocal talents are absolutely beautiful. 

LILY: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
ALEXIS: My advice to young musicians would have to be if you aren't 100% sure that this is what you want to do with your life, don't try. I say that because you have to have tough skin and an unbreakable heart. You will have a lot of people tell you they will do this and do that and never come through and it's a tough pill to swallow. You have to have the mentality that you will not let these people destroy you and you will keep going no matter what. It's not an easy road but the rewards of having people love what you do is indescribable.

LILY: What's next for Alexis Pond and Jim Richardson Jr.?  Is there a follow-up single in the works?  If so, what can you tell us about it?
ALEXIS: There is another song we are working on right now. It's upbeat and fun and hard to resist getting up and dancing to it. I have a really good feeling about this song and hope that everyone will love it! 

LILY: Thank you for taking time out to share you story with me. I congratulate you on your achievements and wish you both continued success and good luck!

Irene Leland

 Irene Leland

She can captivate a room with her voice, guitar and poetic lyrical style. Now, Irene has proven she can captivate global audiences with the success of her crossover radio hit 'Loves Around The Corner'.

Irene Leland is a solo artist who has enjoyed composing and performing folk, pop and soft rock songs for many years, ever since she wrote her first song at age nine on the piano. She also plays guitar and creates jingles and theme songs. Now it appears that Irene has struck a chord in popular audiences with the simplicity, honesty and lyrical quality of her debut radio single 'Loves Around The Corner'. Reporter Blake Wright caught up with this award-winning folk artist to learn more about her story and how this remarkable connection occurred.

BLAKE: When did you first discover your love of music?
IRENE: I first discovered my love of music at age nine, when I would sit down at the piano to presumably practice my piano lessons, but I would invariably start playing around with the keys, creating and singing my own melodies. When I got my Ukelele at age twelve, I went wild making up songs, and it became even more fun when I “graduated” to getting my first guitar!

BLAKE: Your song 'Loves Around The Corner' has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio.
IRENE: When I first heard my song, “Love’s Around the Corner” on the radio, I felt like I was on another planet. It was very surreal. As I listened, I stepped back and imagined that I was someone else listening, and I thought, “Hey, this song is very gravitating.”

BLAKE: What was the inspiration behind 'Loves Around The Corner'?  Was there someone in particular you were writing about?
IRENE: In many cases, I am motivated to write my songs through my own personal experiences, but interestingly, in this song, I had this objective drive with heartfelt feeling to project out there to anyone who could relate. Innately, everyone longs to get out of the cold, get into the warm and find a loving mate, hopefully around the corner! (Ironically, not long after I wrote this song, I got involved in a happy, fun relationship with a guy who lived only a few blocks away!...around the corner!)

BLAKE: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'Loves Around The Corner'?
IRENE: In many ways, my other songs are in the same general vein as this one, as I have an inclination to express positive emotions and to imply a certain kind of story that wraps around the song. Even though some of my material is on a melancholy note, I usually lean toward an uplifting theme.

BLAKE: How would you characterize yourself as a musician? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
IRENE: I would characterize myself as a very open, down-to-earth and dedicated musician who says/sings it as it is, whether it be light hearted, spirited or with deeper meaning.

BLAKE: Did you come from a musical background?  Are there other musicians in your family?
IRENE: Yes, I come from a musical background. My mother, Dorothy was a superb piano player, and she would often fill the house with her classical music from Mozart to Bach on her Baby Grand. Her professors at Sarah Lawrence College had confidence that she could become a concert pianist. She did not choose that route but always continued her love for the piano throughout her marriage and raising her children. My father, Austin was a happy-go-lucky musician and matched my mom’s music with playing his xylophone and his “one man band”. At Princeton University, he was part of the famous Princeton Triangle which toured the states every year. One of his acts was playing the xylophone and tap dancing at the same time! He also directed and wrote the score for the show. So, he was extremely happy when I developed a love of songwriting!

BLAKE: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician?  What do you find most challenging?
IRENE: The most rewarding thing for me about being a musician is that exhilarating fulfillment that I feel as I’m performing, when I have made a pleasing connection with the audience. It is a very satisfying two way vibe that makes it all worthwhile! My other rewarding feeling is the marvelous sensation of release as I’m composing a song! As far as most challenging, I would say it is living up to my goal of providing the best for a musical project, whether it is doing research and putting together a theme song, writing a promotional jingle that fits its criteria or composing a personal song for a special occasion!

BLAKE: Who are your role models in music?
IRENE: My role models in music are definitely the Beatles and Peter, Paul and Mary! Initially, the Beatle’s songs were a huge inspiration! much so that my friend/music partner, Alice and I formed our duo in 1964, imitating the Beatles and then becoming the “Weavils”, creating and performing our own songs! Then, after greatly admiring Peter, Paul and Mary and feeling a common chord with them, I had the thrill of meeting Paul in 1965! Although their group was not in need of new material at the time, I was so honored that he listened to several of my songs! He said, “You are into something! Keep on writing!” I certainly did keep on writing for many years to come, even though I was juggling between engaging in several careers as well as raising two boys.

BLAKE: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
IRENE: My advice to young, aspiring musicians is to never give up. Follow your dream. Go with your flow. But mainly, just be yourself! It will all come through naturally in your music. Believe in yourself. Transfer that to your songs. Define it and enjoy it!

BLAKE: What's next for Irene Leland?  Is there a new single in the works?  If so, what can you tell us about it?
IRENE: I am happily creating more and more songs! I am more than pleased that my two latest songs 'Naturally' and 'Rocky Baby' have already received award recognition. Now I have a new song 'You Found Me' in the works that I am especially excited about! When I recorded it a few nights ago, I felt a surge of goose pumps, as if I was inside my own head hearing it for the first time and being swept up by its energy and sincerity.

BLAKE: Thanks for taking time out to share your story with me. I wish you continued success and good luck!

Katie Belle Akin

Katie Belle Akin

Gifted with a sultry, textured voice and precocious performance instincts, Katie Belle has made a stunning first impression with her music and community focus.

Looking at her resume, you would hardly believe it belonged to a teenager. Yet, Katie Belle Akin has already accomplished much in a short period of time and seems committed to doing much more. For starters, this teen country pop singer-songwriter, actress and model is currently a featured artist on the nationally acclaimed Teen Nation Tour 2014. Teen Nation Tour travels to middle schools across the U.S. with their message to Stand Strong and Defend Against Bullying. She has won numerous awards and has recently watched her debut radio cover song 'Let Her Go' climb to the top spot on national and international radio charts. The music that she writes conveys positive messages regarding having faith in onself and persevering. Reporter Andrew Edwards caught up with Katie Belle recently to learn more about this rising star and her plans for the future.

ANDREW: When did you first discover your love of music?
KATIE BELLE: Like many teens in my age range, my first personal exposure to music was the ‘Hannah Montana’ show; I was about 7 years old. My dad had always played a lot of classic rock so I am familiar with many of those artists. Tried and true classics along with modern pop-country are what ignited my passion for music. In third grade, I had a music teacher at school who saw potential in me. He worked with me and encouraged me way before even my parents understood that I was an artist!

ANDREW: Your song 'Let Her Go’ has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
KATIE BELLE: It is surreal to hear your voice coming out of the radio! I screamed and tried to get a picture of the tag line. It is just an awesome feeling and at the same time I had several friends texting me and saying they heard me! As a singer-songwriter, it is without a doubt a special moment when you hear yourself on the radio.

ANDREW: Your rendition of 'Let Her Go' by Passenger is very beautiful.  What was it in particular that drew you to this song?
KATIE BELLE: When my brother first had me listen to ‘Let Her Go’, it was my first time hearing Passenger and the song completely captured me. The lyrics and melody sounded very fresh and new and it really is just a beautifully written song.   I love the imagery of Passenger's lyrics in this song.

ANDREW: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'Let Her Go’?
KATIE BELLE: I enjoy a good ballad, but most of the songs I write are up tempo and energetic with positive storylines. My goal is to leave the listener in a happy state of mind and of course wanting to hear more and following me on social media. I write my songs from things that happen to me and my friends and life lessons I have learned. The list of song ideas is really, really long.

ANDREW: How would you characterize yourself as an artist?  (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
KATIE BELLE: Fun, aspirational, genuine, hard-working.

ANDREW: Did you come from a musical background?  Are there other musicians in your family?
KATIE BELLE: I come from an artistic family. Both my grandparents were professionally trained pianists. I have relatives who played the violin and organ, but no true vocalist that I am aware of. I also have an aunt who is a painter and an uncle who painted and played several instruments.  I would say creativity is in my blood.

ANDREW: What do you find most rewarding about being an artist?  What do you find most challenging?
KATIE BELLE: I love meeting people, making fans and getting to know a lot of them personally. The most challenging part is balancing school, social life and the many hours I devote to my music.

ANDREW: Who are your role models in music?
KATIE BELLE: My role models are Beyonce for her vocals and business sense, Carrie Underwood for her vocals and live performances, the early music of Miley Cyrus because the lyrics were relatable, Taylor Swift for her lyrics and connection with her fans and Kacey Musgraves for her melodies and lyrics. Other long time favorites whose songs I study are Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Johnny Cash and Connie Francis.

ANDREW: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
KATIE BELLE: Build stage confidence by entering local talent competitions or musical theater. Get a voice coach and start a Youtube channel. Another thing is to gain confidence in songwriting by joining a local songwriters group or looking for seminars. I feel the more you learn about all aspects of music, the more confident you become and really understand your brand and what you are trying to accomplish with your own music.  I also do a little modeling and acting, which broadens my artistic perspective.

ANDREW: What's next for Katie Belle Akin? Is there a follow-up single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
KATIE BELLE: Coming up next from me is a lot more music. I have just released my EP titled ‘Next Thing In Tennessee’. There are five songs on the EP. I was a major writer on all of the songs. The single on the EP getting the most attention is titled ‘Falling for You’. a matter of fact I should enter that song into The Akademia Music Awards for original song! My music library grows monthly and I have several summer performances lined up mainly in the Southeast. This fall I continue my roster spot on Teen Nation ‘Stand and Defend Against Bullying Tour’. We will be coming through my hometown of Atlanta and I am so psyched. I will be on tour for six weeks in North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. I also want to take this opportunity to thank all the people who are involved with my music. I have an awesome team- my family, my fans, my management team and did I say my fans? They have all been major factors in my success.

ANDREW: Well, you've certainly got a lot to look forward to! Thanks for taking time out to share your story with me. I wish you continued success and good luck!

War Poets

War Poets

With a timeless rock feel and poignant message, this group's single 'Close Enough' has roared up the charts, proving that music is still a powerful medium for social discourse and change.

War Poets is a Minneapolis-based band that writes and plays music about social issues that impact all of us, with Rex Haberman and Jenny Case at its creative core. The success of their debut single 'Close Enough', which quickly ascended the radio charts to the top spot, offers proof that fans are inwardly seeking music with deeper meaning. Propelled by its pro-LGBT message, sublime lyrics and musicianship, 'Close Enough' represents musical social commentary at its best. The depth of War Poet's integrity and committment to their ideals is impressive. In 2014 alone, they've release three EP's containing songs addressing a range of social issues from income inequality, gun violence, homelessness, unemployment and prostitution to financial hardship. Now working with acclaimed Grammy-winning producer Joe Baldridge, War Poets is back in the studio working on their new album. Reporter Alexis Adams recently caught up with War Poets to learn more about this avant garde group and what inspires them to create such exceptional music.

ALEXIS: When did you first discover your love of music?
WAR POETS: I started playing music in a band when I was twelve years old. We played in church basements and anywhere they'd have us. I wrote songs almost every day during my teenage years. I found that was a gift I had- to compose at a prolific pace. I still play one of the first songs I wrote called ‘Lost in My Dreams’. During college, my love for music intensified and became more introspective, but that gradually changed to my style now, to reflect on current social issues that impact us all. 

ALEXIS: Your song 'Close Enough' has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
WAR POETS: We were very happy to hear of the radio play. It is great to think that others are listening and appreciating the message we're communicating. 

ALEXIS: Did you come from a musical background?  Are there other musicians in your family?
WAR POETS: My mother was a vocalist and my older sister is a vocalist and pianist, so yes, there was always music in our house growing up. I initially played the accordion but soon became interested in guitar, which was cool since all my friends were playing guitar or drums. One of my daughters, Lauren Haberman, is an accomplished jazz guitarist and has started to write pop songs too. She's one to keep an eye on. We've been playing together since she was a young child. 

ALEXIS: How would you characterize yourselves as musicians? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
WAR POETS: I have a definite rock edge that hasn't waned over the years. Most of the songs I write are about serious subjects with a message. However, every so often I get a bit sarcastic, which makes our producers raise their eyebrows in disbelief. I also tend to be a romantic and write about the sensitivities of love in its various forms. War Poets live has an energetic feel and a very tight rock sound that people seem to enjoy. We're serious musicians that I feel have real chemistry that translates into great performances. 

ALEXIS: The music video focuses on arguably one of the biggest civil rights issue of our times. How did you feel while creating and shooting the video?
WAR POETS: We wanted to create a story that focused on two LGBT couples, male and female, and their desire to be married in a religious ceremony in a church. We were able to find a great location to accomplish that, St John's Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was moving and humbling to shoot the video, realizing how many LGBT people have suffered over the years in their attempts to be treated equally. Today it is inconceivable to us that any discrimination would still be present. During the storyboard work, our staff became emotionally affected as we put together the plot and sequencing. Even during the shoot, there were tears shed as we filmed scenes depicting love and reconciliation. The entire process was very rewarding.

ALEXIS: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'Close Enough'?
WAR POETS: Yes, our new releases - 3 EP releases in 2014 - are mainly about other social issues. The first EP, ‘American Police State’, was released on June 3, 2014. It features songs about the American gun violence epidemic, income inequality and Native American issues. 

ALEXIS: What do you find most rewarding about being musicians? What do you find most challenging?
WAR POETS: The most rewarding is having an avenue to reveal to the public our innermost beliefs. It is an honor really to have the capacity and mechanisms to do this. The most challenging aspect of music is to become noticed and financially viable among the myriad of other talented musicians. 

ALEXIS: Who are your role models in music?
WAR POETS: Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty. I have always admired the social messages of Dylan and Springsteen, and love the simplistic genius of Petty's style that catches the listener and pulls you in. 

ALEXIS: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
WAR POETS: Write songs from your heart and try to say something. Persistence is required and humility will serve you better than arrogance. 

ALEXIS: What's next for War Poets?  Is there a follow-up single in the works?  If so, what can you tell us about it?
WAR POETS: Our 3 EP releases in 2014 and another USA tour. We hope to make it to Europe and other places too. Our next single is ‘Better Place’ from the EP ‘American Police State’, which was released digitally on June 3rd and on radio June 23rd. It is about American income inequality. This song was produced by Grammy winner Joe Baldridge and was mastered by Grammy winner Richard Dodd from Nashville.

ALEXIS: Excellent! Thanks for taking time out to share your story with me. I wish you and the group continued success and good luck!

Shauni Williams

Shauni Williams

An angelic voice, melody and lyrics have given her debut radio single wings. But it is was her personal journey of struggle and triumph that brought her to higher ground.

Our lives are the sum of our experiences and our beliefs and few excel at channeling them through their music as well as Christian singer-songwriter and pianist Shauni Williams. Her story is rich with family experiences, traveling from church to church in a van with her two older sisters, a younger brother, her parents, and a dog named Bounty as the Ron Greenlaw Family Gospel Music Ministry. Her story also contains its share of tragedy and loss. Through these experiences, Shauni continued to hone her vocals skills and songwriting, kept strong by her faith and love of music. In a surprise turn a few years ago, Shauni was given the opportunity to collaborate with talented producer and multi-instrumentalist Bruce Turgon. With Bruce's guidance, in conjunction with her own dedication and hard work, Shauni has garnered numerous music awards. Most recently, she's watched her debut single 'We Walk Together' climb the national and international charts, becoming her first Christian crossover radio hit. Reporter Brandon Scott recently caught up with Shauni to learn more about this extraordinary artist and her exciting plans for the future.

BRANDON: When did you first discover your love of music?
SHAUNI: My love of music began at the age of five, when attending a Christian concert. Soon after, my parents purchased an old, white upright piano.  I began playing by ear and composing before my first piano lesson.  After a year of lessons, my father began a family gospel singing group.  For the next ten years, I performed with my family, singing, playing and writing music.  At eight years old, my grandmother passed away at the end of one of our concerts.  The Lord saw fit to give me the special gift of piano that allowed us to continue as a group for another eight years after that.  That is how it all began!

BRANDON: Your song 'We Walk Together' has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
SHAUNI: It is almost a surreal I will never forget.  I couldn't help but be excited and think I wanted a lot more of that!

BRANDON: Was there a particular life experience that inspired you to write 'We Walk Together'?  
SHAUNI: Absolutely.  Most of my songs come from personal experience, but ‘We Walk Together’ was very unique in that it came to me while walking on a river trail.  I made the analogy of walking on the trail and walking with God through one of the most difficult times in my life: Divorce.  There are lyrics in the song that say ‘I didn't think I could stand when truth of life came crashing in.  But you held on more firmly still.  Now I have hope Your Word will heal me.’ These lyrics were deeply felt when I wrote them.

BRANDON: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'We Walk Together'?
SHAUNI: ‘We Walk Together’ is somewhat unique because it is a Christian crossover...the lyrics are not overtly Christian and so the song can really transfer to a variety of settings.  However, the inspirational mood is similar to my other musical works.  Within my catalogue, one can hear a wide range of tempos, keys and messages- some more oriented to praise and worship and some storytelling- but all revealing a personal relationship with God to some degree, as it relates to the larger Gospel story.

BRANDON: How would you characterize yourself as a musician? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
SHAUNI: Music is fun! Absolutely I would characterize myself as a fun-loving musician.  There is nothing more exciting to me than the creation, production and performance of music.  There is nothing I am more passionate about doing.  It comes naturally and is simply a part of who I am. I have been accused of ‘showboating’ by a church or two (laugh) and have been told I play too many notes for certain settings, but really I am just expressing the music as I feel it. Still, I take it seriously too, because there is a whole business side to getting the music out there.  I very much like many aspects to that side, as well.  It is a good thing because we independent artists need to wear a lot of hats. The serious side of me strives to improve my vocals and performance with every release, so that takes some analysis, changing things up and lots of practice.  But in music, practice is play for me and I am humbled every time I think about how blessed I am to be living this dream.

BRANDON: Did you come from a musical background?  Are there other musicians in your family? 
SHAUNI: My entire family is very musical.  My daughter Erica just graced us with a stunning acapella solo performance at her own wedding reception last May, singing her arrangement of ‘The Power of Love’.  Her father, Grant Williams, sang and co-wrote some of the songs on our ‘Wake to Grace’ album.  As I mentioned, I grew up in a singing family.  First there is my mother, who is especially gifted with a beautiful, classical voice.  My father is the best trumpet player I have ever heard and also has a powerful singing voice.  All my siblings sing. Sherilyn and Sharla play the piano and my brother Ronny plays trumpet, like my Dad.  My son Ryan has a wonderfully rich voice and is teaching himself guitar. But these days, Ryan is more into computer keys (lol).  

BRANDON: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician? What do you find most challenging?
SHAUNI: The most rewarding experience for me is the process of beginning with a word or phrase, growing the idea to a song, recording and producing the song to create a moment, and then completing the process with a tangible product that can be listened to and shared.  When people say they listen to a song over and over again or they can't get it out of the heads...when my music moves someone to experience God in their heart and soul, I feel like the song is ordained. When the praises go to Him and not me...that is the way it is supposed to be. The most challenging aspect for me is finding the resources to record. Everything is out of my own pocket and sometimes I get impatient because I write songs faster than I can afford to record.  There is a positive to this however, as it forces me to be really choosy and selective about putting out the best I can.  I just don't want the best sitting on paper.  There are many songs in cue now...just waiting.

