INTERVIEW: Emily Chambers – Evanescent

Music will never be perfected. It continues to morph, mixing older and used styles with new ideas. Each artist contributes elements that can never be reproduced but can always be emulated.

Emily Chambers

In walks Emily Chambers, an up and coming singer/songwriter from Vancouver. She has perfected her art, successfully combining old school jazz and R’n’B stylings with modern vibes. She is a cross between Dusty Springfield and Mary J. Blige with the likes of Aretha Franklin and John Legend.

Graciously, Chambers let me pick her brain on her inspirations, her musical beginnings, and who she would love to be…besides herself of course.


Who are your biggest influences, both personally and musically?

Musically, I was introduced to the likes of Donny Hathaway, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder when I was around eight years old. These artists were introduced to me by this fantastic vocal teacher that I had for a decade, from the time I was eight to 18. She opened up my world to Motown, soul, and jazz with artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. I take a lot of inspiration from the oldies. I was also obsessed with Christina Aguilera when I was a teenager. Of course, I love Adele and Alicia Keys. Moving into my formative years, I was obsessed with the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. This is one of my all-time favorite albums.

I actually don’t have a musical family at all, which is hilarious. Apparently, I had a great aunt that was a famous opera singer, who I never met. That’s where everyone thinks all this came from. So as far as personal influences, my sister is a huge inspiration to me. She’s just such a go-getter, incredibly hard-working, incredibly creative, incredibly smart, and funny. I just want to be like her forever. She’s one of my best friends. I also look to my parents. My mom is such a strong woman. My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about 17 years ago, and that’s been a pretty life-changing journey for our whole family, but especially for my mom and my dad. She’s just such a champion about it all. I’m fortunate to have an outstanding community of family and friends. Since I moved to Nashville, I’ve made some of my best friends and everyone here is a hustler. I’m constantly in a sea of inspiration that’s making me work my butt off, which is awesome.

You plan on releasing new music this year. What can we expect?

My plans for 2019 is to drop singles pretty much. I’ll be releasing another single in July. And then after that, probably in September…

I have been writing like a madman, so I’m excited about the new direction that we’re moving in. I’m pumped to release my next single.

What can we expect from your new singles musically? Will they be along the lines of your single “Left Alabama” and your EP Magnolia?

Emily Chambers“Left Alabama” is an excellent gateway between the classicsoul song moving into the neo-soul direction. I love the mix and balance between produced sounds, produced drums, 808s, and elements mixed in with live drums, acoustic piano, electric guitar, and horns. I love the balance between that kind of production so you can expect more of that…I still have a heavy jazz influence in my new material.

I’m gearing towards higher energy material that’s more fun, more geared towards getting a younger fan base, and getting into the accessible circuit. The new music will really reflect where I’m at right now at this point in my life.

What does a day in the studio look like for Emily Chambers? What do you need for your creativity to thrive?

I’m all about the ambiance. I like low lighting. My producer that I worked with on “Real Talk” and “Left Alabama” and that I’m continuing to work with, he’s all about that too. You know, the incense, the sort of high vibe sprays, and setting everything right because you’re in there for 10 hours.

It’s a lot of talking about how my producer and I want things to feel musically and what we are saying with the lyrics. We go through a million different sounds, and I’m singing parts to him. It’s super fun. It’s my favorite place to be, other than the stage, especially when we’re tracking vocals.

Bringing ideas to life is just pretty magical. It’s productive, and I feel like I’m in my element, where I’m supposed to be.

How did your journey in music begin?

When I was eight years old, my mom asked me if I wanted to take singing lessons. We lived across the street from an amazing Canadian jazz singer named Joani Taylor. I trained with her once a week for a decade. I sang my first performance in grade five in front of the talent show and then kind of went from there. Through high school, I won the Idol competition and then started singing all of our national anthems. That led to singing for a local hockey team and then singing for our CFL football league.

My sister was the one that suggested I go to Berklee College of Music…I applied, and I got into Berklee on a vocal scholarship. I didn’t apply anywhere else. I did a year at Berklee and was so fortunate to have that year given to me by my parents. And then they were like, “Okay. That’s your entire education fund in one year, so you’re on your own.”

