Getting to know the 2016 LA Music Critic Award Winners – Alexis Keegan

Our next feature on the winners of the LA Music Critic Awards for the first half of 2016 is the up and coming pop/R&B superstar, Alexis Keegan, who won the award for Best EP Female for our release Endless Road.  Keegan also won the award for the second half of 2015 for Best Video (cover) for “Drunk in Love,” and was included in the list of Break Out Artists of 2014 as published on AXS.com

We had a great interview with Keegan last week, and learned a lot about her.  Special thanks to Jen Lyneis of Ue3 Promotions for the nomination.  Now, sit back, relax and learn things about what we consider to be one of the best rising stars in indie music.

IVB:  How long have you been performing?

AK:  Other than the occasional school talent show, my first public performance was at the age of 14 at an Open Mic , when I did a cover of Mary J. Blige’s song, “I’m Going Down.”  This performance blossomed into school musical performances, assemblies, gospel choirs and the like before I started performing on my own.   I attended LaSalle University in Philadelphia, and graduated with a degree in mass communication and marketing.  I’m originally from New Jersey and was close enough to New York City to take off on Thursdays after class to go there to record and visit my family.  I moved to Los Angeles about four years ago.    Before I moved, I was babysitting for a family and one of their family members was a professional cellist.  My college roommate moved to LA first and I came out to try to make connections during a visit.   I met the cellist when I was in California, and he sent my material off to several producers he had worked with, including Andrew Williams, who ended up doing my first record and is currently working on my new one.  I started recording with him about once a month and he introduced me to Jen (Lyneis), who has been wonderful in getting me sponsors and creating my brand.  I am so glad to be back working with Andrew again.

IVB:  Who are your influences?

AK:  My childhood influences were R&B artists like Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston.  I was also obsessed with Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera.   I’ve always been drawn to soul/R&B music.  With my new album, I’m finally returning to those roots.  My favorite CD was Whitney’s greatest hits, and I played it until I wore it out.  No one wanted to ride with me because it was the only CD I played in my car.  My current obsession is with the music of Gavin DeGraw, especially his soulful voice, which draws me in.

IVB:  What made you decide to DIY?

AK:  DIY gives me a lot more control and I get to do what I want to.   I’ve heard horror stories from my peers about labels compelling you to do what’s not really you.  I had my own experience with a label who tried to turn me into a pop dance artist.  That is just not me.

IVB:  Are you seeking to be a mainstream artist?

AK:  Only if the label will let me have control of my career.  I’m tred of being pulled in so many directions and having people tell me what they think I should be, instead of knowing myself where I need to be.  I realized that I have gotten away from my roots and now I have the chance to go back there.

IVB:  What are your future plans?

AK:  As I mentioned before, I’m back in the studio with Andrew working on a new EP.   I’m also getting ready to release the music video for “Empty Heart” from my Endless Road EP around end of September.  I’m in the process of setting up some touring, and will continue working with Ue3.  I’m currently looking for both booking and tour management.    My dream is to tour with Allen Stone.

My single “There will be Love” was also recently featured on the GroundSounds website.  Please check it out.

IVB:  Any good stories from touring/recording/performing?

AK:  One of the best things about touring and travelling is being able to try new foods.  I remember the different cities I’ve visited by the foods I experienced.  It’s a good thing calories don’t count when you’re on tour.  I especially love New Orleans.  It was a good thing we had the next day after the performance off because we hit Bourbon Street really hard.

IVB:  What about social media?

AK:  The usual.  I have a website and Facebook, as well as Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.  Please follow me and subscribe to my channel.

Getting to know the 2016 LA Music Critic Award winners – Rod Melancon

Our next feature on the winners of the 2016 LA Music Critic Awards is on Americana artist Rod Melancon, who won for Best Video (official) Male for “Perry” and Best EP Male for LA 14.  Originally from Louisiana, Melancon currently resides in the Silverlake section of Los Angeles, California.

Grab a cold one, sit back and learn things about this future Americana superstar.

IVB:  How long have you been performing?

