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                      More Interviews (Click on the section links below) 

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Interview with Lisa Dondlinger

Lisa Dondlinger Photo Front PageYou would be hard-pressed to find an iconic music figure with whom violinist, arranger, composer and singer Lisa Dondlinger has not performed with and / or recorded with during the course of her career. To name drop for a moment, Lisa Dondlinger has performed and / or recorded with Lady Gaga, John Legend, Andrea Bocelli, Beyoncé, Stevie Wonder, Rihanna and Tony Bennett. That is barely scratching the surface of her musical resume. Perhaps you have seen her appear as a soloist or concertmaster on the Grammy Awards, American Idol, The American Music Awards, The Voice, The Ellen Show, The Tonight Show or The Academy Awards, Dancing with the Stars, The Emmy Awards and the Latin Grammy Awards.

The former Miss America beauty pageant contestant who represented the state of Iowa (Miss Iowa) sat down with Riveting Riffs Magazine recently to talk about her current album Movies & The Masters, as well as her career.

In talking about her album Dondlinger says, “I have always heard melodies together in my head and I know that sounds really weird, but I always hear things that lend themselves to something else. One of the things on the album that I am the most proud of and sounds the most weird is I was hearing Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite and especially two of the movements Infernal Dance (Of King Kashchei) and the Finale. I was trying to figure out what could go with them? What would sound really cool with them? The thing I came up with was Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire. It is definitely a Pop tune (originally recorded for the movie by Sukhvinder Singh, Mahalaxmi Iyer and Vijay Prakash). The Pussycat Dolls recorded it (as well).  It is definitely a Pop dance song. I was working with Chad Rehmann who was the co arranger with me on two-thirds of the pieces. Then Herman Jackson, Natalie Cadét and Raul Ferrando each arranged one tune with me.

At first he thought I was crazy and he was not interested at all in putting Stravinsky with that tune. I kept sending him clips of how I heard the melodies coming together. He got it and it ended up being possibly my favorite thing on the album, especially live, because when I do it with the orchestras it is the big finale of the show. Read More

Mindi Abair  Interview

Mindi Abair front page photo“We always joke that our band is a sport. Some people just stand there and play or play quietly or play nice little Jazz, but with what we do we are dripping wet by the second song. It is a sport and we all believe that you are supposed to give a pound of flesh and that you are supposed to give a piece of your soul every night to (your audience) That is the deal that you make when you step on stage. I think it is good for us. It is a great catharsis. I don’t need therapy, because I have a band (she laughs) and an audience,” says singer, songwriter and saxophonist Mindi Abair, while talking about her band Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers.

Abair’s comments were part of a conversation when talking about the song “Whose Going to Save My Soul?” from the new album No Good Deed released on June 28 (2019).

About the song she says, “It is a hard song to sing, because you have to give your all. It is one of those songs that you can’t pretend. Every ounce of your being has to emote. This will be one of the songs in the set that takes it out of us.”

Mindi Abair both sings and plays a lengthy saxophone solo during “Whose Going to Save My Soul?” and we wondered how much that is going to sap her energy.

“I think that it is really helpful to have songs that I am singing and then songs that I am playing sax on (both for the same song). It breaks it up. Sometimes if you are just playing saxophone all night, those muscles get broken down and those muscles in your face hurt. As a singer different muscles are going to be worked. It is all energy and it is all (about) you giving, but it is different. It does help to be able to spread it out over the night and to go I am going to sing this song and play this sax.

As far as wearing you out, it spreads it out a little more. It is a lot of energy and I am going to be exhausted to do this record live. “You Better Run,” oh my god I have done that one live. Your heart is beating out of your chest.”

So let’s talk about the song “You Better Run,” a song originally recorded by The Young Rascals in 1966 and written by Felix Cavaliere and  Read More

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Charleene Closshey  Interview

Charleene Closshey Photo Front PageCharleene Closshey has been on a red hot creative streak since the spring of 2018. The cinematic release of the film she produced and starred in,  No Postage Necessary during the summer of 2018  was followed by the release of the soundtrack for the album in October of 2018. Her new orchestral arrangement for the song “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day,” peaked at # 24 on the AC charts and the Holiday charts in America. The Christmas song is a precursor for the full length Christmas album, which will be released in time for the 2019 Christmas season and it is produced by six time Grammy Award winning producer / sound engineer Brent Mayer. If your head is not spinning by now Closshey is also releasing her album Only Love Remains and as we write this we are getting close to the date for the release of the first single from the album. Charleene Closshey’s short film Perception did well on the festival tour and she received numerous awards for the music she composed for Perception.