I made the decision that I didn’t want to take out a hundred thousand dollars worth of student loans to get a performance degree. Not that there’s anything wrong with doing that, but it just wasn’t the route for me. So I decided to leave after that year, and I went to Europe with some, buddies for what was supposed to be three weeks. I ended up singing at an open mic, and some older man said, “You need to come out and busk with me on the street.”

I ended up meeting up with him with my buddies. We played guitar, and we learned a couple of songs. I ended up staying in Europe for four and a half months, busking the south of France and Italy, and into Greece. For me, it was like, “Okay, you tell the world you’re not going to make music anymore and it kind of gets thrown right back in your face.” Europe was the first time where people (I was 19) would just stop on the street and be like, “You’re amazing.”

Emily ChambersThen I came back to Vancouver, had some career ups and downs, and started the band, Champaign Republic. We were a five-piece soul, pop, funk group, and we ran together for six years. We signed with a management company, and we got a lost in trying to write something for radio. I just lost all inspiration for the project. I think a lot of us did, and so, right as our band agreement ended and our PR plan was going to roll out, I left. I went solo in 2015, released “Magnolia” in 2016, and then I took off in my van to tour the U.S. Now, I am in Nashville.

Now for a little light conversation…

What is your favorite song to cover?

Well, this changes. Right now I love covering “Just the Two of Us” by Grover Washington, Jr. I also love covering Bruno Mars.

If you could collaborate with anybody musically, dead or alive, who would you choose?

Oh, god. Do I just get one? I would love to collaborate with Quincy Jones, but I could name 50 more. That’s the first one that came to my mind.

If you could be anybody for a day, who would it be?

Oprah. I’d love to wake up to this beautiful estate, with a lovely breakfast made for my dogs and me, and then I’d got out and have a super soul conversation with some spiritual leader in the world. I love Oprah.


On April 26th Chambers released her latest single, “Real Talk.” A hard-hitting soul power ballad with elements of classic rock and roll, jazz, and candid honesty.

Chambers artistry is bound for impact. Whether she goes on to sell out Radio City or win a few Grammys, she has made her mark on music using her straightforward lyrics to her evanescent vocals. Keep an eye open, she’s on her way.


Download “Real Talk” today on iTunes and stream on Spotify.

Emily Chambers


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DAVID BERKELEY “The Faded Red And Blue”, A Peaceful Protest

The United States is going through troubled times. It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you sit; the US is fighting many cancers. One of the most significant ailments facing the nation right now is division.

This division runs deep, from disagreeing over policies to human rights, many Americans find themselves willingly huddled in a corner without room to budge. Many artists have spoken out on this harsh reality, yet David Berkeley does it differently in his newest EP, The Faded Red and Blue.

Check out the full article here on HAUS Music + Sound. 

INTERVIEW: Eden Espinosa on Revelation, A Lethal Combination

Sometimes you don’t know where to begin with an album.

Eden Espinosa’s latest release, Revelation, causes just that problem. You see, each song is distinctly different, yet each one seamlessly flows with the next.

The album’s ten tracks converse with themselves. Every time I listen to this album in its entirety, I walk away with a different favorite song. Although once I start thinking of a particular song my mind links the piece to another song.

Revelation is built upon fear, vulnerability, and self-acceptance. Out of the record’s ten tracks, Espinosa wrote 8. She quickly proved that she has a distinct talent for crafting a lyric and to my surprise, these are the first songs she wrote.

So this album has tricked me and left me in quite the quarry. There was only one solution. I had to talk with Ms. Espinosa and have her explain this masterpiece.


This album is a vast departure from the style of your previous record, and very different than the form you use on stage. What inspired this style shift for you?

I’ve always had the desire to write songs. I was too afraid, to be honest. I was just afraid to try it and put myself out there. I heard an album of a friend of mine, and I just loved the production, and I loved the way it sounded. I asked her who produced it, and she put me in touch with the producer. I was talking to him about doing my second album, which I was planning to do like my first one, which was musical theater songs taken out of context to make them sound as if they were on the radio if you will.

Blaine Stark, the producer, is not from the theater world at all. He asked me, why don’t you do an album of originals? I said I’ve always wanted to and I have a lot of content written down. They’re not necessarily songs, but I do write a lot. He said why don’t you try writing and see what comes out of you and see if you like it. So that’s how I got started.

