Thursday, November 16, 2017

Interview: Alex Goettel of The Byways

The Byways, Courtesy of the band's Facebook page.
The Byways, hailing from my own hometown of Rochester, NY, are a soul-inspired acoustic group with fantastic stripped down songs. "Watch The World Go Round" is my personal favorite. Alex Goettel answered some questions via email about the group and where they're headed next.

When and how did you get started in music?

I personally started playing music when I was 5 years old. I took violin lessons, and eventually started to pick up the bass and then the guitar. I actually studied violin in college, but continued to play guitar and bass in bands and as a solo artist.

How would you describe your sound?

The Byways started out as a really funky band, but lately we've started to move more towards an acoustic sound. I think the one constant sound that I hear in our music is a soul-influence.

Who are your influences?

Our influences definitely vary - but mostly singer/songwriters who are also great players on their instruments, which is what we all strive to be. We've covered people like Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, John Mayer, and The Beatles. Although come to think of it, who isn't influenced by those artists?!

What is coming up for you? Music? Shows?

We just recorded a song called "You Shoulda Known Better" that will be released on December 15th. The Byways aren't actually touring as a full band during the winter, but I am booking acoustic shows to promote the new single. Two exciting upcoming shows are December 21st at Lovin' Cup (Rochester), and January 26th and Funk n' Waffles (Syracuse).

What projects are you involved in at the moment?

Aside from the Byways, I'm doing some freelance bass playing with a few different people as well as my own jazz trio. I'm also a high school teacher though - so my plate is pretty full!

How would you describe your local scene?

Rochester is jam packed with great musicians of literally every major genre you can name, and there are so many locals that go on to have great careers both in Rochester and outside of it. Not many cities this size offer such high quality of music on the regular the way that we do.

What are some of the pros and cons of your scene?

One of my favorite things about Rochester is that it's easy to make connections with musicians in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville. Usually you're only a degree or two of separation from one of your idols, which is so cool. Obviously Rochester is not as big of a scene, so sometimes I think we end up a little isolated from the industry. Still, it's sort of the best of both worlds in a way - small city vibe with big city talent.

What are some challenges you have faced being based there? Do you think you would benefit from being elsewhere?

There is definitely a lot of competition and that can make it hard to book the shows you want. I know some venue managers that have a hard time even getting through all the emails they get from musicians, much less being able to get to know the artists. That being said, the competition helps you grow as a musician and promotes a culture of live music that you might not see elsewhere.

Are there locals that you collaborate or play shows with often?

Yes! There are so many great musicians, it would be hard to pick just one or two to name. The Byways are retro sounding, so we always look for musicians that compliment that.

How do you pay for things like studio time, practice space, and marketing expenses?

The more I do this, the better I am at knowing when to spend money and knowing where you can cut your expenses down. "You Shoulda Known Better" is a pretty stripped down song, so we were actually able to record and produce it ourselves.

What would you look for in someone you might take on tour with you for management/merch?

At the moment The Byways is very much a DIY project. If I ever wanted to hire someone to do the management or merchandise, I would look for someone who had some original ideas for how to really stand out.
Do you book your own shows and tours? What was the experience like and what advice would you give?

I do most of the booking for the Byways. The more accessible our music becomes, the easier it becomes to convince someone to book us. Some people like to book in person, some via email, some via social media. I think it's good to be able and willing to explore different methods of contacting venues.
How has new technology (streaming, social media, etc.) affected your experience in music? Has it helped or hurt you?

I think it has helped us. We've been focused on releasing singles, and it's honestly saved us money to be able to sell and promote online.

Any other advice?

In the past I have spent way too much time planning and not enough time doing. I got hung up on trying to decide what genre we were going to identify with and how to brand The Byways. These things are super important, but music is still way more important. So I would say if anyone reading this has been wanting to start a project, give it a shot, make some mistakes, and fine tune it later!

Catch up with The Byways on their social media:

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Interview: Katie Garibaldi

By: Liz Coffey

Hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area, Katie Garibaldi has made a name for herself in Americana music. Following 2009's award-winning Next Ride Out, she took some time off to reflect. Though she released several singles, it would be five years before she came out with another full-length album. Follow Your Heart has given a window into some of the most personal stories Garibaldi has ever shared in her music, and she teamed up with numerous great musicians to tell those stories. Through email, Katie answered some questions about how she got started in music, how Follow Your Heart came to be, and what she plans to do in the future. Check it out! 

Please introduce yourself and give us a strange fact about yourself.

My name is Katie Garibaldi and I’m a touring singer/songwriter in the Americana vein with my home base in the San Francisco Bay Area. A strange fact about me is that I really don’t like fictional horror movies, especially gruesome ones, and yet, I love watching shows or reading about real-life ghost stories and hauntings. They still scare me but I find them really fascinating and I’ve always had an interest in the paranormal.

When did you first get into music and when did you decide that this is what you wanted to do?

