Rambling On

Anthony R. Cardno's Fiction and Commentary

Archive for the ‘singers and musicians’ Category

Yeah, I did. Another cover video.

This time, it’s to fulfill a promise I made to the good folks at Crossed Genres (Kay Holt and Bart Leib) for their Kickstarter for the LONG HIDDEN anthology to be edited by Rose Fox and Daniel Jose Older.  They had reached their initial funding goal, but were really trying to reach a stretch goal that would enable them to include artwork for every story in the anthology. To motivate people to contribute, Bart promised to die his long dark locks all the colors of the rainbow, and I promised that if they hit the stretch goal, I’d record another cover video, of an artist of their choice. Of course, they chose Britney Spears.

So this weekend it was back to DisGraceLand studio, home of The Dalliance with producer Darrell Long, a.k.a. Floopjack, to record and film. This one was tougher than the Bieber. The song as written (and when you’re using karaoke tracks for the instruments and backing vocals, you have to sing it as written) doesn’t really sit comfortably in my range, but I muddled through and near the end even give my full falsetto a work-out.  There are some awkward notes, but as Darrell pointed out: a) it’s all for fun, so let the warts show through and b) it proves that it’s all me.

So, whether you donated to the Long Hidden Kickstarter or not, here it is: my cover of Britney’s “Ooops, I Did It Again,” minus the awkward skit interlude about the diamond necklace…





I became aware of Ian Crosstown and the group SRC when a mutual friend posted the band’s music video for “Ambition” on his Facebook page. Thanks to Rick Kozan for connecting us so I could do this interview. SRC is a Los Angeles-area band with more original music coming along soon.


ANTHONY: Hi Ian, thanks for taking a few minutes to chat with me. Let’s talk about “Ambition.”  What inspired the song?

IAN: “Ambition” was inspired by the concept of being down and out and then seeing a light! Ambition can represent different things to different people. It could be a person having a realization and finding their way out of a depression. It could be a person hating their job and realizing that there are other better jobs that exist. It could be a person in a very destructive relationship and having the courage and strength to get out of it. For some people it could be finding a religion. This song was written to inspire people to find their ambition whatever it may be.

ANTHONY: Did you write it on your own, or in collaboration with someone?

IAN: I came up with the concept of “finding your ambition,” then I collaborated musically with Vidal and Ace who are the other two members of this band- SRC. Ace is a phenomenal vocal talent and songwriter and Vidal possesses amazing guitar and bass skills. It is very exciting creating music with musicians of this caliber.

ANTHONY: How has response been since you released the video?

IAN: The responses we have been receiving from listeners have been overwhelmingly good. The general consensus has been that the message is inspiring, the music and vocals are strong, and the song sticks in listeners heads after the first time it is heard. We are a band from Los Angeles and people all over the world have contacted us since this video has recently been released.

ANTHONY: Tell us a little bit about filming the video: where was it done, how long did it take? What were you aiming for visually in connection with the lyrics?

IAN: The video was filmed in a number of different locations. The darker shots were filmed at the Salton Sea in California. If you are not familiar with the Salton Sea, it is a very depressed city with a very interesting history. It is worth searching it on the Internet. The ocean and beach shots were filmed in Seal Beach, CA. The rural shots were filmed in Chino Hills, CA. The city shots were filmed in downtown Los Angeles.

Recording the music and filming the video took approximately six months. At times it can be a very laborious process but the satisfaction and gratification when it is finished makes it a labor of love.

In connection with the lyrics, we wanted the video to accentuate the feelings of a person who is “torn up and raw.” We wanted to convey a turning point from being down and out then finding ambition. Additionally, we wanted to send the message of not giving up. The lyrics in the song are, “I was spinning around, I was falling down, but I picked myself up off the ground.”

ANTHONY: What’s your song-writing process like?

IAN: For “Ambition,” I came up with the concept for the lyrics and a skeleton idea of the music. Ace and Vidal have an uncanny ability to interpret the ideas and bring them to fruition musically. They are extremely talented musicians and we are all in sync when we are working together.

ANTHONY: Has your changed at all since you started writing music?

IAN: This project is relatively new, but all of the music we have been working on so far has generally followed the same process.

