Inga Rudin – Lola Montez

Written by: Frank Iacono

Inga Rudin - Lola Montez

The Nashville-based band Lola Montez, led by frontwoman Inga Rudin, has only been together for a short time, but they have certainly developed a unique top-notch sound and style that is truly different from what currently permeates today’s airwaves and music charts. The origins of the band can be traced to casual encounters and coincidences over several years within Nashville’s burgeoning music scene. What was once friendly acquaintances pursuing separate projects eventually became fiercely committed bandmates sharing in the thrill of musical co-creation.

Lola Montez’s innovative approach to rock has been described as pissed-off punk. From a songwriting perspective, no subject matter is out of bounds including a date gone wrong, confessions of a jilted lover, wasted youth and surreal erotica. Along with Inga, who previously toured with the band Naked Beggars, Lola Montez features guitarist Blake Scopino formerly of Paryah as well as former Skinny Molly and Blackfoot drummer Kurt Pietro. The band is intent on hitting a raw nerve with music fans far and wide.

Lola Montez’s latest release entitled Dissonant Dreams sounds fresh, yet familiar which is no easy task in this day and age. You hear musical influences, but you don’t hear a cookie cutter approach to rock. Inga’s brazen vocals are powerful and flexible. She can fluctuate from a harder edged approach into a beautiful ballad-like tone at will. Blake’s guitar has a fiery fretboard but remains bright with clean chords. His rhythms are unique and allow for some interesting syncopated beats from Kurt on drums. Dissonant Dreams asserts Lola Montez plenty of muscle but with its pop sensibilities firmly in tow. You get hooks alongside a brooding, drop-tuned guitar coated with an icy edge. For this band, the attitude is in the authenticity.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, we caught up with Inga Rudin from Lola Montez where we talked about her musical influences, her songwriting and recording process, her experience in the band Naked Beggars, her bands new CD as well as her short and long-term future plans.

If you like bands that put their own twist on rock music then give Inga and Lola Montez a listen, I’m sure you’ll love their sound.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you first realize that you wanted to be a musician?

Inga Rudin: I would say there really wasn’t a specific age, I pretty much realized right away that I wanted to be a musician. At the age of 3, I began writing, singing and performing. The desire was always there. The path just needed to be shown. Lola Montez, the band, encompasses everything I have ever wanted to accomplish in my music career, including my aesthetics, my vocal variations, dancing and performing!

Lola Montez

TCS: What famous musical artists and/or bands were among your early influences and describe for us how they impacted and/or shaped your musical style?

IR: Over the years, I have been influenced by so many different artists and bands. As I am evolving as a musician, I am still being influenced today. Personally, I love to listen to different vocal and musical styles. Throughout my life, I’ve observed many people especially those who have appeared in movies of the 50s, 60s and 70s. All and all, as a performer I believe all of these activities have helped shape my musical style and provided our band with its original flair.

TCS: Can you please describe for us Lola Montez’s overall sound and musical genre and introduce us to the band lineup?

IR: We could never seem to find a specific genre that truly defined our music. So, I just made one up. I call our musical genre Dream Rock because we have a heaviness, a darkness and an intense yet dreamy sound which is also very danceable.

The band lineup consists of:

  • Inga Rudin – Vocalist
  • Blake Scopino – Guitarist
  • Carl Ray Hopper – Bassist
  • Kurt Pietro – Drums

Lola Montez: Carl Ray Hopper, Inga Rudin, Kurt Pietro and Blake Scopino – Photo by @tattoosbyhollychase

TCS: For the benefit of those who may not be too familiar with Inga Rudin and your musical career, please describe how you started out from Livingston, New Jersey and eventually ended up being a lead singer for Naked Beggars initially and now with Lola Montez?

IR: I was born and raised in Livingston, New Jersey. In 1998, I made my way to Nashville, Tennessee where I met a few musicians and together we formed the hard rock band Naked Beggars. We were lucky enough to have Eric Brittingham and Jeff LaBar from the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based 80s group Cinderella as part of our band lineup. Naked Beggars was active from 2003 until 2009. During that time frame, we released three albums: Naked Beggars, Spit It Out and XXX.

Around 2015, I began searching for new band members to collaborate and perform with when I first met drummer Kurt Pietro and then guitarist Blake Scopino. From the start, the three of us knew we wanted to work together. We began writing and recording but realized we still needed to find a bassist. Enter Carl Ray Hopper and the rest is history. We were actually working with Carl Ray last year before he took a nasty spill on his motorcycle and had to be in a wheelchair for quite some time. He is, however, one strong dude and is back at it and working as hard as ever! We love him!

TCS: Can you please share with us the origin of the unique Lola Montez band name and perhaps elaborate on its specific meaning?

IR: When I was researching potential band names, I came across the name Lola Montez. I discovered that Lola Montez was a dancer in the 1800s and she was free-spirited, risqué, wild yet looked up to by others. And I thought, this is totally cool because it really described our style of music and truly captured us. Everybody in the band agreed and liked it too, so we went with it, and that’s one of the things that’s hard to do: name a band.

TCS: Take us behind the scenes in the making of Lola Montez’s first album release entitled Glean Deluxe. What was your favorite part of its production and the most challenging from an artistic perspective?

IR: We were writing pretty vigorously for almost a year and had many songs written. In the process of developing our songs, the band also cultivated our relationships too. My favorite part was writing together and preparing myself to record. It was both fun and extremely fulfilling. During this time, the band pushed ourselves to make each song shine. It’s so exciting when a song hits it peak and is ready to be recorded. My least favorite part of creating this album was actually recording the songs. Although I must admit that I love the end results. It’s just a personal preference. Through the release of Glean Deluxe, the members of the band honed our skills and we established some really good chemistry.

TCS: Personally, one of my favorite songs off of Glean Deluxe is the track called “Strange Things,” so can you share with us its meaning as well as the concept behind the video concept?

IR: The song “Strange Things” came later in the writing process for Glean Deluxe. We really, really loved it. The song was written about how we should trust in our future and follow our path. In other words, “stranger things have happened”. So, simply just let it happen.

As for the video concept, I wanted to create a kind of Alice in Wonderland vibe. For example, here you are at a young age, here you are at an older age, but it usually doesn’t turn out as we imagined it. At the end of the day, it’s okay though. I always like to add a bit of quirkiness to everything I do. In other words, do what is least expected.


TCS: I can’t imagine what it felt like to walk out on stage to perform for the very first time. Could you tell us about the experience and how it compares to your performances today?

IR: The first time I stepped onto stage as the lead singer of Naked Beggars can be described as a bit rough. I was really nervous, so I drank a lot of beer. Honestly, I can’t really drink too much, if at all. Thankfully, because I was so nervous, I never got drunk. I’ve definitely come a long way since that initial performance. Today, I remain focused, dive into myself, jump onto stage and simply perform. There is truly nothing like performing live. The excitement gives me an electric feeling. I love to engage with the audience as much as possible. It’s never the same experience twice. Each performance is unique.

TCS: Tell us about the background story behind another great song entitled “Monster” from your second album Dissonant Dreams?

IR: Before the #MeToo movement gained its widespread media coverage and discussion against sexual harassment and sexual assault, the song “Monster” was written. There are plenty of men and woman that cross the line and make someone feel uncomfortable every day. And, this is what this song is all about. At the time, this song was written about someone specifically but today it symbolizes the extent of problems associated with harassment and assault.


TCS: Could you describe for us one of the strangest experiences you had during the course of your music career and what you learned from it as a performer?

IR: One of the strangest things that happened to me during my musical career involved a garbage can. Yes, you read that correct a garbage can. I once walked right off the edge of the stage and into a garbage can. That alone probably isn’t that strange or weird, but I just kept singing as if nothing happened. As a performer, I learned that I must always check where I am stepping.

TCS: Tell us about your experience as lead singer in the band Naked Beggars and your hit “Through With You”?

IR: Well, that was certainly a great time. Overall, what an amazing learning experience. I was truly honored to work with so many great musicians. I learned so much from that band, including how to tour. We made 3 albums and had that last release right as I was entering in with the new band. It was an older song that had not been released in which we decided to go ahead and release. I guess at the time, when we wrote this song we decided against releasing it for some reason. We have more that we can release. Lol. With that band we had lots of writers and the songs were almost endless. We all did try to write together. Some us would pair up and write and then bring it to the main band later. Those writing sessions were really awesome.


TCS: As an independent artist, how do you market your songs, albums, merchandise and appearances?

IR: From a marketing and advertising perspective, I am very aggressive with all of the promotional aspects for Lola Montez. Essentially, I come up with all of the ideas and implement them. These strategies range from email marketing to social media marketing to radio/talk show marketing to news media marketing. Touring provides an added ripple effect. Utilizing these concepts is the only way to get yourself out there today. We do what we have to in order to drive people to our live show which can be described as unique. All of the hard work is really rewarding especially when you get a great response. Not only to the showmanship but to the actual songs. That truly is the most fulfilling part. I love playing live.

To stay connected, please join us on the following:

TCS: If you weren’t in the music industry what would you see yourself doing instead?

IR: If I weren’t in the music industry, I would have loved to have been a mechanic. My grandfather was a mechanic. However, I feel I am not strong enough to do that job. But it is really gratifying to fix shit. LOL.

TCS: What does the short and long-term future look like for Inga Rudin and Lola Montez?

IR: Well, this band and I will continue to push and move forward. As a matter of fact, we are currently in the writing process right now. Additionally, we are in the middle of making some new music videos and recording a new song. Both should be released soon. As musicians, we will always continue to evolve and keep changing. There is no end in sight for Lola Montez.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Jean-Francois Perotin – The Rockin Krolik

Written by: Frank Iacono

Jean-Francois Perotin - The Rockin Krolik

Jean-Francois Perotin (a.k.a. The Rockin Krolik) is a french born Canadian singer-songwriter. The Rockin Krolik writes and sings wearing his heart on his sleeve finding inspiration in everyday life, relationships, nature, society and last but not least…us, the people of the world!

In a roundabout way, The Rockin Krolik’s debut album All About The Journey (released June 2019) is an introduction. The release features a selection of 10 songs written over the last 20 years proving that it’s never too late to fulfill a dream.

Tracks like “Out Of Here” and “Human Nature” off the record give listeners a taste of his melodic rock, featuring catchy hooks with a sprinkle of his folk and pop influences. Tugging on our heartstrings, The Rockin Krolik introduces us to his world, which invites us to think, feel and celebrate.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, we caught up with The Rockin Krolik where he talked about his musical influences, his songwriting and recording process, his new CD All About The Journey as well as his short and long-term future plans.

Check out the article below, and make sure to follow his journey!

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you first realize that you wanted to be a musician and whom or what would you say inspired you?

Jean-Francois Perotin: For as long as I can remember, I always enjoyed performing, singing, goofing around and dressing up. I used to play my older brother’s vinyl records and listened to albums from The Beatles, Supertramp, The Smiths, B52’s and sang along. It just always felt natural to sing. It wasn’t until I was 25, when I picked up a guitar and began my career as a musician. I was highly influenced by artist/bands such as Pearl Jam, The Cranberries, Alanis Morissette amongst other artists. By writing and performing my own music, I felt like I could freely express myself.