BRANDON: Who are your role models in music?
SHAUNI: Greats like Whitney Houston are one of a kind. I loved her grace and power and the way she felt her music. In the Christian world, Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant come to mind as early inspirations, both vocally and as composers. Later on, Steven Curtis Chapman, Chris Tomlin, Casting Crowns and Natalie Grant set the standard. My parents are my foundational role models as they got me started on this path. Now I think my biggest influence on the recording side is Bruce Turgon, who has co-produced all my releases.  

BRANDON: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
SHAUNI: I would encourage young, aspiring musicians to have fun with their music and hone their own unique musical expression.  Practice and be prepared so that when an opportunity presents itself, you will be able and ready to shine.  Need guidance?  Get connected to some of the major music sites, like ReverbNation, soundcloud and the indie music channel. Read, research, and learn. The learning never stops.  Connect with other musicians and people from the music industry.  Begin to build a fan base and encourage comments on the major social network sites (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc.).  Solicit feedback by entering contests and getting music reviews to help gage your progress and marketability. Most of all, never give up.

BRANDON:What's next for Shauni Williams? Is there a follow-up single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
SHAUNI: Thanks to The Akademia Music Awards, ‘We Walk Together’ is hitting the airways!  I am so grateful! And yes, you can look forward to my new 2014 release: it is another Christian pop crossover.  When struggles push you longer and harder than you thought possible, this dynamic and vocally powerful new song will move you to rest in God in the midst of your greatest challenge.  I am so excited about recording this song because I just know it will be well received, speak to hearts and bless many. Sign up for my VIP list at to be notified when my 2014 release because available. All glory to God!

BRANDON: I look forward to hearing your new single! Thanks for your sharing your story with me. I wish you continued success and good luck!


Rusty Lee Springfield

Rusty Lee Springfield

Veteran musician Rusty Lee Springfield's honest acoustic formula is winning over fans and returning something to music that has long been missing.

Much can be gleaned from the music of veteran musicians and Rusty Lee Springfield is no exception. Rusty is an award-winning musician from Australia. He has been gigging since 1986 performing original songs ranging from country, country rock to slide/blues and soft rock. He also performs songs from The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Credence Clearwater, The Eagles, Cliff Richard, Jimmy Buffet, John Denver, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and more. Cleverly conceived lyrics and no-nonsense production have quickly made his debut single 'School Day' a radio hit. Interestingly, it seems that what this honest, hard-working musician has to offer is now precisely what fans are seeking- musical integrity. Reporter Alexis Adams caught up with Rusty recently to learn more about this artist:

ALEXIS: When did you first discover your love of music?
RUSTY: I first discovered my love for music around the age of nine after I was given some old 45 records from friends of my foster parents who my older brother and I used to live with on a small mixed farm near Goulburn, Australia, NSW. The records were a mixture of 50’s and 60’s rock n roll and country. I used to play and sing along to them as often as possible.

ALEXIS: Your song 'School Day’ has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
RUSTY: When hearing ‘School Day’, I was extremely pleased with myself knowing that there was someone who thought my song was good enough to receive radio time and that all the time and effort I put into the song wasn’t wasted.

ALEXIS: What was the inspiration behind ‘School Day’?
RUSTY: I wanted to write something that was lighthearted because I’d been rehearsing for an upcoming gig and was over singing serious tunes when I remembered what a music teacher said to me a long time ago which was why don’t you sing happy songs instead of sad ones. I also wanted to give parents with school age kids that are a handful on school day something relate to. The main reason behind this song is that I really wanted to use the names of my three daughters Sarah, Mary and Sharon, who are now adults and have kids of their own.

ALEXIS: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'School Day’?
RUSTY: To me, most of my other songs may be in the same vein as School Day because I write about what I know or have experienced or events I may have seen on television or newspapers.

ALEXIS: How would you characterize yourself as a musician? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
RUSTY: I’m just a muso who enjoys performing and what you see and hear is what you get.

ALEXIS: Did you come from a musical background?  Are there other musicians in your family? 
RUSTY: I once had a look through our family history/ family tree and I seem to remember there may have been one or two musicians among our clan and I think there was someone who played the violin. I also remember my late mother told me that she used to do a bit of singing in the pubs a long time ago. One of my brothers used to play the piano when he was primary school.

ALEXIS: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician? What do you find most challenging?
RUSTY: I suppose the most rewarding things about being a musician is you get to make other people forget about their problems even just for a short time. I laugh to myself when someone pretends they don’t like what you’re playing but under the table they’re tapping their feet. Through my music I’ve been able to help raise money for charity groups as well. The most challenging and frustrating thing for me is when I want to learn a new song. The reason is that I have a speech impediment and I find it very challenging to get the phrasing right. There are times I get really mad with myself then and I just don’t try to sing the song. Sometimes I can get away with it if I drop some of the words or just do my own version. I get really ticked off when I am ringing up a venue for a gig and if I’m having a bad day, the person on the other end of the phone has trouble understanding what I’m saying. I just say I’ll ring back and I have a bad connection but I never ring back.

ALEXIS: Who are your role models in music?
RUSTY: My role models in the music industry are performers like Cliff Richards, Elvis, Frankie Lane, The Beach Boys and Patsy Cline because these are the type of artists I grew up listening to and back in their day there was no social media or Internet. They had to earn every bit of fame the hard way.

ALEXIS: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
RUSTY: Young musicians today need to take advantage of social media, the Internet and get on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter etc. because they have the power to change their lives and follow their dreams with just one click of the mouse. I also think they should go to as many muso jams and songwriters sessions as possible. Join music clubs and talk to other musicians. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or take advice.

One thing they should keep in mind is that it is good to perform in front of your friends but they won’t always tell you what they really think about your performance. My advice is every now and then, get out of your comfort zone and perform where no one knows you. By doing this you may not get the reaction you’re looking for. You could even go down like a lead balloon. If this happens just take a step back regroup because the world won’t stop spinning just because no one liked your performance and someone told you that you can’t sing. You have to learn to take the good with the bad.

If you’re a songwriter, try not write about one subject. I’ve known musicians who just do this and after a while it can get very boring. And the last bit of advice to young singers is if you’re not taking vocal lessons, you should be because you only have one voice and you should look after it.

ALEXIS: What's next for Rusty Lee Springfield? Is there a follow-up single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
RUSTY: I’ve been working on several ideas for another single and have also been going through some of my old songs to see what I could come up with. There is one song I would like to record properly and it’s called ‘Ride Little Cowboy’. I wrote the song about fifteen years ago. This song is about the time in my life when I used to live on my late foster parents farm out of Goulburn, Australia, NSW. The subjects in this song are a raw hide cowboy suit I was given one Christmas, one of my dogs, a cowboy hat, a horse I used to ride called Mac, watching cowboy shows and saving the day. Like anyone else in the music game I’ll just keep plugging away writing songs, rehearsing, lining up gigs and taking it one day at a time for you never know what tomorrow may bring. There’s a rough demo of this song on my ReverbNation site and it’s been receiving some good feedback. I’ve performed ‘Ride Little Cowboy’ many times at my gigs and it’s always got a positive reaction from the public.

ALEXIS: I look forward to hearing it! Thanks for your sharing your story with me. I wish you continued success and good luck!

Sol Romero

Sol Romero

Understated, mysterious and seductive are the qualities that have propelled this singer-songwriter's debut single 'I'm Here To Stay' up the charts and into the hearts of listeners across the globe.

Sol Romero was born in Mexico City to a Swiss mother and a Mexican father. At thirteen years of age, she started taking singing lessons. After relocating internationally and exploring a career in acting, Sol returned to her original passion of singing and songwriting. Fans are glad she did, judging by the success of her debut radio single 'I'm Here To Stay' which features an eclectic mix of acoustic strings, modern electronica and seductive vintage vocals. There is an undefinable quality about this talented, multicultural singer-songwriter that comes through in her music. Perhaps it is this subtle mystery, embodied in her sound and lyrics, that has got fans from all over intrigued. Reporter Blake Wright recently caught up with Sol to learn more about this new artist and what secrets she may yet choose to reveal.

BLAKE: When did you first discover your love of music?
SOL: Since I was very small, I've loved to sing, create and dance.

BLAKE: Your song 'I'm Here to Stay' has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
SOL: I was like OMG! That's amazing! Thank you!!

BLAKE: What was the inspiration behind ‘I'm Here to Stay’? Was there someone in particular you had in mind when you wrote it?
SOL: My inspiration behind this song was feeling like sometimes life and love just won't work, as much as you would like it to, and the struggles of trying to make it work. Lol, yeah it was about someone in particular ;)

BLAKE: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'I'm Here to Stay'?
SOL: Right now I'm finishing a new song that is in the same vein as I'm Here to Stay :)

BLAKE: How would you characterize yourself as a musician?  (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
SOL: Hmm hard-working, very headstrong and very driven.

BLAKE: Some of your listeners are wondering if a music video for this song is on the horizon. What can we tell them? 
SOL: Yeah! I'm working on it and I'm planning to shoot it in Switzerland, probably this summer.

BLAKE: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician? What do you find most challenging?
SOL: Rewarding- that people can engage and feel the emotions that I want to convey. Challenging- I guess singing live ;) I'm very nervous before a show but once I start singing, the nervousness just disappears like magic.

BLAKE: Who are your role models in music?
SOL: Hmm, Celine Dion, Amy Winehouse, Eva Cassidy, Whitney Huston and Janis Joplin.

BLAKE: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
SOL : Perseverence and overall persistence are the key. It's your life so get out there and do it!

BLAKE: What's next for Sol Romero? Is there a follow-up single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
SOL: Yeah :)! I just finished a cover from Amy Winehouse. I’m almost done with another song that’s like ‘I'm Here to Stay, music videos and much more <3

BLAKE: I look forward to hearing it! Thanks for taking time out to share your story with me. I wish you continued success and good luck!

Peter O'Sullivan

Peter O'Sullivan

The honest and unpretentious nature of his lyrics, coupled with phenomenal guitar playing, have caught the attention of international audiences who seek a genuine, entertaining musical experience.

A member of the International Songwriters Association (Ireland), Peter O' Sullivan is an award-winning singer-songwriter in London, UK. His latest collection of sixteen songs were recorded all written by Peter and recorded at EQ Studios London. Peter currently holds a high-rank on the Reverbnation London and Surry charts. Perhaps, what makes Peter's music so accessible to modern audiences, aside from his distinct voice and excellent musicianship, is his focus on creating songs with a timeless feel and deeper meaning. Reporter Andrew Edwards recently caught up with Peter to learn more about this artist:

ANDREW: When did you first discover your love of music?
PETER: As long as I can remember I loved the sound of all types of music.

ANDREW: Your song “The Songs My Momma Sang” has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month. What was your initial reaction?
PETER: It is a wonderful feeling when your work goes on the radio for the first time.

ANDREW: Would you say the mood of your other songs are in the same vein.
PETER: All of my songs have true feelings running through them, some are more folk.

ANDREW: Did you come from a musical background? Are there other musicians in your family?
PETER: Yes, my mother and father were traditional amateur folk singers and my eldest brother George plays the accordion.

ANDREW: How would you characterize yourself as a musician? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
PETER: Serious and fun-loving.

ANDREW: How would you characterize yourself as a musician? (Ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving…)
PETER: Serious and fun-loving.

ANDREW: Some of your listeners are wondering if a music video for this song is on the horizon. What can we tell them?
PETER: If I have the success that I hope for, I would hope to follow up with a video.

ANDREW: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician? What do you find most challenging?
PETER: I find the most rewarding part of being a musician and a songwriter are the wonderful comments I receive from my fans on how they have enjoyed my music. The most challenging part of my work is completing a song.

ANDREW: Who are your role models in music?
PETER: From a very early age I have loved traditional music and folk. Then came the singing cowboys and country music. The likes of Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Hank Williams, Buddy Holly, Jim Reeves, Jonny Cash all played a big part, but the biggest influence on me must be Mr. Jim Reeves.

ANDREW: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
PETER: I would say to anybody hold on to your dream, work hard and believe in yourself. To any songwriters I would say join The International Songwriters Association for they give very good advice and guidance.

ANDREW: What’s next for Peter O’ Sullivan? Is there a follow-up single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
PETER: Yes, I am working on a song at this time and it is in the same vein as ‘The Songs My Momma Sang’. I would at this point like to pay my gratitude to my fiancé Tanja von Marlitt for her help in the arrangement of my songs and on some the completion of the songs. Also I would like to thank MR. John Hamilton owner of the EQ Studios and multi-instrumentalist for his great work. Last but not least, The Akademia, Los Angeles, CA.

ANDREW: Thank you for taking the time to share your story with me. I wish you continued success and good luck!


Nicky Barot

Nicky Barot

With that rare combination of voice, musicianship and natural good looks, pop rock artist Nicky Barot's debut single rocketed to the top of the charts. Judging by his penchant for creating great songs, he might just stay there.

Meet Nicky Barot, award winning singer, songwriter and musician. He's played to packed clubs, co-written with music legends and worked with top producers. Oh, and he's twenty years old. Growing up in California, Nicky received his first six-string at the age of seven and learned to play by ear. At a young age was dubbed a 'prodigy' by his instructors. Inspired by his father's music collection of AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Guns N' Roses, he naturally became a student of rock. In the years that followed, Nicky continued to demonstrate remarkable focus and determination, making the rights moves to garner more exposure for his music. The year 2013 marked the release of his EP ‘Me’, produced by industry veteran Mickey Jack Cones (Kelly Clarkson, Trace Adkins and Jason Aldean), full of pop-rock ear candy shot through with arena epic-ness. Nicky's debut single 'I Can't Do This On My Own' caught fire on radio, quickly pulling this young artist into the global spotlight. Reporter Lily Clark recently caught up with Nicky to learn more about his story, artistic motivations and plans for the future.

LILY: When did you first discover your love of music?
NICKY: At around the age of six or seven, my dad would play me his old rock n' roll records and I became obsessed with Led Zeppelin and AC/DC in particular.

LILY: Your song 'I Can't Do This On My Own' has been a smash hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
NICKY: I was absolutely thrilled! Music is meant to get into your head and evoke emotions. It makes you feel what nothing else can. The fact that my music is affecting people like that is amazing to me!

LILY: What was the inspiration behind ‘I Can't Do This On My Own’?  Was there a particular person you were thinking about when you wrote it?
NICKY: A great friend/producer I was working with at the time named Stefan Litrownik wrote it and let me listen to it. When I heard it I instantly connected with the lyrics and was very anxious to see what we could do with the song together.

LILY: Did you come from a musical background?  Are there other musicians in your family?
NICKY: Both sides of my family have musicians sprinkled in here and there! Both of my parents were musical at young ages but chose to pursue different things. My brother and I are probably the most avid musicians in our family.

LILY: How would you characterize yourself as an artist?  (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
NICKY: I just love music- everything from creating it to performing! It’s hard to catch me without a smile and I've definitely been known to be a bit loud and goofy at times. Life is about having fun and doing what you love and for me, it's music.

LILY: Some of your listeners have asked us if a music video for 'I Can't Do This On My Own' is on the horizon. What can we tell them?
NICKY: As long as the song keeps getting a positive reaction from the listeners, we might just decide to do a little something for the fans :)

LILY: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician?  What do you find most challenging?
NICKY: Most rewarding for me is the sound and melody. When the melody I'm looking for starts coming together, it just gives you this creative high that's like nothing else. Most challenging would ironically be finding that catchy melody that fits with the lyrics, but that's what makes it the most rewarding!

LILY: Who are your role models in music?
NICKY: I've always been driven by guitar players and some of my favorites are Jimmy Page and Angus Young. Vocally one of my favorites is of course Freddie Mercury.

LILY: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
NICKY: Stick with it. Develop your skills and stay hungry. Find ways to improve your craft and make it distinct.

LILY: What's next for Nicky Barot? Is there a follow-up single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
NICKY: We're currently working on a new album! It’s set for release later this year so stay tuned!! And thanks everyone so much for giving this song the success it’s gotten.

LILY: I look foward to hearing the new album! I wish you continued success and good luck!





Aoede's compelling lyrics and quirky soprano voice have garnered numerous Childrens' music awards. Now her crossover radio hit 'Fairy Tale Love' may just garner her a global audience.

Aoede (pronounced A-E-D) is an award-winning San Francisco-based children's musical stories and quirky folk pop artist who has made an impressive crossover into pop radio success with her debut single 'Fairy Tale Love'. Any why not? Fans of Ingrid Michaelson, Feist, Regina Spektor, A Fine Frenzy, Lily Allen will find much to enjoy in Aoede's quirky soprano voice and impeccable wordsmithing. ‘Is Love A Fairy Tale?’, Aoede's third album and fifth release, was the recipient of four Children's Awards, including an endorsement from KidsFirst, and was considered for Best Children's Album in the 55th Grammy Awards. ‘Fairy Tale Love’ music video was a winner and official selection in The Indie Gathering and The Indie Fest film festivals. Reporter Brandon Scott recently caught up with Aoede to learn more about this intriguing artist and her rapidly evolving real-life fairy tale of musical success.

BRANDON: When did you first discover your love of music?
AOEDE: I’ve always had music humming and thumping inside and around me! I can remember back to being a kid and being involved in children’s musical theater performing solos on stage as well as folk music always being played in my house and playing recorders or other instruments. I remember singing and acting at a very early age! I rediscovered this love when I started to write original songs and play guitar as an adult!

BRANDON: Your song 'Fairy Tale Love' has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
AOEDE: I love that this song in particular is having such a positive impact on so many listeners: it speaks to the inner child in all of us and hopefully inspires, compels and brings joy! I am honored, and it is wonderful to know so many people are embracing it around the world!

BRANDON: What was the inspiration behind  ‘Fairy Tale Love’?  Was it drawn from a personal tale of love lost or found in your own life?
AOEDE:: True confession: I have never fully outgrown fairy tales and fantasy! I conjured up Fairy Tale Love… the kind of love we dream about when we are young but are told to grow out of when we get older. We girls secretly long for Prince Charming to rescue us, to sweep us off our feet. We still want to believe in magic and dreams. This imaginative tale tells of just what one girl would do for her fairy tale love and a happy ever after. It is one part Disney and two parts fractured fairy tale!

BRANDON: Did you come from a musical background?  Are there other musicians in your family?
AOEDE: Yes! I always sang, and I played violin in 4th grade and saxophone in 6th before singing, composing and playing guitar and ukelele as an adult. My sister has played trombone since 5th grade and plays in about 10 Latin bands in Miami!