ANTHONY: What other projects are you working on now?

IAN: We are currently recording more songs and the production of a new video is just getting started. Additionally, we are booking dates to play live shows. We have all had extensive touring experience so SRC is looking forward to playing in all of our listeners’ cities.

ANTHONY: And my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?

IAN: Very difficult question! However, if I have to narrow it down, I am a huge Tom Wolfe fan! Tom Wolfe clearly does his research before writing his books. He makes astute cultural observations, he has a brilliant sense of humor, and the reader is drawn into his storylines.

I love all of his works but I am particularly fond of A Man in Full. If you enjoy satire, intriguing plots, the ability to clearly visualize characters and settings, you need to read A Man in Full. Tom Wolfe has helped us find our Ambition!



I meant to post this a few days ago. In case you might have missed it, I did a cover of Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and A Beat.” Why? Because I promised that if Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s Kickstarter for the RAYGUN CHRONICLES sf anthology he wanted to edit hit full funding in the final 24 hours of the project (which it was looking like wouldn’t happen), that I would record myself singing a Justin Bieber song. And “Beauty and A Beat” is the only one I can claim more than a passing familiarity with, since my pals Hollywood Ending covered it a while back (and put their own spin on it).

I was originally going to just download the karaoke track and play it on my laptop while I sang into the camera on the laptop, but then my friend Darrell Long got involved, which pulled our friend Barry Mangione in, and the result was four hours in DisGraceLand Studio in Brewster, recording my vocals and Darrell’s rap (we call him Dicki Minaj now) and Barry’s backing vocals, then mimicking the effects on the original, then shooting the video, and then spending another hour getting it uploaded to Youtube. The result is here:


And just for comparsion, here’s Hollywood Ending’s acoustic cover. How many dance moves did I steal? Count ’em all!


Over the weekend, I made another promise: that if the Kickstarter for the LONG HIDDEN anthology hit $30,000 (enough to include brand new artwork for each story in the anthology), I would record myself singing a Britney Spears song. (The LONG HIDDEN folks chose the artist this time.) So be watching for that sometime in the next month or so. (I’ll be on the road for two weeks for work starting Sunday, so recording will have to wait til I get back.)

Now I’ve also committed to two other videos.

1) If Barry Mangione’s APPLY THE GRAFT project manages to raise almost $10,000 in the next few days, Darrell and I will create a Bieber/Britney/Buble mash-up.  Here’s the link to donate to that project if you’d like. And here’s a link to my interview with Barry about the project.

2) My young actor friend Sam Lant is doing his annual fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House in Pasadena. He’s about $1,500 short of the goal he set for himself. So I promised that if he hits his goal, I’ll do a cover video of whatever song he chooses (So far, it’s a toss-up between Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” and Lady GaGa’s “Bad Romance.”) If you’d like to donate to that worthy cause, here’s the link to Sam’s Donation Page.

Interestingly, no one has asked me to cover One Direction. I wonder why.


Barry Mangione

As I said last post, I’ve promoted a lot of Kickstarters on here recently. It’s usually about books, and last post it was about sending theater students to Scotland. This one is a bit more personal than most.  While I’ve only known Barry Mangione for a couple of years, he has become a close friend and an inspiration. Even when I’m at my most self-deprecating (usually when attempting to write song lyrics), Barry believes in me, and I in turn believe in him.  His latest project is a bit of a departure for him, as well as being a summary of where he’s been the past few years and how he’s got to where he’s at now: mentally, physically, spiritually. Apply The GRAFT is going to be something new and unique, but it needs your help. I’ll post the Kickstarter and website links at the end, but first: read what Barry has to say about the project and how important it is to him.

ANTHONY: Let’s start off with a simple description: What is APPLY THE GRAFT?

BARRY: The GRAFT is interactive self-healing through music, visual art, and social media. It’s a story that starts with hitting rock bottom, continues through a healing process, and ends with finding happiness and love.

ANTHONY: Is APPLY THE GRAFT musical theater, or something different?

BARRY: It’s a live acoustic performance by musicians, so there are no actors in The GRAFT. The story is told through the music, the lyrics, and the videos that accompany the songs.

ANTHONY: How will the interactive component work?