We are out of breath after that whirlwind tour of the past year of Charleene Closshey’s career and you probably are as well, so let’s turn out attention to our recent conversation with this multi-talented and creatively brilliant native Floridian.

Even though No Postage Necessary was in theaters during the summer of 2018, it can still be viewed through a variety of means, iTunes, Amazon and through the new media platform Vevue.

Closshey says, “I produced the film with my business and life partner Jeremy Culver. He was the writer and director on this particular script. We opted to produce as well, because we are gluttons for punishment. It was a story we wanted to get out there in an efficient (way) and  Read More

Interview with Charlotte Martin

Charlotte Martin front page photoCharlotte Martin has been a lot of things during her lifetime, a beauty pageant winner and contestant (numerous times), an Opera singer, Classical pianist, she was signed to a major record deal, she is both a private music teacher and she teaches music at a college in the Greater Los Angeles area, but if you asked her what her greatest accomplishment has been and the one from which she has derived the most satisfaction she would likely tell you it is being mom to her son and daughter. If you asked us what strikes us most about Charlotte Martin we would tell you it is her toughness. We are not talking about the kind of tough that comes with an edge or that is confrontational, but rather the kind of strength that wills one through life. She overcame anorexia early in life, for more than a decade she has dealt with considerable physical pain from a condition known as arachnoid neurological syndrome and she has soldiered on with her music career, albeit at the moment she is more focused on the educational and songwriting aspects of it.

Charlotte Martin grew up in Charleston, Illinois the daughter of Becky and Joseph and with a brother six years older. Joseph was a professor of music for forty-seven years and he played woodwind instruments, while Becky was a singer who also taught choirs and music in general.

“I grew up listening to a lot of music. I listened to a lot of Classical and my dad also loved Elvis. My mom was also very influenced by Christian music and I grew up singing in churches. She always sang in the worship band in church and she played as well.

I grew up in a great community for music. The access to music education there is so much more intense than it is even here in Read More

Andrea Miller Continuing a Legacy

Andrea Miller Front Page PhotoEarlier this year for the second time in as many years singer Andrea Miller received a blow to her heart. In February of 2017 just prior to leaving for a world tour with Al Jarreau word came that he had passed away. May 2 of this year Andrea Miller was to fly to Chicago to record the George Gershwin song “I’ve Got a Crush on You,” with longtime collaborator, producer, arranger, composer and lyricist Michael Cunningham, for a George Gershwin tribute album he planned to release. However on April 8th word came that her friend had passed away suddenly.

Andrea Miller is one of the more gifted singers of our time and although these days her preference is to sing Jazz, she has clearly demonstrated throughout the years that her vocals translate well into a number of other genres.

Andrea Miller who has become a friend of Riveting Riffs Magazine took time to talk about her three song EP she recorded with Michael Cunningham and she reflected upon their time working together and their friendship.

She says reflectively, “It puts perspective on the big picture of what I do and why I do it and what it is all supposed to be about. You never know. Every performance you do and every recording you make and every song that you sing it makes them even more meaningful. Eventually, at some point in my life it will be my last song and I don’t think the people that I have lost ever knew that would be their last song that they wrote or sang. You have to enjoy and savor every second of it.

I have lost a lot of people in the last two years and especially in the last two months and it has become even more important to me for what I  Read More

Barbara Dennerlein - Blues Album

Barbara Dennerlein Front Page Photo 2019Barbara Dennerlein has long been considered one of the world’s foremost Blues and Jazz Hammond B3 organists and composers and in more recent years has added to her musical palette by playing the same music on pipe organs. The affable artist who lives in Germany took time out from her busy schedule to chat with Riveting Riffs Magazine about her first ever compilation album Best of Blues: Through the Years.

