The Creative Spotlight: 2015

Written by: Frank Iacono

2015-Spotlights

The end of the year causes us to reflect, and in this spirit, I thought it would be fun to recount The Creative Spotlight blog posts from 2015. When it comes to The Creative Spotlight, the goal is simple. Introduce readers to the best local and national musicians, artists, actors, business owners, motivational speakers, photographers, and other published authors. Consider The Creative Spotlight as the ultimate destination for unearthing a wealth of undiscovered talent, reading exciting interviews, learning helpful tips and tricks, and news that you can use…plus lots of great ideas for enriching your life and enjoying yourself.

As we welcome 2016, we want to make sure that you did not miss any of the 18 articles from 2015. This blog includes a complete, categorized list of The Creative Spotlight posts that were published in 2015.

January 2015

Marilyn Russell: Morning Show Host

March 2015

Chris LeGrand: Rolling Stones Tribute Band

April 2015

Neill Byrnes: Draw The Line Aerosmith Tribute Band

Shaun Benson: Actor and Director

May 2015

Carolyn Bennett-Sullivan: Author

June 2015

Dawn Botti: Singer and Songwriter

July 2015

Joanna Maria Morales Miarrostami: Artist

Sheila Brown: Summer Nites Bed and Breakfast 

August 2015

Travis Clark: We The Kings

Duffer’s: Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor

Ages Apart: Alternative Rock Band

Jack Morey: Morey’s Piers

Derek Crider: Singer and Songwriter

September 2015

Everything Falls: Modern Rock Band

Aandra Bohlen: Business Coach

October 2015

Michelle Antonucci Smith: Zumba® Fitness Instructor

November 2015

Meisha Johnson: TV Personality

Karen Mansfield: Singer And Songwriter

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.

Karen Mansfield: Singer And Songwriter

Written by: Frank Iacono

Karen-Mansfield-Mesa-Promo

Singer-songwriter Karen Mansfield, long considered a mainstay of the legendary Asbury Park, New Jersey music scene, is best known for her enticing onstage presence and mesmerizing contralto vocal range.

Mansfield, who began her career as the frontperson in the 80’s all-girl punk band known as the Bleeding Knees, has been described as highly melodic and enchantingly haunting. Lyrically, she forms a strong bond with her audience by connecting through a range of deep emotions involving everyday love and relationship situations.

Over her career, Mansfield has recorded and performed with numerous national artists including, Jewel, Concrete Blonde, Whirling Dervishes, Bobby Bandiera (Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Jon Bon Jovi), Shawn Pelton (Saturday Night Live Band), Mikeal Jorgensen (Wilco), Erik Paparazzi (Cat Power), John Conte (Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes), John Eddie, Vance Gilbert, Johnny Thunders, and Willie Nile.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Mansfield and asking her a few questions about her musical inspiration and influences, her songwriting and recording process, her upcoming appearances, and her self-titled debut six song EP.

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 in your journey?

I was very young when my maternal grandmother would come over and sing to us and give us each a song of our own to learn and perform for the next time she’s visit. Mine was “There is a Tavern in the Town”. I remember looking forward to singing it for her and learning new songs. Her brother had been a vaudeville performer so she taught us all the tunes she’d learned from him.

Karen-Mansfield

I remember at a family party standing on a picnic table in the backyard of my Aunt and Uncle’s home, singing a song a made up, “Rock ‘n’ Roll in My Tummy”. We later figured out that I must have been 3 or 4 at the time.

Then on my 7th birthday I saw the Carpenters in concert and that was a big deal. My mom was a fan, and we had all their albums and 45’s. I think having heard the music in my home and also on the radio, then experiencing it live — also feeling some kind of connection with Karen because we had the same first name, (you know little kids think like that) — the combo of it all struck me and I’ve never been the same since. Karen was wearing a beautiful gown singing her heart out, and then she ran off stage and changed into some slacks and came out, sat behind the drum set and rocked out! I was thrilled!! I knew what I wanted to do with my life since that moment. I begged Santa for a drum set every year and never stopped singing and making up songs.

I believe that my father’s Grundig stereo console from Germany was instrumental in my early musical development. I remember my parents showing me how to turn it on and use the turntable. I remember feeling the warmth and hearing the hum of the tubes, playing LP’s and singles, dancing around the living room, singing and acting out the words to every song. I loved it! Certainly my favorite pastime as a youngster.

We had a piano in our living room that I used to color on the keys with crayons. I remember trying to sound out familiar melodies. My parents didn’t play, but my dad knew enough to teach me, “Heart and Soul” and “Nickelodeon”. It was tough playing though, when everyone else wanted to watch TV.

Karen-Mansfield-Performing

Later when I was ten my dad gave me a miniature reel-to-reel recorder he hadn’t used in years. We went to Radio Shack and bought a cheap little mini microphone. He showed me how it worked and I fell in love with recording, making up characters and songs on the spot.

Another early influence that I feel steered me into music was our family parties. My mom came from a large family with 11 siblings, and when they’d all get together they’d spend a good portion of the night singing, and having a ball. The last song of the evening was always “Side By Side”. I can recall wanting to be a part of that kind of fun and comradery, and of course, all that singing.

TCS: For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Karen Mansfield, how would you describe your musical genre?

I don’t feel I have a genre other than rock. It’s eclectic, but if I had to I’d say Retro-Pop Rock, Roots, Adult Alternative Pop, Americana, Alternative Country, Singer Songwriter. People have said I sound like Janis Joplin, Emmylou Harris, Olivia Newton John, PJ Harvey, and Karen Carpenter. I guess one would have to listen to decide for one’s self I think. I’m not aiming at any specific genre except rock. I just want to make great music.


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?

Elvis! I remember staying up late to watch the comeback special. I was pretty young, but I do remember! I’m pretty sure he influenced “Rock ‘n’ Roll in my Tummy”.

I loved Dinah Shore, Hee Haw, Partridge Family, and the Osmond’s; honestly anything music drew me in. Since there were six of us Mansfield kids, I wondered why we weren’t in a band with a TV show!

In the late 70’s my brother ordered a bunch of records from K-Tel for $.99 each. One of the albums he received was called “British Gold”, a compilation of hits like “Bus Stop” by the Hollies, “The Letter” by the Box Tops, “World Without Love” Peter and Gordon, Derek and the Dominoes, Cream, The Yardbirds, and more. I loved it. Since we didn’t have a ton of records I’d play that one and the Elvis greatest hits record and Linda Ronstadt over and over.

Karen-Mansfield-Live-Brighton-Bar

We used to spend a lot of time at my Uncle Rocky and Aunt Cherie’s and he’d always be listening to the country station 1050 WHN. I started listening in my room on a little transistor radio under my pillow; so there is that country-based influence.

I was a pretty big Donny and Marie fan as a middle schooler. Then my tastes changed as I got into high school. I absolutely loved The Doors; definitely my favorite band of all-time. I was into B-52’s, Led Zeppelin, The Who, early Ozzy Osbourne, and Bruce Springsteen. I later got into Patsy Cline and Billie Holiday.

TCS: Take us behind the scenes in the making of your 2014 self-titled EP Karen Mansfield. What was your favorite part of its production and the most challenging from an artistic perspective?

My favorite part of making this record was working with the guys I chose for the project. Rob Tanico is just bursting with creative genius and loves music possibly more than anyone I’ve ever met. I knew I was in good hands with him as producer and musical director. We had a magical day at Shorefire Recording Studios in Long Branch, NJ laying down live tracks for bass, drums, and guitar. Most tracks were done on the first or second take. I love that room and Joey DeMaeo is solid gold. I felt that having P.K. Lavengood on guitar, David Halpern on drums, and Rob on bass it was going to be a great studio experience and it certainly was. They’re all of course so familiar with each other, having worked together for so many years; P.K. and Dave playing with John Eddie and Rob and Dave with Mr. Reality and Highway Nine. The energy was great and I felt that everyone was equally excited for the project.

The only challenge I had was being patient waiting for the rough mixes. Rob put a lot into this project and played nearly everything that wasn’t laid down on that first day in the studio. I consider myself a pretty patient person but the excitement of completing this album proved to the contrary.


I had the best artists working on the photos and album artwork. I had such a great experience working with my art director Barbie, who just happens to now be my sister-in-law. I couldn’t be happier with Steve Greenwell’s job mixing it, and Turtle Tone with a fine mastering job. I enjoyed working with everyone at Disc Makers and CD Baby.

It was all very exciting and encouraging.  There was a bit of panic and juggling for me to make it all happen, but I’m very happy for the experience and can’t wait to do it again.

TCS: Personally, one of my favorite songs off of that EP is the track called “I Know You Know,” so can you share with us the writing process and the meaning behind it?

Actually, this was one of those songs that writes itself and it the whole process takes less than 15 minutes. I’m not sure where the inspiration for this song came from but I remember it fell upon me while I was in the studio recording a record in the early 90’s. I guess I wanted to write about that electric intensity, that magnetic pull of attraction, and the waiting, knowing after the first kiss, etc., you might get that feeling back. Not like it was prior. So, you wait, in the excitement and the desire. You leave it up to other person to make the first move. Maybe you’re not sure they’re feeling what you are. It’s the buzz of sensory overdrive and the anticipation of that magic moment when you succumb to the inevitable.


TCS: Tell us about how rewarding it was to serve as the frontperson for the all-girl punk band Bleeding Knees and how it prepared you for your solo career?

I enjoyed my time thoroughly during the Bleeding Knees days. I honestly didn’t know what I was doing. I had my fist gig booked before I even had enough songs for our set. I was shy and hid behind bangs that fell into my eyes. It was a great time of writing about whatever came to mind, what I thought was funny, or lame, and what would shock people. Honestly we were out of control. I barely knew how to tune my guitar. We were funny! People loved coming out and getting the joke! Checking out what obnoxious thing would we do next. The songs were funny, crude, silly and we had a blast. I recall someone after one of our shows at the Green Parrot in Neptune, NJ saying we reminded them of Pebbles and Bam Bam from The Flintstones but with cuss words. It was a lot of fun. The other members were still interested in coming up with more outrageous and raunchy material when I felt it was time for me to take things a bit more seriously as a songwriter.

I never wanted to perform solo and was waiting to come across players who’d want to back me up. One day my friend Alex Goetchius called asking me to open for his band, Piece of Wood, at the Brighton Bar in Long Branch. He encouraged me to play solo. I’d never turned down a show before and although I was petrified I did the show anyway. So, I feel fronting the Bleeding Knees taught me that I can get out there no matter what and connect with the audience whether it be with a band or by myself with an acoustic guitar. I guess I was ok at it since I ended up being nominated 9 times and winning 3 Asbury Park Music awards in the “Top Female Solo” category.

Karen-Mansfield-Bleeding-Knees

TCS: Can you share with us some details about your time performing with numerous artists such as Jewel, Bobby Bandiera (Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes and Jon Bon Jovi), Shawn Pelton (Saturday Night Live Band), Mikeal Jorgensen (Wilco), and Concrete Blonde just to name a few?

I opened for Jewel at the Saint in Asbury Park just about six months before her album went platinum and everybody knew who she was. She was not feeling well that night so she stayed in her van until her performance. Great voice, though she did a bit of yodeling, which was kinda different for Asbury Park. I was impressed.

My sister dragged me out to see Bobby Bandiera on a Wednesday night at Cheers in Long Branch circa ’89 or ’90. On his break we were introduced and immediately he asked, “ya wanna sing?”. This became a weekly occurrence, never rehearsed, always a ton of fun. He’d call me up to do “I Got You Babe”, “Love Potion #9”, “Dream Lover”, “Me and Bobby McGee”, “Stop Dragging My Heart Around”, and more. It was wild fun. Bobby is fantastic.

It was certainly the place to be on Wednesday nights. I think I stopped making the scene in ’96, around the time I had my daughter but I’ll always remember how he encouraged me and included me.

Shawn Pelton played with John Eddie and I’d known him from the local music scene and from playing with P.K.’s band Without Fear, also at Cheers. Then in ’92 or ’93 when I was making a record in Red Bank we called in Shawn to play on most of the 11 tracks. He’s the best!! The album has never been completed but one single entitled “Jessie” was released and is available still on ReverbNation. He’s such a phenomenal player and so amazing to work with!

Mikael Jorgensen and Erik Paparozzi were in a local early ’90’s band which I absolutely loved, called Lizard Music. I met them at an open mic at the Ink Well in West End and fell in love with them! I requested them on all the shows I did and we became great friends. We had a lot of laughs and we encouraged and believed in each other’s music. It was a sweet time!! Then when their bass player, Chris Guice, was in California playing bass for a kids show on Nickelodeon, “You Can’t Do That On Television”, Mikael, Erik, and I formed as “Karen’s Lizard” as per request by Brighton Bar promoter Jacko Monahan. We did a few shows mixing up the set with half my tunes and half Lizard Music tunes. The guys had such amazing harmonies and I just loved hearing my songs with their added magic.