BARRY: Throughout the show, the video screen displays questions for the audience to answer based on their own experiences. For example, “If you were given everything you needed to face one fear and conquer it, which fear would you face?” A Twitter account also appears on the screen (@applythegraft), and the audience is asked to Tweet their responses at that moment to that account. Someone monitoring the Twitter feed selects some of the audience’s responses, and then displays them on the screen for the entire audience to see and share.

ANTHONY: Does this mean that Twitter followers not in the theater can also take part in the experience?

BARRY: Anyone who happens to follow @applythegraft will see the Tweets that people are sending during the show, but since they’re not in the theater, they won’t see the questions prompting those Tweets. If someone is familiar with the show, the music, and the progression of the questions, it would be very interesting to follow along even if you’re not in the theater. I think it would be very interesting for someone who’s already seen the show to follow the performances on Twitter when they know the show is live.

ANTHONY: Something the Kickstarter video doesn’t really address: What happens on stage in between the nine musical numbers?

BARRY: Questions appear both during the songs and in between the songs. Some songs have an instrumental bridge that provides space for the questions to be displayed. Other songs don’t have that, so questions will be shown after or before those songs. For breaks in-between songs, the video being shown will be the focus of the show until the music starts up again.

ANTHONY: Tell us about the song-writing process for GRAFT.

BARRY: It was a therapeutic process for me. It started with the second song in the show, “I Wish I Had My Skin.” I had two other songs already written for other projects, but saw a link between them. When I decided to go with the GRAFT as a theme, I wrote songs around each of the themes and healing steps that make up The GRAFT: Gratitude, Ruthless honesty, Acceptance, Forgiveness, and Thoughtfulness. It was a different process for me, because I normally write individual songs. Writing several songs that would each tell their own story while also conveying a greater message was challenging!

ANTHONY: The stage production will include art by Scott Witt. How has that collaboration worked?

BARRY: Scott has been phenomenal! He offered his services when I mentioned The GRAFT during a live streaming show. I had seen his work and really liked it. I gave him some rough demos of the songs, and some lyric sheets and asked him to draw whatever came to him. I had no idea he would connect with the material so well. I’m really happy to have Scott on board, and looking forward to more artwork for the full-length video for the show.

Darrell Long & Barry Mangione performing a song from The GRAFT.

ANTHONY: APPLY THE GRAFT is a deeply personal work for you. What else would you like people to know about the project that you haven’t told us yet?

BARRY: I think there may be a perception that The GRAFT is only for people who’ve hit rock bottom or are going through deep suffering. I’d like people to know that the tools in The GRAFT are applicable for anyone at any stage of their life’s journey, and the show itself is not just about healing, it’s also about entertaining the audience. I don’t promise to give anyone the answers to their life’s problems with The GRAFT. My hope is that when people leave the theater, they’ll have questions to take with them that will lead them to their own answers, because we all have to find the truth for ourselves.

ANTHONY: The Kickstarter for APPLY THE GRAFT is moving slowly. What perks can backers choose from?

BARRY: What can we do to spread the word? The backer rewards start as low as $5.00 for a lyric book. Besides tickets to the show, you can get two one-on-one life coaching sessions and private performances of the show. One of the more interesting perks gives you the chance to be a part of every show, not just the one you attend, by submitting photos or video to be included in the show’s featured video. If you have photos or a short video that embodies one or more of the themes in The GRAFT, you can submit it to us and we can include it as part of the show. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who’s already contributed, and thank anyone in advance who will be pledging their support in the future. As far as spreading the word, the term “viral” is just a new word for an old phrase: “word of mouth.” The best thing people can do other than pledging support through Kickstarter is to tell friends about it through social media and create a “buzz” around the show. It’s a show and an experience that has the potential to change people’s lives, so the more people who know about it, the greater the chance someone will see it and it’ll make a difference in their life.


So there you have it. You heard the man: even if you can’t contribute monetarily to the Kickstarter, you may know people who can. Spread the word, about this interview if nothing else. Let’s get Barry to a theater with Apply The GRAFT so he can build even more word-of-mouth.

