Diane Marino by AJ Shapiro

            Diane and Frank Marino in concert photo by AJ Shapiro protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved

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Denmark's Maria Montell

Maria Montell front page photoDanish singer, songwriter and children’s author Maria Montell has been a star in Denmark, she had an international hit with her song, “Di Da Di,” and toured in more than twenty countries in support of the song and the album Svært At Være Gudinde released in 1996. She also hosted a show that was broadcast on television in Argentina. Maria Montell has recorded in Danish and in English and her music has swept across the musical landscape from Pop to Bossa Nova. Montell sat down with us to discuss her current album Nu (In English Now), released in 2014, and to reflect upon her career, her three children and her husband, filmmaker Thomas Villum Jensen.

Nu is the first album that Maria Montell has released since her 2005 record Bossa For My Baby.

She explains why, “I needed to do projects that did not involve me going out so much on stage.  I did some music for movies and I did some projects  for other artists. I felt like I could be creative at home, make music at home and let others go out. I could be more mom.”

“I made a whole album  (in 2013) for a very famous Danish singer called Dorthe Kollo who was a very big artist in Germany. She sold a lot of albums and she was having kind of a comeback album. I was assigned to listen to all of the stories from her life and then to write songs for her. We then recorded with a band and later we had a symphony orchestra on the album as well. It was like old time Jazz and a little Bossa. It was an old school sound that I like myself. She (Kollo) is sixty-six (years old).

It was a fun project and I was writing songs for a woman who is nearly my mother’s age. She had a long career and she had several men. She had a very adventuresome life. She can fly a little plane. She had a very exciting life and these talk sessions with her and writing songs for her, it was meaningful for her to sing the songs. It was a nice project. It was recorded in Danish and then a German lyricist has been translating it. Read More

CALICO the band - Interview

CALICO the band Photo Front PAGECALICO the band, comprised of three singers-songwriters-musicians from Southern California has been steadily increasing their fanbase, radio airplay of their original songs and have performed more than 200 gigs during the past twelve months and as we go to press, they are once again touring, this time in the Pacific Northwest. They are defined by beautiful, pristine harmonies and they strike a good balance between writing and performing thoughtful songs and other tunes that are just outright fun. Manda Mosher, Kirsten Proffit and Aubrey Richmond are the three ladies of CALICO the band and before they joined forces all three of them were already highly regarded artists. The group is riding high in the saddle these days as their debut album Rancho California receives rave reviews from music journalists throughout America.

Manda Mosher says the seeds for the album Rancho California were first sown when she and Kirsten Proffit got together to write some songs.

“It really had to do with the inception of the band and that was before we knew it was going to be a band. It really just started with songwriting. Kirsten had an idea to write some songs together, so we started as a songwriting team and it was the inspiration from the quality of the songs that we were producing together and singing together, as well as the harmony that sparked an interest in continuing to do that.  We thought wow this is special and different than anything that we had been doing on our own.  We were creating a new sound.

We started out by making some demos of the songs.  Kirsten is a production partner with Steve Berns. They have a long history of working on projects together, as a production team, so Kirsten brought us into Steve’s studio, which is The Fitting Room Studios. We as the band had input all along the way.  This record ended up being done that way except for one track, “Dead Reckoning,” which was produced by Rami Jaffee a member of the Foo Fighters and The Wallflowers,” says Mosher.

It’s going to burn like the devil / It’s going to sting real good / You won’t be able to wash it off / Read More

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Tamara Champlin - Rockin'

Tamara Champlin Photo for front pageTamara Champlin’s vocal and songwriting repetoire is as diverse as the cities in which she has lived. Born in St. Louis, she lived her early childhood years in Arkansas, had a brief stop in Chicago and graduated from high school in Houston, Texas and today she  makes her home in southern California. Champlin has the ability to belt out a Rock song with razor sharp and gritty vocals as she does with her original “Stone Cold,” also recorded by Paul Rodgers (Bad Company, The Firm, Free, The Law), for his album Laying Down The Law and the Rock / Funk “You Won’t Get To Heaven Alive,” another original creation by Champlin bears witness to vocals that are reminiscent of Janis Joplin. Tamara Champlin draws the listener in with her emotive phrasing on the mid-tempo, love letter “Chasin’ The Moon.”  Her “Backstreets of Paradise,” immediately gets you moving to the music and as good as the music is, throughout these songs, it is definitely Tamara Champlin’s powerful and quality vocals that drive these tunes.


