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Sara Deray - Actress - Madrid

Sara Deray Interview Photo for front page“Actors 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. Read More

The Claudettes Going Out!

The Claudettes 2023 Interview front pageThe new album, the partially self-titled, The Claudettes Go Out! is an interesting exploration of humanity, from delusional, to twisted humor, and “Park Bench,” which flirts with love or is it just teasing the listener with a hint of mystery. The foundation of this collection of ten songs are the compositions and lyrics of Johnny Iguana, the incredible, unblemished vocals and phrasing of Berit Ulseth, combined with the musicianship of Zach Verdoorn (bass guitar), drummer Michael Caskey and Johnny Iguana on keys.  

The album was recorded in Chicago over what Johnny Iguana describes as, “sprawling events.”

Continuing he says, “Half of the record was recorded in piecemeal during the lockdown era. I had my engineer (Grammy Award nominated) Anthony Gravino come over and record my piano to a click track and got good takes that we liked. Then we had Berit do the vocals. We had Mike and Zac practice in my basement. They were songs that we had mostly played live, so it wasn’t like they were being introduced to new material.

Fortunately for me when COVID arrived I had been on a big writing streak and the majority were songs that we had started playing live. It was (a matter of) tightening up and making some choices for the studio. Then we went into the studio and they recorded it and we did overdubs. Generally, it involved only a couple of people in the studio at a time and with masks. That was in 2020 and into 2021. Then in 2021 we felt we could get into a space together and record. That led me to believe that the songs from both recording periods wouldn’t play well together on something you might call an album, because the recordings used different methods. However, it was the same four people, the same tones, the same human beings and the same emotional makeup, so the songs play great together. I really like an album that is (a bit of) a rollercoaster anyway, instead of just all one energy. I like it to be (similar to) a human day or year, when you have your ups and downs. You have your joys and sorrows. I really like that kind of an album with rockers, ballads 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  Read More

Luke Leblanc - New Album

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. Read More

A Fragile Tomorrow

A Fragile Tomorrow Front Page PhotoA Fragile Tomorrow, are they a Rock band? Are they a Post Punk band? Are they an Art Rock band? We are getting closer. To get to the bottom of this question and to learn more about their current album It’s Better That Way we decided to talk to Sean Kelly, one of the three brothers who founded A Fragile Tomorrow.

We opened our conversation with Sean by asking him to describe the typical fan of A Fragile Tomorrow.

“We have opened for so many different kinds of bands and we have done so many different things, that I think there are people who like some things that we do, but don’t like other things that we do. That is totally fine. There are people who come to listen to us play and who buy our stuff, but they are also people who listen to a million different things.

That is a hard question, because I definitely don’t think there is a typical fan. One thing that is really cool is we have grown to (the point) that we also have fans whose music we have grown up listening to and who we have looked up to. They are also people we have toured with. We have in some ways become a musician’s band. I prefer that in one way, because I am a music nerd. There is something (about our music) that resonates with people who also have musical backgrounds. There is not a typical fan.

When we were kids, people came to see us, because we were kids. I was thirteen years old and in Brendan’s (his brother) case he was eleven. We were playing Jimi Hendrix covers and we were teenagers playing Read More


Sierra Rein - Actress / Singer

Sierra Rein Interview Photo One These are heady days for actress and singer Sierra Rein, she has now returned to what she enjoys doing most in life, performing on stage and in front of a camera, after two years of much of the arts world being put on an involuntary pause due to COVID. She has two podcasts on the go, a short film in post-production, appears in two episodes of a series to be broadcast and streamed on FX on Hulu this fall and she has several exciting music gigs coming up. Believe or not that is just barely scratching the surface.