I was captivated by music as far back as I can remember. My parents used to play rock and roll records for me when I was a baby and said that I would light up when I heard it. As a kid I was always singing and creating my own melodies, which of course listening to great classics like the Beatles etc. gave me a strong appreciation for melody. I learned piano when I was younger but I didn’t feel like it was “my thing.” That epiphany came when I picked up the guitar at around 11 years old. I had an instant connection with the instrument, which was a very natural tool for me to use to turn my constant melodies into actual songs. Once I started performing in high school, I fell in love with the live aspect as well and quickly realized this was my calling. I became and remain passionate about every aspect, from the creative side of songwriting to the business side of marketing.

What artists influence you the most, and how do you incorporate that into your own style?

Jewel was a huge influence on me because I was learning the guitar and writing my first songs at the same time that her big debut, Pieces of You, was released. Up until that point I had been listening to rock and roll classics, pop singers, and some country. But Jewel came on the scene as this ballsy yet gentle songwriter who was completely honest in her lyrics and challenged the standard formats of song structure. She was so real to me and it made me realize that I didn’t have to fit in any sort of genre box; I could just be myself and do my own thing, as long as it’s true to my heart. Jewel’s guitar playing style also had an influence on the way I learned how to play the guitar. I think nowadays depending on who I’m listening to, my styles kind of fluctuate, but I mostly get inspiration from experiences rather than other artists to deliberately incorporate into my style. It’s more of a subconscious combination of whatever is inspiring me at the moment.

Describe your sound to someone who has never heard you before.

Country-tinged folk music with a soulful vibe.

When you write music and play shows, do you have a target group in mind, or do you just go with the flow and let your music speak for itself?

I definitely don’t think about that kind of thing while I’m writing. Songwriting is a pretty otherworldly experience for me, a sort of out of body event where I just let creativity run its course naturally. I don’t necessarily think about target marketing when I’m playing shows because I am always who I am, however I always come up with my set list for a show on the spot, unless it’s a big show with my full band, and sometimes we even tweak that song order as we go along too. But solo shows I almost always play the set by ear. I like to feel the crowd and see what they’re responding to. If they’re responding to the upbeat songs I’ll do more of those, or if it’s quiet and intimate I might play a ballad or debut a new song to spark interest.

What has been the biggest breakthrough you’ve had since beginning in music? The biggest challenge?

One of the biggest challenges and personal breakthroughs I’ve faced is probably along the same subject, which is finding my voice as an artist. In this industry a lot of people try to tell you what to do; what’s the “right” way to do things, which I’ve had a good dose of experience with, especially since I started performing at such a young age. I remember going to a songwriting conference back when I was in high school and there was a panel that listened to your music and gave you feedback. One panelist listened to my song and said something like, “It’s a good song but the title is only one word. You can’t name a song with a one-word title. Nobody does that and it will never get on the radio.” I sat there and thought to myself, ‘why not?’ I definitely struggled with things like this for years and it never made sense to me. When a producer told me I couldn’t put a crescendo (when the music gradually gets louder) on the intro of a song, I thought, ‘why not?’ When a drummer would tell me that he couldn’t slow down in the middle of a song where I wanted to change the tempo, I thought, ‘why not?’ I never really let these things discourage me, but when you go through those situations time after time after time while you’re still finding your voice, it can start to wear on your confidence. The truth is, when I let go of the frustrations and stress that outsiders threw at me that weren’t in tune with my true self and artistic happiness, I overcame so many challenges and realized the only hurdles I actually had were the ones I had built myself out of self doubt. Nobody could really tell me what to do when it came to writing and playing music from my heart. That’s a long and hard lesson I had to learn. Walking away from people or things that stunted my growth as an artist opened up new opportunities that encouraged my artistic evolution with the confidence and passion to speak my mind and just have fun making music.

What are your plans for the foreseeable future? (Music + Shows)

I just completed recording my new EP in Nashville, which is a collection of five brand new songs featuring classically trained and country string players. The EP will be released this coming Spring, specifically April 2016. I’m so excited for everyone to hear my new music because it’s sonically and thematically different than my previous albums and really showcases the storytelling of the songs. The theme revolves around introspection and self-awareness, as well as faith. I’ll be planning some new shows and touring in 2016 to support the new release. Release shows and more info will be announced soon at!

Aside from your music, what are your other passions?

I’m passionate about healthy cooking and eating. I was always conscious about trying to live a healthy lifestyle but I went through some health challenges when I was younger and it led me on a quest to improve myself. For the past three years or so I’ve been completely dairy-free, and significantly lowered the amount of gluten and sugar in my diet, which has immensely improved my quality of life, and I feel like it almost literally saved my life. I’m still learning a lot and very interested in health blogs and love experimenting with my own recipes. Once I discovered my food sensitivities, I found a whole new love for cooking that I never had before. I’m also pretty passionate about writing articles, as well as poetry sometimes, usually when I’m on tour and feeling inspired.

You released a video for “Lock The Door, Lose The Key” this past September. What was the process for shooting that, and where did the idea for it come from?   