I contacted a few friends of mine who I know to be amazing songwriters and who I know would create a safe space for me to share my thoughts and my feelings. I just started dipping my toe into this art form.

That’s how this album came about. It was a beautiful collaboration with the producer Blaine and I and the songwriters and me too.


What is the inspiration behind Revelation? I feel like it is a break-up album mixed with self-discovery.

Yeah. I think that this is a little bit of both even though some of the songs that sound like they’re about a man, a significant other, or a breakup, are actually about fear. You know, that negative side of your mind or personality — that self-sabotaging place, which I’ve struggled with a whole lot.

I did go through some heartache recently, so some of the songs are coming from that place. I know that “Deadly Sin” originally was written about that dark fear, self-sabotaging place. I wrote “Master of my Life” about fear and taking control…That one’s about fear just trying to take over, and then you reclaiming your power.

Some of them can be taken as love songs or break up songs, but a lot of them are about me and breaking up with the negative habits or negative voices in my mind. It is indeed both; it’s a lot of layers I guess.


The songs flow flawlessly. What can you say about the order of the songs? 

The order was super important to me, and I actually left that to Blaine. I felt I was too close to the songs and a lot of them had been written a while ago. I had kind of moved past where I was when I wrote the songs, and it was hard for me to be objective because I started to judge the material, you know what I mean?

I started to be like, “This song is dumb.” There were so many times that I wanted to cut several songs that I had written long ago and I didn’t feel that way anymore. So I told Blaine I need you to do the order. I made one change to the order that he originally made and then “Fireworks and Stars” was a very last minute song. We added it on the very last day of recording.

So that was an afterthought. It was the most recent song I wrote, and it is from a completely different perspective than the rest of the album. But we knew that once I wrote it and once I heard what was going to be done with it, we knew that we wanted it to be the last song.


What are the messages you want to convey with Revelation? What message do you want listeners to walk away with?

Over the past few years and just personally in my life and then in writing this album there were several revelations. I knew I wanted the title of it to be a word encompassing the entire journey not only artistically, but emotionally and spiritually. I think the big revelation that I want people to have and be left with is that you are the most important thing and not in a selfish way. You have to take care of yourself and not lose yourself or choose somebody else to know your worth…We can’t completely give to somebody else until you know that you are a king or queen, you know.

I think it’s about self-worth. I want people to leave with finding their self-worth and their self-value and not to compromise that for anything or anyone.


Why did it take seven years between your two albums?

It had to do a lot with personal stuff… and fortunately, I kept getting work. A lot of people in my position who started in theater and musical theater – once they start writing songs, think I want to be a singer/songwriter now, and I want this is my music, they’ll decide to leave musical theater for a while and take a break and pursue music. I always wanted to do both equally.

I wasn’t in the position to turn down work to just focus on the album. And so it had to be done in little spurts. It took way longer than I anticipated but in hindsight looking back I didn’t know that it was supposed to be that way for me to find the strength, the freedom and the courage to write and to share with people my point of view and my perspective and my feelings.


And here’s a few just for fun…

If you could collaborate with anybody musically who would it be?

It’d probably be Jeff Buckley, who’s no longer with us, or Eva Cassidy.

When you are in the studio, or you are performing what are your necessities?

I’m very big into lighting. If it’s not the right lighting, it’s going to affect my mood. I like candles, and in a dressing room, I need my essential oil diffuser or a humidifier.

Which Spice Girl would you be and why?

I’d be Scary or Sporty. I just liked their attitudes. I think they were both fun, but confident. They both stuck out to me. It is a tie between Scary or Sporty; Scary’s style but Sporty’s voice.


As I looked over the transcript of this interview and listened to Revelation again, I realized why I am at such a loss for words.

Revelation lives and breathes. It may sound strange, but Espinosa’s vocal stylings mixed with her vulnerability are simply relevant. No matter your situation in life, this album can, and will, speak to you. Espinosa is a real singer who can hit any high note, yet she is also a real artist who can dig into emotions you didn’t even know you had. That’s a lethal combination for any listener.