You can follow Barry on Twitter @BarryMangione.  You can follow the project itself on Twitter @applythegraft. You can find Barry on Facebook, and The GRAFT on Facebook as well. And there’s the website, of course.

But most importantly: the Kickstarter. <—– There’s the link. Click on it. Watch Barry’s video explaining the project in more detail. Read what he has to say. Listen to the demos. And help that dollar amount go up. He’s got 18 days left and a long way to go, but we can make this happen.



I try to make a strong effort on this site to support bands from the NY/NJ/CT/PA area who are working hard to get their music out there. Today’s interview is with Joe Parella, the lead singer of SOMETHING ABOUT JANUARY. SAJ first came to my attention on Twitter around the time I started posting interviews, and it’s taken me a while to coordinate this chat, but it’s finally done.  Just in time, too, as the guys are working on a new album. SAJ consists of Joe Parella on vocals and guitar, Mike Linardi on drumsvocals, Jon Rodney on bass/vocals and Joe Cowell on guitar.

ANTHONY: How did Something About January form?

JOE: SAJ formed basically by constantly running into each other through the school system and music program and eventually ending up collaborating one by one until it was us four.

ANTHONY: What inspired the group’s name?

JOE: The name came from a show we played in the month of January. We played a killer set and decided we wanted to start taking this seriously as a group. One of us said, “Man, I guess there’s just something about January.”

ANTHONY: You’ve posted a lot of your music on Youtube. What’s the response been like?  Any plans on touring outside of the New Jersey area?

JOE:  Youtube is the best way to get your tunes out there because it is free and fast. The response has been pretty good but not as great as we want it to be. We have plans for touring much further down the road due to financial reasons and also we don’t want to rush into anything unprepared. We are taking our time to get there.

ANTHONY: You’re working on a new album now, right?  How’s that process going, and when will the music be available?

JOE: The new record is going to be totally different. It is a nice raw sound while the songs are still catchy and real. We decided to get away from the things that we were comfortable doing and our producer that worked with us really helped us get the sound we wanted. It was the best process we have ever been through. It is five songs and will be out sometime in the near future.

ANTHONY: What did you learn in putting your first EP together that you’re applying to the new album?

JOE: We learned what NOT to do haha. We really don’t love that cd in any way other than the fact that it taught us EVERYTHING. We listen to it and realize how fake and unnatural it sounds compared to our live show and that is very important. Our live show is full of energy but when you go into a studio and try to capture that, it can be really tricky. The new album will have barely any edits and no pitch correction at all. We hope this captures a more energetic feeling.

ANTHONY: What’s the band’s songwriting process like?  Who contributes what?

JOE: We all write the overall process but it normally starts with one of us having an idea. Being that we are all away at different schools, the internet has been our best friend recently with throwing ideas back and forth. Sometimes we all just click and create a song in no time and look up and don’t know how it happened but that is extremely rare in the process.

ANTHONY: Has your songwriting process changed at all in the time you’ve all worked together?

JOE: Songwriting is like anything else. The more you do it, the better you get at it and the more you learn what not to do. The only way to get better is to make a fool of yourself  and take a chance. Every time you make a mistake, you gain something out of it. Overtime, a lot has changed and it never stops. Every time we write a good song, we prove to ourselves that we can write a good song and that is an important reward to receive.

ANTHONY: You’ve posted a number of covers on Youtube as well. How do you approach deciding what song to cover, and how do you “make it your own” rather than sounding just like the original?

JOE: Whenever we record a cover, we listen to it and see if we can make it our own. In many ways, just the fact that we are the ones making it is what gives it a bit of a different spin but that is not enough obviously. We have to make sure that we have fun doing it and feel like it is our own song rather than a cover. If you play a cover and it feels like you are just singing someone else’s words, you have done something wrong. You have to be able to get into it and have a passion for it as if it were your own song or else it will come across as a poor performance.

ANTHONY: Of the covers you’ve done, what’s been your favorite so far?

JOE: Our favorite is “Hey Ya” by Outkast for sure. It is totally our own and so fun to play live.

ANTHONY: What’s in the near future for Something About January?