The producer and I came up with the theme of the video together. The song is about a newlywed couple that are enjoying their blissful phase right after they get married. I wanted the video to reflect this joy without replicating the exact lyrics and being so literal. So we came up with the concept of the couple heading out on their way to their honeymoon when they run into car trouble. The hiccup could mean disaster, but the couple is so blissfully in love that they don’t even care and end up ditching the car for a spontaneous new adventure. It’s all about the journey, which is really the whole underlining theme of my album Follow Your Heart that “Lock The Door, Lose The Key” is from. We shot the entire video is one afternoon, which happened to be about 95 degrees that day! It was my first music video so I remember being nervous, but the actor who plays my husband in the video, Taylor Lambert, was a total pro and made me laugh through the whole thing, which calmed my nerves and helped me enjoy the experience. All of our laughter and smiles in the video are authentic, so I think that really helped showcase the joyfulness I wanted to get across in the story.

You released “Follow Your Heart” in 2014 after a length of time with no music. What does the album mean to you, and how do you hope it resonates with your fans?

I released a few singles between Follow Your Heart and the previous album, but Follow was indeed my first full-length release in five years. In those years I was performing and touring a lot, as well as writing a ton of songs. So I was definitely busy working, minus the recording aspect. I remember trying to record the new album a couple of times, but the circumstances and timing just weren’t right yet. In hindsight, I’m so glad I waited for the right time because I ended up in a studio (Tiny Telephone in San Francisco) and with an engineer and musicians who really put the heart and soul into this album. Follow Your Heart is so special to me because the whole process from the songwriting to the making of the album changed my life. I don’t think I really considered myself a professional recording artist, even though I had released six albums already, until this album happened because I wasn’t very comfortable in the studio before this. With Follow Your Heart, I gained the confidence I needed to enjoy the recording process as opposed to being nervous about it. I was able to communicate the kinds of sounds I wanted sonically and experiment with a different style than my last record. I also included some very personal songs, like “Wedding Day Song,” which I sang to my husband at our wedding. It’s one of those things that I thought I would save as just a private song but I was putting so much heart into this album, which is greatly influenced by the time of my life when I was engaged and newly married, that I thought it just fit. This song is something that I love singing and represents such a special time in my life. Every record is like a snapshot of my life at the time, so this, with other personal songs, belonged in this “photo album,” so to speak. The album is my message: Follow your heart because if you do, things always, always, always work out for the best and take you beyond your expectations. If you don’t, you’ll get off course, or things may still end up working out but they happen a lot slower and take you on a harder road. You’ve got to be honest with yourself and brave enough to listen to that voice inside of you, which we all have, because that is your true compass that is pointing you to your life’s purpose, even when it doesn’t seem easy. This is what I hope listeners take away from the album and find inspiration to follow their own dreams.

Do you have any advice for younger kids trying to make it into the industry?

The best advice I have for young people in this industry is to always be professional and nice. This industry has somewhat of a weird reputation for artists to act too cool for school. In other words, “musicians are always late” or “musicians can’t get up early” or “music isn’t a real job”. This is all false and frankly, I’m kind of surprised when I still hear these things. The world needs music and art and it is a completely valid, valuable, and fulfilling career. If music is what you want to do, roll up your sleeves, put a smile on your face, and carry yourself with a sense of professional responsibility. You are a songwriter, but you are also CEO of your business. Don’t fall into the short lived-sunglasses onstage in a club—won’t smile at the audience-takes two weeks to answer an email music artist. If you love what you do, act like it, be grateful for it, and don’t ever be afraid to be true to what makes you you.

Follow Katie:




Interview: Myrle

By: Liz Coffey

With his soulful take on rock & roll, Myrle is currently making his way up through the ropes of the music industry. Based in Toronto, ON, many outlets have compared him to legends like Steve Earle, Tom Waits, and even an updated version of Bruce Springsteen. Myrle brings all of that and more to the table with his latest full-length release, A Dozen Hearts. Over email, we talked about his career thus far, and where he's hoping to go in the future. Enjoy! 

Can you introduce yourself and give us one strange fact about you?

I am a Canadian singer/songwriter who performs under the moniker “Myrle”, although my name is Jamie Clarke. Strange fact: Myrle is my grandfather’s name, he is a personal hero of mine.  He fought in WWII for the FSSF as a sniper, it was the only Canadian/American unit, the first commando/special services unit that there ever was. If you’ve ever seen the Quentin Tarantino movie “Inglorious Bastards” it was based off of what they did and Brad Pitt sports my grandfather’s uniform with their symbol on his sleeve.

Being in the music business can be incredibly difficult at times. When and how did you decide that it was worth it, and something that you truly wanted to do?

I don’t think people make music because they choose to, they do it because they are compelled to. I’ve travelled, worked at too many jobs to mention, changed careers, etc etc etc. But for some reason a guitar and notebook has always been my number one travelling companion.

What artists influence you the most, and how do you incorporate that into your own style?

I’ve always been a huge Ron Hawkins fan, above all others. I incorporated it most recently by having him produce my most recent album. He plays and sings all over the thing, can’t ask for better than that!

