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Electronic Firefly From Spain

Electronic Firefly 2024 Interview Photo Front PageThis story begins in Spain during the year 2017, when violinist Silvia Carbajal Sanchez was asked to organize ten musicians and to be the artistic director for a big New Year’s event in 2017.

Silvia explains what happened next, “That was not when I met Charlie (Perez-Íñigo now her husband). I needed an electric cello for the project and another person recommended that I call him.

It was a difficult time in my life and Charlie became my friend and he helped me in many aspects of my life. At the time I was living in a small village called Villarejo (located in La Rioja, Spain) and he started to visit me often.

He also recommended me for a show called “Music Has No Limits,” and that is when we started to work together. We toured with them, and we started our relationship. We have been together ever since. It was after we left “Music Has No Limits,” that we started Electronic Firefly.”

In 2023 their daughter was born and for two performing musicians that has brought its own challenges, but more on that later.

The two world class musicians have also expanded their music careers and in addition to performing sometimes as a duo and other times for solo gigs, they now also are DJs.

Charlie takes us down the DJ pathway, and how it began, “We like playing our instruments with electronic music, so we managed to mix some DJ music with the instruments. We would play a song and then mix some things.”

Silvia picks up the conversation, “We make a DJ session and between the session we will greet the guests at the hotel, because we usually work at hotels, bars or restaurants. Sometimes we will play (our instruments).” Read More

Ciara Grace - New Album Soon

Ciara Grace Interview Photo Front PageA few months back, a publicist friend of mine Mike Farley sent me some information updating me on the artists he represents. I scrolled through the list, some names familiar, others less so and I happened upon the name of Ciara Grace. I was intrigued by the release of an album, Write It Down, that at that time was still three months away. I gave a listen to the music of the blonde, blue-eyed young woman, who I guessed to be late teens or very early twenties and found I was pretty close.

Ciara Grace’s music is earthy, edgy with some of the vocals and music being staccato in nature. The themes we want to say mostly dealt with relationships, but that would not be true, because the songs were all about relationships! Even though they were written between her high school years and the summer immediately prior to entering college, whether you are sixteen years old, twenty years old or forty-two years old, there is something here for everybody to sink their teeth into, both musically and lyrically. Yes, we are hearing the expression of feelings from what was then a teenage songwriter, and from a female perspective, but we think we are correct in saying that many women out there are going to listen and say, ‘I knew a guy just like that!” or ‘I remember that guy who treated me poorly,” and “I can’t believe I fell for that guy.’ Now, just so we do not give you the wrong impression, while some of these lyrics do bear the signs of feeling jaded or angry at the time, it is important to note that these are not angry songs, at least in our view. There are enough images and metaphors that keep this from becoming a dark brooding album and you can sink your teeth into the uneven beats and vocals.

We requested an interview and Ciara Grace was gracious enough to accept our invitation. Sitting on opposite ends of a phone, thousands of miles apart Ciara Grace proved to be a woman wise beyond her years, very poised and very affable. Although the musical styles are different her sense of knowing who she is, being comfortable with who she is and being professional reminds us a lot of actor, singer, songwriter Maya Hawke at the same age. We wondered if Read More

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Adrian Sutherland Interview

Adrian Sutherland Interview Front Page PhotoThere is a place named Attawapiskat in the very far north of Canada, in what is referred to as the sub-Artic zone. It is approximately 500 kilometers (a little over 300 miles) from the nearest town of any size. Some days your best friend may be a caribou or the sound of the wind. In the winter months ice roads are constructed and it links you to other small communities and at other times of the year if you want to get in or out, you have to fly. Located on the northern end of James Bay, Attawapiskat is the home of indigenous (First Nations) singer, songwriter and guitarist Adrian Sutherland. He joined me recently to talk about his new album, Precious Diamonds, scheduled for release on March 15 (2024) and his speaking voice is as smooth as smooth as his vocals when he sings.  

Adrian Sutherland recorded two songs for this album in his native language, Cree and others, while in English, share from his life experiences and his heritage of which he is proud.

The album opens with the beautiful song “Notawe,” (No Taw ee), and it is one of the two Cree songs on Precious Diamonds.

Adrian Sutherland talks about the song “Notawe.” “It is a song I wrote in my Cree language, which is the language that we speak where I live. It is the first full Cree song that I have written, which is kind of odd, because I am fluent in Cree.

With the place Read More


Fiona Joy Hawkins - New Music

Fiona Joy Hawkins 2024 Interview Photo Front PageIt was time to get caught up with Australian composer, pianist and vocalist Fiona Joy Hawkins, as the last time we sat down with this affable and talented lady was in 2020. We connected with her at her home in Kendall, New South Wales, Australia. Although you do not often hear her mention it, Fiona Joy Hawkins has performed in some of the world’s most prestigious music venues.  

Our conversation on this day, however, takes us far from those concert venues and to the Arctic and how she has combined her music with nature and video.

Acknowledging that her trip to the Arctic was a life changing event, she says, “Absolutely, it was probably the best time I ever had, and it was such an eyeopener with the beauty there. I want to do it again, but there are so many other things I want to do. It really made me aware of the problems there and aware of the power of music and the power of suggestion. I was on a boat that was full of writers, biologists, photographers and politically involved and motivated people. We had really famous political people and I can’t even say who. When I met all of these people I said, all I could really do is my music. There is nothing more that I feel I can do to help these situations. They said to me, in some ways you can do more than many of us.

I was like, really? Are you joking? For the last night they played my Read More

Actress, Singer Carmen Prados

Carmen Prados Main Page PhotoWhen you are the understudy for the principal role in a theatrical production it can be challenging both mentally and physically. Couple that with a major musical such as Pretty Woman el Musical when you are providing cover for Vivian (lead actress Cristina Llorente), plus you sing and dance nightly in the ensemble and wait for it plus you are Scarlett, just thinking about all of that is enough to make someone want to lay down and have a nap.

Actress Carmen Prados originally from Córdoba, Andalusia Spain and who has also called London, Paris, Barcelona and Madrid home, is that very person and she was gracious enough to take time from a busy schedule that often sees her performing twice per day and at least once per week in the sometimes salty, but mostly endearing role of Vivian. 

How does she do it? Carmen Prados explains, “I have done two shows as Scarlett and two as Vivian, one as Vivian and one as Scarlett. I have done all the possibilities. It is challenging, but I really love it. Two shows of Scarlett are tougher on the body and two shows of Vivian are tougher on the voice. Doing both, I love it because it is super challenging, and you have to be really focused.

It is really hard and for me it is crucial to take naps, because I wake up early in the mornings. I am a Spanish person and I take my siesta very seriously, so that is  Read More

Aida Ballmann - Actress - Spain

Aida Ballmann Interview 2023 Photo FourIn 2019 Riveting Riffs Magazine interviewed actress Aida Ballmann, born on El Hierro, one of the islands of the Islas Canarias (Canary Islands), of German heritage (her parents) and completely fluent in German, Spanish and English. Just a few months after that interview Spain, and much of the world was plunged into the COVID pandemic and the film, television and entertainment world came to a jolting stop. Fast forward to a few weeks ago and we caught up with Aida Ballmann again, a very busy Aida Ballmann we might add.  

With recent films, and series completed in the past couple of years and more in pre-production, we decided to start with one that was filmed during COVID, a short film titled Five Minutes, written and directed by Genesis Lence.

“I knew Genesis Lence from her photography and television series and then she started writing and directing. This is not her first short film. I think it is her second or third. She says she is very proud of this (film) because it represents the way she wants to talk with her art and it (reflects) her personality.

It was a very hard piece to shoot, because it was during the time of COVID and we had to cancel it twice, before we could shoot it. That also meant we had to do the rehearsals using Skype. The co-protagonist is my sister Serai and it was the first time that we acted together. That was great. She is younger than me and she has not done much (acting), but I was really surprised to find out what a great actress she is.

The special thing about this (film) is it that it is just one piece and she did not edit it by bringing together different Read More

Florence Dore

Florence Dore Interview Photo for front pageIt is difficult to know where to begin a conversation with Florence Dore, as her creative and scholastic achievements are plentiful. She has taught creative writing and American literature (fiction) at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill since 2010, during which time she authored three books, raised a daughter with her husband Will Rigby and most recently released a splendid album Highways and Rocketships. Florence Dore received her doctorate in English from the University of California at Berkley. Her life began in Nashville, and among the places along the way that became home for a time, was New York City, before finally settling in North Carolina.

After spending an hour and one-half in conversation with Florence you come away with deep respect for her insightfulness, smile at her quick wit and due to her warmth and generosity you come away ninety minutes later convinced that you must have been friends in another life.

We decided to begin with digging into the roots for her passions for literature, writing and music. Where did this all begin?

She thoughtfully says, “I think it was the music. I would say the two things are similar parts of me. It is my love of literary beauty related to whatever that kernel of joy is when you are really small and your enjoyment of music and your response to beauty that maybe is irrational beauty and artistic beauty. I think they are Read More

Kerri Powers Love Is Why

Kerri Powers Interview Photo Front PageSpeaking to Riveting Riffs Magazine from her home nestled into the northwest corner of Connecticut, Canton, to be more specific, singer and songwriter Kerri Powers took time out to talk to us about her career and her new album, shortly after returning from her European tour.  

Chuckling she says, “Not too many people can find me. It is more private, which is really nice. We have been here twenty-two or twenty-three years now. I am originally from East Taunton, Massachusetts.”

Ah that is the accent that everyone once in a while visits this conversation.

So, tell us about your European tour in support of your album, Love Is Why.

“I must say I am really on a high from that. It usually goes very well, and I certainly didn’t expect to play to sold out venues.  I went as a soloist this time and usually I play with a good guitarist from over there. I won’t say I was apprehensive, but you never know what to expect. The audiences over there were quite receptive and I couldn’t have asked for a better run of dates.

The one thing I like about (being in Europe) to tour is you have very appreciative audiences. They are down to earth good people. Every time I am there I learn more about what is going on and the culture. I just like the fact that we are learning every day if we are open Read More


Maia Sharp and Reckless Thoughts

Maia Sharp Front Page B Reckless ThoughtsIt is always great to sit down, (even if it is over the miles) and chat with Maia Sharp. The renowned singer, songwriter and musician, whose songs have been recorded by artists such as, Cher, Trisha Yearwood, Terri Clark, Bonnie Raitt and Art Garfunkel, will have just released her new album Reckless Thoughts by the time you are reading this. Maia Sharp is as candid, as she is thoughtful when talking about her life, career and songs. She breathes fresh air into the world of music. She is comfortable collaborating with other songwriters and she is quick to share the spotlight and credit with them, even though it is her name on the album for which the songs appear.

From her home in Nashville (yes, she did indeed move from California a few years ago), she talks about when the seeds for Reckless Thoughts were first planted.

“The first song that I knew was going to be the beginning of a new album project was “Kind.” I wrote that with Mindy Smith and Dean Fields in 2019. When we were finished with that one, I knew I needed to start thinking about another project, even though Mercy Rising (the previous album) wasn’t even out yet. I knew that one was already finished. I knew that “Kind,” wasn’t going to be on Mercy Rising. It already set the wheels in motion and I thought I guess I am going to be making another record.

“Too Far Now,” was the next one. Those two songs are so different from each other that they really presented a challenge. How am I going to write or look through Read More

Rachael Sage - New Album

Rachael Sage Interview Photo Front Page by Bill BernsteinThe first single that was released from Rachael Sage’s upcoming album The Other Side is “Whistle Blow,” a beautiful, retrospective song with a slow tempo. It is accompanied by an equally beautiful and artistic video. Under the direction of Jenny, He and with the Director of Photography Daniel Cho onboard, both seemed to be in complete unison with Rachael Sage’s lyrics and music.  

She talks about the song, “One thing I wanted to convey with “Whistle Blow,” is that moment when someone is able to find the inner strength and to summon the courage to confront someone in a greater position of power, whether it is in a workplace or in a relationship, when they know that inappropriate boundaries have been crossed. When they have been abused or wronged in some way. There are innumerable examples of this every day when we watch the news. I have also experienced these dynamics and just as a witness in society I see it recurrently. The story in the video is interpreted through movement by the wonderful director Jenny He and (we) were able to convey that specific moment when a human being is able to say ‘No this is not right. I am not going to accept this anymore and I am moving to a more positive space and away from this negative energy and negative person.’

I had not worked with Jenny before, but I saw some examples of her work and I was blown away. I have never actually worked with a female director in this capacity and it was exciting for me. She is very talented and  Read More

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Ben Brown - King  of Air

Ben Brown Interview 2023 Photo Front PageBen Brown from Austin, Texas is a deep thinker, who also happens to be a terrific songwriter and musician. King of Air is his second solo album following Sayonara Sorrow. Although at one time it was considered risky for an artist to release an album that cannot easily be pigeonholed into a specific genre, that may be more a thing of the past than it is an absolute today. Certainly, Brown’s new record, King Of Air, a collection of eclectic songs does a lot to dispel that myth and when combined with today’s purchasing habits of music fans who tend to listen more to single songs that they like versus buying an entire album King Of Air has arrived on the scene at the right time. In fact, those who regulate the radio airwaves are themselves almost a thing of the past, with listeners and artists alike enjoying numerous ways to access and distribute music that simply did not exist thirty years ago.

Ben Brown, an excellent guitarist, bassist and keyboardist is joined on King Of Air, by saxophonist Tim Cappello (Tina Turner – “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” Carly Simon, David Bowie and Peter Gabriel), Mick Flowers who doubles as the drummer and producer, Matt Hubbard who also plays keyboards, as well as the theremin and vocalists, Sally Allen and Bianca Lugo. Jared Wenkman who also sound engineered Sayonara Sorrow, is at the controls once again.

While the title song opens the album, it is the sixth track “Dancing With the Village Girls,” that really grabbed our attention with an almost Bowie like feel to it.

Ben Brown says of the song, "Dancing With the Village Girls" has been well-received in a live setting and I assume for several reasons. First, the song is arranged around a slinky, pulsating groove, which is tailor-made for dancing. Second, the verses and choruses are in a minor key, but the bridge is in a major key, which functions like a crescendo, or a release of slowly building tension. Third, the lyrics of the song are about choosing pleasure over meaning, and choosing pleasure is fun! Beauty may only be skin-deep, but skin makes the world go around and keeps the population growing. Every sinner in history plans to repent for their sins, but not until tomorrow, which is the notion and the nature of "Dancing With the Village Girls." 

The song is introduced by Tim Cappello’s saxophone, features strong drumbeats by Flowers and of course excellent guitars. There is a special treat however later in the song with some excellent background vocalists.

Brown talks about the singers, “On the chorus section, I am joined by my partner, a singer named Bianca Lugo, and on the bridge section, I am joined by another Austin artist named Sally Allen. For inspiration in the chorus sections, there is a singer who I am very partial to named Julee Cruise, who is most well-known for her work with David Lynch and Angelo Badamlenti, who together did the music for the TV series, Twin Peaks. Julee Cruise has a soft, angelic, soprano voice and a straight delivery, which is what I asked Bianca Lugo to emulate in the chorus sections. In the bridge section, I asked Sally Allen to evoke the spirit of Read More

Tom Paxton and John McCutcheon

Tom Paxton and John McCutcheon Interview Front Page PhotoSitting and interviewing one music legend is special. Having the opportunity to interview two music legends at the same time rarely happens, and yet this writer was fortunate enough to do just that recently when Tom Paxton and John McCutcheon sat down with me to discuss their new album, Together.  

The most poignant song from this beautiful and heartfelt collection of songs is “Invisible Man,” and Paxton and McCutcheon would be quick to tell you that this song is also about the invisible woman and invisible child too. With words such as, “I am the invisible man / This really was not my plan / Wherever you don’t look there I am / I am the invisible man.”  The song is about the homeless, or the person you work beside that you never speak with or some other person that society has overlooked or forgotten, perhaps an elderly person. It draws attention to our need to do better.

John McCutcheon talks about his personal inspiration behind the song, “I think I had just finished reading Ralph Ellison’s book Invisible Man (editor’s note: not to be confused with HG Wells book of a similar title), which of course is about the black experience in the United States. During the pandemic, I remember contemplating the whole term of sheltering in place and I thought there is a whole class of people who have been sheltering in place for years in this country. Nobody knows them. They are absolutely invisible.

Again, it was creating that character that isn’t me and isn’t Tom and giving them a voice. I have no idea who came up with the line “wherever you don’t look there I am.” Tom and I said, God wrote that song. We aren’t that good.

It is not just the homeless down the street, it is the guy you work with in your office or who shines your shoes or who picks up the garbage. They are like accessories to most people. The guy who mows your lawn and you pay him and you have no idea what his last name is. That is a kind of invisibility. We are just looking through the other end of the telescope to give a voice to that person.

Tom Paxton joins in, “I love that line too, but how about the line that precedes it, “This was not my plan.” (In unison the three of us say “Yes.”) When you think about it, nobody plans to spend their life at an intersection begging from the cars.”

“It is a very old notion that (homeless people have addiction issues) somehow you are sick because you sinned or something happened, because you didn’t pray hard enough. It is your fault, because we have to brush this away by creating something or someone to blame and it certainly cannot be us,” says John.

To understand, if we may use these words where “the soul” of John McCutcheon and Tom Paxton’s Folk music comes from, you have to understand what informed their music in the early part of their respective careers. Read More

Beth Bombara Releases New Album

Beth Bombara Front Page PhotoIt All Goes Up is the title of Beth Bombara’s new album that will be released this week (August 4) on Black Mesa Records, and Riveting Riffs Magazine gives two thumbs up to a fabulous collection of songs, that once again demonstrate Bombara’s superb musicianship and delicious vocals. 

Confessing that she is really excited about this record she says, “We were sort of coming out of COVID and we were getting back to normal. When I wrote “Lonely Walls,” I was reflecting on my feelings and the past year or so.

It started out as me reflecting on the pandemic, but I really wanted it to be more open than that.”

The lyrics are open enough to interpretation that the listener might find themselves thinking about a relationship or perhaps a difficult time in their lives. It may also be as easy to interpret them as that time during the pandemic that separated so many from the ones they loved, whether they be romantic relationships or familial.

Beth Bombara goes on to say, that it (the song), “morphed into this longing for one person.”

The melody meanders, an easy tempo, that sets the mood for more reflections than missives.

She says about the fourth track, “Get On,” is a mixture of being about procrastination, someone who is afraid to move ahead and just finds it easier to make excuses for not moving forward.  

“When I was writing this one, I was writing it to myself (she laughs lightly). It was a reminder for me to not worry about what is in the past and to just keep my head forward and to keep going. That’s what matters. I tend to get stuck in procrastination and overthinking what I should have done, but that is all in the past. When I was writing this (song) I was giving myself advice,” she says.  

Eric Henry on steel guitar joins the band for “Get On,” and Beth Bombara explains why, “I was thinking about the sonic textures. For one I think the pedal steel is a beautiful instrument and it has that quality that is wistful or longing and I really thought that would add to the meaning of the song.  

My good friend Karl Kling produced this song and when I sent the demo to him, it just had drums, bass and guitar. We talked about textures that I was thinking about and we threw out some ideas. I was thinking in my head that pedal steel would be great and I didn’t even say that to Karl, but he said, what about pedal steel? I said that is exactly what I was thinking. He is friends with Eric, so he had Eric lay down some Read More  

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Lift - a Film Review

Lift review photo front pageLift produced by and starring Kevin Hart and his HartBeat Productions, 6th & Idaho and Genre Pictures, was released on Netflix January 12 (2024) and if ever there was a film that deserves a sequel this is the one. Yes, it is a heist film, but from an airplane in mid-flight. Impossible. Well to borrow a line from the movie, “No, it’s just never been done before.”

This is not a film when you are waiting for the thieves to be caught. This is the ultimate anti-hero movie, and you are cheering for the art thieves. Kevin Hart’s character Cyrus offers up lines crafted by screenwriter Daniel Kunka, “We rescue art from undeserving owners,” and “I would never lift anything from anyone who doesn’t deserve to lose it.”

This cast just etched their names in infamy. As already mentioned, Kevin Hart as Cyrus, the suave straight man and boss, oh and before we go any further, there is not a bad looking member of his team of art thieves, woman or man. British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Interpol agent Abby Gladwell and the onscreen chemistry between her and Kevin Hart is not only believable, but has some subtle comedic elements to it, but make no mistake, this is an action film not a comedy film.

What makes this film work so well is it is an ensemble acting performance, featuring Spanish actress Úrsula Corberó making her English language film debut. She is an icon in her home, Spain, and she shines as art thief who drives boats and flies planes and while doing so manages to look elegant. Vincent D’Onofrio, plays the master of disguise and serves up a wonderful performance. Korean – American actress Yun Jee Kim as the hacker of the gang is superb. Rounding out the band of thieves is Billy Magnussen as Magnus the safecracker, and Viveik Kalra plays Luke a technical wizard. Director F. Gary Gray managed to turn the loveable actor Reno into a sinister villain, and we hated Huxley played by Sam Worthington from the beginning. He oozes sleaze.  

It goes without saying, that stealing a half billion dollars in gold from an airplane mid-flight involves a lot of suspension of disbelief, but that is part of what makes this film so much fun.

This is a fun movie, with a cast that onscreen appears tight and in their interviews since the film’s release have all been vocal of the same. Kevin Hart has not personally taken credit for the film’s success but has shared the spotlight with his cast.

There is a moment in the film, when Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character Abby talks about her mother who, when Abby was a child was a mistress of a poor school and how an artist had donated a print to that school that her mother refused to sell. Abby recalls her mother, “wanting the students to know that they were just as important as any swanky art gallery.” That is not a knock on art galleries, it is about building self-esteem Read More

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