Sierra Rein (pronounced Rhine as in rhinestones) talks about her role in the Hulu series Fleishman is in Trouble, “It came out of the blue. It was January of this year and my agent who hadn’t really talked to me for a while said hey can you put yourself on tape for this TV show? I didn’t really know much about the project, so I did a tiny bit of Googling. I was like oh, okay there is this character Cherry who is in the book Fleishman is in Trouble, but there wasn’t very much about her. I had my husband do the other dialogue and I shot the scene and sent it in. This was when we were in lockdown a little bit (New York City). We were slowing emerging and putting our toes back into the river of humanity of this year.

In mid-February I got an email that said, you are booked. I called my husband and I said you know that one minute scene that you shot with me, I am going to do a scene with Claire Danes and Jesse Eisenberg. It was one of those surreal moments.  I was surprised they didn’t have a callback. I think it was one of those (times) when they see who the person is and think yep that’s the character. That’s great, because Read More

Rain Perry - A White Album

Rain Perry Interview Front Page PhotoA White Album, by American singer and songwriter Rain Perry, which will be released on April 15 (2022) is a lot of things, a collection of songs with an activist theme, some original and some covers from music icons, it is heartfelt, and it is sincere, but what is most of all is very, very good. It was our pleasure to sit down with Rain Perry recently to discuss her new record and why these songs are so special to her.

She says, “It is definitely a concept album. It is somewhat of a sequel to my album Cinderblock Bookshelves, and it was a memoir in music about me growing up as a hippie kid raised by my dad. This record, A White Album, is me looking back at my same life and my same family, but through the lens of race. It is called A White Album, because it is me telling my story. I think most larger topics are best addressed through people and it is my way of wading into a fraught conversation and to talk about some issues that we seem to be having a hard time talking about right now.”

Although the common thread is raising awareness of societal issues, the songs on the album do not come across as preachy or even protestation, but instead seem to be asking the question, why are we still here after all these years, far removed from the civil rights movement of the 1960s and yet in many ways the needle seems to have barely moved.

“Thank you, that is what I was shooting for. I think the best way to empathize is getting to know somebody and to see the way they are trying to solve the problems we are all trying to solve, how to be happy, to be fulfilled, and to be successful in life. I don’t think Read More

Un Asunto Privado (A Private Affair)

Un Asunto Privato Poster Photo Front PageUn Asunto Privado (A Private Affair) a series produced in Spain by Bambú Producciones, starring Aura Garrido and Jean Reno and directed by the trio of David Pinillos, Maria Ripoll and Daniel Aranyó, is a classic whodunit, with a comedic flair. While all the supporting cast are superb, there is no confusing who the stars are for this show, with Aura Garrido in the role of Marina Quiroga, a wannabe police detective, taught by her late father who had been the commissioner of police, and Jean Reno who instead of being in the role of the butler who did it, plays instead Héctor the butler who helps to solve it. The series is created by Teresa Fernández-Valdés (produced Gran Hotel and Now and Then), Gema R. Neira (Alta Mar, Las Chicas del Cable) and Ramon Campos (Gran Hotel, Alta Mar, Las Chicas del Cable). Do you notice the pattern here, of successful collaborations?

Un Asunto Privado, which if you live in an English first speaking country you will find on Amazon Prime, as A Private Affair, can best be described as a Mystery Dramedy. Set in the late 1940s or early 1950s in Spain, firmly entrenched in both the Franco dictatorship and a time when women had few rights in Spain and for that matter elsewhere in the world, the storyline is built around Marina Quiroga and her sidekick Héctor, as they seek to find out who the serial killer is. There is some limited violence in this series due to the nature of the crime and although it is not gratuitous, it is probably not best for children. Jean Reno who has for decades blessed us with his magnificent performances, at the age of 74 demonstrates that he has not lost a step in terms of his brilliant acting. Aura Garrido who has starred in El Ministerio del Tiempo, Read More

Akash Sherman - Film Interview

Akash Sherman Interview Photo Front PageSome people when you encounter them you just get this sense they are standing on the precipice of greatness. It has not quite arrived yet, but all the signs are there, your artform, whatever it may be and in this case with Canadian screenwriter and director Akash Sherman it is his internationally and critically acclaimed film. You have significant peers, who only seems like yesterday were not your peers, seeking you out for collaborations and you have two television and film stars who heap praise upon you after working with you.