RM:  I first picked up the guitar when I was 19.  I had moved to Los Angeles when I was 18 and received the guitar for Christmas.  I really got into learning the guitar, but waited a year before I starting writing sons.  I had grown up in the theater and been around playwriting all my life, and considered myself more of a theater and film guy.  I did my first show when I was 20 after being encouraged by my buddy CJ.  He had heard some of my material and said I needed to pursue songwriting as a career.  I’ve always loved story songs, so I decided to write those kinds of songs and have been doing it for the past nine years.  My songs are based on the country music theory that all songs spring from three chords and a truth.   Now that I’ve been doing it for awhile, I am learning some fingerpicking techniques as well as learning to play the electric guitar.

IVB:   Who are your influences?

RM:  The most influential musician for me has to be Bruce Springsteen, and his album The Ghost of Tom Joad, which was the folk sequel to his album Nebraska, in particular.  I also loved artists like  Tom Van Zant, John Prine, and Kris Kristoferson, especially how they chose to get their stories across.   They were not afraid to put humor in the songs.  Lately, I’ve been digging on Tom Waitts.  I also love to read southern Gothics books from writers like Larry Brown, and plays from Sam Shepherd, like The Motel Chronicles.  The material is easily relatable for me as I have a similar story, growing up in the rural area of southern Louisiana.  They have an elegant way of saying very poetic things very simply.

IVB:  Where does the title of your latest EP come from?

RM:  LA 14 is a long stretch of highway that crosses the state of Louisiana.

IVB:   What made you decide to DIY?

RM:  Basically when I started playing music, I realized that I was in charge of everything.  I had management and an agent, but the arrangement wasn’t really doing things for me.  I learned that I was responsible for where my career was going and that’s what got me on this path.

IVB:  Are you seeking to be a mainstream artist?

RM:  Not really.  If it happens, that’s fine, but it’s not my goal.  I’m getting confirmation from my old stomping grounds that this is the best path for me.   I don’t answer to anyone when it comes to my songs.  I’m doing things on my own terms and it’s apparent to my fans through my songs.   But if it did happen, I could pay all my bills and turn my internet back on.

IVB:  What are your future plans?

RM:  I want to keep being on the road.  I’m shooting two music videos next month in Kansas City with the same director from “Perry,” but with a bigger budget.  (Shooting these videos) is a dream come true for me because I get to act in them, and perform the song.  We will probably go back on tour in late October and November.  Like the famous journalist Jack Kerouac, I love being on the road.  It is truly my vision and I love meeting people.   Motel rooms are great settings for just about anything.

IVB:  Any good stories from touring/recording/performing?

RM:  As you can imagine, when you’re touring in the south, we ate at a lot of Cracker Barrel and Waffle House restaurants.    One time at a Cracker Barrell in southern GA or MS, I came into the restaurant after my band was already seated.  I was wearing a Black Sabbath t-shirt.  The hostess told me my friends were in the back – she just knew who were my friends because of the way I was dressed.  Another time we stopped into a Waffle House in Birmingham, Alabama about 4 .m.  We sat down at the counter and waited for about 10 minutes, but nobody waited on us.  I got up to walk around and found the entire crew passed out on a bench in the back.  Needless to say, we headed off to another restaurant about a mile away.

I have to give props to my current record label (Blue E’lan), who has given us great tour support and made the whole process so enjoyable.

IVB:  What about social media?

RM:  Besides my website and Facebook pages, I have Twitter, Instagram and a YouTube channel.  For the best info, definitely follow the Instagram account.

My Brothers and I bring their music south

Portland, Oregon based pop quintet My Brothers and I are headed south for their first-ever acoustic trio performances.   Composed of brothers David Wurgler on lead vocals, Erik Wurgler on bass and Scott Wurgler on drums, along with childhood friends Jordan Roach on guitar and Johnny Iliyn on keys, they have been burning up the country on their recent tour, in preparation for the release of their new album, Live at Mississippi Studios.

The trio will be performing at Sofar Sounds in Venice Beach on Thursday, August 25 and The Hotel Café in Hollywood on August 26 before heading off to Phoenix (August 27) and Tucson (August 28) for two more Sofar Sounds showcases.

Their debut full-length album, Don’t Dream Alone showed their wide range of influences, with a sound that is melodic, soulful, and danceable.   “We’re influenced by pop, hip-hop, the blues, Motown, funk, and soul,” says bassist Erik.  “This album has soul.  We’re influenced by modern artists and the classics.  Our songs fit into the current musical landscape but with throwback vibes.”

