Diane Marino by AJ Shapiro

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Meja Is Tying Yellow Ribbons

Meja front page photoSwedish singer, songwriter and human rights activist Meja will be releasing her 11th album (two of which were with Legacy of Sound) Stroboscope Sky in April and it will feature original songs such as, “Blame It On The Shadows,” and “Sleepless.”  Since making a big splash on the music scene in Sweden and America in the early to mid nineties with Legacy of Sound and co-writing the Dance hit “Happy,” with Anders Bagge, a song that charted on the Billboard top ten in America, Meja has become a music icon at home in Sweden, a superstar in Japan and is highly respected in the American music community, as well as many other countries. In addition to her songs “Happy,” and “All ‘Bout The Money,” American music fans may remember Meja for the duet and music video “Private Emotion,” that she recorded with Ricky Martin. Music however, is not the only thing that Meja is passionate about, as she is an accomplished painter and sculptor and she is a human rights activist.  She is currently collaborating with Amnesty International to draw attention to and to seek the release of an American, Albert Woodfox from Angola prison in Louisiana where he has spent the past forty-two years in solitary confinement for a murder conviction that has been overturned three times by the American courts, but the state of Louisiana has refused to honor those appeal decisions and Woodfox has remained in jail.

Meja wrote the song “Yellow Ribbon,” (not to be confused with a song of a similar name made popular by Tony Orlando and Dawn) and on January 15 th of this year released the companion music video to draw attention to the Albert Woodfox situation. We asked her how the music video was received by those in attendance in Stockholm.

“It was fantastic. It was really, really the way that I wanted it to be.  It felt laidback and soft, a bunch of friends and just the music, very spontaneous. It was really, really good. There has been a lot of press on it here in Sweden and now we are starting to see the fruits from the international scene. There have been people from The Guardian and (people) in America who have been contacting Amnesty International in London. The countries who have been working on this case are Belgium, Holland, France, Japan, America and the U.K.  Read More

Julie Budd Interview

Julie Budd front pageShe was born Edith Claire Erdman, in Shore Haven, New York, the daughter of Saul and Joan and when she was three months old her parents bought what she describes as “a big old house” on the corner of 54 th Street and Avenue K in Brooklyn. You have known her for most of her life as Julie Budd, a prolific singer and a well-respected vocal coach. She was one of three daughters and her immediate and extended family was instrumental in cultivating a love for music early in Julie Budd’s life.

She recalls, “My mother was an outstanding singer, not a good singer, she was an outstanding singer. My grandfather, my mother’s father, used to write music and so did his brother. There were a lot of people, my cousin Emily Remler was a world class, Grammy Award winning international star. She was a very famous guitarist.”

Then the memories start to flow and you can hear the warm glow in Julie Budd’s voice as she says, “My sister Jill took me into Manhattan to see Fiddler On The Roof.  I was about ten or eleven years old and I had never seen a Broadway show before and it was a matinee, a Sunday matinee or something and Jill took me on the train from Brookyn. In those days, it is not like today (her voice deepens), people go to the theater and they don’t look all dressed up and that annoys me.  It really annoys me, you see a ten million dollar production and somebody is wearing shorts. I still get dressed up and I got very dressed up that day and so did Jill. We went into Manhattan and we saw Herschel Bernardi in Fiddler On The Roof and it was glorious (you can still hear the excitement in her voice).  I will never forget the opening scene, it was the bottle dance. Remember the bottle dance?  I couldn’t even breathe it was so exciting.

Every Saturday night my parents would go into Manhattan and see another (Broadway) show and most of the times it was a musical. My mother would always bring home for me the cast album.  They used to sell them at the show with those booklets. Do you know that I still have the albums and the booklets that my mother brought me? I saved all of that stuff. A collector would just love some of the stuff that I have.  That was like oxygen to me.  People say to me, what were your influences, as a child musically? My favorite person on the whole planet, other than my parents was Julie Andrews. I loved Julie Andrews.  Read More


Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Berlin

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S'Candy from Norway and Denmark

S'Candy Front Page Photo“We have met a lot of people over the years and we made our way to where we are now. It’s not the beginning, but it’s the beginning of S’Candy,” says Rosa Sparks Skotte (Denmark), one of the four young women, all of whom are in their twenties and who comprise the Norwegian / Danish Pop group S’Candy. The other three members of the group are Lisa Tverrå Johnsen (Norway), Christina Elnaes (Norway) and Marie Røri Lillesaeter (Norway).

