On June 24 and 25, the fourth annual Rockland-Bergen Music Festival will take place in Tappan, NY right on the borders of Rockland and Bergen counties. The festival combines two days of music with raising awareness of important causes and organizations that do work in the fields of health and humanity. This year, the Rockland-Bergen Music Festival will feature over 33 artists on two stages as well as 16 non-profit organizations, plenty of food and drink, and a guaranteed good time. In advance of the festival, founder Joe D’Urso took some time to talk about the festival, its history, and more.
What spurred you to start the Rockland-Bergen Music Festival four years ago?
For years, I thought that the Rockland-Bergen area should have a music festival and I got tired of waiting for someone else to do it, so I decided to grab the bull by the horns and do it myself. I am very fortunate that I have friendships with singers and others from all of the different parts of my life and was able to get a bunch of them together and put the festival together.
In order to do that, you must clearly be a lover of music. Is that your background?
It’s one of my many hats. I spent 1986 to 1996 at Premiere Talent Agency where we booked tours with Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, U2, Bon Jovi, The Who and others. Then, from 1996 to 2006 I toured with my band, put out a few independent records, and played in 25 countries. From 2006 until now I have continued to tour, but I also oversee a Broadway production company, Leftfield Production, with composer Neil Berg who is a childhood friend. I also work with WhyHunger, Light of Day, and the Dan Sullivan Foundation, all of which use music to raise awareness and money for different causes.
With their latest album (released June 9th), Amanda Anne Platt and The Honeycutters - Matt Smith (pedal steel, Stratocaster), Rick Cooper (bass), Josh Milligan (drums) and Evan Martin (keys, Telecaster) - further refine and define their sound on thirteen tracks that are as universal as they are personal. In advance of a busy summer, which includes a trip to the UK, Platt graciously took some time to talk about the album and more
With this record, you’ve stepped out front and center, using your own name. Why did you feel now was the right time to do that?
We’d talk about it with every album and this one stuck out because it’s the first time that I’m now officially the only original member of the band left. The band has grown and our sound has become more defined, but the constants have always been that they’re my songs and I’m singing them, so doing it now made sense.
Once again you co-produced the album with Tim Surrett. The two of you seem to have a really great working relationship in the studio.
We do. Because Tim's not involved in actually playing on the record, he’s a good set of ears to let us know whether something is working or not.
Being that you’re a very prolific writer, when you pulled songs for this record, how far back did you go?
A lot were recent writes, probably in the last year, but “Brand New Start” is older, at least four or five years; and the last two songs I started a long time ago, but ended up finishing in the last couple of years.
The last two songs are the pairing of "The Things We Call Home" and “The Road”. Why did you choose to close out the album with “The Road?”
When I think about structuring an album, I like to have a quieter, reflective song on the end. "The Road" is a good farewell song, so it made sense to place it there.
And the opener is "Birthday Song" [which Platt wrote the day before her 30th], which to me can signify not only an actual birthday, but also starting anew, especially with the name change….or maybe I’m reading too much into it.
Sometimes I don’t read enough into what I’m writing, so the fact that it’s about accepting change and where you are in life could definitely tie into that. Let’s go with that (laughing).
Austin via Ohio singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lazarus has been writing and playing music for over two decades. While his musical path has veered in various directions including Folk, Punk, Rock, and Country, they all converged on his debut release, Rock N Roll Heart, which embodies the Americana sound. Recorded at King Electric Studios in Austin with producer Kris Brown and guests that included, Warren Hood, Denis Ludiker, Libby Koch, and others, the album features songs like the country-tinged, “Makin’ Good Time”, those with a folk lean “Rise” and “Come Again in Glory”, and still others, "Gonna Be Okay," with a welcome slice of New Orleans flair. In advance of a busy summer schedule, Lazarus took some time to speak about his roots, the album, and more.
Originally you called Ohio home. What spurred you to pick up and move to Austin?
About three or four years ago, Ohio was having some crazy winters. We had these arctic blasts from Canada to the point where they were telling old people not to leave the house and kids not to go to school. I had started playing music again and I couldn’t take the cold anymore. I told my wife, who is a teacher, that I was going to book tours in the South all winter and I would see her on Mother’s Day. She wasn’t having that, so she started sending resumes out to schools in states with the same licensure for teachers. We were on a family vacation when she got a phone call from the Bastrop district which offered her a job starting August 1st. We made the decision to move while on vacation, told the kids on the drive home, and in two to three weeks found a house and moved to Austin.