The band, which is signed to Expunged Records, has already garnered placement in TV shows like ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars, received airplay on numerous radio stations, and launched a successful national tour in support of the album, which was recorded at Miracle Lake Studios with Skyler Norwood at the helm (who’s produced Blind Pilot, Priory, and Horsefeathers) and brings the energy that floods their live performance.
 
“I think the best part of being a band is that you collaborate.  Don’t Dream Alone is a combination of how these songs sounded in all of our heads, so naturally some ideas stayed while others had to be left behind. But we are all absolutely amazed by the final product; it’s something we’re all very proud of,” says Scott, the band’s drummer and eldest brother.
 
Don’t Dream Alone represents the idea of dreaming unselfishly.  “People dream for themselves everyday,” comments lead singer David, “but when you dream with or for other people amazing things can happen.”  
 
“With Don’t Dream Alone, the challenge was to bring and capture the same energy from our live shows, in to the studio; capture what fans love about our performances and put it on record.  Skyler did an amazing job of that,” adds Erik.  “The vocals and harmonies are the highlights of this record,” continues Erik.  “Unleashing David in the vocal booth was special.  This was David’s first time ever recording in a studio.  Multiple times he would do something with his voice and we’d look at each other in awe.”  
Los Angeles radio station KCRW even went so far as to say “lead singer David Wurgler’s rich voice will remind you of John Legend.”
 
With the success of Don’t Dream Alone, their label is planning to release a remix EP featuring several tracks off of the album, commemorating the one year anniversary of the release of Don’t Dream Alone on September 23.  
 
 

 

Getting to know the 2016 LA Music Critic Award Winners – The Spider Accomplice

We have now completed 11 of our 17 interviews with the winners of the LA Music Critic Awards, and have published seven.  Let’s get back to our next winners, an up and coming rock band out of Los Angeles who go by the name The Spider Accomplice.  They were the winners of the Best Video (Webseries) for their very creative Indiegogo crowd funding campaign The Abduction, as well as Best Rock Band.

The band is composed of VK Lynne on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Arno Numisto on lead guitar and backing vocals and Justin Lee Dixon on drums and percussion.  Sit back, grab a whiskey and learn things about this amazing trio of musicians who are taking their audiences captive.  Let me warn you – it’s a long way cause these guys had a lot to say.

IVB:  How long have you been performing?

VK:  My first time on stage was at the age of 12.  The first time I met you was at The Gig on Melrose at a Music Connection showcase back in 2005.  Basically, I’m always performing.  I’ve done musical theater, pop/rock, country rock, blues, metal, prog, goth/glam and now modern rock.  I even got the chance recently to direct theater again.  I like to do things simultaneously, otherwise nothing would get done.  I stared directing about 20 years ago.  My first directing gig was a web series.

Arno:  I first started at the age of 10 (or 8 years ago).   I’ve been in quite a few different kinds of bands and had a few influences.  I mostly play guitar and bass and started playing mandolin a few weeks ago.  I think that songwriting is fun.

Justin:  I have been playing drums since I was eight.  As a side fact, Arno and I were born on the same day but nine years apart – that makes us very competitive.

IVB:   Who are your influences?

Arno:  I love great songwriting, regardless of genre – it’s  all about the feeling the song creates:  My favorites are Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Metallica, Jimi Hendrix – classic rock in general.

Justin:  I also grew up on classic rock acts like Metallica, Iron Maiden, KISS, and Megadeth.  Their Countdown to Extinction and Rest in Peace albums especially made a mark on me.  I made mix tapes of their music.   I studied music in grade school and learned about classical and jazz music.  I loved the music of Buddy Rich and Alvin Jones, Miles Davis and John Coltraine and Thelonious Monk.  In high school I started listening to progressive metal and rock – bands like Dream Theater and the like.  I was also heavily influenced by Korn’s original drummer, David Silveria.

VK:  For me it was artists like Patsy Cline, Melissa Ethridge, and Beth Hart – they put every emotion into their music.  As a result I am very transparent in my songwriting and all my emotions come out in my music.  I also loved the honesty of Emily Dickinson in her writing.

IVB:   What made you decide to DIY?

VK:  A lack of funds.  We really didn’t have any money so we learned to improvise.   We all have very strong opinions and a very strong vision of where we want to go and we didn’t want to have anyone telling us what to do.

IVB:  Who came up with the idea for The Abduction?