The group which is being jointly managed, artistically developed and produced by Swedish singer, songwriter and musician Douglas Carr (Ace Of Base, Björn Skifs, Nick Carter, Meja, Jessica Folker) and Laila Samuels a very accompished singer-songwriter musician, who was the former lead singer for the Norwegian group The Tuesdays, recently released their debut single, an up-tempo song called “Damage Control”.

The first things that you notice about the members of S’Candy are, they have great poise and they are not naïve newbies to the music scene, as Rosa mentioned when she drew attention the fact that each of them was already very accomplished music professionals prior to the group being formed. You also notice their amazing harmonies.

“I believe since we all have been singing solo and also in choirs and stuff, that we are used to harmonizing or singing second voices. It is easy to work in that way, because we all have experienced it before.

I also believe that Douglas and Laila have good ears when it comes to music and voices and when they heard us perform they saw the potential in us being together,” says Lisa.  Read More

Ellen Johnson and Sheila Jordan

Jazz Child Photo Front PageSheila Jordan is one of Jazz music’s greatest innovators and as a singer she has more than once influenced the direction and styling of singers who followed in her footsteps. In 2012 the National Endowment for the Arts gave its most prestigious award in Jazz music, the Jazz Master to Sheila Jordan. The recognition that Jordan received is particularly noteworthy, because she made her mark in bebop music at a time when it was a difficult path for most women. It was not the first time that Sheila Jordan had a prestigious award bestowed upon her. In 2008 Jordan received the Mary Lou Williams Women In Jazz Award and she has been honored as the recipient of numerous other awards. In late 2014 Ellen Johnson, a vocalist, lyricist, actress, writer and educator had her book Jazz Child A Portrait of Sheila Jordan published.

Ellen Johnson says, “Sheila Jordan was the only singer at that 2012 award and she was the only woman (to receive the award that year).  That is significant, because there are not a lot of women (who have received) the NEA Jazz Master award.  It was a very, very important award for her. I think more than anything it was the acknowledgement that she stood with her peers at the same level. I know how much she loved Charlie Parker and how she loves all of the musicians who are here, but who also those who have passed away. Think about the people that she was with, the people she was hanging around with and whom she was influenced by, Charles Mingus the first bass player that she ever played a live performance with, you have Lennie Tristano, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, George Gruntz and George Russell. These are some of the heavyweights of our Jazz world. To be recognized (with the Jazz Master award) was a huge, huge thing for her and it was   Read More

Violette From Paris, France

Violette Photo Front PageAs we talk to French singer, songwriter and musician Violette we will unabashedly admit that Riveting Riffs Magazine is a big fan of her music and of the person as well. In the late fall of 2014 Violette released her album Falling Strong, which takes its name from the song of the same name and that appears as the second track on the record.  While we have watched the Berklee College of Music graduate evolve as an artist Falling Strong represents Violette’s most diversified and accomplished album to date. She recorded songs in French and English, in addition to her first duet, one with Louis Cato (Mariah Carey, John Legend and Marcus Miller).

About “Falling Strong,” the song, Violette says, “I called Louis and I said I wanted to write, so we went into the studio together and he said what do you feel like writing? I was listening to Motown all of the time and it is very much going through my veins right now. I said let’s take this thought there and see what happens. We laid down drums, bass and the guitars and I was singing all over, so we could see what we started to like.  I went home with that track and I figure it has that Marvin Gaye vibe also. Nobody knows it yet, but Louis has an incredible voice, besides all of the other skills, so I thought he would be the one for the duet.”

Violette elaborates about Cato’s musical abilities, also noting that he co-wrote another one of the album’s songs with her, “Annabelle.”

