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Announcement of LA Music Critic Award winners for first half of 2017

Wow.  Color us impressed.  The article revealing the nominations for the LA Music Critic Awards for the first half of 2017 has set records for Indie Voice Blog.  During the past two weeks, the article alone generated 3,706 views in 36 different countries, who left a staggering 526 comments.  Overall, our blog has seen 4,523 total views during the same two week period.  We thank you for your support of indie music.  Without further ado, here are the winners for the first half of 2017.  The winner’s name is indicated in bold type.

BEST EP (Male) – Joe Goodkin (Record of Loss); Ed Prosek (Flesh and Blood Part 1); Ian Mahan (Rockford); Ray Goren (Free)

BEST EP (Female) – Meresha (Enter the Dreamland); Carrie Lane (California Freaks); Kris Angeles (Heartbreak is Contagious)

BEST EP (Group) – Gold Casio (Fever Dreams); Stereo Off (EP III); Echo Underground (Vows); Rococode (Young Ones); The Wild Now (Afterglow)

BEST CD (Male) – Chris Shifflett (West Coast Tour); Rod Melancon (Southern Gothic); David Ryan Harrris (Songs for Other People); AJ Hobbs (Too Much is Never Enough); Jared Tyler (Dirt on Your Hands)

BEST CD (Female)Janey Street (In my Own Skin); Wendy Sweetlove (Dirty Sunday); Sara Petite (The Road Less Traveled); Jennifer Vazquez (Rediscovering Me); Amilia K. Spicer (Wow and Flutter)

BEST CD (Group) – The American West (The Soot Will Bring us Back Again); Jeffrey Halford and the Healers (Lo-fi Dreams); King Washington (Potential); The Dream Eaters (We are a Curse); The Show Ponies (How it all Goes Down); Breaking Grass (Warning Signs)

BEST VIDEO (OFFICIAL) (Male) – Curtis Peoples (“Damage Control”); Dario (“Good Morning World”); Jared Tyler (“Dirt on Your Hands”); Rod Melancon (“Different Man”); Chris Shiflett (“Sticks and Stones”); Michael Hornbuckle (“Angel”)

BEST VIDEO (OFFICIAL) (Female) – MILCK (“Quiet”); Alice Wallace (“The Same Old Song”); Shannon Hurley (“Someday”); See (“Green Line Killer”); Marina V (“Born to the Stars”); Cindy Alexander (“Deep Waters”)

BEST VIDEO (OFFICIAL) (Group) – Backbone (“Supa Waz Guy”); The Wild Now (“Run for Your Life”); The Show Ponies (“Kalamazoo”); Halo Circus (“Band Aid”); King Washington (“My Reflection”)

BEST VIDEO (LIVE) – Jerad Finck (“Pieces of April”); The Spider Accomplice (“User”); Chelsea Williams (“Boomerang”); Gabe Dixon (Balcony TV) (“Holding Her Freedom”); Lucy and La Mer (Balcony TV) (“Honey, Put Your Weapons Down”)

BEST VIDEO (LYRIC)The Spider Accomplice (“Atmosphere”); Gerry Beckley (“Serious”); Jennifer Vazquez (“Rocked”); Jennifer Vazquez (“Worst Enemy”); Gigi Rich (“All in my Head”)

BEST VIDEO (COVER)Alexis Keegan (“When Doves Cry”/”Purple Rain”); The Daybreaks (“Nothing Compares 2 U”); Dave Yaden (“Humble”); Frank Shiner (“Rainy Night in Georgia”)

BEST VIDEO (COMEDY)Scout Durwood (“All the Pretty Bottles”); Scout Durwood (“Take One Thing Off”); Un5Gettable (“Honest Singing Telegrams – part 2”)

BEST VIDEO (COLLABORATION) – Curtis Peoples & Marie Digby (“Not Enough Drugs”); Frank and Lindsay Shiner (“When Something is Wrong With my Baby”); DJ Polique (ft. Snoop Dog, Follow Your Instinct and Jacob Luttrell) (“Dimes Only”)

BEST SINGLE (Male) – Curtis Peoples (“Damage Control”); Frank Shiner (“Rainy Night in Georgia”), Jerad Finck (“New Kids”)