BRANDON: How would you characterize yourself as a musician? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
AOEDE: Fun-loving!! Quirky and bright, inspired and compelling, real and honest. I am extremely driven, passionate and committed to writing, recording, connecting, and performing. I receive joy through sharing my music and art. So the business side of me is serious and the art side, childlike and quirky! Since I’ve started composing musical stories for young adults, I have been able to more fully get in touch with my inner child! Music is my lifeline. I cannot stop creating…

BRANDON: The music video for 'Fairy Tale Love' is highly imaginative. What was it like creating and shooting the music video for this song? 
AOEDE: It was so much fun to envision and carry out! The central theme for Aoede's music video for ‘Fairy Tale Love’ is definitely the Fairy Tale Book! I wanted to invite the viewer to come play along after the book flips open- as if they are transported into a magical fairy tale world. Pages flip after each scene, and the book flips closed at the end of the story… It was a lot of fun to make! There were three locations and then of course new animation and found footage. The locations were outside my own house in San Francisco for the garden scenes and choruses, the Musee Mecanique and the Carousel! Much fun to do the shoot, which was done over a few days in January 2011 :) It was my concept but definitely a lot of wonderful collaborators to video, edit and see the vision through, especially the animation sequences. I really wanted the book to fall from the sky and then flip open so the tale could begin. I did a lot of research on public domain archival footage and found 1934 Betty Boop Cinderella, which is featured in the video. Another collaborator found that sweet vintage footage (1911) that looks like paper drawings interspersed throughout, while another team created the carriage and book falling from the sky. It took over a year to complete, and I released it in April 2012: My favorite parts of the shoot were walking through and seeing the old arcade games and love meters in the Musee Mechanique and riding the carousel as we shot the bridge. Also loved dressing up in my Cinderella Blue princess dress topped with a tiara for the choruses!

BRANDON: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician?  What do you find most challenging?
AOEDE: I find the ability to connect with, touch and inspire so many people, adults and kids of all ages, with my music and art most rewarding. Aoede is the Muse of Song and and the theme of being a "Muse" to others who need inspiration has been central in my life! Especially with Internet, I feel I can connect with so many musicians and fans around the world and develop lasting relationships. Also, I enjoy being able to see how my career unfolds. Most challenging for me is finding a consistent funding source to enable me to continue to pursue all aspects of my art and music- recording, marketing, promotions, etc. as a sustainable career.

BRANDON: Who are your role models in music?
AOEDE: Taylor Swift, Ingrid Michaelson, Feist, Regina Spektor and Adele are some of my most recent influences and strong women singer-songwriters and role models. I am captured by their voices and believability. Their songs pull at my heartstrings. They compel and are honest and real without sounding like they are trying to be anything other than who they are. As artists, they are also successes on their own terms. I resonate strongly with all of that and find ways to incorporate elements that compel into my own writing. I feel my art and music is ever evolving-so I may not consciously write with these influences in mind, but they have helped to shape who I am as an artist. I am also looking to theater greats like musical lyricist and composer Stephen Schwartz (Wicked), since I am now writing fairy tale musical stories for young adults.

BRANDON: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
AOEDE: Dream BIG and often! Never let a little thing called life get in the way of your grandest dreams! If you dream it, put it out into the Universe, truly believe and work crazy hard to make it happen, your dreams can come true. Listen to your muse, believe in yourself, and don't be afraid to be a pioneer; if it hasn't been done before, pave your own path! And everything starts with great songs. Write and record what is true and real for you.

BRANDON: What's next for Aoede? Is there a follow-up single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
AOEDE: Yes! ‘Days Like This’, with its ethereal vocals, is a hauntingly throbbing keyboard-based ballad that ponders “no one said the world, life and love would be so hard, especially when looking back on the magic and ease of being a child… but, then again, no one said life would hold so much beauty and wonder either.” I am currently adapting my last award-winning musical story ‘What Are Dreams Made Of?’ ( to Children’s musical theater and also embarking on my next recording project: a musical story that continues Aoede’s adventures in a magical kingdom, called ‘Do You Believe in Magic?’ (January 2015).

BRANDON: Excellent. I look forward to checking it out. Thanks for taking time out with me to share your story. I wish you continued success and good luck!

Blow Flyy

Blow Flyy

Drawing on poetic roots and personal experience, this young hip-hop artist brings a style all his own- and fans across the world are loving it.

Born Anthony Grant, Blow Flyy is a songwriter and Canadian hip-hop/rap artist from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Interestingly, Blow Flyy grew up writing poems of inspiration, love and happiness. Having been in the underground hip-hop music scene in the years that followed, he took time to study how the music industry operates and discover his unique niche. Blow Flyy steers clear of the traditional mainstream fodder by using more creative language in his lyrics and keeps it clean so that he can reach listeners of all ages. The music that he produces and pens are influenced by his family and passion to create good music. Perhaps it is for these reasons, that audiences have responded so enthusiastically to his debut single 'That's My Girl' and follow up radio hit 'My Wings'. Reporter Lily Clark caught up with Blow Flyy recently to learn more about this intriguing new hip-hop artist:

LILY: When did you first discover your love of music?
BLOW FLYY: I first discovered my love for music listening to guys like Maestro, Fresh Wes and Dream Warriors. Great Canadian hip-hop artists’ music had a lot to do with me discovering my love for hip-hop music. Also coming from a family that had musicians and singers, I feel it’s in me to be a part of music in some form.

LILY: Your song 'That's My Girl’ has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
BLOW FLYY: I was grateful. I gave thanks to God. That was my first reaction. God is the reason for everything that is going on with my music. I am blessed to have a dedicated manager that believes in me and that I can fully trust to give me the right advice on what we should do next as I continually grow as a songwriter and artist. Also I am blessed to have a producer that is always growing, learning and being relevant and creative with my sound. This is only possible with God’s will and I give all thanks to Him and my fans. 

LILY: What was the inspiration behind 'That's My Girl’?  Was there someone in particular you were writing about?
BLOW FLYY:  The inspiration behind ‘That's My Girl’ had a lot to do with some personal experience. All my music is filled with my real life experiences, and things that I see that go on all around me. 

LILY: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'That's My Girl'?
BLOW FLYY: No, each song has its own story, own mood and feeling. I want to give a variety of music moods and feelings to the world.

LILY: How would you characterize yourself as a musician? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
BLOW FLYY: I'm down-to-earth and fun-loving yes, but I can be serious when it's time. My friends and family will say the same. As a songwriter and artist, I think we need a lot more of the down-to-earth and fun-loving.

LILY: Some of your listeners are wondering if a music video for this song is on the horizon. What can we tell them?
BLOW FLYY: Right now my management team and I are talking about doing a ‘That's My Girl’ video and currently are in the process of getting funding possibly to do a video by year’s end. 

LILY: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician?  What do you find most challenging?
BLOW FLYY: What I find most rewarding about being an artist is that I get to express my feelings in a way people all over the world can relate to and find their happiness. The most challenging part about being an artist is getting the right people around you that believe in your vision and help you work towards that so everyone can be successful. This along with working on a very limited budget is challenging. As it is, I also work a 9 to 5 job to support my family and my music. My manager also works 9 to 5 to support his family and the Blow Flyy Brand.

LILY: Who are your role models in music?
BLOW FLYY: I don't have role models in music. My role model is my mother, somebody that works two jobs to keep food on the table, fresh gear on my back and a roof over my head. That's my role model. My mother, grandmother and aunties, the women of my family, are my role models.

LILY: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
BLOW FLYY: Be yourself. Tell the truth in your music. There is always somebody that can relate to truth better then lies.

LILY: What's next for Blow Flyy? Is there a follow-up single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
BLOW FLYY: Currently working on a new album called ‘Born To Dream’. Look out for that album and more great music.

LILY: I look forward to it. Thanks for sharing your story with me. I wish you continued success and good luck!

Extreme Dream

Extreme Dream

Sheer originality and musicianship have driven their debut radio single 'Rain' up the charts earning Extreme Dream global respect- and they're just getting started.

Extreme Dream is an award-winning band consisting of Tony Cestaro (Guitarist, Songwriter), Shaun Tique (Vocalist, Guitarist, Lead Keyboardist, Songwriter) with additional vocals by Thereasa Arkels (‘Rain’, ‘The Cries of the Children’) and Sue Richel (‘Heaven is the Place of Eternal Living’). Studio musicians include Tony Ciano (drums, percussion) and Scott Stein (saxaphone, flute). Critics have described Tonys' songs as meaningful, deep and emotional with a message behind every song. After Shaun’s unfortunate passing, Tony has managed to keep the Extreme Dream alive, even going on to become an award-winning published poet. Reporter Lily Clark caught up with Tony recently to learn more about this new artist and his plans for the future.

LILY: When did you first discover your love of music?
TONY: From a very early age, maybe 5 or 6, I was drawn to the radio.  I loved all the instruments, melodies and vocals.  I found myself listening to the words of the songs and was intrigued by the way everything meshed together.

LILY: Your song 'Rain' has been a big hit on radio for its fourth straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
TONY: It was great hearing my song on the radio.  It was something that I've always wanted.  The feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming, and it made me proud!

LILY: What was the inspiration behind 'Rain'?
TONY: It started as a creative writing assignment when I was in college.  I had to write something that dealt with the weather.  I chose rain because it reminded me of teardrops.   I used the personal experience of a break up that I was going through at that time, and put those feelings into words. That became the song.

LILY: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'Rain'?
TONY: No.  All my lyrics are different, which made the music or vibe of the song different.

LILY: How would you characterize yourself as a musician? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
TONY: Down-to-earth sounds good.  Never really thought about it (smiles).

LILY: Did you come from a musical background?  Are there other musicians in your family?
TONY: My Uncle Sal wrote lyrics back in the Big Band Era.  Maybe that's where I got it from.

LILY: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician?  What do you find most challenging?
TONY: The rewarding part is being able to have my work recorded, brought to light and getting feedback from people who hear it.  Also, getting your music to the right people- publishers, labels, licensing, music supervisors, music libraries, etc.).

LILY: Who are your role models in music?
TONY: Harry Chapin, Journey, Maroon 5, Fleetwood Mac (the Buckingham/Nicks years) and Bon Jovi. A little bit of all genres influence me.

LILY: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
TONY: Never let anyone tell you that you can't do something.  If you love what you are doing musically, keep at it.  Perfect your craft.  There is always something new to learn.

LILY: What's next for Extreme Dream?  Is there a new single in the works?  If so, what can you tell us about it?
TONY: Just finished a new CD titled ‘Tranquility’.  For this CD, I collaborated with four other songwriters from around the Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee areas.  Other songs from the Extreme Dream CD on other radio stations are ‘Winter's Calling’, ‘You'll Be In My Dreams’, ‘One In A Million’, ‘Rape The Land’, and ‘Heaven Is A Place Of Eternal Living’.

LILY: Excellent! I look forward to hearing it! Thank you for taking time out to share you story with me. I wish you continued success and good luck!

AC Da' Perfecto

AC Da' Perfecto


With a gruff, brassy voice that is unmistakeable and gallons of personality, AC Da'Perfecto has carved out a name for himself through high-energy radio hits like his debut single 'Pump Pump'.

AC, former member of the locally acclaimed hip-hop group Sub-Flo, finally released his long awaited debut solo album 'Top Grindin'. As a member of Subflo, AC and the group delivered an original brand of 'Southern Hip-Hop', and also performed on the same stages as hip-hop greats such as Busta Rhymes, Taz & Tha' Liks, Wu-Tangs' Cappadonna, and Suga Free to name a few. AC has also managed to get his face seen on Dr. Dre's Chronic 2001 Tour DVD. He offers an alternative to the rat race of undefineble hip-hop in todays' market. With a lyrical style all his own and captivating production, AC is definitely poised to 'blaze tha spot' in 2014. Reporter Alexis Adams caught up with AC recently to learn more about this artist:

ALEXIS: When did you first discover your love of music?
AC: I first discovered my love for music as a kid listening to records with my Mom! She had actual vinyls and 45's of all the latest hit records.

ALEXIS: Your song 'Pump Pump' has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
AC: I was elated, overcome with joyfulness, thankful, grateful...and soon a sense of pride and accomplishment set in. And now it's like I know something is about to take place so big that alot of my local competitors have no idea what's about to hit'em, or how I achieved this feat! Got me feeling all grandioso!!! lol

ALEXIS: What was the inspiration behind 'Pump Pump'?  Was there one particular night out that inspired you to write this song?
AC: The inspiration for 'Pump Pump' was simply my need as an active  producer/artist to come up with a different feel than the last song I created before 'Pump Pump'! I'm always striving to reach new heights with my sound.

ALEXIS: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'Pump Pump'?
AC: A lot of them are, due to the fact that I love making party songs. But as previously stated, I'm always reaching outside the box. So sometimes I can be a lil' introspective and write music that is thought provoking.

ALEXIS: How would you characterize yourself as a musician? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
AC: I and most of my associates feel I'm a pretty fun loving type of guy, but VERY SERIOUS minded when it comes to the business of music. I tend to be somewhat of a perfectionist with my music.

ALEXIS: Some of your listeners are wondering if a music video for this song is on the horizon. What can we tell them? 
AC: Yes...I'm currently in talks with a few Directors and I should have it done before mid-summer!

ALEXIS: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician?  What do you find most challenging?
AC: The most rewarding thing to me is to see people respond positively to my music- when they catch the vibe! The expression of astonishment on their faces never ceases to amaze me! The most challenging aspect of being a musician is I guess earning a consistent and viable income for me and my family!

ALEXIS: Who are your role models in music?
AC: Richard Branson, RZA, WU-TANG, Eric Sermon, Red-Man, Method Man, Jermaine Dupree, Dr. Dre, D.O.C., Diddy, Scott Storch, Russell Simmons, Run-DMC, Rick Rubin, ScarFace, Master P, Prince, Micheal Jackson, Quincy Jones, Simon Cowell, Ryan Seacrest, DJ Snake & Big Al & Nemesis, my Dad, Michael E. Bomar and my uncle, Irungu Bakari.

ALEXIS: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
AC: Discover what goal exactly it is you want to achieve. Once you find it, have an intense focus and determination to find out everything concerning how to get the job done. Be inquisitive, diligent,  and most of all be aware. Pay attention to things going on around you, such as events dealing with you craft.. Stay driven, be humble. Be able to learn from those wiser than you (even if they're younger than you) lol. And lastly, stay prepared. Success = preparation + opportunity.

ALEXIS: What's next for AC Da'Perfecto?  Is there a follow-up single in the works?  If so, what can you tell us about it?
AC: My next goal is to ready this next album. I will have a follow-up single but am still deciding whether to choose from my library or ride this new wave of inspiration The Akademia has breathed into my career and create a few more new singles! But yes, indeed, please believe there is a new single and video coming soon! I've also been doing humanitarian work for 'Beats, Rhymes and Relief'', an organization that holds concerts and books local opening acts in major cities across the U.S. to benefit less fortunate and underprivileged people and poverty-stricken families overseas. You can check them out the video for this project below. Thank you for this opportunity. Truly!!!

ALEXIS: Thank you for taking time out to share your story with me. I wish you continued success and good luck!

Christian St. James

Christian St. James

His radio single 'Long Distance' has struck a chord in listeners, worldwide, and it's been a fast-paced ride for this talented singer-songwriter ever since.

Born in Chicago and living his dream, singer-songwriter Christian St. James’ story is part blues song, part fairy tale and part inspirational testimonial. The blues part is the story of a Midwest boy, born to a Cherokee Indian father and British American mother finding his way in the world and pursuing the American dream. The fairy tale part is the story of a man who suffered a burst aorta, was given little to no chance for survival, and beat the odds to come back stronger than ever. The inspirational part is the story of never giving up and believing that God has a plan for each of us and that we can never quit on that plan. In Christian’s words, “No one can convince me there is no shot for me and my music. God saved me for a reason and this is it- to make my music.” Christian uses his life experiences to create his songs and over the years has developed a unique vocal style. The honesty in his presentation are front and center on his debut album, the aptly titled ‘Alive in Me.’ Reporter Alexis Adams caught up with Christian recently to learn more about this artist and his extraordinary journey.

ALEXIS: When did you first discover your love of music?
CHRISTIAN: I believe I was 7 or 8 years old. My mom told me that was when she first saw me showing interest in music.

ALEXIS: Your song 'Long Distance' has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
CHRISTIAN: I thought it was amazing. ‘Long Distance’ was my follow up song to ‘Bobbie Jean’. It stayed at #1 for three weeks, but was on the charts for eight months with Cashbox Magazine. Each day things just get more and more exciting. After 23 years I’ve certainly realized dreams do come true. Believing is 90% of how great things can happen.

ALEXIS: What was the inspiration behind 'Long Distance'?  Was there someone in particular you were writing about?
CHRISTIAN: The idea came from a soldier I had met who had been serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. He told me about his girlfriend and how much he missed her. I realized then how many others in the military felt that very same way. That inspired the lyrics ‘let this road lead me back to you’. I believe it shows that love is greater than hate and it always will be.

ALEXIS: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'Long Distance'?
CHRISTIAN: No, the mood of my other songs is all very different.

ALEXIS: How would you characterize yourself as a musician? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
CHRISTIAN: I’m very serious about my music. I live it and breathe it. I believe we’re all given a gift. You know what that gift is by what God puts in your heart.

ALEXIS: Did you come from a musical background?  Are there other musicians in your family?
CHRISTIAN: Although I didn’t come from a musical background, I believe that God put the love for it in me. I can’t imagine life without music in it.

ALEXIS: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician? What do you find most challenging?
CHRISTIAN: The entire creative process has to be the most rewarding. Building an idea from nothing and watching it become something. I find the most challenging thing is to get heard by radio and the right people to get your music to the rest of the world. Nepotism runs far too deep and creative works should never be based on who has the most money. Unfortunately that seems to be the way it works. That’s why I’m so very thankful for the Akademia Music Awards.

ALEXIS: Who are your role models in music?
CHRISTIAN: My role models in music are anyone who came up the hard way by paying their dues and who do it for the love of it. I have little respect for people who bought their way to the top, which gives me the honor to say I have a lot of role models.

ALEXIS: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
CHRISTIAN: To those who are just starting out I would say, if you think this is going to happen overnight, you’re in the wrong business. Be patient, honest, love what you do and believe it will happen. Don’t be discouraged. Associate yourself with good honest people. Listen to your heart, not to anyone else. You’ll find what you’re looking for. Study and know your craft. Work at it daily. Strive to be the best you can be. Never look back on your failures but look forward to your success. If you do that, your destiny awaits you.

ALEXIS: What's next for Christian St. James?  Is there a new single in the works?  If so, what can you tell us about it?
CHRISTIAN: I feel this is just the beginning. My next single, ‘Fade to Black’, was picked by record company Euro World Records. After winning best song for ‘Fade to Black’ this is what they said, ‘Christian displays characteristic, depth and sophistication through provocative lyrics and unpredictable instrumental arrangements to deliver this chilling reminder of what truly matters’. Bruce Elrod, CEO of Cashbox Magazine, agreed with this quote and said this song was a potential hit and everyone would be able to relate to it.

ALEXIS: I look forward to hearing it! Thanks for taking time out to share your story. I wish you continued success and good luck!



'Someday', the title of his smash debut single, seems to have arrived sooner rather than later for this talented rising star out of Hampton, Virginia.

Dana ‘Mackadenice’ Veney was born on Veterans Day, 1985 in Alexandria, Virginia. Mackadenice has been writing and performing since he was a senior in high school. His first stage act was at a teen seminar titled NYSP at James Madison University, where he performed live in front of 5,000 people from all over the east coast. His life experiences and career in the military have fueled his passion for music and have opened up a positive avenue to express his unique trials and successes. A prolific artist, Mackadenice has released seven mix tapes since 2009 including his most recent three-volume collection titled ‘On the House’ (OTH), which features thirty-three tracks detailing his personal struggle to adjust to life outside of the military. Reporter Lily Clark recently caught up with Mackadenice to learn more about this intriguing new artist, his artistic motivations and plans for the future.

LILY: When did you first discover your love of music?
MACKADENICE: In 1997, I was introduced to and influenced by hip-hop/rap. Subsequently, I established a connection with the realness and storytelling of various artists and it was accurate and genuine with the actual things that I observed during that segment of my life. Many artists were touching on situations which I have personally experienced and ultimately, it stuck with me and obviously began to silently grow with me over time.

