Category Archives: Interviews

Getting to know the 2016 LA Music Critic Award winners – Allison Iraheta

Over the past few years, we have had the chance to see quite a few of our indie music friends take the national stage on American Idol and The Voice, including Brooke White, Tony Lucca, Katrina Parker, and Justin Hopkins, to name a few.  However, this is the first time that we have become friends with an artist who has gone indie after appearing on one of those shows.  Thanks to Patrick O’Heffernan for introducing us.

We had a delightful time interviewing Allison Iraheta, who appeared on season 8 of American Idol and was originally signed to Jive Records.  Many of her greatest achievements, though, have been accomplished after she became an indie artist.  Iraheta was the winner of the Best Pop/Rock Female Artist for the first half of 2016, primarily on the strength of her band’s single, “Desire (Lo Que Vale La Pena).”  Iraheta and Halo Circus also finished second in the Fan Favorite category.

IVB:  How long have you been performing?

AI:  Since I was six years old when I got my first gig at an opening for a department store.  I sang a ranchera song.  I was also a big fan of Selena, but unlike her, I grew up in South Central Los Angeles, and primarily spoke Spanish, being the child of Salvadorian parents.  We were surrounded by a true cultural mix of music.  I loved the emotion behind rancheras music, which in turn became the inspiration for our current music.  I recently turned 24.

IVB:   Who are your influences?

AI:  My first big influence was Linda Ronstadt, especially her album “Canciones de mi Padre.”  My dad also turned me on to Paul Williams.  Other artists that inspired me included Amy Winehouse, Roy Orbison, Brenda Lee, PJ Harvey, and Radiohead  This definitely led to our music being very diverse.  We didn’t have to be stuck with one sound but were able to show a myriad of colors.

IVB:   What made you decide to DIY?

AI:  I didn’t really have much of a choice.  As you know, I was signed to Jive Records just as the old music business began to fall apart.  There were lots of job upheavals and a change in the rules, affecting the whole industry.  I was actually dropped by Jive in the middle of my tour and found out about it via Twitter.  I was only 18, but decided to finish out the tour.  It was in shock, having gone from nothing to successful and then back again.  Once I got back from tour, I didn’t know where I was musically, and felt lost, not sure what to do anymore.  I did a few demos to make money and was very close to giving up on the industry.  I felt betrayed and injured and was not yet aware of the DIY side of the industry.  However, I don’t hold any resentments and am still friends with some of those same industry people.

I met Matthew (Hager) when I was doing a demo for a song he was pitching to Carrie Underwood.  We started writing together and I returned to my roots to find inspiration.  Everything we were doing sounded like it needed to be done by a band, which led to the formation of Halo Circus in 2013.  The support we have received is what has propelled us to where we are now, and new opportunities are happening all the time.  Everyone in the band is a veteran musician.  Matthew was a No. 1 Billboard multi-platinum producer who crossed multiple genres working with the likes of Duran Duran, Scott Weiland, Mindi Abair, and Mandy Moore.  Brian Stead was and is a relentless guitar aficionado who evokes energy and charisma.  In addition to being an accomplished Cantonese and orchestral drummer, Veronica Bellino worked with Jeff Beck and DMC of Run DMC before leaving Halo Circus.  She was replaced by Stead’s friend, Matteo Eyia.  

Magic happens in this band.  It happened when we were writing, when we were recording, and when we were failing.  The only thing that mattered was keeping it honest and getting it right, whatever that meant. We may be inconvenient, but we continue to attract believers.

IVB:  Do you want to go back to being a mainstream artist?

AI:  There is a balance to moving on from the previous level of exposure to the creative freedom we have now.  We believe we can return to that level, but on our own terms.  We are doing it through the back channel and believe that is a better way for us to return.  We love what is happening in the indie scene.

Last February, we shocked the music industry when we announced in Billboard Magazine that we would be embarking on the first fully crowd-sourced American tour ever to be attempted on such a large scale.  With the help of our fans and Road Nation, the program that allowed this format, we reached full funding just nine weeks later, and confirmed a tour of 30 cities.

IVB:  What are your future plans? 

AI:  We are definitely going back on tour in the not too distant future.  We would love to revisit some of the places where we played on our last tour.  We have some new stuff on the horizon and are so proud of those who have supported us from the beginning.  There will be surprises and thank you’s and fun stuff for everyone.

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

AI.  During the tour we were scheduled to play a show in Orlando during Hurricane Matthew.  We played the show despite the weather.  When we got to the venue under very gray clouds, there were about 30 of our fans waiting for us with signs proclaiming “End of the World” show.  We lost our AirBnB reservation for the night due to the storm, and had no place to stay after the show.  Consequently, we started heading out of Orlando, but couldn’t find anyplace open that had gas or water.  We did finally find some gas, and just kept driving until we found a hotel where we could stay.  It was a scary time and we saw cars driving on the wrong side of the road, trying to get away from the storm.