Tamara Champlin has three gold records to her credit as a songwriter and her own album, “You Won’t Get To Heaven Alive,” charted in the top twenty in Spain, while her song “Tragic Black,” went all the way to # 1 in Germany.

She has collaborated with artists and songwriters as stellar and diverse, as her husband Bill Champlin (Chicago, Sons of Champlin), Michael Caruso (her longtime songwriting collaborater), Swedish music icon Björn Skifs (who recorded “Straight Back To You,” the song they co-wrote, with  Read More


Niecie Shows The Other Side

Niecie photo front pageThe new album (released November 2014) by Niecie, a Detroit singer and songwriter is aptly named, The Other Side, as this collection of songs, current and past reminds us that the critically acclaimed Blues artist has far more sides and influences in her music than to be pigeonholed simply into one genre.

“I decided to put out there more of a certain edge about myself. I showed more of my raw Rock Blues, my saucy R&B, my Funky Soul and the edge of my Blues. This album shows the different styles that I have incorporated throughout the years. There are the hits off of my recent release Wanted Woman that are in the first round of Grammy nominations. Someone nominated me for what is called the first round of consideration.  What the recording academy does is they sit and they listen to see if it is a viable entry to move on to the point where folks can vote for it. I am honored that the recording academy has acknowledged me and for it to happen at this point is a highlight of my career.  I tried to portray my different styles (on the new album) and that is why I chose the songs that I did.

What I am trying to do with this CD is to reach other radio markets and to get into the mainstream more and where there will be bigger audiences,” says Niecie.  

The seeds for Niecie’s vast music palette were sown early in life, as she explains, “My mom played keyboards and we grew up with this big organ with the flip things like at church, but not with the big, big pipes (demonstrating with her hands stretched out wide).  As far as the music influence in the house, my dad was into big bands  Read More

Nina Söderquist of Sweden

Nina Soderquist Front Page PhotoSwedish singer, songwriter and actress Nina Söderquist grew up in a small town in central Sweden, which she describes as a part of the country “with farms and there is not that much there really. It was a nice place to grow up and it was calm. Everybody knew everyone. There was my mom, my step-father, my sister and me.”

A few things immediately become apparent about Nina Söderquist, one she is an immensely talented singer, who can belt out a tune like she did with her 2009 performance of the song “Tick Tock,” at Sweden’s Melodifestivalen or you hear her soulful Rock vocals when she sang  Marc Cohn’s “Walking In Memphis,” on the television show Så Ska Det Låta (English translation: That’s’ The Spirit) or you watch and listen to her perform a scintillating duet, “Straight Back To You,” (written by Tamara Champlin, Bill Champlin, Björn Skifs, Douglas Carr) in December of 2013 on Swedish television with Björn Skifs. Nina Söderquist’s vocal talents were also on display during the fall of 2008 and early 2009 on the televised music competition West End Star, broadcast on Swedish television with the winner, in this case Söderquist being cast as “Lady Of The Lake,” at the Palace Theatre’s production of Spamalot in London’s West End.

The second thing that immediately becomes apparent about Nina Söderquist is she lives her life with a perfect blend of gratitude and the belief that she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to doing.  She is grateful for her partner and for her four year old daughter. She is grateful for being able to just live life, because several  Read More

Hilary Scott Interview

Hilary Scott for front pageHilary Scott, from St. Louis Missouri has a new record out and it is called Freight Train Love. The album is worth buying for a lot of reasons, but in our minds at Riveting Riffs Magazine one of the most significant reasons is Scott’s cover of Nicolette Larson’s “Lotta Love,” (written by Neil Young). Hilary Scott who demonstrates a lot of vocal and artistic diversity with her new album gifts us with an incredible interpretation of the song. The tempo is slowed down, Nicolette Larson’s louder, Pop vocals have been supplanted by a more sensuous, romantic and quieter performance by Hilary Scott.