“There are two things that came together, one is I love Blues and my roots are Blues. For a long time I wanted to do something with the Blues, because I have a lot of contact with the audience when I play concerts. Over the years many people have asked me on which of your CDs are the most Blues compositions? I realized that one day I should do some kind of a Blues compilation (album). This has been in my mind for many years and I have thirty-three years of Bebab Records, which is my own label. I thought it would be nice to do it now. I have been in the business for long enough now to do a compilation from my label,” she says, laughing lightly.

Because it is a compilation album, it is important to note that the songs were all recorded at different times throughout the years and then remastered recently.

Barbara Dennerlein says, “First I had to pick the songs I wanted on the album. There were many Blues compositions (that I recorded) over the years. The difficult part was to pick the ones that I want on the compilation.  There are so many that I like. There are a lot of different albums with different songs and some of them were recorded live and some of them were recorded in the studio. Naturally the sound and the lineups are  Read More

Give Up Your Ghosts - Rebecca Loebe

Rebecca LoebeWith the recent release of Rebecca Loebe’s fifth full length album Give Up Your Ghosts she has sent a clear and powerful message to the music community that she is a singer and songwriter to be reckoned with. Her vocals are pristine, her phrasing is impeccable and her songwriting draws you in as she paints vivid word pictures.  Loebe (pronounced Low Bee) was born in Arlington, Virginia, her family moved to Atlanta, Georgia when she was eight years old, she was schooled at Berklee College of Music in Boston and she now calls Austin, Texas her home. She took time out from her rigorous North American and international tour schedule to talk to Riveting Riffs Magazine about the record Give Up Your Ghosts and her career.

“The record is called Give Up Your Ghosts, because it is about what is holding you back or what is no longer serving you. That is the global theme of the whole record. It is pulled from specific lines from the song “Ghosts,” which are “Give up all of your ghosts / At least the ones you love the most / They were never holding you as close / As you were holding them.” That song came together pretty quickly in the writing process. Some songs I labor over for many months, but this one was a stream of consciousness writing experience. It felt like I was writing gentle instructions to myself for how to be happy, how to handle my life right now and how to handle (times of) feeling overwhelmed by the world at large. I just have to remember to relax and to chill out a little bit. I feel those lines in particular are about letting go of your fears or these giant roadblocks that you see ahead of you, because often they are really only in your own  Read More

Fiona Joy Hawkins Interview

Fiona Joy Hawkins photo for front pageFiona Joy Hawkins is the owner of Q Pop Up Gallery in Australia, but you know her best as being an amazing Neo Classical / New Age and Contemporary Instrumental Music, pianist and composer, who doubles as a member of the ensemble FLOW and in collaboration with musician (also a member of FLOW) and producer Will Ackerman co-produced an award winning debut album for American artist Jennifer DeFrayne. Fiona Joy, as she is sometimes referred to is also a visual artist and some of her own paintings are featured in the gallery.

Elegant while seated in front of her piano, vivacious while doing this Skype interview and giving us a tour of her gallery and down to earth enough to have become the mother to numerous orphaned Joeys (baby kangaroos), one immediately recognizes the deep connection between nature and her music.

“The love for nature and animals has always been there from when I was a little girl. I used to bring home strays all of the time. I would land at home with a cat or a dog. I would find a dog with a broken leg or a bird with a broken wing or that was starving to death. I have always had a lot of animals. When my kids were growing up I was a wildlife information and rescue officer.  I took some courses about kangaroos, so I was able to hand raise joeys (baby kangaroos). When the mother is killed and the joey gets thrown from the pouch someone has to raise it and that is something that I did. It was a volunteer job, but I loved it, because I love animals,” she says.

Continuing to talk about the connection  Read More

Charlie Faye & The Fayettes

Charlie Faye and The Fayettes Photo for front pageGet ready folks, because coming your way in early February (2019) is a sensational and fun album by Charlie Faye & The Fayettes. The new record is The Whole Shebang, literally the name and the listening experience. The trio of ladies from Austin, Texas, boasts great harmonies, led by Charlie Faye and supported by her Fayettes, BettySoo and Akina Adderley. Influenced by girl group of the sixties and Soul from the sixties and early seventies they are so good that listeners may find themselves saying I am sure I have heard this song before somewhere and assume the trio is merely covering songs from yesteryear and yet that is not the case, as these are all original songs.

