Even if you’re not a fan of "American Idol," I hope you’ve heard the music of season nine’s winner, Lee DeWyze. An avid fan of the show, I’ve watched pretty much every episode since day one, and DeWyze always impressed not only with his fabulous voice, but his obvious musicianship. He could often be seen on the Idol stage with a guitar in hand. So, of course, I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to meet with DeWyze in the Acoustic Nation studio. He spent some time teaching me the powerful single “Fight” from his new release Frames.
While seeing Iron & Wine at The Fox Theater in Oakland, CA a couple weeks ago, I was lucky enough to catch show opener Laura Mvula. With a vocal style echoing back to Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald, I was taken back by the timelessness of Mvula’s voice, the soaring orchestral arrangements, and the sheer musicality of her band.
Singer/Songwriter and guitar instructor Laura Zucker has just released a new album of carefully crafted songs called Life Wide Open. Zucker, who just came back from the NERFA conference and was one of the winners of 2013’s West Coast Songwriters Association Best Song competition, clearly can construct a terrific turn of phrase. But it’s her compositions as a whole that make you feel like someone just wrapped you in a warm blanket.
I view my songwriting like an athlete views his or her sport. I have to practice. I have to stay in shape. So I do it every day. I can stack the odds in my favor by starting with a distraction-free space. I need to feel quiet and relaxed and able to channel things that are deeper than the inputs from my immediate surroundings. I don't want the phone to ring, or the TV buzzing away in the background. When inspiration hits I need to be able to receive it clearly. If I don't catch it, someone else will.
On February 18, William Fitzsimmons will release Lions, his follow-up LP to 2010's well-received Gold In The Shadow. Produced by Chris Walla (guitarist for Death Cab For Cutie with previous production credits with Tegan and Sara, The Decemberists and The Postal Service among others), Lions is a career-defining album that explores Fitzsimmons' personal transformation over the last few years.
I grew up in Nashville. It was a very intimidating place to grow up if you aspire to sing or make music. Nearly everyone that ever came to work on our air conditioner was trying to be in the music business. Most of the waiters and waitresses were, too. I saw lots of people TRYING to be singers and songwriters, but I didn't know anyone who was actually doing it.
One of the little joys an avid music listener anticipates is the next band/album that is going to affect him or her in such a way, that it cannot be explained completely with words. Sure, they can make an attempt explaining why an album is "so good," but there is just something alien to dialogue that strikes a "chord" (pun intended) in their heart-soul (that's a "Hamlet 2" reference, and if you got it, bravo). For me, that band was, and still is, The Black Atlantic.