“He is a wonderful musician. He is one of these aliens who can play an instrument (drums, bass, guitars) at a level that nobody would expect.  He is an outrageously talented fellow.”  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 Read More

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 songwriter, producer and musician Douglas Carr who has worked with some   Read More

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). Read More

Pamela McNeill Arrives!

pamela mcneill front page“Rainy Night In Memphis,” is the best Country Music song that Riveting Riffs Magazine has heard in 2014, written and sung by Minnesota native Pamela McNeill, it has everything that you want in a song, an easy going melody that invites fans to sing along, Pamela McNeill’s vocals are terrific and she paints fabulous word pictures of her hotel room, as she looks out at the city lights in the midst of a thunderstorm, while thinking of the one whom she loves. The song is from McNeill’s new album Hurtsville, USA released in October (2014) on her own label SweetHeart Records. For many of the songs on this album Pamela McNeill collaborated with Nashville based songwriter Bobby E. Boyd (Rascall Flats, Alabama, Aaron Tippin, Martina McBride).

About the song “Rainy Night In Memphis,” she recalls that she has been listening to her father’s records from the sixties and the seventies and realized how much she loved the songs of lyricist, composer and singer Jimmy Webb whose hit songs include “Up, Up and Away,” (The 5 th Dimension), the Glen Campbell hits “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” and “Galveston,” and he wrote the mega hit “MacArthur Park.”

McNeill says, “I didn’t realize that I loved Jimmy Webb. Jimmy Webb is the guy. I was so inspired that I wanted to write a couple of Jimmy Webb (type of) songs and I had never been to Memphis, but I am a huge storm freak. I always love rain and thunderstorms. They give me energy and the title came to me “Rainy Night In Memphis.” I started writing and I wanted to write something inspired guitar wise by George Harrison.  Read More

Unmasking the Pain Within

Patty McCall Front Page PhotoWhile many get ready to celebrate Christmas with families and laughter, festivities and gift exchanges, there are also many who for various reasons will not experience the same joy during this holiday season. Some are homeless, some unemployed, some have recently lost a loved one and then there are those who are victims of domestic abuse, who live in terror and who are subjected to physical and verbal abuse. My guest recently was actress and author Patty McCall founder of the P.A.I.N. Foundation (Prevent Abuse In Neighborhoods) an organization that reaches out to women in shelters, recognizes the work of those who produce and direct short films that deal with the subject matter of abuse and educates those who are vulnerable or could be vulnerable about what signs to watch for so they do not become victims.

“I have my new career as a motivational speaker and I will be traveling and (the theme) is You Can Too Unmask the Pain Overcome and Move On.  I was just out in Los Angeles and I did my program there at a women’s shelter in Oceanside. Now that I am back here in Oklahoma, next Friday I am speaking at a youth walk-in.  I am hoping this grows and I will be able to take the book (her book Unmasking the Pain Within), the CD (a compilation album by several artists) and some of our films with me.  I just want to be able to speak to and to help others and to help them break the cycle of abuse,” says Patty McCall.

Patty McCall is not a pyschologist or a pyschiatrist. She is an author and actress and a survivor of domestic abuse, which she talks about in her book Unmasking the Pain Within.  When we talked in late November (2014) a feature film based upon her book was in the pre-production stage  Read More

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Berlin

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Desgin by Riani, Photo by Peter Michael Dills, 
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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 and he also loved Boots Randolph on the saxophone. I still have my dad’s Boots Randolph records. Then he flipped over and he liked stuff like ZZ Top and music like that. I had a brother who was into the Vietnam era and Woodstock. (He liked) all of the organic music, Hendrix in the day, Janis Joplin, Black Sabbath and Bad Company.  It was the late sixties and early seventies music, Jefferson Airplane.   Read More

Nina Söderquist of Sweden

Nina Soderquist new album cover front pageSwedish 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 years ago she was diagnosed with cancer and told she did not have long to live and yet the cancer disappeared. When she talks about her career Nina Söderquist never comes across as someone who feels entitled to the success that comes her way, but instead she is grateful for the opportunities and  Read More

Kelley Mickwee - River Girl

Kelley Mickwee Photo Front PageTowards the end of our conversation, Memphis 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 incredible and bass player Mark Edgar Stuart is very solid. We also get a glimpse of something we do not often hear from Mickwee and that is the power she can generate with her vocals when she sings “I’ve got a room at the Hotel Jackson,” and it hints of an artist whose best performance and whose best songs still lay ahead of her. Read More

Craig Pilo In Concert

Craig Pilo 2014 drums

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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 pace, as the mood is gentler and more relaxing. 

One of the most interesting songs on the album is the   Read More

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