VK:  Justin came up with the idea while brainstorming on cannabis.  But seriously, we all try to contribute – one thing leads to another.  Since it’s so corrupt in the (music) business these days, the only way to truly find funding is through crowdfunding platforms.  And since basically they are holding us hostage, why don’t we frame it like we need to pay a ransom to make a new CD.

Arno:  We decided VK would be the face of the campaign.  We wanted (the campaign) to be campy and different so it would stand out from the pack.  So we created a storyline to get people involved.

IVB:  Are you seeking to be a mainstream artist?

Arno:  We do have a desire to be in the mainstream market, but we all have vastly different experience in the business.  We want to do what WE want to do, and DIY offers that as opposed to mainstream.  Our music is very marketable and accessible to everyone, but we don’t want to give up our soul, our brains and our talents for the benefit of someone else.  It (a label deal) would have to be so awesome as to make us change our mind.   We’re sick of hearing the horror stories of friends who have label deals.   Honestly, you can do so much on your own now, why should you give that up to be a mainstream artist?

IVB:  What are your future plans?

VK:  We will be completing the new album, and plan to release it at the end of September.  It’s called Los Angeles:  the Abduction, and it contains six tracks.  We are trying to take one thing at a time.  At t his point, touring is an expensive proposition.  We’ve been spending all the money we raised on Indiegogo to complete the album and promote it.    Right now there are no plans to tour in the near future.

IVB:  Any good stories from touring/recording/performing?

VK:  Honestly, most of them are unprintable, but there was this time . . . We were so devastated and at the same time so angry when the van break down while we were on tour.  It began making such a horrible noise and then it just died in front of a Catholic church near the Arch in St. Louis at 10:30 pm.  It truly was a POS and a rolling death trap.  A guy on a bike came up and asked how he could help.  He called a tow truck for us.  We convinced the driver to let us ride in the van on the flatbed.  We had to stay out of sight so the cops wouldn’t see us.   We finally got back to our hotel in St. Louis where our guitarist was crying like a baby.  I got a message on Facebook from one of our fans that it was her husband that helped us.  We just sat around the room, sang acoustic songs and drank beer, and decided everything would look better in the morning.   The van was demolished but we got through it because we never give up.

  1. Any social media?

VK:  The usual sources – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and ReverbNation, to name a few.

Juliana Wilson captures the airwaves with the release of “Blah Blah Blah”

You may not have heard of Juliana Wilson yet, but if the impact from the release of her first single, “Blah Blah Blah,” is any indication, you definitely will be hearing about her soon.  Amazingly, Wilson is only 13 years old, yet she already possesses a maturity and understanding of music that her much older peers are still struggling to learn.

Wilson was discovered in November 2014 by Matty Amendola, a Brooklyn-based producer and artist development specialist.  Amendola and his team at 825 Records immediately began honing Wilson’s performances skills on stages throughout New York City after signing her to a developing artist deal.

Wilson has been dubbed by Girl’s Life Magazine as “the next big thing,” and touted by Music Connection Magazine as someone “expected to pique the interest of music supervisors worldwide.”

Her teaser video for her song “I Know a Girl,” which was released in April 2016, is a powerful pre-cursor to what the future holds for this most promising new artist.  She is currently working on the music video for “Blah Blah Blah,” which she hopes to release shortly.

In the meantime, she recently performed as part of the SheRocks Showcase at the 2016 summer NAMM show in Nashville, Tennessee.

Her label head Amendola has also reported that Wilson has completed recording a full-length album, but that no release date has been set.  According to Amendola, “This is only the starting line for a long marathon.”

Her publicist, Noisy Ghost PR says it best in their press release:

“Deftly expressing her point of view with poignant lyrical content (sometimes riddled with sarcasm), Juliana’s warm and intimate tone surfaces forcibly through wide echoes of ambient backdrops and dynamic indie-driven pop alike.  With content as unique as it is relatable, Juliana’s visual storytelling sets the scene for any listener by combining universal narratives with conceptual standpoints throughout every song.”

To find out more about this future superstar, check out her website and Facebook pages, follow her on Twitter and subscribe to her label’s YouTube channel.

Redhead Express burn up the stage at Northwest Montana Fair

Redhead Express (RHE) is a country/bluegrass/pop quartet composed of sisters Kendra, LaRae, Alisa and Meghan Walker, originally from Palmer, Alaska.  They are based out of Nashville, Tennessee with a summer home base of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, since so many of their summer fair shows are on the west coast this year.

