Five for Fighting
Never has the phrase “he shoots, he scores” been more applicable than when mentioning rabid hockey fan and chart-topping singer/songwriter John Ondrasik. The Los Angeles native, who goes by Five for Fighting (a five-minute penalty for on-the-ice fist-a-cuffs), burst on the scene some 15 years ago with his Grammy Award-nominated hit “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” and has been a mainstay on mainstream radio ever since. While he doesn’t wear tights and fight crime as his breakthrough track “Superman” suggests, his songs could bring any maniacal villain to their knees (and tears) with his poignantly sharp songs that cut deeper than a Ginsu knife.
Ondrasik signed his first deal in 1997 with "Message For Albert,” but it was his follow-up “American Town” that really took flight for Fighting. The aforementioned “Superman (It’s Not Easy)” went Platinum (as did the album), was #1 on Adult Top 40, #2 on Hot AC, and in the Top 40 Top 10. The song actually hit the airwaves, and reached #1 the same week his daughter Olivia was born. Not too shabby as Adam Sandler once said. Adding more fuel to the emotional fire, the mega-hit served as sort of an unofficial anthem following the 9.11 attacks on American soil. Naturally, he performed it at The Concert For New York City.
In his career, Ondrasik has sold over 2.5 million albums including 2004's “Battle for Everything,” which spawned the 2X platinum “100 Years,” which continues to melt hearts, provide all ages with an instant case of nostalgia. Other hits have included “The Riddle,” "World," "Chances" and "What If." His music has been featured in 350 films, TV shows and advertisements ranging from the The Blind Side to Hawaii Five-O. He has also written tunes for everyone from Josh Groban to The Backstreet Boys.
RODRIGO Y GABRIELA
Internationally acclaimed Mexican acoustic rock guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela are back on the road again in 2015, bringing their unique instrumental blend of metal, jazz and world music to audiences all over the US.
Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero have been playing together for more than fifteen years. First as young thrash metal fans in their native Mexico City, then as innocents abroad and street musicians in Dublin, Ireland at the turn of the millennium, and finally as the globe-straddling, film-scoring, record-breaking artists they are today.
Known for exhilarating live shows, Rodrigo y Gabriela have won the hearts of music lovers from the haciendas of Cuba to the Hollywood Bowl and festival fields of Europe, as they continue to weave their unique six-string magic. The extraordinary interplay between Sanchez's fiery lead lines and Quintero's phenomenal rhythmic battery is truly universal.
The duo has reloaded their arsenal following the April 2014 worldwide release of “9 Dead Alive”, their first studio album in five years. The new songs are intimate, the playing intuitive, and the results are spectacular, bursting with melodic energy and rhythmic invention.
Recorded at their Pacific Coast hideaway in late summer, the album captures the warmth and spontaneity of two great musicians riffing and jamming together, perfectly distilled into 9 new songs teeming with desire, elegance and gusto. With career sales in excess of 1.5 million albums, blockbuster movie scores, and sold out tours worldwide, Rodrigo y Gabriela have certainly made their mark. Their appeal is boundless, their scope limitless, and the music timeless; clearly, we have only begun to see what this duo is capable of.
The rising star continues to rise.
For those who have followed Brendan James from his 2008 major label debut to his current ranking among today's top troubadours, the journey has been a pretty remarkable one.
Born in New Hampshire, schooled in Chapel Hill, signed by Capitol Records by the age of 25, and road-tested with a thousand shows to date, James has certainly lived the life of a troubadour. His songs have landed spots on over 15 major television shows and feature films and he's achieved the #1 Singer Songwriter spot on iTunes, multiple times. He has formed relationships with music legends Carly Simon and Cat Stevens, enjoyed on-stage experiences with the likes of John Legend, John Mayer, and Paula Cole, and recently been asked to give a TedTalk on gun violence, love songs, and simpler societies.