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INTERVIEW: Griffin Anthony, Finding Refuge

It is not often you find voices that change the way you listen to music.

When I first heard Griffin Anthony, I had just moved to New York from Oklahoma. I had completely new surroundings and didn’t know a soul, yet music was my pillar. Throughout my whole life, music has been a constant comforter and protector. This became very apparent when I dove into collecting vinyl, a hobby that kept me busy in my first lonely months here. Music became my refuge in a new world.

Music also took a new place in my life when I began to proactively write and blog about my favorite choices and artists. My writings have brought me into contact with some amazing musicians. That’s exactly how I got word of Griffin Anthony’s music.

Griffin’s voice is authentic. I believe it ranks with some of the greatest modernand classic country artists, from Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson to Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson. Griffin’s unique vocal interpretations mixed with his ingenious songwriting makes for a prolific adventure in song. He has created a new standard in how I consume music.

Refuge, Griffin Anthony’s latest album, follows this same tradition. The album picks up where he left off with 2015’s The Making of a ManRefuge shows the raw beauty and nuance of maturing both artistically and as a human being. I caught up with Anthony recently to gain his thoughts on the new album and to explore what he has accomplished with this new volume of songs.


What does the album title Refuge mean? How does it relate to the songs?

“The album’s title suggests a destination where safe-haven (or happiness) exists. And the tunes trace narratives of men and women on their quest to find that destination; together or alone, through failures and celebrations. The word ‘refuge’ also drums up a ‘rustic’ and ‘natural’ connotation- which ties into some of the lyrical themes, the style of production, and album artwork.”

What message or messages would you like listeners to take away from this album? Is there a central theme?

“I really tried to somehow capture the feeling of Hope with each tune. Jon Estes and I spoke at length about that during our pre-production pow-wows and tracking. From a songwriting perspective, no matter how much uncertainty the main character is dealing with, he or she still maintains that better days are ahead. There are tunes on celebrate oxytocin-drenched romance, the joys of parenting, and the beauty of nature- where the personal and the pastoral converge… On the other hand, the album wades into some murkier waters of escapism, separation, isolation, the construct of religion, and the horrors of war.”

This album was made purely analog. Why did you choose to go this route?

“Well, most of the music that moves me was recorded that way. ‘Refuge’ is intended to be a refreshing departure from the sterilized sounds of the digital age. It’s human. There’s nothing to hide behind and I think that translates through the music. Elements of the performances I may have once regarded as ‘mistakes’ become ‘moments”… There are more rough-ends on this project and I love that about it. With the convenience of digital recording, it’s way too easy to clean shit up and quite often, it results in white-washing all the emotion… Everything just becomes antiseptic and colorless. Plus, I don’t want to sound like a robot, ya know?”

Pick one song. What is the story behind the song and what is the inspiration?

” ‘1954’ is probably my favorite tune on the album for a couple reasons; one, because I feel the understated musical arrangement best supports the lyric, and two, because of what the song represents as a storyteller… On the ten-year anniversary of D-day, the subject reflects on his past and tries to cope with the meaning of war; balancing pride and ambition with humility and loss. During a time in US history that’s often celebrated for it’s economic prosperity and baby-boom, PTSD wasn’t ever discussed… The glory associated with that era overshadows what my grandfathers and hundreds of thousands of young men had to endure.”

How does this album pair with your previous album, The Making of A Man?

” ‘The Making of a Man’ has more overall melody and hooks for sure. And aside from the completely different production approaches of two very different producers and session bands, I wrote ‘The Making of a Man’ on the piano- whereas ‘Refuge’ was written predominantly on the acoustic. ‘Refuge’ has a greater focus on lyrics-first song construction and capturing a live performance. Plus, I’m five years older from when I wrote “The Making of a Man.” I’ve experienced some life-defining highs and lows in that period- I’d like to think that contributes to a sharper pen.”


 

“Refuge” listens like planks of an old oak tree. Each piece is distinctively different, but they all fit together. Anthony has woven an intricate placement of work that possesses universal truths in tandem with nature. This album serves as a vanguard to musical authenticity in a world of manufactured melodies.

As Griffin Anthony alluded in the answers above, this album suggests a destination in the proverbial journey of life, mixed with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. This album accomplishes its mission by providing a safe harbor, a refuge, for all those seeking a glimpse of truth with a glimmer of hope.