As much as the entertainment industry is filled with stories of successful performing artists who grew up in places like Los Angeles, New York City and Nashville, there are an equal number of fabulous stories of artists who grew up in obscure places, not obscure, because they were unimportant, but more because one does not think of those towns, cities and villages, as an incubator for creatives. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada is one of those cities and this writer says that with warmth and sincerity, as it is still the city considered to be my hometown, even though I was born in Toronto.

Akash Sherman, whose father and sister are both doctors and whose mother is a pharmacist, one might have assumed would have been headed for more of an academic career, in a cold, northern city, far removed from Canada’s two Hollywood North cities, Vancouver and Toronto and where minus thirty and minus forty degrees Celsius temperatures keep most people indoors, unless you ski or Read More

Actress Chelsea Clark

Chelsea Clark for Front PageThese days Chelsea Clark has a lot of things going right for her acting career and it seems the sky is the limit. The dark haired, Ohio born actress who fell in love with New York City during her teenage years appears equally adept on screen in films, television and streaming, as she is on the theater stage.

Last month (September 2022), she presented a reading of Joseph Krawczyk’s The Last of the Freudians directed by Eddie Lew in New York City.

Chelsea Clark elaborates, “I have worked with Joseph Krawczyk before. He is a brilliant playwright and I love his work. This one is about a college professor who for some reason can commune with the dead spirit of Sigmund Freud. I think it is brilliant. The way it is done in the play is he can hear Sigmund Freud, but nobody else can. I play one of the professor’s graduate students and (my character) is still having an affair with this professor. It is not the typical play that I am in, but I love Joe’s work, so I am excited to be in this reading.”

As for her preparation for The Last of the Freudians, she says, “I work from the outside in if it is a character I do not understand emotionally. I work a lot with physicality. How does this person walk? How does this person speak? What is the tone of their voice? Is their voice different than mine? That will inform how to play this person if it is not something that does not come naturally to me. This person is a Read More

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Beatrix Löw-Beer - German Violinist

Beatrix Low Beer Interview Photo OneWhile on her way from Munich, Germany to play a gig in Frankfurt, uber-talented saxophonist Beatrix Löw-Beer, whose performances have taken her to England, the United States, the Netherlands, Spain, Ibiza, Mallorca, Italy, Luxemburg, France, Austria, Switzerland, numerous other European countries, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Dubai and some parts of Asia, took time to talk to Riveting Riffs Magazine about her career and her life. The very congenial Beatrix Löw-Beer, while setting a high standard for herself, is as nice a musician as you will meet. She has been compared to her contemporaries, celebrity violinists such as Vanessa-Mae from England via Singapore and American violinist Lindsey Stirling. Beatrix Löw-Beer has performed with such stars as Rod Stewart, Dutch singer Caro Emerald, award winning Pop singer Sarah Connor, the first German performer to ever have four consecutive #1 hits on the German charts. Beatrix Löw-Beer’s music ranges from Classical to Rock to House, Pop, Jazz and everything in between.

Artists such as Beatrix Löw-Beer are the reason why people are discovering the saxophone for the first time. When you watch her concert performances or videos to promotional videos everything from her movement to her attitude and her costumes exhibits an exuberance for performing music. One is never left with the impression that you are watching someone playing an instrument, because her saxophone becomes an extension of her persona.

Take us back to where this all began.

I grew up in Augsburg, which is one hour from Munich, which is the capital of Bavaria. It is in the south of Germany, very close to Austria. Augsburg is the third largest city in Bavaria and I think it has 300,000 residents. There are two rivers in my city, the Lech and Wertach, (which flow into the Singold River) and there are also small lakes.