LILY: Your song 'Someday' has been a big hit on radio for its fourth straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
MACKADENICE: Simply relieved. It was comparable to a reaction such as passing your midterm or final exam in college. You put in the work, blood, sweat and tears for countless days on end. When the final handiwork is completed, I realize I have established something that I can be proud of and build a foundation on. But the hunger is still there and maybe increased a little because now I am like, OK! This is good! Yet, I feel I can do better.

LILY: What was the inspiration behind 'Someday'?
MACKADENICE: ‘Someday’ was inspired from one of my initial live shows/contests, which took place overseas in the military. I had all the moral support I could ask and hope for, and in addition, a few more years of music composition experience under my belt. But I didn’t win that particular day and it devastated me. I was pretty much in my own world for approximately a month. During that time, I received much encouragement from friends and family. The one constant word that kept resonating in my ear and mind from loved ones was- ‘If not today, one day.’ I began to reflect on my life as well as speaking with others about how they deal with their shortcomings. It became abundantly clear to me that everybody has goals and aspirations they want to accomplish in life. It is a matter of time that must be invested and a passionate pursuit before arriving at that point. Shortly after reality settled in and I finally composed myself, I was searching for instrumentals to incorporate in my genre and came across producer Marco Blyze. That is when I discovered this track with David Ray. I listened to it intensely, fell in love with the hook and made a promise to myself that I would make it my own. It has now blossomed into the song I’ve named ‘Someday. So, here I am a few years later since creating ‘Someday’, presenting it to my audience and it has become a hit on the radio. A dream come true, no doubt.

LILY: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'Someday'?
MACKADENICE: Absolutely not. My music can be dubbed as eclectic in every sense. Many of my songs have been produced from inspiration, experience, or something I have heard or witnessed. My emotions have been pulled omni-directionally over the years and as a result, I don’t solely formulate music for a restricted listening audience. I make music to touch all people, of all different cultures and ages who can relate to my lyrics in song. Some of my musicality and themes may appear to be darker than others, but in the end, my arrangements show where I was at any given time in my life and my evolution.

LILY: How would you characterize yourself as a musician? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
MACKADENICE: Unpredictable, passionate, graphic and intense. I believe I am overall one of the most versatile artists in this music category that I am seeking and fulfilling. As an artist, I aim for excellence as I have been taught since I was a child. We call ourselves musicians, but I state I am an instrument, because I can be played and appreciated by anyone. My desire is to adapt in any era and continue to let my music permeate from my heart and soul.

LILY: Did you come from a musical background?  Are there other musicians in your family?
MACKADENICE: Yes, of course. I played instruments at a younger age- drums and electric piano. It’s also hereditary because I come from a family of musicians and singers. My mother was an excellent Acapella singer and a classical pianist for 30 years. My uncle actually sang in a gospel quartet. Also, my grandmother and aunties were pianists for many years.

LILY: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician? What do you find most challenging?
MACKADENICE: The most rewarding part would be that I am in control of my creations. I can make a cut of what I want, when I want, or however I see or feel it. It’s that freedom that keeps me captivated. Also, my music has become a pretty significant stress reliever. The challenging part is the longevity. Being able to create song after song, project after project and getting better each time forces you to a higher level. It’s like reinventing yourself repetitiously.

LILY: Who are your role models in music?
MACKADENICE: I have never resolved to have a role model in the music industry, per se. Life deals one a different story as we function in life. I do have an all time favorite artist which is DMX and that’s about it. But when I initially branched out into rapping, it was my cousin E, an established rapper, who I once looked up to and wanted to emulate because he was a little older than I was.

LILY: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
MACKADENICE: Keep God first. Patience is a virtue. One day at a time.

LILY: What's next for Mackadenice?  Is there a new single in the works?  If so, what can you tell us about it?
MACKADENICE: The next thing I am trying to do is establish a dialogue with my true followers and fans. I also look forward to performing more on a broader scale. I don’t have an official new single, but I already have a ton of music already released that listeners can download via Reverbnation and YouTube, as well as download free music at My most recent project involves the official release of ‘The Contestants’. I also plan to build my record label Vigalante Records into a company from the ground up. I feel I have the best team around me which, are my closest friends: Thou Shelt and BAN from the State, my manager.

LILY: I look forward to checking out some of your other songs! Thanks for taking time out to share your story. I wish you continued success and good luck!

Rock Is Back. Rediscovering The Art Of Making Music.


Rock Is Back. Rediscovering The Art Of Making Music.

By Daniel Parker

Reprinted with permission from 

The world is familiar with the celebrity musical icons of the day, so much in fact that they don’t even need to be named here.  Even a five-year-old Indonesian girl living in nipa hut on a remote island can tell you exactly who is dating who and trivial information such as what their last relationship fallout was all about.  The difference between the musical icons of today, and those of twenty years or so ago, is the reason for their celebrity status, which does not necessarily have to do with songwriting ability or musicianship.  Back in the day, a popular artist would write songs, record albums, perform in front of thousands of fans and, of course, host notorious backstage parties that sometimes leaked to the tabloids. But they also had private lives and were able to take vacations away from the public eye.  Although the paparazzi have existed since the birth of Hollywood, the power of the media has grown exponentially with the advent of the Internet, social media, smart phones and entertainment programs that cater to people’s vicarious instincts.  The result is that the lives of these ‘artists’ are often continuously on display for the public to see, observe and judge. Yet, aside from technological advances, there is a darker reason for this trend.

However, before we go there, there is another phenomenon worth examining: The average age of music performers has dropped considerably over the past few decades. No doubt, record companies have found it far easier to exploit young performers in the 15 – 21 age group. And why not? They have not lived long enough to cultivate a strong artistic drive, experiential base or standard of reference for what constitutes a healthy adult life. That also explains why most popular performers behave like such oddballs in their private life. They react similar to toddlers who do things that they know are wrong, blatantly in front of their parents, in order to test their boundaries.  They want to be free from the confines of people’s expectations of what they should do and, as a result, they behave recklessly.  Up until now, the public has remained plugged into to the lives of music celebrities much like one would follow their favorite soap opera or sports team.  Furthermore, it appears that the people were more interested in news regarding club altercations or DUI’s rather than the actual music, a telling acknowledgement that the person lacked any lasting artisitc merits worth discussing.

Now, let’s get to the heart of the matter. There are a growing number of people who recognize that something is missing from the modern music performer.  Most people are now aware of the hidden assembly behind a commercial singer, including songwriters, artist & repertoire staff (A&R), producers, engineers, marketers and others who work together to create the commercial product.  Independent songwriters write the songs, A&R managers find those songs by posting notices in industry trades, the producers pick the best ones (often out of thousands) and together with an engineer, record the singer’s version. If the instrumentation of a song is out of date, they throw in some slick new electronic sounds and make sure the vocal tracks are pitch-corrected to perfection. Many commercial artists refuse to allow anyone except the engineer in their recording sessions. It’s little wonder why. The whole machinery depends upon the illusion that this ‘artist’ somehow lived the experiences, passionately wrote about them, sat with a piano or guitar to compose the song and then sang it. The precise opposite is now true. Some unknown songwriter out there lived the experience, wrote about it, composed the music and even sang it first. But that unknown songwriter, daunted by the risk of failure and the overt corruption of the industry, decided they were too unattractive, too poor a singer, too obese, too remote, too something to ever be liked by people. So they sold their song and their life experiences to someone they had never met in exchange for rent money.

The modern record company originated in the 1970’s as middle men between real artists and the public. In that era, before modern recording technology, the integrity and musicianship of these artists was self-evident. While the companies brought some business acumen to the table, the artist’s vision was, for the most part, respected and protected. In the decades that ensued, as profit became the main objective, corporations mistakenly began to think of themselves as the creative ‘tastemakers’ of modern music. In reality, they scrambled to chase down and capitalize on each musical trend, becoming little more than glorified banks, They muscled in on artists’ careers and demanded an ever-increasing percentage of returns.  By the turn of the century, they had completely seized control of the production process from start to finish and the product quality began to suffer noticeably. Real songwriting and musicianship has all but vanished from commercial music. Judging by the decline in music sales and the declining interest in commercial radio, the pendulum is now beginning to swing back. People are taking back their music, realizing that corporations were never, and never will be, well-suited to creating art.

An increasing number of people are shunning the roster of corporate artists in favor of high-quality, independent artists who write, produce and perform their own music. Though the number of these musician/songwriters has shrunk, thanks to nearly two decades of artistic decline, they do still exist. And they are uniquely positioned after years of songwriting and musical training to give people what they now seek- great songs played with live instruments.  Fans of these songs are not interested in perfection - they are merely asking for something real.

We caught up with Stryker, one such songwriter/musician from the group Millennium to get his thoughts:

Tell us a little about yourself and Millennium.

We’re a four-person band (bass, keyboards, guitar and drums). Our music is pop rock with both acoustic and electronic influences.

Let’s get right to it.  Do you have a bone of contention with some of today’s pop artists?

Well, I wouldn’t say that. I’m just not personally interested in listening to music that doesn’t come directly from the artist. I think that connection is everything in music. The Japanese have a word for everything else. Karaoke.


What do you do differently from the other artists?

Nowadays, it seems like everything we do is different. For starters, we write, sing, record and produce all of our own songs. I can’t name a single major label artist that does that. Also, we’ve never sold our songs to major label artists, even though we’ve had some offers.

But you do admit to using electronic software to enhance the sound of your music?

Absolutely. There have been some great advances in sound and recording technology. We love rock, but none of us are interested in recreating the rock era exactly as we remember it. We’ve changed and the world has changed too. Rock is coming back, but it’s not going to look and sound the same as we all remember it.

Is that what made you and Sapphire shift from the wireless mic’s and dancing to picking up instruments?

Oh, you’re gonna call us out like that! (laughing) Well, we’re both classically trained musicians. Sapphire played piano and I grew up playing piano, cello and bass. As Millennium, we explored the electronic pop element out of genuine artistic curiosity. But because we produce our own music, we had the freedom to shift gears when that approach was no longer hitting the mark in terms of our desired sound. Lately, with me returning to bass and Sapphire returning to piano, it just feels better musically.

Who are the other members of Millennium?

We’re fortunate to work with two other very talented and hard working musicians, drummer Brad Dawson and guitarist Gaku Murata. Brad is the sort of drummer every group wants- impeccable timing and an impressive command of different musical styles. Gaku is a quiet guy who let’s his guitar do the talking and he can solo forever.  Both of these musicians have the type of raw talent and technical ability that sets a high bar for all of us. Damn them (laughing).

How can we get a taste of how you might sound live and completely acoustic?

That’s easy. We just released a video of us performing our new single ‘When We Walk In The Place’ live. Considering we recorded one live take (and a second pass for vocal harmonies only), I’m surprised it sounded half-decent. This is the simplest song on the album, as it is built around a single concept or feeling. Interestingly, when we translated it live with fewer instruments, it achieved more sonic complexity than the dance version. There’s something to that.

What do you think is the future of modern music?

I can’t say for sure. I just know that music is something we do purely for the love of it. I’m sure modern music will continue to change and evolve and, hopefully, we’ll continue to evolve with it. If we’re lucky, what we’re working on will resonate with people at the time. If not, I’m okay with that too. I’m not interested in fame for its own sake. I just want to be able to look in the mirror at night before I go to bed and know that I’m being true to myself.

The Hottest Neighborhood in the U.S.A.

The Hottest Neighborhood in the U.S.A.

By Christopher Odalis

For those of you who may have a distaste for Los Angeles, a chaotic, sprawling metropolis with no clear center, you are evidently not familiar with Eagle Rock, a beautiful, quiet L.A. neighborhood nestled between the cities of Glendale and Pasadena.  This is a community you will likely become acquainted with as it was recently ranked #2 among the top areas to live in the U.S. according to Redfin’s list of ‘Hottest Neighborhoods of 2014’ and as presented in ABC 7 Eyewitness News.  But considering that the neighborhood ranked as #1 was an obscure place in frigid San Francisco, the title truly goes to this Los Angeles neighborhood of Eagle Rock.  As longtime local residents will tell you, Eagle Rock, founded in 1911, is a hidden gem that has surprisingly kept much of its small town charm and appeal.  But unlike other small towns where you would need to drive forty-five minutes to get to the city, Eagle Rock is within one of the largest, most famous cities in the world.  Downtown LA and Hollywood are only a few minutes drive away.  Eagle Rock is a humble community, home to the renowned Occidental College, famous for being the alma mater of our current president.  For the past fifteen years, Eagle Rock (and more recently its neighbor Highland Park), have gradually become artistic communities attracting well-educated hipsters from all over the country.

Besides drawing in homebuyers and small business owners, both Eagle Rock and Highland Park’s unique and alluring small town vibe has caught the eye of the entertainment industry as well.  Scores of trucks containing crew, camera and lighting equipment are frequently seen outside local shops and restaurants on Colorado Boulevard, York Boulevard and Figueroa Street shooting scenes for television, film and video.  The latest project was a music video for Millennium’s new single ‘When We Walk in the Place.’

Interestingly, Sapphire of Millennium grew up in the area.  Although she moved away for college a few years ago and has lived in other areas, she eventually found her way back to Highland Park where she is currently living with her husband Stryker (also of Millennium) and their two year old daughter. ‘Highland Park and Eagle Rock have changed so much since I was a child and definitely for the better.  Some of the oldest places are still around like


Troy’s, Ruby’s Bakery and All Star Lanes and now there are some awesome new places added to the mix.  My parents still live in the same house that I grew up in and they are only a few blocks away from us.  I always get a good feeling of nostalgia every time I drive around the neighborhood, whether it’s going over to see my folks, passing my old junior high, or seeing my old piano teacher’s house around the corner.  So in essence, some things have changed and some things haven’t.  Either way, this truly is home for me.’

According to Stryker, ‘I grew up in Peoria, Illinois, a small town with a population of 120,000.  When I moved to Los Angeles after college, I lived in Hollywood, Venice Beach and Beverly Hills which are all pretty densely populated areas. When our daughter was born and we decided to move closer to the grandparents, you can imagine my surprise to find that they lived in a community with a small-town feel, yet perched right in the middle of the city. That’s Eagle Rock. Everyone is so friendly everywhere we go, just like back in the Midwest.  It’s a great place to raise kids, but still situated close to key elements of the entertainment industry.’

If you are new to Los Angeles, visiting from out of town or entertaining guests, you will not regret spending time in Eagle Rock and checking out some of the amazing local restaurants, bars and cafes listed below.  See for yourself why this fast-growing hipster community was listed among the Hottest Neighborhoods of 2014 and why Eagle Rocks!


An elegant lively atmosphere offering fine Italian cuisine as well as a fine selection of wines. For a true Italian delight, try the scrumptious Maximiliano spaghetti and meatballs. The pan roasted pork chop with sweet potato is also a good choice.  Finish off the meal with their dark chocolate cake and you have reached food heaven.  5930 York Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA. 90042 |T: 323.739.6125323.739.6125 |

The York

“Your neighborly gastropub. It's a real bar without being either a scene or a dive, a cafe with a frisson of night-life sensibility, a meeting place with pleasingly edgy design and appealing food -- and a homey spot for regulars." –Los Angeles Times.  5018 York Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA. 90042 | T: 323.255.9675323.255.9675 |

Highland Café

A great coffee shop serving Handsome Coffee that also boasts a tantalizing lunch menu.  Try the Chipotle fish tacos!  Outdoor seating is available to enjoy the beautiful LA weather all-year round.  Great place to post up and chat with a friend or catch up on some reading.  5010 York Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA. 90042 | T: 323.259.1000323.259.1000 |


A California bistro with a diverse menu using only the freshest ingredients.  The Camilo’s eggs benedict with fresh fruit is a must try.  Brunch served until 3 p.m.  2128 Colorado Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA. 90041 | T: 323.478.2644323.478.2644 |

Greyhound Bar & Grill

Recently opened, this neighborhood pub offers a fresh and hip atmosphere for locals with a great selection of craft beer, Old World wine and spirits. For a great deal, visit during happy hour, 4-7 PM and try their delicious gourmet burger with some refreshing Schlitz!    5570 Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA. 90042 | T: 323.900.0300323.900.0300 |

Donut Friend

Forget everything you know about a donut.  This bakery makes delicious, fresh and creative donuts- made to your specifications or select from one of their delightful creations such as Chocolate From the Crypt. 5107 York Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA. 90042 | T: 323.995.6191323.995.6191 |


Street Style: Fashion Fabs & Faux Pas

Street Style: Fashion Fabs & Faux Pas

By Marcela Linton

On the streets is the ultimate place to display your style and personality, but unfortunately street fashion happens to be the most difficult thing to get right.  Think about it.  You know what office attire is.  You basically know what to wear to a special event such as a wedding, your parents' 40th wedding anniversary party or prom.  You definitely know what to wear to go to the gym, the beach or to go skiing.  In each of these situations, there are clothing guidelines and parameters. For example, you would not wear your workout clothes to a wedding or your swimsuit to the prom right?  If so, high school dances have changed a lot since I went to school.  If you go out with your friends for drinks tonight at the new martini bar, you know you need to wear something maybe a little tight, a little revealing, maybe it’s your go-to little black dress or maybe it’s in a more eye-popping color, and very high heels.  But what do you wear when you’re just out and about the town?  The parameters are definitely less constricting and the possible outfit choices are endless, which is why street style intrigues me so.  But make no mistake- there are limits, nonetheless.  Let’s take a stroll together and check out the fashion fabs and faux pas of the past month.


Fashion Faux Pas

I don’t even know your name, call me psychic, but something tells me you’re a Simpsons fan.  The outfit would have been passable if there was only one headshot of Bart, but all over the skirt and top is just plain ridiculous.  Better yet, let’s leave the cartoon characters for your PJ’s, preferably if you live alone.  And if you are bringing someone over, hide your sleepwear along with your other Simpson’s paraphernalia because you will just freak him out.  Last piece of advice:  Do not mix yellow pieces with red unless your name is Ronald McDonald.


Fashion Fab

I love the mix of casual and elegance in this ensemble.  You have a casual shirt with a classy, intricately patterned skirt, sweet-looking pumps and purse with a delicate chain that hangs off the shoulder.  Adding to the cute casual vibe, you have a black kitty phone case.  The disheveled hair and oversized sunglasses show people that you just threw this outfit together at the last minute, but your well manicured red nails say, I am very polished!  Bravo.


Felony Faux Pas

Where do I begin?  It looks like you, sir, want to get noticed.  I’m thinking that it is a really cold day, but that is no excuse for offensive fashion.  Seriously, if the fashion police got a hold of you, you would definitely get twenty-five to life.  Stick with a palette of two to three colors with only one eye-popping color and lose the fez.  The only thing I’m okay with is your shoes, and even those don’t exactly thrill me.


Fashion Fab

This man is definitely in the fashion forefront of street style with an outfit that screams bad boy from top to bottom.  It is refreshing to see that a man does not need to wear a suit and tie to have style.  The power in this outfit lies in the harshness of his multitude of accessories, which include several chains around his neck and one dangling from his waist, a scorpion belt, silver spiked bracers and pitch black, edgy goggles that amps the mystery of this modern urban warrior.  All these accessories adorn an all black outfit and sturdy combat boots.  His sleeveless black hoody with the silver zipper pulls the ensemble together nicely.  When asked, he identified himself as Stryker from the music group Millennium. Figures.