PURCHASE Refugee ON ITUNES HERE

INTERVIEW: Bond Villain, Two in One

The name Bond Villain evokes a specific track of thought. The moniker is dark and mysterious. Is it dangerous or is it a safe haven? It’s a concept that encourages risks, but also makes you want to run. It has two identities. Inquiry and answers are demanded, but complete understanding is not an option.

 

Take this idea and hand it to music. It makes an interesting stage name in the least, yet it also creates a concept that is imperative. In the end are villains born or do they acquire their mindset. Do they have two identities? What exactly is Bond Villain?

To understand Bond Villain, we must start with Robert Roche. Rob is a musician located in Connecticut. He’s a pretty friendly guy and generally has a pretty optimistic outlook on life. Boston University is his alma mater, which is where he began to really get involved with music. He began to perform in different grunge and hardcore bands. In Boston, he had many musical projects, eventually scoring music for video games, but one of his biggest musical ventures was being the lead vocalist for the band, Courage and Collapse. He composed a large portion of the band’s material.

Now, Rob’s newest musical venture is Bond Villain. Last year he released three new songs coupled with a collaboration with Kimberley Locke. The first word that popped into my mind while listening was “innovative” (read more here). These songs have that slice of musicianship that a lot of the new music today is missing.

Recently, I had the chance to speak to Rob about the identity of Bond Villain, his current music, and his future plans. First, I needed to clear the air. Who is Bond Villain? What I discovered is that Bond Villain is much more than a stage name; it is a persona and alternative identity. It is two in one.

Bond Villain is the other side of the coin. I do have a very positive outlook. I’m not saying that Bond Villain is a negative outlook, but I allow myself to focus on traversing some of the darker parts of life, that you don’t always bring out in your every day interactions.

Bond Villain is a concept in the form of a musical artist that takes on two identities. These two identities are ones we all possess. Rob went on to explain his vision for Bond Villain’s orchestral arrangements, which include cinematic elements. His songs translate to audio movies that play out with characters we all relate to.

Next, we went into each of his songs in greater detail. We discussed their meaning and purpose. I quickly discovered how the songs represent two identities lyrically. It is an inescapable correlation and one that we had to discuss in more detail. We started off with “Dying Star.”

“Dying Star” has some of my favorite lyrics. You are watching someone you love go through something terrible…If you know someone who is going through an addiction or really difficult relationship, but think they are doing fine, that’s an incredibly powerful emotion…You burn like a dying star, you are burning so bright, everybody can see you, but we all know you are going down.

The song questions your role within these relationships. Although you are conflicted over their happiness and stability, you have to be worried about your own personal health. These two concerns combined for a conflicted reality.

Next, we discussed “Body Like a Knife.” This song takes on a much lighter tone lyrically, but the same musical standards are in place. “Knife” is a prime example of the “cinematic” song we had discussed earlier. This song puts imagery to instinct, yet there are still conscious lines. Again, the song as two identities in one body.

“Body Like a Knife” is meeting someone you know is bad for you, but you just need that person in that moment. This is about a passionate, carnal situation…The words are simple and powerful because a knife is a dangerous object, it can cut you and it can cut other people. It can cut up your life, but just for one night that is something that you need.

Lastly, we went over the final song from his EP, “Let Me Go.” This song is a power ballad of heartache, forgiveness, and self-discovery. On one side the song is about “home” and where you feel most comfortable, yet on the flip side, it shows how you must let go of these conveniences for your own good. This idea travels into toxic relationships that were once flourishing, but have served their time. It’s a concept full of conflict, but one that results in inner peace.

The composition of this song also correlates to this idea. The song’s foundation is a crescendo. As the lyrics escalate in emotion, the song escalates musically. The song ends in a gospel choir style ending, a deep departure from the beginning.

“Let Me Go” is sad in the beginning and at the very end there is a transformation for the beholder of the song, because in the end this request, for the person you love to let you go, is something to be celebrated.

It is astonishing how these emotional highs and lows coupled with such multi-level composition is in a three-song EP. Its content makes this EP nearly a complete album in theory.