JOE: The future for us is basically to just keep growing and getting better. A lot of bands make the mistake of thinking they are already grown before they actually are and end up biting off more than they can chew. We really just want to take our time and do things the right way rather than rush and do a halfway job. Writing is the most important thing as well as musicianship. Without that, a band has nothing so we really like focusing on getting better and everything else will come with time.

ANTHONY: And my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?

JOE: My favorite book has to be Fight Club. It is so philosophical and interesting with an amazing story behind it. I recommend it to everyone because it literally changed my life and perspective on life itself.

You can find SOMETHING ABOUT JANUARY across the internet: on Facebook, on Myspace, on Purevolume, on Youtube, on Bandcamp and of course on Twitter as @SAJ_NJ

Since Joe mentioned it, here’s that OUTKAST cover:



Christina Lenway

Most of the time, I arrange my interviews by contacting an author or band through Twitter. Sometimes, through Twitter and the interview process, I make a new friend. Occasionally, I get to use this forum to promote life-long friends and advertise the creative work they are doing. This week’s interview is one of those.

After I graduated from high school and had a particularly bad first semester of college at SUNY New Paltz, I took five years off from education. I held down a full-time desk job, I worked with an acting coach in NYC (Peter Sklar, by name), and I started directing plays at Mahopac High School. During those years, I became friends with Chrissy Sica. Then we ended up at Elmira College together. Chrissy was in the plays I directed, and then we were in plays and the education program at Elmira together. I always knew she had a wonderful singing voice. As things go, we lost track of each other for a few years. We’re back in touch, and Chrissy, now Christina Lenway, has just released a cd of religious/spiritual music that highlights her voice.  So we chatted via email about how the cd came to be.

ANTHONY: You recently recorded a cd of Christian music. What can listeners expect? How did you go about choosing the songs for the cd? Do any have particularly strong personal connections for you?

CHRISTINA:  I recorded classic church hymns and a few Christian contemporary pieces.  I picked hymns and songs that spoke to me, whether they were personally fulfilling or they touched someone important to me.  Each one reminds me of someone, or of a particular time in my life, so yes, each one does have a personal connection for me, particularly the last one, which is quite secular.  It is The Story from Brandi Carlisle.  I considered it my anthem for years, as I think many people who know the song do.

ANTHONY: The first thing that struck me when I listened to the cd is how simple and straightforward the recording is: solo voice and piano. Did you make a conscious choice to keep things scaled down versus bringing other musicians in or using software to create backing vocals?

CHRISTINA: Wow…you’ve asked a question that opens up a much larger dialog about conscious choice.  I really had no inkling to record anything, nor would I ever have guessed that IF I recorded it would be religious in nature.  I had been singing at my local parish for a few years, received some accolades and invitations to sing at weddings and even funerals, but honestly didn’t think I had the chops.  One summer day, I sat in the church when my friend, Doug, walked up to me and handed me a piece of paper with the phone number of a local recording studio on it.  He had been after me to do something for years with my “gift” as he called it, and in some ways, I took that as a sign.  I told my friend that I wouldn’t know where to start and he held up the book I had used for all of those weddings and funerals and said, “Start here.”  The next day I called up the recording studio, thinking that this would be nothing more than a great distraction and within a month, it was done.  But I remember the day after we recorded it; the engineer called to say that he had a demo done, it was unedited, but if I wanted to listen to it, he had a copy.  I rushed over, popped it into the cd player in my car and cried, tears that came from a place I didn’t even recognize.  The voice I heard was beautiful; how could it be mine?  So, I had little intention to do anything with it initially, and barely went back to edit it, concerned that I would not be able to ever sound as good.  In fact, Gary Wehrkamp, the owner of New Horizons Recording Studio in Stroudsburg, PA, at one point offered backing vocals and other instruments, but then we we decided to keep it pure.  I wanted it to be a remembrance of where I was at that point.  Piano and vocals, that’s all I needed.

ANTHONY: The second thing that struck me is that your voice is as clear and emotional as it was in high school and college. You’ve been busy being a teacher, wife and mother … what have you done to maintain your voice over the years, and what specifically did you do to prepare for recording?