Faux Pas

I admire your um, creativity.  Speaking honestly, your outfit is a cross between Japanese sixth grader and Beetlejuice.  Please stop flashing the peace sign at me because your get-up just screams crazy and the peace sign is only helping that image.  You can pick one item from your outfit, but only one, such as your skirt, top or coat.  Then go home and rebuild your outfit from that, using complimentary color tones.  Now run along before anyone else sees you.


Fashion Fab

This is an example of how you can still have style even on a chilly day.  The dark chocolate leather jacket and dark, not-too-skinny jeans display functionality in keeping one’s self warm.  But to keep this from looking like a 1980’s Jordache ad is the fact that his rolled up jeans peek just above his slightly worn-looking brown leather shoes and his matching leather belt is casually untucked at the end.  Strangely, the full red scarf that he has perfectly tied around his neck and tucked into his jacket is not de-masculating in any way.  It is actually a refreshing break from his attire, which is entirely made of leather and jeans.  And the final piece is a tan colored leather pack that states that he does not care to be too matchy-matchy with his ensemble.

Millennium Releases ‘When We Walk in the Place’ Official Music Video

Millennium Releases ‘When We Walk in the Place’ Official Music Video

By Werner Caspar

I must have impressed Stryker and Sapphire with my mad swagging skills during our last interview because shortly after, I was invited to the Millennium music video shoot to watch them in action.  Swagging, I learned, is pimp walking with a swagger and is a heavily used theme in the video for their debut single ‘When We Walk in the Place’, a slightly narcissistic dance song about the importance of embracing one's own personal style.  This was going to be a two-day video shoot and they had a lot on the agenda.

Day One:  The first day of the shoot was set in an intimate Hollywood club where roughly a hundred crew and cast members gathered shortly after sunrise.  In the midst of all the commotion, it felt like being at a casting call for Moulin Rouge.  This outlandish circus included a black opera carriage driven by a rather buxom brunette on a sleek motorcycle, a gold-suited pimp, an Asian dominatrix with her muscular man-slaves, an alien, a toddler with her bottle, a drummer boy, an astonishingly rotund woman, Iron Man and more.  Wave after wave of extras filed in and while helping themselves to coffee, were met by an affable and efficient woman with a clipboard who quickly signed them in as club dancer, VIP patron, skeleton gang, etc.  I swear to you that the pizza we ate during lunch break did not have any special mushrooms in it and this was all actually happening.

The gold-suited pimp was Stryker, who brandished a leopard print cane and matching leopard print shoes.  His pimp hat precariously held a three-foot long black feather that poked everyone in the eyes every time he turned around.  The Asian dominatrix was none other than the blue-haired Sapphire dressed in a black leather dress and gloves.  Her ‘pets’ were scripted as two male models whom she kept close by her side in spiked collars and heavy chained leashes.  Earlier that day, we discovered that the two burly Olympians that she had previously auditioned had cancelled at the last possible minute.  Upon learning this, the woman with the clipboard began sizing up the current pool of men to see who could play the part.  Strangely, I was not even in the running.  In the end, it was the drummer and one of the camera men who were chosen, de-shirted, oiled up and collared.  A second later, I saw the anxious camera man fervently doing pushups in the corner as a last ditch effort to beef up his pecks.  Meanwhile, Stryker and Sapphire took the matter in stride- literally.  They were relentlessly swagging to the beat of the music.  When asked why all the practice, Stryker looked at me with a sober expression, ‘I’ve got goldfish in my shoes, bro.’ Point taken.

The crew and the actors took their places and the cameras began to roll.  Scene after scene unfolded and needless to say there was a lot of swagging and a lot of dancing.  It was not even noon and the set looked like a very happening nightclub.  After a quick costume change, they shot a performance scene of Stryker and Sapphire on stage.  He was still dressed as a pimp, but this time in red velvet with zebra print and an oversized wide-rimmed hat.  She was dressed in silver sequins with shiny silver tennis shoes.  Suddenly, they broke into an extremely cheesy 70’s dance routine and the crowd went wild with laughter (think Saturday Night Fever meets Carlton from Fresh Prince of Bel Air).  After ninety minutes of filming the performance scene, the duo was still on stage having the time of their lives.  Judging by the liquor flowing on set, so were the cast and crew.

The rest of the day proceeded smoothly as they filmed one VIP table scene after another, each having its own unique set of characters including the Blues Brothers, LA gangsters, Virgil Farley and his entourage.  Virgil was the original pimp who, despite his notoriety in the 1980’s, was widely respected by both cons and cops alike.  The table that received the most attention had a petite blond with the word ‘Millennium’ painted across her otherwise pristine body from her voluptuous chest all the way down to her thighs, compliments of body artist Lasco.  At the end of the day, approximately fourteen hours after gathering the cast and crew together, the set was now littered with coffee cups, half-eaten danishes, pizza crusts and upside down shot glasses.  The crew began to break down their gear, and people began exchanging numbers, Instagraming photos of themselves and each other, and saying their farewells.  Everyone was utterly exhausted, except for Milennium who appeared even more energetic than ever as they eagerly talked about the upcoming shoot the next day.

Day Two:  Millennium and crew were now going mobile and virtually every scene would consist of Stryker and Sapphire swagging around town.  The game plan was a bit fluid.  When a particular location struck their collective fancy, Millennium and crew would hop out of their vehicles and film a scene.  For example, if Sapphire needed a peppermint mocha, off we went to the nearest coffee shop to film Millennium swagging with their coffee and newspaper in hand.  They visited a vintage record store, picked up their dry cleaning, and came out of a drugstore with what looked like a pack of Magnum condoms (we won’t ask).  After driving all over town, the crew nonchalantly decided to film a scene of Millennium pumping gas, in a pretty scandalous manner I might add.  I may never look at a pump the same way again.  Needless to say, wherever they walked they drew attention, stopped traffic, and were approached by onlookers.  When a crowd gathered in one location, Millennium took time out to give swagging lessons and the crew obliged by filming these Los Angeles residents strutting their stuff.

After a long day of filming around LA, we headed back to the studio just before sunset.  It was a wrap!  Everyone began to relax and talk about dinner options.  Sapphire removed her thigh high boots and gave a sigh of relief.  Stryker, on the other hand, sat pensive, deep in thought.  Just as someone was about to make a run for burritos and burgers, Stryker said in a steady voice, ‘We need a shot on Hollywood Boulevard.’  After a brief period of stunned silence, protest erupted on all sides.  But after thirty minutes, Stryker convinced the group that it would be the perfect scene for the climax of the song.  As we filmed the final scene of Millennium belting out their last line of ‘When We Walk in the Place’ right in the thick of Hollywood Boulevard, an onlooker cried out, ‘Aw hell no! He got the goldfish shoes!’  Yes, the better to swag with, bro.  Everyone smiled knowing that indeed it was the perfect ending to one amazing and crazy ride.

The music video for ‘When We Walk In The Place’ is now live at:

You can learn more about Millennium and what they’ve got in the works at

You, Me and the Baby Makes...

You, Me and the Baby Makes...                                          

By Jody Yaniv

It makes me deeply sad to hear about couples breaking up a year or two after having a child.  I stop to wonder what could have possibly gone wrong to break up a beautiful new family, filled with hope and promise.  Perhaps I am a hopeless romantic when it comes to love and family.  To find someone to love and to create another human being together should be a strong and transcendental bond right?So why is it that shortly after the baby’s first birthday, so often we find out that the new parents are having marital problems.  I understand that it is not easy having a child, but to deem the relationship (and the family) over after a few tough months?  It seems all too rash.  Did they have marital trouble before she became pregnant and were hoping that a baby could bring them closer together?  Or were the added responsibilities of having a child just too much for them?  My eyes start to moisten when I try to imagine what the baby went through during his first few months in this world as his parents’ relationship quickly unraveled.  The arguments, the raised voices, the tension- all arising from his or her sole trusted guardians – must be horribly traumatic.  I also feel sorry for the parents as well.  The mother has gone through so many physical and emotional changes from being pregnant, to delivery, to breastfeeding and taking care of an infant.  And the father’s life has changed drastically as well.  But still, what about the undeniably positive aspects of bringing a new life into this world?  Why is it a joy for some and such turmoil for others to be with one’s family day after day?

What I find especially intriguing are celebrity couples who split up shortly after entering parenthood. Perhaps this is because we are privy to all of the positive and lurid details courtesy of the media.   Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr, J-Lo and Marc Anthony, Christina Aguilera and her ex, Hillary Duff and her ex, just to name a few.  I have not met these people personally, nor do I know what they went through as a couple.  In fact, I do not know if they ever even loved each other.  What I do know is that they have thousands of dollars to spend on home chefs, maids, assistants and child care professionals each month to make their lives infinitely easier and they still couldn’t make it work!  So what hope is there for the rest of us?  The emerging message is that money does not make things easier or better.  So what do families need?  You probably answered with the word ‘love’ and you would be correct.  Second question:  What do you need to do to show, nurture and grow love?  It is not through expensive trips, jewelry or the latest toys for the baby.  Like love, it is something that money cannot buy.  It’s your time.  Family requires your presence, not your presents.

I don’t understand the term burden, sacrifice or duty when one is referring to family.  These are such strong negative words to describe what should be acts of love.  ‘I sacrificed my job/promotion to spend time with my child.’  ‘It is part of my duty to be a good husband/wife.’  Whatever you do for your family should be done with love and a sense of privilege.  To have a family is a blessing.  Think of all of the single people out there wishing for love or couples out there who cannot have children, or worse, have lost their children?  One shouldn’t have to be reminded that family, not career, should be the number one priority.  If you felt gratitude and appreciation for your family, you would instinctively display your love for them every single day and weather the difficult times together.


I came across a touching story about a young couple named Stryker and Sapphire.  They had met at work, fallen in love and gotten married.  They wanted to have children, but had trouble conceiving.  She saw doctors in Los Angeles, took many tests, experimented with different technologies, tried hormone creams and even saw a fertility specialist abroad.  By then, they had all but given up.  After five years, completely out of the blue, she became pregnant naturally and they were overjoyed.  The pregnancy however, was not without some risk.  The doctor had ordered her on bed rest for a couple of months and the baby arrived six weeks earlier than expected.  Fortunately, their daughter Milan was born healthy and is now a beautiful two-and-a-half year old.  Sapphire and Stryker are both singer/musicians in a group called Millennium and they both feel fortunate that they can work from home and spend all of their time together as a family.  According to Sapphire, ‘I feel so blessed that we were able to have a child.  Milan is a beautiful light in my life and my husband is my rock.  I know that together, we can overcome any obstacles.’ 

‘Any split with children involved is a disaster, whether you’re in the public eye or not,’ says Stryker, the youngest in a family of three that was torn apart by divorce at a very young age.  ‘My experience taught me one thing:  Parents must give as much priority to each other as they do to their children - perhaps, even more.  Because it is only through their example that a child can truly learn how to cherish, love and stand up for another human being.’

Although some of us may not be able to integrate our personal and work lives as closely as this family, there are ways to deconstruct and rethink your life so that you can spend more quality time with your family.  I went to a dinner party a few weeks ago and met a woman name Julianne with an adorable, bright-eyed three month old baby boy.  Through the course of the night, she informed me that her husband worked hard and traveled so frequently for business that the baby would always cry when he was home and would try to hold him. Most people know that fifty percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce.  What cannot be accurately measured is the percentage of couples who are separated or remain miserable in their current relationships. Although this paints a grim picture, I believe this trend could be reversed with a conscious change in priorities, putting our families at the top of the list. Some of the choices that could easily improve the quality of our family life are listed below. Ask yourself honestly:   

- Do I work over-time?  If yes, you’re probably not giving your family the priority they deserve.  Ask your employer about capping your hours at a normal eight hour workday.  Also inquire if flex time is an option.

- Do I frequently travel alone for work?  If yes, you may be inviting in a host of marital and family issues by being away for extended periods of time.  Bring your family along on the next trip or speak with your boss about sending one of your colleagues on instead.

- Do I spend more than thirty minutes one-way getting to and from work?  A long commute coupled with long work hours will sap energy that should be reserved for family.  Consider moving closer to work or finding a job that is closer to home.  Although moving or switching jobs is a big decision, it may be well worth it in the long run if it saves your family.

- Is work too demanding or am I unhappy at work?  Consider starting your own business doing something you love.  You can then make your own hours and spend more time with family, have them visit you at the office or even have the luxury of working from home.

- Do I check in with my spouse often during the day?  Communicate with your spouse often to see how they are feeling.  Frequent communication will not only brighten their day but keep your bond strong.

- Do I plan and look forward to taking my spouse out for private, romantic engagements once or twice a week?  Couples time during the week is needed to remind you both of your love and the commitment to one another that goes beyond parenting.

- When I am home, do I often check messages or emails?  If so, learn to put away the phone for the evening and devote one hundred percent of your attention to your spouse and child.  Have dinner together and talk to one another.  After dinner, avoid the television and do something engaging or relaxing as a family.

-When I am home, do I allow my child to spend hours in front of the television, on the phone or i-pad?  Next time, instead of placing a technological device in front of them, try playing with them, reading them stories and talking to them to develop a greater bond with your child.

Most importantly, remember that your life and the outcome of your family relationships are under your control and are governed by the choices you make along the way. Choose wisely.

Millennium Poised To Compete In Hard Rock Rising Global Battle of the Bands


Millennium Poised To Compete In Hard Rock Rising
Global Battle of the Bands

By Olivia Carter

The pop rock duo from Los Angeles who call themselves Millennium have gained enviable momentum in the past few months, following the release of their first single ‘When We Walk In The Place’. Their song garnered The Akademia Music Award for Best Dance Song, was picked up by KMIX Radio Los Angeles and has gotten the fashion-forward duo numerous write-ups in the press. So what’s next? Well, for a group that differentiates itself on the basis of being real musicians who actually write all of their own music, the logical next step is to compete in (and hopefully win) the pre-eminent live performance contest of the year: Hard Rock Rising Global Battle of the Bands.

There is also a personal reason for entering this fiercely competitive contest where  thousands of musical acts compete at 82 venue locations worldwide to determine who will go to the global showdown. For Italian-Indian singer Stryker, it can be summed up in one word: Rome. Going to Rome, Italy to compete against the world’s top acts would represent a lifelong dream- bringing their music back home after two generations abroad. Sapphire, who also regards Rome as one of her favorite places on earth, admits to a special feeling when in the eternal city. Both feel an undeniable connection to the culture of Rome and hope to be able to test their mettle in this modern day gladiatorial challenge in front of 40,000 people.

Like the gladiators of old, Millennium is following an intense regimen of rehearsals, gym workouts, yoga and martial arts to elevate their mind and body to the level necessary to go head-to-head with the pros. They embrace the philosophy that battles must first be won in the mind before they can ever be won in the battlefield. They are also very zen-like about the outcome, recognizing that whatever happens in the competition ahead, the true value of it lies in the journey and the lessons they stand to learn along the way.

Want to help Millennium achieve this lifelong dream? Simply click below to vote for them by downloading their free song clip. One minute of your time is all it will take to show support for this talented duo and to help lift them to the final competition.

From Stagnation To Swag-Nation


From Stagnation To Swag-Nation

By Christian McGahey

In view of the president’s state of the union address, our nation is facing a crisis.  It is a crisis of apathy on all fronts really- warfare, elections, healthcare, unemployment and yes, even fashion.  We all have our areas of expertise.  I will not pretend to be a political or social expert and waste your time with my trivial opinion on the state of the nation with regard to these important areas. I am a fashion editor and therefore my focus will be on the crisis of apathy towards one’s personal style.  This is one of the few things we have direct and immediate control over and yet it is being shamelessly neglected by a good majority of the people.

The fashion that I am writing about is not the outfits you find on the Parisian catwalks, rather it's the clothes you wear every day.  The thing that most people fail to realize is that fashion is a reflection of who you are on the inside.  Just as your feelings are an indicator of your internal environment, your fashion also speaks volumes on how you see yourself and how the world sees you as well.  The context for your fashion choice is also essential.  For example, if fashion could speak on your behalf, what would an old flannel shirt, shorts and dingy sneakers say?  If you were wearing them to go hiking or to do some garden work, it would say, ‘I enjoy the outdoors and being around nature’- perfectly acceptable.  But if you wore that same outfit to a fine restaurant, it would state (in a low and depressing voice), ‘Deep down I’m ashamed of how I look.  Maybe if I pretend that I don’t care about how I look, people will think it’s cool.  I’ll make up for it with my wit and sparkling personality.’ 

I am not talking about wearing Dolce or Armani.  What you wear is a personal statement that reveals your uniqueness and creativity and has nothing to do with expensive brand names.  Good taste and impeccable style are gifts that we each hold.  Somewhere along the line, we have built apathy towards our outer appearance believing for some God forsaken reason that it does not matter.  You dressed up for that job interview and, once hired, dressed up for the first few days of work.  Through fashion, you told your work peers that you were sharp, on it and completely put together.  Then you became more complacent about your appearance, eventually wearing wrinkled, mismatched clothes thinking no one would notice.  Business attire turned casual until one day, and every day after, you started bringing that big, comfy, ugly sweater to the office.  Your fashion is now screaming, ‘I don’t give a flying duck (spelling auto-correct) about work.  Put me out of my misery and fire me already.’  Another example:  You finally found someone that you are really into.  You take your time getting ready for the first date, picking the perfect outfit.  Maybe you went shopping for new clothes or shoes or maybe you took your favorite outfit to the cleaners.  Whatever the case, you made sure your outfit said loud and clear, ‘I am hot.  If you choose to be with me out of the millions of other people out there, you won’t ever look back baby.’  Flash forward a year later when you seem to live in t-shirts and sweats and your partner can’t even remember the last time you got dressed up.  Your clothes, and you yourself are saying, ‘Things have become routine, boring and stagnant.  Maybe we should take a break from each other for a little while…’

Do the clothes make the man or does the man make the clothes?  Maybe it is a ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg’ kind of question, in which case, who really gives a ship (spelling auto-correct).  What matters is that they are definitely related.  It is time to choose the clothes that are an exact representation of who you want to be; correction, of who you really are.  Why?  For the sake of career advancement and opportunity, for the sake of a long and stimulating relationship, for the sake of your child who dies of embarrassment every time you pick him up from school, and so that arrogant Maître D will stop giving you that beady eyed glare already.

Now that I have given you the ‘why,’ it is time to start listing the ‘how.’


1. Take an hour to look through your closet.  Your closet is where you house the clothes that you have collected over the years, some you currently wear, some you would not be caught dead in now, and others that just do not really speak to you anymore.  It is time to turn your closet into a functioning wardrobe.  Separate the clothes that know you will never wear anymore and donate them.  I do not think I need to tell you to throw away any shirts, socks or underwear with stains or holes on them, but just in case.  TMI, I know.

2. Now that you have pared down your clothes some, perhaps you will need to shop for a few items to complete your wardrobe.  Have fun shopping and do not rush the experience.  Let the pieces call to you.  Avoid the sales racks or online shopping at this time because you will just be setting yourself up for acquiring a so-so article of clothing that will go to the donation pile in the near future.

3. Wear clothes that give you confidence.  Nothing says more confidence than clothes that fit perfectly.  Find the right size so it is not too tight or loose and that it is the perfect length- right below the ankle for pants and right below the hip for suit jackets.  For shirts and blazers, make sure that the shoulder measurements are correct.  If needed, find a good, inexpensive tailor to make the necessary adjustments.  Note: The cost of tailoring the outfit should not be more than the outfit itself.