IVB:  What is the significance of the rabbit?

AI:  It represented humans for me during the writing of our first album Bunny.  I seemed to notice them everywhere.  The totem for bunny meant prey, with their fluffy tails for hawks to see, but they are also very cute, adorable and fast.  I came to the conclusion that the prettier you are, the more different you are, the more likely you are to become prey.

IVB:  What social media do you use?

AI:  I have a Facebook page with a link to the band’s website.  I also use Twitter and Instagram, and of course we have a channel on YouTube, all of which our fans can subscribe to or follow.

Kaylee Keller wants to help her community with the release of her Christmas song

When we last visited with Kansas-born Kaylee Keller, she had just won the LA Music Critic Award for best lyric video for her collaboration with the Vinyljackers of her hit “Diamond.”

More recently, Keller released a duet with country singer Rusty Rierson of the Alabama classic hit, “Christmas in Your Arms.”  Check out the stream below.

Today we’re sitting down with Keller for another interview on what’s new in her career.  Grab a cup of coffee and learn new things about this amazing indie artist who, surprisingly, just turned 19 years old.

IVB:  What have you been doing since we last talked after your win for LA Music Critic best lyric video?

KK:  First, after I won, I was waiting to receive my Grammy.  But seriously, I have been in Nashville for the past three months working on my new EP.  I worked with some of the best songwriters in Nashville who have helped me craft my new six song EP, which I plan to release as a group of singles throughout 2017, and then release the collection near the end of 2017.  I loved working with my producer Nathan Meckel.  I’ve been thinking of calling the EP Ruby, as a spin-off to my first EP Diamond, so then you could look me up as the Gem Collection.  We want to test the waters with each single so that they will stay fresh.  I like to be a trendsetter and do my own thing as an independent artist.

IVB:  Tell us about your latest project “Christmas in your Arms.”

KK:  This one was a fun project.  Garden City, Kansas is my hometown and they approached me to see if I wanted to be part of their annual holiday compilation album, called Kozy Kansas Christmas.  It’s their fourth year of doing this CD and I was honored that they wanted me to do a song for the album.

The proceeds from the sale of the album go to fund local charities in Garden City.  They only print a limited amount of CDs, which makes them more valuable.

I’ve known Rusty Rierson for about three years after we met at a Joe Diffie concert.  I was doing the National Anthem, and Rusty was the opening act.  After I was approached by Garden City, I asked Rusty what song we should do.  He suggested that we do an Alabama song called “Christmas in Your Arms.”  My mom suggested we make it a duet.  Both of them proved to be great suggestions.  We had a blast turning the song into a duet.

The album is available on Garden City’s Facebook page and can be purchased there.  My single on the album is also available on iTunes.

The project is getting a lot of media attention, including The Ellen Show, as they begin planning for next year’s double CD.

IVB:  What’s next for Kaylee Keller?

KK:  I wanted my current EP, Diamond, to be country, but it turned out to be more of a pop project.  I’m using my new Christmas single to introduce me to the country pop community.  I’ve been called a mixture of Colbie Caillat meets country pop by local media.  The new project is much more country based albeit country pop, which is where my heart truly lies.  We are looking forward to bringing this side of me to my fans and to hopefully find new ones in the country pop genre.


Women in entertainment: Alyssa Jacey, the girl in blue

It’s been a while since our last article in the Women in Entertainment series, February 1, 2016 to be exact, but we’re back with another edition.  Fair warning – it’s a long one, but definitely worth the read.

Our feature today spotlights Alyssa Jacey, a pop/soul singer-songwriter out of Nashville by way of San Diego, who loves the color blue.  Why, you say.   Jacey explains, “About the age of 16, I got my first car and decided to paint it.  I was flipping through the color pages and had an instant attraction to the color Highlight Blue Pearl,  a bright royal blue with an opal coating.  From that point on, I could only see the color blue.  I would make a beeline to that color whenever I was choosing clothes, and always fell for the guy in the royal blue sweater.  I’m currently on my fourth car, and all of them have been blue.”

Jacey has turned that attraction to blue into her own brand.  “I always tell people when they come to my shows, ‘Bring your crew and wear your blue.’  My grandmother and I were very close when she passed away from Alzheimer’s.  I had just started singing and she never got to hear me perform.  I told myself that when I was able to support myself with my music that I would do something to help fight the disease.  Now, when my fans come to my shows, if they are wearing blue, I donate $1 from their ticket sale to the Alzheimer’s Foundation.”