So what is the future of Bond Villain? Like everything else about this concept, Rob has planned out exactly what level he would like to see his music at, both long-term and short-term.

The first place I’m aiming for is what you are watching. When you are sitting down for the new Netflix show, the credits come on for the first episode and you hear Bond Villain. That’s the first thing you hear at the beginning of those episodes for their entire season. That is the goal and where we are aiming with this music: television, video games, movies, etc.

But that is not where the aspirations end. This cinematic pop demands the stage. With Rob’s past grunge rock background, he is ready to take to take on some new venues. He explained to me how grunge and hardcore shows are 100% passion and how you leave everything on stage. Rob is planning on bringing this same concept to his new material. Bond Villain is currently booking shows for the upcoming year.

As our conversation wound down, we began to focus on what makes an artist tick. It’s always interesting to see why an artist keeps going. This drive demands creativity, but it seems satisfaction is not the end, nor does it exist. Artistry takes on many identities.

I’m never complete. I’ve never achieved my goal. There are all these roads to success, but to me there is just a road. You never achieve your dream. The dream itself is being able to get up everyday and say today I am going to work on some amazing new things that no one has ever done before.

With this ambition, Rob is already working on new music and he is promising it will equate or even eclipse his previous work.

We have so much amazing music down the pipe…They are the coolest songs I have ever been a part of in terms of songwriting and a new fresh sound. They’re bad ass, they’re dark, they’re fun, a lot of amazing imagery. It’s an all new look and sound for Bond Villain, while keeping the amazing themes we’ve built the image and music off of.

As Rob continues to grow Bond Villain, I only imagine continued emotional discoveries mixed with complex musical architecture, all in two identities.

Which makes me think about how we all have multiple identities. Both sides of the coin are mixed with their own successes, failures, heartaches, and achievements. Sometimes these identities are completely polarized, while at other times they are mixed. Bond Villain joins these two ideas into one piece of music.

The question is…when you sit down to listen to Bond Villain…which side of you is listening?


Top Music Takeaways of 2017

For me, 2017 has been a great year. Not only was it my first full year living in New York, but I made some amazing music discoveries and had life-altering musical experiences.  From being completely blown away by Paula Cole to seeing Kris Kristofferson in concert, it has been a good year for a music addict.

Below I have ranked my top music takeaways of 2017. So many sites are making “best of 2017” music countdowns, but this year has been full of experiences for me. Normally I don’t put my list in a ranking, but this one is in a particular order from least to most prolific.

5. Discovering St. Vincent

I know that I am late to the game on Annie Clark’s, i.e. St. Vincent’s, work. Her album MASSEDUCTION was hard to miss this year from its colorful cover to its raving reviews. I hope this is the “pop” of the future. This album is constantly spinning on my turntable and I am currently raking in her previous releases. Read my full review over MASSEDUCTION here.

Favorite Tracks: “Pills,” “Happy Birthday, Johnny,” and “New York”

4. Kris Kristofferson Concert

Small venues and legendary artists when put together, are amongst my favorite things. When I got word that Kris Kristofferson was going to be at City Winery in New York City, I knew I had to grab a ticket. Then, I found out I was eligible for a “meet and greet” ticket (Thanks MasterCard!). Seeing Kristofferson was one thing, but to stand by the legend himself was another. The show itself was the true highlight. His raw talent, sincerity, and gratefulness to all his fans was profound. It’s the only word I can use to describe the show. I wrote a full review over the concert here and come to find out the article was also featured on Kristofferson’s site  as well!

3. Discovering Griffin Anthony

As I was browsing Twitter one day I found Griffin Anthony. I looked up his material on Spotify and I was instantly hooked. There are two full-length albums and multiple EPs of Anthony’s on Spotify, but my favorite was his album The Making of A Man. Between Anthony’s songwriting and vocals and the record’s orchestration, this album should rank among Chris Stapleton’s Traveler and Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Anthony has a deep reverence for country music, yet he finds a way to move it forward.