Sum up your style in three words (not genres!):

Honest, Real life

How does a song or album come together for you? Do you find it easier to start with music and let the lyrics, vice versa, or do you just start with whatever comes to you first?

Songs are like special little snowflakes. Each and every one comes on its own in its own way.  Some I recall writing and what was going on in my life, others are a blur. That’s a common question but certainly not one I’ve ever found a black and white answer to.

Speaking of albums, you just released your latest music in October? What was the experience like making the album, and how have fans been responding to it?

The experience was great. Again, I was able to work with someone I’ve always looked up to, and he was a gem. At no point did I ever feel pressured under him, we met eye to eye and just had a great time making it. We plan to make the next one together too, it’s been great!
And the response has been great, there are certainly more people listening to me now than ever before so it all feels like it’s the right direction.

What are you most looking forward to in 2016, both personally and in your music?

I made this record without a band, just a crew of people I know and respect that came together and helped me out, and since then I’ve built a band around me of really talented players. I’m most looking forward to growing with them and working towards something with a team in place.  We’ve got some ideas……..

What are some of the best and worst parts about being based in Toronto?

Toronto is a great city, a tough one to crack but a great one.  So in a city of thousands of venues you have to work to get someone to actually come to see you play and convince them that what you are doing is worth investing their time in. But I live a bit north of the big smoke in a smaller area called Muskoka so I have the best of both worlds. I get to know my community and have locals come and support what I am doing and I’m an arms throw from the city.

Do you have any advice for people just getting involved in the industry? Any things     `that you’ve learned along the way that you wish you’d known when you started?

Music is the easy part, you’re most likely doing it because you are passionate and it comes naturally to you. The hard part is not letting things get in the way. Have a good time but don’t let the lifestyle get in the way, because it’ll get in the way.

Follow Myrle! 

Interview: Tamra

By: Liz Coffey

Tamra Cherubin, known on stage simply as Tamra, is a soul/R&B singer-songwriter. She hails from Rochester, NY and strives to use her gifted voice in order to empower and help others. Passionate and authentic, she is getting ready to release an EP titled Big Hair in May. We sat down at a coffee shop to chat about her beginnings, her inspirations, and a myriad of other topics on life and music. Check it out!

Please introduce yourself and give us a strange fact about yourself.

I am Tamra, from Rochester, NY. I go by Tamra when I do music, I like to just use my first name. A strange fact about me? I can make up a song off of anything, like something goofy. It’s what I was known for when I was younger, people would just be like, “Tamra! Make up a song about this or that.” I would make it up right on the spot. I think it makes me good with songwriting now.

Another strange thing that not many people know is that I went to school to be a funeral director. Yep!  Right after high school, I went to mortuary school where I learned how to embalm, plan funerals, budget, what the different casket types were… we role played a lot, where we would sit down with families and apologize for their loss and such. Not many people know it’s a thing you can go to school for, so they’re are usually pretty surprised. It was different, unique, and I could help people. If there’s something that every human being can relate to, no matter where they come from - death is it. I worked in a funeral home for a few years before I realized it wasn’t for me. When I started seeing young people being buried over stupid stuff, I changed to teaching, thinking maybe I could save some lives.  

When did you first get into music, and when did you first decide this is what you really wanted to do? Was there a particular moment that you realized, or was it something that happened along the way?

I first started getting into it through church. That was where music was every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. We had rehearsals for the choir every Tuesday or something, and so I got into it; my mom sang in the choir for praise and worship. I grew up seeing her on stage, and  hearing her and my aunt singing in the kitchen and harmonizing… I just loved it. I started singing as a little girl, but then started to be a little shy about it.

I didn’t start singing for real until I went to college, and it was a way to make money. I was a broke college student, and they would have these contests where you could win money. There was one my first night at school, and I think I sang a Lauryn Hill song, which I won with. So after that I started going different places to sing, and I was actually winning the money. With all of the competitions, I was asked to be the choir club president… which led to more singing. That was where I got more comfortable with singing.

After college, I came back to church choir and from there I started with open mics. I started a band, and I was finally doing music just to do it. I started to really enjoy it, which is when I auditioned for The Voice. The feedback I got from there was so good. They actually really liked me, I almost made it. They called me and they told me to keep doing this and to audition again. That was in 2014, and I have been serious about music ever since. It made me realize just how much I want to do this.

What artists influence you the most and how do you incorporate that into your own style?

The first person that comes to mind is James Brown. My grandmother loved James Brown - it was Jesus and James Brown - those were the two people you were supposed to know and look up to. Entertaining wise, he was amazing! He was authentic and real, he knew how to captivate an audience, he sang with feeling and passion, and he did things his own way. I think I can relate to him in a lot of ways when it comes to him like, just doing what feels good instead of what is technically right in music. I’m a little bit out of the box like that too. It’s important to be a great singer, but it’s also about presenting the feeling of whatever it is that you’re trying to get across. Also, he created music that made you dance but also think about social issues; he was very political as well as being an artist. He never forgot where he came from and he never forgot his community. He’s the epitome of soul, and that’s what I want to sing.