These gifted ladies are no strangers to this reviewer, as he has been following them since being introduced to their music almost two years ago.   A review of the first concert he saw was published on AXS.com on September 17, 2014, followed with the publication of an interview with the band on November 27, 2014.

RHE has also amassed quite a few nominations for the LA Music Critic Awards, and won the award for best video (cover) in 2015 for their version of OneRepublic’s hit song “I Lived.”

Montana has seen a lot of RHE this year at fairs across the state.  Indie Voice caught up with them during their performance at the Northwest Montana Fair in Kalispell on August 17.  The ladies did a pair of performances that day, with their evening slot being the opener for country superstar Trace Adkins.  This review is of their afternoon slot on the Huckleberry Stage.

photo by Chelle S Imaging
Kendra and Alisa work their magic

The ladies kicked off their 45 minute set with a stirring cover of Alabama’s song “I’m in a Hurry.”  As always, harmony is king (or is it queen?) when RHE hits the stage, and this performance was no exception.  Instrumentally, Kendra is on acoustic guitar and mandolin, LaRae is on banjo and acoustic guitar, Alisa is on fiddle and mandolin and Meghan is on Eddie, her trusty double bass.

photo by Chelle S Imaging
Meghan performs on Eddie, her bass

RHE mixed their own stirring cover versions of such popular songs as Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” with original songs, including “Roots,” a song they wrote about their childhood  home in Alaska, and “Lose My Mind,” a song about the craziness of getting married.  They even played a request by yours truly for one of their latest cover songs, Meghan Trainor’s “Better When I’m Dancing,” from the Peanuts movie.

photo by Chelle S Imaging
LaRae kills it on the banjo

While every member of RHE is accomplished on their respective instruments, on this day LaRae truly shined.  She played with such confidence it was as if she owned the stage.  In the two years since this reviewer last saw RHE perform live, LaRae’s performance skills have truly grown, allowing her to shine next to her sparkling sisters.

photo by Chelle S Imaging
Kendra joins the Walker Boys for a stirring cover of Mumford & Sons’ “I Will Wait”

Even the brothers, Sean, Joseph and Ammon, who are usually in the background supporting their sisters, got the chance to shine when The Walker Boys took the stage for a short two-song set during their sisters’ show.  Like their sister LaRae, The Walker Boys have grown in their performance skills and nailed their short set.  Besides the wonderful harmonies and impressive musical skills of Ammon on bass, Sean on banjo and Joseph on mandolin, Sean truly wowed the audience when he lept from the stage and played his banjo throughout the crowd before returning to the stage.

photo by Chelle S Imaging
Sean impressed the crowd with his banjo skills

The performances of both RHE and The Walker Boys were stellar and worth well more than the cost of entry into the fair.  Although we were unable to catch their opening slot later that night, we did catch snippets of the performance through a live recording done for members of RHE’s Patreon supporters.

photo by Chelle S Imaging
Kendra & LaRae blend their instruments and voices.

To find out more about RHE, check out their website and Facebook pages, follow them on Twitter, subscribe to their YouTube channel and support them on Patreon.

 

Artists worth checking out: FOXTRAX

Indie alternative pop act FOXTRAX has landed on the scene with the release of their new EP The Cabin.  Formed in early 2015, the trio of Long Island, New York natives is composed of Ben Schneid on lead vocals and guitar, Jon Stenz on drums and Jared Stenz on bass.  They began performing together after they had each graduated from college, after deciding that pursuing music as a profession was a better alternative than finding traditional employment.  They sequestered themselves in a small cabin in the woods of North Carolina, resulting in the tunes that comprise the new EP.

Their name came from watching the fox tracks in the snow outside their cabin.  They came to realize that the tracks reminded them of their own unpredictable and meandering journey into the music business.

They moved to Los Angeles in late 2015, and began to work on their live show.   After only a few months on the scene, they were approached by producer/engineer Ben Roulston, who had worked with Florence and the Machine, who believed that he knew the perfect label for them.  Rouston added production and a fresher mix to the EP and got Brian Lucey (Artic Monkeys, Cage the Elephant, Black Keys) to master the tracks.

The band celebrated the release of their EP with the almost simultaneous release of their first music video, which debuted on Vevo.  They have already achieved the No. 1 position on Apple Music’s New Music Spotlight and recently were named by LiveNation as part of their “Ones to Watch” series.