During the early to mid-90’s I had many opportunities to open for national acts. One of the most exciting of those times was when I got the chance to open for Concrete Blonde during their Bloodletting tour. The show was at the Fast Lane is Asbury Park. The place was packed and the audience was wild, and super receptive to me and my acoustic guitar. Johnette Napolitano and the guys were awesome!!

TCS: Tell us about the background story behind another favorite off of your new EP entitled “Your Lies”?

The title says it all, “Your Lies”. I think it’s about the affect the lies have on the broken lover, the hopelessness of the situation when one is addicted to the lies of unhealthy love. I’ve found sometimes there’s a dream that underneath all the falsehood there might be a person of substance who could be capable of something real and good and pure. It’s a tremendously sad song.


TCS: Share with us your experience in playing at the Light of Day Festival in January of 2015?

My performance for Light of Day 2015 was at Asbury Lanes, in Asbury Park. My band was Rob Tanico on bass, P.K. Lavengood on guitar, Billy Siegel on Keys and David Halpern on drums. We played for a half an hour and did mostly all the songs on the EP, plus a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Joleen”. It was one of the best shows we’ve done so far. It’s always such an honor to perform for Light of Day and to be a part of finding a cure for Parkinson’s and related diseases.

TCS: How thrilling was it for you when the Asbury Press wrote an article featuring you entitled “Jersey Shore Treasure Karen Mansfield Returns to Scene”?

Oh, it felt great! I’ve felt loved for a great many years now, having been a part of the scene for so long.

I took a long break to be with my daughter and try other career options. As my daughter grew up I felt I was being called back to my music. My return was certainly greeted with a warm welcome and I couldn’t be happier. I’m very grateful to be welcomed back to the music community with open arms. It’s like having a second family! Certainly blessed to have all the live and support I continue to receive!!

TCS: From your new EP, please describe for us the writing and recording process behind the single entitled “Just A Man”?

”Just a Man” came out of me talking to a friend about a guy I was hung up on, and her being sick of me going on and on describing all of his wonderful attributes. She finally looked and me and said, “he’s just a man!” Kinda like, get over it! Of course my response was, “yeah, but he does it to me”. Not all of them do so I thought it was worth putting into a song.

The song wrote itself. Rob came up with the early Rolling Stones feel for the recording. It’s one of my favorites to play live; and audiences connect with it too.

When someone “does it to you” it feels great, and that’s what this song is about.


TCS: After all these years of chasing your musical dreams, what do you feel keeps you motivated to continue recording and performing?

I am motivated by the desire to reach the listeners who connect with my writing and my performance. I don’t know that I’ve done that to the best of my ability yet, at least not on the scale that I believe I can. Also, I feel this is a calling and to turn around at this point would just not be acceptable. Most of all, I continue because of the love of music. I’m still that little three-year-old getting goosebumps from watching Elvis in that leather suit, teaching us all how it’s done. I’m blessed to feel what I do every time I make folks happy with my music.

Lastly, the most important reason is to teach my daughter to follow her dreams, to be true to herself no matter what anyone says. To find out what brings you joy and to do it with all her heart, soul, and strength. To dig deep inside, work hard, and never give up.

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?

My very first show was on ’85 or ’86, I with my friend Diana at a furniture gallery for a holiday event called “Festival of the Trees”. It was a silent auction for elaborately decorated Christmas trees. We played in front of a fancy staircase and had to move every 2 minutes when shoppers or staff wanted to come through. It was pretty awkward but we had fun.

I’ve played the 8×10 Club in Baltimore, hit my head on the ceiling trying to get on stage. Cool place though. We were there the day after Michelle Shocked.

Karen-Mansfield-Blue

TCS: In what ways do you market your appearances?

I usually post my events on my Facebook Music/Band page. I also use Bandsintown, ReverbNation, and my website KarenMansfield.com. Additionally, I tweet on my Twitter account, post on Instagram, Tumbler, Pinterest, and sometimes on LinkedIn.

To stay connected with Karen Mansfield, please visit the following:

Tee shirts are on their way. And, my CDs are for sale at all of my shows and are also available on the following:

TCS: Is there a particular venue that you’ve always wanted to play either as a member of Bleeding Knees or as a solo performer? And, what other entertainer or entertainers would you most like to have play alongside you on that stage?

While in the Bleeding Knees I was content just gigging locally. I was still very shy and apprehensive in those days. Nowadays I’d like to travel to perform in cities like Nashville, Asheville, Austin, Philly, New York, where ever there’s a cool music scene, where ever I can meet my listeners. I’d like to perform in other countries as well. There are many venues I look forward to performing in! I can’t wait to play whatever venues the future holds for me.

As far as performing alongside other entertainers, I am open to whatever comes my way!

I’m looking forward to an upcoming trip to Mesa, AZ where I’ll be performing for the Mesa Music Festival November 13-15, 2015. It’s going to be a huge event with Matt Pinfield giving the keynote address at the opening ceremony.

I look forward to meeting the locals there and meeting many of the artists and industry professionals in town for the event.

Karen-Mansfield-Songwriter

TCS: What famous song do you wish you had been credited with writing and performing?

There isn’t a song that comes to mind that I wish I’d written. Though, there are amazing songs out there, that of course, when I hear them I wish I would write a song of equal intensity, sensitivity, depth of soul, and brilliance.

I’ve always thought that I’d love to make a record like Carol King’s Tapestry. It’s got everything and it’s wonderful from start to finish.

I guess if I had to pick one song I might go with “On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever)”, because I find it so inspiring.

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?

I love J.D. McPherson. And his tune “North Side Gal” changed my life.  I also love Lucinda Williams and all of her songs, especially her album Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone.

TCS: What does the short and long-term outlook look like for Karen Mansfield?

Short term is Mesa, AZ for the first ever Mesa Music Festival November 13-15, 2015. Then I am hopefully heading into the studio to start my next album. I’m hoping to play more music festivals, house concerts, and shows out of my hometown region.

Long term, I plan to keep making music, writing, recording and performing, and meeting great folks like you along the way.

Song List on Karen Mansfield (2014)

Karen-Mansfield-CD

  1. “I Know You Know”
  2. “No More Suffering”
  3. “Your Lies”
  4. “Just a Man”
  5. “Destiny”
  6. “Keep On (For the Sunny Days)”

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.

Meisha Johnson: TV Personality

Written by: Frank Iacono

meisha-johnson-head-shot

Meisha Johnson, a Minnesota born native and Journalism major from the University of Minnesota and Anoka Ramsey College, joined the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania CBS 3-owned KYW-TV in mid-July of 2015 as the morning traffic reporter. Prior to moving to Philadelphia, Meisha worked as a traffic reporter for KMSP, the FOX 9 Morning News affiliate, in Minneapolis-St. Paul since 2013.

Meisha, an outdoor sports enthusiast, is a veteran performer in everything from hosting TV shows and extreme sports reporting for networks such as FOX Sports, VERSUS, SPEED Channel, ABC and CBS Sports, as well as acting in commercials, theater, and independent films such as 13 Hours in a Warehouse (2008), Cold Feet (2008), and Fall Into Me (2006).

Meisha is fluent in Swedish and attended the University of Uppsala while living in Sweden for several years after high school. She has also served as the spokesperson and host for K-Swiss fitness on the national shopping network, EVINE Live, and a corporate speaker for a plethora of different companies.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Meisha Johnson and asking her a few questions about her career inspirations, her overall background and experience, her movie roles, her meeting with legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Don Felder, and her new job as the morning traffic reporter for CBS 3-owned KYW-TV.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you become interested in TV hosting, modeling, and acting? And, who or what inspired you to pursue a career in this profession?

Meisha Johnson: At a very young age, I began watching scary movies with my mother. My father dabbled in theater, and his father, my grandfather, worked as a Director for the well-renowned Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN. From my earliest memories, and clearly weaved throughout my DNA, I loved performing. Beginning in elementary school, I would act in any play possible- and I always wanted to play the antagonist role. I had a wildly creative imagination and began writing scary movie scripts in fifth grade. I’d hold auditions in the backyard for my friends and neighbor kids, and every year would have an annual haunted house to raise money for movie props. My love for the performing arts has followed with me throughout my entire career. As far as modeling is concerned, that was never something I wanted to do. It would come across my path from time to time, but it was certainly never my passion. After college, TV Hosting came knocking at the door and it was love at first job. In terms of what or who inspired me, in truth, I followed my heart. There was no escaping it, no other choice, no other path to pursue. I knew who I was- what I loved- and I knew I was to follow that inner voice.


TCS: For the benefit of those who may not be too familiar with Meisha Johnson or your overall body of work, please describe for us your career at a glance?

MJ: I started out acting in local and national TV commercials, local film and theater. I did a brief appearance for the Young and the Restless while studying at the University of Minnesota’s Journalism school, as well as dabbled in a few TV pilots. From there I began hosting sports TV shows for FOX Sports, CBS Sports, Versus and Speed channel, and was also the spokesperson for several different companies such as K-Swiss Fitness, 3M, Polaris and many others. From there I began hosting on the nationally syndicated network, EVINE Live (formerly ShopNBC), and was then offered a job as a TV host on our local CW Television Network. I turned down the job at the CW when FOX 9 News contacted me around the same time offering me a part-time position in news.

Reel – Meisha P Johnson – Host from Amy Waksmonski on Vimeo.


TCS: Can you give us three “Good to Know” facts about you?

MJ: 1) I was a waitress throughout high school and a lifeguard/diving instructor afterwards 2) I absolutely love animals. If I wasn’t working in television, I would dedicate my life to working with/for them, and I’d love to have a pot-bellied pig one day 3) My father was a professional boxer so I grew up ringside. I’m a tough cookie 😉 – and three bonus, 4) I had iguana’s as pets growing up so I’ve got an iguana tattoo on my back in memory of them, 5) I lived in Sweden for 3 years and speak swedish, 6) My middle name, “P.J.” – yes, PJ is my middle name, stands for “Phoebe Jean.”


TCS: Can you describe for us your longtime presence in the snowmobile industry, most notably as the host of the Sledhead 24/7 TV Show airing on FOX Sports North and of the ISOC Amsoil Championship Snocross Series on the SPEED Channel?

MJ: When I think about the past decade of my working career, Sled Head 24/7 stands out as extraordinarily instrumental. I spent 8 years of my life hosting powersports shows and “Sled Head” is where I began my career as TV Host. I was acting in a TV pilot when the producer asked if I could ride a snowmobile – in which I responded with a firm, “yes.” I auditioned for the show (Sled Head), landed the job, and “Sled Head” became my baby and the racing community became my extended family. Still to this day, the fans of that show, and all the other TV shows I’ve hosted, still follow my career here at CBS 3. Bless their hearts, they watch the show online. I’m moved beyond words when I think about all the experiences I’ve had because of those years in the powersports pits (snocross, supercross, motorcross, ATV racing). It was a lot of hard work, no doubt, but I wouldn’t trade my sports hosting past for nothin’. It’s been an incredible journey and I’m forever grateful for the memories.


TCS: Describe for us your experience playing Brandy in Tim VandeSteeg’s 2006 Comedy, Drama Fall Into Me?

MJ: “Fall Into Me” was my very first “real” feature film. It was such a great learning experience. As with all “firsts”, it’s the film I “cut my teeth on” so-to-speak. This is where I learned how a true feature film works and is shot, what I should and shouldn’t do, and how grueling long days on-set can actually be. I loved playing the part of Brandy. She was the antagonist, a supporting lead role, with an edgy, no “BS” side that was fun to play.


TCS: How did you prepare for your role as Jennifer Wilkins in Writer/Director Dav Kaufman’s 2008 Horror, Thriller 13 Hours in a Warehouse?

MJ: To be honest, I really didn’t prepare all that much. I wanted to have a genuine fear as things happened in the scene as opposed to over-rehearsing. Instead, I tapped into that “what would you do?” moment and rolled with whatever emotions came out naturally.


TCS: How much fun did you have playing Carol Deering in Ross McNamara’s 2008 Screwball Romantic Comedy entitled Cold Feet, a fast-paced, banter-filled style of Hepburn/Grant films from the ’40s?

MJ: Lol! “Cold Feet.” Oh this movie was so much fun. First off, it was a comedy so being on-set with a bunch of comedians is bound to make for some hilarious work days. Secondly, I had the lead role so I was on-set almost every single day which I loved. Third, well… it was my first on-screen kiss… and I was a nervous wreck the whole time… but, I found out how unromantic on-screen romance really is – Lol. Carol was a strong protagonist character that I could relate to in terms of wanting to make right choices while having a good sense of humor about all the craziness life brings. I still smile when I think about how fun it was to make.