4. Do not be afraid to be daring and original.  As long as the end style is a true reflection of who you really are, feel free to diverge from what is trending now.  Like Macklemore said in his Thrift Shop song, do not be one of those dozen people at a party who pays fifty dollars for the same damn t-shirt.  Choose the clothes that you want to wear and put your own personal swag into it.  By swag, I do not mean ‘silly wild ass guess.’  While it is difficult to describe, it definitely embodies style, confidence and a willingness to be different and you just know it when you see it. I typed in the search word ‘swag’ and came across this link to Millennium, a music group: After checking out their photos, well, let's just say you get a sense of just how adventurous personal fashion can get.  It is important to note that your personal style may change over time.  That is okay because it means that you are changing and growing as well and that is a good thing. 


It is time to collectively shake off the sweats and the mounting lethargy.  To go from a country of stagnation to Swag-Nation.  To begin to know in our hearts that we can change the world for the better, one article of clothing at a time.  Once our personal truths are no longer suppressed but reflected in our style, we may be better equipped, not to mention better dressed, to tackle our nation’s issues.

5 Fitness Tips That Will Serve You Well

5 Fitness Tips That Will Serve You Well

By Stryker

Featured in Avant Garde Magazine


Now I already know the first question that’s going to pop into your head. Why should I take fitness advice from you? Okay, so I’m a singer/songwriter for Millennium, a pop rock group from LosAngeles. I admit that’s no reason to jump on my fitness wagon. You also shouldn’t take my advice because I happen to be a certified fitness trainer, have an extensive background in nutritional biochemistry, nor because I have a black belt in Shaolin Kenpo. The real reason you should heed the advice that I’m about to give you is this: I’ve been working out consistently since I was 12 years old, without missing a week. That means that what I do in the gym is sustainable over the long haul. I’m no big buff dude, but I’ve maintained the same physique, body fat percentage and lean body mass since I was eighteen years old.  I’m happy with that. For anyone who's interested, here are the basic guidelines that keep me going:

1. Three Times Per Week is Enough
For most people leading hectic lives, this should come as good news. Three 90-minute sessions per week is sufficient to get all of the health benefits of working out (cardiovascular, pulmonary, muscular, etc.). Adding more sessions per week risks over-training and muscle injury which can easily lead to brief or permanent hiatuses from the gym.

2. Forget the heavy weights
From my standpoint, there's no sane reason to grab any dumbbell over 40 lbs or to stack more than 200 lbs on the bench press or squat rack. Ha! This guy is a little punk, you’re saying. That’s the ego talking. Sure, most of us can lift more weight than that. But it’s not going to produce any additional health benefits and it’s exactly that sort of competitive mindset that leads to injury and brief or permanent vacations from the gym. I guarantee you can achieve the same burn safely by using lower weights and by concentrating on good form and slow continuous movement. Another downside of using heavy weights is more insidious. We all have a natural psychological aversion to pain. You may overcome that aversion for a period of time when hormone levels are high and other factors align. However, the moment those factors are not aligned, you will stop going to the gym. Simply put, if you establish a high threshold of pain and intensity in your workout that you cannot consistently meet over the long haul, you are setting yourself up for failure.

3. Stick to simple exercises
I can count on ten fingers the exercises that are needed for a complete workout in the gym. Yes, I know a hundred more exotic exercises. But over time it's the basic linear and circular movements that have proven to be the most effective.  I always have a good laugh over some of the off-the-wall exercises I see fitness trainers instructing their clients to do. Most of those clients never come back after their five-session pass is up. The clients that do stick around continue doing this litany of bizarre and dangerous exercises without any supervision which quickly leads to injury (sometimes even to the people standing nearby!) The truth is, not being able to stick to a simple set of exercises that are beneficial and safe sets you down the wrong path. Be wary of the mind’s subtle attempts to sabotage your workout and resist them by keeping it simple.


4. Don’t over-train
This point gets at the heart of what motivates us to work out. In a healthy state of mind, we work out to maintain and enhance the beautiful aspects of ourselves. It is an act of self-love. When we work out our bodies too hard, too fast, over too short a period of time, we are no longer motivated by self-love but by self-hate. We are trying to change the image in the mirror because we don’t like what we see. These kinds of negative emotions are not going to get you through the long haul. The best way to avoid over-training is to 1) limit each exercise to 3 sets of 10 – 12 reps using moderately challenging weight, 2) limit 2 exercises per muscle group and 3) take a rest day in between workout days. There is a sound scientific basis for these limits. Over-training triggers the body’s chemical pathway for ‘fight or flight’ leading to increased cortisol production and the storage of fat. Cardio is another area where people tend to over-train. I tack on a 15 minute jog on the treadmill at the end of my workout and call it a day. After all, brisk weight training is a cardiovascular workout, so there's no need to overdo cardio. Over decades of training, I’ve observed these limits to work very well. Be wary of over-training, as it points to negative motivating factors and directly sabotages our fitness goals.

5. Eat right and avoid sports supplements
The answer to the secret of how to burn fat and tone muscle does not come in a bottle. It comes in the form of a gym membership and a good workout plan. These so-called sports enhancement supplements carry a number of undesirable side-effects that may hurt you in the long run. The only three supplements I have found to be worth taking on a daily basis are ones that everyone should take, whether or not you work out: 1) a multivitamin/multimineral tablet, 2) a calcium tablet (500 mg) and 3) coenzyme Q10 (100 mg). The science supporting these three supplements is irrefutable at this point. That said, it is important to get a sufficient amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat from your daily diet to support your workout and overall health.  This is quite easy if you stick to lean meats, such as chicken breast, fish, non marbled pork and red meat, in conjunction with rice, pasta, vegetables and fruit. Nothing new there. I‘ll be honest, over the long term I'm not sure whether it’s possible to get the macronutrients necessary to support a rigorous workout regimen on a vegetarian diet (but that’s a whole other article). When it comes to diet and exercise, the first concern is having sufficient energy to power through your workout. To this end, it is okay to eat up to 15 minutes before exercising. The second concern is having adequate building blocks for muscle growth and antioxidants to detoxify the body after your workout. A healthy diet with the three supplements mentioned satisfies these requirements every time.

If you’ve read this far, then perhaps you’ve become aware of the fact that effective training is quite simple. It requires positive motivation, discipline to stick to a routine and the ability to procure healthy food. If it’s so simple, then why is it so hard for people to get and stay in shape over the course of their lives? The answer might surprise you: Because people are quick to embrace the idea of looking and feeling healthy, but they want it to happen overnight. They don’t realize that the value of a goal lies not in its achievement, but in the many intervening days of methodical work that produce that outcome. Or to paraphrase Aristotle, excellence is in habit. Only by recognizing and resisting the impulse for immediate gratification, can we take the steps necessary to achieve ideal health in a moderate, self-sustainable fashion. Hopefully, if nothing else, this article serves to focus our thoughts and get us back on a realistic path to long term health.

            'I can count on ten fingers the exercises that are needed for a
                           complete workout in the gym'. - Stryker

KMIX Radio Los Angeles Plays The Best Mix of New Artists


Finally, there’s a station that will make you fall in love with radio again. KMIX Los Angeles ‘The Mix’ is the only station playing songs from the hottest new artists from across the globe in a diverse range of genres, including pop rock, hip-hop, country, folk, latin, dance and electronica.  You’ll love expanding your musical tastes with songs this good from the newest rising stars such as Seven Story Fall, Millennium, Nicky Barot, Shattrholik, Nenna Yvonne and more! The best part is there are NO commercials on KMIX- only great music!

KMIX Radio was recently reorganized and placed under the strategic management of veteran program director Glenn Eisner, who has since revamped the playlist to include a fresh roster of the most promising new artists. “As a commercial-driven station, we were under enormous pressure from management to meet revenue targets. The quality and variety of music we could play was heading in a downward spiral. When the station re-organized, I saw this as an opportunity to once again bring great music to listeners, without the involvement of big corporate interests. I think our listeners are really going to love what we’re unveiling in 2014.”

Tune in now to the best mix of top artists from all over the world only on KMIX Radio- Los Angeles. Listen from your phone, in your car, or from your computer at home or work by simply clicking on:

What Your (Fake) Friends Won’t Tell You


What Your (Fake) Friends Won’t Tell You

By Kaitlyn Fleur

I just read this really awesome article where the author bitch slaps his twenty-something male readers into shape by simply telling them what they need to hear no holds barred.  It was a ‘how-to-

be-a-real-man’ piece that was honestly crude, hilarious and contained a hell of a lot of profanity.  But I have no doubt that reading it has helped tens of thousands of guys out there and that number is probably growing exponentially at this very moment. I was always taught ‘if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.’  Since reading my new favorite author’s article, I feel liberated to un-bite my lip for once and put out a female version of that article.  There probably hasn’t been a refreshingly blunt article for women because we are sensitive creatures.  We commiserate with each other about how ‘hard’ things are and as a result, keep each other from being the bad asses that we were born to be.  Sadly, we may not even have a real friend who can tell us honestly and directly what we need to hear that could bump up our game and make us better people.  Well ladies, consider me your first real friend.  The kind of friend that will tell you your flaws and beat that inner tigress out of you so you become stronger and better than ever.  This advice is for you.  And since I am a lady myself, I will refrain from any profanity.

Point #1:  Superwoman

Fake Friend:  ‘I know what you’re going through.  It is impossible to do everything.  We’re not Superwoman.  Men have it so easy.’

Real Friend:  Yes, you can be Superwoman.  Be a whirlwind, be a force of nature.  Be perfectly imperfect.  Stop looking flustered and thinking you can’t do it all, because you can.  Sure, maybe you can’t do it all at the same time but that doesn’t mean you should be paralyzed.  Take a breath, and do something on that to do list of yours.  When you’re done, cross it off the list and move on to the next item.  Stop whining.  Stop saying you don’t have any help.  And stop saying that there is no time for everything.  There is always time for something so quit complaining and do that.  You’ll find that you may have more energy to do it all if you stop using your energy towards your mini-meltdowns.

Point #2:  Appearance

Fake Friend:  ‘Stop worrying that you look like you just got out of bed.  You look fine!  We’re just going to the store.’

Real Friend:  Yes, you need to look good all the time.  If you don’t make an effort to be presentable, it tells people that you don’t care about yourself, so why should they?  I don’t mean you need to take two hours a day to primp and get ready.  I repeat- it should not take you more than fifteen minutes to look decent.  If you need to run errands and don’t have a lot of time, just make sure your clothes fit nicely and your hair strands are in their proper place (no Alfalfa hair). Dab a little concealer around the eyes, add a flattering shade of lipstick and voila!  Now you can walk out the door with confidence.  In the same breath, I will say that you shouldn’t put on so much make-up unless it’s a special event or you’re going out clubbing.  You’re not supposed to look like you just stepped off the make-up chair all the time.  You’ll just look like you’re trying too hard and honestly most guys don’t like a lot of make-up on a woman anyway. 

Point #3:  Sex

Fake Friend:  It’s okay that you can’t remember the last time you’ve had sex.  You’ve been so busy.’

Real Friend:  No, it is not okay that you haven’t had sex in a couple weeks or more.  I don’t care if you’re pregnant, have two kids, or pushing sixty, you need to have intimacy in your life.  We are sensual creatures.  We need to feel wanted and we, too, have desires.  If you keep postponing it, your body will assume that you are no longer your young fertile self and it will age.  If you don’t use it, you will lose it so hurry up and get busy.  I would say three times a week is ideal, twice a week minimum.  While it is true that it kind of kills the sexiness if you have to make a sex date with your partner, if plugging it into your planner is the only way it will happen then go for it.  Make it a priority right now.  You’ll feel more sexy and be less bitchy.  It is the ultimate stress reliever. 

If you’ve hit an extremely long dry spell with your man, it may have to do with whether or not you are treating him like a man.  Do you nag him too often like he is a child?  Do you treat him more like a logistics assistant who helps take care of household chores, bills and the kids?  Just asking.  Treat your man like a man and he will treat you like the sexy woman you are.

Point #4:  Kids

Fake Friend:  ‘How’s the little one?  They take up every minute of every day and night don’t they?  Well, I guess we’ll have more time for sleep and everything else when they turn eighteen and move out (annoying laugh)!  Anyway, let’s do a play date soon!’

Real Friend:  Yes, kids are a game changer.  But they can change your game for the better and here’s how.  They teach you to be in the moment through their wonder, joy and delight over all the things we take for granted.  The love you never knew you were capable of giving to another human being makes you care more for other children and humanity as a whole.  They make you a better time manager and thus more efficient in accomplishing the most important things on your list (yes, that includes time for sex).  Do not fall into the trap of making your kids your whole life.  You owe it to yourself, your child, your spouse and everyone and everything you hold dear to have a balanced and fulfilling life.  The minute things feel out of balance, you need to take a time out to de-stress and rejuvenate.  Have your spouse, mom, sister or trusted friend watch the baby for a couple of hours while you go out to a coffee house, gym, yoga class, or even stay at home for a nice hot shower.  Then go back to being your calm, cool and collected self.  I’m not saying it’s easy and I know since I too am a mother.  I’m saying that we need to stop feeling like that juggling monkey on a tightrope and take more control for our happiness and well-being.

Point #5:  Exercise & Other Healthy Habits

Fake Friend:  ‘Are you sure you gained fifteen pounds?  You look great.  In fact, you look skinnier than ever!  Now let’s split a tiramisu already!’

Real Friend:  Put down the fork and go to the gym.  If not for health and longevity, then at least exercise to look good.  No more excuses.  You’ve got to exercise three times a week.  Finding the right workout partner can definitely be a wise move. Sapphire and Stryker of the Los Angeles pop duo Millennium juggle parenthood, a heavy workload and a social life, but they make a point of working out together at least three times per week.  According to Sapphire, ‘Usually only one of us is really down to go to the gym on any given day, but that person carries the torch and makes it happen for both of us.’  While I’m on my fitness soap box, I’ll add quit smoking altogether and stop drinking like you’re borderline alcoholic.  I’ve seen young women in their twenties who look like they are almost forty (wrinkles, dull skin tone) due to night after night of cigarettes and shots.  Stop now.  If you’re ‘only a social drinker/smoker’ but you party hard three or more times a week, then ease up and stop being so ‘social.’

Point #6:  Knowledge

Fake Friend:  ‘Why do you want to learn how to do that?  When are you going to have the time anyway?  Let’s just go shopping and then be home in time for Glee later.’

Real Friend:  You need to make the time to develop more knowledge and skill sets.  If you’ve got Point #2 (Appearance) covered, then be mindful that you’re not spending so much time in front of the mirror that you neglect your beautiful brain.  We focus too much time (not to mention a good chunk of our paycheck) on looking good.  Just add up the cost of all your make-up, moisturizers, lotions, hair care products, designer clothes, purses, heels, etc. and you’ll be able to feel me on this one. That’s not to mention the trips to the hair and nail salons and occasional facial.  And where has all that taken you?  Are you now a gorgeous goddess that everyone flocks to and worships?  Even if you do look good, you are just another pretty face or nice body in a sea of hundreds of thousands of other beautiful women.  And there are more hot women springing up every day.  Sickeningly, they also seem to be getting younger every year.  Anyway, you need something else that will make you stand apart from others.  If you say you have a great personality, than kudos for you.  But there are a lot of pretty women who are nice as well.  What else have you got?  Think more about accomplishments versus character traits and you’ll be on the right track.

I could probably go on, but the truth is I’m kind worried I’m pissing off a lot of you women out there.  Instead of thinking of me as a real friend, you’re probably thinking I’m a real bitch.  Well, honesty can be a real bitch sometimes too.  Hopefully I’ve given you something to think about.  Who knows, maybe you’ll even thank me later.  Don’t worry, I won’t hold my breath.  Say what you want, but unlike you’re so-called friends, I want you to be the best that you can be.  You’re welcome.

The Sultans of Swag

The Sultans of Swag
How a trip around the world turned an ordinary couple into something else

By Michael Stratford

Opposites do attract on so many levels.  Growing up, she was the shiest Asian-American in metropolitan Los Angeles and he was a rebel-rouser in small town Peoria, Illinois.  If they went to the same high school, they would have hung out in very different circles.  They probably wouldn’t have said two words to each other.  Ironically, they were both very studious.  She went to college to study Chemistry and he studied Biochemistry.  Both got their Masters in Business Administration.  But she was the nerd who sat in the front row taking notes, and he was the smart ass who loved challenging the teachers and making the other students laugh.  They also had an affinity for music.  She took private piano lessons for ten years and joined the church choir.  He trained in piano, cello and bass guitar, and composed and produced his own songs.

His home town evidently became too small for him because at twenty-one years old, he packed his bags into a rickety old Dodge and drove to Los Angeles in search of something.  A few years later, she graduated from college and joined the workforce. Their paths crossed for the first time at a large nutrition company, both having landed jobs in the same department.  She was still the good girl, attentive and respectful during meetings, and he still had the rebellious streak, constantly challenging protocols and procedures.  But they were intrigued by each other and began spending time outside of the office.  They each liked being with someone who was so different from themselves.  Of course there were clashes.  She would tell him to slow down and try to follow the rules for once.  He would tell her to stop holding herself back and be a little more crazy.  This tug of war only accelerated their evolution as people and developed into a bond that was unshakeable.  They knew each other's strengths and weaknesses, helped to foster each other's talents and had each other’s backs at all times. 

Life grew stable and he again began searching for meaning in what had become a predictable professional path.  They took trips to Brazil, Philippines, Italy, France and Turkey, but it only intensified their desire to experience new frontiers.  At the time, the Middle East was constantly in the news, its people and their religious beliefs largely enigmatic or misunderstood by the western world.  Perhaps the answer to what they were searching for lay there.  After much deliberation, they jumped the corporate ship and moved to Turkey.  Living overseas was everything they had imagined and more. Their time there provided the opportunity to reflect and also brought them into close contact with causes that became dear to their hearts.  During this time, they also faced countless challenges, including tacit accusations of being CIA agents (why else would a couple with their education, martial arts training and no apparent business ties settle there?) After two years living abroad, they just woke up one day, gazed across the splendid vista of the Mediterranean and knew it was time to return.  But the life they would return to was destined to be different this time.  Their time in the volatile Middle East had somehow given them clarity of purpose and the confidence to enter a different type of war zone - the music industry. They moved back to Los Angeles to create music together.

Like most creative works, the process was a bit like alchemy. Melodies would come to him during the night and he would record a rough vocal take on his Android phone in the darkness, half asleep with eyes squinting. They'd write lyrics over the breakfast table or in a cafe and took their time cultivating each song. Then they would record their voices, hers a soft soprano and his, a steady tenor.  They would both smile at each other when it sounded and felt right, and laugh hysterically when it didn't. Composing, producing and mastering were all done by him. They had been back in Los Angeles about a year and were performing at The Roxy on Sunset Boulevard.  That's when things began to happen. One of the audience members turned out to be Ken Wilson, the Arista and Warner Brothers executive behind Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey and K-Ci & JoJo among others. Ken had enjoyed their set and invited them over to his table afterwards.  He then said something that would change their view forever and open up a new window. He pointed to the crowd and said, “Look at all of those people in their shirts and jeans with a drink in hand after a long day at work. You talk like them and you dress like them, but you’re not like them. You need to let the freak out.”  And with that simple bit of advice, the last vestiges of doubt fell away. Thenceforth, they continued to consult with Ken, whose sage advice proved invaluable. They also began working closely with Kevin Black, the Interscope executive behind Eminem, Black Eyed Peas, Snoop Dogg, Gwen Stefani & Prince, Kevin's partner Jahnei Neamo, and BJ Lobermann of Virgin Music. On the production side, Nalo Duvalle, Omer Avni, Adam Peri, Andrew Achilleos, Javier Mosley and Gordon McGinnis were among the multi-platinum producers who helped them to refine their sound. However, such collaborations occurred sparingly in order to preserve the creative integrity of their music. In general, they learned to heed advice that resonated with them, while other suggestions like ‘Let’s bring in a team of songwriters', ‘Let’s get artist X to sing this hook', 'Let’s get four strippers in bikinis to dance on stage' or ‘Don't let people know you’re a couple’ were all politely put aside.  They knew who they were and what they wanted. Throughout this process, they truly came into their own style, music and purpose.