“In fact that happened at a show of ours last weekend. Someone who wasn’t really familiar with us, came up to us after the show and that person said I thought these were all songs from the sixties until you said something about that you had written all of these songs. I think that happens a lot,” says Charlie Faye.

The Whole Shebang opens with a song co-written by Charlie Faye and Bill Demain, “1-2-3-4,” feels like it stepped out of the sixties, but more importantly resonates with the audience in 2019. The first four lines recall that feeling of meeting “the one” with “1,2,3,4, That was all it took / A heartbeat and a look, and I was so gone / Felt my whole world tilting left and right / And suddenly a light just came on…”

It is easy to imagine being at a  Read More

Interview with Singer Margret Avery

Margret Avery 2019 Photo front pageThere have been many well-known and outstanding singers who have almost had their careers sidetracked due to stage fright, stars such as Barbra Streisand, Fiona Apple, Adele, Beyonce, Andrea Bocelli and Carly Simon had stage fright to such a degree that she once passed out during a performance and Renee Fleming. We mentioned all of those people, because our guest at Riveting Riffs Magazine, Margret Avery is also an outstanding singer in her own right and she had to learn how to cope with stage fright, as well.

Margret Avery grew up in Ohio where when she was growing up she sang in school productions.

“The first things that I sang when I was very young were Hungarian Christmas carols. Later I had a girl group that I put together. There were four of us singing (again) in school productions and we did some classic Motown things. It was a lot of fun. We didn’t go anywhere with it, it was just something that we enjoyed.

I started to develop some stage fright and when I made my plans to come to New York to go to college I put it (singing) on the backburner. I decided to make a different career choice, but I had a roommate who would hear me sing, while I was doing my homework. I was sitting there as a designer stitching and sewing and she could hear me sing. She would pop her head around the corner and say to me, what are you doing with that voice? (She laughs). She said you could be making money, why aren’t you singing? I said maybe. Read More

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Hope Juber Interview

Hope Juber Photo Front PageShe we cannot say much about this yet, but even though Hope Juber is an actress, a very successful playwright and screenwriter, singer, songwriter and oh let’s not forget that she also produces music, as well as films, She may just have another really good movie on the way. Sorry that is all we can tell you for now…except…

“I have had readings of my movie that I wrote with my partner Ellen Guylas (Full House, Newhart, Three’s Company, Who’s The Boss?) I am very passionate about this particular project, because it is totally mine,” says Hope Juber.

For those not familiar with her work, among other things she has acted in, worked on and produced the television series for, movies of and musicals based on Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch, both of which were created by her father Sherwood Schwartz.

“I had the idea for this movie a few years ago and I brought it to my partner Ellen Guylas and we started talking about it. It was the only project I ever took to my dad. I told him all the different ideas I had and what I was working on. When I took him this one he said you keep going with this one, because this is your commercial hit movie. He said I want you to keep going. Will you promise me you will? I said yes.

I have been working on it for a long time and I am hopeful, because this is a movie that has to be made. It is a very expensive movie, so it involves major studio involvement and that is not easy to do. It is going to take me a while. I won’t say exactly what it is now, but it is a big family movie. I am very passionate about it.

Right now what I am focusing on is casting the Brady reading. We have a reading of A Very Brady Musical, which is going up in New York in February. We are going to be doing a reading for a couple of producers and we would like to get that up on the Read More

Kaitlin Wolfberg - Rising Star

Kaitlin Wolfberg Photo Front PageKaitlin Wolfberg may not yet be a household name, but the people in the Los Angeles music community know who she is and she is highly respected. She appeared on stage playing violin with H.E.R at the 2019 Grammy Awards. It is Wolfberg’s versatility and her ability to shine that have seen her garner praise for her playing (violin and viola), as a conductor, arranger and composer. Oh and did we happen to mention recently she donned the producer’s hat and she also sings. Could there be drums or an electric guitar in her future? We do not know, but Kaitlin Wolfberg did have this to say about her appearance on the Grammy Awards stage.