Jacey had formerly been a hip-hop dancer, choreographer, and private dance instructor, had appeared in music videos and performed at the Super Bowl.  She assumed that her career would be in the dance industry.  But that all changed, literally overnight, when Jacey went out with her friends.   “One day I just made the decision to pursue music.   I had spent my whole life dancing but there was always something missing; Karaoke night changed all that and my life has never been the same,” explains Jacey.

Jacey’s latest single, “I Want it to Rain,” is an incredible song that truly belongs on radio outlets worldwide.  Since it was posted on her YouTube channel just a month ago, the video has already received more than 3,000 views.

Jacey recently posted on her Facebook page that she has spent more time in the past three months in Europe than at home.  Not bad for an unsigned independent musician who is the epitome of the DIY artist.  In fact, that success has enabled Jacey to also become an international public speaker, and to open her own business, Image Twelve 28.  The business allows her to provide coaching for other indie musicians who want to achieve their dreams.

“I was 23 when I found my voice, 26 when I learned the guitar and 28 when I learned to drum.  I believe you can do whatever you want as long as you believe in yourself.  Don’t listen to the naysayers, just do it.  My true purpose here is to inspire people.”

But what inspires Jacey?   “What inspires me is the beauty that lies in the unknown. As a DIY artist, you never know what hand your career will deal you, and it’s BEYOND EXCITING. Opportunities come from all angles, in all shapes and sizes, and the fun part is two fold: Being surprised with ones you weren’t expecting and seeing how many you can turn into reality, and going through individual experiences, which are each so unique and so special. When I think of all the experiences I’ve had over the years and risks I’ve taken to get to them, my heart swells up. My favorite hashtag to use is #LivingWithGratitude, and I absolutely am, living with gratitude, every single moment, of every single day.”

Where does Jacey see herself in the future?  “My future plans have not changed since the exact moment I realized I was going to pursue music, and basically, that’s ‘I know I’m here, and I want to get there.  I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I know I will, and I will just take it one step at a time.’  I started playing music because I had a late calling. At 23 years old, I was convinced by friends that I had a voice.  I had never sung before, never written a song or played an instrument.  But after a year of singing karaoke and hearing the same thing on a consistent basis from random strangers from karaoke bar to karaoke bar every week, I knew I had to pursue it.  I was going to let absolutely nothing stop me from getting as far as I could go. Did I want to be famous?  No.  I wanted to see if I could ever make a living playing original music, and after that, the sky would be the limit, should I chose to continue. Just 13 months after moving to Nashville (and 8 years after being in the music industry), I started to earn a living.  I’ve been so motivated by seeing hard work pay off, that when it comes to “future plans,” all I can do is just keep doing what I’ve been doing.  In doing so, every six months beats out the previous six months, and all I’m doing is just following my intuition.”

For more info on Jacey, be sure to check out her website and Facebook pages, follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to her YouTube channel.  If you like her music, you can stream it on Spotify or Pandora, or purchase it at iTunes.



Artists worth checking out: Brian Mackey

We are so happy to have the opportunity to interview an amazing indie artist named Brian Mackey.

Currently based in New York City by way of Florida, Mackey released his fourth project in 2015, which also happened to be his first full length release, Broken Heartstrings.  One of the tracks from the album, “Are you Listening?” was used in the PS game, “Until Dawn.”  As a result of that exposure, the song charted in the Top 100 in Germany as well as on iTunes Germany, generated more than 280,000 streams on Spotify and resulted in sold-out shows through Germany.

We took the time to do an interview with Mackey to help his fans find out a little more about him.  Sit back and enjoy the narrative:

IVB:  How long have you been performing?

BM:  Nine years.

IVB:  Who do you consider o be your influences?

BM:  I have many influences, mostly being music from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, especially artists like Jim Croce, Billy Joel, The Clash and Nirvana.

IVB:  What makes your most recent release so special?

BM:  I think it’s the varied styles I used.  It was recorded in Nashville and had a unique flavor.

IVB:  What are your future plans?

BM:  Right now in the studio with produce Jon Levine in  Hollywood working on the next album and a tour to follow – stay tuned!

IVB:  Do you have any stories you want to share about your band – touring, recording or fan interaction?

BM:  I was warming up in a  hotel room before a show in Nashville when someone knocked on the door.  When I opened it, there was a shady looking guy with a screwdriver in his hands and he said with a southern accent, “I wanna meet the man behind the music.”  He was drunk and sizing up my gear.  Turns out he was the hotel maintenance man who was a “fan.”  I kept my stuff in another place for the rest of the trip.

IVB:  What types of social medial do you use?

BM:  All the usual places:  my website, Facebook, TwitterInstagram and of course, YouTube.