BEST SINGLE (Female)Susan Calloway (“No Time for This”); Marina V (“Born to the Stars”), Kanisha K (“Bet on Me”); DANI Le Rose (“I’ve Told Lies”); Wendy Sweetlove (“Delilah”)

BEST SINGLE (Group) – Brit Royal (“Change”); Basement Revolver (“Tree Trunks”); FlecHaus (“What We’ve Got”); Breaking Grass (“Annie”); Birds and Arrows (“Stay Down”)

BEST COUNTRY ARTISTAlice Wallace, Jennifer Vazquez, Rod Melancon, AJ Hobbs, Warren Sellers, Tara Dente

BEST COUNTRY BAND – Calico the Band, Honey County

BEST BLUES ARTIST – Janiva Magness, Gina Sicilia

BEST BLUES BANDPolly O’Keary & the Rhythm Method, Papermoon Gypsys

BEST FUSION ARTIST/BAND – Mitre, Nancy Sanchez, San Miguel

BEST POP ARTIST – Shannon Hurley, David Ryan Harris, Wendy Sweetlove, Meresha, Ian Mahan

BEST POP BANDLovers and Poets, The Dream Eaters, The Wild Now, Rococode, Single by Sunday

BEST ROCK ARTISTJaney Street, Lizard McGee, Jack Spann

BEST ROCK BANDThe Spider Accomplice, Desert Culture, Husky, Hayride Casualties, Banditos

BEST R&B/SOUL ARTIST – Ray Goren, Derek Davis

BEST ROOTS/AMERICANA ARTISTAmilia K. Spicer, Sara Petite, Chris Shiflett, Jared Tyler, Pi Jacobs

BEST ROOTS/AMERICANA BANDThe Show Ponies, The American West, Imaginary Friends, Jeffrey Halford and the Healers

BEST BLUEGRASS BANDBreaking Grass

BEST JAZZ ARTIST – Dave Yaden, Irene Diaz

BEST REGGAE BANDRoots of Creation, 9 Mile Roots

BEST COMEDYScout Durwood, Jeff Simmermon, Un5Gettable

RISING STAR – Meresha, Jamey Geston, Bess, Kaylee Keller, Ray Goren

MOST SUPPORTIVE INDIE LABELBlue Élan Records

MEGHAN TRAINOR AWARD (Indie Artist Most Likely to Become a Household Name) – Jerad Finck

FAN FAVORITE – What a flurry of opinions for this year’s Fan Favorite artist.  In all 38 artists were nominated, but the focus seemed to be on five of them.  Honorable mention goes to Rod Melancon, Sara Petite, Breaking Grass, Pi Jacobs, Warren Sellers, The Spider Accomplice, Roots of Creation and DJ Polique, each of which garnered at least 10 votes.  When the smoke cleared, however, FlecHaus squeaked out a victory over Dario by only two votes, with Polly O’Keary and Janey Street tied for third and just six votes behind.  Wendy Sweetlove rounds out the Top Five vote getters.

Thanks again for all of your support of indie music.  Now it’s time to get back to reviewing the CDs submitted for the second  half of the year, along with live performance reviews and our weekly Monday Mashup column.

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.

Announcement of LA Music Critic Award winners for second half of 2016

If we haven’t said this enough, 2016 was a banner year for indie music.  Indie artists were recognized for Grammy nominations and wins, as well as crashing into the Billboard Top 40 charts.  In addition, 2017 is looking like a continuation of this indie tide.

Save the date of June 21, 2017 for the first LIVE awards show celebrating the best of the LA Music Critic Awards, to be held in Los Angeles.  We’ll have performances by some of your favorites as well as give out awards reflecting the best of the best.  More details will be available as the event is finalized.

Back to the present, where we are so thrilled to finally be able to announce to  you the winners of the second half of 2016 for the LA Music Critic Awards.

Here we go . . .