“I give credit to Michael O’Neill for saying, have you ever thought about covering “Lotta Love.” I just feel like you could really reinterpret this. It would be a tribute to Nicolette Larson too. I love Neil Young. I think that he is a really great songwriter, but I probably would have thought of other Neil Young songs before that one. I did not want it to come across as anything like what it was before. To me it is a really profound love song and I didn’t feel that necessarily it had been done that way before. That is why I decided to sing it this way. It came out easily and it is a song that was very short and there is not a lot to the lyrics. I felt that I could vocalize on it and I could bring out some emotions that weren’t necessarily tied to what I was saying,” says Scott.

Hilary Scott who has released numerous records during the past decade says about her new album, “For me it is a pivotal record, because it is the first time that I have really tried to get a bigger team together. We have a publicist and we are doing radio and for an independent artist that is a big investment. I feel like it  Read More

Dan Navarro - Animated Songwriter

Dan Navarro front page photoLife has come full circle for California singer-songwriter-musician and voice actor Dan Navarro. He is once again enjoying a solo career in music after two decades as part of the duo Lowen and Navarro, with the late Eric Lowen who passed away two years ago from ALS also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Songs that Dan Navarro has written and / or co-written have been recorded by artists such as, Pat Benatar, Jackson Browne, Keb’ Mo’, Dave Edmunds, Dionne Warwick, The Temptations and The Bangles. Navarro has also added a new dimension to his entertainment career in recent years, doing voice over work for animated feature films and animated television shows. The affable and very articulate Dan Navarro took time out from his busy schedule recently to sit down with Riveting Riffs Magazine to discuss his new, still to be released album, his voice acting career and to look back at his career in general.

Dan Navarro’s new album is called Shed My Skin and he says it is really a continuation of changes that have been occurring in his life since his former music and business partner Eric Lowen was diagnosed with ALS in 2006, the same year that Navarro was going through a divorce and he says even some changes that began in 1998 when he was approaching middle age.

“Here I am now from 1998, about sixteen years later and I am still dealing with change. The changes were being on my own, deciding to continue being a musician instead of folding up the tent, deciding to make it about a process and not about the outcome. It is hard not to be cynical about the fate of my (new) record; I don’t think that there are people out there champing at the bit Read More

Kelley Mickwee - River Girl

Kelley Mickwee Photo Front PageTowards the end of our conversation, Memphis, Tennessee born and now living just outside Austin, Texas singer-songwriter Kelley Mickwee and I share a bit of laughter, as she says how she went from the Texas group The Trishas, which she describes as being sweet to something a little more gritty and not so innocent. She was responding to our analogy of how she went from being in more of  Sweethearts of the Rodeo mode to more of a Tanya Tucker persona. Musically Kelley Mickwee does not sound like any of those artists, but you get the idea in terms of the emotional tone of the songs.

“Hotel Jackson,” co-written with Jonny Burke is so hot and Mickwee’s approach is so sultry that listeners who are wearing earbuds or headphones may well end up with scorched ears or at very least most people will feel the need for a cold shower after listening to this song, assuming you make it all the way through. With lines such as “You talk with lips, I wanna’ kiss / You think it’s okay I’m saying all this /You look like something I wanna’ eat / You look like something that puts off some heat / I’m gonna’ treat you like you never seen / Come by later, you’ll see what I mean…”  all said from the perspective of a woman who has her first meeting with a man in a social setting and literally wants to devour him sexually. The song however is not in the least bit explicit and it is in good taste, it is just the lines are so well written and Kelley Mickwee does such an excellent job with her phrasing and painting the picture for the listeners. Tim Regan’s (Mickwee’s husband) electric guitar playing is  Read More

Mike Stern and Eric Johnson

Eclectic cover artEclectic is one of the more aptly titled albums out there today as it combines the guitar wizardry of two of music’s best, Eric Johnson and Mike Stern, the former known more for his presence in the Rock world and latter known for his Jazz career. When you take a Grammy Award winner (Johnson) who has also been nominated for several more Grammy Awards and you combine him with multiple Grammy Awards nominee Stern, you expect lots of sizzle and that is exactly what the listener experiences right from the opening track “Roll With It,” a funky Blues Rock marathon written by Stern and which features some scintillating guitar solos. Malford Milligan delivers an incredible vocal performance.

The second song “Remember,”  gives the musical scales a workout and as the two guitar aficionados take the listener on an adventure that seems quite innocent enough in the beginning with a very airy section, featuring lots of cymbals and backed by bassist Chris Maresh who tours with Johnson, as well as drummer Anton Fig (the Paul Shaffer band on Late Night With Letterman).  There is a lot to listen for in this song, but with it being 6:26 in length you never are left with the impression that it is too busy. There is still lots of room for the musicians to shine.