TCS: As an actress, is there a specific role or type of character that you haven’t played yet but would really like to?

MJ: I’d love to play an edgy, meaty role on a controversial topic. Something gritty, creative and authentic. Main-stream Hollywood movies don’t interest me as much as the independent one’s that evoke a lot of emotion and difference of opinion. The kind that makes you think, “What in the world would I do in this situation?”


TCS: How thrilling was it to join CBS 3’s ‘Eyewitness News This Morning’ in Philadelphia as traffic reporter, after serving as a traffic reporter with KMSP, the Fox station in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN? And, please describe for us your first day on July 20th and how entertaining it was to have met the Phillie Phanatic?

MJ: When I was contacted in the Midwest by CBS 3 in Philly about a possible job offer, I was incredibly excited… and nervous all at the same time. It was a big decision moving out of my Midwest “comfort zone” to the big east coast. That said, there are no accidents in this life so I knew when the door opened it was my time to walk through. My first day was amazing! The viewers were sweet and welcoming and producers and management couldn’t have made me feel more welcome. They went out of their way to make it special and I’ll never forget it. And, as you would expect, the one’s that made me feel the most welcome in the beginning, are still my “besties” at the station to this very day. That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the viewers! The fans/viewers of the morning show have also become my besties (on social media) as well. Being out here alone, they’ve become family to me in a way. I spend every morning, Monday through Friday, with them for our Twitter “#coffeedate.” Truly, I don’t know if they’ll ever really understand how much they mean to me. As far as the Phillie Phanatic is concerned, let’s just say we hit off immediately. It was love at first fuzzy kiss on-air! Lol!

Meisha-Johnson-Eyewitness-News-KYW

TCS: Nowadays, what does an average workday consist of for Meisha Johnson?

MJ: Things have changed quite a bit since the world of “freelance.” I try to go to bed around 6pm Monday through Friday. My alarm goes off at 1:30 a.m. I do hair and make-up until around 3am and then I head off to the studio. From about 3:30 – 4:15 I prepare (final touches, hair/make-up, align traffic hits, etc) and we go LIVE at 4:30a. It takes a lot of discipline to stick to this kind of a schedule, but it’s pretty cool to have such strict structure as well. On Friday’s I try to nap after work so I can stay up a bit later in the evening, or I hop on a plane to Minneapolis for the weekend. Saturday’s are the only day of the week I allow myself to “sleep in” although I’m still usually up by 7-8am. Sundays I set an alarm around 4-5am to try and get on a schedule again, and Sunday evening it’s lights out at 6pm again :).


TCS: Can you tell us about ‪a program you started about a year ago called #‎AskMeishaMonday‬?

MJ: #AskMeishaMonday is by far the most unknown yet important work I’ve done. Throughout my televeision career, I’ve always interacted with my fans online (facebook, twitter, instagram, etc). Over the years, many of them would open up to me, telling me about struggles they were going through or looking for friendly, non-biased, unemotional advice. A large majority who would write were going through sticky situations they didn’t want their immediate friends or family to know, and/or didn’t want to go to a counselor, so they’d turn to me for a second opinion or prayer. I realized this enormous need for people to have someone to turn to, even if just an ear to listen. Over time, and to make it more time efficient and affective for all, I began opening up my social media sites on Monday’s solely to interact with those in need. #AskMeishaMonday was birthed from a desire in me not wanting anyone I’m connected to feeling alone. We’re all equipped with gifts we can use to help others. Offering advice, prayer, an ear to listen, and counsel to others happens to be one of mine. It’s one of the most important things I’ll ever do with my time. My life’s ministry. It doesn’t matter if I’ve met the person or not- if we’re connected, via social media or otherwise, they are not alone. Since moving to Philly, I haven’t opened #AskMeishaMonday up again, but I plan on doing so in the near future.


TCS: Recently you posted on Facebook that you visited Atlantic City for the first time, please share with us your overall experience?

MJ: I literally did a drive-by in Atlantic City! I was on a mission to learn some of the roads so I went on a little road trip. When the warm weather returns, I plan playing a slot machine, catching a concert, and enjoying the shore ;).

TCS: How exciting was it when you met Don Felder, one of the greatest guitarists and songwriters, from the legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Eagles?

MJ: When I got the phone call from CBS that Don Felder wanted to meet “the traffic girl” I was quite taken aback. “Me? Why?” was my first response. I was already done with work for the day when I received the phone call but I drove back to meet him anyway. On the way back to the studio, I drove over a nail and got a flat tire. So Don, being the sweetheart he is, drove me back to corporate housing in his limo – lol. Truly, aside from being the legend he is, Don is such a gentleman and such a wonderful person. I’m grateful to have met him that day, and crazy enough, we’ve kept in contact since then. Today I can say I’m honored to now call him my friend.

Meisha-Johnson-and-Don-Felder-Eagles

TCS: Looking back over your career, if you had to do it all over again, is there something that you would do differently? If so, what would it be?

MJ: I have absolutely NO regrets and I wouldn’t do anything differently. That doesn’t mean everything has been smooth sailing. Life isn’t that way as we all know. However, I firmly believe we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be right now even if we don’t fully understand why. Everything I’ve done in the past has helped me develop the skills and know-how for the work I do today, and the work I’ll do in the future. Our past is the building blocks for the firm foundation needed moving ahead into the future. Life is a crazy fun adventure and, no matter what is to come, there will never be any regrets.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

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 Antonucci Smith: Zumba® Fitness Instructor

Written by: Frank Iacono

Michelle-Antonucci-Smith

Michelle Antonucci Smith is licensed to teach Zumba®, Zumba Gold®, Zumba Toning®, Zumba Senato®, Zumba Step® and Zumba Kids® and has been a Zumba® Instructor since 2011. She is an active member of the Zumba Instructor’s Network. Her goal is to have people leave her class sweating, smiling, and wanting more.

For Michelle, the most important thing to her when she teaches Zumba® is to make it a great experience for her students ─ just have FUN! She has a passion for leading and promoting a healthy lifestyle through physical activity and nutritional cleansing. She was able to lose 40 lbs. by living a healthy lifestyle and now is passionate about helping others reach their fitness and health goals. Her high energy classes have been presented throughout New Jersey and in Europe. Today she continues to travel, learn, teach, and share her love for movement with the world.

Michelle’s success as a Zumba Fitness Instructor is highly attributed to the loving support of her family, friends, teachers, and passionate Zumba lovers along the way. She loves to provide “exercise in disguise” through Zumba, inspiration, motivation, and consistent encouragement for her clients. She is also a mom to two very active boys. In her spare time, she loves spending time with her friends and family, reading, and going to the beach.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle Antonucci Smith and asking her a few questions about her career as a Zumba®, her background, her certifications, and her high energy class sessions.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you become interested in Zumba®? And, who or what inspired you to pursue a career as an instructor?

Michelle Antonucci Smith: Zumba® Fitness is a total body workout, combining all elements of fitness – cardio, muscle conditioning, balance, flexibility, and boosted energy. Zumba® takes the “work” out of workout, by mixing low-intensity and high-intensity moves for an interval style, calorie-burning dance fitness party. Zumba® Fitness classes are often called exercise in disguise!

I started taking Zumba® classes in 2005. I just had my second child and was looking to get back in shape. I immediately became addicted to the classes. After being a student for 6 years, I decided to become a Zumba® Instructor.

Michelle-Antonucci-Smith-Zumba

TCS: Are you a certified Zumba® instructor? And, do you have any other certifications?

MAS: I am licensed to teach Zumba®, Zumba Gold®, Zumba Toning®, Zumba Senato®, Zumba Step® and Zumba Kids®. I am also active member of the Zumba® Instructor’s Network (ZIN). I received my license in February of 2011. Although I love to take other types of fitness classes such as weight training classes, spin, yoga, etc. I only teach Zumba® Fitness.


TCS: Do you think that Zumba® is a lot like high impact aerobics? If so, why?

MAS: Zumba® is similar to high impact aerobics in the sense that it is a cardio workout. However, the premise of Zumba® is to combine both high and low intensity songs to create an interval type training. Studies have shown that people tend to burn more calories via interval training than with a comparable period of steady-pace exercise.


TCS: Where are you currently holding your Zumba® classes?

MAS: I am definitely a gym rat! I do not own my own studio but I teach at various gyms. You can find my complete schedule on http://www.zumba.com. I work at several Work Out Worlds, Meridian Fitness, Brick Fitness for Women, and Gold’s Gym ─ all located in the Monmouth County New Jersey Shore area.


TCS: Why do you think people are going so crazy for Zumba®? And, what is the age group of the people that participate in your Zumba® classes?

MAS: In the beginning, many “experts” claimed that Zumba® was just another fad. However, I disagree! Zumba® was created by founder Beto Perez in the mid 1990’s. I think it has only gotten more popular with each year. The reason so many people go crazy for Zumba® is simple. The moment the beat drops, it is an instant party. There is no other class that I have taken at any gym where people are smiling, laughing, and having fun from start to finish AND getting in an amazing workout at the same time. You can expect lots of smiles, sweat, and laughs in a Zumba® class, not to mention the kick ass music! I have students in high school, college, stay at home moms, and retirees, so there is no set age group for Zumba ─ young and old all have a great time, not to mention that both women AND men attend my classes.


TCS: For those who’ve never taken Zumba®, what does a beginner need to know before taking a class? Do you have any tips for newbies?

MAS: My class rule is: “Smile, Have Fun, and LOVE Pitbull.” My best tip for a newbie is to go into a class just expecting to have fun. Don’t get caught up in worrying about making a wrong move. There are no wrong moves in Zumba® ─ only accidental solos. All the gyms I teach at, and most gyms in general, offer either a free day or free week pass, so I encourage everyone reading this to just try a class. I recommend wearing either a cross-training sneaker or a dance sneaker. Popular brands such as Ryka, Bloch, Capezio, and Sansha have dance sneakers. Zumba® Fitness also has their own line of dance sneakers.


TCS: Are there certain Zumba® classes designed specifically for beginners?

MAS: Zumba® is a perfect class whether your fitness level is at a beginner, intermediate, or advanced level. The key is that each individual go at their own pace and the moves can be modified to the individual’s level. However, there is a specialty Zumba® class called Zumba Gold®. Zumba Gold® is geared towards the active older adult who is looking for a modified Zumba® class that recreates the original moves they love at a lower-intensity. You can take a Zumba® class every day if you like but if you are new to exercise in general, then I would recommend 3 x a week to start.

TCS: What if you are not coordinated and can’t dance can you still take a Zumba® class?

The biggest comment I hear from someone that has never attended a class is that they are intimated to try Zumba® because “they are not coordinated.” I want people to know that they do not have to be superstar dancers or be super coordinated to take a class. The key to Zumba® is to just let go and have fun!


TCS: Will Zumba® help adults get in shape and lose weight?

MAS: Zumba® is an amazing cardiovascular workout. Many of my students have lost weight after they started taking classes but you have to combine it with the right nutrition if you really want to see results. To achieve a safe weekly weight loss the emphasis is really 80% on nutrition and 20% on exercise. The amount of calories you can burn in Zumba® depends on a few factors, but the average is between 500 to 1,000 calories per hour of Zumba®.

TCS: Can Zumba® classes help adults increase their focus, establish self-confidence and enhance coordination much like karate?

MAS: That is a great question and yes to all! Learning the dancing moves in Zumba® can greatly improve coordination. Zumba® routines, thanks to their dancing roots, can lower inhibitions (in a good way). Zumba® will improve your posture, which will naturally increase your confidence, and slowly mastering routine after Zumba® routine will increase your confidence in a Zumba® class and everywhere else.


TCS: What kind of music is played during your Zumba® class? Do you allow the students to make song requests?

MAS: One of my favorite parts about being a Zumba® instructor is the variety of music that I can expose my students to. In a typical Zumba® class the emphasis is on Latin and International music. The 4 core rhythms are Merengue, Cumbia, Reggaeton, and Salsa. I will always have those 4 core rhythms in my class. However, I may also feature a Tango, Flamenco, Bollywood, Quebradita, Bachata, African, Belly Dancing, Axe, Calypso, Soca, or Latin Pop. I will also include current pop music ─ including my favorite artist Pitbull because my students love to dance to songs that they are familiar with. I love when students request a specific song!

TCS: Is there a high demand for Zumba® instructors? And, what is the best way for someone to find a local Zumba® instructor or class?