Wow, so it was luck or fate that you landed in such a music-centric city.
I knew Austin was a musical city, but I wasn’t that tuned in to how it gelled with Americana, the amount of state pride people have, how proud they are of their musical heritage and how they support it. Plus, there is the Texas Music Office which is a well-run, government funded organization that’s an asset to all levels of musician and venues.
That said, I have been a member of Folk Alliance International and I have met a few people out of Texas, like Chuck Hawthorne, Libby Koch, and Ken Gaines, at their annual gathering. So when we moved, it was a soft landing into a very welcoming musical community. I spent all of 2016 touring with Libby whose last album, Just Move On was Grammy nominated, backing her on guitar, banjo, or keyboard and after I finished the tour, I made my own record - and here we are now.
Recently named one of Rolling Stone Country’s Artists You Need To Know, Rebel Engine artist Lucas Hoge rose to fame as a star of Animal Planet's Last Chance Highway, but Hoge is also a songwriter who has a penned songs for television and movies all while moving forward with his own recording career. Despite a busy calendar, Hoge makes a point of giving back. A passionate supporter of the U.S. military, he has traveled the globe extensively performing for the troops visiting numerous countries throughout the Middle East and beyond for the past eight years as part of the Wrangler National Patriot Tour. Hoge’s most recent trip was this past May and upon his return, Hoge took the time to talk about his humbling trip and the importance of giving back, as well as his new single, and more.
You recently spent time overseas for Military May. Before we jump into the trip, tell me, how did you get involved with the Wrangler National Patriot Tour?
2009 was my first trip overseas. My band and I spent about twenty-five days on a private sector tour in the Middle East, Iraq, Kuwait, and Kosovo and I fell in love with the whole concept of entertaining our troops and hanging out and talking to them. We flew back from that trip the day before CMA Fest where I was doing an event called the Celebrity Outdoor Challenge. The guy announcing the contest was Robbie Lawler, who just returned from the American 300 Tour. He asked me if I wanted to join them next year, but told me it wasn’t a big stage and light tour, it was more of a “strap your guitar on your back and frog hop in a Black Hawk tour’ to get to the people who do not get to see the bigger shows. Immediately, I said, 'Absolutely, let me know what I need to do' and the next year, I joined the Wrangler National Patriot Tour.
Why is the military important to you? Do you come from a military family?
Yes, I do. My Dad was in the Air Force, my uncle was in the Army, and I have cousins in the Marines and other branches as well. When I graduated high school, Dad sat me down with all the branches of the military and I knew in my heart I was not wired for it, but I still wanted to give back to our country. So, when the tour came up I knew it was the perfect way to do that for me. It’s an honor to play for the men and women who do so much for us.
Known for his rousing live shows and energetic stage presence, Pat Green is a three-time Grammy nominee who has sold over two million records, had a string of top ten singles, and appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Letterman and Austin City Limits. His last album, Home, saw his duet with Lyle Lovett, “Girls From Texas,” spend a massive 10 weeks at #1 on the Texas Music Chart and his new single, a perfect song for the summer, “Drinkin’ Days,” might just find the troubadour atop the charts once again. Written by Jaron Boyer, Ben Burges, and Phil Barton and recorded at Arlyn Studios, “Drinkin’ Days” is a nostalgic look back at a younger time when perhaps an adult beverage or two made the best of times just a little bit greater. In advance of a busy Summer, Green took a few moments to talk about the single, its recent video, and more.
“Drinkin’ Days” is a carefree, nostalgic track. What drew you to the song and made you want to record it?
Oh man, that song is just so me - there has never been a song written that’s more me! On an expressive level it captures me, on an emotional level it makes me happy, and it has that nostalgia, which I’m a sucker for.
I was going to start recording an EP and I didn’t really think I needed any more material, but when the song was played for me it was such a fit that I knew we had to take the chance and record it. It turned out so great we not only put it on the EP, but it was the next thing we had out to the public.
Did the song change any from the demo to the recording?
I don’t think we ever thought about putting a horn section or du-wop back-up singers on it, I think it always sat with the band as more of an acoustic track – that sounded like a bunch of drunk idiots around a campfire having fun (laughing).
It sure sounds like there’s a lot of fun going on in the background there.