Now, after two years of touring in support of his 2012 release, Simplify, James embarks on an altogether new sound. His new EP, The Howl, set for release in the summer of 2015, is bigger, badder, and dancier than anything he's attempted to date. In his words, The Howl is "...a reflection of my years on the road, my dreams broken and reformed, and my growing addiction to the upbeat and the feel good." He chose the name after reading a review of his last album, in which he was described as an artist holding back a howl. So howling he will do: bigger songs, bigger shows, and bigger goals.
Keep an eye out for a full summer touring schedule, and for multiple musical releases in the next 16 months. Don't miss a beat, folks. You'll thank me later.
Offstage, up-and-coming singer, songwriter, and guitarist Zach Heckendorf appears to be an ordinary young man: hip-hop-loving, T-shirt and jeans-wearing, shaggy-haired with a shy smile and modest demeanor. But when Heckendorf grabs a guitar and jumps on a stage, the 20-year-old Denver native is transformed. During shows in New York and Los Angeles in December, Heckendorf mesmerized crowds with original songs like “All The Right Places,” the first single from his debut album The Cool Down, and silenced the hold-outs chattering in the back with an astonishing cover of Dr. Dre’s “Forgot About Dre,” spitting every line with impressive intensity and speed.
The duality in Heckendorf’s personality is reflected on The Cool Down, which Heckendorf released independently in November 2011. On songs like “One of Them,” “17 Circles,” “Traffic,” “Tie Dye March,” as well as the title track, Heckendorf wraps his considered themes — the pursuit of freedom, the interconnectedness of human beings and nature, and a dismay for the environmental destruction that previous generations have wrought — in a rich, acoustic-driven sound, one that takes its cues more from hip-hop than from the traditional troubadours Heckendorf has already been compared to. Nothing is delivered with overt anger, but rather with a deliberate ambiguity that leaves the words open to interpretation. Heckendorf isn’t being cagey, he just appreciates the power of mystery.
Jon McLaughlin has been playing piano and making music since childhood. He was born and raised in Indiana, and eventually ended up at Anderson University, also in Indiana. With the support of the university’s record label, Oranghaus, a few friends and an old Chevy van, McLaughlin wrote and recorded music, and toured extensively throughout his college years before he was signed to Island Records in 2006.
The following eight years had one common denominator for Jon McLaughlin: writing and producing songs, releasing albums, driving around the country playing music with his band and collaborating with fellow artists like Sara Bareilles, Demi Lovato, Xenia and Need to Breathe, among others. He has shared the stage with artists such as Kelly Clarkson, Adele, One Republic, Bon Jovi, Colbie Caillat, Parachute, and Duffy. And, in 2014, a dream came true when Jon supported the legendary piano man himself, Billy Joel, in selected dates across the country. This coming fall, Jon will be touring with fellow Nashville singer songwriter, Ben Rector.
Jon has also made his mark in music for film and television. In 2008, McLaughlin had a cameo appearance in the Disney movie, Enchanted, and performed the Oscar nominated song “So Close,” both on the film’s soundtrack and at the 80th Academy Awards. Jon’s songs have been featured in major films such as Georgia Rule and Bridge to Terabithia. Jon’s music has been featured on TV shows such as Scrubs, So You think You Can Dance, Ghost Whisperer, The Event as well as major network promotions. Jon has appeared on talk shows such as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, CBS Saturday Morning, The Today Show, and The Bonnie Hunt Show, among others.
The Los Angeles Times described the voice of their native son as having a "lived-in quality that will echo in our minds and hearts for years to come." Keaton Simons has enjoyed international recognition for his role in the singer/songwriter/pop world while on major labels Maverick and CBS Records. The blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter released his debut full-length album, Can You Hear Me, in 2008 and his follow up, Beautiful Pain, in 2013.
He's performed his original music on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Last Call with Carson Daly, and The Ellen DeGenereres Show. Keaton's music is also regularly placed in feature films and TV shows including Sons of Anarchy, Private Practice, and NCIS. Most recently, his latest single, "When I Go," was featured in both the 2015 Summer Finale and 2016 Winter Mid Season Premiere of SUITS.
Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano Ramirez make up JOHNNYSWIM. The pair met in Nashville in 2005, instituting a songwriting partnership not long afterward. They clicked together musically and personally, beginning a romantic relationship along with their creative connection.
The couple married in 2009 and relocated to Los Angeles. In addition to their 2014 debut full- length, they’ve released three EPs, as well as a Christmas EP and a live album. They’ve performed on various television shows including VH1's “You Oughta Know Concert,” “The Tonight Show starring Jay Leno,” “Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” “Today Show,” “Live with Kelly & Michael,” and provided the theme song on HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.” The duo has also toured extensively including major U.S. festival appearances.
Georgica Pond was produced by JOHNNYSWIM’s Abner Ramirez and recorded at the couple’s home studio in Los Angeles, with bass and drum parts added at the Castle in Nashville.
Of their process, Ramirez explains, “Any fear we had on album one has completely evaporated. We know the people that come to JOHNNYSWIM shows. We know it matters to them what we have to say. We realize that, much like ourselves, our fans appreciate honesty. We wanted that to be the cornerstone of this album.” Amanda Sudano Ramirez further highlights the themes on the album: “love, legacy, the past and the future all put into this bittersweet mixture that makes you fully appreciate the present.”
On his new record, Hart touches on loss, but also the beauty of rebirth, newfound love, family and starting a clean slate. Beauty in Disrepair marks a remarkably polished and honest follow-up to his 2007 solo debut Cigarettes & Gasoline, a critically-acclaimed album that spawned two Top 20 singles.
You may very well know Hart from that record. Most likely, you recognize him as the frontman and songwriter for Tonic, the alt-rock band that hit it big with their debut record Lemon Parade, which featured the smash hits “Open Up Your Eyes” and “If You Could Only See.”
A string of massively successful albums followed, including the Grammy-nominated Head on Straight and 2010’s self-titled release.
And Hart is more than happy to talk about his band. But Beauty is a different beast altogether. “This album, and my solo work, is just born out of stuff I don’t want anyone else to say,” says the singer, laughing.
For Beauty in Disrepair, Hart found a willing collaborator in David Hodges, who had found his own success working with the incredibly diverse likes of Kelly Clarkson, Christina Perri and Carrie Underwood. Hart also landed additional support from some trusted friends in LA, as well as his adopted hometown of Nashville (where he, naturally, often writes and records in his 200-year-old farmhouse).
For Jillette Johnson the journey has been as integral to her musical experience as the destination. Jillette, who began taking music lessons and penning songs as a child, has been performing live since she was 12, captivating audiences with her sultry, thoughtful piano-driven tunes. The musician, now 24, has spent the last decade cultivating her sound and defining her unique perspective. When she moved to New York City from her small town of Pound Ridge, NY at 18, Jillette was already familiar with the city and its clubs, from Sidewalk Cafe to The Bitter End to Rockwood Music Hall.
In early 2012, Jillette inked a deal with Wind-up Records, who were drawn in by her track “Cameron,” an inspirational number that explores the struggle of a transgendered person whom Jillette knows. The song appeared on the singer’s five-track EP, Whiskey & Frosting, which came out in August 2012, a prelude to her June 25, 2013 Wind-up Records’ debut album release, Water In A Whale. Culled from six months worth of recording sessions at Wind-up’s New York studio, the album traces Jillette’s experiences and ideas about living in the city and being young in today’s society. She finished the album fall 2012, just before going out on tour, and as it turned out those weeks on the road shifted the musician’s sensibilities.
There is nothing like the sound of siblings singing together. Whether it’s the Beach Boys, the Everly Brothers or First Aid Kit, absorbing the same breathing rhythms and speech patterns adds an element to vocal harmonies that can be pure magic. With the August 26 release of ‘I’m Alone, No You’re Not’, the mesmerizing, hypnotic sound of the trio known as Joseph – sisters Allison, Meegan, and Natalie Closner – joins this elite company.