Describe your sound to someone who has never heard you before.

This one is hard, because I feel like I haven’t really cultivated a sound yet of my own. I mean vocally I have, but musically I haven’t had time to figure that out yet. Vocally, I’m very soulful, church-y, a little bit raspy - I sing the way I was taught to in the church. Musically, right now is very neo-soul, a little bit funky, with some hip hop. Also, my husband raps, so in some of my songs, that’s thrown in too.

How did your Vintage Soul Sessions come together? Do you plan on doing any more of them?

Hell no! I’m just kidding. I’m only 30 years old, but I LOVE old school any day over newer artists. I was obsessed with Billy Joel growing up, I remember hearing songs and wondering who he was talking about. He told a story with his music. So I wanted to pay homage to those who inspired me. They’re like my ancestors, you know? They mean so much to me in a lot of ways, because if it wasn’t for them I may not be singing now. I also just like the nostalgia of it. Those songs that take you back to a certain time in your life, with certain memories. I do plan on doing more of them. There’s more to release now, plus there’s more I want to do still.

You live by the mantra, “No ego, just art.” Where did that come from and how do you feel you live it every day?

That’s all a lie actually. No! I just think that the kind a person I am wouldn’t usually be on a stage. I’m very shy, and I’ve worked through a lot of stage fright and things, but I’m a performer. It’s my calling, so at the end of the day I need to put away my ego and my fear to create the art that I’m supposed to create. Dealing with artists too, some of them are very egotistic - not all of them, but some of them. But it should be about the music and the message. It’s not about being in front or whatever, this is me doing what I’m meant to do and saying what I need to. I am trying to give back the gift that God gave me.

Aside from your music, what are your passions?

One of my biggest passions is children. I run an after school program in the city, and when I think about this opportunity to help children and their families, and to help mold the next generation, it’s huge to me. I get to teach kids about music, history, loving who they are, and help them become socially intelligent. It’s awesome to me that I get to do that.

Another passion of mine is basic human rights. I was taught that if someone isn’t being treated right, you stick up for them. So that’s what I do. I’m always going to be the person to stick up for someone who’s being oppressed, or pushed down, or bullied.

When you write your music and book shows, do you have a target demographic in mind, or are you just letting the music and your performance speak for themselves?

I don’t have a target group, I’m telling my story. I have a song called Don’t Know What to Say, and it’s about my husband. It’s a love song about how he’s brought color to my world, and I thank God for him every day because he’s blessed me with this guy. So that’s my love story. Then there’s a song called Big Hair, which has to do with my big afro and how I’ve become confident in that. So I’m just writing songs that have to do with what I can relate to, and if other people relate to that and it speaks to them, that’s awesome! I was also writing a song a few days ago called Changes, which is more of a political song talking about the changes I see coming. Whatever is in my heart at a given time, like the political issues going on now, I want to see how I can be a part of manifesting these ideas in the right way.

What has been your biggest breakthrough in music and what has been your biggest challenge?

The biggest breakthrough I think was that I can do all things through Christ. I have worked through a lot of anxiety and stage fright, but knowing that this is what I’m meant to do got me through it. No one wants to see me go up on stage and sound like crap, they’re there to see a show, so there’s no reason to be nervous, you know?

A challenge was trying to find people who reflected what I wanted to do. I’m huge on chemistry, so like I can be humble and trying to work with my gift, while working with a whole bunch of egotistical people, and I don’t want to do that. I want to work with people just as humble as me and that was hard to find. I also think the crowd in Rochester can be challenging. I’ve played in different cities and the audiences are way less harsh. That’s not to say I’ve had anything particularly bad come from Rochester, but I think if you can break through here you can go anywhere.

What are your plans for the future with music and shows?

For music, my plans are to record. So far, I’ve been mostly on stage performing live. I’m actually recording right now for my EP, which will be out on May 13. The album release show will be on May 14 at ONE in Rochester at 6pm. For future gigs, I’m hoping to get out of Rochester and be consistently play outside of Rochester. I’d really just like to travel and tour, and get my name out there.

How do promote yourself? What have you found to be the best way to get your name out?

Right now I’m kind of figuring this all out on my own. I’ve promoted my music through Facebook and Instagram mostly. It’s a lot of social media, of course things like YouTube. I also use flyers and such for my shows, as well as going to other peoples’ shows and connecting with other artists and audiences. Open mics have also been really helpful.

Do you have any advice for kids who are trying to make it into the industry?

Do the kids have any advice for me? I could use some!

I would say, honestly, to have a group of people around you who will tell you the truth and support you completely. Also, stay true to who you are and be authentic. Find your own voice and don’t mimic. The more different you are the better!

Follow Tamra on her socials! 