Best EP Female: Katie Costello (From the Vault), Amie Miriello (Seeya When I Seeya), Gina Sicilia (Sunset Avenue)

Best EP Male:  McDougall (Reaching for Some Light), Year of Suns (Songs for Silence)

Best EP Band:  Stereo Off (EP III), The Spider Accomplice (LA:  The Abduction), JERK (Jerk)

Best CD Female:  Camille Bloom (Pieces of Me), Lauren Adams (Somewhere Else), Sonia Rao (Meet Them at the Door), Janey Street (Janey Street), Cindy Alexander (Deep Waters), Kari Kimmel (Poppyfields)

Best CD Male:  Sharif (Tangled Dreams and Empty Bottles), Bobbo Byrnes (Motel Americana), Patrick Joseph (Hindsight), Josh Farrow (Trouble Walks With Me), Michael Hornbuckle (Soul Repo)

Best CD Band: Streets of Laredo (Wild), Spiritual Rez (Setting in the West), The Congress (The Game), Spelling Reform (No One’s Ever Changed), Daddy Issues (Handle It)

Best Christmas Single:  Shannon Hurley ft. Brandon Schott (“Fairytale of New York”), Cindy Alexander (“Christmas Song”), Katie Garibaldi (“Tomorrow is Christmas Morning”), Frank Shiner (“Please Come Home for Christmas”), Kaylee Keller (“Christmas in Your Arms”)

Best Video (Holiday):  Katie Garibaldi (“Tomorrow is Christmas Morning”), Redhead Express (“Away in a Manger”), Frank Shiner (“Please Come Home for Christmas”)

Best Video (cover):  No Small Children (“Ghostbusters”), Redhead Express (“Chocolate on my Tongue”), Redhead Express (“Clean”)

Best Video (live):  Patrick Joseph (“Piece of Your Love”), India Carney (“You”), Mitch Hayes (“All Fall Down”), The Congress (“Oh Babe”)

Best Video (lyric):  Jess Penner (“Together”), War and Pierce (“On and On”), Mikey Wax (“Helium”)

Best Video (official) Female:   Lucy Woodward (“Live Live Live”), Alexis Keegan (“Empty Heart”), Camille Bloom (“Pieces of Me”), Caitlin Eadie (“Don’t Want to Be”), Alyssa Jacey (“I Want it to Rain”), Shannon Hurley (“Heartbeat on the Radio”), Katie Garibaldi (“Delightful”)

Best Video (official) Male:   Jon Mullane (“Born Beautiful”), Dan Franklin (“Live to Dream Again”), Brian Travis (“Shipwreck”)

Best Video (official) Band:   The Spider Accomplice (“You Still Lie”), The Show Ponies (“The Time it Takes”), Spiritual Rez ft. Hirie (“Together Always”), The Congress (“Home Again”), Roots of Creation (“Struggle”), Sleep Machine (“Animal High”)

Best Video (Collaboration):  Earwig and Lydia Loveless (“Wasted on You”)

Best Rock Band:  The Spider Accomplice, Daddy Issues, Pollen Rx, Sleep Machine

Best Pop Band:  Lovers and Poets, Foxtraxx, The Congress, Ray and Remora, No Nets

Best Country/Americana Band:  Elouise Deep Water, The Show Ponies, Riddle and the Stars, Honey County

Best Reggae Band:  Roots of Creation, Spiritual Rez

Best Pop/Rock Male Artist: Patrick Joseph, Year of Suns, McDougall, Mikey Wax

Best Pop/Rock Female Artist:  Jess Penner, Katie Costello, Cindy Alexander, Janey Street, Camille Bloom

Best Blues Artist:  Peach & the Almost Blues Band, The King Brothers, Papermoon Gypsys, Michael Hornbuckle

Best Country/Americana Artist:  Alice Wallace, Lauren Adams, Brian Travis, Katie Garibaldi, Mitch Hayes

Best Jazz Artist:  Lucy Woodward, Nancy Sanchez

Rising Star:  Juliana Wilson, Meresha, Kaylee Keller, Rachel Brett

Fan Favorite:  Once again the fans were very vocal in support of their favorite artist.  Early indications were that it would be a landslide for Eloise Black Water, but she and her band were overtaken by the rabid fans of Janey Street and Papermoon Gypsys.  Cindy Alexander fans even made a dark horse attempt, but they were unable to overcome the previous three.  When the dust cleared, Papermoon Gypsys rose to the top, followed by Janey Street, Eloise Black Water and Cindy Alexander.  Other artists nominated included Michael Hornbuckle, Mitch Hayes, Peach, Daddy Issues, and Jon Mullane.

Icon Award:  This award did not draw much attention this year, so it was left to the committee to pick a winner.  Looking back on the past few years, one name kept coming to the top for their ardent support of their clients, their clear presence in the world, their drive and their diligence to their craft.  This year’s Icon Award winner is Laura Goldfarb of Red Boot PR.