Eric Johnson’s “Benny Man Blues,” is a quick temp song that might be described as Benny Goodman meets Brian Setzer. The next song is the exquisite “Wishing Well,” on which Grammy Award winning songwriter Christopher Cross lends his vocals for the bridge, while Stern’s voice is heard on the verses. There is lots of percussion on this song courtesy of James Fenner and Fig’s snare drum is ever present.  The order in which this song appears on Eclectic provides a good change of Read More

Dave Darling - Producer - Mixer

Dave Darling Front Page PhotoWhat do top producers do when they want to relax? Well we caught up with highly-respected producer, musician, singer and songwriter Dave Darling recently after he had been doing some gardening at his home in Los Angeles.

“There are a lot of succulents. It is a lot of cacti and jungle weed plants that my wfie (Brie Howard Darling) put in and it looks beautiful,” says Dave Darling.

Darling was the original founder of the band The Boxing Ghandis, which was formed in the 1990s and consisted of, Darling on vocals, guitar and bass, Brie Howard Darling on vocals and percussion, saxophonist and singer Ernie Perez, David Kitay (vocals, guitar, and percussion), Alfredo Ballesteros (flautist, sax), Ted Andriadis (keyboards), bassist Carl Sealove and drummer Steve Samuel.  They were signed to Atlantic Records and although, he left the band after a few years to focus on producing, he is still writing songs for the band. The Boxing Ghandis has released four albums in total, and two during the time that Darling performed with them, the self-titled Boxing Ghandis on Mesa Records in 1994 and the 1996 release Howard on Atlantic Records.

Dave Darling has worked with artists such as, Brian Setzer, Glen Campbell (producer / mixer for the album See You There), John Waite, Meredith Brooks, Stray Cats, Jack Johnson, Def Leppard, Tom Waites and Motley Crüe. He has produced and mixed two Grammy Award nominated albums and two Grammy Award nominated songs including, Brian Setzer’s album Instru-Mental. Read More

Astrid from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Astrid how to train your dragon photo three

Photo by Kevin Estrada,  protected by copyright ©
 2014 DreamWorks Animation LLC All Rights Reserved

Karen Wyman Is Back!

Karen Wyman front page photoKaren Wyman, a teenage sensation appeared on almost every television show of note that featured singers in the 1960s and 1970s, including the Dean Martin Show when she made her television debut at age sixteen, the Ed Sullivan Show on several occasions and the Johnny Carson show when she received standing ovations, while still in her teens. In October of 2013 Karen Wyman began to make her way back to the stage and once again she is shining under the spotlight with vocals that are incredibly pretty, still powerful and due to a twenty-five year hiatus from her music career, so she could raise her two children, as a single parent, her voice does not show the same wear and tear as some other artists.

Karen Wyman, who grew up in the Bronx of New York City, had what she describes as “an ordinary life,” the daughter of a father who was a TV repair man and her mother worked in a hospital. Her parents paid for her to take singing lessons and she says she had one brother and a lot of cousins, who she thought of as more like brothers and sisters to her. She describes it as a “very warm upbringing.”

She recalls, “My mother and father never really sang, they just always had music in the house. My father loved music, so he was always playing music, Sinatra, Perry Como or show tunes or whatever. He really loved music. My brother loved music. My mother’s father played piano by ear and my grandfather played the mandolin by ear. My great-grandmother supposedly had a good voice. There was music in the family. All my aunts and uncles would throw the dishes down and sing. (she laughs) My family (her ancestors) who were Sephardic Jews went from Spain to Greece (editor’s note: when the Jews were forced by royal edict in Spain and Portugal to convert to Catholicism, leave the country or be subjected to death without trial). Then my grandmother loved belly dancing. I had all kinds of cultural and musical influences.  When my grandmother was born, the island that she lived on belonged to Turkey and then there was fighting between the Turks and the Greeks and it became a Greek island.  She spoke Greek, Turkish and French. This was in the 1800s.    Read More

Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis

Bruce Robison Photo for front pageWhen Riveting Riffs Magazine spoke to Austin, Texas singer-songwriter-musician Bruce Robison at the beginning of July (2014) he and his wife singer-songwriter Kelly Willis had just returned from a tour of the mid-west United States in support of their new duo album Our Year, which was released on May 27 th. It is the second album they have released together, the followup to Cheater’s Game which hit the airwaves in 2013.