MAS: There is definitely a high demand for Zumba® classes and most gym schedules offer a variety of days and times for Zumba® because it is still one of the most popular group fitness classes to take. However, there are so many women and men that have become licensed to teach, that it may be difficult at times to find a class to teach if you are a new instructor. The best way to find a licensed instructor is to:

  • Go To Zumba.com
  • Select Find a Class in Your ‘Hood!
  • Enter Your Zip Code
  • Hit Search Classes
  • View The Available Classes in Your Area. Only Licensed ZINS Can Add their Class Schedule.

Zumba-Find-A-Class

TCS: If a student is unable to make it to a class, do you recommend any good Zumba® DVDs?

MAS: Zumba® has several DVD’s but the two most popular are the Zumba® Fitness Super Cardio Dance Party, and Zumba® Fitness Exhilarate Body Shaping System DVD Set. Zumba® Fitness also has some amazing video games for both Wii and Xbox 360. However, in my opinion nothing beats a live class!

TCS: Why do some Zumba® Instructors wear one pant leg up and one pant leg down? Is it all about attitude? And, do you do that too?

MAS: That style did not originate with Zumba® but was a mid-90s trend first spotted in LL Cool J’s “Hey Lover” music video in 1995. The style quickly became one of the trends that personified that era of hip-hop style. I don’t really see many Zumba® instructors doing that any longer. For me, it is all about the Capri pants or Harem pants.


TCS: In what ways do you market your business and stay connected to your audience?

MAS: I market my business and stay connected with my audience via the following vehicles:

TCS: Why do some Zumba® Instructors wear tassels on your pants? What does it mean? And, do you wear them?

MAS: When I first started teaching Zumba® in 2011 the tassel pants were big in Zumba®, but again most instructors I know do not wear them. We do a lot of booty shaking in Zumba® so having tassels, does make it more fun!

TCS: Why don’t some Zumba® Instructors verbally cue their students or talk more during the class? What is your style preference?

MAS: The traditional Zumba® class emphasizes non-verbal cueing, as it offers many benefits to a class. Non-verbal cueing allows the instructor and students to feel the music and enjoy the party atmosphere of a Zumba® Fitness class. I am not like most instructors, and I do wear a headset. I definitely keep the party atmosphere going and only use the headset at a minimum for basic cues, but I find that my students appreciate both the combination of verbal and non-verbal cueing that I offer.


TCS: Why do you think Zumba® instructors are so different from one another?

MAS: This is the most important point that people should take away from this article. You can take a Zumba® class with 20 different instructors, and each class will be completely different. One of the best things about being an instructor is the total freedom Zumba® gives us to add our own flavor and style ─ as long as we follow the basic guidelines Zumba® provided to us. It is key that students try a variety of instructors, in order to find a few that they connect with the most.

TCS: Is there any other information that you can provide to someone interested in Zumba® that we didn’t cover in the interview already?

MAS: I think we covered just about everything. I hope to see some of your readers in my Zumba® class with one pant leg up and tassels swinging!

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

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.

Everything Falls: Modern Rock Band

Written by: Frank Iacono

Everything-falls-band

Everything Falls burst onto the Washington D.C. metro rock scene in early 2012, touring for their debut EP Fight From Within. Fast-forward to the summer of 2015, and Everything Falls is set to release their sophomore EP Through The Storm. The new album is a collection of songs that front man Aaron Linkous wrote while touring in 2012 and in the years after while the band was relocating from Washington D.C. to northern New Jersey.

Throughout 2011, Everything Falls was just getting things started. After bringing Mike Smith on board to play bass, the duo eventually ended up working with Producer Scott Robinson at his Sonic Sweets Recording studio in Beltsville, MD. What was born there would be the band’s debut release, Fight From Within. It was released in November of 2011 and included their first mainstream hit, “Sorry To Say.” The video for “Sorry To Say” was featured on national media outlets such as Blank TV, Pure Grain Audio, The Cool TV, and Renegade Radio. In addition, Hard Rock Café, Planet Hollywood, Gold’s Gym, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line chose to promote the single. The song was also used by nationally televised and British-based professional wrestling program, UK Wrestling Experience. Other notable hits off of the album were the singles “Come On” and “Everything That You Wanted.”

In late 2012, Everything Falls continued their promotional tour for the EP, and ultimately landed an interview with The Real Radio Show in Long Island, NY. As the band gained momentum, new opportunities presented themselves, and Linkous eventually made the difficult decision to relocate the band to the New York City metro area.

In 2013, rebuilding of the band started. Kenny Sheldon, the new lead guitarist who was discovered at one of the many auditions held in the summer of 2013, quickly found his niche within Aaron’s songs. Unfortunately, it would be another two years before the band would be fully completed, with the lineup changing several times over. In early 2015, two additional band members were brought on board just before heading into the world-renowned Barber Shop Studios with Producer Brody Greif.

Comprised of Aaron Linkous, Kenny Sheldon, Danny Rojo, and Matt Regan. Everything Falls is weathered, but not broken. “Everything Falls has accomplished a lot up to this point, but we still have so much room for growth,” said Linkous. “We’re hungry to break into the regional scene and to make our live show something that fans are lining up to see. I believe that our new EP was appropriately named. After everything that it’s taken to get back to this point, it definitely feels like we’ve been through a storm. Fortunately, that storm forged a new path for our sound and helped to solidify who we are as musicians. We’re extremely proud of our sophomore EP, and we believe the fans will agree that it was worth the wait.”

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Aaron Linkous, Kenny Sheldon, Danny Rojo, and Matt Regan of Everything Falls and asking them a few questions about their musical influences, their songwriting and recording process, their upcoming tour schedule, and their new EP Through The Storm.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: How did you come up with the band name Everything Falls?

Aaron Linkous: My wife, Mandy, and I share a love for hiking to waterfalls. As Mike Smith, a bassist and the first person I got to join the band with me back in 2010, and myself were toying around with many names I started to think about all of the cool waterfall names I’ve heard and seen over the years. So, I naturally just started putting different words in front of “falls” and I ended up with Everything Falls. It sounded catchy, so it stuck as our band name ever since.

Everything-Falls-Logo

TCS: For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Everything Falls, how would you describe your musical genre?

AL: I would describe our sound as modern rock and maybe a bit of 90’s alternative. We’ve been compared to Stone Temple Pilots, Metallica, Breaking Benjamin, and a host of other bands, but we have a unique and fresh sound that sets us apart from all of those bands. The band originally started in Rockville, MD in 2010. We recorded our first EP Fight From Within throughout 2011 with producer Scott Robinson at his Sonic Sweets Studio in Beltsville, MD. We released that EP in December of 2011 and toured regionally throughout 2012.

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

AL: The Everything Falls band lineup consists of the following (shown below left to right):

  • Matt Regan – Drummer
  • Kenny Sheldon – Lead Guitarist & Backing Vocals
  • Aaron Linkous – Lead Vocalist & Rhythm Guitarist
  • Danny Rojo – Bassist & Backing Vocals (former bassist Amriel Kissner is shown in pic)

Everything-falls-theband

TCS: How long has this current lineup of Everything Falls been playing together and how did you all get started?

AL: This current lineup is fairly new. Danny just came on board about a month ago. We went into the studio with a different bassist (Amriel Kissner), but Amriel was not interested in touring. Matt came on board in January of this year. He came in as we were prepping for our newest EP Through The Storm. He is a long time friend of Kenny and we had been talking about possibly having him out to a practice to see if he would be a good fit for the position. After the first practice I was certain that he was the man for the job. And, Kenny has been with me almost two years now. I landed him in the first round of auditions that I held in July of 2013.

Initially, I thought that I was going to be able to pull things together rather quickly upon moving to New Jersey from Maryland. I’ve been in this situation a few times over my musical career with moves from Blountville to Nashville, TN; Nashville to Rockville, MD; and Rockville to Springfield, NJ, so I knew exactly what steps I needed to take in order to arrange everything. Unfortunately, after Kenny came on board things slowed down rather drastically. I had taken on a 3rd shift job and between it and needing sleep I just didn’t have the time necessary to run the band properly. That all changed after I decided to leave that job late last year and to make music my sole career. Since then the lineup has been finalized, we’ve recorded Through The Storm and shot a video for the lead off single “Let It Go (Enemy)”, and are now gearing up for regional touring in the very near future. It’s taken some time to pull everything back together, but I feel that we have a very solid lineup now.

Everything-falls-performing

TCS: Can you describe for us the song writing, studio recording, and video production process behind the lead single “Let It Go (Enemy)” from Through The Storm?

I began writing “Let It Go (Enemy)” in mid-2012. I wanted a song with a little more power to it. Something that would truly rile a live crowd up. In the studio we stuck to that live feel. We didn’t spend time tweaking every little strum on the guitar or on the drums. It was the feeling of the song that we were after and I believe we achieved that driving beat that just calls out to all of the head bangers out there. We recorded bass and drums simultaneously together. Followed with myself cranking out the rhythm tracks. We followed it up with lead guitar and vocals. It’s polished, but not overly polished and you can still sense that original energy that I imagined the song would have from the moment I started writing it. The making of the video was much the same. We planned out an excellent storyboard, but some things we did tweak on the fly. It was a rather large shoot as I think the whole video has around 15 separate actors or musicians in it. Not enormous or anything, but a rather large undertaking for an indie band that’s trying to keep to a budget. Ultimately, it turned out extremely well and I believe the audience will enjoy it upon its release. No date has been firmly picked just yet, but we’re shooting for around three weeks after the album hits the market.

 

TCS: From a song writing, studio recording, and accompanying music video perspective, can you share with us some of the background surrounding the second single from Through The Storm entitled “Daylight Takes The Dawn”?

I wrote “Daylight Takes The Dawn” (DTTD) back in 2012. It was always meant to be that song about an artist on the road missing his family. I pictured the cold weather and the long days of being away from the people that I love the most. Hopefully, most people will say that I sold that idea.

The recording of DTTD took place at Barbershop Studios in Hopatcong, New Jersey. You can find video of us actually tracking the song on our Facebook page. Quite a funny video! We had a blast though and tried to really sink our teeth into this song. It’s definitely a stand out track from our sophomore CD Through The Storm.

The video for DTTD was filmed, directed, and edited by the TV/Film department at DeSales University in Center Valley, PA. The video was filmed on location at DeSales along with home scenes shot at mine and my wife’s current Townhouse in NJ. We simply stuck to the storyline conveyed in the song and tried our best to make it as realistic as possible for the audience. The weather even helped out nicely here in NJ by dropping some snow on the ground just in time for the filming. We had a wonderful team assigned to the project and we couldn’t be any prouder of this video. Everyone should check it out if they haven’t already! Also, share it like crazy on your social platforms!!! We truly need everyone’s support.

 

TCS: Aaron at what age did you realize that you wanted to be a musician?

AL: I always sang when I was younger. If I didn’t have the lyrics to a song, then I’d sit down with a piece of paper and listen to the song over and over until I had all the lyrics. It was a hobby of mine I guess, but it helped me later on when I started writing songs. I picked up the guitar at the age of 12. My best friend at the time played guitar. When I would go to his house he was always playing, so it became kind of boring just watching him play and I figured I should probably learn to play too. I played in a high school band. We played around my hometown at middle school dances, local festivals, we even played a wedding reception once. I was probably 18 though when I realized that music was something that I was very passionate about and that I wanted to pursue. From there I put myself through college at MTSU where I majored in the recording industry program. MTSU is one of the top recording programs in the country. I believe it was something like only 52 candidates made it into the program every semester. So, you started out with massive classes and by the time you were at the end of the program there might have been 15 people per class. I specifically put myself through that program because I wanted a career in music.


TCS: As a band what famous musicians do each of you admire and how have they influenced you both individually and collectively?

AL: I’m definitely a huge fan of 90’s music. The first rock band I really listened to was Live. From there I listened to Green Day, Bush, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, Metallica and so many others that I’d be naming them all day. Once I was in high school I started listening to a lot of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Creedence Clearwater Revival. I was actually nicknamed “Little Fogerty” because a lot of my fellow classmates thought I sounded just like John Fogerty. I was asked by teachers and students to sing in the middle of class and even in the middle of lunch one day. One of my football coaches was talking to another teacher about my singing and my coach said, “go ahead and sing for him.” I was a little hesitant, but did it anyways. The whole lunch room went silent and they just started listening to me sing. That was pretty cool and I think to this day that CCR and Fogerty has made my voice what it is. From there, I listened to bands like Lifehouse, Three Doors Down, Three Days Grace, Nickelback, Theory of a Deadman, Seether, Breaking Benjamin, Matchbox 20, and the list goes on. Every one of these bands taught me something about songwriting or writing lyrics with great imagery. I didn’t just listen to these albums I studied them.