I have one sister and one brother, and I am the youngest child. Our family came from the Czech Republic and most of them left for other continents. My mother was an Opera singer and everyone was into music and played an instrument,” she says.

We had read that Beatrix Löw-Beer began to play the violin when she was three years of age and we tried to get our heads wrapped around the image of a little child playing an instrument of that size.

Laughing good naturedly, she says, “No they were very small violins, it was 1 / 16th of the dimension of the large one.

My sister is a violinist and she is one year older. The only thing I really remember is since she wanted to start (playing) and I also wanted to start. It was a competition. I just always wanted to be better.”

 Well Beatrix Löw-Beer did get better.

“In Germany I attended a music high school and it is only for people who play their instruments well. You can do your (academic) degrees there, but you can also start early on your Bachelor’s music degree. The focus is on music, but I also had other major subjects. I had a professor from the music conservatory. It was really cool, because I could Read More


Laura Benitez and the Heartache

Laura Benitez Interview Photo One photo by Emily SevinIn conversation singer and songwriter Laura Benitez uses superlatives, lyrically she utilizes metaphors and vocally she is emotive, all of which are effective in communicating her message, often autobiographical, either from personal experience or things she has observed. In many ways she is a throwback to the 1960s and early 1970s when protest songs and social commentary through music were in vogue and yet one should not mistake her music as an attempt to mirror or clone artists such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Sam Cooke, Pete Seeger, and a little later Patti Smith, as she clearly blazes her own trail.

Laura Benitez sat down with Riveting Riffs Magazine recently to talk about her new album California Centuries by Laura Benitez and the Heartache. Depending on where you are on the ideology spectrum you may find yourself cheering this album on or in various degrees of disagreement with the lyrics and tone, but the one thing you should all agree on is these are well crafted songs, played and sung superbly. Full disclosure by this writer that he is firmly encamped in the section cheering this album on.

The opening song “Bad Things,” sets the tone for the album, each verse its own story drawn from real life.

“The first verse was inspired by my partner Brian’s family, his mom, sister and stepdad all lived in Paradise California and they lost everything in the wildfire. His sister was driving to escape the flames and she got caught in a traffic jam and she had to just run. The first verse is a true story about his sister running for her life. You don’t think that is something that will happen in your family.

The second verse I wrote a week before lockdown (because of COVID) when it just seemed like people were hoarding toilet paper and things were getting crazy. I was thinking about that fear and what it is like to be in a pandemic.

The third verse is about refugees. I didn’t think I would know people who would lose everything in a wildfire. I didn’t think I would live in a pandemic. I also didn’t think I would live under a regime when I would consider leaving my country. We were living in that. The people in Syria didn’t think they would have to leave their country and the people in Guatemala didn’t think they would have to leave Guatemala.

Nobody thinks it is going to happen to them, but sometimes it does. The last two verses are me saying what would it be like and what would it take for that to happen to me? When I imagined it, it was almost predictive of January 6. The last verse is about refugees, but it is about me as a refugee imagined,” explains Laura Benitez.

Bob Spector serves up a delicious guitar solo on “Bad Things,” and Dave Zirbel is equally splendid on steel guitar. Read More

Ariana Donovan Making A Difference

Ariana Donovan Front Page PhotoThere is an early twenties something young woman living in a small prairie city in Canada who is already making her mark on the world of modeling, but not quite the way you might expect. Ariana Donovan from Regina, Saskatchewan has been an advocate for providing a safe environment in which models (and other independently employed people) can work and she has coupled that with building a career as a creative director. What is even more remarkable is she is forging her career, while attending university with a major in Human Justice and a minor in film. Oh, did we happen to mention that pre-pandemic she was the first model to grace the runway in her very first fashion show? Well, we do not want to tell Arian Donovan’s story for her, so we will let her tell you.

“Modeling was never actually an interest of mine. It was just something that popped up for me. I grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan and there is not a whole lot to do here. Modeling and fashion is one of the ways I kept myself entertained for six years now.