Instagram: @TamraMusic

Interview: RYNO

By: Liz Coffey

Hailing from Buffalo, NY and currently residing in New York City, RYNO is a synth/pop/rock extraordinaire. Drawing from influences such as the Beach Boys and The Police, he puts his all into music, aiming to take fans on a journey with his work. In an email interview, he told me about what his music means to him, as well as what it's been like getting into the music industry, Check it out!  

Please introduce yourself and give us a strange fact about yourself.

I am RYNO, I always perform in socks.

When did you first get into music and when did you decide that this is what you wanted to do? Did you have a specific event that made you realize that music was what you wanted to do?

My father is a vocal music teacher and mother also a singer. It was always kind of second nature. Although my childhood obsession was playing baseball, music was always part of my day one way or the other.

What artists influence you the most, and how do you incorporate that into your own style?

Growing up the youngest of 4 boys, my brothers all were strongly opinionated music enthusiasts. I took bits and pieces from all of their catalogs but was affected the strongest by The Police, The Beach Boys and Tears For Fears.

Describe your sound to someone who has never heard you before.

Generally, Alternative Indie Pop. Translates to categorize as ElectroPop as well.

If you could change anything about today’s music industry, what would it be?

I'm all for social media and interaction, but I miss the romance of mystique. When I was real young, rockstars seemed very mysterious. Now, you can find out last time they went to the bathroom via Twitter.

When you write music and book shows, do you have a target group in mind, or do you just go with the flow and let your music speak for itself?

In life, I'm learning that it is most healthy to go with the flow. That being said, I do feel my music appeals to a listener with an open mind to more contemporary production. It's an exciting process to find the audience.

What has been the biggest breakthrough you’ve had since beginning in music? The biggest challenge?

I made a decision at a young age to dedicate my life to writing and performing music. The ride thus far has been an adventure to say the least. I'm very grateful to be able to do what I do. It's easy in this Business to become pessimistic and negative. That is always a challenge, but I have dedicated myself to try and be positive and optimistic about what tomorrow brings. That dedication has not just been a breakthrough for me as an artist, but also in my everyday life with health and relationships.

You just released new music [see link below]… what has the response been like so far? How do you plan to move forward in promoting this music?

The response has been very positive. I very much hope that my music can find its way into the world’s DJs remixing my songs. I feel that could really open doors internationally for this project!

What is your motto or advice to live by?

I have a tattoo on my left forearm that states "LIVE LIFE"
Stars in the Sky, along with my upcoming EP in general, is full of references to life, adventure and love. The ultimate message is that anything is possible. Find your adventure, travel the world to find your love, and make whatever you want with your life!

What method have you found to be the most effective in marketing yourself and your music? Why do you think it’s so effective?

Being honest. Honesty always speaks loudest.

Any final words?  

Explore.  Dream.  Discover. Don't be afraid to explore who you are and what makes you special.
Thanks for joining me on my journey.
-R Y N O

You can check out RYNO's newest release, a multilingual lyric video for "Stars in the Sky," here:

Or you can check him out on social media: 

Interview: Danny Cal

By: Liz Coffey

Please introduce yourself and give us a strange fact about yourself.

DC: My name is Danny Cal, I’m a singer/songwriter from New York. I grew up in the suburbs with my wonderful family; I still visit once a week. I went to a Catholic, all-boys high school in the Upper East Side called Regis and then I studied for four years at Dartmouth College. I actually just graduated last year. Although I was studying, I spent the majority of my free time for the last eight years singing, making music, trying to find creative outlets. I love cooking, like following a recipe and just being so proud of something I made, and it’s very relaxing for me. In the last few years I’ve also gotten really into running…like now I’ll just go for a casual nine mile run and I won’t bring my phone or music or anything. I’ll just listen to the sound of my breathing and my feet hitting the ground, it’s very humbling. A strange thing about me.

When did you first get into music and when did you decide that this is what you wanted to do? Did you have a specific event that made you realize that music was what you wanted to do?

DC: My dad played guitar and piano, and although over the years he had lost a bit of his finesse, he wanted his kids to learn as much as they could about music. He thought it was important to know how to play an instrument. I’m so glad he put me in piano lessons at five and theory/composition classes as soon as I was old enough, because it gave me the foundation in music that I needed for my future endeavors. I always loved singing most, because it came more naturally to me, and I liked being in the spotlight. I felt like I could transcend my true self and all people would see would be a star on stage. That’s why I got involved with musical theater—I loved playing a character, performing as someone other than myself. When I got to college, I realized that people actually wanted to see the real me on stage, and so I joined an a cappella group and formed a band with the best musicians I could find and I sang as many shows as I could. Performing totally helped pay for my social life in college and I started to wonder what was stopping me from doing this once I graduated. I had scored a full-time job offer in an office, but I knew I wasn’t going to be totally fulfilled without music and performing. So I partnered up with EGM (producer) and we both put in a lot of work outside of our day jobs to make this dream a reality.

What artists influence you the most, and how do you incorporate that into your own style?