Most Supportive PR Firm:  Doug Deutsch Publicity Services

Most Supportive Indie Label:  Blue Élan Records

Most Impressive Crowdfunding Campaign:  Clare Means

Best Use of Patreon Platform:  Marina V

Most Likely to go Mainstream:  Jerad Finck

Most Deserving of Indie Music Hall of Fame:  Janey Street

Getting to know the 2016 LA Music Critic Award winners – Marina V

We’re nearing the end of our series of interviews with the winners of the LA Music Critic Awards for the first half of 2016.  Today’s interview is special for us because we have been friends with this artist since 2001 when she first moved to Los Angeles from Illinois.  We knew she was special then and over the past 15 years the world has also learned of her unique talent.  She has toured extensively throughout the United States, Europe and the UK, as well as playing to large crowds in her native Moscow.  We are talking, of course, of the amazing Russian singer-songwriter named Marina V, who took home the prize for Best Video (live) with a stirring performance of her song, “Beautiful Forever.”

Grab a glass of your favorite wine, put on your favorite tunes, and sit back and learn things about the incredible talent known as Marina V.  As you would expect from our history, this is a long one.

IVB:  How long have you been performing?

MV:  I’ve been performing for only 17 years, but I’ve been writing songs as long as I can remember and singing before I was talking, according to my mom.  I was very shy for many years and wouldn’t perform until I met Nick (my husband), who encouraged me to share my songs with people.  I was attending Illinois College, where they had a talent competition.  I entered and sang my song before the entire campus and won first prize.  But more importantly, people came up to me afterwards and told me how much they loved my song and wanted to get it.  One girl even cried because the song meant as much to her as it did to me.  That statement made an impact with my soul because I realized that my music could affect others just like it affected me.  My music could bring pleasure to others and not just be therapy to me.  That was my catalyst to start performing.  I met you in 2001 at a Songsalive showcase at the old Club Lingerie in Hollywood

IVB:  Who are your influences?

MV:  For anyone that knows me, my primary influence has always been The Beatles, who always inspired me when I was young.   I am also a huge fan of Russian folk music.  Later I began following Jewel and Tori Amos, and discovered my true love for females in music.  Tori is a genius.  Of course, Paul McCartney is one of the greatest influences of all time, and Lennon and McCartney were the most amazing collaboration of all time.

IVB:  What made you decide to DIY?

MV:  It was not a conscious decision.  I realized I wanted to perform and didn’t know what to do, so I went online and searched out singer songwriters who were performing to try to find out what to do next.  It was support from my fellow students that led to my first record.   I learned a valuable lesson about crowd-funding and used email to send to all the students and faculty to pre-order my first CD.  I raised enough to sell 1,000 copies at $10 each.   After I finished that first record, I started sending it to labels and booking agents, but didn’t get much of a response.  I still had the passion and determination so I decided to just do it myself.   My goal was to reach people with my music and maybe reach someone at a label so I wouldn’t have to do it all by myself.   I moved to LA after college because I understood that LA was to be the place to be.

IVB:  Are you seeking to be a mainstream artist?

MV:  Yes.  My dream and my goal has always been to reach as many people as possible with my music.  I need the machine and marketing that you can’t really do on your own unless you have the resources of a label.  My music is pop rock, and my song “You Make me Beautiful” was a top 40 hit in Brazil where I’m right there on the charts with Beyonce and Katy Perry.  On my own I can’t do everything I envision, but I’m doing all that I can at the moment.  That is my true dream and vision.

IVB:  What are your future plans?

MV:  No fucking idea!  I honestly don’t know.  I just keep doing what I’m doing.  I just finished a wonderful and very successful tour in Europe, and I’m very proud of that.  I’ve been working on my “2 Songs a Month Club” through Patreon, and am actively pursuing getting my songs on television and in commercials.  I’m working to get to play more and more places in an effort to reach more fans.   I want to do vinyl print of my album Superhero.  I keep talking to various publishers to get the help I need to make it to the next level.  In the mean time, I’m really living life, travelling, working for myself and getting to love it all.   I think I’m definitely working very hard to move on up.  I think I’m at the top of what an indie artist can do by themselves, and am very hopeful for the future.