“Working with H.E.R. and her team on her Grammy Performance was a real treat. Everyone wanted to make the performance perfect and we were all on the same page. So much positive energy swirling around that performance, it was a very special, inspiring and memorable moment for me that I will treasure forever. Also, being on that stage, in front of The Academy and so many legends was certainly a humbling experience.”

Perfect is not a word that you hear very often when Kaitlin Wolfberg describes one of her musical endeavors, as she continually seems to be pushing herself to achieve a higher level.

When asked however, which of the many areas of music that she works within that brings her the most satsifaction she says, “Lately, I get a lot of satisfaction out of arranging and making big, beautiful arrangements. I guess that would be it. Recently, I did a bunch of arrangements on Alice Wallace’s record that I am pretty happy with. I did two string quartet arrangements for Junior Thomas and the Volcanoes (record). I have been working on this new record with Man’s Body, which is my friend Greg Franco’s Read More

Karin Risberg and Angel Blue

Karin Risberg Photo for Front PageFrom Pop singer to Swedish Country music star and from the small town of Skelleftehamn, just a couple of hours from the Arctic Circle to France, back to Sweden and onstage in Nashville with the legendary Time Jumpers and Vince Gill, that just about sums up Karin Risberg’s career as a singer, songwriter and guitarist.

Risberg has a 2019 tour planned with her friend Country music singer Cina Samuelson as the duo Honky Tonk Angels, a duo that still performs at times with Kerstin Dahlberg as the trio Three Chicks. The group Three Chicks has been performing together since the 2010 Lida Country Music Festival in Sweden, while Honky Tonk Angels made their debut in September of this year (2018) when they performed at the Sweden Country Music SM.

So where did this all begin for Karin Risberg? Her answer is not surprising, as she continues the long line of outstanding Swedish singers and musicians who have come from small towns and villages throughout the country.

“I was born in a small town called Skelleftehamn and it is in the north of Sweden, eight hundred kilometers north of Stockholm. It is very close to the Arctic Circle. I grew up in a family with my mom and my dad and a little sister. My mom used to sing in the choir and she also sang for me every night when I was going to sleep. She was the only (musical person) in our family. My father always encouraged me. He heard me singing all of the time when I was a little girl. He was proud of me, so he had me sing everywhere that I went.

We had a youth club in Skelleftehamn and every young kid went there after school. We had a room where we could go and play guitars and sing, so I started to sing with some friends. In Sweden we celebrate something called Lucia (after Saint Lucia and celebrated on December 13 th) and the youth club had a soiree. It is like a show with different kinds of numbers. Some people Read More

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Hayley Sales - "Like Never Before"

Hayley Sales Photo front pageRarely in this century has an individual come along who possesses the ability to equally amaze others with her acting and her musical talent to the degree that American / Canadian Hayley Sales does. It has been an incredibly busy late summer and early fall for the affable Hayley Sales, as she recorded one album, is recording another, shot a film and a television episode and in the midst of all that she also got married.

Sales, took time out from her busy schedule to sit down with Riveting Riffs Magazine to discuss at length her album Slightly Out of Tune, which will be released in the spring of 2019 (She has posted some songs on YouTube), her twin careers and to share a little bit about her life.

The self-described romantic co-produced her album (and yes she really does know her way around a recording studio) with her father Richard Sales, known for his work as a producer and sound engineer with the Grateful Dead, The Ramones and Miles Davis. The songs on Slightly Out of Tune range from those that invite the listener to dance, such as the opening track “I Don’t Believe,” and the retro infused “Waiting It Out,” backed by a stellar horn section and the soulful “Out of Tune,” to her romantic love letter “Like Never Before,” co-written with Sharon Stone.

Often punctuating our conversation with light laughter Hayley Sales talks about her musical influences, “I have always been in love with Judy Garland who was my first influence. When I was five years old I was madly in love with her and that introduced me to a different time. In some ways I was that absolute dork. I didn’t know that Pop culture existed until I was eleven or twelve. I live with the forties and fifties in my head. I watched old movies and I listened to old music. I loved Motown, Sam Cooke and all of these people. In a lot of ways Slightly Out of Tune was my way of exploring that whole world, but with a modern twist. In some ways I wanted to explore the Read More

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