DC: Sia is my all-time favorite artist. I believe her talent is underrated—she has written some of the most popular pop songs of the last few years for other artists, and has emerged as a successful performer in her own right. I’ll listen to her albums on repeat for days and I think that what I take from her style is an understanding of the immense relationship between the meaning of the lyrics and the words themselves. Her style is like poetry, very intentional and the consonants and vowels have lives of their own. I like to play with the way I sing my lyrics too; sometimes I’ll sing a phrase a certain way and EGM will stop me and say “Do that again! I have to record that,” and a lot of times I’m not even certain what I’ve done. I also look up to artists that bridge the gap between rock and dance pop, singers with incredible, strong voices that send energy through your body and exaggerate their upper registers. Freddie Mercury is an icon in my music world.
Finally, I grew up listening to pop punk and emo on my 2nd gen iPod, bands like Green Day, Blink-182, All Time Low, My Chemical Romance—I think some of that angst-driven forward tone helps define the sound of my voice now.

Describe your sound to someone who has never heard you before.

DC: I’d say it’s like an ice cold sip of water, that moment when it’s immediately refreshing but then you feel the coolness sliding down through your body, chills starting at the core and making their way out to your fingers and toes. It’s that song with your favorite four-chord refrain that you can’t help but smile at when you hear it. It’s the perfect music to sing along to in the shower, to put on a playlist for a party, to pop in your ears while on the treadmill, or to belt at the top of your lungs while stuck in traffic. I’m trying to bring some newer songs towards a more rock vibe, but so far, I’ve really been digging the high-energy pop because I see how happy it makes people.

If you could change anything about today’s music industry, what would it be?

DC: I think every generation would have their gripes about the music industry—at least we’ve settled into the digital age now and new artists have a better sense of how to navigate that. One thing that I definitely would change is how so much of the industry is cut and dry, white or black, yes or no. For such a creative process as an artist, it’s appalling how cookie-cutter the existing channels of success are. It’s become way too much about making that one “hit” song because nobody buys full records anymore. What I do love, is that for independent artists, it’s much easier to build a fanbase and a niche following. You may not sell out arenas, but if you’re looking for people to keep consuming your music, as long as you work hard and reach out and keep performing—and you’re good—you still have a chance at getting fans.

When you write music and book shows, do you have a target group in mind, or do you just go with the flow and let your music speak for itself?

DC: I think my music is accessible to all audiences—it’s so fun and catchy and the lyrics are so relatable I think. I definitely would love to reach a younger audience, I have a teenage brother and I think his age group would really enjoy my music, considering the other artists they listen to, but it’s very hard to book shows in New York that teens are going to attend. Many venues I perform at are actually 18+ or 21+. So for now I’m focusing on my digital footprint as well.

What has been the biggest breakthrough you’ve had since beginning in music? The biggest challenge?

DC: I’d say my biggest breakthrough was packing the house at my first show as a solo artist. I actually performed on a Wednesday at Rockwood Music Hall in New York, with my band backing me up, and we packed the house. You never know what to expect at a show, but the first is especially enigmatic. Are your friends going to come? Are strangers going to come? Is anyone going to come? It was surreal to get on stage and see the room filled with people. It had been a long time since I performed a live show so it was a great return to the stage.

The biggest challenge for me is finding the time and finances to make this all happen. It’s very expensive to rent studio time, rehearsal space, equipment, and like I mentioned, I’m working a full-time job on top of trying to make this dream come true. I don’t really sleep as much as I should and I rarely get to see my friends. I hope they understand!

You just released new music on iTunes… what has the response been like so far? How do you plan to move forward in promoting this music?

DC: The response has been incredible. It’s really exciting to keep getting solicited for performances and placements. The feeling is something like your fourth grade art teacher asking if it’s okay to put your clay sculpture of a dog in the front display case...other people actually like something I’ve made. It feels good to put so much into something and care about it so much and actually have others like it too. Moving forward, I’d like to keep pushing the music out there, try and get as many people listening as possible. Right now, we’re on a campaign with, they asked me to be one of their “Spotlight” artists, which is awesome. And we’re also trying to keep making more content. Not only do we have a video or two coming out, but we’re also working on a lot of new music.

What is your motto or advice to live by?

DC: I grew up listening my dad’s two adages: “Everything in moderation,” and “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” I think the former is so important to remember, that even the things that are most fun need to be kept in check. I try and keep my life balanced with work, play, and rest. Sometimes the lines get blurred but as long as I keep my life diverse it stays exciting. I take the latter to mean that there’s a right time and place for everything. Just because an opportunity presents itself does not mean it’s the right one for me, so that saying reminds me to always make decisions with a clear mind, remember where I came from, and focus on where I’m going.

What method have you found to be the most effective in marketing yourself and your music? Why do you think it’s so effective?

DC: It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of rejection. We’ve been cold-calling, emailing, meeting people, using social media—anything we can do to get people to listen. I think the most effective strategy is to be consistent. We make good music and I want people to know who I am as a person and an artist. I want my fans to trust me, know that the decisions I make and the features I do are honest and real.

Any final words?  