Kenny Sheldon: When I first started playing guitar, I was heavily influenced by Live, and Metallica. Over the years my musical tastes have evolved, and I have Frank Zappa to thank (indirectly) for two of my essential developmental influences on guitar: Trey Anastasio (Phish), and John Petrucci (Dream Theater)…both of whom regard Zappa as a major influence of theirs.

Danny Rojo: Jaco Pastorius as he inspired me to play bass. I was playing guitar and clarinet, and the first moment I heard Pastorius playing bass, I decided the bass would be my signature instrument for the rest of my life, because of his sound, energy, and performance. Equally, I would say Eddie Van Halen because as a musician, I always admired innovation. I believe he’s the most innovative rock musician. He discovered sounds on the guitar that no one ever knew how to make before.

Matt Regan: For me, Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Brad Wilk (Rage Against The Machine), David Silveria (Korn), Chad Sexton (311), Matt Cameron (Soundgarden), Jeremy Taggart (Our Lady Peace), and Jose Pasillas (Incubus). I grew up playing along to all of these drummers and they’ve helped influence much of what I play today. Portnoy introduced me to drumming with a double bass drum pedal.

TCS: Can you describe for us the Everything Falls song writing, recording, and video production process behind the song “Sorry to Say” which appeared on the EP Fight From Within?

AL: I wrote the song “Sorry To Say” when I was 18. It’s a song that I’ve played and recorded with my band Linkous in Nashville and with Everything Falls. So, this song has been a standard song for me for almost 14 years now. I recorded the song with producer Scott Robinson at his Sonic Sweets Studio. On the track I played rhythm guitar, bass, and sang lead vocals and harmonies.

The video production was done by Taylor Morden and Joe Mach. They also did all of the set design. The storyline was created by my wife Mandy Linkous. We hired 3 individuals to be a part of the video. Nic Detorie played the lead actor along with our female lead Brittany Martz. Tara Brown was our second female actress. We shot the video over two days at a warehouse in Falls Church, VA. It was actually where Mike Smith and I worked. Our boss suggested and allowed us to use the space, which was a tremendous help. Taylor and Joe did an outstanding job with the production and I’ve been very proud to show that video to anybody and everybody that I can.


TCS: What types of guitars, drums, and other musical equipment does Everything Falls use?

AL: Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier through a Marshall 2 x12 cabinet. I have three guitars: White-Gibson SG, Black-Gibson Les Paul Studio, and a Red-PRS SE Singlecut.

KS: Guitars: PRS Custom 22 Artist Series, Jackson RR3 Rhoads V (mods: Seymour Duncan neck/bridge pickups), Epiphone Les Paul Standard (mods: Seymour Duncan neck/bridge pickups), Ibanez AF75 hollowbody. Amps: Hughes & Kettner (head), Marshall (head), Crate (cab), Orange (cab). Effects: MXR, BOSS, Ibanez, and BBE pedals.

DR: Custom-made Warwick Streamer Deluxe 5-string, a Fender Jazz vintage 1978 bass and a fretless Fender Precision 1976 bass. I use a Mark Bass head and cabinets (endorsed), EBS pedals (endorsed) and Audix microphones (endorsed).

MR: 5 piece Pearl Export Pro series with a Pearl Eliminator Demon Drive double bass pedal and Pearl Eliminator high hat. Cymbals are a mix of Sabian AAX Omni ride, O-Zone splash, and Omni crash. Sabian HHX china, crash, Paiste splash. Sabian high hats and a Sabian Portnoy Mini Max Stax splash and China kang.

TCS: Personally, one of my favorite songs originally off of the EP Fight From Within is the track called “Everything That You Wanted,” so can you share with us the meaning behind it?

AL: I wrote the song “Everything That You Wanted” around 2006 while living in Nashville. I was in college at the time and had been married for a little over a year to my wife. I think at that time I just felt like there was nothing that could stop me from accomplishing what I wanted in this world. So many times people had told me that it’s just a dream and that you’ll never be able to amount to anything in the industry. Or, that you’re crazy for even trying to do this. To be told that you’re not good enough or the many discouraging things people say. Even my own thoughts were sometimes the enemy because I would start to listen to what people had said. This was my answer back to all that negativity and I think it resonates with a lot of people.


TCS: What do you think separates Everything Falls from similar bands and keeps you guys motivated to continue as a group?

AL: From what most of our fans have said, it’s our songwriting. They have told us that they instantly realized this wasn’t just another garage band. The last EP sonically sounded amazing as well thanks to Scott Robinson. That has definitely catapulted us out there.

I’ve approached this band kind of like a solo artist and I’ve built this band around my songs and my voice. It was necessary for me to set things up that way because I have had to move several times and may still have to in the future due to my wife’s job. It’s been a blessing in disguise though because this design has allowed me to grow my sound and given me flexibility to maneuver the many pitfalls that you run into in this industry.

TCS: Can you describe for us the song writing and recording background with the song “Come On” which also appeared on the EP Fight From Within?

I wrote “Come On” in 2008 I believe. I wanted to get a bit of a party song going, so I started out with the riff you hear in the beginning of the song. I started mumbling some words and “Come On” just naturally fell into place. Once I had the chorus I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the verses, so I imagined a bit of a bar scene. When I finished it was basically a story about a woman every guy was trying to hit on, but she only had eyes for me. Producer Scott Robinson also recorded “Come On” at Sonic Sweets. It featured Mike Smith on bass, Evan Louis on lead guitar, and Jeff Miklaszewski on drums.


TCS: In what ways does Everything Falls market band appearances, sell merchandise, and stay connected to your fans?

Our email newsletters are our number one way to keep up with our fans. You can sign up by going to our ReverbNation page or through the widget on the home page of our website. There are monthly giveaways and sales that you will not hear about elsewhere. Additionally, we have an online store our fans can access through our website http://www.everythingfallsband.com.

To stay connected with Everything Falls, please visit the following:

TCS: Take us behind the scenes in the making of your sophomore EP entitled Through The Storm. What was your favorite part of its production and the most challenging from an artistic perspective?

AL: The tracking for the album was done in February of this year at the beautiful Barber Shop Studios in Hopatcong, NJ (Breaking Benjamin, Chad Smith, Warren Hayes, The Pretty Reckless, and a host of other greats have all recorded there). We spent three days there with producer Brody Greif. The studio was right on lake Hopatcong and at the time the lake was completely frozen over with snow all around it and it was a gorgeous view to take in every morning before we started tracking.

Honestly, I think everyone in the band has a different idea of what was the best part of production. Personally, my favorite is always tracking vocals. It’s that point when I get to hear everything finally coming together. One of the most challenging aspects that we had to deal with was maneuvering around the weather. I believe it snowed two out of three days that we were there. I think the second morning we showed up and the temperature was just above single digits. Not the best weather to load in a bunch of gear. Once we were at the studio we were working for 12-13 hours solid. In the end, everything turned out very well though and I strongly believe the fans are going to be thrilled with the new EP. The staff and interns were all very helpful and did an amazing job at Barber Shop. The studio manager Ryan Barber was a pleasure to work with as well.


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

AL: Madison Square Garden in New York, but I’d also love to play at The Ryman Theatre and Riverfront Park in Nashville, TN. I would love to play alongside bands like Breaking Benjamin, Staind, Metallica, Three Doors Down, and Shinedown.

KS: In New York, I would love to perform at Radio City Music Hall or the Beacon Theatre. In Boston, I would love to play at the Orpheum Theatre or the House of Blues. However, the venue I would most like to play, which I consider to be the Holy Grail for all musicians who live, or have lived in Boston is Fenway Park. I’ve seen Paul McCartney, Phish, and Dave Matthews Band there. Every show there had an amazing vibe, and because I played baseball from T-Ball to high school, it had another intangible layer of sentimentality for me. So, I would most like to play a show at Fenway Park, opening (if not co-headlining) for The Dropkick Murphys. The energy in that place, for that band, in Boston…it must be absolutely bonkers! Out of control insanity that I would love for us to be a part of!

DR: For me, it would have to be either Wembley Stadium or Madison Square Garden. And, I would love to be up on that stage with Dave Grohl, Lzzy Hale, Eddie Van Halen, and Stevie Wonder.

MR: Alongside Rage Against The Machine at Woodstock.


TCS: What famous song do you wish you had been credited with writing and performing?

AL: That’s a tough question! I can think of a ton of great songs that I wish I had penned and performed. I would have to say “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers. That’s hands down one of the most beautiful songs ever written in my opinion.

KS: I find myself saying “Bohemian Rhapsody” whenever I’m asked this particular question. I mean, how can you not wish you wrote the greatest song in rock and roll history? As for performing it, even though Queen didn’t play the middle section, I’ve always wanted to perform the song in its entirety!

DR: Van Halen’s “Running with the Devil”.

MR: Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”.

TCS: What does the short and long-term outlook look like for Everything Falls?

AL: Short-term: We release our new EP. The leadoff single for the EP will be “Let It Go (Enemy)” and the video will be out shortly after the release of the album. We’re also in rehearsals right now to gear up for touring (no dates announced yet).

Long-Term: We hope to put out at least four singles from this EP all with their own video. We also intend to be back in the studio around the first of next year to start working on another EP.

Booking Everything Falls

For booking information, please contact Aaron Linkous via email at everythingfallsband@gmail.com.

Song List on Through the Storm (2015)

Everything-Falls-Through-The-Storm

  1. “Let It Go (Enemy)”
  2. “This Time”
  3. “Burn”
  4. “Breaking Free”
  5. “Daylight Takes the Dawn”

Song List on Fight From Within (2011)

Everything-Falls-Fight-From Within

  1. “Sorry To Say”
  2. “Come On”
  3. “Everything That You Wanted”
  4. “Understand”
  5. “Dying Day”

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

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.

Aandra Bohlen: Business Coach

Written by: Frank Iacono

Aandra-Bohlen-Header

Ever thought you’re not good enough, wondered if anyone would ever pay for what you offer, and are scared out of your mind to take big risks in your life? If you have then Aandra Bohlen is the right prescription for your state of mental health. Aandra will boost your confidence and clear your mindset so you’ll have what it takes to start and run a successful business.

Aandra is a 6-figure (soon-to-be 7-figures) Entrepreneur, Business Consultant, and Certified Empowerment Coach who’s not afraid to ask tough questions. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, nine to fiver, or seasoned entrepreneur, she helps business owners cultivate grit, clarify their ideas, set boundaries, and bust limiting beliefs so they can create, awaken, or maintain the business and lifestyle of their dreams.

Aandra is extremely passionate and highly energetic. Her enthusiasm is infectious and she helps clients create a balanced, healthy, passionate, and purposeful life. She finds creative ways for clients to share their passions and live the kind of lifestyle that doesn’t require them to give up freedom for money. She understands and respects that everything that her clients need is already within them. They just sometimes need the support of a consultant or coach to help draw it out.

So, if you’re prepared to go full-speed in your life and biz then you need to contact Aandra Bohlen today. Aandra provides telephone coaching services, holds classes and workshops, and offers entrepreneur tips, tricks, and other information through her website and social media avenues such as Facebook and Periscope.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Aandra Bohlen and asking her questions about her career, her Biz B.A.B.E community, her Craft Camp, and her upcoming speaking engagements.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: For the benefit of those who may not be too familiar with you or your work, please describe for us your overall career at a glance?

Aandra Bohlen: I’ve worked with aspiring and new entrepreneurs for the last 8 years working with them on the basic fundamentals to launching a business but mostly incorporate my coaching into the sessions by working with my clients to remove the resistance, cultivate confidence, and bust limiting beliefs that are standing in the way of launching their business.

Aandra-Bohlen-Gritty

TCS: What would you say are the major similarities and differences between working with individuals and/or companies as a consultant and a coach?

AB: I actually don’t work with companies. I work with solo and soulful entrepreneurs who are ready to own their power and activate their gifts within to be of service to the world through their business.


TCS: What personal qualities do you feel that you bring to the individuals and/or companies that you work with that helps them develop into successful entrepreneurs?

AB: The greatest gift I bring to my clients is the intuitive ability to help them clear the blocks that are holding them back from launching their business. In reality, many aspiring entrepreneurs lack the skills, but that can be taught. What really holds them back is the WILL to see themselves as the entrepreneurs they aspire to be which is where I come into play. I am gifted in helping them build while breaking down and break through to their own gifts within.

Aandra-Bohlen-Freedom

TCS: Tell us about what you mean when you say it all starts with grit?

AB: GRIT is the success trait that is going to distinguish and develop the mental toughness required to be a successful entrepreneur. To be “gritty” means that you are willing to see your goals through LONG TERM, that your spirit can not be shaken in spite of the fears, obstacles, or setbacks. It essentially is saying that you have a GROWTH mindset vs. a FIXED mindset. I love talking about grit because in my experience it is the ONE indicator that is shared by some of the most successful entrepreneurs out there. From Oprah Winfrey to Gary Vaynerchuk they possess GRIT; courage, passion, delayed gratification, resilience, and guts.