Jean-Francois Perotin - The Rockin Krolik

TCS: What famous musical artists and/or bands were among your early influences and describe for us how they impacted and/or shaped your musical style?

JFP: Pearl Jam and especially lead singer Eddie Vedder is by far my main vocal influence. The Cranberries for the simple melodies and Dolores O’Riordan’s voice and harmonies as well as Alanis Morrissette for her unconventional song writing style and word placement. All in all, as a songwriter I work to be as honest as these artists and keep doing what feels right. It’s what I think influenced me the most…how real, raw and true to themselves they truly are.

TCS: For the benefit of those who may not be too familiar with The Rockin Krolik or your musical career, please share with us the origin of this unique name and its specific meaning?

JFP: I created The Rockin Krolik about 4 years ago. My full name, Jean-Francois Perotin, is French and it is usually a mouth full so I thought that I would pick a name that would allow me to create a brand and perform as either a solo artist or band. I’m serious about my music but want to have fun while doing it. So, my nickname “Krolik” was an obvious pick. It means bunny in Polish…my wife is Polish. I do, however, realize that it’s still a mouthful for some though!

Jean-Francois Perotin - The Rockin Krolik

TCS: How would you describe your overall sound and musical genre?

JFP: I would describe my overall sound as Rock with some 90’s Alternative and Pop Rock influences. However, the acoustic versions of my songs probably have more of an indie rock and folk-like vibe sound.

TCS: Take us behind the scenes in the making of your first full album experience entitled All About the Journey. What was your favorite part of its production and the most challenging from an artistic perspective?

JFP: As a 100% novice, this was such an amazing learning experience. I worked with Anton Evans of Village Works Canada who is a very hands-on Producer. It was such a great fit working with him. He was very cooperative during the entire process. A true mind reader as to what I wanted as an end result with the songs. Anton used bed tracks with guitar and vocals that we recorded together, and we then took one song at a time and built them up layer by layer. Anton did all the heavy lifting, I provided direction and feedback and showed up whenever he needed me to re-cut vocals, guitar, add harmonica and some electric guitar.

The production highlight was my collaboration with Ontario-born vocalist & guitarist Cheryl Ireland who graciously agreed to record the track entitled “A Minute Longer” with me. I felt good about this song, but this duo exceeded my expectations.

The main challenge was probably to let go and trust someone else to work with my music and also remain open to their suggestions and input. It would have been counterproductive to be too protective anyways. The whole point of working with a producer like Anton is to get their feel and sound.

TCS: Personally, one of my favorite songs off of All About the Journey is the track called “Out Of Here,” so can you share with us its meaning as well as the concept behind the video concept?

JFP: I wrote the first words for this song about 20 years ago in Berlin, Germany…when I took a trip to visit my brother who lives there. I just needed a break and a change of scenery for a bit to get perspective.

I remember walking the streets, walking a lot actually, sitting in cafés, drawing and writing, just enjoying life and feeling like I was experiencing something beyond anything I had ever felt before, being free, feeling free with a clear and light mind, clear and light heart.

The song evolved slightly over the years…About 4 years ago, I reworked the rhythm pattern a bit and came up with what it sounds like today…It was also the first really upbeat, positive, happy song I wrote.

For the video, I had two concepts in mind…I always refer to Ferris Bueller when I talk about this song because of how free he chooses to be so I thought about going down that path. In the end, I decided to go with the animals. First because, I love animals and second because I felt they represent freedom better than anything else!


TCS: In what ways have the places where you have lived affected your musical tastes and the music in which you create?

JFP: I moved around a lot in the 90s and the early 2000s until my big move to Canada in 2008. My experience in these countries as well as the people and friends I crossed paths with along the way helped shape who I am today and have had a direct influence in the way I write and see the world. I think that the more exposure you get, the more you can rely on real-life experience to write songs and as a result get closer to being honest and true, which I believe is how people relate to songs.

TCS: Tell us about the background story behind another favorite off of the album entitled “Human Nature”?

JFP: I wrote “Human Nature” after 9/11. Like millions of people all over the world, I was deeply affected by the event. Since my teenage years, I have visited the United States many times and developed strong friendships with many people.

The irony of all this is how easy it is to hide behind religious beliefs to excuse or explain acts of violence, from all sides.

When our leaders around the globe, make decisions they do not have our best interests at heart and ultimately innocent people pay the price.

So yes, religion and the political climate is at the center of this song, but the theme remains universal. Is this Human Nature? Is that the best we can do, the best we can be?


TCS: Could you describe for us one of the weirdest experiences you had during the course of your music career?

JFP: I can’t really think of anything really weird, but I was playing in a marina one night in the south of France and my back was to the water. It was an extremely windy night, so much so that a gust of wind blew a speaker off its stand and in the water. I had to quickly stop playing, strip and then dive into the water to get it back. Thankfully the wind helped dry it quickly and I was able to continue.

TCS: Describe for us the song writing process and video concept behind the single entitled “My Last Breath”?

As you may have already guessed, the song “My Last Breath” is about the end of a relationship that sucked the life out of me. With a break-up, you don’t get instant relief. In some cases, you may have to deal with someone who does not want to let go or just can’t move on. Continuously, denying that the end has come, and that things won’t be the same again. These are certainly tough times, and I think that anyone can relate no matter which side of the situation that you are on.

“My Last Breath” came from the fact that I was already emotionally drained from the relationship itself and breaking it off was the last straw. It truly felt like any attempt to answer the questions, explain or justify myself got me closer to my actual last breath.

As for the video concept, I came up the idea while I was putting together an Instagram/Facebook post. I originally wanted to shoot the video in a lake or maybe even a river but when the opportunity arose to utilize my neighbor’s pool before the end of the summer season, I took it. As they say timing is everything. I wanted to be 100% under water the whole time to make the audience hold their breath too as they watched. So, tell me did it work?


TCS: As an independent artist, how do you market your songs, albums, merchandise and appearances?

JFP: DIY!! Full stack creative!

Last year, I came across the CD Baby conference videos on YouTube. They were both eye and mind opening! From there, I bought Ari Herstand’s book How To Make It in the New Music Business: Practical Tips on Building a Loyal Following and Making a Living as a Musician and joined his Facebook group. From there, I discovered “Indepreneur”. In my opinion, these guys are the best on the market. Especially, when it comes to marketing for musicians, and there are a few out there, using the tools and technology currently at our disposal but also adapting to this ever-changing environment. It’s tough to keep up as an independent artist and it gets overwhelming quickly!

Facebook is by far my main platform and where I focus most of my marketing activity and keep updated. I have learned through “Indepreneur” to create targeted ad campaigns to reach out to potential fans around the world and, once in my ecosystem, keep them “warm” and engaged. I have my shop set up on Facebook and my website for merchandise.

Locally, I gig around (on average twice a month) and perform at showcases whenever the opportunity is available to promote myself and sell merch (e.g., CDs, & T-shirts)

Overall, time is of the essence and it most be used wisely. The key is to use whatever time I have to do something, anything (even small) for the business and do it consistently.

To stay connected, please join us on the following:


TCS: Name a band or musician, past or present, who you flat-out LOVE and think more people should be listening to. What’s one of your all-time favorite recordings by this band/musician?

JFP: It is really difficult for me not to say Pearl Jam but even harder to select an all-time favorite song from their vast music library. However, a band that I only started listening to when I moved to Canada is called The Tragically Hip. Prior to that, I had never heard of them before. And, one of my favorite songs of theirs is a tack entitled “Bobcaygeon“.

TCS: If you weren’t in the music industry what would you see yourself doing instead?

JFP: I would say I am an artist at heart. I think being a musician allows me to check the most boxes from my to-do list including self-expression both mentally and physically as well as performing. Additionally, I also love to draw, sculpt and work with wood. So, to answer the question, I would say I would either be a graphic designer or a cabinet maker of sorts!

Jean-Francois Perotin - The Rockin Krolik

TCS: What does the short and long-term future look like for Jean-Francois Perotin and The Rockin Krolik?

JFP: Consistency remains the main goal. I have a Facebook Live event every Friday at 8am EST that I want to continue doing and getting better at it.

I also want to release music more often, 3 to 4 times a year, instead of waiting to have enough material for an album. If I have a song that I feel may be a good single, I will work to release it.

Most importantly, I want to connect with my audience no matter how big or small. Perform, perform and perform some more! That has been my goal since the beginning.

Last but not least, I want to take pleasure doing what I do. Have fun. Life is too short not to! After all, It’s All About the Journey! 🙂

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Michelle Leigh: Lead Singer & Songwriter

Written by: Frank Iacono

Michelle Leigh, touted as “The New Queen of Southern Rock”, hails from Bakersville, North Carolina; a small Appalachian town steeped in the tradition of mountain music and gospel hymns. Michelle grew up in what she calls a “Norman Rockwell” setting, where doors were never locked, neighbors were always quick to lend a hand and no matter how old you were, manners were always in style.

Edgy and honest, Ms. Leigh’s songwriting style amplifies real-life situations, real-life problems and real-life solutions. Her music says out loud what everyone else is already thinking. Her country rock sound has been described as Sugarland soaked in Janis Joplin and Tina Turner overtones, with a healthy mix of Dolly for inspiration. Her smoky vocals and driving rhythms, will break your heart with a ballad, and then heal it with a hard shot of whiskey.

In 2012, Michelle was listed in the Top 25 out of over 2,200 entries in GAC/ Music City Songwriter’s Competition for her ballad “Babydoll”, and Honorable Mention in the Smoky Mountain Songwriter’s Competition for the rock-infused song “Black Ink”. The following year, she was named the winner of the Charlotte Music Awards 2013 Women in Rock Showcase.

In both 2015 and 2016, she was presented with the prestigious Josie Music Awards Southern Rock Artist of the Year. Equally, she was awarded the highly-respected 2016 JMA Southern Rock Song of the Year for “Somebody’s Someone”. During 2017, she was honored with the People’s Choice Award-Jacksonville for Country’Southern Rock and the JMA Southern Rock Video of the Year for “Devil Music”. In September, JMA awarded her with the 2018 JMA Entertainer of the Year Southern Rock and 2018 JMA Video of the Year for the hard-hitting “Blood Water”.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle Leigh and asking her a few questions about her musical influences, her songwriting and recording process, her new smash hit single and award-winning video “Blood Water” and her short and long-term future plans.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you first realize that you wanted to be a musician and what was the first instrument that you learned how to play?

Michelle Leigh: At a young age, I taught myself how to play a little piano on an old player piano my family had in our back bedroom. I have ALWAYS loved music and singing-far back as I can remember.

TCS: Could you tell us in your own words how you would describe your overall sound and musical genre? And, what famous musical artists and/or bands were among your early influences and describe for us how they impacted and/or shaped your musical style?

ML: I would describe my overall sound and musical genre as Country flavored Southern Rock! I love all kinds of music, but 70’s & 80’s Country artists like Molly Hatchet, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Travis Tritt…I LOVE the sound of all those guys! My influences? I admire so many, but I love Tina Turner, Dolly Parton, Ann Wilson…gosh, the list goes on and on. I think anyone an artist admires ends up being somewhat of an influence.