DC: I’m really happy to have had this opportunity to divulge a bit more into who I am and what I’m about. I can’t wait to keep working my tail off so I can contribute in my own way to your music world.

Catch up with Danny Cal on social media: 

Interview: Crossword

By: Liz Coffey

Crossword is a rapper and producer based in Toronto, Canada. He stands out among the masses with his witty lyricism, and ongoing discussion on topics that are often missed by mainstream media. I got on the phone with him a while back to talk about his inspirations, his music, and his thoughts on the mainstream. Check it out! 

Can you introduce yourself and give us a strange fact about yourself?

I’m Crossword! I’m a rapper, curator, promoter, kind of all around connector in Toronto, Canada. A strange fact about myself… hm. Sometimes I like to let my hair grow JUST so that I don’t have to shave my neck hair.

When did you first get into music and when did you decide that this is what you want to do? Was there a defining moment or was it kind of gradual?

I think it was definitely a series of moments. It came from doing it for a while as a hobby. I feel like the real shift happened when I was accepted into a college music class. Before that I had only been getting my feet wet, doing music at open mics. I think that if I hadn’t been accepted into that music program, I probably would’ve stuck to doing something else. I probably wouldn’t have worked as hard, and ended up behind the scenes to some capacity. That program though, put me around other musicians and kind of immersed me. I also formed a band through that program, which is where I got more serious about things.

What artists do you find influence you the most, and how do incorporate that into your own style?

I feel like every artist influences me. In general I think I’m a very easily influenced person, whether it’s from other artists, or my friends or whatever. It’s based on curiosity and being open to ideas. I actually try not to listen to a lot of music. I listen to enough to get a feel for the artist, and what they’re doing, but I don’t get too immersed in it. Otherwise, I’ll start to incorporate their stuff into my sound. I try to listen to a range of things rather than get immersed in one thing at a time.

Can you describe yourself to someone who has never heard you before?

I always say, “I want to change the world and have fun doing it.” So I describe things on my ideology more than my sound. I want to be provocative, make people feel something.

When you’re making music or booking shows, do you have a target audience in mind or do you just go with the flow and let the music speak for itself?

I definitely let the music speak for itself. I identify with the audience that’s there, I try not to be overly calculated with my music. I write the music I want to and then align with shows and artists that match that. I will never try to make myself sound like someone else just because they’re popular.

Since you’ve started in music, what has been your biggest breakthrough? Your biggest challenge?

Biggest breakthrough I guess would be touring in general. Everything that I can think of has come from touring. Even just traveling, too! Tracking my album in Los Angeles, which was something I made happen myself, and being in a professional setting was huge. The point of making music is to share it with others, and touring makes that happen. You know fuck the internet, and social media, and whatever. No. I want to be in your face, making eye contact, challenging you to open up your mind.

As for biggest challenge, it’s been doing everything myself as an indie artist. Being all alone in what you’re doing is a challenge. I do have great people I work with on certain things, but there are still moments where I could really use help. It’s a lot of responsibility to put on one person.

You just dropped a collab! How did that whole thing come together?

Yeah! You know, it goes back to being on the road. I was in Winnipeg on tour with my former band, and we were staying over with someone who was hosting us. There were a couple of guys also staying there, who were also on the road. I knew one of them but I didn’t know the other. We really hit it off and we got to know each other. When we were back in Toronto we kept in touch, and when I was on tour again, we met up on the road. We were wondering why we hadn’t hit the studio together, so we made it happen. We went into the studio and really worked off of the saying “bridging the gap.” We had to change it up obviously because that saying is played out, so we were like, “Gap in the Bridge,” you know, there’s a gap there, something is missing, and we need to fix it. In everything, especially in Toronto, but in the music industry in general as well, there’s always a gap to bridge. You know there’s places like Buffalo, which are close to play at but there’s the border. Or we can go up to Montreal, but they’re half French, half English, so there’s a language gap to bridge, So we just played off of that idea.

You seem to be very passionate about incorporating messages that aren’t really spoken about in mainstream media. Where does that come from? Where do you find all of that inspiration and why do you choose to put that kind of thought into your art?

I feel like doing the norm -- like why? -- someone else is already doing that, you need to step outside of that. Having a voice is not to repeat. It’s not to go back in circles on discussions. You need to come into the discussions with different idea or a different style. I try to add something to the discussions going on, and you need to be original in that aspect. I’ve never been the type to follow trends. I think it really comes from being first-generation North American. I didn’t have family indoctrinating me with anything, and in western culture I’ve always been a bit of an outsider, so I think that’s taught me to be a little wary of things in the mainstream. The mainstream is kind of corny to me to be honest with you. Let’s do better than that.

What are your plans coming up for music and shows?

My main focus is to “Bridge the Gap” to be honest. I’m doing shows with other artists, keeping my ear to the ground, and being a part of the independent musicians coming out of Toronto, and the discussions surrounding that. I’m just looking for opportunities honestly, to bring the world to Toronto, and bring Toronto to the world.

Catch up with him on social media!