That was two years ago. They now call themselves Millennium. They half-joke that they will be together for a thousand years.  She is Sapphire and he is Stryker.  The origin of their names is not known.  Their debut album Fusion is a collection of songs in a range of genres, such as pop rock, dance, funk and reggae, inspired by their life-changing journey together.  It is a story of the fusion of two lives into one and the exultant and difficult times shared throughout the years.  Having been among the first to hear the album (which is due to land in stores in the near future), I can say that it is rare for such  a combination of songwriting ability, musicianship and artistic identity to occupy the same space and time- perhaps occurring only once in a generation. Millennium's first single ‘When We Walk In The Place’ is a bold dance song about embracing one’s own personal style. From a couple that has walked all around the world and back, this song carries added weight.  The truth is, even before they donned the spikes, jewels and furs, the couple drew attention.  People here and overseas would comment that they had this positive energy. But until they learned to take risks and embrace their own identity, that energy had been largely muted. And so the opposites that we invite into our lives, be them our choice of relationships, new living environment or career, wind up serving the vital role of testing and defining us. If we live our lives in the safe lane, we never acquire that self-knowledge. And without that, other knowledge we acquire really doesn't add up to much. Such has been the journey of Millennium. Back from a soul-searching stay in the Middle East, one thing is clear: Personal style is definitely something that these Sultans of Swag have got locked down. The next step is up to them.

Millennium's Bold Dance Single 'When We Walk In The Place' Generates Global Buzz


Millennium's Bold Dance Single 'When We Walk In The Place' Generates Global Buzz

By Werner Caspar

It was just an ordinary day for Millennium in Los Angeles. I was sitting across the table with my pen and pad. Stryker was sipping his coffee reading the Wall Street Journal and Sapphire was thumbing through emails on her Android phone. The

breakfast table was littered with the wreckage of pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon and fruit. Suddenly Sapphire shrieked causing Stryker to spill his coffee and momentarily bite his lip in mild irritation. "Newswire wants to feature us in an article!" she gushed excitedly. "And it's titled..." She paused for dramatic effect. "The Sultans of Swag!". Stryker shoveled more pancake into his mouth, took a big swig of coffee and looked up with a grin. "Cool!"

Like I said, it was just another day for Millennium, the innovative pop duo out of Los Angeles, California that is quickly generating a buzz for some good reasons. First, Millennium has a look that turns heads. Even on an off day, Stryker is typically seen with a fur on his shoulders, high-tech goggles, spiked wristbands and giant black combat boots. Sapphire, is often spotted in a tight metallic silver dress with white fur boots and lots of bling (sapphires of course). Secondly, they write, compose and produce all of their own music. While Stryker will insist that the music they create is derivative, drawing upon the work of his favorite artists from decades past, it does feel like a breath of fresh air in the stagnant mire of pop music. The truth about Millennium is this:  The two live in a sphere that few of us could fathom or understand- a combat zone of beats, fashion and original music. It occupies their every thought and word from the moment they sit down to breakfast to discuss strategy to the moment they retreat from the studio late at night. Millennium is a force to be reckoned with, gifted with great songwriting ability and an unusual ambition to express their life experiences through music.

Millennium's first single "When We Walk In The Place" is the perfect opener. It's a bold and slightly narcissistic dance
song about the importance of embracing one's own personal style- at first listen. However, I'm convinced that in a society that is becoming increasingly homogeneous and creativity disinclined, the seriousness of the song cannot be dismissed. Curious to know the real inspiration behind 'When We Walk In The Place', I asked Millennium if my alternate impression was 

correct. Both exchanged nervous glances, seeming uneasy that such a critical interpretation should arise. "Honestly, we weren't thinking that deep when we wrote it. It's actually a song that ran through my mind when we'd walk into a restaurant, bar or club. It's completely self-centered and comical. I think that'll come through in the music video." So what's the video about? "Well, you'll have a to wait a couple weeks to see, but basically we're just swagging across the city running errands, getting coffee, going to the drugstore, dry cleaners, gas station..." Okay, that all sounds rather tame. But that's probably exactly what they want me to think. This duo doesn't do tame so there's bound to be a catch.

What's swagging? "Swagging is what people first started calling our walk when we started filming the video. It's pimp walking with swagger, or  Swagging for short. It garnered enough laughter on set that we decided to film an entirely separate video 'Swagging In L.A.' which features ordinary Los Angeles residents doing their version of swagging.  It really is quite entertaining." Swagging? Hmm, is it a bit like this? I ask the question while beginning a faltering limp across the living room floor that sends both Stryker and Sapphire into a fit of laughter. "You've got it brother. You're swagging!"

Judging by the writeups Millennium is receiving in Newswire, Avant Garde, Source One and others in response to their first single, Millennium is seriously swagging too. The new dance club hit 'When We Walk In The Place' can be purchased here on:


The Art Of Swag


The Art Of Swag

By Benjamin Rowley

It has been over two thousand years since Sun Tzu authored the Art of War, perhaps one of the most influential and definitive treatises on military strategy and tactics of all time. Since then, would-be leaders and conquerors from across the world have drawn inspiration from his work.  Since time immemorial, wars have been an instrumental force in defining our national boundaries, our political, economic and social structure- whether we’ve favored them or not.

Most people despise warfare because of the toll in human life and the economic cost that always trades off with healthcare, social services and education. But until recently, war has been viewed as a necessary evil as evident by the U.S. defense budget of $716 billion last year. Then an interesting thing happened with the recent crisis in Syria. While there was a clear moral case for a military strike against President Assad’s regime following the use of chemical weapons, there emerged no collective cry from the global community for such a strike. The truth is that the world is tired of war being used as a means for achieving political, economic or ideologic objectives. Defend your homeland if attacked? Absolutely. But other than that increasingly rare scenario, war simply doesn’t add up to a positive number in the final value calculation.  The battlefield that Sun Tzu originally depicted is no longer relevant. So what comes next?

It is not written on bamboo scrolls.  It has not been printed in books. It has not made any newspaper headlines. Yet, there is an audible rumble in the ether that may soon reveal a new social and political force to be reckoned with. Like money, it conforms to the rules of the have and have-nots, but it is not financial in nature. It is more powerful than governments, stronger than corporations, more influential than the media and it is already right under our noses. Swag.

While it is nearly impossible to describe what ‘swag’ is, one key aspect seems to hold true.  Swag is closely correlated with entertainment. In the old paradigm, governments and the military wielded power, corporations wielded money and the mass media wielded influence. Swag, on the other hand, will operate in counterintuitive ways, promising to rewrite all of these past rules. For example, here’s what the new era of swag means for:


The old axiom: A government is more powerful than any one individual.

The Swag axiom: An individual is more powerful than any government, and way more interesting.

Nothing new or truly creative has happened in the halls of any government since its inception. Who would you rather sit down to chat with for thirty minutes, Obama or Robert Downey, Jr? Might be a tough call for some, but not for most. Take home message to governments: Understand your function in the new era and adapt. The political system is not interesting to anyone anymore. Yes, it inspired some cool espionage movies, but you can’t keep taking credit for Matt Damon’s work. Get in line quick or risk being dismantled for something with more swag.


Old axiom: Corporations are the most efficient factors of production for tangible and intangible products, including music, film and art.

The Swag axiom:While corporations may continue doing a fine job of making our toothbrushes and vitamins, they’ve got no swag when it comes to intangible products.

The committee mentality of corporations always cause any truly creative product to regress to the mean. When a group of people are involved in any creative decision, the result is a mediocre offering so devoid of swag that is has no value in the new era. Meaningful music, film or art can only come from an individual. The enterprising corporations recognize this and have switched their focus to bankrolling the already-successful, creative individuals. Interestingly, this axiom also seems to hold true for intangibles such as financial products or telecom services. How many more billion-dollar class action lawsuits can Bank of America withstand for defrauding customers with its intangible fee practices? Let’s see. Take home message to corporations: Stick to making tangible items cheaper, better and faster than your competitors. When it comes to intangible products, just realize that you’re hopelessly out-swagged and will eventually have to resort to unscrupulous practices to show a profit.

Mass Media

Old axiom:Mass media shapes people’s preferences and beliefs.

The Swag axiom: The individual determines their own preferences and beliefs through exposure to an unlimited and un-vetted body of information via the web and social media.

It doesn’t matter where something comes from or who wrote it. All that matters is whether or not it resonates with you. Besides, when is the last time you actually bought a magazine off the news stand or watched the nightly news?  Take home message to mass media: Give up on trying to play God with people’s minds. The best thing you’ve got going for you is communication infrastructure. Keep that running well and leave the interesting content to individuals with creativity and yes, swag. That last thing the world wants to see is another season of American Idol or the Bachelor.


Old axiom:Your financial success is more important than your relationships.

The Swag axiom: Family and relationships come first.

Your primary relationship and your family is the foundation upon which all true success is built.  The most expensive marble table will fall to pieces and be worthless if the legs give out. Somehow, this wisdom got lost over the years in favor of materialism and narcissism. Now, proponents of that mentality are lonely, unhappy, and stuck with three sets of alimony payments. Hmm, couldn’t see that coming during the ‘I’m about my paper, bitch’ hip-hop era of the last two decades.


Old axiom: Being a billionaire is the highest aspiration a person can hold.

The swag axiom: Billionaires are completely swagless.

Swag is authentic and founded upon the personal struggle to assert one’s own complex and often conflicting identity upon the world. It needs no money behind it, it needs no executive team behind it, and it


needs no corporate sycophants rallying behind it. Swag and the entertainment value it holds is the new world currency. Why do you think all of these billionaires are frantically trying to rewrite their legacy by buying their way into charities and rallying behind social causes? You can’t buy love, baby. And you can’t buy swag.  Take home message to would-be billionaires: The big lesson of the past few decades is just how quickly things go to hell when money becomes the operating criteria. Evidence of its corrupting effect is clear in every sector- government, higher education, healthcare, banking, media, you name it. Trust me, what didn’t work for these sectors, isn’t going to work for you. Take money out of the discussion when establishing your priorities and give your swag a chance to breathe.


Old axiom: You can create any image or backstory for a person or product and people will eventually buy into it.

The Swag axiom: Swag is all about authenticity.

By authenticity, I mean basic self-acceptance. It’s our strengths and our vulnerabilities that make a person intriguing. Authenticity also plays out through our deeds. It’s also about the willingness to eschew a steady paycheck in order to pursue something that is personally meaningful. In other words, swag can’t be fabricated – not by a corporation and not by you. It must be earned.

If history proves correct, what began as a rumble in the ether will likely turn into a mighty roar as this new paradigm rewrites all of the rules and assumptions of the past era. Which brings me to the couple pictured in this article. I first met Millennium when they performed at a Los Angeles night club nearly two years ago. After watching the third flannel and jeans wearing rock band exit the stage, Millennium came on and I suddenly woke up.  Stryker walked on stage wearing a gold fur, goggles and giant black combat boots and Sapphire followed sporting a metallic silver body suit and white fur boots.  As I was making my way to the main bar, they tore into the first song of their set generating a wall of sound unlike any of the other acts. They delivered song after great song, moving around the stage in a euphoric cyclone. Then suddenly, their set was over and they were gone from the stage. Later that night, I spotted Stryker with his arm around Sapphire in the VIP area splitting a bottle of red wine. Both were laughing and talking with a trio of people outside the velvet ropes. In the deafening roar of the club, I had an epiphany. Swag. The word just popped into my head. I couldn’t remember any of the other artists’ songs that night- they all seemed to meld from one into the other. But I remembered Millennium and their music.

By the time I had organized my thoughts for this article, Millennium was already generating a buzz and I knew I wanted to feature them. Sure enough, when I typed in the URL for their website, there on the home page in bold type was a quote from another magazine ‘Sultans of Swag’. I felt a rush of excitement, like a scientist who had just had his results confirmed by another scientist. It wasn’t just me. Swag was real.

Sexuality vs. Sensuality

Sexuality vs. Sensuality

By Theodora Conrad



Let me let you in on a secret.  Being attractive has less to do with how you actually look and more to do with how you act.  That ‘it’ factor, that special something that leaves us breathlessly attracted to someone is…sensuality.  The ability to be sensual is within each of us.  It is a higher order art form that is practiced and crafted to perfection over a period of years.  Unfortunately, in modern times the art of sensuality has largely been lost and replaced by its vulgar distant cousin twice removed- sexuality.  The words sensuality and sexuality may appear to be similar but in actuality, they cannot be any more different.  In an attempt to describe this lost art form, we must in fact argue semantics and there is no way around it.  To understand the essence of sensuality, we need to understand sexuality and via comparison and contrast, identify and develop this latent power inside us.

In sexuality, what you see is what you get.  There is no mystery or intrigue.  Once the other has seen and perhaps experienced what you have to offer, there is a law of diminishing gratification and he or she will look for something else to catch their attention.  Both the journey and the destination are all about (meaningless) sex, as indicated in the word sexuality.  A person with amped sexuality is a firecracker that fades as quickly as it goes off- a bonfire that is big and bright in one moment, and a pile of embers the next.  What is probably off-putting about sexuality is that it is a very masculine type of trait.  It is an aggressive, sometimes intimidating, impetuous, in-your-face display that stamps you with an expiration date in the eyes of so-called admirers.  Ouch, but true.

On the other more refined hand, sensuality is mysterious and intriguing.  It will keep those of both sexes fascinated and wondering what you do to make yourself so damn appealing.  Sensual individuals take their time enjoying their movement, radiating a palpable energy.  Being sensual is a soundless intimate conversation with another.  It is a dance, a duet.  And when a sensual being decides to be intimate with someone, it is incredibly pleasurable to both parties and can almost be considered to be a divine act.  As opposed to sexuality, sensuality is a feminine trait.  It is a warm, inviting, attractive energy that makes others feel privileged to be in your presence.

The issue with today’s single population who bemoan the fact that they are still single is that they are either too sexual or not sexual at all.  They do not realize that there is a broader and more pleasing alternative.  For decades now, the concept of true sensuality has been lost to the individual.  This is probably because its dominant and blatant cousin was more useful in raking in the dollars. Hence the expression ‘sex sells’.  Sexuality is connected to almost every product in the market, from video games to cars to cigarettes.

Even pop icons today are notorious for lewd, crass, unapologetic behavior in an attempt to be so-called sex symbols.  You have Justin ‘I-can’t-take-my-hand-off-my-crotch’ Bieber, the S & M Queen Rihanna and the twerking, tongue-wagging Miley.  Unfortunately there are some things that you cannot un-see.  It is all a pathetic attempt to create shock value through explicit sexual suggestion.  Their examples of overt sexuality are fostering a generation of both young, awkward nymphomaniacs and young, withdrawn asexuals.  Perhaps that is a slight exaggeration but it might not be too far from the truth.  In fairness, there are pop artists out there who demonstrate more polish and sophistication without waiving originality and edginess.  Whether they possess a higher degree of maturity, self-honesty, or are simply willing to reveal more vulnerability, the net effect is greater sensuality.  For example, I came across an up and coming pop duo from Los Angeles called Millennium who is actually a husband and wife team.  Looking through their website, it is difficult to find any explicit sexuality in their songs, photos or music videos.  And yet, the couple oozes swagness and sensuality and you will not find their music lacking either.

What makes sensuality special is that it focuses on the beauty of one’s inner self, whereas sexuality is focused almost solely on the outer self and is truly superficial.  Now that we have extensively defined the two terms, which type of person would you rather be, a sexual or a sensual person?  I thought so.  While sex does in fact sell, it is cheap and inferior to priceless sensuality.

New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions

By Tameka Gaillard

Welcome to a new year and welcome to a new you.  You have got to love the start of a new year, brimming with hope and excitement and ripe with potential.  Amazing change is right at your doorstep and it all 

begins with your New Year’s resolutions, your blueprint to an exciting, new life.  I cannot overemphasize the importance of writing down your resolutions. It is the necessary act of articulating what you want and what is important to you.  Perhaps you believe that your resolutions are pretty much standard and do not require a lot of thought- lose ten pounds, make more money, find the perfect relationship, etc. Well, if you wrote out your resolutions in such a general way e.g. ‘lose x pounds’ then yes, it is probably on everybody’s list.  But what makes written resolutions unique to the individual and an incredibly effective tool in creating life changes are the details.  How do you want to lose that extra weight?  At the gym, running outdoors or learning to play tennis?  How do you want to better your financial situation?  Finding a higher paying job, getting a second job or starting your own business?  And how are you going to find ‘the one?’  Going out to more social events, getting set-up by one of your friends or online?  These choices and all the fine yummy details are staggering and only you can answer them.  The more specific the resolution, the greater the chance the resolution will materialize and thus, a happier new you.

I would venture to guess that your response would be along the lines of ‘Well, if resolutions were so important, then why don’t more people change for the better year after year?’  Good question.  My answer would be that as people grow older, they become more comfortable with their daily routine, i.e. where they go, what they do and who they see, making change difficult.  Interestingly, the people around them are also comfortable with seeing them the same way and may inadvertently keep them stuck in a rut.  Even though on the inside they are earnestly searching for something new, different and better, there is a fear of change that keeps them from exploring the world and living up to their full potential.  I truly understand the routine mentality.  I like knowing what the schedule is days beforehand.  Anything less would make me anxious.  I do not do well with uncertainty, surprises and spontaneity.  But these are the conditions where change thrives.  My ninety-year old violin teacher, the sweetest most wholesome woman with fiery Lucille Ball hair once told me that ‘A life without change is a life full of regrets.’  Through the years, I have taken that wisdom to heart and have been less resistant to change.  I have come to think of change not as an intruder but more as a welcome visitor.

How does one invite change into their lives, without leaving it all behind to go backpacking in Tibet or riding a motorcycle all over South America?  Perhaps the key is allowing a little of the extraordinary to enter your everyday ordinary.  I came across an interesting music video the other day where a handsome couple was doing normal everyday errands together such as going to the drugstore, the cleaners and even pumping gas.  Seems pretty mundane, however he was dressed as a pimp with a gold silk suit wielding a leopard cane and she had thigh high silver boots and electric blue hair.  With their smiles and laughter, they looked like they were having the time of their lives at a space-aged party instead of running around doing chores.  The well-chosen title of this video was ‘When We Walk In The Place,’ by Millennium.  I am not suggesting that you run to the nearest thrift shop or dye your hair some funky color, although if those actions call to you for some reason, then maybe you should try it.  The point is that change first begins with the mind.  We can learn something from these ‘Sultans of Swag’ about opening our minds to the multitude of possibilities and realizing that we have some control over our life and happiness.  Whether your life is mundane or magical, it is all up to you.  I admit I felt a little bit liberated after watching this video.

It is not too late to write down your New Year’s resolutions.  Take your time with it and enjoy flushing in the details.  Call me old-fashioned but I think keeping that list visible every single day will actually ensure that those resolutions will manifest and not get swept under the rug again this year.  It is your personal letter to the universe saying ‘this year is the year that I will make things happen’ and the universe responds with a helping hand or a nudge in the right direction along the way.  I wish you all an eventful and extraordinary year!

Does A College Degree Matter Anymore?

Does A College Degree Matter Anymore?