TCS: Can you introduce us to your band lineup and tell us what each person does?

ML: The band lineup consists of:

  • Michelle Leigh – Lead Vocals
  • Stewart Dalrymple – Bass, Vocals & Acoustic Guitar
  • Doug Green – Lead Guitar
  • Andy Orth – Keys
  • Robb Williamson – Drums
  • Barry Lee Harwood – Special Guest Guitarist on occasion (formerly of Rossington Collins)

TCS: For the benefit of those who may not be too familiar with Michelle Leigh or your musical career, please describe for us how you started out from Bakersville, North Carolina, a small Appalachian town steeped in the tradition of mountain music and gospel hymns, and eventually ended up being a southern rock lead singer?

ML: I was very active in my high school chorus, college tour choirs and beauty pageants. That lead to acoustic performances with my brother Mark, then onto performing with my own bands. My style of singing and certainly my writing style has always been on the edgier side. Southern Rock gave me a much-needed home when Nashville didn’t really want anything to do with me.

TCS: Michelle, could you tell us a little bit about your experience competing in the 2018 Josie Music Awards and how excited you were to win Entertainer of the Year (Southern Rock) and Music Video of the Year for the song “Blood Water.”

ML: I am VERY PROUD to be a six-time Josie Music Awards (JMA) winner! The JMA’s are the largest independent music award organization, part of The Josie Network, LLC of Brands. This year, I won a JMA for Music Video of the Year for “Blood Water,” a hard-hitting video dealing with sexual abuse. It’s a very difficult topic, and I felt strongly about it being addressed head-on and no punches pulled. The gamble paid off.

In 2018, I was honored to be nominated for 6 Josie Music Awards. Although with this year’s STIFF competition, I honestly believed that I might receive only one of the awards. I truly didn’t think I was even going to get anywhere NEAR the Entertainer of the Year…So, I’m sitting their drinking water, ready to hear anyone’s name but mine! Then Miss Heidi Parton and Josie Passantino called my name for Southern Rock Entertainer of the Year. It didn’t really register at first, but I tell you, I was SO blown away! I am NOT a “tears” person, but I was boo-hooing like a baby when I accepted the Entertainer of the Year! It is my most treasured award, to date!


TCS: How would you describe your overall songwriting style?

ML: Raw and honest. I do not shy away from hard topics. I do have some softer songs, but I prefer to write about real life topics. Music really helps people, you know?  Music heals.

TCS: Personally, one of my favorite tracks off your Redemption album is a song called “Devil Music” which you co-wrote with Charlie Kelley. Can you share with us some of the background behind your hit and the video produced by Built to Fall Productions?

ML: “Devil Music” started out being a tribute song for the late Popcorn Sutton, his widow had asked me to write a song for him. The song took a turn away from Popcorn’s story and wasn’t fitting what I wanted to convey about him. So, I initially scrapped it and wrote another one called “The Legend” for Popcorn. However, I felt “Devil Music” was too good to throw away, so I gave it another go. I fixed a few things and the rest is history.

Doug Green, my guitar player, heard the song and instantly came up with the video’s storyline. I called Michael Spears, the owner of Built to Fall Productions who handles all of my music videos and told him the storyline and he loved it. We were able to film the video at a buddy’s house down in Black Creek community in Middleburg, Florida. Gene Rogers and his wife Christy opened their home and property up to us for the weekend. Two days later, the raw footage was completed! I do want to mention that Doug’s girlfriend Renee Closson, built MANY of the props, as well as handled costuming and makeup. She was awesome!


TCS: I can’t imagine what it felt like to walk out on stage to perform for the very first time. Could you tell us about the experience and how it compares to your performances today?

ML: My very first solo performance was for the Miss Mitchell High School pageant. My mother made my outfit and I sang “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”. I was really terrified! Today, I still get butterflies, but the good kind! The excitement gives me an electric feeling. There is truly nothing like performing live.

TCS: Could you describe the song writing process and video concept behind the single entitled “Lightning in a Bottle”? And, please tell us a little bit about your experience competing in the 2019 Josie Music Awards and how excited you were to win Music Video of the Year for this song?

ML: The song title “Lightning in a Bottle” came from a person I used to know who once used that phrase. Over the years, it stuck with me – the meaning of catching such a rarity and doing the impossible, if only for a short amount of time. Everything has a shelf life, love is no exception.

The video was definitely challenging. The Sr. Manager and Owner of B2F Production had this fantastic Wizard of Oz meets Mad Max apocalypse vision. Personally, I think they did a great job of capturing that vision. I loved winning the 2019 JMA award for Video of the Year for “Lightning in a Bottle, although I must admit it was TOTALLY unexpected, as was my Entertainer of the Year win too. I’m truly very blessed.


TCS: Could you tell us one of the strangest places that you played during the course of your career?

ML: I once played at a bar that had those awful, snappy rat traps all over in the bathrooms and seating areas! That wasn’t much fun!

TCS: How do you market your songs, albums, merchandise and appearances?

ML: To stay connected, please join us on the following:

TCS: In the YouTube description of your official music video for “Black Ink” you say, “the smoldering vocals and steely lyrics of this song remind us that it is unwise to tick off a songwriter.” Can you provide the source of inspiration for this track? 

ML: Ha!  No.  I’ll just say that it came from a betrayal by a very close friend.


TCS: How much fun did you have with the official video for your song “Triple J” back in your hometown of Bakersville and at Mack Kell’s Pub and Grill in Asheville, NC?

ML: That was such a great day! Thomas Delmer “Artimus” Pyle, the drummer from Lynyrd Skynyrd and 2006 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, played my “leading man” in the music video. We also had some AWESOME special guest appearances from Charlie Kelley, my producer and his wife Nan. However, my favorite part of the video is the special footage of California Chrome, one of the most famous racehorses in history, which was provided by Sherman Racing. I must say THAT was incredible to me. It is something that I will always treasure.


TCS: Can you share with us your involvement with The Salvation Army and Brother Wolf Animal Rescue charities?

ML: I am a huge supporter of The Angel Tree program by The Salvation Army. And as far as animals go, I will support and donate to about any charity that helps all furbabies!

TCS: From a song writing, studio recording and accompanying music video perspective, can you share with us some of the details surrounding the single entitled “Somebody’s Someone?” 

ML: “Somebody’s Someone” was a result of me being totally disgusted with the actions of those Westborough Church cowards. I was watching their ignorance on the news one day and said, “Don’t they realize that the soldier in that casket is somebody’s father, son…somebody’s someone?” When I sat down to write the song, I decided to use several scenarios of bullying as examples of things we see happening in our own daily lives.


TCS: If you weren’t in music industry what would you see yourself doing instead?

ML: I actually own my own decor business. I design, build and install commercial holiday decor for malls, hotels, casinos and amusement parks.  I love everything about my music, but I also love doing custom holiday decor too!

TCS: What does the short and long-term future look like for Michelle Leigh?

ML: I have a brand-new CD in the works including 4 music videos and I’m booking now for a 2019 Tour. Additionally, I will be doing ANYTHING and EVERYTHING possible to keep that Entertainer of the Year award!

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Jessie Goergen: Lead Singer & Songwriter

Written by: Frank Iacono

Jessie Goergen (a.k.a. Jessie G.) hails from the small coastal town of Brookings, Oregon. Jessie’s heritage spans across four generations of commercial fishermen and she is no exception. The oldest of three, Jessie grew up in a tightly knit, labor intensive, feast or famine community where the women work right alongside the men.

As a youngster, Jessie spent much of her childhood tagging alongside her father on the docks or aboard the hand-built family boat searching for Dungeness crab and albacore tuna and selling their catch at the market. Fishing wasn’t just to pay the bills; fishing was a way of life and Jessie’s early means to support her true passion—to become a performing artist.

In high school, she started her first rock band and quickly learned what it was like to be paid to play!
 Her open eyes, love of music and determination to succeed earned Jessie a scholarship to attend Linfield College in Oregon where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in both Political Science and The Fine Arts.

In the summer of 2013, Jessie entered a “Battle of The Bands” contest where she won the opening slot to perform before Grammy award-winning country music artist Gretchen Wilson. It was after that once-in-a-lifetime chance that the young, aspiring singer and hit-recording artist “clicked” naturally to form a magical working relationship and kinship.

The newfound friendship later moved Jessie to make the bold decision to follow her dreams in Music City. Gretchen has since signed Jessie to Redneck Records and the two have been hard at work not only on her studio album, but on their upcoming summer tour where Jessie will be featured during Gretchen’s performance.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessie G. and asking her a few questions about her musical influences, her songwriting and recording process, her new smash hit single “Army Ranger” and her short and long-term future plans.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you first realize that you wanted to be a musician and what was the first instrument that you learned how to play?

Jessie G.: I started singing when I was in diapers! I used to send out little notes and call family members around my hometown inviting them to attend a talent show I was hosting in my living room. Once they arrived, I made them sit on our couch and watch me sing and dance.

At a young age, I took piano lessons but quit. Later, I was thankful for the training I received, especially since Linfield College in Oregon required students to be proficient in piano to Graduate with a Bachelor of the Arts in Music. Now, I only play instruments if I’m writing by myself otherwise, I leave it to the professionals.

TCS: Could you tell us in your own words how you would describe your overall sound and musical genre? And, what famous musical artists and/or bands were among your early influences and describe for us how they impacted and/or shaped your musical style?

JG: It’s actually hard to describe my overall sound and musical genre especially since it is so heavily influenced by all the varied music I listened to when I grew up. It’s definitely country with the lyric style but it is very rock influenced with the melodies and instrumentation. Sometimes people say they hear punk and hard rock influences in my music too. That makes a lot of sense to me since my dad blasted Aerosmith and Metallica during my entire childhood. My mom balanced it out with Dixie Chicks, Trisha Yearwood and Shania Twain! I’ll just say Country Rock is the genre!


TCS: For the benefit of those who may not be too familiar with Jessie G. or your musical career, please describe for us how you started out from a small coastal town in Brookings, Oregon and eventually ended up being a lead singer?

JG: I was born and raised in a commercial fishing family. We have been farming the seas for 4 generations. With this hard feast or famine lifestyle, I learned at an early age what it meant to work hard. I also learned the skill of being able to live as a self-employed entrepreneur. I grew up competing in all of the local fairs, talent shows and country showdowns that my county and state had to offer. In these competitions, I regularly won first place which encouraged me to keep pursuing a musical career path. Equally, I received a college scholarship for vocal performance and continued to hone my craft. In my heart, I knew that God gave me this gift to share with the world and I knew I would never completely give it up, but I never considered it as my primary career until I met Grammy award-winning Gretchen Wilson. She helped make my dream of becoming a performing artist a reality.

TCS: Jessie, could you tell us a little bit about your experience competing in the “Battle of the Bands” and how that led to your being discovered by Gretchen Wilson?

