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Bill Toms is Movin' On

Bill Toms front pageRecently, Pittsburgh singer, songwriter and musician Bill Toms returned to playing before audiences with his band Hard Rain, as North America slowly starts to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. These were also the first times that he had to perform in a concert setting, songs from his new album Movin’ On, so we asked him how all that felt.

“There was quite a bit of nerves. The fact that we had not played in front of an audience for over a year, and we were playing some songs we’ve never played before made for some uneasiness. But that first show in Columbus (Ohio) was amazing and soothed the soul. It also seemed to do the same for the audience. We are (now) certainly rebooted and ready to go. The new songs are being received well.  It is always nice to have fresh bait in the box.

We started rehearsing in mid-April, and it felt good to start up those engines and to feel that band behind me. It was an unbelievable feeling. You have to remember too, that I started playing in bars in 1980, so for forty years I always had a gig and a calendar with gigs in front of me. For the first time it was all gone. That was quite a shock. Making this record was therapeutic and saved my sanity,” he says.  

Movin’ On is a musical novella, not so much because there is exists a common theme between the songs, but rather, because they are a collection of stories set to music.

Always thoughtfully and reflectively, as Bill Toms shares his views, he says, “I think sometimes storytelling is a lost art. I love to do storytelling types of concerts. I do a lot of shows, with just an acoustic guitar and me and when I can gather up songs that I really like to break down. I talk about the stories that surround the songs and the environment that they are in. I enjoy that and I think it is something that people don’t do too much anymore.”

One of those songs is the song, “I Keep Moving On,” which was inspired by a conversation between Bill Toms and a friend of his who is a lawyer.

“I had dinner or lunch with a friend of mine, a year and one-half or two years ago and he is a lawyer and I’m an artist. He was trying to give me some ideas about financial planning and some business opportunities. I don’t think that way, I am an artist. He is going through all his stuff, and he said tell me about the music business, so I started to explain to him how we get paid, Read More

Executive Producer Jeanette B. Milio

Jeanette B Milio Photo front pageRecently, Riveting Riffs Magazine sat down with Jeanette B. Milio who depending on the project she is working on sometimes wears the hat of producer and sometimes she dons the executive producer’s hat. During the course of her career Ms. Milio has garnered significant respect from her peers, networks, film studios and distributors for her keen business acumen and her knowledge of how to finance and produce a feature film or television and streaming series that will put people in the seats in cinemas or have their eyes glued to their television sets at home. We asked Jeanette B. Milio if she would be gracious enough to take us behind the scenes and explain the business side to us.

Jeanette B. Milio’s story begins in a small town outside of Cologne, Germany, where she was raised by a single mother, who was a hairdresser. At first glance this would appear to be an inauspicious start and far removed from the life she built as a movie mogul, but she credits in part, her success to lessons learned from her mother (more about that in a minute).

“I didn’t have any idea of what this industry would be like.

The one thing I remember that drew me to storytelling even as a child, is that I would come up with little stories and I would engage all the children on our street to perform the stories in Saturday morning theater pieces on the stairs in front of our house. I invited all of the other neighborhood kids to come and watch the plays and to pay ten pennies. I think I was ten or eleven when I started doing that.

I liked to tell a story and I liked to play with kids on the street, so I thought maybe we can do something here that everyone benefits from. At the end of the play that we performed we shared the money and we bought candy with it.

The storytelling was always in my brain, because I was a bookworm and I liked to write. I have always done that even as a child.

I studied business and I never really went into the entertainment industry. My first exposure was when I worked for a temp agency, while I was studying. The temp agency placed me as a secretary to replace a secretary who was going on vacation at RTL television, which is a larger German network that is located in Cologne. While I was there it gave me the first sense of what  Read More

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Amelie Blake - U.K. Interview

Amelie Blake Photo TwoAmelie Blake may not be a household name or at least yet, but some of the films and television shows that you watch and many of the movie trailers enticing you to watch a particular film have music created by Amelie Blake. The new mother and affable British woman, who grew up in Warrington, England is now also turning her attention to writing songs for other artists. She is very focused on her music, but also quite low key about her success, a far cry from that moment when she first learned one of her songs had been picked up.

She recalls that moment, “My husband, Mike and I created some demos and we sent them to a lot of production companies, trailer houses and publishers and eventually after hundreds of emails one got back to us. They asked if we could do music for this brief and so we did. (Next) we were introduced to several publishers. We then wrote the album Songs for the Soul, which was a collection of a few songs we had written over the years and we also wrote some new ones for the album. It was put out there for the music supervisors to pick from. It is not written for a (specific) trailer. We write them and then we do not know what is going to get chosen.