By Olivia Carter

In an economy where the unemployment rate is high and job growth is slow, it’s no secret that more universities are stepping up their marketing efforts to attract students with the lure of high-paying jobs after graduation. Job placement statistics have become a measure of a university’s competitiveness and are a key component of nearly every university brochure or website. At the same time, there has also been a flood of new entrants into the business of higher education, most catering to students seeking trade or technical training for a specific profession. The combination of these factors makes the short-term trend in higher education crystal clear- universities must produce employable graduates who can fill the slew of entry-level jobs that still remain in the nation’s sputtering economy. The federal government couldn’t agree more, throwing both money and fast-tracking authority behind educational programs with the potential to reduce the nation’s staggering unemployment rate.

However, the entry level jobs that most colleges are now aiming students for are jobs with little opportunity for advancement or career growth. Meanwhile, many layers of middle and upper management, along with many departments, are vanishing as companies find ways to improve and automate their core processes. The jobs that are increasingly available require a sufficient level of technical training and the ability to do repetitive work for a long time – or at least until the company can find a way to automate even those tasks. In an effort to grow enrollment and contain spiraling overhead, universities are falling over each other to capitalize on this trend. As a result of this shift, what is happening to the requirements for obtaining a university degree? Furthermore, for those not interested in working a repetitive job for the rest of their lives, what value does a college degree still hold?

We followed up with a number of graduates in different professions to find out:

Eric, a graduate in Finance from Rutgers State University of New Jersey did a brief stint as a low level analyst at a large mutual fund company before realizing that there was no opportunity for career advancement. He quit and founded his own investment firm, in conjunction with two partners. “I expected things to be different when I graduated, but the economic climate was just not favorable. Much of what I needed to succeed was going to have to be learned out in the field by running my own business. Although the college credentials look good on paper, I could probably have jumped into this straight out of high school.” In spite of this, Eric still endorses the overall shift in higher education, if not slightly tongue in cheek, stating that “I’m glad to see colleges becoming more practical and job-oriented. Especially when it comes time for us to interview and hire more interns.”

Stryker, a graduate in Biochemistry from the University of Illinois-at Urbana Champaign, began working in the nutrition industry before taking an unusual turn to became a singer and producer for Los Angeles-based pop rock group Millennium. “I was lucky to attend a strong liberal arts university before this recent shift in higher education. Universities should not be looked at as job-training. It’s a once in a lifetime chance to broaden your imagination and knowledge in a safe environment. The best thing you can take away from those four years is the ability to learn.” When asked why he took such a radical turn after graduation, he replied calmly “Most people don’t know what they want to be when they go to college. In my case, I knew I wanted to do music but my parents didn’t agree. But that was fine, because I wasn’t there for job training. I was able to get a well-rounded education and write music on the side. Bottom line is this- A degree shouldn’t define a person, it should give them a higher level of freedom.”

Jeffrey, a human resources specialist for one Fortune 500 company agrees and is conflicted over the trend in higher eduation. “On the one hand, we are receiving more specifically qualified applicants for entry level positions each year. On the other hand, many of them may not have the broad-based education and creative communication skills required to take on higher level positions in the future.”

How To Look Good For A Video Shoot

How To Look Good For A Video Shoot

By Alessandra Clarence

Whether it is a music video, a company holiday party, or your best friend’s wedding, there is more to looking your best on the big day than make-up, a manicure and a hot dress.  In fact, the clock begins ticking at least one week before the event.  I am not talking about any radical diets or extreme exercise programs, which may zap your energy and have you feeling moody, stressed or groggy.  The idea is that


you should enjoy the occasion to the fullest and of course, look amazing at the same time.  We turned to Sapphire, singer for pop rock group Millennium and the mistress of transformation for a few tips on how she prepares for video shoots.

Do you look forward to video shoots or do you dread them?

I actually welcome them because it’s a chance to get your body on track again just in case you haven’t been eating the best foods, working out as much as you should or not getting enough sleep.  I see the shoots as a reminder that I need to take care of my body.  The most expensive makeup artist and lighting and camera equipment cannot make you look well rested, vibrant or healthy.

So what is the first step to fabulous?

At least one week before the shoot, I begin to be aware of what I normally eat and drink on a daily basis and make sure to cut out all the naughty stuff.  We all have our weaknesses.  For me, it is flavored lattes, cheese and desserts.  This first step is an exercise in restraint. 

And what are the next steps?

The steps that follow require me to be a little more proactive:

- I step up my usual workout regimen by going to the gym an extra two days that week, staying for an hour longer than normal, and using weights that are at least 5-10 lbs. more than I’m used to.  Working out with my partner in crime, Stryker, is key to keeping me focused and determined.  I also take fitness classes that are one level more difficult than I normally take.

- I have chicken breast or fish the week up to the shoot, rather than having other dishes like pasta or beef with rich sauces.  I also consciously eat more veggies and fruit.

- I drink water all throughout the day and while I am having my meals to keep me from overeating.

- I make it a point to get 8 hours of sleep every night.  If I am not able to get 8 hours, I take a nap or make sure I get some physical rest the next day.

That doesn’t seem too bad.  And what do you do on the day of?

Video shoots have been known to last 20 hours straight.  I have a big breakfast, a large cup of dark roast coffee and treat the day like one big adventure.  I feel like the hard work is now behind me and now I only need to focus on being present, being genuine for the camera and having fun!

The Day I Found My Voice


The Day I Found My Voice

By Sapphire

All these years of feeling trapped, tense, constricted and holding my tongue.  Out of the blue, I was offered an opportunity to express myself freely, unabashed, whole-heartedly as the part of Sapphire in the music group Millennium.  Sapphire is not some fictional character that I made up to attract attention.  She is to me what the Phoenix is to Jean Gray. We are the same person, but she is the part of me that was suppressed from the world as I was growing up.  I admit that I am frightened showing this part of me.  But there is a faint voice telling me that I owe it to that four-year-old girl inside me to continue to pursue this 

path and see where it leads.  That way, all those years of being afraid would not feel so wasted somehow.  Regardless of how intimidating this new role is for me, there will be no other opportunity like this again.  I refuse to add this to my list of regrets.

To me, being in Millennium is not about me singing.  Unlike me, there are many amazing singers out there who can belt out notes like nobody’s business.  I am just a soft soprano with a limited range, a C+ on vocal aptitude at best.  It is about channeling the songs through me to allow me to express myself and my personality more openly and to awaken elements of me that I never knew existed.  This is similar to how an actor uses the script to channel emotions that already exist within them, thereby bringing their character to life.  The difference is, as I mentioned before, Sapphire and I are the same person.  It comforts me to know that no one else can play the role of Sapphire.  No one else has her personality.  No one else has her voice.  Whether she skips on stage or trips on stage, she will be real and authentic.  She will be me.

My motives for being in Millennium are not purely selfish.  Deep down, I want to connect with people.  I have avoided making strong connections with people for most of my life.  I wanted to prevent the possibility of disagreements, misunderstandings or hurt feelings but in the end, I missed out on many good friendships and many happy moments.  I refused to take on the bitter and thereby missed out on the sweet.  From now on, be it love or hate, for better or for worse, I am ready to be vulnerable, honest and open to the world.

I believe everyone’s story is special.  Everyone’s voice, regardless of how small, should be heard.  If you go through a very difficult or painful experience, every time you say yes to an opportunity, you are moving forward.  You begin to live life fully, as you were meant to.

Merchandise Matrix

Merchandise Matrix

By Jody Yaniv

Do we really buy a product for the product itself, or do we buy into the notion that we will become a different person after acquiring that product?  Is that item some kind of magical amulet that will transform you into a more desirable individual with a charisma quotient that goes through the roof?  If you really believe that to be the case, then the price of those brand new boots, sunglasses, watch, smartphone or fill-in-the-blank is a definite bargain. Regretfully, I have spent thousands of dollars on material items that have given me a few hours of gratification at best, but have not changed me in any way. 



A good portion of my youth has been spent trying to discover my best, most incredible self in malls or store catalogues.  By some random fluke, I was able to receive several fashion magazine subscriptions for free.  After a few months of sifting through endless ads on facial serums, clutches and bangles, I had the startling realization that I have been living in a Merchandise Matrix all my life.  Everywhere I go, whether it is in my car, online or watching television, there was some billboard, ad or commercial telling me I needed this one special product to make my life complete.

Not everyone goes through this aha-I’m-living-in-a-web-of-lies moment in the same manner, if at all.  For Sapphire, a singer with pop rock group Millennium, it was living out of the country for a while that allowed her to get some space from the materialistic clutter.

‘I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to live abroad for a couple of years in a beautiful, quiet seaside town.  Instead of driving cars, people took pleasant strolls around town.  In place of malls filled with mass produced items, there were bazaars filled with one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted pieces.  In place of Starbucks, there were quaint cafes where people spent hours in deep conversation.  And in place of Whole Foods, there were farmer’s markets filled with the biggest, most brightly colored fruits and vegetables I have ever seen.  When I returned to the US, I must say I was impressed by all of the abundance in this country.  But I soon realized that it was mainly an abundance of stuff and a significant lack of the things that really matter, like quality time with loved ones, children, parents and good friends.’

Put another way, Sapphire was unplugged from the matrix and once you have been unplugged, you see the material world in a whole new light.  Now I am not promoting an ascetic lifestyle or asking you to ban the purchase of all material goods for the rest of your life.  But before you whip out that credit card to buy the next new, shiny thingamabob, ask yourself if you are purchasing this particular item because of its actual benefit to you, or because you want to look like the model on the magazine (who just so happens to be heavily airbrushed by the way).

Can This Los Angeles Group Redefine Pop Music?



Can This Los Angeles Group Redefine Pop Music?

By Karin Francisca

Darkness appears to have descended upon the world of pop music. Following the embarrassing debacle of the 2013 MTV Music Awards and other staged attempts to shock audiences employed by major artists in recent months, the music industry once again appears to be teetering on the verge of collapse. As the increasingly desperate

antics of pop artists and their record labels further alienate audiences, it is no longer clear what direction mainstream music will take. But if history proves anything, it is at that exact point of emptiness and uncertainty when the seed of the next big era is planted. By most indications, this seed will not come from any of the emerging experimental pop artists whose commendable risk-taking is too much of a moving target and fails to yield anything accessible to broader audiences.

It’s even less likely to come from any of the emerging teen pop artists whose out-sourced lyrics and music represent the most tiresome aspects of the status quo. This seed must embody qualities that have long been missing from pop music, such as honesty, creativity and integrity. However, it must also appeal to modern sensibilities, adhere to the highest production standards and produce music that is both familiar and new- an enduring staple of any successful pop act. Enter Millennium. If any seed could possess these qualities, it would certainly be pop music’s newest anti-hero, an emerging group out of Los Angeles, California with a big future.

Exactly what ideas come to mind when you hear the word Millennium?  Futuristic? Trend-setting? Cutting-edge?  Perhaps the word invokes images of the ancient world and its timeless ideals passed down through the ages. In the case of this group, you would be correct on all counts.  There is an intriguing tension between the old and new worlds in Millennium making them hard to discern and, at the same time, hard to dismiss. Their image alone is a striking combination of Cleopatra meets Riddick. Their music runs the gamut from hard-hitting electronic dance to pop rock, funk and reggae. Yet all of their songs have a timeless melodic quality with the potential to win over mainstream audiences. Who is Millennium and what makes them so different?

Millennium consists of singer/songwriters Stryker and Sapphire, both classically trained musicians with a lifelong love of music. Stryker and Sapphire are not teenage rubber people singing about things they couldn't possibly understand nor have any connection to. Both possess some life experience and have something to say about it through their music. As a result, their songs convey 


unmistakable integrity, going against the grain of today's pop music in a major way. The duo is also backed by Brad Dawson on drums, Gaku Murata on guitar, Nathan York on bass, and Fred Smith on keys.  There is nothing superficial about the look and sound of this group. Stryker is as sensitive, complicated and temperamental as his image conveys, and Sapphire is as sweet, sassy and unpredictable as her image would lead you to believe. However, beyond their distinctive style is their equally distinctive sound. According to one music industry executive, ‘Millennium is pop culture at its best’ - a group that can create great songs in almost any genre, whether it’s rock, dance, reggae, funk or acoustic.  However, what actually sets Millennium apart in a crowded industry is their soul.  No, I’m not referring to the American Idol version of soul, where a singer passionately belts out someone else’s song.  Millennium’s definition of soul lies at the heart of how they create music- by writing, composing, recording and producing all of their own songs in their own home.  This purist approach opens up a direct, uninterrupted channel between the life of the artist and the life of the audience. The difference between this approach and the production-chain approach currently used by most pop artists cannot be overstated.  While this may sound like a harsh indictment of music industry practices of the past decade, it certainly explains the current crisis in pop music. It also explains why a group like Millennium may be uniquely qualified to bridge the chasm between old and new and usher in a new wave of music.

Change is an inevitable part of life and nowhere is this more evident than in pop music, where the shelf life of a typical song has shrunk to about one month. This is the natural consequence of continuing to manufacture music with no artistic soul. In the current system, whatever beauty and inspiration that was initially captured in the mind of the songwriter gets diluted and lost through the chain of other songwriters, singers, composers, producers, mixers and mastering engineers. It’s a small wonder why music today has become little more than background to people’s lives. Beneath the precision-manufactured, shrink-wrapped pop puppets, there is nothing human for audiences to connect with. Worse, there is nothing to fall in love with. Anyone skeptical of this need only visit YouTube to check out who attends concerts by great artists of the 70’s and 80’s (who, incidentally, haven’t had a song played on radio in over 30 years). The answer: Stadiums full of loving fans who share a real, lifelong bond with the artist. Now, fast-forward 30 years and consider who do you think is going to attend the Stephan Moccio/Sacha Skarbek /Maureen Anne McDonald/Dr. Luke/Circuit/Larry Rudolph/Miley Cyrus production team concert?  Yes, it’s okay to laugh. We both know such a fiasco would never even materialize. But the point is clear. Change is inevitable, but the qualities of artistic honesty, creativity and integrity hold their value well through decades, centuries and even millennia.

Millennium has already released a couple of provocative singles from their upcoming debut album entitled ‘Fusion’, which is due to be released next year. The album is definitely worth the early attention it’s garnering. Anyone wishing to hear what pop music of the future sounds like could easily start here, where artistic integrity and great songwriting meet cutting-edge acoustic and electronic production.  The radical, yet timeless, image and sound of this group make them one to watch in 2014. To learn more about Millennium and its members, visit

Thanksgiving- A Time To Count Your Stressings, Part II

  Thanksgiving- A Time To Count Your Stressings, Part II

By Margo Zimmerman

A belated Happy Thanksgiving to all.  To those of you who hosted the highly anticipated event this year, I sincerely hope you were able to enjoy the holiday amidst the hustle and bustle.  Now that the last of your guests have left and you have time to muse upon the madness, please share with us your stories. We would love to hear them.

'Thanksgiving evening. These past two days, I spent several hours immersing myself in the Internet perusing Thanksgiving recipes, techniques and blogs on brining, aromatics and gravy. By the way, preparing gravy could easily be a college course given the depth of information that I found on the web. By the end of my information gathering, I was half expecting to receive my online degree as a turkey connoisseur.

I purchased a 20 pound frozen turkey two days ago. To the wise chefs out there, that entire statement raises a red flag: 20 pound, frozen and two days ago. Last night, as I finally had some mental space to focus on Thanksgiving dinner, I decided to check on the bird which was thawing in the refrigerator. To my horror, it was as frozen as the day I bought it and a quick forward calculation told me that it would not be ready in time for guests the next day. Back to my trusty Google. A few minutes later, I hurriedly filled the kitchen sink with cold water and ice and placed the wrapped turkey in the water for several hours. Before bed, I placed the turkey back in the refrigerator with an earnest prayer to the Thanksgiving gods that it would be thawed by morning. It was a night of restless sleep, muttering gibberish, probably something about the dreaded gravy process.

Morning came and hallelujah the turkey was thawed. It was time to get busy. The classical music was playing and I was in the zone. Once the turkey was cleaned, stuffed and in the oven, everything moved like clockwork. I even had time to make a bonus appetizer: Butternut squash and carrot soup with sage and nutmeg (which later proved to be a big hit). By the time my family filed in through the door, all the dishes were more or less ready and surprisingly, there had been no disasters. The turkey was golden and roasted to moist perfection. My sisters ooh’d and ahh’d at the fresh cranberry sauce, which included pomegranate seeds from my father’s garden. I had forgotten to add the requisite two sticks of butter to the stuffing but no one seemed to mind and, in fact, they complimented the healthy twist. Oh and I am very pleased to say that the gravy was outstanding, rich and savory with fresh rosemary, sage and thyme. To complete the meal, there was an Urth Caffe pumpkin pie and all those who have had the pleasure of trying it understand that this is truly the lord of all pumpkin pies. A few hours ago, it was the only dish that I had confidence in and even if disasters had abounded and we were forced to order in pizza for Thanksgiving, at least we would have some yummy pie.

My family each brought their own special dish as well. My sisters made a cheese and green bean casserole and mushroom scalloped potatoes that were delicious. Roasted pig graced the table as well to the delight of my turkey-phobic mother. My father eschewed his dietary restrictions for a glass of red wine. My ‘no-sugar-please’ sister delighted in a slice of pumpkin pie, her diet kryptonite, with whip cream. My baby niece was happily slurping on the soup. Throughout the evening there was good wine, good music and good conversation- the stuff that the best memories are made of. As everyone finished their meal feeling satisfied, I breathed a contented sigh and looked around the room at my wonderful family. The true meaning of Thanksgiving slowly sank in. I had prepared the food with love for the people that I love and it turned out well. But most importantly, we were all together and everyone was safe and healthy. For that, I am truly thankful. Happy Thanksgiving.'

- Sapphire, singer for pop rock music group Millennium

Thanksgiving- A Time To Count Your Stressings


Thanksgiving- A Time To Count Your Stressings

By Margo Zimmerman

It is that time of the year again when the Thanksgiving holiday can either have you feeling blessed, as the name thanksgiving would suggest, or stressed. If you are in the category of those feeling stressed, chances are you are hosting for family or friends this year. In appreciation for all the brave and wonderful hosts throughout the country and their endeavors to create the perfect holiday banquet, we have asked you all to share your experiences. You are not alone.

'Thanksgiving is only two days away. This year, I have taken it upon myself to host this event promising a glorious feast with all the fixings. I knew this serious task would fall to me this year seeing as that my sister just had a baby and my mother has a strange phobia to consuming this beloved holiday staple. In fact, Thanksgiving has become increasingly complicated over the years as extended family and the list of each member’s dietary agenda have grown. We have my mother with her turkey phobia, my sister requiring a strictly balanced diet (translation: an absolute precise ratio of protein to vegetables and little or no sugar), her husband who is the lumberjack meat and potatoes man, and my father who needs to stay away from red meat and alcohol. Of course you have those who are watching their weight (this is LA) and those who can have a Thanksgiving meal for three days straight, just like the pilgrims, and not gain an ounce. It is no wonder why I am facing a sense of paralysis as I force myself to sit down and write out the dreaded shopping list. I doubt anyone thirty years ago ever faced such a dilemma. In this day and age, one needs to consult a dietician in order to prepare a meal. What ever happened to a good old-fashioned Thanksgiving meal with a golden roasted 20-lb. turkey, cornbread stuffing, savory gravy, luscious cranberry sauce and a decadent pumpkin pie?'

- Sapphire, singer for pop rock music group Millennium

Stay tuned for Part II of Thanksgiving- A Time To Count Your Stressings

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