I knew we were recording the song that day and so I had five or six couples come to the studio. I had it catered with some food, and a bottle of wine or two might have been popped open…but who knows, nobody had a camera out, so I don’t have any proof (laughing). When we got together I told them I had an ulterior motive so they better drink their Chardonnay and sing along with me for a minute. It was a good time and a good memory for sure.
The Dustbowl Revival return, reinvigorated, on their self-titled album releasing June 16th. The eight-piece - Zach Lupetin (lead vocals/guitar), Liz Beebe (lead vocals), Josh Heffernan (percussion), James Klopfleisch (double bass) , Matt Rubin (trumpet) , Ulf Bjorlin (trombone) , Daniel Mark(mandolin) and Connor Vance (fiddle) - ignite a dynamic sound that blends Blues, Funk, and Soul with storytelling that is nuanced, detailed, heart-wrenching, and sassy. In advance of the release, founder Lupetin took some time to talk about the album, joining forces with producer Ted Hutt, and more.
This is your first album in about five years. Did you approach it any differently than your previous records?
We released a live record two years ago, but this is the first time we were in the studio in a long time. This album is a whole new project for us because whereas previously we were left to our own devices, this time we brought in a producer, Ted Hutt, who helped us shape the album and its sound.
Ted has worked with artists as varied as Old Crow Medicine Show, Lucero, and The Gaslight Anthem. Why did you want to work with him?
Almost two years ago, Connor and I were driving to a show and thinking about who we could have produce the next record. I love Old Crow Medicine Show’s Remedy [for which Hutt won a Grammy] and the way Ted got this fat, dirty sound out of a string band. So, I looked him up, found out that he lived in LA and emailed his manager. In a couple of days, we met and he agreed to do it.
With eight people drawing from so many genres, making a record can be a challenge, but Ted really helped us create a cohesive story within the album. He took the time, came to rehearsals, and went out of his way to help us gather our thoughts. Before, the band was more like my project with everyone contributing here and there and now, we're a collaborative band and cohesive unit. This time everyone is invested and Ted was the perfect fit for that.
Jake La Botz’s story plays like a feature film he may have actually acted in: A juvenile delinquent in the early ‘80s who discovered punk music. A high school dropout who worked odd jobs. A busker taken under the wing of bluesmen Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis, “Honeyboy” Edwards, and Homesick James. An avid reader who self-educated via public libraries while falling under the spell of music, tattoos (he has toured tattoo parlors annually for eight years), cheap motels, and drug addiction. Actor. Gospel musician. Buddhist. Meditation teacher. Bluesman. It’s all a part of La Botz’s life story, one which plays a large role in his latest album Sunnyside - a record that brims with well-crafted, detailed story songs, tight instrumentation, grit, and groove, all wrapped in La Botz’s singular brand of Americana. While on tour, La Botz kindly took the time to answer a few questions via email about the album, what’s ahead, and more.
Your life story is vast and varied. Was there one event or time in your life that had the most impact on you as an artist?
Getting off of heroin on Feb. 9th 1999. That day my life opened up in a vast an unexpected way. Maybe not the way I wanted it to, particularly, but I began to experience the "otherness" of the world- the brilliance of life- something beyond the very small and desolate world I had been living in.
When writing, do you draw from personal experiences, those of others, a combination, or something else?
I usually start with how I'm feeling- work that into a part of a melody or at least some chord changes. Then I start playing with words. It tends to be a mixture of my own outer experience: what I see, feel, smell, taste, touch, and hear, (including what I hear others say), and my inner experience: dreams, emotions, feelings, intuition, thoughts (including thoughts about what I've heard others say, things I caught a glimpse of, books I've read). Personal experience, or what is mine, is kind of a strange concept if you think about it. Where do I end and where does "other" begin? If my mind mixes with someone else's story and produces a dream, or a song for that matter, is that mine? Is some part of it mine? Maybe that get's into writing credit territory ;)
With her previous album, The Muscle Shoals Sessions, Amy Black began exploring her Southern roots which eventually led her to her true musical voice. For her new record, Memphis, out June 2nd on her own Reuben Records, Black traveled to Soulsville to a make an album steeped in bluesy grooves, brassy grit, and soulful emotion that culminated with ten songs that embody all the facets of Memphis from the danceable exuberance to the slow sexiness to Sunday morning gospel. In advance of the album’s release, Black graciously too the time to talk in depth about the album from its thoughtful covers, to the project’s players, and more.