CHRISTINA: Another question that takes on a life of its own.  I did NOT maintain my vocals at all.  In fact, all of this came to a head this past summer.  I had my vocal cords scoped to see if there were polyps or lesions, because I was having some difficulty and even minor pain.  I saw a vocal therapist for a few weeks, and ended up at a chiropractor, who determined my vocal cords were impeded by subluxated vertabrae.  I have learned a lot about how and where I carry stress, namely in my neck and shoulders and how that was causing the strain and tension in my vocal cords.  Now I use meditation and relaxation strategies, take voice lessons to get back in shape, and am sure to warm up before I sing anything, and keep the pipes hydrated.

ANTHONY: How long did it take to record the cd, and who did you work with to produce it?

CHRISTINA: I was fortunate to have a wonderful friend, Lindsey, who agreed to accompany me on the piano.  She is the music director at the church that I sing at, so the hymns were familiar and comfortable for both of us.  Most were done on the first take, and as I said before, I was very worried that I wouldn’t be able to re-create the sound, so we didn’t go back and re-record them again and again and again.  We recorded it all in less than 5 hours and edited it for a little bit.  I recorded at New Horizons Music Studio in Stroudsburg, PA under the direction of owner Gary Wehrkamp; he and his wife Ginger run a professional studio. Within a month, the recording process was complete, and DiscMakers produced copies. I did not have the vision for me that others had; I intended to send it to close friends and family only.  Instead I made a few extra copies and give it freely to whomever would like one.  When asked how much they cost, I simply ask the recipient to donate to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and for no other reason than this:  they do amazing things and I have 3 healthy children.

ANTHONY: Do you perform anywhere locally?

CHRISTINA: I don’t have any regular gigs, if that’s what you mean.  I monopolized the 8:00AM mass for awhile, but that hardly constitutes a performance.  I have been contracted to sing at Stroudsmoor Country Inn in April, and am looking into some other opportunities, including open mic nights at some local restaurants, and maybe even a tour of some friends’ churches in the Mid-West this summer.  The possibilities are endless!

ANTHONY: Indeed they are! Now that you’ve recorded one cd, any plans to do another?

CHRISTINA: Heck yeah!  When I stood up to that microphone, headphones on my ears, it was like a whole new world opened up for me, one I always knew I belonged in.  I have spent the last month or so writing songs…lyrics, music, the whole thing.  I am collaborating with some friends to add strings and percussion to it, and perhaps record this summer or fall.  I don’t want to rush it, as I did the last cd, and especially since this one is all my own, I want to get each cadence, each bridge, each piece just the way I want it.  It may take longer than I’d like, but I am quickly learning, all good things usually do.

ANTHONY: I’ll be looking forward to that. When it’s ready, we’ll have to chat again! Now for my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?

CHRISTINA: To steal a quote from Jorge Louis Borges, “I have always imagined that paradise will be some sort of library.”  With this in mind, choosing one that stands out is difficult, but perhaps one that has stood the test of time will do.  I have read and re-read The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran for about 20 years now, and the wisdom contained within it is timeless, organic, and beautiful.  A rare treasure.  Is it fair to mention a close second?  The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo or anything by Jodi Piccoult, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson…geez, I could go on and on.

Anyone interested in a copy of Christina’s cd can email her at at lenway.christina@gmail.com.  You can also find her on Facebook.


Me with my favorite Christmas book

Here’s this year’s holiday poem. Some years what I write is serious, some years not so. This year, I thought I’d write about how hard it is to write a Christmas Song, considering my general lack of music theory knowledge and lack of rhythm (as anyone who has seen me attempt to dance at a Hollywood Ending, Burnham or The Dalliance show recently can attest to). Many of you reading this will also be getting a hard copy in the mail, as usual. They’re just gonna be a little late…


Trying to write a Christmas song, why is this so tough?

I have no musical talent and my rhyming’s kinda rough.

But it shouldn’t be so hard to string these words together,

Say something about Santa and stars or maybe sing about the weather.

(Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow)


I could work serious this year, sing about some modern woe

Songs by Bing and Bowie and the Alarm cover the sadness pretty well though.

I could sing about missing Christmas with the someone that I love

But I’m pretty sure another sad song would make you all give me a shove.

(I’ll Be Home for Christmas…)


Maybe I should sing of sleighs? Of reindeer or snowmen or drummer boys?