Originally, when I got into modeling I had been falsely scouted online by a predator, who used to be an agent for a really big agency in New York. My mom called their office and they let us know about it (that he was a predator), so I applied to a local agency and I was accepted. I think I was a little naïve about (the stalker), but after my mom called the office, it made more sense. I was gullible and I didn’t pay attention,” she says.

Remember this experience, because it starts to inform the decisions she makes later.

Continuing Arian Donovan says, “I started to develop self-confidence, but then I received this offer and even though it wasn’t true I still wanted to pursue modeling, because now the interest was there. Also, when I was a kid, I was really into dressing up. I would wear my dresses and plastic heels that you can wear around the house. Whenever my grandmother would pull out one of those disposable cameras that could be purchased at Shopper’s Drug Mart, I would stop crying and pose. It was an interest, but not one that I was conscious of until I received the fake offer. I was sixteen when that happened.”

“I can’t name them, but the first agency scammed me. I was forced to pay seven hundred dollars for a photoshoot, just to see if they would sign me. Everything I did with them afterwards I had to pay a lot of money to do work for them and to be promoted. I found out later on that is sort of a normal thing, not the test shoot part, but the agency signing fee and it is never as expensive as (I paid). You have to do that every time. They were investigated and found to be scamming (others) and by that time I had already moved to Vancouver and I had signed with a different agency there. Most of the work that I did with the first agency was trade for print with photographers here.

Modeling was never actually an interest of mine. It was just something Read More


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Carla Olson - Triple Threat

Carla Olson Interview Photo front page by Markus CuffIt is rare for an artist / musician / producer to have three almost simultaneous releases and even more rare to have those three be simply outstanding, while being considerably different and yet that is exactly what Carla Olson has accomplished this spring with first her album Americana Railroad, secondly with her cover of The Who’s song “I Can See For Miles,” with proceeds going to Teen Cancer America. The find project is a beautiful collection of Gordon Lightfoot songs, on an album titled Ladies Sing Lightfoot, featuring artists such as The Kennedys, Natalie Noone, The Textones, Susan Cowsill, IIsey Juber, and Carla Olson sings the closing song, “Ringneck Loon.”

The seeds for Americana Railroad, the album, began to take root in the early 1990s with Carla Olson, Gene Clark and Saul Davis, Carla’s manager and husband.

Carla Olson says, “It was a nice idea to be a vehicle for a couple of Gene’s songs, one of which is “I Remember the Railroad,” and not many people know about it unless you are a big Gene Clark fan. Also, his songs, “Train Leaves Here This Morning,” and “Kansas City Southern.” Gene was a railroad guy. I remember buying a package of shirt patches that they used to sell in train stations and train shops and I bought four or five of the Rock Island Line. I gave a couple of them to Gene when we were first hanging around together in the eighties. He said this is so cool I am going to sew them on my jean jacket as soon as I can. He was a huge reason why we tried to cobble this together. The other song was The Long Ryders’ song that Stephen McCarthy wrote called “Here Comes That Train Again.”   Those were the songs that started the ball rolling.”

We wondered what attracted Carla Olson to create a concept album around the theme trains.

She explains, “I am a child of the fifties who walked home with her buddies, while listening to The Beatles, the Stones and the different British Invasion acts. Also, with being from Texas as I am there was a lot of Rockabilly, Country and what we called Country music that rocked. I suppose that makes for a child who was partially fascinated with (wondering) where the trains were going. Why are they all writing about trains? Why are they all singing about trains?

When you are a kid and you are in a small town and at that point Austin was a small town, trains got you out of town. They got you somewhere besides your own backyard. You could walk along the train tracks and you could imagine. If you were an unhappy child or an unhappy adult, trains took you away from that unhappiness. I was always fascinated by travel and maps, not to just get away, but to go somewhere exotic.

I always find travel makes me feel more creative and I like Read More

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