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

MV:  I got a really sweet deal from a local dealership who sponsored us with the car we used for our C to Shining Sea tour.  I also once had a fan give me $10,000 to work on an album.  I was doing crowd funding before that was a word.  I love inventing new ways to find support for my music.  All of it brings me closer to my fans and brings me great joy because I get to be a part of my fans’ joy.  Without the support of my fans I would be nowhere.

I’m currently doing dinner concerts where I cook them a gourmet meal and then play their requests.  Another time we had a fan that offered us support, which included fixing some appliances in our home and helping us build a fence around our house.  He never charged us for his labor although we did split the materials cost.  That’s what fan interaction is all about.  I’m also working on editing a video of our tour from Europe.  We did the same thing for our C to Shining Sea tour.

IVB:  How can your fans find out more about you?

MV:  The best place is my website.  They can also check out my Facebook page, join my Komrades group on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to my YouTube channel.

If they can’t make it out to see me live, I’m doing an online residency on Ampli.fy during the month of September.

Getting to know the 2016 LA Music Critic Award winners – Lovers and Poets

We’re getting near the end of this series with only six more interviews left to do.  Today we’re talking with the dynamic duo of Shannon Hurley and Ben Eisen, otherwise know as Lovers and Poets.  The duo won two awards – Best Video (official) Band for “You+ Me in the Summer” and Best CD (Band) for II.

Our connection with this artist goes back more than 10 years, and we have seen a lot of growth along the way, both in the solo career of Hurley and in the formation and rise of Lovers and Poets.

I still remember fondly the first time I heard them perform at an industry conference in Nashville.  I knew then that this pairing would be ideal and that this group had a future ahead of them.

So, sit back, grab a glass of wine, and learn things about the simply amazing band known as Lovers and Poets.  Please note that Eisen was unable at the time of the interview, so all comments came from Hurley, his better half.

IVB:  How long have you been performing?

L&P:  I started my solo career in 2001.  I first began going to open mics with only four songs in my catalog.  Ben had to drive me around everywhere since I didn’t have a car.  Speaking of Ben, we first met in 2001 when we were playing together in a Duran Duran tribute band.  Lovers and Poets came about in 2008 when we were living in Nashville.  Along the way, we also created the Don’t Call us Tori singer-songwriter showcase series 2004.  Some of the first artists to play in that series were Jordana, Colleen Grace and Marina V (who will be interviewed next week).  Bob (aka me) was a big part of that series, hosting the showcases and helping me book the artists, while Steven Leavitt (another friend and co-founder) ran the sound.  The showcases ended shortly before Ben and I moved to Nashville.  We also played the early days of Hotel Café before the venue became as big as it is today.   We’re now happy to be back playing their Second Stage.  It’s truly a shame to see all the small intimate venues in LA going away.  Ben has been involved in LA Soul Project and prefers to be part of an ensemble.  He is happy to be a key player in others’ successes.

IVB:  Who are your influences?

L&P:  As a band, our influences were groups like Belle and Sebastian, Morcheeba, Portishead, really any British and trip-hop/90’s bands whose music includes samples and really good beat.  Others that have influenced us include Bird and the Bee (especially Greg Kurstin, who has worked with Adele and Kelly Clarkson), and most recently,  Moby.  My personal influences were The Beatles (I learned all their songs on piano and guitar), Kate Bush and Tori Amos (a big influence on me)  I was influenced to play keyboards by Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran.  Ben loves the  soulful classics and classic rock artists like James Jameson, The Who, Paul McCartney, Sting and The Police.

IVB:  What made you decide to DIY?

L&P:  I didn’t know any better.  My career started after the record label crash.  I had friends that had label deals and lost them, and I didn’t want to be a part of that.  I was such a late bloomer that I wanted to do it myself to prevent those horror stories from happening.  With DIY, I have control over what gets released and what direction my music will take.  I love making music my own way.

IVB:  Are you seeking to be a mainstream artist?

Despite all that, yes.  I love to collaborate with mainstream artists and producers, and loved doing remixes with members of dance trance world.  I worked with some huge artists in that genre, and through them I’ve been heard all over the world.   I want to continue that as well as work with the top producers in America.

IVB:  What are your future plans?