‘I’m Alone, No You’re Not’ was produced by Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Jenny Lewis), and features eleven original songs exploding with a mystical exuberance and heart-on-sleeve emotion. In advance of the album’s release, Joseph have already been named a 2016 Spotify Spotlight artist, toured with James Bay, and confirmed festival performances this summer at Sasquatch, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, Pickathon and more. They’ll also join Michael Kiwanuka for a European run, and reconnect with James Bay this fall for his next US tour, including dates at Radio City Music Hall, The Ryman Auditorium and more.
Choosing their name in deference to their grandfather Jo, and the tiny Oregon town of Joseph where he lived, Natalie Closner and her younger twin sisters Meegan and Allison, grew up in a musical household, but didn’t sing together until just a few years ago. Joseph officially formed when Natalie, an aspiring performer looking for a creative jolt, asked her sisters to form a band together. They quickly discovered their gift for songwriting and vocal alchemy.
Mayer Hawthorne has over 100 million plays on YouTube, Spotify and all those other Internet sites. His sophomore album How Do You Do earned him a Grammy nod. And if he got a vote for every SoundCloud follower he has (five million), he could get elected Senator somewhere. But he’s not some piece of shit politician; he’s a musician who writes songs from the soul.
Here’s some stuff you can’t find on Wikipedia: Mayer Hawthorne starts his day off with waffles and The Whispers or turkey sausage and Steely Dan. Sometimes it’s punk rock and pancakes for dinner. It doesn’t matter as long as it’s breakfast food and music.
Raised by hippie parents in Ann Arbor, Michigan, smack between the Hash Bash and the car factories – Hawthorne’s old man taught him to play bass guitar at age five. He would play records in the house all while Mayer was growing up. He put him up on game. He’d say, “You hear him singing there? That’s David Ruffin.” Or, “You hear that guitar solo? That’s Stephen Stills.” And young Hawthorne would sit there, with his bowl of cereal, soaking it up.
Mayer DJed in Michigan at the height of Detroit hip-hop. He was there. Before Em blew, when Dilla was still alive. He was spinning records and making rap beats. Now he’s making soul records and rappers are sampling him. Circle of life.
Spencer Ludwig is a proud half-Filipino trumpeter, singer, and songwriter born and raised in Los Angeles, California. In 2011 after studying jazz at the California Institute of the Arts he became the featured trumpeter in the indie-pop group Capital Cities. During his time with Capital Cities he recorded on their platinum debut album In A Tidal Wave of Mystery, toured the US five times, opened for Katy Perry on her Prismatic World Tour and performed at festivals around the world including the Coachella Valley Music Festival, Bonnaroo, and many others.
In April of 2015 Spencer signed a worldwide record deal as a solo artist with Warner Bros. Records.
He has performed with Foster the People, Portugal. The Man, Fitz and the Tantrums, the Wailers, Twin Shadow, St. Lucia, LP, RAC, Jungle, Poolside, Cherub, Holy Child, The Mowglis, The Royal Concept, Midi Matilda, Dreamers, Mia Moretti and the Dolls.
Spencer also puts on a very unique DJ set performance, which includes live trumpet and sometimes features other live instruments free-styling over the tracks. His DJ sets also include his original style remixes, which he has coined as “Trumpet Edits”
Pop music is well known for its formula. Major key, around 120 beats per minute, less than five minutes long, great hook, fun to dance to. For decades, singers have scored big hits by following the formula. People have smiled, and danced, and gotten songs stuck in their heads for days on end. The trouble is, there’s a problem with the formula. It lacks heart.
On the other hand, there’s the singer-songwriter, making music full of depth and emotion but lacking accessibility and, well, a beat.