If you are fortunate enough to live in California, the band has two upcoming dates in the near future:  On September 6 in San Francisco at the The Rickshaw Stop and on September 8 at the Troubadour in Los Angeles.  They will be providing support for Barns Courtney at both shows.  Tickets are available here.

Check out their website and Facebook pages, follow them on Twitter and Instagram and by all means subscribe to their YouTube Channel.

 

Zootown Fringe Festival recap (revised)

The Zootown Fringe Festival in Missoula, Montana kicked off its fourth annual event on August 16 with an opening ceremony party at its host location, The Silk Road/Crystal Theater.  Unlike other US Fringe Festivals, such as Seattle, San Diego and Hollywood, the Zootown Fringe is not built around the theater arts, but instead focuses on a myriad of artistic endeavors, more akin to the Canadian Fringe Festival circuit, which makes sense since Zootown was just accepted into the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals.

Over its five day run, Zootown featured events such as Porchfest, a concert that moves from porch to porch nine times during a seven-hour window; River Fringe, which featured a trip down the river through Alberton Gorge; Lolo Fringe, which featured events at a horse ranch; Fringe River Float Sing-a-long; Fringe Costume Bike Ride; Fringe Comedy Cabaret; and the Montana debut of the Canadian documentary On the Fringe.

Theatrical productions were limited to just the last two days of the festival, with one venue being used on Friday the 19th and two venues on Saturday the 20th.  This reviewer checked out two of the five productions offered on Friday, which included physical comedy, dance, drama, comedy and a lecture, and one production on Saturday.  The other two productions that we had planned to review were cancelled on Saturday.

ASA Zootown front SMALL

First up was A Sorted Affair: A Bureaucratic Adventure, a hilarious piece by the Oakland, California duo Figment, which combined physical comedy, mime, magic, juggling, dance and clown antics into a delightful and whimsical romp through the red tape of government bureaucracy.

Composed of Eric Parthum and Drea Lusion, Figment bills themselves as a “theatrical clown duo,” a description which is spot on.  These two performers were amazing and refreshing, as they kept the audience engaged and enthralled with their comedic shenanigans.  Definitely check out their final show on August 20th at 7 p.m. at the Downtown Dance Collective.

The next show wasn’t for a couple of hours, so there was time to grab a bite to eat at one of the dining establishments on Missoula’s Hip Strip before heading to the Boone & Crockett parking lot for a performance by D. Ryan.  The band played high energy rock and roll and the lead singer was constantly on the move, shifting from the stage into the audience and back.  He was completely engaged with his fans and provided a wonderful interlude as he warmed up the crowd for the artisans of MASC, who once again wowed Missoula with their aerial stunts.

No Refunds

The second show was No Refunds, a meta-sketch performance written by local phenom Sean Kirkpatrick, who debuted his material two years ago at Zootown.  The cast , which included Kirkpatrick in the lead as The Performer, also featured Curen Feliciani as The Audience Member, Dani Sather as the Female Ensemble, Adrian Adams as the Male Ensemble, Zach Krell in a video role as The Producer, Winnie Lohof as the Stage Manager and Brit Garner as The Sexy One.

The show could best be described as an episode of Saturday Night Live, hosted by Seth McFarlane and featuring guest performances by Christopher Walken and Miley Cyrus.  It combined live sketches with video snippets, and provided a belly-full of laughs along the way.

The show was not for the faint of heart, nor is it intended for children.  The cast did a magnificent job of not taking themselves seriously, thereby providing an almost non-stop comedic performance that highlighted each member’s abilities.

We highly recommend you catch the final performance on August 20th at 8:30 p.m. at the Crystal Theater.

Oh Man

The last show we reviewed was a solo show by Canadian comedienne Jo Dworschak called Oh Man!  The show centered around her life up to and through the delivery of her baby boy, and the anxiety she felt bringing another man into the world.

Dworschak is a talented performer who mixes comedy and fact together in a most cohesive way.  Unfortunately, it seemed her show ended prematurely, as she did not go into how her outlook changed after the birth.  We would have loved to see a much longer version, although she may have had to shorten the show to fit into the Fringe’s one hour maximum time slot.  At any rate, the show was definitely worth seeing, and earned the Zoonie Award for best solo show.