JG: When I heard that legendary country recording artist Gretchen Wilson was coming to town and there was a chance to open up for her, I literally JUMPED at the opportunity. She was the only relevant female performer in the country and rock scene that truly inspired me. I grew up singing her songs in the competitions I mentioned. I always loved her sound and style. By listening to her music, I could tell she was a true badass. So, I entered into the “Battle of the Bands” and earned the opportunity to open for her! When the time came to meet her after our show, I was honest and real with her. I asked her what I needed to do in order to get to where she is today. Meeting her was truly a career changing moment.

TCS: How excited are you about the release of your brand-new single “Army Ranger” co-written with Melanie Meriney and Michael August?

JG.: To say I am excited is an understatement. This is definitely the proudest I’ve ever been about my music!

TCS: Can you share some of the background on the filming of the official music video for “Army Ranger”?

JG: At the time, we had a small budget and limited resources so my friends, who are all active service members, agreed to gather their gear and uniforms. They even agreed to take part in my video too! I was also convinced to have my real-life boyfriend, who currently serves in the Army, play a part in the recording. We share a steamy kiss at the end. It’s pretty amazing to have people I love be a part of the production.


TCS: Personally, one of my favorite tracks off your new album is a song called “Drop A Line” which was co-written alongside Joshua Withenshaw and Davis Branch, and produced by Grammy-award winning entertainer Gretchen Wilson. Can you share with us some of the background behind you’re hit?

JG: The track, “Drop A Line” is definitely one of my favorites too. I wanted to include a fishing song because of my family lineage with commercial fishing, but I also wanted it to be clever. So, we decided to create a scene of fishing and fishing words with the double entendre of love.


TCS: I can’t imagine what it felt like to walk out on stage to perform for the very first time. Could you tell us about the experience and how it compares to your performances today?

JG: At first you have to work through many things. Stage fright. Not choking. It took me years to get to a place where I could be fully present on stage. It took a long time to be comfortable enough in my stage presence and to be able to improve speaking to my audience. I’ve definitely come a LONG way since the beginning.

TCS: Tell us about the background story behind your performance of “You Lit a Fire” at the BULL Sessions in the Bloodworks Live Studio?

JG: I wrote “You Lit A Fire” a while ago with Davis Branch and Matt Hundley. That song is a very conversational and vulnerable song. The Bloodworks Studio version is one of the first recorded performances released so far. I was so emotional singing it that day. I can’t wait until we release it on the record.


TCS: Could you tell us where some of the coolest and strangest places that you played during the course of your career and what you learned from the experiences?

JG: The coolest place would be in an Apache Helicopter Hanger. The strangest or weirdest place but a ton of fun, was someone’s backyard. I’ve learned that if you play for 2 people or 20,000 people you still have to bring your 100% every time.

TCS: What is the inspiration behind “Cardiac Arrest?” It’s a great song.

JG: I had the idea for this song in my head for the longest time. I wanted to write about the correlation between having a heart attack and suffering from a broken heart. I called my mom up because she’s a nurse and asked her what some medical terms were associated with having a heart attack and how to save someone and then the song wrote itself!


TCS: How do you market your songs, albums, merchandise and appearances?

JG: To stay connected, please join us on the following:

TCS: If you weren’t in music industry what would you see yourself doing instead?

JG: Prior to getting my big opportunity with music, I was going to practice law. I don’t know where life would’ve taken me but I’m really happy that it took me here!

TCS: What does the short and long-term future look like for Jessie G.?

JG: Touring, touring and more touring! When you are a new artist, you simply can’t rest! The fishing industry is closely related to the music industry; working on a fishing boat (just like the music industry) toughens you up. You can’t be sensitive or expect a big payday; you have to dive in, go 100%. The harder you work, the more likely it is for a greater pay off. I’ve been doing this since I was 12.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Steve Harris: Lead Singer of Hillbilly Vegas

Written by: Frank Iacono

The name of the Oklahoma-based band Hillbilly Vegas gives you an idea of what to expect from their music – a southern influenced, rockin’ good time. Recently, Hillbilly Vegas, featuring lead singer Steve Harris, signed with Bristol Records and have garnered worldwide distribution with The Orchard, wholly owned by Sony Music Entertainment, and Perry Music Group. The first single entitled “Field Fulla Hillbillies” was written by Grammy Nominated country music singer/songwriter Davie Lee Murphy. “Field Fulla Hillbillies” is receiving positive reaction from radio stations across the country, who are testing and adding the track to their playlists, and it is sure to be a top charting song.

In the 1990’s, Steve was the singer of the popular Dallas, Texas-based Cold Ethyl but like so many other great bands during the same time frame their future was cut short by the emerging Seattle grunge wave. Although it was discouraging, he never completely left the music business. He became a club owner, a writer and part-time performer for many years until everything changed in August of 2008. At that time, he was named as one of the many singers being considered to replace the departed Scott Weiland in the hard rock supergroup Velvet Revolver. However, he and Kerry Plummer, who fronted the nationally popular Loaded Gunn, had been writing and putting together Hillbilly Vegas for 8 months by then and suddenly Steve lost his passion for Modern Rock. With that, he decided to return to his roots and focus solely on Hillbilly Vegas.

Blasting intensity right out of the gate, Hillbilly Vegas got loads of traction with their debut album Ringo Manor. The album moved a whopping 10,000 copies which is highly impressive for an emerging indie band. Equally, their first single entitled “Little Miss Rough and Tumble” scored major chart action by appearing on the National Country Music charts for 26 weeks.

Now, with deeper attitude and edge, they’re celebrating the freewheeling spirit of 76’ and getting everyone to “Shake It Like A Hillbilly” with their fiery, rockin’ new single and high energy video. The same video that landed the band the coveted title of 2016 LiftMaster Garage Band. As the 2016 winner, Hillbilly Vegas performed with country star Lee Brice during the Coca Cola 600 Sprint Cup Series race in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Along with their existing racing sponsorships with Dennis Schoenfeld Racing and Jake Davis Motor Sports the band feels like they’ve got some good mojo happening with the new sponsorships and their future singles, including the crackling party anthem “High Time For A Good Time” which will be used by Rocky Mountain High Brands in a national ad campaign. Times are good in the Hillbilly Vegas universe.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Harris and asking him a few questions about his musical influences, his songwriting and recording process, his upcoming tour schedule and his band’s short and long-term future plans.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you first realize that you wanted to be a musician and what was the first instrument that you learned how to play?

Steve Harris: When I was very young I discovered The Partridge Family, an American musical-sitcom starring Shirley Jones and featuring singer, songwriter and guitarist David Cassidy as Keith Partridge. From that moment, I was instantly hooked and wanted to be just like the character portrayed by Cassidy. As far as instruments, I started playing the guitar when I was a teenager. My ultimate passion and desire was to create my own music, so I taught myself how to write songs.

TCS: How did Hillbilly Vegas get started? And, how would you describe the Hillbilly Vegas’ musical genre and overall sound?

SH: We got our start much like everyone else, get a few musicians in a room, and they’re going to start a band every single time. Within six months we had our first contract offer. I think our musical genre can be defined as a combination of Southern rock, country and classic rock. Overall sound…LOUD is probably the best way to describe it…just kidding. Honestly, we are a live band and that’s where we are most comfortable.

TCS: Can you introduce us to the Hillbilly Vegas lineup and tell us what each person in the band does?

SH: The Hillbilly Vegas band lineup consists of:

  • Steve Harris – Lead Singer
  • Stacy Thornburg – Lead Guitarist
  • John Reed – Rhythm Guitarist
  • Robb Edwards – Bass Guitarist
  • Troy Hollinger – Drummer

TCS: What famous musical artists and/or bands were among your early influences and helped shaped your musical style?

SH: Oh I don’t know…to be honest life itself is an influence. Where you grow up, what you’re exposed to, what your level of education and personal development are, and etc. Personally, I love musical artists from the 70s including lead vocalists such as Paul Rodgers from Free and Bad Company, Mark Farner from Grand Funk Railroad, Lou Gramm from Foreigner and so many more.

TCS: For the benefit of those who may not be too familiar with Hillbilly Vegas or your musical career, please describe for us how you started out and eventually ended up being the lead singer of the band?

SH: Again, as I mentioned Cassidy’s character Keith Partridge was my first big musical influence. When I was a child that show made me want to be a lead singer in a band. I suppose if you are born to be a performer it’s just inside you. But, for me it took a while to channel my creative energy. I didn’t know how to start a band let alone be a part of one, so I tried theatre and some other similar activities like that until I finally met some guys in high school who had a band and needed a singer. I told them I was a lead singer…I really wasn’t but my theatre background helped. We played our first gig at a skating rink. I just pulled out every David Lee Roth, lead singer of hard rock band Van Halen, move I’d ever seen and the rest was history.

TCS: From an in-studio perspective, which aspects of your 2016 album entitled ’76 did you find least problematic to put together and which were the most troublesome?

SH: Well, truly the ’76 experience was a joy. The back story being…we recorded our first album at Ringo Manor in Nashville, Tennessee but we weren’t completely happy with the overall experience. Our producer was a great guy, but the daily notes that we received from A&R, our recording label, when we arrived at the studio were a real drag. Some “suit” representing the label would listen to our daily work every evening and decide what he thought would be “better.” As a band, we are very proud of all of our work, but it was a constant struggle to maintain some of our own personal identity. With that, we decided that in order to maintain the integrity of ’76, we would leave Nashville and complete the recording process and bring the finished product back to them. So, we moved to Empire Sound in Carrollton, Texas. The most troublesome part of the experience was really just knowing when to quit. We had such a great time being alone in the studio with renowned Texas rock engineer and producer Alex Gerst that we could have kept recording for months.

TCS: Personally, one of my favorite songs off of that album is a song called “High Time For A Good Time” so can you share with us some of the background behind the hit?

SH: The song “High Time For A Good Time” is a very 70s rock influenced song. Stacy, our Lead Guitarist, brought the riff to rehearsal one day and it immediately painted a picture of good times and getting lost in the moment. I wanted anyone who heard the song to feel like they’ve heard it before and been there before. To me, music is a feeling more than anything and I hope this song gives people a good feeling.


TCS: Can you describe the first time you stepped onstage to perform and tell us how does it compare to being on stage now?

SH: The first time I stepped onto a stage to perform I was 6 years old and was wearing a donkey suit for a Christmas play. I made lots of donkey sounds and got a bunch of laughs…I was the loudest guy on stage even though I wasn’t supposed to have any lines or make lots of noises. It’s just the same today minus the donkey suit.

TCS: Tell us about the background story behind another great cut entitled “Long Way Back”?

SH: My grandfather was in the Navy during WW2. He shared a lot of war stories with our family all the time. One particular story always stuck with me. He was stationed on the USS Decator DD-341 and they were in North Africa. During liberty one day, he was sitting on the beach and he could hear music echoing from the ship anchored just off shore. It was the old song “Wreck on the Highway”. He recalled at that moment he never felt so lonely in all his life. He decided if he ever got back to Cecil, AR he was never leaving again. He did, and he didn’t. That’s the story of the song “Long Way Back”.


TCS: What’s the most unusual place that you’ve played or made a recording? And, how did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording?