L&P:  We’re in music video mode right now.  We want to make videos for many of the songs on our new album.  We think the visual component is very important and I have developed a love for editing.  It’s fun.  We want to continue to collaborate on future songs with outside producers.  We don’t have any plans for our next album yet, and we just want to see what will happenin – Moby, if you’re ready this, we’re ready when you are!

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

L&P:  We had a European tour in 2012, actually it was a Shannon Hurley solo tour, but we raised the money through Kickstarter.  It was amazing to see the fans that came together to support us.  We went to the UK and Amsterdam, and played in London and Liverpool, among others.  We even got to play the Cavern Club.  We were playing a club across the street and the owner of that venue took us to the Cavern Club and got us on stage.  It was a pretty cool experience.

IVB:   Where can your fans find you on social media?

L&P:  Both the band and I can be found on ReverbNation, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Bandcamp.  We also  have a YouTube channel.

Our music has been played on such shows as Scorpion and the Australian soap opera Home and Away.  We also seem to be popular on reality shows and The Young and the Restless.

Getting to know the 2016 LA Music Critic Award winners – Freddy & Francine

We hope you have been enjoying these articles on the winners of the LA Music Critic Awards for the first half of 2016.  Our next feature is on the winner of the Best Pop/Rock Artist award, the dynamic duo known as Freddy & Francine.

Freddy & Francine is an LA-based pop act composed of Lee Ferris and Bianca Caruso.  Freddy & Francine released their second CD, Gung Ho on June 10, 2016.   Caruso was unable to be interviewed as she was working on a deadline for the networks, so all the answers came from Ferris on her behalf.  Nevertheless, please sit back, relax and learn things about this amazing group.

IVB:  How long have you been performing?

LF:  We started the band in 2008 after originally joining up to write together.  I started performing for family when I was five years old, and sang in choirs and high school musicals before heading off to college to continue my musical career.  I first attended school for opera before going to Berklee School of Music to learn jazz guitar.  I have performed all over Los Angeles in various bands before becoming half of Freddy & Francine.  Caruso had a choral background in high school before studying classical music independently.  She moved to LA from Austin and has also studied voice and piano.  She sang back up for various bands and artists in Los Angeles, including Broadway star Idina Menzell.  We first met in 2007 when we were performing in the 40th anniversary production of the musical “Hair.”

IVB:  Who are your influences?

LC:  Definitely Bob Dylan (thanks to my father), as well as classic rock like the Rolling Stones, ELO, the Beatles, Van Morrison, and other 70’s artists including The Band.  I love traditional 60’s and 70’s rock.   I also love big band and be-bop, world music (especially African), Motown and Stax.LC.  Motown & Stax.   Caruso is more influenced by 80’s and 90’s soul/R&B acts like En Vogue, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston.  She likes more pop R&B than classic Motown R&B.

IVB:   What made you decide to DIY?

LF:  Well, no one was knocking on our door or offering us a lot of cash.  This was something we wanted to do no matter what so it was pointless to just wait around for someone to “discover” us.   DIY gives us the independence to make our own decisions, and to learn the music business on our own terms.  We get to do it all by ourselves.   We would love to have more people on board to help us but in the meantime we’ll keep doing it ourselves.  We especially like that we get to keep our own publishing rights.

IVB:  Are you seeking to be a mainstream artist?

LF:  The term “mainstream” is a little general.  There are niches within the genres.  For example, Americana covers so much stylized content.   We can go as far as we want right now.  We’re not interested in being “Top 40.”  We do want the respect of our peers but not necessarily the general public.

IVB:  What are your future plans?

LF:  We plan to keep touring in support of our new album and continue to build relationships across the country so we can play at Festivals like the one we just did in Colorado.  We want to make a new record every one to two years, publicize our record and market it well.  We’re working on getting radio airplay.  We are primarily learning everything we can so that when the labels do come knocking, we won’t be taken advantage of.

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

LF:  Well, most recently we played the Rocky Mountain Folk Fest in Denver, with headliners like Mavis Staples, Lucinda Williams, and more.  We loved getting out of LA to a place where music is truly appreciated.  We recorded our new album in Eugene, Oregon with top notch musicians.  We loved working with musicians that were also playing with other well known artists.

We also love setting up food competitions for free food.  We’ll tell our fans to tweet “so and so” and get something in return, and we make video of our antics.  It’s basic Touring 101.  We both have very outgoing personalities.  Our motto is “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.”  We plan to just keeping trying new things.