I was driving to a job interview for a teaching job, but I had wanted to get out of teaching for a few years, because I really wanted to pursue my music. The phone call came (when I was driving) and I could not answer it, so my husband answered the phone and put it on the loudspeaker. My dad said, do you know that you are on this trailer? He started playing it over the phone and that is when I started to scream (as I was driving) down the motorway, because I was so excited. I didn’t care about my job interview after that.” Read More

Evie Sands - New Album

Evie Sands Photo Front PageEvie Sands started her music career (writer puts hand over mouth and mumbles, as it is never polite to discuss a woman’s age) that many years ago, but you would never know it from her new album, her vocals are crisp, the music more imaginative than many of today’s artists, and that is not a slam on today’s musicians and songwriters, but rather a nod to Sands. If you were not aware of all that Evie Sands has already accomplished during her career, you might think she was just starting out, because of her unbridled enthusiasm.  We wondered how she has managed to stay on top of her game and with such a contagious, positive and fun attitude.

“I trust in the music and then I let it go. I think it is probably a combination of things. It is my ongoing and will be forever, my insane passion for music, about making it, listening to it and breaking it down. I enjoy it, but I like to figure out what is that stuff sonically, what is going on and it is the enjoyment part of it. It is just ongoing. It is just like I was born, and I started listening. I just get excited. Then there is the striving to continually get better and all the skills that are involved, whether it is continuing to be a better singer, a better songwriter, better composer, a better musician, a better producer and engineer. It drives who I am.

I never look to chase the trends. I have learned that is a losing game. By the time we see and hear things, it already took a while for those things to be created and released, so by the time we say that must be the kind of stuff people want to hear and by the time I could get it out there it would be a day late and a dollar short. It would be old news. Also, it wouldn’t be honest, because for me making music is all about being connected to the heart. It is a combination of my heart Read More

Maia Sharp - New Album

Maia Sharp Photo front PageMaia Sharp’s new album Mercy Rising takes the listener from the highs, of the beautiful, seductive and romantic “You’ll Know Who Knows You,” which may be the ultimate love song of this century, to the reflective and picturesque “Things to Fix,” about a relationship that has ended. The former, burns with passion, mixed with ‘I want you and nobody else,’ and the latter uses the metaphor of fixing broken and worn things in a house for what the individual failed to address in the relationship, that perhaps would have made a difference. The words, “What I should have said / And what I should have done / Ya’ I keep skipping over number one / On my list of things to fix,” will take anybody who has been in that moment back there again.

The person in “Things to Fix,” stands in contrast to “John Q Lonely,” from Maia Sharp’s 2008 album Echo, and he was also dealing with a relationship that had come to an end.

She explains, “It shows that I have been doing it long enough that we can compare the end of a relationship thirteen years ago compared to the end of a relationship now.

“John Q Lonely,” is just a crab and his reaction to being hurt is just takes his football and he is going home. He is not going to play this game anymore. He closes himself off. His reaction is to pout. If love didn’t like me then I’m not going to like love.

“Things to Fix,” is a pretty different mindset. It is open and she is aware enough to see that there is something at the very top of my list that I’m avoiding, but the crux Read More

Filmmaker Lara Celenza

Lara Celenza photo by Anya Shvetsova front pageIt would be easy to lose track of how many prestigious universities and how many countries film producer, screenwriter and director Lara Celenza has studied in. She has studied in Bologna, Italy, at Cambridge University in England, in Moscow and in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Lara Celenza, chronicles her travels, “I studied everywhere. I did my bachelor’s degree in Bologna, which was already very different from where I grew up, because Italy, as a country is very culturally diverse. I grew up in the south-central part of the country and then I moved to Bologna, which is a sophisticated, university city. It was much bigger than my hometown, but not like a big city. It was kind of a mid-size city.

I experienced the first culture shock of my life there. It was more of an intellectual type of environment, where everybody was sitting down, drinking wine, and discussing literature and movies. It was very inspiring, but at the same time, at the beginning I felt very intimidated (she laughs lightly). It was also kind of wild with the partying. I wasn’t used to having all of these students around. My parents were very conservative and strict. When I went to university it was party, after party, after party. I had the chance to meet people from all over the country and some people from other countries.

I did the Erasmus programme in London, at UCL (University College London), which is quite a prestigious school.