Maybe I should scrap this thing and go buy my nieces and nephews their toys.

I could sing of New Year’s Eve instead, of hopes for where 2013 will go,

Or of how it’s just another night. Oh wait, that’s been done by Barry Manilow.

(It’s just another New Year’s Eve…)


Where’s the romance of holidays, the falling in love on a sleigh?

Maybe that’s what I should sing about: being merry and gay!

That’s it! I’ll sit up all night long, wait for a cute Santa to come by

Or maybe an Elf (of Legolas’s kind), I’m a geeky kinda guy!

(I’mma be under the Mistletoe with you…)



May you have a rock-and-roll Christmas, or one that’s White or Green or Blue.

May you have Nights Holy and Silent, be it Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Solstice or Yule.


To all of you: old friends and new, near and far, IRL or on the net: I am grateful for you friendship, for your support, and for your love. I wish everyone the happiest, healthiest, safest holiday season and a successful 2013. Let’s see where it takes us.

And just for the heck of it: here are my friends Almost Hero performing a Christmas medley:



Through This Together

Every year, my friends in The Dalliance (Gerg Gilroy, Barry Mangione and Darrell Long) use their vaunted musical prowess to create a song and then donate all proceeds to a worthy charity. Last year, the beneficiary was the Association For Suicide Prevention.

Every Tuesday night at 9pm EST, Barry hosts a web-show called BARRY ON THE SPOT. The concept is that Barry and the participating audience have a half-hour to co-write a song about that week’s topic, and then Barry records the song and posts it to bandcamp. It’s a fun half-hour. Sometimes the songs are serious, sometimes they’re irreverent, sometimes they’re downright inappropriate for younger audiences. But it’s always a fun gathering.

This year, Barry and The Dalliance decided to use the BOTS format to write their annual charity song. Because The Dalliance members and a good portion of the participating audience live in the NY-NJ-CT area, it was decided that all proceeds from the sale of the song will go directly to help rebuilding efforts in Breezy Point, NY, one of the areas hit the hardest by Sandy.

The song, to which I contributed the chorus lyrics, is THROUGH THIS TOGETHER. You can buy it on bandcamp and download it immediately. And you can donate whatever you like — $1, $10, $20 …. it’s all up to you.

I’m hoping the people who have supported this web-page over the past year of interviews will pitch in. Even $1 from every person I’ve interviewed and every person whose read an interview here, will go a long way towards helping those still struggling with the aftermath of Sandy.

Thank you in advance for anything you feel you can contribute!


I know I said I was taking December off from interviewing and was just going to run guest-blogs while I catch up on my own writing. But a) I’m fresh out of guest blogs at the moment and b) interviewing the lovely and talented Eden Espinosa was part of my reward package for backing her Kickstarter. So here we are.

Eden Espinosa

Eden Espinosa has made quite a name for herself on Broadway, playing Elphaba in WICKED (in NY and on the national tour), playing Maureen in the final cast of the Broadway run of RENT, and originated the role of Brooklyn in BROOKLYN. She was gracious enough to answer a few questions about her upcoming album.

ANTHONY: Hello, Eden! Thanks for taking a few minutes to chat with me. Your first solo album releases this week. What can listeners expect?


EDEN: Of course!  It’s my pleasure. What Listeners can expect from this album are modern Broadway songs arranged to be more accessible to non-Broadway listeners.  Also, for those who already love the amazing songs of Broadway, this will be a fresh interpretation of some modern Broadway classics. I wanted to present songs from these great writers in a way that might be able to bring a wider listening audience to their amazing music.

ANTHONY: For those folks reading this who were not backers of the Kickstarter project for the album, what prompted you to do the album now and in this way?

EDEN: I’ve wanted to do an album for a long time but held off because I really didn’t know what direction I wanted to go in, or if I really had anything to say. I starting having conversations about 3 years ago with my producer about doing an album and he said that by sharing my personal interpretation of songs that I love was enough and that I didn’t’ need to say anything profound, just heartfelt and honest.  He started showing me some arrangement ideas and  I fell in love with them and here we are! I wanted my theater fans to hear these songs in a new light, but also wanted to feel like I was expressing myself in a new way. So people could hear how I sing when I’m not playing a character.