From a theatrical point of view, this year’s Zootown Fringe was disappointing because it only offered a handful of productions.  On the other hand, at least the few that were offered were all first rate productions.  Hopefully the next Festival will offer a better variety of theatre shows.

Getting to know the 2016 LA Music Critic Award winners – Brian Whelan

We are having such a blast interviewing the winners of the LA Music Critic Awards for the first half of 2016.  Today’s feature is on Brian Whelan, former sideman for Dwight Yoakum and the winner of Best Country/Americana album for Sugarland.  Thanks to Melissa Dragich-Cordero of MAD Ink PR for the nomination.

Sit back, enjoy the interview and learn things about one of Americana’s new generation of amazing artists.

IVB:  How long have you been performing?

BW:  Basically my whole life.  When I was in kindergarten I first got up on stage at an Assembly.  I convinced them to let me do three songs with a Karaoke machine.  I got the music bug early on and just wanted to be on stage.   I first learned piano at the age of 8, followed by electric bass and electric guitar in my early teens, as well as singing all along.  I consider my as my main instrument.   When I was working with Dwight, I learned pedal steel, mandolin and accordion, but don’t consider myself an expert on those instruments.  These days I prefer to play piano and guitar.

IVB:   Who are your influences?

BW:  My first influences were the stars of 50’s rock and roll, like Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, and Eddie Cochran.  As I grew up, I was influenced by the British Invasion bands and then country and bluegrass during my 20’s.  Since I attended high school in the 90’s, I also love the bands from that era.

IVB:  What made you decide to DIY?

BW:  Watching Dwight perform was such an inspiring experience that I decided to quit the band and do my own stuff.   I found it hard to juggle being a side man with being my own front man.   I finally realized that at one time Dwight had to do the same thing to get started, so I went out and did it too.

Working with Melissa (my publicist) has been a blast.   I love that she represents so many great guitarists, like  John Fogerty, Joe Satriani, and Jeff Beck, to name a few.  It is so cool to be a part of her team.

IVB:  Are you seeking to be a mainstream artist?

BW:  The short answer is yes, but probably not.   I think most indie artists want it but think that it would be too much trouble to have someone else dictating where your career is heading.  I want to be able to do what I want without limit and make enough money doing it to be able to live comfortably.  Studio work, side man work and the like have helped pay the bills lately, but I still want to be able to tour more on my own without losing control (of my career) by being a mainstream artist.

IVB:  What are your future plans?

BW:  The big news is that I’m heading out during the month of September on tour.  I’m planning 15-20 shows during the month.  I’ll be visiting places I’ve been a few times before, plus a few new places including AmericanaFest 16, where 200-250 acts are scheduled to perform.  It seems like most of the acts are relatively new, but there are some more experienced legacy acts performing, including Dwight, Rodney Crowell, John Prine, Shawn Colvin & Steve Earle and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  Another one of Melissa’s clients, Alice Wallace is performing.  Not sure why Rod Melancon (also Melissa’s client) isn’t.  He would be a great addition.

I do want to do a tour through Seattle, Montana and the Northwest.  I played Salt Lake City last year – the audience was great, very polite and attentive to the music.  It was a special show.

IVB:  Any good stories from touring/recording/performing?

BW:  Once I was the voice of an actor in an episode of Mad Men.  The cast was at a show for a Lenny Bruce like comedian, which was followed by a Bob Dylan like singer.  I was his voice.

I do have quite a few stories from the road, but most of them can’t be published.  My favorite one is getting to play piano for Chuck Berry at a casino show on April Fool’s Day.  My friend was playing the drums for him, and got me the gig.  I thought it was a joke because I never heard from the Casino or from Chuck’s band, but it was real and it happened, fulfilling a childhood dream.

IVB:  How can your fans keep up with you?

BW:  Well, the best places are my website and Facebook pages.  I also have Twitter and Instagram accounts.  Although I don’t yet have a YouTube channel, some of my performance videos have been posted by other people.

Getting to know the 2016 LA Music Critic Award winners – Alice Wallace

Welcome back to our continuing series on the winners of the LA Music Critic Awards for the first half of 2016.  Today we are featuring an interview with an artist who is rapidly rising to the top of her genre and was also a previous winner in 2015, Alice Wallace.  Wallace won the award for Best Video (Official) Female for “I Just Don’t Care Anymore” as well as for Best Country/Americana Artist, which she also won in 2015.