SH: We once played a venue early in our career that had a pair of Conway Twitty’s pants framed and hanging on the wall. I couldn’t help but wonder why pants? Most of the time you see maybe a jacket, scarf, guitar something like that…but pants. So I had to ask during our performance. How is it that his pants are framed on the wall on this stage? The patrons and management didn’t see the same humor in it that I did and we were asked politely to never return. So that leads me to believe it’s quite a story and they don’t want it to get out…haha!

TCS: Another one of my favorite songs is the track called “Little Miss Rough and Tumble” so can you share with us the inspiration behind it?

SH: That song is very close to my heart. It’s simply about my daughter and how watching her grow up seemed like a blink of an eye.


TCS: How do you market your songs, albums, merchandise and appearances?

SH: For the majority of our career we’ve been completely on our own. We’ve done anything and everything possible to market our music. We recently signed a record deal with Bristol Records who are part of the Sony family and suddenly we have a lot more resources. They are doing an amazing job getting our music and message out. We have high hopes for this new relationship. However, we will never stop hustling and using any trick we can find to get the word out.

To stay connected, please join us on the following:

TCS: How in your opinion do you think people can broaden their horizons when it comes to different types of music?

SH: With today’s technology, music lovers can simply go to their favorite online music service such as Spotify, Pandora and iHeart and select any type of station they want to listen to when they want to listen. Our various Hillbilly Vegas stations on the aforementioned platforms as well as some others play a lot of artists that I never heard of before, but I truly love hearing their music. It’s interesting to see who those music services think sound similar to our music and place on our stations. So, I’d suggest just hitting a station and finding some good stuff you haven’t heard before and give it a listen.

TCS: What do you see yourself doing if you weren’t the lead singer in a band?

SH: For me, I would explore other creative escapes such as voicing cartoons. Prior to discovering music, that was my dream.

TCS: What does the short and long-term future look like for Hillbilly Vegas?

SH: The short-term future for Hillbilly Vegas is to simply board our tour bus and bring our music to as many music lovers and fans as possible. We’re all about creating fun, positive energy and memorable music that gives people a good feeling. I love hearing songs on the radio that stir up feelings that take me back to good times and great places – if we can do that for people, then we’ve achieved success. We can’t wait to get out there and shake the world’s hand and welcome them in to the Hillbilly Vegas family.

The long-term is a bit murkier, we would love to become a highly successful band and be able to keep doing what we are doing at a high level. But you never know what the next day brings in the music industry. So for now, we will remain focused on the short-term and let the long-term sort itself out.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Daniel Mason – Lead Singer & Songwriter

written by: Frank Iacono

There is something to be said about Daniel Mason, the way he captures an audience with his soulful voice – brings back a taste of Blue Eyed Soul with a mix of Country, Pop and R&B – and writes with integrity and truth.

Daniel Mason was born in Paris, Kentucky to a small impoverished family. Daniel emerged and matured his God given talent in the local church. Raised by a Mother that influenced him with musical artists ranging from Marvin Gaye, Michael McDonald, and Hall & Oates to Michael Jackson.

From there he developed guitar and writing skills at an early age. As most serious hungry artists, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 2008 to establish himself as a Singer/Songwriter. After 3 years and 500+ shows as a lead singer of a local favorite Nashville trio Amber’s Drive, Daniel Mason is pursuing his own music career. He currently is out in support of his long-awaited debut solo album.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing country soul singer-songwriter Daniel Mason and asking him a few questions about his musical influences, his songwriting and recording process, his upcoming tour schedule and his band’s new self-titled album.

Q&A Session

TCS: At what age did you first realize that you wanted to be a musician and what was the first instrument that you learned how to play?

Daniel Mason: The first time I realized I wanted to be a musician was after hearing the legendary King of Pop Michael Jackson sing and perform at the young age of 5. The acoustic guitar was the first instrument I learned to play at the age of 11, but actually my voice was the first instrument that came naturally to me.

TCS: How would you describe the Daniel Mason Band’s musical genre and overall sound?

DM: I would describe the Daniel Mason Band’s musical genre as a blend of Soul, R&B, Folk, and Country which we call Southern Soul or Vintage Pop.

The Daniel Mason Band lineup consists of:

  • Drums / Joel Burns
  • Bass, Vocals / Scott Barritt
  • Lead Vocals, Guitar / Daniel Mason
  • Lead Guitar, Vocals / Jase Hackman

TCS: What famous musical artists and/or bands were among your early influences and describe for us how they impacted and/or shaped your musical style?

DM: As I mentioned, Michael Jackson was my first big musical influence that, after singing his songs over and over, helped develop my vocal and musical creativity. His vinyl 45 single of the song “Billy Jean” was my first record purchase as a child. In my teens, my parents bought me the Garth Brooks “No Fences” chord book and I learned every song. So, Garth was a huge influence as well.

As my music and vocal matured I naturally found my home in the Soul/R&B world. I started getting more and more into 70s and 80s R&B/Soul music and that led me to discovering soul singers such as Marvin Gaye, Hall & Oates, Michael McDonald and pretty much all the artists/bands that came out of the Muscle Shoals era.


TCS: For the benefit of those who may not be too familiar with Daniel Mason or your musical career, please describe for us how you started out and eventually ended up being the lead singer in the Daniel Mason Band?

DM: It wasn’t until my junior year in high school that I started writing songs on a consistent basis. I played a few open mic nights and performed with a cover band for extra cash. My first real band was following college when I played in a Christian pop band called Another Level. We toured around the Kentucky area playing at college coffee houses and various festivals. After what I like to call a “Summer of 69,” the group broke up, I got married and took on a day job.

It wasn’t until the summer of ’08 that my passion for singing and writing music could not continue to stay on hold. As a result of having a long talk with the man upstairs, the family packed up and moved to Music City. From there, I started getting out networking and performing which led to connecting with a couple singer/songwriters. We started performing the songs we wrote around Nashville. It eventually evolved into an Americana/Pop Country Trio named Amber’s Drive that ended at the end of 2016 after 3 years/500+ shows. This led to the beginning of creating my own solo project. Once we hit the studio running, I felt at home in what we were developing and bringing to life.


TCS: How excited are you guys about the release of the new self-titled debut album?

DM: Very…it actually is the first solo project I’ve ever had the pleasure of releasing (won’t be the last). It felt good, it felt right…it was a long time coming.

TCS: From an in-studio perspective, which aspects of the album did you find least problematic to put together and which were the most troublesome?

DM: My strength is vocal, so going in the vocal production was definitely the least problematic. On the trouble side of things, we didn’t really have any on the production it was mainly on the actual release date that was originally planned. Some ‘life events’ happened that were out of our control and we pushed the release date up to late Sept. The overall vision of the project came to fruition and the end result was something to be proud of.

TCS: Personally, one of my favorite songs off of your album is a song called “And The Some,” so can you share with us some of the background behind the hit?

DM: “And Then Some” is actually our first single release off the album. This song was written by Gary Cirimelli and myself. I had this progression and melody idea that I wanted to develop and I showed it to Gary after a previous writing session where “One Of Us Lied” was born. He loved it and said he wanted that to be our next write. I had written down ‘give 110 percent’ in my lyric notes from the saying “Always give 110 percent”. I’m a sports fanatic so I’ve heard this term many times. I thought it could be a great way to express to women how much you love them as if to say, “I love you this much…and more!” Gary said, “I’ve got all that you need, and then some?” and from there we knew we had something special and finished it before the end of the session.


TCS: Can you describe the first time you stepped onstage to perform and tell us how does it compare to being on stage now?

DM: The first time I stepped out on a stage was brutal and nerve racking. I wasn’t one of those kids that just was born on the stage. Though I wanted to be in the spotlight, I gradually over time became more and more comfortable with the stage.

TCS: Tell us about the background story behind another great cut entitled “Somewhere I Gotta Be”?

DM: I wrote this tune with a good friend of mine Nathan Picard. We had just finished up on a song when I told him I had this really cool melody idea I had thrown down really quick. It was so rough, I was almost too embarrassed to show him ~ but I did because that’s what you do ~ lol. I didn’t want it to be your typical country ‘train’ song though the lyric idea I had was “train, train don’t be late!”. It quickly developed into the urgency of this guy that has somewhere he’s gotta be. And he’s telling the train don’t be late and the plane don’t delay, because he’s got somewhere to be with his baby.

Then Nate had this great line “no matter the miles it ain’t to far” which had this guy in the song willing to go anywhere it took to be with his love. We had a blast writing this song because it came together pretty fast. Once we established the theme it wrote itself.

TCS: What’s the most unusual place that you’ve played or made a recording? And, how did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording?

DM: We would get pretty creative in the studio to find the sound we wanted. One time we took bed mattresses out into the middle of the studio floor and made like a little 4 wall house and sang and played our instruments inside. Surprisingly it turned out amazing. It was weird and unusual but we got it done. We still experiment to this day in the studio ~ whatever we need to do to get the sound we are looking for.

TCS: Another one of my favorite songs is the track called “You Don’t Have to be Lonely” so can you share with us the inspiration behind it?

DM: I had written this chorus idea about a girl that was being ignored in her relationship. All I had was a rough recording of the chorus but I felt like it was strong enough so I showed it to friend and cowriter Mark Ham. We messed around with it a bit to see if we could come up with anything but nothing really was coming to us. So, Mark took the rough idea home and ended up getting inspired and ran with it lyrically. When we meet up a few days later to write he had written most all the verses. The song was pretty much finished apart from a few adjustments we made.

TCS: How do you market your songs, albums, merchandise and appearances?

DM: Truly, the best way to find out information about the Daniel Mason Band is by visiting our website at danielmasonband.com. On the site, you can listen to our songs, discover our upcoming appearances, order our album and purchase other merchandise. Additionally, Elle Bobier and her team of amazing people at Ethereal Promotions also do a lot of promo/social media for us at facebook.com/etherealpromotions.

If you want to stay connected on our social platforms, please visit the following:

TCS: Name a band or musician, past or present, who you flat-out LOVE and think more people should be listening to. What’s one of your all-time favorite recordings by this band/musician?

DM: This is a tough one, I really can’t answer specifically because I love so many. It’s like asking me which one of my children do I love more. Music to me is like a sixth sense. Like when you smell, taste, see or hear something and it quickly takes you to a moment in your life’s history.


TCS: What do you think the world would be like if music was never invented? And, what do you think you would you be doing instead?

DM: One word…BORING. I think it would be very boring.  I’d probably be doing something constructive, some type of woodworking; like building houses.

TCS: What does the short and long-term future look like for Daniel Mason?

DM: In the short-term, I plan to do more writing, more recording and a lot more performing. The goal is to put together some tour dates and hit the road running to reach more fans with our music. We want to be classified as a working band, providing for our families while making music we love. We want to put the right people in place that have the same vision as we do for our music and want to see us be successful. In the long-term, I will always be writing music and (Lord willing) performing it. I believe the progress of our short-term goals will in return determine our long-term goals.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Rod Black: Country Rock Singer-Songwriter

Written by: Frank Iacono

Canadian country singer-songwriter Rod Black is no stranger to the country music scene. Rod was born in Langley British Columbia with country music in his veins. He grew up listening to classic country stars such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings as well as Southern Rock pioneers Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Rod’s soulful lyrics and melodic writing style come together to craft songs with a lot of energy and have the depth to withstand the test of time. His music has been described as explosive and passionate rock’n’roll that is straight to the point with songs about life and everything that it offers.

In 2014, Black launched a solo career with the release of his initial single “Keepin’ On” which made the top 20 on the Canadian country billboards. In 2015, he was nominated at the Canadian Radio Music Awards for his second solo single, “Long Gone”. His time spent touring the US and Canada has surely given him the opportunity to hone his craft as a lead vocalist.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing country singer-songwriter Rod Black and asking him a few questions about his musical influences, his struggles as a performer in the music industry, his career in both Jet Black Stare and as a solo performer, plus his short and long-term future plans.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you first realize that you wanted to be a musician and what was the first instrument that you learned how to play?

Rod Black: I was just six years old when I first performed in a Christmas play and I was hooked from that moment on. My dad played guitar so we always had various instruments in the house.

I, however, didn’t learn to play an instrument until a later age due to my stubbornness and selfish desire for wanting to be a front man. One day when my songwriting partner got a record deal, I was forced to learn how to play guitar and write my own music and that was when I learned to play an instrument. It truly was one of the best decisions I ever made in my career.

TCS: What famous musical artists and/or bands were among your early influences and describe for us how they impacted and shaped your musical style?

RB: I grew up in a rodeo family where country music was predominantly played in our household so listening to Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Elvis among many others was an asset in my overall musical development and career. As I got older, I was introduced to classic rock acts like AC/DC, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and etc.

At a young age, I always felt that if I could combine the two musical styles I possibly could be onto something big. Each performer and their music held a very special connection with me. As I listened, I felt a true connection and the energy truly resonated with me…it’s very hard to explain. Knowing that they all went through the trenches and at the end of the day they truly believed in themselves kept my dreams alive.

TCS: For the benefit of those who may not be too familiar with Rod Black or your musical career, please describe for us how you started out and eventually ended up being the lead singer in the hard rock band Jet Black Stare and now as a country performer?

RB: Oddly enough, Jet Black Stare actually started off as a country rock project. I was playing around the Vancouver, British Columbia area with an acoustic guitar accompanied by my best friend Mike McHolm, a very talented bass player and overall musician.

During this time, a very close friend of mine named Jeff Johnson, who was with 604 records co-owned by Chad Kroger lead singer from Nickelback, heard a couple of the songs that I was working on. Jeff was interested and we got together and started working on the catalogue.

 

Gordon Saran, a very close friend of ours who also works with Nickelback, was interested in what we were creating so he started introducing us to industry types. To that extent, the three of us worked on shopping our demo and within three months there was a major label bidding war in North America.

Island Records was the first to come to the table and I went with my heart and signed with them on September 7, 2007. Due to the economy in 2009, we parted ways with the label. However, I took this is a major blessing because my dad was very sick and I was able to spend time with him before he unfortunately passed away after a battle with cancer. From there, I took some much needed time off but the words of my late father still lingering in my head saying, “it’s time to continue where it all started” so I soon returned to the studio and began writing with Jeff Johnson and continuing on our country rock project.

“The Universe will always bring us back to the road we’re meant to travel on”.

The song “Keepin’ On” was the first song of many I would write with Jeff Johnson as I pursued my solo country career.

 

TCS: Personally, one of my favorite songs from the 2008 Jet Black Stare debut album is the title track “In This Life,” so can you share with us the meaning and background behind this song?

RB: One of the first songs I started writing was “In This Life”. It’s a song about bringing the soldiers home safe and giving strength and comfort to their families who are missing them while they’re away.

 

TCS: Tell us about how exciting it was supporting Jet Black Stare’s In This Life album by touring US and Canada as the opening act for established bands like 3 Doors Down, Staind, Hinder, Puddle Of Mudd, Shinedown, Drowning Pool, Theory Of A Deadman, Saliva and Seether?

RB: It’s very ironic how the universe works. Literally a year and a half previous to these tours I was in my room writing and listening to these bands as inspiration.

I remember listening to Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” practically on repeat envisioning myself on stage with these guys and the energy coming over me like it was actually possible etc.

Ironically, I was working on “In This Life” and “Fly” at the time, which are the two songs that got me signed to Island Records, so being on stage with them years later was almost very surreal. I am truly thankful for the experience. They all are incredibly gifted artists and very down to earth.

 

TCS: Explain how your song “Ready to Roll” came to be used by the National Hockey League Detroit Red Wings as their theme song of the 2009 NHL playoffs, as well as for WWE’s 2008 SummerSlam pay per view and in the opening theme of “Bad Movie Beatdown”?

RB: “Ready to Roll” was actually not deemed as the first single. It was written practically last for the album and when the record label heard the track it just made sense that it had the possibility of a sports theme type of track. As soon as it hit the sports community along with “Bad Movie Beatdown,” I believe that helped the song just take off like wildfire. I felt truly thankful and blessed.


TCS: From a song writing, studio recording, and accompanying music video perspective, can you share with us some of the details surrounding the single entitled “Go Big Or Go Home” from the album Keepin’ On?

RB: One of my close friends Jovan and I started writing “Go Big or Go Home” I then brought it to Jeff Johnson and he produced it and helped us put the finishing touches on the song, etc.

Gene Greenwood came into the studio with this camera and it started off as just getting live footage but he surprised us by putting a full-length music video together which gave the song extra life, as well as a raw insight of the recording process, etc.

”Go Big Or Go Home” is about believing in yourself where anything and everything is possible. If you set your mind to it and truly work hard every day you can make your goals come true.

 

TCS: Describe for us the meaning and background behind your music as well as the making of the song lyric video for the catchy title track “Keepin’ On” which peaked at number 22 on the Billboard Canada Country chart?

RB:”Keepin’ On” is about the heroes journey. It is a song about going through struggles and always having faith in yourself especially when difficult obstacles are placed in front of you.

The song lyric video was created by a very talented friend of mine named Bryan Chamberland. The one thing I truly wanted Bryan to convey through the video was that it stayed true to its real message that everybody can believe that anything is possible when on a hard road. Even though you might find yourself going through struggles we all have the ability to get through anything if we truly believe in ourselves.

TCS: Can you share the meaning and background behind the track called “Miles To Go” as well as the video concept?

RB: Once again, the very talented director and producer Gene Greenwood was behind the camera on this video and his vision was absolutely incredible. Additionally, Lori Watson, who also has incredible insight, had a lot to do with making this all come together. We can’t thank her enough. When Gene first heard the songs, he knew how we would approach them from a visual perspective instantly.

 

I guess it’s best to say there’s a bit of a commonality in the three tracks you asked about. They are all about having faith when in this life it can sometimes be difficult. We all go through our own struggles and life can appear to be like a roller coaster. It’s very important to note that we are capable of getting through anything.

TCS: How do you market your songs, albums, merchandise, and appearances?

RB: These days, without a record label it can be a little overwhelming at times, fortunately for me with the help of the Internet it makes anything possible. Additionally, Ethereal Promotions out of Nashville has really helped me get my name out there too. They truly believe in their artists. I’m thankful to be on their roster.

To stay connected, please join me on the following:

Equally, I love being on the road meeting people along the way. I find myself being inspired in every small town, city, etc. that I travel. I’ve met some amazing souls and continue to do so on this journey. I appreciate anybody that takes the time to listen to my songs it means the world to me.

TCS: Name a band or musician, past or present, who you flat-out LOVE and think more people should be listening to. What’s one of your all-time favorite recordings by this band/musician?

RB: I think everybody should be listening to Elvis, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Marvin Gaye. in order to really appreciate the soul of music also where country is routed from Hank Williams Patsy Cline the list goes on and on.

I also have many rock albums that I love listening to too. At the gym, AC/DC is always cranked in my headphones along with Guns and Roses and of course my country favorites.

TCS: Can you describe what specifically happened when you were pronounced dead yet came back to life and then walked out of the hospital within hours? Equally, please share with us the details concerning the horrific car accident you experienced?

RB: This truly changed my life forever. In short, I drank 190 proof moonshine at a party let’s just say enough that I shouldn’t ever have walked away. Under my mom’s orders, I was rushed to the emergency. I call my mother my angel because she insisted that I be rushed to the hospital. My mom saw something in my eyes and made the decision instantly to get to emergency.

As soon as I was there chaos ensued. I heard the words echo “everyone out of the room, we’re going to lose him!” Soon to follow was the most unexplainable situation that I’ve ever come across. It was an unbelievable feeling and energy coursing through my body. I heard a long beeping sound and soon I saw and felt things that were very unexplainable.

I wake up in the morning thinking it was all a dream with a doctor telling me he’s never seen anything like that in his entire life. I would be released a couple hours later and ironically go to work the following night like nothing had ever happened.

Shortly after that, I was involved in a horrific car accident. I was in the backseat of a car that flipped 7 times into a farmer’s field. I was not wearing a seatbelt, and it is a long story as to why I made that decision, that’s story for another day. Ironically, I stayed in the car through the whole duration of the rolling while the driver and passenger were both ejected immediately. Again, it was a very surreal situation that is very unexplainable at times.

I would find myself under the care of the same doctor that treated me for my flat line, with no bruises cuts or anything to show. In this situation, I would leave the hospital that night once again. The next day I would make a decision to move instantly to another city and start my journey in a whole new direction with a different outlook on life which I continue to live every day.

“We are on this earth to love and learn it’s not about material possessions or how much money we have in our bank account.” #BeGood2OneAnother.

TCS: Can you Please share with us your involvement with The Children’s Charity of BC and the work you and other performers like country musicians like Todd Richard and Jeff Johnson on the song Follow Your Heart?

RB: The Children’s Charity event was very special to me. I was contacted by Todd & Jeff to come in and be a part of it. I joined a handful of other country artists from the BC area. I was fortunate to sing a verse on the track and be a part of the experience. It was for an amazing cause.


TCS: What does the short and long-term future look like for Rod Black?

RB: I’m truly blessed and thankful for every day that I’m still on this earth. Time will certainly tell where this journey takes me but no matter the twists or turns, I remain dedicated to the memory of my dad who always wore black and did what he could to help others along the way. Equally, I am committed to my mom and sisters for believing in me as I continue to move forward.

Once again, I am just appreciative of anybody who will listen to my music and attend the shows. I’ve played in front of 20,000 people and I’ve played in front of 5. I will always put the same energy into every show no matter the numbers placed in front of me.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Roxy Petrucci: Vixen Drummer

Written by: Frank Iacono

Roxy-Petrucci-drumming

Roxy Dora Petrucci, the Michigan born native drummer, first burst onto the international music scene as a member of Madam X, a metal band that she co-founded with her vocalist sister, Maxine. Their 1984 release of We Reserve the Right album featured “High in High School,” an anthem that didn’t become a massive hit, but is still beloved by cultist hard rock and metal fans all these years later.

After leaving Madam X, Roxy joined Vixen, a glam hard rock band formed in St. Paul, Minnesota. Vixen consisted of vocalist Janet Gardner, lead guitarist Jan Kuehnemund, bassist Share Pedersen, and of course Petrucci. The band quickly built their reputation playing the infamous Sunset Strip and signed a major label deal with EMI Records.

In 1986, Roxy finally found the commercial success she’d always desired. Singles like “Cryin’”, “Edge of a Broken Heart”, and “How Much Love” hit pay dirt on MTV plus rock and pop radio. Shortly thereafter, the all-female group embarked on worldwide tours with heavyweights such as KISS, Scorpions, Ozzy, Deep Purple, and Bon Jovi which helped solidify them as a premiere rock act to be taken seriously.

In late 1991, the undercurrents coming from the Seattle grunge scene helped strengthen the winds of change and underscored the decision to disband Vixen. At that time, each band member independently dabbled in various projects. Petrucci later returned to the band when they reunited in 1997 along with lead vocalist Gardner and newly added guitarist Gina Stile releasing “Tangerine” under the Vixen moniker.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing legendary female drummer Roxy Petrucci and asking her a few questions about her musical influences, her struggles as a female drummer in a male dominated music industry. her career in both Madam X and Vixen, and her short and long-term future plans.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you first realize that you wanted to be a musician and what was the first instrument and song you learned how to play?

Roxy Petrucci: I was about 10 years old when I picked up the Clarinet and immediately fell in love with the instrument. I have no clue what the first song I learned to play was, however, I eventually kicked ass playing the Clarinet Polka! Through school and into college music was my salvation. I was a good classical Clarinetist and I took it serious, it wasn’t just a hobby. Music is what I was meant to do and still to this day I have a passion for it. I still get a rush from the sound of my kick drums and snare ripping off your face!

roxy-petrucci-interview

TCS: What famous musical artists and/or bands were among your early influences and describe the impact they had on shaping your musical style?

RP: Fanny the all-female rock band, active in the early 1970s, had a huge influence on me. Back in those days you never saw women playing rock, it was mind blowing to watch them rockin’ out on TV.  Black Sabbath was my first ever live metal concert, their songs and live show hooked me and sealed my fate. From that day on I knew what I wanted to do. Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Judas Priest, etc. I love metal, I love jazz, and I love 70s funk. Roll all that into my playing style.


TCS: For the benefit of those who may not be too familiar with Roxy Petrucci or your musical career, please describe for us how you started out and eventually ended up being the drummer in the all-female band Vixen?

RP: I toured with a metal band called Madam X before I joined Vixen. This band featured my sister Maxine on guitar. We signed a record deal with Jet/CBS and released one album. Janet Gardner had heard rumblings of Madam X breaking up and as soon as word got out she swooped in and scooped me up.  I joined Vixen shortly after and it was quite a culture shock. These girls had it together and I was pretty rough around the edges but quickly learned to fit in. Share was recruited by Jan shortly after I joined. Jan Kuehnemund (RIP) was a compassionate person, such a good soul. We miss her every day. In describing the members let me just say we’re close like sisters. We have our disagreements but at this stage of our lives we appreciate every show and thankful to have this opportunity to show the boys how it’s done!


TCS: Share with us some of the struggles you may have encountered as a female drummer in a male dominated music industry.

RP: It was such a different scene when we were in the trenches. We had to look good but play better.  I have to say that many of the guy bands were a lot prettier than us and not very talented but they got a pass. The girls and I were not intimated because we knew we had something special, we were motivated to make something happen. It only took a few shows in L.A. before word got out that Vixen was the real deal. Before long we had lines forming around the buildings waiting to see us. David Lee Roth, Quite Riot, and many other higher profile bands came out to our shows. What an after party!

TCS: After Vixen signed with EMI records in 1988 and released the debut self-titled album, were you surprised by the success you generated from the first single, penned by Richard Marx and Fee Waybill of The Tubes, and video for “Edge of a Broken Heart”?

RP: Richard saw us live and he was inspired to write “Edge of a Broken Heart” along with Fee Waybill. In my opinion it’s the song that defined our sound and put Vixen on the map.  It’s still a fan favorite and yes it was in Billboard’s Top 100 and the video was stellar! An MTV favorite! Yes I shot the entire video in stilettos.


TCS: Describe for us the meaning and background behind Vixen’s highest charting single on Billboard’s Top 100 at 22 as well as the making of music video for “Cryin’”?

RP: Jeff Paris had presented that song to us and again a no brainer. Great songs are great songs regardless of who writes them. We took that song and owned it. The video shoot was pretty grueling. Back then we shot all day and all night but the end results were pretty amazing.  The stage was something like 18′ high and scary as hell. My riser was another 3′ ft. high so I was up there.  I think the lyrics speak for themselves, “I won’t be Cryin, Cryin when I think about you cos I opened my eyes’. ‘Those days are gone.”


The video for another single “How Much Love” was also a marathon shoot. Check out the stage, pretty awesome, as was the male model!  Janet tore her leather pants during that shoot and I had insomnia for like a month. Ha, the strange things we remember.


TCS: During the 80s you literally rocked the globe so share with us some of the major recording artists that you toured with and describe for us which band had the most profound impact on your career?

RP: We toured with KISS, Scorpions, Ozzy, Deep Purple, and many more heavyweights. I think opening for the Scorpions had the biggest impact on me because it was our first arena show.  Looking out in the crowd of about 20,000 fans left me speechless, the feeling is indescribable. Richie Blackmore was a real prankster. He always had something up his sleeve for us and his bandmates. He superglued our dressing room door closed just before we were to go on stage and he lit off stink bombs. We had nowhere to go it was horrible. All the bands were pretty great to us and we had the time of our lives!

TCS: Is there a particular venue that you’ve always wanted to play? And, what other entertainer and/or entertainers would you most like to have play alongside you on that stage?

RP: I would love to play Australia! Any venue! All Rockers are welcome! Love The Winery Dogs!

TCS: What does the short and long-term future look like for Roxy Petrucci, Vixen, and Madam X?

RP: We’ve been working steady since 2014 honoring our bandmate and founder Jan Kuehnemund. We’re gonna keep rockin for our fans and ourselves because we are just having too much fun! I’m also recording a new record with Madam X so stay tuned, more coolness to come!

To stay connected with me, please join me on the following:

TCS: What specific advice would you give young female artists wanting to become singers, songwriters, guitarists, bassists, and/or performers?

RP: I have three strong pieces of advice to anyone just hoping for a shot at greatness with still no guarantees.

  1. Play
  2. Play Often
  3. Play More

Thanks! I’ll see you on the road! Xxx

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Zeb Christensen: Screaming For Silence

Written by: Frank Iacono

zeb-christensen-header

Hard-hitting rock, heavy breakdowns, and an energetic live performance that never stops entertaining the crowd appropriately describes Zeb Christensen’s Omaha Nebraska-based band named Screaming For Silence. Over the last three years, they have toured nationally and played over four hundred live shows from coast to coast. With that, his band has continually captivated audiences across the nation, gaining new fans during each show at every stop.

During Screaming For Silence’s hectic 2013 touring schedule, they were rewarded with a sponsorship opportunity promoting PRS’s new line of S2 guitars. In 2014, they spent the year touring and recording their first full-length studio album. Their new material was recorded in North Hollywood, California at Grey Area Studios with producer Erik Ron, who has also worked with Motionless In White, We Came As Romans, and New Year’s Day.

With head banging guitar riffs, intense drums, and melodic hooks containing in your face lyrics the members of Screaming For Silence have created their own unique sound. The first single off their self-titled debut is aptly named “The King Is Crowned” garnered radio play across the country and peaked at #29 on Billboard’s Indicator chart. In May of 2015, they were selected by Ernie Ball as the Battle of the Bands for Rock On The Range winners. Having the right combination of talent, work ethic, and road experience they are poised to explode onto the rock scene in 2016.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Zeb Christensen, the lead vocalist of Screaming For Silence, and asking him a few questions about his musical influences, his songwriting and recording process, his upcoming tour schedule, and his band’s new album Screaming For Silence.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you first realize that you wanted to be a musician and whom or what would you say inspired you?

Zeb Christensen: I have always been into music. I’ll never forget the first rock concert I went to which was an outdoor festival. The sun was out and the music was loud I loved it! After seeing all of the energy and emotion that the bands were giving I told myself I wanted to do that! I’ve been inspired by so many musicians. Corey Taylor, Johnny Cash, and Eminem. I like everything; if it catches my ear I dig it.

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TCS: For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Zeb Christensen or Screaming For Silence, how would you describe your musical genre?

ZC: We are a five piece Hard Rock band from Omaha, NE. We have been touring nationally for about four years playing over 400 shows in that span. We released our first full length album in 2015 that is self-titled.

The Screaming For Silence band lineup consists of:

  • Zeb Christensen – Vocals
  • Danny Irwin – Guitar/Vocals
  • Casey Newsom – Guitar/Vocals
  • Matt Tatroe – Drums
  • Mike Friese – Bass Guitar

Screaming for Silence Band

TCS: What famous musical artists and/or bands were among your early influences and how do you think they shaped you both as a singer/songwriter and performer?

ZC: Our musical influences are really all over the board and I think that really helped shape us as a band. We all are kind of into different genres and that gives us a little different flavor.

TCS: Take us behind the scenes in the making of your self-titled full length album entitled Screaming For Silence. What was your favorite part of its production and the most challenging from an artistic perspective?

ZC: The whole experience was amazing. Getting to work with the guys and Erik Ron on the album was such a blast. My favorite part is getting to hear all the songs come to life from nothing and then all the way to the final product. It’s something we are very proud of and put a lot work and emotion into. I would say the most challenging part of the process is picking which songs go onto the album!

TCS: Personally, one of my favorite songs off of Screaming For Silence is the lead track called “The King Is Crowned,” so can you share with us the meaning behind it and the video concept?

ZC: We knew after finishing the album that this was going to be the first single. It just had all of the elements. We wanted to make a killer video for it so we thought it would be cool to get our hometown of Omaha involved and film it at the Joslyn Castle. Aaron Gum and Tyler Yager really made this video come to life! We thought it was very fitting to film in a castle. There was a huge storm that day and our crowd still showed up in full force to be a part of it. We had a great response from it and got a lot of radio behind it. It ended up peaking at #29 on the Billboard Indicator Chart and #14 on the Under The Radar Chart. We really owe it to all of our fans that helped spread the word and would call and request!


TCS: How thrilling was it to have “The King Is Crowned” selected as the winner of the 2016 NAIRMA Award for Outstanding Song?

ZC: It was the one of my favorite moments as a band. Getting to be there in LA for the whole experience was just awesome. Rubbing elbows with people in bands we look up to and the whole environment was great. When they called our name we were in a little bit of shock I think haha. It just makes you feel like you are doing something right when someone gives you recognition.


TCS: Can you describe for us the background to the 2012 hit single entitled “Helpless” that appeared on your debut EP Relentless?

ZC: The song is about people who just can’t do anything for themselves. They are always throwing themselves a pity party and not doing anything to help the situation. People like that are really tough to deal with.


TCS: What’s the most unusual place that you’ve played or made a recording? And, how did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording?

ZC: We have always had the mind set of we will play anywhere at any time. It makes for a lot of interesting shows! In the end it has also made us who we are. We are so lucky to be able to play music and perform as much as we do!