To find out how gritty you are you can download the FREE guide to grit and take the test at http://aandrabohlen.com

Aandra-Bohlen-Grit

TCS: Please describe how aspiring entrepreneurs typically get tripped up in stop-start cycles.

AB: This is a cycle that I myself have found myself in. It’s not just exclusive to new entrepreneurs. Even the most successful entrepreneurs can find themselves feeling stuck or spinning but they quickly remember and move themselves through any fear, resistance, or confusion. Let’s face it, to own a business requires a hell of a lot more than intellect. It requires courage and confidence. Yet so many doubt themselves, lack the confidence, and struggle with discovering how they really want to show up in their business. This is where they start, then stop, then start, then stop again… They get in their own way. I specifically coach clients on how to stop the vicious cycle by first TELLING THE TRUTH about what it really is that is creating the “stop” in their journey to becoming a business owner. And let’s face it, this is NOT for everyone. Right now, it’s alluring. Everyone wants to be their own boss, but very few have what it takes. By working with me, I focus on helping clients develop and strengthen the characteristics that will need to be in place in order to own a business.


TCS: Provide us with some details concerning your four week group coaching Craft Camp that takes participants from refining to shining?

AB: This camp was created in response to many Periscope viewers saying they had no clue what their business point of view was and couldn’t clearly articulate WHO they serve and how to serve them. This is a group coaching program where I take the clients through identifying their core message, gaining clarity on who they truly want to serve, and developing their first of offer and how to present this offer to the marketplace. This essentially is helping them develop the foundation of their business. I’ve decided to beta-test this with the first wave of students which began on July 16, 2015 and the next wave began on July 30, 2015.

To stay connected with me and discover any future opportunities to take this course, please join my Biz BABE Facebook Mastermind group at http://aandrabohlen.com/joinbizbabes.

Aandra-Bohlen-Social-Media

TCS: Can you please provide us with specific details about your Biz B.A.B.E community?

AB: Biz B.A.B.E.S is a private FREE non-spammy mastermind community I’ve created on Facebook to bring bold, ambitious, beautiful entrepreneurs together who are ready to soar. Think of this group as a band of like-minded souls who want to position themselves where they are emotionally and spiritually walking their authentic, passionate, and profitable entrepreneurial path alongside other BABES. I’ve made it my mission to provide expert business advice, mindset support, peer support and exclusive mentorship from me, a six-figure business owner who has made it my mission to help other entrepreneurs achieve high levels of success. For now, this is a free group. However, because of the value that is given and the time I spend interacting with the group, it may at some point be even more exclusively available through a membership based entrance fee. So if you want to come on… come now!

Aandra-Bohlen-Biz-BABES

TCS: Tell us about the most exciting personal leadership productivity keynote speaker event that you’ve participated in? And, are there any upcoming keynote speaker engagements we should know about?

AB: The most powerful personal leadership group I participated in was with John C Maxwell on the 21 Laws of Irrefutable leadership. I am currently opening myself up to begin speaking with my first engagement set for October 17, 2015, in Tempe Arizona and the Spirit of Business Conference at Southwest Institute of Healing Arts.

For more information or event registration, please contact me 480-944-9244.

TCS: In what ways do you market your business, speaking engagements, and stay connected to your audience?

AB: I market my business, upcoming speaking engagements, and stay connected with my audience via the following vehicles:

Aandra-Bohlen-Straddling

TCS: As a Business Consultant and Certified Empowerment Coach, what has been the toughest challenge you’ve faced to date, and do you think it made you stronger as instructor and mentor?

AB: The greatest challenge I’ve faced to date was in re-identifying who I really wanted to serve. Just as I coach many entrepreneurs to claim who they serve, I found myself serving aspiring entrepreneurs who were eating up my help and support but weren’t taking the opportunity to grow themselves, thus their business seriously enough to actually invest in themselves through my courses and private coaching offerings. As a result, I recognized that my ideal client profile will evolve as I continue to evolve, thus I need to follow my own advice and continue to refine this as I’m clarifying who the best fit is for me. So while I still work with entrepreneurs I now will work with any entrepreneur whether they are new, aspiring or slightly seasoned who recognizes that they are stuck, stalling, or spinning in the gap and need me to help them up level and push themselves through the knothole, thus the gap to get to the other side of it.

TCS: Can you share with us a time when the training or coaching you delivered resulted in significant bottom line results for an individual and/or company?

AB: Because most of my coaching is mindset there are a ton of victories I can share when my clients are stuck in a space of inactivity and spinning. The bottom line for them is STARTING and that in itself is a success! Most recently one of my clients who was playing small in their business, as a result of our time together with my coaching/consulting they increased their prices and are now set to push through the first level of six-figures this year!

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

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.

Travis Clark: We The Kings

Written by: Frank Iacono and Celeste Iacono

Travis-Clark-we-the-kings

We The Kings is a melodic emo-pop band from Bradenton, Florida. Friends since childhood, the original four bandmates consisting of singer and guitarist Travis Clark, guitarist Hunter Thomsen, his bassist brother Drew Thomsen, and drummer Danny Duncan formed We The Kings while attending high school. They adapted their band name from the middle school that all the members attended called Martha B. King Middle School.

In 2007, under the guidance of manager Bret Disend, We The Kings placed a number of tracks on the social networking site PureVolume, a division of SpinMedia, to build online buzz. Meanwhile, they also pursued a deal with EMI’s imprint S-Curve Records, which eventually signed the group. On October 2, 2007, they released their self-titled debut album which was produced by Sam Hollander and mixed by Lou Giordano, both of whom had done work with some of emo-pop’s most marketable acts. That fall, “Check Yes Juliet” cracked the Pop 100, and the group spent much of the following two years on the road supporting the CD and building a loyal fan base.

By late 2009, We The Kings recorded and released their second album entitled Smile Kid. Like the band’s debut, Smile Kid spawned a Top 100 single with “We’ll Be a Dream,” which featured guest vocals from Demi Lovato. They continued to tour heavily, supporting fellow pop punk band All Time Low for several months before headlining their own shows both home and abroad. The shows stretched into 2011, by which point the group had already begun work on a third album Sunshine State of Mind which was released that summer and contained hits like “Friday Is Forever” and “Say You Like Me”.

On December 16, 2013 We The Kings released their fourth studio album entitled Somewhere Somehow which debuted at No. 44 on the US Billboard 200 and at No. 6 on the Rock Albums chart. The album was supported by four singles including “Just Keep Breathing”. In November of 2014, the band released the album Stripped exclusively through iTunes. It features acoustic versions of songs from Somewhere Somehow, including a rendition of the hit “Just Keep Breathing” as well as some new material, “Stone Walls” and the bonus track, “Is This the End?” Currently, Travis and his bandmates are busy working on completing their fifth studio album which should be released in the near future.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Travis Clark of We The Kings and asking him a few questions about the band, his personal background in writing some of their smash hits, his memorable performance at CBGBs in New York, and the band’s soon to be released fifth studio album.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: Can you introduce us to the We The Kings lineup and tell us what each person in the band does?

Travis Clark: The band lineup consists of the following (as shown in pic below):

  • Hunter Thomsen – Lead Guitar, Vocals
  • Coley O’Toole – Keyboards, Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
  • Travis Clark – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Keyboards
  • Danny Duncan – Drums, Percussion
  • Charles Trippy – Bass Guitar

We-The-Kings-Lineup

TCS: For the benefit of those who are not familiar with We The Kings, where are you from and how would you describe your musical genre?

TC: We The Kings hails from Bradenton, Florida. Through the years, we’ve been listed as a melodic emo-pop band or something somewhere out there but I think we’re just an American rock band.

We-The-Kings-concert

TCS: Describe for us the background to the 2008 hit platinum single and featured iTunes Single of the Week entitled “Check Yes, Juliet” that sold over 250,000 copies and peaked at number 70 on the Billboard Hot 100 list in the US?

TC: “Check Yes, Juliet” was written in the final hours of the writing process and seemed to come out of nowhere. Dave Katz couldn’t seem to get this “Hey Mickey your so fine” sound out of his head and he had to write something for it during the final day of writing.


TCS: Why did you decide to sample a lyric from the song “Story of Your Life” from your second album Smile Kid (2009) and make that lyric the title of your album?

TC: The album title came first as it was always just an expression we used to remind ourselves to always keep it positive no matter what. We just added it to the song as it seemed to fit well with the vibe of that track.


TCS: In what ways does We The Kings market band appearances, sell merchandise, and stay connected to your fans?

TC: YouTube…YouTube…YouTube. We are a YouTube band for sure.

To stay connected with We The Kings, please visit the following:


TCS: After all these years, what separates We The Kings from similar bands and keeps you motivated to continue as a group?

TC: I think it is clearly our personalities. We definitely pride ourselves in engaging with our fans (some of us every day!) with more than just music.

TCS: Why did you choose “Heaven Can Wait” as the lead single for the 2010 album Smile Kid? And, what personal connection do you have with the song?

TC: “Heaven Can Wait” was actually the very first song we wrote and recorded for the album Smile Kid so I think the decision to let it be the lead single was just based on our excitement to get the new music out, so since it was ready, we released it! The connection I have to that song is more of an imaginary fantasy. What I mean by that is, the song was written with the idea that some loves will outlive death. I’ve always been a hopeless romantic writer but this was the first time that I wrote anything along the lines of ‘even death can’t kill our love’… “Heaven can wait” encompasses that idea of death can wait because our love will never die.


TCS: “Just Keep Breathing” from your 2013 album Somewhere Somehow, which after its first week of release debuted at number 44 on the Billboard 200, discusses lead singer Travis Clark’s coping with bullying. Due to this personal track, how fulfilling was it to find out that the song debuted at number 92 on the Billboard Hot 100 list with 48,000 downloads sold?

TC: I remember the day that we found out that “Just Keep Breathing” was in the top 5 of iTunes singles. We were an unsigned band promoting our music by ourselves and our friends and family. We had no idea how much of an impact that song would make. Each song, once it’s released, gives you a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, but there truly is nothing like hearing that almost 50,000 people just bought your first single within the first couple of days and loved it.


TCS: What aspect of being musicians both excites and discourages We The Kings as a band the most? 

TC: Are there bands that are discouraged to be musicians? I could never imagine haha. We are always encouraged and excited about what we do. Getting together and going on stage is a part of who we are and it will never get old.

TCS: Is there a particular venue that We The Kings has always wanted to play?

TC: I’m pretty satisfied with being able to play CBGBs, the undisputed birthplace of punk, before they closed it down. It’s truly a piece of NY music history and we got to play on that stage. It was an honor really.

CBGB-New York-We-The-Kings

TCS: Over your career, We The Kings has toured with many different types of bands including Slayer, Iron Maiden, and Slash so can you tell us about that experience?

TC: This question is a bit deceiving as that was one festival show that we did in Australia a couple of years ago where those three bands were also featured. As much as I’d like to say that we have influences from Slayer, you can clearly tell that that is not the case.

TCS: What is the most exciting project We The Kings has worked on to date?

TC: Our latest album that will be released soon. The album is still without a title but the songs truly mean a lot to all of us.

Booking We The Kings

For booking information, please contact Matt Galle via email at mgalle@paradigmagency.com.

Song List on We The Kings (2007)

we-the-kings-album

  1. “Secret Valentine”
  2. “Skyway Avenue”
  3. “Check Yes Juliet”
  4. “Stay Young”
  5. “Whoa”
  6. “August Is Over”
  7. “The Quiet”
  8. “Don’t Speak Liar”
  9. “Headlines Read Out…”
  10. “All Again for You”
  11. “This Is Our Town”

Song List on Smile Kid (2009)

we-the-kids-smile-kid

  1. “She Takes Me High”
  2. “Promise the Stars”
  3. “Heaven Can Wait”
  4. “The Story of Your Life”
  5. “Rain Falls Down”
  6. “Summer Love”
  7. “In-n-Out (Animal Style)”
  8. “Spin”
  9. “Anna Maria (All We Need)”
  10. “We’ll Be a Dream (featuring Demi Lovato)”
  11. “What You Do to Me”

Song List on Sunshine State Of Mind (2011)

we-the-kids-sunshine-state-of-mind

  1. “Friday Is Forever”
  2. “Say You Like Me”
  3. “Every Single Dollar”
  4. “The View from Here”
  5. “The Secret to New York”
  6. “Sleep with Me”
  7. “Over You”
  8. “Kiss Me Last”
  9. “Somebody to Call My Own”
  10. “You and Only You”

Song List on Somewhere Somehow (2013)

we-the-kids-somehere-somehow

  1. “Queen of Hearts”
  2. “Find You There”
  3. “I Feel Alive”
  4. “I Like It”
  5. “That Feeling”
  6. “See You In My Dreams”
  7. “Die Young Live Forever”
  8. “Phoenix Hearts”
  9. “Any Other Way”
  10. “Say It Now”
  11. “Art of War”
  12. “Sad Song” (feat. Elena Coats)
  13. “Just Keep Breathing”

Song List on Stripped (2014)

we-the-kings-stripped

  1. “Just Keep Breathing”
  2. “Queen of Hearts”
  3. “I Feel Alive”
  4. “Sad Song” (feat. Elena Coats)
  5. “Any Other Way”
  6. “Art of War”
  7. “See You in My Dreams”
  8. “Find You There”
  9. “Stone Walls”

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

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.