I also studied in two different universities in Russia, one in Moscow and one in  Read More

Actress Ana Cerdeiriña

Ana front pageActress  from Madrid, Spain has been a lot of things when she first took up acting. She was a mosquito, a bird, the sun, and a tree, but as her career progressed, she was cast in juicer roles, such as, a nun who sold aphrodisiac candies, and a psychopath. One gets the sense the role she enjoys the most is being the mother to her daughter. Ana Cerdeiriña has been in drama series such as Si No Thagues Conegut, sitcoms like Gym Tony (2015) and her most recent role in the television series Los Hombres de Paco Reboot.

Life began for Ana Cerdeiriña, “in Salamanca, a little town in Castile y León. It is a big area in the northwest of Spain, but not as far north as Galicia. It is a university city with students from all over the world. I have a small family, my father, my mother, my sister, and me. The center of my life is my father, my mother, my sister and now my daughter. My mother is a nurse, my father is a doctor, and my sister works as a hospital administrator. My father and mother split up when I was twelve years old, and I went to live in Madrid with my mother and my sister. I have lived in Madrid for thirty years.

When I was a child and I wanted to become an actress, my mother and father thought that was bad news. They wanted me to study for a different career. In Spain when you are fourteen and sixteen years old and if you say you want to be an actress, it is not beautiful news, because it is so difficult to be an actor or an actress here. Our country has a lot of good things, but the arts and acting or creative (careers) are difficult.

If my daughter came home and said she wanted to be an actress I would probably tell her no, but fortunately she loves math and science,” says Ana Cerdeiriña.  Read More

Montse Muñoz - Actress, Model

Montse Munoz Front Page 2What happens when you have a beautiful model, a daring stuntwoman and a fabulous actress and they all meet? Well when they are three different people, we are not sure and this story is not about three different people, because our guest at Riveting Riffs Magazine recently was Montse Muñoz and she is actively engaged in all three careers. Perhaps the story of how she received her first name is a good place to begin.

“My first name Montse comes from Montserrat, which is a really high mountain mountain range, and they are difficult to climb. My name comes from these mountains. I always asked my mom why she chose this name and she said, because you asked for this name when you were born. She said all of your life you wanted to climb, and you always looked for the difficult way to arrive at the top. You are doing it step by step and that is why you have this name,” says Montse Muñoz.

She was born in the small city of Manresa, sixty-seven kilometers from Barcelona, located in Spain’s autonomous region of Catalunya. Legend has it that St Ignatius of Loyola, while on his way back from Montserrat stopped in Maresa to pray and that for one year he lived in a cave not far from Maresa.

She was one of only two children in her family and her extended family on her maternal and paternal side was even smaller.

When asked if her creativity is something naturally flows from her family, she laughs lightly and says, “My mother is the only one in Read More

These Fine Moments - Season 10

These Fine Moments Front Page PhotoThrough the magic of technology our guests recently at Riveting Riffs Magazine were Hilary Kaufmann who was in Austin, Texas and Robert Watts who was in the Greater Beaumont area of Texas, while this writer talked to them from Toronto, Canada. They joined us to talk about their brand-new album Season 10, whose title informs the listener that the music duo has now spent ten years performing as These Fine Moments.

Hilary Kaufmann talks about their respective musical styles when she first met Robert Watts, “We were different in that my musical interests were completely opposite from Robert’s. I was more into Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt and I guess more Folk Rock and Americana, but I have been doing original music in bands for a long time. My band was a finalist in the Kerrville Folk Festival. I am also a songwriter. Robert is much more edgy than I am, and he took me way out of my comfort zone. Our voices blended so well together it was a natural progression. I feel writing with him has really helped me to grow as a musician.”

Robert Watts picks up the conversation, “I come at it from a little different angle. My writing style is not so much literal, but it is more abstract. Hilary centers me a lot to keep me from getting too far out there.”  

“Robert’s influences are more from eighties music and I am slightly older, so my influences are mostly from the seventies,” she says.

As far as how their music has evolved during their ten-year careers together, Read More

Leah Belle Faser - Rising Star

Leah Belle Faser Intro Photo OneIt has been a long time since Riveting Riffs Magazine has said of any young artist that she or he has superstardom in their future. In fact, the last time we said that was when we sat down in April 2005 with then little-known singer, songwriter and guitarist Kimberly Perry of The Band Perry and that is exactly what we predicted. Here we are almost sixteen years later and having recently spoken with sixteen-year-old Leah Belle Faser from Atlanta, Georgia, we are saying the same thing. She has the voice, the songwriting skills and the maturity to become a really special artist, one that we suspect someday will receive serious consideration for and could possibly be the winner of any of the top music awards in Country music.