TCS: Is there a particular venue that you’ve always wanted to play? And, what other entertainer or entertainers would you most like to have play alongside you on that stage?

ZC: The only area of the country we haven’t hit is the Northwest. I can’t wait to get up there. I’d also really like to play The Machine Shop in Flint, MI. I feel like that venue has one of the best reputations in the country. I’d love to tour with Ke$ha.

TCS: Tell us about the Screaming For Silence song writing, recording, and video production process behind the song “Separate” which also appeared on the Relentless?

ZC: We actually worked with Justin Mccain of the band Through Fire from Omaha NE. He’s an amazing artist/songwriter and we were really young. He wanted to do a song together and I think we ended up doing the whole thing in a day. We hadn’t really done much recording at that time so it was awesome to get the experience with him and learn a lot.


TCS: In what ways do you market your appearances, sell merchandise, and stay connected to your fans?

ZC: We have our own website Screamingforsilence.com and you can also find us on almost every social media outlet (Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Snapchat etc.) Also all of our music is on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon and more!

TCS: Name a band or musician, past or present, who you flat-out LOVE and think more people should be listening to. What’s one of your all-time favorite recordings by this band/musician?

ZC: I always try to plug bands that are up and coming like us. We just did a lot of touring with some bands that are killer like Guns Out At Sundown, Poynte, Sleep Signals. Also a lot of our good friends just released new music or are about to like Blameshift, 3 Pill Morning, and Another Lost Year.

TCS: What does the short and long-term outlook look like for Screaming For Silence?

ZC: This summer we are doing just mostly festival stuff. Rocklahoma, Rock Fest (Cadott,WI). I’m really looking forward to Locofest in Algona, IA and headlining a new festival in our hometown called The New Generation Music Festival. You can find all of those dates on our website. Then we are heading back to the studio in August to make a new album!

Song List on House of Glass (2017)

  1. House of Glass
  2. Long Way Up
  3. Beetlejuice
  4. Buried Alive
  5. Worth Fighting For

Song List on Screaming For Silence (2015)

Screaming for Silence

  1. Disgrace
  2. The King Is Crowned
  3. Varsity Blues
  4. Hero to Zero
  5. Cutting Ties
  6. No Way Out
  7. Calling Your Bluff
  8. Infested
  9. Don’t Give In
  10. Fly Away

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Tony Trujillo: Beyond Today

Written by: Frank Iacono

Beyond-Today-Tony-Trujillo

Beyond Today, a hard rock band, started with Guy Johnston, Cory Burke, and Tony Trujillo in June of 2013 in the Lewiston, ID & Clarkston, WA valley areas. Within just a couple weeks of beginning the project, Beyond Today had already written a handful of songs that were ready to be recorded. They chose Amplified Wax Recording Studio in Spokane, WA as their production destination.

Beyond Today completed recording their debut EP in just 2 days. Once they finished the process, they added their forth band member, Vaughn Knoeppel, and started playing shows in Palouse, ID, one of which gathered over 2,000 attendees.

Beyond Today made a name for themselves in their hometown of Lewiston, ID with the early release of their song “Colors” on their local rock radio station Z-Rock 96.5 FM. The song was selected to be a part of the Z-ROCK KOZE Cage Match against big name acts. They won all 5 nights in a row securing their spot in the Z-Rock Hall of Fame. Once their debut EP was released in October of 2013, they started to pick up even more ground, with requests to have them play all over the Northwest. To that extent, they won 2nd Place at The Gorilla Music Battle of the Bands Finals in Spokane, WA.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tony Trujillo, the bassist and backing vocalist of Beyond Today, and asking him a few questions about his musical influences, his songwriting and recording process, his upcoming tour schedule, and his new album The Artificial Heart.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: How did you come up with the band name Beyond Today?

Tony Trujillo: Beyond Today started back in June of 2013 in the Lewiston, ID & Clarkston, WA valley. Guy Johnston (our lead vocalist) and I were in a previous project together. We had, at the time, booked studio time to record a handful of tracks with that project but we switched gears to lean more towards the rock side of things, wanting to get that energetic live show aspect going rather than the lighter “indie” stuff we were working on prior. With that studio time already booked, which was only a month out, we realized we needed to get some songs done quickly.

During a two week period of that short time before recording what would ultimately become the basis of our sound and identity, we buckled down and got to writing, fleshing out previous riffs, and wound up finishing seven songs for our initial EP. When it came time to record, which we only had three ten-hour days to complete, we still hadn’t come up with a band name yet, dozens were tossed around but we settled on Beyond Today because it was something that just grabbed us. It was also a kind of mantra for us, as in always looking beyond today to what’s next and to push ourselves to the best of our ability to be able to continue to grow as people, musicians, and a band to get there.

Beyond-Today-Performing

TCS: At what age did you first realize that you wanted to be a musician and whom or what would you say inspired you?

TT: I’d have to say I first realized I wanted to be a musician after seeing a Saliva/Default show when I was about 10 or 11 years old in New England. Something about the atmosphere and the energy of their performances just got my total and complete attention, from their music, to the stage presence, and the lighting and effects of the show. I’ve been involved in music ever since.

TCS: For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Tony Trujillo or the band Beyond Today, how would you describe your musical genre?

TT: Hi, I’m Tony Trujillo of Beyond Today, in which I play bass and do the backing vocals for the band. Guy Johnston, is our main vocalist, and plays guitar and piano. Jeremy Wilcox is one of the main guitarists along with Paul Nims, and Tim Thornton is the man on the drum throne.

Beyond Today’s genre can be classified as Rock/ Alt. Rock/ Hard Rock/ Post-Grunge. We get compared a lot, with our similarities, to; Shinedown, Seether, Theory of a Deadman, Killswitch Engage, Saint Asonia, Breaking Benjamin, and many others which I can’t quite recall off of the top of my head. Those ones we certainly hear more often than not though.

Beyond-Today-The-Band

TCS: What famous musical artists and/or bands were among your early influences and how do you think they shaped you both as a singer/songwriter and performer?

TT: I followed a lot of the 90’s and 2000’s rock, hard rock, and metal bands growing up. Some of my favorites were Metallica, Ozzy, Papa Roach, Fuel, Chevelle, Korn, Disturbed, Crossfade, Linkin Park, 3 Doors Down, AFI, Cold, Theory of a Deadman, Default, Saliva, Filter, Big Wreck, Thornley, Deftones, Soundgarden, Thousand Foot Krutch, Pantera, Anberlin, Jerry Cantrell, Alice In Chains, and Three Days Grace, just to name a few. Music is almost all about listening, and I certainly learned a lot listening to those bands. A lot with phrasing, how notes move together to create the triads and chords used in constructing songs, and how syllabic rhythm played a role in vocal lines, melody, and lyrics.


TCS: Take us behind the scenes in the making of your new full length album entitled The Artificial Heart. What was your favorite part of its production and the most challenging from an artistic perspective?

TT: We started the writing process on the album back at the end of 2014, and started the recording process in March of 2015. This album was a lot of fun for us as a band. We wanted to feed off of the response we received from our EP namely with our song “Colors”. We wanted to build upon what we did with that and create some more high energy in your face kind of rock in our own way. We also re-recorded some of the older tunes to match the sound we were originally going for had we not been cut short on the recording time in the beginning of the band. That made the album full length with thirteen songs. It was quite the feat for us, but was always a goal we had, to get a full length out to really showcase all of the different songs we have.

My favorite part of the album recording process was the production of it. After the “scratch tracks” were recorded we really got to dive in and add things such as effects, harmonies, strings, and other interesting sounds that made the songs really stand out and become more and more personal to us. The challenging part was finding “that” sound with guitar tones and making them really punch. Luckily we came across the amps by the name of Kemper Profiling Amplifiers. Which allowed us to get the sounds we were after, making that larger than life guitar sound that we were after.

Beyond-Today-The -Artifical-Heart

TCS: Personally, one of my favorite songs off of The Artificial Heart is the title track called “The Artificial Heart,” so can you share with us the meaning behind it and the video concept

TT: The concept behind the song “The Artificial Heart” was from the viewpoint of falling in love with someone but they didn’t feel that they were good enough for you, so you’d wait as long as you could because you knew that a relationship with them could really be something great if not wonderful, and trying your damnedest to help them see themselves in a better light as it were, but sometimes the ‘waiting’ can cause too much pain on both sides. The video that Jimmy did was kind of out of the blue, we already had some ideas for one that we would shoot, but he did one for our song “Starlight” that was pretty cool. He made the video for “The Artificial Heart” and we thought it was a pretty cool interpretation.


TCS: Can you describe for us the background to the hit single entitled “Stay” that also appears on The Artificial Heart?

TT: “Stay” is another one about a snapshot in a relationship, in where you first meet the person, and just want to really stay with them and lose yourselves in each other. It’s about that moment. That first sight kind of aspect.


TCS: What’s the most unusual place that you’ve played or made a recording? And, how did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording?

TT: One of the strangest places I’ve played personally was during a show at night outdoors, when a torrential rain storm struck and soaked just about every piece of gear, but the show went on, until it cut the power. It was pretty fun, except replacing the equipment afterwards.

TCS: Tell us about the Beyond Today song writing, recording, and video production process behind the song “Sunburnt Cradle”?

TT: That one was just a song we wrote quickly that had a really good feel to it. The lyric video I made in after effects. I actually do all of the graphics and things in that nature for the band. Saves us a lot of money not having to hire out.


TCS: Is there a particular venue that you’ve always wanted to play? And, what other entertainer or entertainers would you most like to have play alongside you on that stage?

TT: One venue that I’ve always wanted to play is the Whiskey a Go Go in West Hollywood, California. I’d love the opportunity to play with the likes of Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, or Stanley Clarke. They are some killer bass players.

TCS: In what ways do you market your appearances, sell merchandise, and stay connected to your fan base?

TT:We try to look as professional as we possibly can. We make attention grabbing graphics and sell interesting one of a kind merchandise items, including dog tags, shot glasses, leather wrist bands, and other knick-knacks.

Beyond-Today-Merch

Additionally, we stay connected to our fans at shows and online media via the following:

TCS: Name a band or musician, past or present, who you flat-out LOVE and think more people should be listening to. What’s one of your all-time favorite recordings by this band/musician?

TT: Definitely one band everyone should check out is a band out of Tennessee called Skytown Riot. We toured with those guys back in 2014, My favorite song by them would have to be “Runaway Princess” or “Soul or System”.


TCS: What does the short and long-term outlook look like for Beyond Today?

TT: We’ve got some really cool shows planned for this summer. In June, we are headlining The Knitting Factory in Spokane, WA. Later this Summer/Early Fall we plan to go into the recording studio and do pre-production on the next album which will be out spring of next year. We also have some other very big things in the works that we’ll be announcing later on, as well as some music videos. You’ll just have to come check out what we got coming up.

Song List on The Artificial Heart (2016)

Beyond-Today

  1. Break Me
  2. Aftermath
  3. Where We Go
  4. Stay
  5. Colors
  6. Going Back
  7. StarlightT
  8. The Divide
  9. Silver Tongue
  10. Ghost
  11. Inside the Fire
  12. The Artificial Heart
  13. Blackbird

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.