Favorite Tracks: “Lady Blue,” “What a Lie Looks Like,” “Alive”

2. Meeting Darlene Love

Darlene love is a musical masterpiece. She has one of the most vibrant and interesting careers in music, and she’s an amazing person! I was able to go back and meet Ms. Love after one of her Christmas shows at B.B. Kings in NYC. The show was absolutely stunning. Although many of the songs Love sings are from the 1960’s, she makes them sound brand new. I cannot say enough nice things about Love. She is beautiful inside and out. I am truly grateful for this experience. I even bought a new Christmas sweater for the occasion.

1. Listening to Paula Cole’s Ballads, Interviewing Paula Cole, Meeting Paula Cole

We all know Paula Cole from her smash hits “I Don’t Want to Wait” and “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone,” but that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Cole’s music. As I was browsing new releases on Spotify back in August I found Cole’s newest album Ballads. This album literally changed how I listen to music. Cole’s voice completely overtakes every track, resulting in a jazz masterpiece. She intertwines classic jazz songs with songs you would never include on a standard jazz album (“The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” “Ode to Billy Joe”). After bingeing this album for weeks I wrote a review with my rawest thoughts, but I knew there was no way I did the album justice.

To my surprise, Cole enjoyed my article and even retweeted it. Weeks later, her team sent out an email over her upcoming tour dates with praises for the album and there was a quote from Vinyl Culture. I was ecstatic! Then I had an idea. I decided I would take a chance and send her management an email and ask for an interview. I knew there was no way a Grammy Award-winning, Lilith Fair legend would ever answer my request. Again, to my surprise, Ms. Cole obliged. Although I wouldn’t call it an interview, it was a conversation. Read our conversation here

Then it came time for her show at City Winery in NYC. Again I had a meet and greet pass. I was nervous to meet Cole. By this time I had listened to every album she had released and had an even deeper understanding of her music. I was last in line and as I walked around the corner and said “Hi! I’m Gabe Crawford,” she instantly knew who I was. We chatted like old friends, but I can’t tell you anything we talked about. I was completely in awe. I had never met anybody as talented as Cole. We all have those moments in our lives, the ones we can’t describe, and this was one of those. This whole experience was divine and one I will cherish for the rest of my life.


Well with that being said, there isn’t much more to be said. I was truly blessed with amazing discoveries and experiences in 2017. Thank you to everybody who had a hand in making this list happen.


Honorable Mentions:

Music Review: A New Kimberley Locke Christmas Playlist

Live Music: Diana Ross- It’s Her House

New Music Review: Bond Villain – Simply Innovative

PLAYLIST: A Kimberley Locke Christmas

Kimberley Locke

Recording artists reinterpret Christmas songs every year. Most of these songs come from the same traditional Christmas music catalog. These songs consist of “Silent Night,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Jingle Bells,” and many more. I usually just pass the new album lists and ignore half the new releases this time of year.

Yet this year, there is some new Christmas music to hear. I found new renditions of “O Holy Night,” “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” and “The Christmas Waltz” by Kimberley Locke.

Many know Kimberley Locke for the hits “8th World Wonder” and “Change.”  Locke also came in 3rd runner up on American Idol’s second season. With a voice like elastic, Locke’s vocals seem to have a limitless range.

Locke’s sass and range comes out on “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree.” I’m pretty sure this might be the best version recorded since the original by Brenda Lee in 1960. I dare you to listen to this track and not smile. Even the biggest scrooge will enjoy this tune.

Next, there is Locke’s jazzy take on “The Christmas Waltz.” Her vocals sore beyond what this song demands and her voice is perfectly at home in the “freedom” jazz provides. Locke’s version is classy, making me think of a bougie party with tuxes, red dresses, and fur (fake fur, of course).

Then there is Locke’s emotionally stirring version of “O Holy Night.” Her vocals tell a story beyond the birth of Jesus. She takes her voice where one wouldn’t think possible, literally turning it upside down while hitting soul stopping notes. With just a simple piano accompanying her, Locke shows how one can rejoice, struggle, and be content. The struggle in her voice is not painful, it is recollecting over heartache past while maintaining hope. That hope is in a Savior.

Locke’s new recordings prove that, done the right way, Christmas music will never go stale. They also show a new vocal side to Locke as she has unleashed a new vocal prowess. While I’m celebrating Christmas this year, I’m going to wish for more new recordings from Locke in 2018.

Check out all of Kimberley Locke’s new music here on Spotify.

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