When you first listen to songs such as “Better Than Mine,” “Back Home,” “The Lift,” and “Second-Hand Store,” from Leah Belle Faser’s new album Crossing Hermi’s Bridge, songs about relationships and longing for home, the first thing you want to do is go to the album credits to find out who co-wrote these songs with her. Surely, you think, a sixteen-year-old could not write so insightfully about such mature themes and compose such well constructed songs. Then you think there must be information missing from the album credits, because all of these songs are attributed to this affable teenage girl who answers your questions thoughtfully and you realize not only are her songs mature, but so is she. Yes, she has all the exuberance of a sixteen-year-old, but she also is wise beyond her years.

Leah Belle Faser says, “There is only so much that has happened in my life at sixteen, so there are only so many things that I can  Read More

                        French Designer Alice Berry Atelier

Alice Berry May 2021

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October 1993 A Magic Evening

Jaime James Photo Front PageActor, singer and musician Harry Dean Stanton released a new album in February. Well actually, Omnivore Recordings released October 1993, an album by Harry Dean Stanton with the Cheap Dates, produced by Jamie James and Greg Allen (co-produced by Slim Jim Phantom, of the Stray Cats) comprised of some songs that were recorded live at the Troubadour and others that were recorded in the studio. You see, Harry Dean Stanton passed away on September 15, 2017 at the age of ninety-one.

Jamie James who had a band called the Kingbees and who also had played with Dennis Quaid and the Sharks, explains how this album, which was never intended to become an album, was born.

“My sister called me and said, Jaime I saw a picture of you online that I have never seen before. Where and when is it from? She sent me the link and I looked at it. I told her that is a band that Harry and I had for about six months back in 1993. It was called Harry Stanton with the Cheap Dates.

I remembered that Slim Jim Phantom had been digitizing music from cassettes. We had recorded four songs in Paramount Studios on Santa Monica Boulevard, back in ’93. He sent me a track, but I couldn’t find it. I called him and I said, could you resend that to me? I listened to it again and it was the Bob Dylan song “Baby Tonight.” I liked it.

I thought I like this, and I wonder if other people would enjoy it. I called “Slim” back and he had four songs, but it wasn’t enough to do (an album).

I called Greg back at Omnivore and he said listen we have this guy that we work with and he does incredible stuff with tapes and mastering. He won a Grammy with us for bringing back to life some old Hank Williams tapes. He said take them up there and see what he can do. I took them up to Michael Graves and left them with him for ten days or so. He put them through his magic machine, and he boosted the levels. He made it sound wonderful.

I told him the main thing I cared about was being able to hear Harry’s voice. I chose the five songs that I felt best represented Harry’s voice. The way this is on a LP is side A are the four songs from the recording studio and side B are the songs (performed) live at the Troubadour. It looks and sounds fantastic. It really does Harry proud. I would not have even dreamed of releasing this if it had not been a true representation of Harry’s singing,” says Jamie James.

That explains how the music resurfaced, but when and how Jamie James and Harry Dean Stanton, became acquainted with one another and eventually friends is an even more interesting story.

Jamie James reminisces, “It was in the late eighties and I think it was 1988, for a brief period I was doing some gigs with Slim Jim Phantom and Lee Rocker the drummer from the Stray Cats when they  Read More

Allyson Morris - Jazz Album

Allyson Morris Front Page Photo One ACHILL…me some jazz, the new album from Canadian singer and songwriter Allyson Morris, is sultry, sexy and innovative. It may also very well be the best Jazz album produced in Canada in decades. The country has produced several outstanding Jazz singers and musicians, but few albums produced in Canada measure up to the quality that Allyson Morris and her producer / arranger Asher Ettinger created at Asher Music Studio in Toronto.

The album opens with an old David Frishberg song, “Peel Me a Grape,” for which a sultry, mysterious, almost James Bond like companion video was filmed. The creation of the video has a hint of mystery to it with two Peters and an Allyson, during a pandemic.

Allyson Morris recalls, “I ran into an old friend (Peter Clifford) who is in the film industry. I played the album for him and he loved “Peel Me a Grape.” He said you need a video Allyson. Nobody in the film industry was working in Toronto, because of COVID. That conversation was in June of 2020.