I first met Wallace when she attended a show I had booked at The Derby in Los Feliz a few years back.  It was nice to reconnect and talk with her about her career and future plans during our interview.  Sit back, enjoy and learn things about one of the top rising stars in Americana music.

IVB:   How long have you been performing?

AW:  My family was very much musically inclined.  When I was five, our family got a video camera, so I started learning songs so I could perform on camera.  It’s always been easy for me to pick up songs and share them with other people.  It wasn’t until I was 16 that I picked up the guitar and started writing songs.  Within six months, I was signing up for talent shows and have been performing ever since.  I remember playing a Borders Book show when I was still in high school.  I didn’t do musical theater, but I was in the band, and learned music theory there.  I wasn’t really confident in my vocal abilities, and never took any voice lessons.  I’ve learned mostly by observing others perform, which helped me to develop my own style.

IVB:  Who are your influences?

AW:  I’ve always said that I grew up with Gram Parsons and Emilylou Harris, since my parents always listened to them and we sang along.  Through the years I was also influenced heavily by 1990’s singer-songwriters like Jewel and Alanis Morrisette, as well as country, blues and Americana artists like Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Patsy Cline, all of which were really strong female voices.  I’ve always been drawn to the voices.  Oh, and Patti Griffin – I love her style.  I try to learn as much as I can about these types of women.

IVB:  What made you decide to DIY?

AW:  In my early days, I released a couple of albums, but it was difficult to do it on my own.  Then I got lucky and was signed to California Country Records about a year ago.  California Country is an artist owned label, founded by Calico the Band members Manda Mosher and Kirsten Proffit.  I had previously opened for them.  While attending the California Roots Festival, I was approached by Kirsten, who told me that they liked my stuff and wanted to sign me to their new label.  I was so happy because a label run by artists brings a lot to the table.  They had great connections already, and they provided great help in all facets of the process.  I am very proud of the finished product, which we released last October.  They connected me to their publicist, Melissa Dragich-Cordero of MadInk PR, as well as to a radio promoter who got my music out on the airwaves.  We even hit #83 on the charts.

I love being an indie artist, and with California Country, I got the best of both worlds – indie and mainstream.  I got to stay indie while having a group of fellow musicians on a label that gave me the support and connections I needed to take my music to the masses.  California Country is really more of a partnership than an artist/label relationship.  I have always been scared of a label taking and owning my music.  Now I have a label that lets me do what I love to do and supports me in the process.

IVB:  Well that pretty much answers our next question.  Are you seeking to be a mainstream artist?

AW:  Not really – I would love the recognition that comes from being mainstream, but strongly want to do what I do without losing my identity.  I think the Americana genre itself is becoming mainstream in its own way and indie artists are at the front of the pack.  As long as I can make the kind of music I want, pay my bills and get to perform, I’m happy.

IVB:  What are your future plans?

AW:  I want to keep touring and making music.  Don’t really have any long term plans at the moment.  I’m spending my time booking tours and performing.  I think the best way to be successful is to keep putting my music in front of people.  I’m writing new songs for my next project, whenever that may happen.

I’ve now been a full-time musician for three years, and it’s getting better all the time.  Doors are continually opening and it’s getting easier every day.  I am always making connections and going forward, allowing each day to present new opportunities.  I think I’ll just gonna ride this wave and see where it goes.

Next week I’m playing some local shows with my friend Brian Ashley Jones from Nashville.  He hosted me when I was there, and I’m returning the favor.  He got me a chance to perform at the world famous Bluebird Café.

In September, I am heading to Nashville for the Americana festival, followed by a trip to Austin for the Southwest Folk Alliance Conference the next week.

IVB:  Any good stories from touring/recording/performing?

AW:  One of my best stories is contained in my song “Luck, Texas.”  I’ll always remember the time we were playing a show in Oklahoma, and it sounded like bombs were going off over our heads.  I was amazed that the audience seemed unconcerned.  I asked them what was going on, and they told me it was just a hail storm.  Oh, and by the way there’s a tornado about a mile away.  Another time I was touring through Texas and my car air conditioner broke and I had to endure that Texas heat.

IVB:  How can your fans keep up with you?

AW:  Of course I have a website and Facebook.  I have a Twitter account, but I really use Instagram more.  And don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel.