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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 my solution to being tired. Getting ready for the show I warm up my voice and body, like an athlete and this is my instrument.”

Riveting Riffs Magazine would like to tell you that we went to Pretty Woman el Musical specifically to watch Carmen Prados perform, but that would be less than truthful. Read More

Maia Sharp and Reckless Thoughts

Maia Sharp Reckless Thoughts Photo One by Anna HaasIt 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 my catalogue for a body of work that makes sense, so all of these songs can play together and sound like one animal. They are the most different genre wise. I think my production, the vocals and the lyric tone will be the thread through the songs. That is how it got started, at least writing wise.

“Kind,” and “Too Far Now,” were done first, knowing that I had to get them out, I had to get them recorded, so I could start to find a tone for the next album. Read More

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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. 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

King Of Air - Ben Brown

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" 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 she trained at NYU. When we talked, we had a lot in common and we shared a feminine sensibility and a specific sensitivity to music that led to a wonderful 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

If I Were the Moon, Children's Book

Jesse Terry Front Page PhotoIf you want to buy a great book for a child probably in the age range of two to six years old, Riveting Riffs Magazine would recommend If I Were the Moon, with the story by singer and songwriter Jesse Terry and beautifully illustrated by Jacqueline East.  The book was first a song with the same title and the feedback from Jesse Terry’s fans was he should adapt it to a book, which is exactly what he did during the COVID pandemic. They were connected through the publisher Schiffer Publishing Ltd. and the publishing imprint Schiffer Kids.  

Let’s start with the song Jesse, “The song is an honest expression of emotion and it was written for my daughter Lily. It was a song that came out quickly and it felt beautiful. When I sang it live, people started saying that should be a children’s book. That is how it came about.

The more you write you start coming back to themes that you realize are important to you and that resonate with you. There were themes about family, but I don’t think there were any in the children’s book realm. Even this one happened organically. It wasn’t intended to be a children’s book.

When COVID hit the lives of everybody changed in an instant. We were thinking about different projects that we could pivot to. My wife works in live events and she lost her job. I remembered what my fans had said in their feedback to this song. I thought that sounded like a really great idea and I became passionate Read More


Charlie Faye & The Fanimals

Charlie Faye Photo Front Page June 2023On July 21 st one of the most fun and danceable family albums will be released. Although, billed as a children’s album Charlie Faye & The Fanimals is really a record that the whole family can enjoy from a toddler to a grandparent who may reminisce about dancing to The Temptations, The Spinners, Martha and the Vandellas, The Marvelettes, Sam & Dave, Booker T. & the M.G.s and Carla and Rufus Thomas. Charlie Faye’s vocals add Soul and R & B to lyrics that kids can relate to and the musical arrangements, the groove the vibe is something that will not leave mom and dad or mom or dad or mom and mom or dad and dad sitting on their sofas for long.

The album opens with the fun “7 Days of Fun,”

Charlie Faye talks about what inspired these songs, “Usually they were things that just came to me as a parent and I would just think oh write a song about snack time. They all come from different places. “Seven Days of Fun,” I wrote, because Edie (Charlie’s daughter) and I had been talking about the days of the week. I used to sing a song in Charlie Faye & the Fayettes called “Seven Nights to Rock,” and in “Seven Nights to Rock,” which I learned from a Nick Lowe recording. In (that song) you get to yell out all the days of the week “(She mock yells out) Monday, Tuesday…” I thought it would be great to have a song like that for kids and Edie could learn the names of the days of the week. Guess what? It worked. “Snack Time,” was obvious. Kids love snack time and everybody loves songs about snack time. It is a time that already is generally fun. I felt it was also important to write a song about bath time, because when my daughter was younger, 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 Read More

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Diane Marino - I Hear Music

Diane Marino I Hear Music Cover ArtAs the world and in particular the performing artists emerged from two years of being shutdown, locked down, out of work during the pandemic it has been interesting to watch the creative juices start to flow again and to observe the results of the creative juices that kept flowing during those two years. Some treasures have emerged by numerous artists in various genres of music. Diane Marino whom Riveting Riffs Magazine has had the pleasure of interviewing and she befriended us over the past fifteen years or so, recently released a new Jazz album, I Hear Music and, in our opinion, it is the best vocal performance we have heard from Diane Marino yet and that says a lot, because she was very good to begin with.

“I started (this album) not long after COVID was in lockdown. I have lost track of the years. What was that 2020 or something? A lot of people took advantage of that time and there was a lot of creativity going on. That is probably what happened here too,” recalls Diane Marino.

Continuing she says, “I was researching the songs and looking for the next project, before COVID even hit and we said what are we going to do now. It forces you to spend more time focusing on what you want to do. You weren’t going anyplace. You weren’t working. You weren’t doing anything.

It was (recorded in bits and pieces) and we have Chris Brown, our drummer to thank for that. He has done all of my recordings. When COVID prevented us from getting together in a studio in the traditional way we thought it can’t be done, but it could. We are so used to playing with Chris Brown, by instinct he knows how we play and he anticipates things we will do musically. What Frank and I did, this is our secret formula now, he would play electric bass and I would play electric keyboard, because it is a lot easier to put that stuff down as a bed, a demo type of thing. Chris can get those tracks filed and put the drum track to that. I also had a scratch vocal on it. We had a click track going too and he would sync up to that. As for the technical end I can’t explain it, because that is Frank’s department. (she laughs) I don’t grasp it. I just want to hear the music. We gave Chris maybe three songs to work on at a time. He would send them back with the drum track and several different ideas. We would like one way, but we weren’t sure yet and we wanted to see what Chris could come up with.

Chris has a home studio that he does drum tracks in, and he actually liked it, because it gave him the freedom not to have to watch the clock.  He could experiment with different things and give us different ideas. He would say here is one version and here is another version and we would pick out the one we liked. We would sync it up to our tracks and then Frank would do all of his bass tracks over again, so he could play upright (bass), and I would do all of my piano tracks over, so I could play the acoustic piano here. It is quite a process and everything else was layered on top of that. It works great. It gives us that freedom of I don’t like what I did here, so…When you are in a studio you are watching the clock and somebody else is at the controls. We are just another customer to them. We had (with this album) the complete freedom to experiment until we get what we wanted.”

What they got Read More

Luke Leblanc

Luke Leblanc Interview Photo OneWith Dini (short for Houdini) and Mini keeping an eye on him, to make sure he speaks glowingly about them, singer and songwriter Luke Leblanc’s cats joined us, as we talked about his new album Fugue State, as well as his life and career.

The very likeable artist said, “The whole time we were recording it, it felt like everything melded together perfectly. It is a nice group of songs. Erik Koskinen was the producer and I was very fortunate to be able to surround myself with some good musicians too. It all just clicked together very nicely.”

The title of the album has us stumped Luke.

“It is used a lot in psychology and one of the definitions is a temporary defense against extreme stress. The person might lose awareness of their identity and the awareness of where they are. I took that term and as I have observed, and I think a lot of other people have observed, as a collective society I think we are going through a fugue state a little bit. In terms of a cultural and political divide (Many) responses to generations of inequity and the pandemic are leading people to take a step back. That is why I have the lines in the song, “Take your mind off of it / I think we’re living in a fugue state.” Someone told me the other day that a fugue is also a Classical music term. I don’t know a ton about it, but it is like a chaotic sound. I think the musical term came first,” he says.  

Let us take a step back. His first name Luke is after Old Luke in the song “The Weight,” by The Band and his middle name is Young, because his mom was a big fan of Neil Young, with whom he shares the same birthday.

“Neither of my parents played music and neither of them pushed me into it. It was just my choice about something I was passionate about. My dad was very supportive, as long as I had my homework done.

I appreciate artists like Neil Young, because they play whatever they want to do at the time. Other musicians like Brandi Carlisle are still a good example of that. If you try to put a genre on her, once you do, she is going to go do something else,” says Luke Leblanc.

This explanation also provides some insight, as to how he describes his new album, “It is a little bit of Americana, a little bit of Folk Rock and there are two, “Slide On Over,” and “Anymore,” that are straight up Rock. Those are the three genres I would put it in. There are so many genres today. What I have notice is if you look at a bill for a festival from the seventies, like one I saw today and it had Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young on it, Jimi Hendrix, The Mamas & the Papas and it was a Rock Festival. If they were playing today, it would be more like a Folk or Americana festival. I heard another example when The Eagles were considered Rock, but Read More

Rubén Yuste and Pretty Woman

Ruben Yuste Interview photo for front pageImagine you are relaxing in a restaurant in a picturesque town on the island of Mallorca, Spain, the resort of Port d’Alcudia and in walks a fellow and you think wait a minute isn’t that the same guy I just watched a few nights ago when I was in Madrid (or Barcelona) and he was Mr. Thompson in Pretty Woman the Musical? The restaurant is Como en Casa and the actor is the highly respected Rubén Yuste who owns this beautiful restaurant with his sister Vanessa Yuste. Actually, you may have noticed Rubén for more than one reason, as he also plays Happy Man with the wild hair and Mr. Hollister in Pretty Woman the Musical. After enjoying a six month run in Barcelona during the 2022 – 2023 theater season, the musical, with the cast intact are taking the production to Teatro EDP Gran Via in Madrid for the entire 2023 – 2024 season. Rehearsals begin in early September.

Riveting Riffs Magazine attended two performances in Barcelona and while still in Barcelona we connected with several cast members with Rubén Yuste, kindly consenting to be interviewed by us. (Editor’s note: We are secretly hoping that when we relocate to Madrid in the fall that we will be able to attend another performance.)

Naturally our conversation began with Pretty Woman the Musical, and we wondered about the challenges presented by playing three very different characters, and also if he had a favorite scene or two that he was in.

My favorite scene is when Mr. Thompson looks for Vivian to talk

My favorite scene is when Mr. Thompson looks for Vivian to talk to her. After realizing that she is a good person, he decides to help her find a dress (she can wear) to go to the restaurant with Edward (the other main protagonist). Also, when he teaches her how to dance the Tango is another of my favorite moments of the show,” says Rubén Yuste.

Oh, that brings us to another facet of Rubén Yuste’s performance skills, “I competed internationally in ballroom dancing, in Latin dance. It was really nice, because when I began the rehearsals for Pretty Woman the choreographer (Giulio Benvenuti; additional choreographers – Denise Holland Bethke and Carla Janssen Höfelt) told me that he wanted me to do the choreography by myself. The choreography that you see in the show, part of it is from the choreographer and the other part is my choreography.”

All three of the characters played by Rubén Yuste are keys to the transformation of Vivian (who in the film was played by Julia Roberts and in the musical, Spanish rendition is played splendidly by Christina Llorente). They combine to give Vivian a new map for her life, Read More  

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Actress Sara Deray

Sara Deray Interview Photo for front pageActors have to imagine a lot of things. We have to build life from words on paper. We also have to build a lot of things that aren’t written. You have to imagine them and create them. You have to try and find the truth and connect with the character. In all the parts that I play I try to find the parts within me that connect with the character.”

Those are the words of actress Sara Deray of Spain and she has had to imagine a lot of things during her career, as she has played a nun (El Sorbono del Cielo), an inmate in jail, a scientist who was the mother to a cloned daughter (Órbita 9), she incredibly funny  as Mary Ann, in the television series Yo Soy Franky (I Am Franky) for Nickelodeon (2016 – Colombia), and she just finished her fourth season of the comedy series El Pueblo, a Spanish Amazon Prime production, in which she plays Maria Luisa.  

Sara Deray’s ability to portray a broad spectrum of characters is due to a combination of her skills as an actress and her culturally diverse background.

She explains, “My grandma was born in France. That was my mother’s mother. She went to the United States when she was quite young and she decided to become a U.S. citizen. She left her French nationality behind and married an American guy. That was after she had my mom and she became divorced from my grandfather. She then married the American guy. My grandma married three times. The first time she married the father of my mother who was a French guy and she got divorced when my mother was fourteen. When my grandmother moved to the United States that is when she got married the second time and then the American guy died. She then married one of his best friends, because he had also lost his wife.”

You are thinking, well that is a bit diversified, but nothing that says hey, look at this. Just wait! She continues, “I traveled a lot. I did not grow up in Alicante (Spain). I grew up in Nigeria (she laughs). My father was an engineer in the oil (industry), so he traveled for several companies and sometimes there were American, Canadian, British or Belgian companies. We traveled a lot, my parents, my sister, who is six years older and me. When I was 18 months old, they took me by plane to Nigeria and I spent my first six years there. I learned English in Nigeria. I don’t remember learning languages. My mother always talked to me in French, my father in Spanish and when I was in school in Nigeria it was in English.”

Are you a little more impressed now? Keep reading.

We always came back here to Alicante, because my father’s parents were here in Alicante (Spain). This was always the meeting point to come to. Whenever my father’s contracts were over, we always came back to Alicante. Then they would say okay Mr. Rodriguez Read More

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