Regina Long: Duffer’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor

Written by: Frank Iacono

Duffers-Wildwood-NJ

In Wildwood, New Jersey Duffer’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor is known simply as the “Best Scoop in Town!” However, this third generation family-run business is more than just your typical ice cream shop. Duffer’s combines the perfect ingredients to create an atmosphere conducive to family-driven fun.

Duffer’s can satisfy nearly every vacationer’s definition of the word “fun”. For those seeking a hardy breakfast, look no further. Served from 8am to 1pm, breakfast at Duffer’s restaurant can be enjoyed by early and late risers alike. Duffer’s offers a variety of classic and specialty homemade pancake choices, omelets, breakfast burritos, sunrise croissants, and Belgian waffles. With its cream cheese filling and topped with fresh strawberries, powdered sugar and whipped butter, the Stuffed French Toast is another must-try breakfast specialty. Afternoon visitors enjoy an equally varied lunch menu from fresh salads to steak sandwiches and from gourmet burgers to chicken wraps served from 11:30 a.m. Dinner guests enjoy an array of both American specialties and fresh-caught seafood specialties, from stuffed flounder, fried shrimp and deep sea scallops to homemade crab cakes.

Outside, Duffer’s features a challenging 18 hole nautical theme mini-golf course. This course allows golfers to tee up at the foot of a huge sand castle or a few feet from the tentacles of a giant purple octopus. It is perfect for the “gone to the beach” mood of the shore town’s patrons. Finish up the game at the shipwreck of the final hole where you putt for a chance to win a free round of gold during your next visit.

On the inside, Duffer’s video arcade has games for family members of all ages including Jurassic Park, Kung Fu Panda, and Batman. Additionally, they offer many amusing games for the little ones too like Gold Fishin’, Fishbowl Frenzy, and Spider Stomp just to name a few. Make sure to save all game tickets. Duffer’s arcade includes a prize redemption center where gamers can choose between tons of prizes ranging from Fun Dip to gumball dispensers.

When golfers and gamers work up an appetite, they can head into restaurant where the dessert fun begins. With the island’s largest and only selection of homemade ice cream flavors, Duffer’s offers countless possibilities. Enjoy old fashioned sundaes, banana splits, waffles and ice cream, ice cream sodas, floats, real shakes, and dessert specialties. Once you’ve made your selection, visitors can take a seat at an old-fashioned wooden booth in the parlor and enjoy the rays of colored light beaming from the stained-glass ceiling.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Regina Long and asking her a few questions about Duffer’s long-standing history and Victorian style atmosphere, their 18 hole mini-golf course and video arcade with redemption center, and their Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: How long has Duffer’s been in business and who or what inspired you to open a store location in Wildwood, New Jersey?

Regina Long: 2015 marks Duffer’s 41st season. My parents, Donald and Dorothy Long, were born and raised in the Wildwoods, so when they decided to open a business, Wildwood was the perfect choice.

Duffers-Wildwood-New-Jersey

TCS: For those who are not too familiar with Duffer’s or Wildwood, please share with us some background and tell us where you are located?

RL: Duffer’s is a Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor. At Duffer’s, we pride ourselves in being the original homemade ice cream in the Wildwoods! We are located at 5210 Pacific Avenue in Wildwood, NJ. We are situated on Pacific Avenue between Bennett and Hildreth Avenues. We serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night snacks. For those looking to grab great tasting Duffer’s delicacies to-go, the parlor and restaurant has its own take out section for both food and dessert dishes. Just call ahead and the Duffer’s team will have your order ready for pickup when you arrive. We are a smoke-free and handicap accessible restaurant. Major credit cards accepted. Our hours are seasonal opening at 8 AM until Midnight. During the winter months we are closed.

Duffers-Wildwood-Team

TCS: How did you come up with the concept for the beautiful Victorian style atmosphere inside of Duffer’s?

RL: My mom, Dorothy, always loved Victorian Cape May and antiques. The Victorian motif lends itself perfectly to the traditional seashore ice cream parlor of this area.

Duffers-Victorian-Wildwood-

TCS: How many flavors and different varieties of homemade ice cream do you currently have available and what is the most requested?

RL: We currently have 32 homemade ice cream flavors available including, black raspberry, butter brickle, chocolate marshmallow, marble caramel, rock road, pina colada, and sticky bun but believe it or not vanilla is still the most popular flavor even though everybody has their own favorite. Our staff relays suggestions from customers, and then we brainstorm and come up with a Weekly Featured Flavor Ice Cream. For example, we recently had Funkey Monkey as the featured flavor and it consists of chocolate ice cream with brownie bites, peanut butter chips, and banana chunks.

If you have a suggestion for a Feature Flavor Ice Cream, please email us your idea! You might see it on the menu!

Duffers-icecream

TCS: Describe for us your extensive menu items which features breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night snacks?

RL: We try to make most of our menu items right here at Duffer’s– we call it Duffermade. I would say we have a little of everything but always new additions each season. One of our most popular breakfast items is Stuffed French Toast ─ its thick slices of egg bread stuffed with a sweet cream cheese filling and topped with fresh strawberries. For lunch, we serve burgers, melts, cheese steaks, fish tacos, pulled pork, crab cakes, and huge salads ─ you name we have it. Almost every day we have a dinner special from meatloaf, chicken pot pie, or some fresh fish dish. What is nice about Duffer’s is the choices ─ we’ve got something for everyone!

To learn more about our menu, please visit our website.

TCS: What can you tell us about your 18 hole miniature golf course?

RL: Our 18 hole mini-golf course has a nautical theme. It’s a family-friendly course. Some of the holes are interactive. For example, we have a volcano that erupts, a fish pond that blows bubbles, and sharks that squirt water. The cost to play is $6 before 6pm then $7 ─ children 2 and under play for free.

Duffers-Golf

And, don’t forget about Duffer’s famous singing Pelicans…


TCS: Share with us the various games featured in Duffer’s family-friendly video arcade with prize redemption center?

RL: We have all of the usual games like skee ball, basketball, and car racing but what makes us different is we get new games every season to keep things fresh. For example, we have games such as Jurassic Park, Kung Fu Panda, and Batman. Additionally, we offer a lot of fun games for the little ones too like Gold Fishin, Fishbowl Frenzy, and Spider Stomp just to name a few.

Duffers-game-room

TCS: If a family wants to host their child’s birthday party at Duffer’s what is included in their day of fun?

RL: Birthday parties at Duffer’s are fun and easy and we clean up the mess. The birthday party package price is $12.95 per each child and it includes:

  • Chicken Fingers or Hot Dogs Served with French Fries on a Duffer’s Frisbee
  • Small Beverage
  • Small Ice Cream with Gummie Warm Topping
  • Game of Miniature Golf
  • 4 Game Tokens for Each Child
  • Balloons

You are welcomed to bring your own cake and candles! Parties are held from 2pm to 4pm. Children will eat first, have dessert, and then play golf.

Duffers Wildwood Birthday

TCS: Can you share with us some of the ways that you market your business?

RL: We market our business using some print advertising and menu guides. We have a Duffer’s website and are registered with rating services like Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and etc.

Additionally, we have the following social media pages:

TCS: What is your website address and what can your visitors do on your site to learn more about Duffer’s?

RL: Our website is www.dufferswildwood.com

Duffers-website

On the website, visitors can:

TCS: Tell us about the Duffer’s Gift Shop?

Before you conclude your Duffer’s visit, don’t forget to stop by our distinctive gift shop featuring dolls, Boyd Bears, pictures, Lefton Lighthouses, and many other selections to remember your special day.

Duffers-Giftshop

TCS: Tell us about the Duffer’s Express, a train that runs throughout the restaurant, and Herbie a bear riding his unicycle on a tightrope?

RL: When dining in the restaurant, be sure to listen for the chug-chug of the model train known as the Duffer’s Express that circles the parlor. I don’t remember who came up with the train idea but we are always trying to come up with new features to set us apart.

Herbie was a bear we sold in our gift shop. My father made it motorized and Herbie was born to entertain thousands. Herbie bikes across a tightrope above the dining room, greeting new customers and dazzling diners.

TCS: Is Duffer’s associated with any of the Doo Wop activities or committees throughout Wildwood?

RL: Not at this time.

TCS: With Duffer’s being such a seasonal business tell us what you and your family do during the offseason?

RL: We rest up and start getting ready for the next season.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

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.

Ages Apart: Alternative Rock Band

Written by: Frank Iacono

Ages-Apart

In 2006, Ages Apart came together to write and produce music that they felt people needed to hear. They wanted to impact and change a culture held captive by stagnant radio recycled pop sounds and bring to the world music with substance and depth, where not all band’s sound and look the same.

With that, Ages Apart balanced beauty and aggression on their critically acclaimed 2009 debut release Can You Hear Me. The album is packed full of singles that scream the whispered fears and guilty secrets of a disenfranchised generation. Guided by veteran producer Travis Wyrick, who has worked with P.O.D, 10 Years, and Pillar, the band achieved a sound both daring and familiar, at times introspective and at others furiously emotional.

Over the years Ages Apart has been together, they have toured through over 20 states and gained the attention of the industry. Black and White magazine calls them “Timeless”. Timothy Toutges of Ed Jones Productions in Nashville raves “Ages Apart is a world class band that will go all the way! This is what Rock & Roll dreams are made of”.

Now, Ages Apart returns in 2015 with their widely anticipated sophomore release S.T.A.T.I.C. — an intense and multidimensional narrative of a broken society. With words of truth, meaning, and inspiration in times of need for a disenchanted world, S.T.A.T.I.C. asks you to See Through All The Intelligent Chaos.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cody Webb, Will Bradley, and Chris Srygley of Ages Apart and asking them a few questions about their musical influences, their songwriting and recording process, their summer tour with Hinder, and their new CD S.T.A.T.I.C.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: Can you introduce us to the Ages Apart lineup and tell us what each person in the band does?

Ages Apart: The Ages Apart lineup consists of the following:

  • Cody Webb – Lead Singer & Guitarist
  • Will Bradley – Bassist
  • Chris Srygley – Drummer

Ages-Apart-Band

TCS: How did you come up with the band name Ages Apart and is there any specific meaning behind it?

Chris Srygley: The name Ages Apart came about because the original lineup varied in age, and came from different backgrounds musically and personally.

TCS: For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Ages Apart, how would you describe your musical genre?

Will Bradley: Ages Apart is an Alternative Rock band. Fans mostly compare us to bands like 30 Seconds to Mars, Breaking Benjamin, and Shinedown.


TCS: How long has this current lineup of Ages Apart been playing together and how did you all get started?

Cody Webb: The current lineup has been together since 2011. I started the concept back in 2006 and Chris and I formed Ages Apart shortly thereafter in 2007. After an exhaustive search for a bassist, Marcus Chapman came in and filled the position. Marcus had to step down from his position in 2009 because of health issues. From 2009-2010 we had fill-ins tour with us until Will came on-board at the beginning of 2011. Will had been a fan of the band for years and was familiar with the material. He quickly became a permanent member of Ages Apart.

TCS: Cody, at what age did you realize that you wanted to be a musician? And, what famous musicians do you admire and how have they influenced you?

CW: I knew from the earliest that I can remember that I was going to be a part of the music world. I started beating on guitars before I could crawl and started writing songs around 7 years old. I have many influences in music but no one person, artist, or band really. My biggest influence is life.


TCS: Can you describe for us the Ages Apart song writing, recording, and video production process behind the song “Last Time” which appeared on the debut album Can You Hear Me?

CW: “Last Time” was written like most of our songs. I’ll come up with lyrics and vocal melodies and cut demos and start pre-production. After I have the arrangements set, we start studio production where everyone tracks their parts individually until we get the sound exactly how we want it.


TCS: What types of guitars, drums, and other musical equipment does Ages Apart use?