ANTHONY: How long did production of the album take, and whom did you work with?

EDEN: Well my producer/arranger has been working on these arrangements for a while.  This past June I played some concerts at The Adelaide Cabaret Festival in Australia and we did these arrangements to try them out. But we started production on the album in late August, early September. I worked with Joseph Abate. (Who just happens to be my husband) he is the genius behind the arrangement and production!!!

Eden as Maureen in RENT

ANTHONY: You’ve played iconic roles on what some folks call “the new Broadway,” specifically Elphaba in “Wicked” and Maureen in “Rent.” (I was lucky enough to see you in “Rent” towards the end of the Broadway run.) How have those roles shaped your approach to this project?

EDEN: These roles have contributed a lot to this album. I think a lot of Broadway shows today have a more contemporary sound. Especially shows like “In the Heights” or “Spring Awakening” I think that Rent was one of the catalysts for this “modern” Broadway sound. So this album is made up of all modern Broadway songs. With the exception of 2, one from an older show (Look Around, from Will Rogers Follies), and one from a musical that my friend Ty Taylor wrote (Stone Cold Sober, from The Existents) that will hopefully grace a Broadway stage one day.

ANTHONY: Will you be touring in support of the album release?

EDEN: I really hope that there is opportunity for touring. I love this material and I’m really proud of this album. So I hope people respond well to it and want me to come do shows in their town.

ANTHONY: Outside of the album, what other projects do you have coming up?

EDEN: RELAXING!!!! [laughs] This project has consumed so much of our lives for the past few months and since we’ve done everything ourselves it’s been a huge labor of love. So I’m sure we will have some down time. Then back to the grind of auditions, classes, and getting better everyday!!!

ANTHONY: And my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince him or her that they should?

EDEN: My favorite book is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. If you want some beautiful life lessons, nuggets of wisdom, and some inspiration all rolled into a beautifully written fable. This book is for you!!!!!!


You can find more about Eden’s album and other appearances, including pictures of her time in RENT and WICKED, on her website. You can also follow her on Twitter @edenespinosa and find her Fan Page on Facebook.

And here’s Eden and Tracie Thoms as Maureen and JoAnne in RENT:


I’m spending December catching up on my own writing, attempting to meet end-of-year deadlines for open calls for various anthologies. Several of the folks I’ve been meaning to interview have offered up guest posts instead. This week, I’m happy to welcome the band THE ROLE CALL to talk about the Kickstarter for their new EP.


The Role Call

Hey guys!

We are The Role Call, a newly-formed Minneapolis-based Pop/Rock band. Back in February of 2012, local musicians Max Young, Zach Hesemann, and Joey Russ found singer Steven Zerwas and bassist Kristoff Druva through a mutual friend.  After writing and recording with producers Pat Brown (Sing It Loud) and Jordan Schmidt (All Time Low, Sing It Loud), we released our Debut Self-Titled EP on May 28th, 2012.  Writing this EP was a great time because all of us have such a wide variety of influences such as All Time Low, Coldplay, The Summer Set, and many others. Over the summer we were fortunate enough to tour and promote our album across the Midwest.  We like to pride ourselves on the high-energy live show that we put on.

We will be playing a holiday show in Minneapolis on December 27th with our friends in the band Quietdrive.  This show is at The Varsity Theater and starts at 5PM!

Recently we have been doing a lot of writing and are happy to announce that we will be recording a brand new EP in February down in Nashville, TN.  We have started a Kickstarter page for fans/friends/family to donate to in order to help raise money for the EP and to allow us to tour next summer.  Those who donate can get certain rewards such as signed CDs, Acoustic Skype Shows, and can even hang out with us in the studio! If you want to donate, you can do so by going to this link:  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/therolecallmn/the-role-call-new-cd

For those of you who have never heard of us before, check out our single from our first EP, titled “Won’t Get Down (feat. Pat Brown)”!



You can also find The Role Call on Facebook, and you can follow them on Twitter: as a group: @TheRoleCallMN and on their individual accounts: @SteveTRC @JoeyTRC @MaxTRC @KristoffTRC and @ZachTRC