Curb Records artist Ryan Corn is making music that hits on every level. It’s infectious, brimming with hooks and style. Corn is also a producer, so he knows how to craft songs that bend genres and eras to full effect. It’s also bright and breezy at times and musically edgy at others. Most of all, though, it has a heart undergirding the formula. It’s a reflection of the soul of an artist whose desire is not just to get a song stuck in someone’s head, but to get it stuck in their heart, too.
Corn is a Missouri native with musical roots. As a child, he learned harmony by singing with his grandmother in church. As a teenager, the lure of the electric guitar hooked him, and he found himself in a couple of bands, writing songs and touring in a beat-up RV. Along the way, he began to develop his own musical identity as a solo artist.
A record deal with Curb followed, and in 2014 he debuted his first songs for the label. “Wonderful Things” found success, charting at Billboard and garnering 3.8 million listens on Spotify. It’s a good example of his artistic sensibilities, combining honesty, a relaxed and engaging vocal, and a bit of quirkiness in the form of trumpets, gang vocals, and Mellotron flutes.
Out of the crowds of New York City has come a singular talent--with an ear for melody and a timeless approach. Crooner and songcrafter Paul Loren describes his music as "golden-tone pop," but to the savvy listener, it is so much more. Infusing elements of Soul, Rhythm&Blues and the American Songbook, Paul's music is at once the right kind of familiar, yet altogether refreshing. With an electrifying stage show, and a knack for fashion that would make Cary Grant envious, he exudes that rare combination of both substance and style. Paul Loren is truly a 'soul crooner' for the generations.
From Jackson, TN, LOLO is a show-stopping singer who has "so much music flowing through [her] that it fills two people" (Associated Press). She has proven herself a venerable songwriter, from penning hits for Panic! At The Disco’s recent #1 blockbuster album to writing a New York Times raved about off-Broadway musical, “Songbird” — a perfect segue from LOLO's past role as the originator of Ilse in the critically-acclaimed smash musical “Spring Awakening.” Her album, In Loving Memory of When I Gave a Shit, is a come-to-Jesus moment for the songstress who moved back to Tennessee after exploring her path on the stages of New York and time in London - a literal reflection of LOLO's journey on the road back home, which paints the picture of a woman who is finally able to shine and be her true self. With a daring and emotionally charged voice, her music evokes a hot southern night – rough around the edges but with a velvety quality that soothes the soul.
A six-pack of wine, a couple of guitars and a handful of songs gave rise to The Silverado Pickups in the spring of 2010. Since that fateful gathering one evening down along the Oakville Crossroad, these wine-country cowboys have planted their roots deep within the Napa Valley wine and music scenes and have graced stages throughout California, Nashville and New Orleans.
Band members and coconspirators include Napa Valley wine Industry vets David Duncan of Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars (vocals and harmonica), Jeff Gargiulo of Gargiulo Vineyards (lead guitar), Shane Soldinger with Silver Trident Winery (vocals and guitar), Dan Zepponi of Valley of The Moon (lead guitar), winemaker Tres Goetting of Robert Biale Vineyards (bass guitar), professional percussionist Joe Shotwell and notable wine-industry advisor Paul Hoffman (keyboards).
The Pickups have created an original sound of wine infused California Country Rock. While some have described their music as ‘Americana’ others have called it ‘Corked Country’. The band has shared the stage with Lucinda Williams, Chuck Leavell of the Rolling Stones, David Pack and Billy Dean, and they’ve opened for legends such as Leon Russell, and Tim McGraw. The Silverado Pickups are veteran performers to Music Festivals Bottle Rock Napa Valley as well as Boudin Bourbon & Beer – New Orleans, and in 2016, the boys are scheduled to cook with Emeril, drink wine with Sammy Hagar and complete the recording of their highly anticipated debut album.
Of the comparison between making good music and great wine, Silver Oak's Duncan says, "When you get the wine just right, it's like hitting a chord on the guitar. But you first have to have all the notes in place."