Peter Faragher started writing out the storyboard with my friend Peter Clifford who has an old 1968 Delta 88 car, and we did that video on a Sunday afternoon when it wasn’t busy, down University Avenue (Toronto) and we (fastened) cameras to the car. There was a cinematographer in the front seat, one in the back seat and there was another car following me, as we drove through the downtown core. We ended up on York Street overlooking the CN tower and all of the buildings served as a backdrop for the video. They had gone out a few weeks earlier to scout out locations. It was an incredible experience and I had never really done a video before.

Peter Clifford and I sat in his backyard (beforehand) over cocktails and discussed how we were going to (create) a video and blend it with the song. The whole album is very James Bond like. It is very sultry and sexy and that is artistically where my head is at right now. I wanted to have this smokey, sexy video to match the song. I wanted very lounge (sounding) music.

The six songs record features a selection of two originals “It Takes Two,” and “Infinite Melody,” three classics and one contemporary tune, with John Lennon’s “Imagine,” and not to make a pun, but reimagined in a beautiful way.

Some of the most outstanding singers during the past decade have sung Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things,” and this beautiful vocal performance by Allyson Morris ranks up there with any of them. At the risk of committing sacrilege and incurring the ire of Barbra Streisand fans, Allyson Morris’ vocals do deserve to be mentioned in the same breath Read More

French Actress Sandra Leclercq

Sandra Leclercq Front Page 2Sandra Leclercq is an actress, playwright and screenwriter from France, with a green card for the United States and she had a puppet flirt with her recently, she designed a support chair to enable a young man with disabilities to compete in an Iron Man competition and she has travelled back in time from a women’s dominated society, 1,000 years into the future. Just to round things out she also used to be a tennis coach. Recently, Sandra Leclercq was our guest at Riveting Riffs Magazine, and we have become big fans of this delightful and fun lady.  

We asked her how it felt to have a puppet flirt with her, “It felt really good!” she says laughing.

We were of course talking about her voiceover work for a French advertisement for Spotify and Sandra Leclercq was the voice for the female puppet.

I really love it (voiceover). It is really interesting. Even when I audition for animated movies or things like that, I like to have the picture of the character and to see what the animated version looks like. If it is an animal what kind of animal is it? Even when you are just using your voice, you are still acting. I think if it is TV, theater or voiceover in my opinion it is still the same, it is acting.

I did an audition before, but this was the first time that I recorded something that I booked.

I looked at the puppet and I loved it. It was very technical to have my mouth in rhythm and moving at the same time as the puppet.”  

Two years ago, Sandra Leclercq starred in the short film Miss You Dad, which was shot in the United States. It was a result of her very first audition in America.

“When I was first contacted for the audition I was in France and I told the casting Read More

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Shadow and Bone - Review

Shadow Bone front page photoShadow and Bone, an eight episodes series debuted on Netflix in late April, and it features some of the best acting you are likely to see this year, led by Jessie Mei Li, the undisputed star of this show, both due to her character, Alina Starkov and the quality of her performance. Although, this part Lord of the Rings, part Stranger Things and part late 1800s Russian science fiction, fantasy series, based on the books of American author Leigh Bardugo features numerous good looking men and good actors to swoon over, we want to take a moment to highlight the brilliant performances by the actresses.

Jesse Mei Li’s character Alina Starkov grew up in an orphanage with her best friend Malyen "Mal" Oretsev played by Archie Renaux, both actors are relatively new to the film and television world and both turn in splendid performances. Alina Starkov is a mapmaker who discovers she has a rare gift that impacts the storyline, while Mal, is a solider in the Kingdom of Ravka’s army. In the midst of all the drama, there is an undercurrent of are you going to tell her how you feel about her big guy? Jesse Mei Li brings vulnerability to her character and innocence, but she also brings strength. Her character does not really understand everything that is happening to her, but when thrust into an opulent world, she longs for the simplicity of what she once knew. Li’s eyes portray deep hurt, at other times defiance, but never resignation. The dramatic tension created between Jesse Mei Li and Archie Renaux is believable and the sensitivity draws you into these two characters, both in their current time and through flashbacks to the orphanage.

One of the most amazing actresses this writer has seen in a very long time is Amita Suman who was born in Nepal and spent most of her childhood in England. Suman plays Inej Ghafa, who is actually a character from the Six of Crows novel by Bardugo. Suman is destined for a very long career in film. She is a powerful actress who delivers more with less. Her life is one of a slave to thieves and devious businesspeople who value her stealth and ninja like abilities. The viewer is left wondering is Freddy Carter’s Kaz Brekker falling in love with Inej Ghafa or is he just Read More

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