Originally, you’re from Boston and now you reside in Nashville, but you traveled to Memphis to record the new album. How did that come about and why did you want to record there?
In 2014, prior to moving to Nashville, I recorded my second studio album there at Studio A. I enjoyed that experience, but my interest, taste, and what I wanted to do artistically and musically had really been morphing. So after I recorded that one, I was heading to Muscle Shoals to record this song I wrote for my grandfather called “Alabama.” We ended up nailing the song in Nashville and I didn’t want to rerecord it, so I decided to do an EP of classic Muscle Shoals' music instead. I dug into the Muscle Shoals catalog and found four songs, which turned into this little EP I released for free to my fans – and that started something for me. I began doing a Muscle Shoals review show and it changed my world. I found that I was able to sing a lot of music I never thought I could sing and in doing so, I honestly found my voice.
So when it came time to do this album, I knew what I wanted, which was music with more of a gut punch. I am drawn to a gritty sound with groove; I like to dance and move and feel the energy of the music, so Memphis seemed like the obvious choice for me. I love history and understanding where things come from and even though I’m a huge Mavis Staples fan and love Stax, I had never dug fully into Memphis music and so this project was incredibly eye opening. I found artists I should have known about like Ann Peebles, Ruby Johnson, and Bobby "Blue Bland" who is now my male counterpart to Mavis.
I contacted Scott Bomar, whom I met years earlier, spent a week with him in Memphis going to nightly shows, visiting studios, and meeting players - and it all came together from there. Making this album has been a great pleasure and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Nashville via New Jersey singer Kayla Calabrese recently released her new single, “Me Time,” from her 2016 album Glass Stiletto. The anthemic single talks about the importance of making time for oneself, something that the busy Calabrese knows a lot about – she continues to work as an emergency room nurse while pursuing her dreams in Music City. In advance of performing at CMA Fest, Calabrese took some time to talk about the single and how she makes “me time” for herself.
Your new single “Me Time” is a really anthemic song. Did you write it?
I did not write, Frank Myers and Steve Dorff, who are two incredible writers, penned the song. Jimmy Nichols, who produced Glass Stiletto brought me to a room where I was pitched songs and “Me Time” was one of them. When I heard it, I knew I had to record it. I think it’s the perfect summer anthem and I feel super blessed to not only record it, but release it as a single as well.
Since the age of twelve, California native Kylie Hughes has been writing and recording music. Her debut EP, 2014’s Calipopicana, landed Hughes features in Examiner, InStyle.com, Music Connection, and more. Winning fans and critics alike with her contagious, spontaneous energy Hughes has performed alongside the likes of The Beach Boys, John Mayer, Jewel , and Michael W. Smith as well as at SXSW 2017. Comfortable with many genres, Hughes has a sound uniquely her own, one that will be displayed on May 26th when she releases her self-titled, full-length album. In advance of that release, Hughes kindly took the time to talk about her roots, the album, and more!
The new album will be released May 26th, but your music is new to a lot of people. Can you please give a little background as when you started singing and when you knew you wanted to pursue music professionally?
Hey Daily Country! Well, I started writing about boys in school and general angsty teenage observations when I was 13. Then Michele Branch appeared and that was the first time I thought, maybe I can learn to play guitar too? I also was lucky to have really great parents who encouraged my music career. I got my first taste of a recording studio at 14 and still find it to be one of my favorite places. It’s funny that when I first began singing and performing, I frequently got the “you sound country” comment but I didn’t embrace that note until later on. I love story telling and songs that make you feel something a little deeper than surface level, not to say I don’t love the big summer anthem songs too. I just always loved performing and songwriting was something that I thought I could be good at long term, haha.
To me, the album blends a mix of sounds/genres. Are you influenced by a variety of music?
I do listen to a little bit of everything! That’s why it’s hard to put my finger on my sound because it’s a little different from song to song. This album has folk inspiration, pop music influences, a little rock and roll, country and Americana. I wrote/recorded the album in LA and Nashville, so there is definitely a Nashville sound and country influence that seeped in and makes this album unique for me. When I’m starting a song, whether I have a fleshed out idea or not… I always start with an acoustic guitar and then see what genre the song will fall into. My song “Heat” was an attempt to draw inspiration from KT Tunstall, I wanted it to be a head knocking summer anthem with similar bass lines and a catchy guitar riff.