“We have been going to some of these cities for a long, long time and we have a real background with these cities. We don’t travel all of the time, we just travel selectively and so we try and make it to good spots, to good clubs and with good people. We were definitely able to do that on the last couple of trips. It has been a great summer so far.

Honestly it has been a process (working out tour arrangements when you have four children) which encapsulates these two records. Maybe three years ago when we were just starting to think about working together, we decided the way that we needed to travel, mostly for financial sake was just Kelly and me and just a standup base and a steel guitar (as the only other musicians). That was really out of necessity.  Then this odd thing happened when we were playing those shows it took the music back so much and our vocals so much to the forefront that it brought the crowd way more into the show, because the band wasn’t loud. The whole thing really set the tone and we were like man this is fun. When we were going out there we were, we can’t afford to bring the drummer and the keys, but it was amazing. It brought the music and the songs back right to this harmonizing and telling a story, which is really where I think the best part of our music lives and listening to Kelly sing. That has made all of this a lot easier and very pleasant. It ended up being the thread that we followed for the recordings on both of these albums.” Read More

Think Twice About Nina Storey

Nina Storey front page photoLos Angeles singer-songwriter, Nina Storey, who is originally from Boulder, Colorado, has a brand new and spectacular album called Think Twice and it is chock full of delicious R&B influenced songs that reflect what the redheaded singer refers to as Future Retro. There is a tasteful sensuality to her vocals and the beat and melody get the listener’s hips moving, the head nodding and the feet dancing.

The title song “Think Twice,” paints a playful picture of a wild child and comes with the warning “Think twice before you call my name,” and “be careful what you wish for.” Her vocals are backed by a kick drum, crash cymbals and the song is introduced by keys. One should not be surprised that the song was inspired by Storey’s reading of the Chuck Palahniuk book Damned, a quirky 2011 novel about a thirteen year old girl, “Maddy” Spencer who wakes up in hell and after being given a tour of hell by some interesting characters, she goes about reforming and beautifying that domain. Nina Storey’s vocals recall the prime days of Soul and R&B in cities like Memphis, Detroit and Philadelphia and on some of her songs she reminds this writer of the U.K.’s Corrine Bailey Rae. 

Standing in stark contrast to songs like “Think Twice,” and the danceable “Gimmie Some,” is the tender, romantically longing “This Naked Woman.”

“That song was probably around the longest. I think I wrote it in 2005 or 2006 and it had never been released, but it has a huge cult following. I thought it needs to be on this record. It was meant to capture a really dreamy moment in time with two people who had this lovely ethereal experience. I had recorded a demo version of it   Read More

Craig Pilo In Concert

Craig Pilo 2014 drums

Photo of Craig Pilo by Sayre Joan Berman
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Janiva Magness Is The Original

Janiva Magness cover art for front pageJust after returning from her Yoga class Blues singer-songwriter and musician Janiva Magness seemed relaxed and eager to talk about her new album Original and her memoir, which is also being written. It was eight years ago that this writer first met the multiple Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year award winner in Calgary, Alberta, Canada when she sat down before one of her concerts and she was gracious enough to consent to an interview. Fast forward to 2014 and Janiva Magness is just as accessible as she was then, although one senses that she has grown even more comfortable in her own skin and the album Original may be her best recording yet. Seven of the eleven songs that comprise Original, Magness had a hand in writing.

When it came time to write the songs for Original and to head into the studio to record them, she turned to longtime friend, writer/musician/producer Dave Darling, who has worked with Stray Cats, Brian Setzer, Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx and Glen Campbell. When it came to write her memoir Pulitzer Prize nominated author Gary Delsohn came onboard as a ghost writer.

The album opens with the beautiful Darling / Magness song “Let Me Breathe,” about a love now departed and the expression of the wish for a second chance. There is the scene of one final disagreement and watching the one you love walk right out the door. It is about when what just happened so overwhelms you that even to breathe hurts and you wish for one more chance, a chance that never comes. It is the fear that grips you when you realize that for the last time the sun has set on the relationship.

“This is how it works generally,  Read More


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