IVB:  What type of social media do you use?

LF:  We have an updated website and Facebook page, as well as Twitter, Instagram and a YouTube channel.

 

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.

Getting to know the 2016 LA Music Critic Award winners – Diana Rein

Welcome to our new series on Indie Voice Blog.  Now that the winners of the LA Music Critic Awards for the first half of 2016 have been announced, we decided to help you get to know the winning artists through a series of interviews/stories about them.  Our first featured artist is three-time winner Diana Rein.

Rein won “Best CD – Female” for Long Road, “Best Blues Artist” and was the overwhelming selection for “Fan Favorite,” getting almost twice the votes of her nearest competitor.

All of these articles will follow the same format, so dig it and learn things about Ms. Rein and her music.

IVB:  How long have you been performing?

DR:  I officially started performing in 2007, although I have always loved music.  Unfortunately, those early performing years took a toll on my vocal cords and I developed polyps, forcing me to take a break in 2011 for vocal surgery.  I was doing an exercise during acting class where the teacher had me screaming.  After the class, I couldn’t talk for three weeks.  I realized I needed help, so I consulted a doctor, who scheduled me for the surgery.  After taking time to heal, I started learning to play guitar in 2013, culminating in the recording of my album in 2015.

IVB:  Who are your influences?

DR:  I break down my influences into two categories.  For my vocals, they would be Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston.  As a child I was also influenced by the music of Prince as a child.  My uncle was a drummer in a band.  When I was 8, I was at the Back Room in Chicago where he was performing and I invited to perform.  The vocalist in the band taught me the blues signature and I got to improvise on stage.  For my guitar playing, it would definitely be Stevie Ray Vaughan, although I was also heavily influenced as a child by the playing of Tom Kefer of Cinderella.  Other contemporary influences are the blues legends, like BB King and Buddy Guy.

IVB:  What made you decide to DIY?

DR:  I just wanted to send it (my music) out into the universe and see what happened.  At the time my son was only two, and I was with him almost 24/7, so I couldn’t leave him to go off to a studio and record.  Doing my stuff the DIY way allowed me to work around my schedule and record when I was free without feeling guilty about it.  I had the tools and the room to do it.  I taught myself how to play bass and program the drum machine.  I also reached out to friends and fellow musicians for advice on how to do it.

IVB:  Are you seeking to be a mainstream artist?

DR:  Right now I am very happy being an indie but would love to be more involved in the mainstream blues world.  I love how Bonnie Raitt’s career has taken shape because she is a household name, but is also very revered in the Blues world.  I truly love being surrounded by blues-loving people.

IVB:  What are your future plans?

DR:  I recently joined up with Kenny “Big Daddy” Williams and his band the Papermoon Gypsys.  We will be performing at some upcoming blues festivals and charity events.  We are also competing in the Temecula Valley Music Awards showcases.  We are performing at the Real Blues Festival at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on August 14 at 4 p.m.  Our set is just before James Harmon Band and KK Martin Band play.  We are also playing at the Long Beach New Blues Festival in September.  With the Papermoon Gypsys, we are working on a new album of more traditional blues.

IVB:  Do you have any good stories from touring/recording/performing?

DR:  I haven’t done any touring yet, but have recently learned not to wear leather at a hot outdoor venue.  We recently played the Orange County Fair on a hot sweltering day and learned that (wearing leather) was a mistake.

IVB:  Where can your fans find out more about you?

DR:  I have the usual social media.  They can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, like my fan page on Facebook, and check out my website.  I love hearing from my fans.  They can also subscribe to my YouTube channel.  Also check out my publicist, Doug Deutsch Publicity Services, if you need a great one.

LA Music Critic Award winners announced for first half of 2016

Wow.  What an impressive group of musicians and music were nominated for awards during the first half of 2016, and what amazing stuff is waiting to be announced for the second half.  Again, thanks to all the fans for your support of these awards, and for your input.  Thanks also to our amazing panel of Jen Lyneis, Steve Belkin, Laura Goldfarb, Doug Deutsch, Melissa Dragich-Cordero, Kim Grant, Michelle King, Heather Jacks and Patrick O’Heffernan for your valuable suggestions and votes.

