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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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.

Christina says, “(Our Music) is maybe Pop and a little bit of R&B. It has harmonies and it is melodic. It is Scandinavian Pop music.”

“As Douglas said, we are not trying to come up with something all brand new. We are trying to make the sounds a little different from other sounds. It is hard to explain in English. If you hear for example “Damage Control,” we have a lot of 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


Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Tokyo

Tokyo Fashion Show


Designed by Henry Holland of House of Holland
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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

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

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.  I put the two together and I really worked hard on the whole thing. When I wrote that song I  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

Craig Pilo - Drummer Boy

Drummer Boy front page PhotoThe songs that comprise Craig Pilo’s new Christmas album Drummer Boy at first glance look like the same classic Christmas tunes that we grew up listening to and singing along with, well for our entire lives, but an interesting thing happened on the way to the studio, because Craig Pilo breathed new life into songs such as “What Child Is This?” and “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” with arrangements of his own, plus he adapted Michele Weir’s arrangement for “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” the album opening song. Was the decision to focus on traditional Christmas songs deliberate on the part of Craig Pilo?

He says, “Not really, it just sort of ended up that way.  There were two or three others that I really liked, but either they didn’t fit or they really needed vocals to get the point across.  It ended up being mostly classic Christmas songs because the ten that made it on to the CD are somewhat cohesive and they sound like they can follow one another on a CD.  That being said, I think we did a pretty good job running the full gamut since we have a few cuts that are pretty straight ahead, a couple that border on smooth jazz, and I think “The Little Drummer Boy,” was more of a fusion approach.”

Pilo’s description of his album is how we hear the songs as well. “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” is breathtakingly beautiful and subtle. Chris Smith is exquisite on keys. Bart Samolis lays down an emotive foundation with his bass and of course Craig Pilo demonstrates once again why he has become one of the most highly respected drummers out there today, as his plays his drums with a warm, sensitive approach that compliments the other musicians and allows the music to shine rather than yielding to any temptation  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

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

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

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 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.

 “I challenged myself with that one, I have never written a song like that, much less sang one.  It was a real challenge for me and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to pull it off. That is the thing about it 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 is a safe investment, because I am very proud of this record and the sound of it and I don’t feel like  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 for it.  It is an uphill battle, even though there is wonderful music being made, by all of my friends, many of my friends. Sometimes there really isn’t an audience waiting for it. Sometimes there, I am really just trying to get the damn thing made Read More

Craig Pilo In Concert

Craig Pilo 2014 drums

Photo of Craig Pilo by Sayre Joan Berman
protected by copyright ©, All Rights Reserved

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.

Dave Darling is eager to talk about two projects he has produced recently, one with longtime friend, singer-songwriter Janiva Magness who in 2013 was named the Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year (by The Blues Foundation) and the second one with the band Figs Vision.  Read More

 

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