Without further ado, here are the winners of the LA Music Critic Awards for the first half of 2016.  Winners are indicated in bold:

Best EP Female: Rooted Clarity (Katie Garibaldi),  Heartbreak is Contagious (Kris Angelis), Endless Road (Alexis Keegan)

Best EP Male:  Royal Blue (Lasers Lasers Birmingham), LA 14 (Rod Melancon)

Best EP Band:  29:11 (One From Many)

Best CD Female: Dressed up for Goodbye (Corinne Cook), Blow (Emily Clibourn), Cure for Dreaming (Jenny Gillespie), Hold Fast Open Palm (Sarah Ault), Long Road (Diana Rein), Popular Songs for Wholesome Families (Rae Fitzgerald)

Best CD Male: Northeastsouthwest (Mike Jacoby), Sugarland (Brian Whelan)Turns to Gold (Gabe Dixon), Let me in (Chi McClean), Blood Moon (Morgan Washam)

Best CD Band: … and friends (Jason Adamo Band), Love & Rent (The BGP), New Coastline (Riddle & the Stars), II (Lovers & Poets), Gung Ho (Freddy & Francine)

Best Single:  “Jackal II” (Rae Fitzgerald), “Big Man” (Jenni Alpert), “Crave” (Gabe Dixon), “Desire (Lo Que Vale La Pena)” (Halo Circus), “Diamond” (Kaylee Keller), “The Machine” (The Daybreaks)

Best Video (cover):  “Better When I’m Dancing” (Redhead Express), “Love Yourself” (Redhead Express), “Blue” (Alice Wallace), “I Knew I Loved You” (Redhead Express), “Cruel Summer” (The Daybreaks)

Best Video (live):  “Headrush” (Jamey Geston), “I am” (Katie Garibaldi), “Beautiful Forever” (Marina V), “Trespassing” (McKail Seely ft Jesse McLeod)

Best Video (comedy):  “Honest Singing Telegrams” (Un5gettable), “Sorry” (Un5gettable)

Best Video (lyrical):  “Pregunto” (Sin Color), “Diamonds (Vip mix)” (Kaylee Keller x VinylJackers), “Pieces of April” (Jerad Finck),  “Holding Her Freedom” (Gabe Dixon), “Blood in the Water” (Jerad Finck)

Best Video (official) Female:   “Lonely Love” (Ryal), “Last One” (McKail Seely), “Jackal II” (Rae Fitzgerald), “Paper Bag” (Anni Piper), “Diamond” (Kaylee Keller), “I Just Don’t Care Anymore” (Alice Wallace)

Best Video (official) Male:   “Crave” (Gabe Dixon), “Perry” (Rod Melancon), “Evergreen” (Shane Alexander)

Best Video (official) Band:   “Desire (Lo Que Vale La Pena)” (Halo Circus), “You + Me in the Summer” (Lovers & Poets), “Calico Concrete” (The Spider Accomplice), “These Three Words” (One From Many)

Best Video (series):  “Los Angeles:  The Abduction” (The Spider Accomplice)

Best Rock Band:  Halo Circus, The Spider Accomplice

Best Pop Band:  the BGP, Freddy & Francine, Lovers & Poets, One From Many

Best Country/Americana Band:  Riddle & the Stars, Jason Adamo Band, Junk Parlor

Best Pop/Rock Male Artist: Gabe Dixon

Best Pop/Rock Female Artist:  Kris Angeles, Sarah Ault, Allison Iraheta, Alexis Keegan

Best Blues Artist:  Anni Piper, Diana Rein

Best Country/Americana Artist:  Brian Whelan, Rod Melancon, Lasers Lasers Birmingham, Alice Wallace

Icon Award:  Ronnie Mack, Dave Yaden, Shane Alexander, Darwin Johnson

Best Live Residency Series:  Dave Yaden & Mike Rossi – Super Tuesdays Live at Butter’d Up

Fan Favorite – It was another wild year as 13 different artists were nominated for fan favorite.  When the dust settled, the artists with the most votes included Kris Angeles, Junk Parlor, Halo Circus, Alice Wallace, Diana Rein, Kaylee Keller and Jason Adamo.  After all the votes were counted, Diana Rein came out on top, with Halo Circus her closest competitor.  Who will it be for the second half?  Only the fans know for sure.