CW: I use Gibson and Taylor guitars, Marshall amps, TC Electronic effects, Lucid Audio Project and Spectraflex cables, SIT strings, Shure, and Line 6 mics. Will uses Fender basses, Acoustic brand amps, Lucid Audio Project cables, SansAmp effects/driver/DI, and Line 6 wireless systems. Chris uses Mapex drums, Vater sticks, Shure, Audix, and Sennheiser mics, Lucid Audio Project cables, and Zildjian cymbals.

The band is sponsored by and proudly uses Venue Magic for stage production and sound effects, Lucid Audio Project cables, Effect Audio IEM cables, CLS Road Cases, and Fishman pickups in our acoustic guitars.

TCS: Personally, one of my favorite songs off of Can You Hear Me is the track called “I Believed,” so can you share with us the meaning behind it?

CW: Everyone has their own interpretation and meaning of “I Believed” so I don’t want to take away from anyone’s personal experience of the song. To answer your question though, it’s essentially about putting your entire trust in someone, giving your all to them, to later find out that the person and relationship isn’t what you thought it was at all.


TCS: What do you think separates Ages Apart from similar bands and keeps you guys motivated to continue as a group?

CW: Our live show for one. We work hard to give the fans a killer show experience leaving them with something to remember for the rest of their lives. We aim to not just deliver the music, but to make a connection with everyone that we can. Another thing that I think makes Ages Apart unique is that the sounds you hear on our records are real. We don’t use fake/replaced drums, auto-tune, or anything like that. What you hear is what was played.

TCS: Can you describe for us the background behind the song “How Long” which appears on your widely anticipated sophomore release entitled S.T.A.T.I.C.?

CW: “How Long” is about the loss of self-respect which results in a loss of respect for others and other things. It’s about the amount of attention we put towards things of little to no value instead of focusing on helping each other and working together to make the world a better place. It’s about the lack of appreciation and respect for those here before us that worked extremely hard and died so we can enjoy everything we take for granted today.


TCS: So, what does S.T.A.T.I.C. stand for and how did you decide on it for the album name?

CW: S.T.A.T.I.C. stands for See Through All The Intelligent Chaos. I came up with the title while working on final lyrics for the record. The message of the record is ultimately about less division and coming together as a human race.

TCS: From an artistic perspective, what was your favorite part in the making of S.T.A.T.I.C. and what is your favorite song off of the album?

CW: Our favorite part of making S.T.A.T.I.C. is that we got to record it exactly how we wanted. This time around, we had no outside influence. It’s really hard for me to nail down a favorite song. I love all of them and they all have different personalities.

TCS: In what ways does Ages Apart market band appearances, sell merchandise, and stay connected to your fans?

CW: Although social media is a huge part of our outreach, we like to personally meet our fans. Our website is the hub of information and communication for us. We run our social media page so that’s where people can chat with us directly. Our merchandise is distributed through many stores throughout the world and that continues to grow daily.

To stay connected with Ages Apart, please visit the following:

Ages-Apart-The-Band

TCS: Share with us how excited you guys are to be touring with Hinder this summer and tell us how you landed the gig?

CW: We were very excited to have been on the road with Hinder this summer. It was a blast and those guys are good people. We’ve made a lot of new friends on this tour and are very thankful and proud to have been invited.

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

CW: We’d like to play Red Rocks in Colorado and would love to share the stage with Foo Fighters.

TCS: What does the short and long-term outlook look like for Ages Apart?

CW: We’ll continue touring in support of our new album S.T.A.T.I.C. and are constantly writing new material for the next record. Everyone checking out this interview, I invite you to grab a copy of our new album from your favorite retailer and come see a show.

Song List on S.T.A.T.I.C. (2015)

Ages-Apart-STATIC

  1. Civil War
  2. Wake Up
  3. How Long
  4. Victim
  5. Could It Be
  6. I’m Right Here
  7. Broken Home
  8. Where Do We Go
  9. This Is Goodbye
  10. Fight

Song List on Can Your Hear Me (2009)

Ages Apart - Can You Hear Me

  1. Intro
  2. Last Time
  3. Taking Me Down
  4. I Believed
  5. Letting Go
  6. My Own Disaster
  7. Torn
  8. Lost
  9. Burden
  10. Let Someone In

Booking Ages Apart

For booking information, please contact David Adkins at 503-983-3949 or via email at dadkins@integritymusicmanagement.com.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

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.

Jack Morey: Morey’s Piers

Written by: Frank Iacono

jack-morey

For many generations, “Wildwood by the Sea”, famous for its free, wide, white, sandy beaches, and world class boardwalk, has long been considered the number one fun-filled family vacation destination. The Wildwoods’ award-winning boardwalk stretches along the beach for more than a mile and a half and features 38 blocks packed end-to-end with stores, shops, eateries, casino arcades, and, most notably three world-class amusement piers collectively known as Morey’s Piers.

Morey’s Piers, recognized as a premier regional entertainment destination, has been family owned and operated since 1969 and is currently run by brothers Will and Jack Morey. Will, President & CEO, and Jack, the Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer, are second-generation partners in Morey’s Piers, an amusement business that got its start when their father, Will Morey and uncle Bill Morey, debuted a giant slide between 25th and 26th avenues in North Wildwood. Since then the Morey name has become synonymous with the Wildwoods. Morey’s Piers, designed in a carnival-like atmosphere, features over 100 rides and attractions, well-known eateries, as well as two beachfront waterparks.

Jack currently serves on the board of Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority as the chair of the strategic planning committee and the International Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Hall of Fame committee. He has served on numerous boards including, the Greater Wildwoods Chamber of Commerce, Boardwalk Special Improvement District, and the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jack Morey and asking him a few questions about his life as Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer of Morey’s Piers, his love of the amusement business, his inspiration for opening fine dining experiences on the Wildwood boardwalk, his plans for a brand new big roller coaster project, and his book Fab-o-rama.

Q&A Session

TCS: In 1969, with the introduction of the famous giant slide called “The Wipe Out”, your father Will Morey Sr. and your uncle Bill got into the amusement business so how do you think the business and Morey’s Piers have both evolved over the years?

Jack Morey: The very essence of the entertainment product has not really changed. In our view amusement type entertainment is now and has always been about creating environment for the masses. While this requires a good understanding of popular culture it also requires a bit of a crystal ball or perhaps a belief that you can invite things that guests will like (my favorite!!!). For a brief period, we strayed to try to be and compete with the traditional theme park that attracts a high percentage of teenagers with extraordinarily expensive roller coasters, but learned the hard way that we could and should not do that. The Wildwoods are special first and foremost as a great family vacation place because of the “beach” and no theme park, not even Disney has that.

In the late 90’s we stumbled upon a gentleman, designer and social engineer named Steve Izenour from a world renowned architectural firm called Venturi Scott Brown. What he has contributed can be summarized in a memo he sent to me stating the following:

  • You can’t and shouldn’t try to make Wildwood into something it isn’t, a Disney, a theme park, etc.
  • Rather, your strategy should be to make the most of what you have. What Wildwood is, is one of the last real down and dirty, TACKY with a capital T, beach resorts. What you need to do is take Tacky to the new heights.
  • First, use your specialist, entertainment designers to help with the programming, getting the right mix of rides, food etc., but don’t let them design a whole pier. Instead, find some old fashion sign guys, painters, sculptors, etc. and you orchestrate with people who appreciate tacky.
  • Mix and match designers. And when you’re done, which you never are, you will have the biggest, gaudiest, brightest, tackiest piers in the world.

 

TCS: This summer, Morey’s Piers welcomed back Kong, a gorilla-themed amusement ride once a boardwalk landmark in the 1970s, as the new centerpiece of Surfside Pier. With that, can you tell us about the background story in bringing Kong back after 35 years?

JM: it is just as important for an amusement park to be about the past as it is the future. While a park that is fully built on nostalgia would likely be a disaster, tapping into certain elements of remembrance is important to the intangible qualities of a place. The origination of Morey’s Piers was based in no small part about custom one off attractions of which Kong was a big one. Our recent Ghost Ship haunted walk thru was another that was routed in the past, but one need not have lived in the past to appreciate it today. “Relevance is relative”. Once we decided on the ride element we focused on a method to do what my dad used to say,”Wildwoodize it”. This generally meant to make it unique to Wildwood and try not to go broke in the process. We decided to send our initial design concepts out to our guests for feedback and to our surprise we received over 6,000 comments (ouch, they didn’t love it!). The general consensus was that the look was not specific enough to Wildwood. So, off came the I heart NJ t-shirt and the Statue of Liberty and on went the I heart Wildwood and the famous tram car.

 

TCS: How thrilled were you to find out that your Water parks, Raging Waters Water Park and Ocean Oasis Water Park + Beach Club, were named #2 out of the country’s top 40 water parks, according to Foursquare?

JM: Like most of Morey’s Piers our water parks have evolved significantly over time. In the late 70’s they were limited to 3 simple water slides that guests would rent by the 1/2 hour. They were clearly front runners in the whole water park invention years. They became full-fledged water parks in the mid 80’s and then in the late 90’s we needed to take the 80’s out of the park (note the 80’s were the low point in American architecture). Like most things we do we attempt to lead the market as opposed to react to trends that others create. This is very risky business, but when the rankings come in we are reminded and grateful of what we do and why we do it.

 

TCS: How would you describe your target audience and how many visitors does Morey’s Piers attract on an annual basis?

JM: Our primary audience is families on vacation with young children. While we would not turn down older teenagers, we do not specifically build attractions for them and will continue for the foreseeable future to leave that to the Six Flags of the world. More recently we have made significant investments to also attract the parents of young children via the introduction of better foods and occasional spirits. Best we can calculate (we have not gate) is that our attendance is about 3.5 million people.

 

TCS: Can you share with us some of the weekday specials offered throughout the summer at Morey’s Piers? And, can you tell us about Morey’s Brunch Bunch and Morey’s Kids Kamp?

JM: Morey’s Piers offers our customers various weekday specials. For an updated listing of all of our specials, please visit: https://www.moreyspiers.com/tickets/specials

Brunch Bunch is a cartoon character breakfast on the upper deck at Joe’s restaurant that involves the whole family. Characters are the popular ones from Frozen, Cinderella, Spiderman and of course our very own Sunny the Seagull and Curley the French Fry. The brunch concludes with admission to the water parks.

Kids Kamp is a week long program for kids. They get to spend 1/2 a day doing various educational arts and crafts in addition to admission to the water parks. For the super value conscious we offer drastically reduced admission to the piers on Tuesdays.

moreys-kids-kamp-morey-brunch

TCS: Tell us how your father came up with the idea of having Breakfast in the Sky on the Giant Ferris Wheel on Morey’s Mariner’s Landing Pier while visiting California?

JM: I remember this vividly as it was during the last round of golf I ever got to play with my mom and dad. It was in Palm Springs at a beautiful golf course immersed in the natural surroundings. We were discussing how we could better integrate our own Jersey Shore natural resources into our product offerings. Since the beach is the number one natural resource that attracts our guests he came up with the idea of giving people an eye in the sky view of the shoreline. A number of years later we added the elegance and quirkiness of white table clothes and gourmet dining options.

 

TCS: In addition to Breakfast in the Sky, Morey’s Piers offers guests a wide variety of dining experiences, could you highlight some of them?

JM: Man cannot live on sweets alone so we have been heavily investing in experiences that are more varied and more elegant, but still unique and always a little quirky. Part of this effort was to hire our very own executive chef, Wally Jursuz. Joe’s FISH Co. is simply about fresh fish and the opposite of things you might expect on the boardwalk. Jumbos is a great place for large party’s and large quantities of food. Taco Joint has the best tacos this side of the border. And perhaps my favorite…Stubborn Brothers. Named after the yin and yangness of my brother Will and I, it celebrates the sibling rivalries in all families. It is one darn good beach bar with superb food (by Chef Betsy), superb drinks (join me most days at 5:30pm with my dog for a rum runner), and a superb up front and personal view of the beach and ocean. Add live music and you might just spend the entire day.

 

TCS: Can you describe for us the Haunted Ghost Ship attraction, better known as Ignis Fatuus, which launched on Mariner’s Pier in 2010?

JM: The Ghost Ship is a 10,000 square foot haunted walk thru attraction that pays a bit of homage to the great haunted houses of the boardwalk past. The actors are professionally trained to prey on the weak. The attraction is quite beautiful and a real boardwalk classic.

 

TCS: Can you share with us the inspiration behind opening Morey’s Fears: Terror on the Boardwalk Halloween Event and how it has evolved since it debuted in the fall of 2011?

JM: Unfortunately we have discontinued Morey’s Fears. It was truly a great performance, but in the end we are first and foremost a summer place and the distance to the major population areas was just too far to be successful.

 

TCS: Can you tell us about the [artBOX] which debuted as a new attraction on Morey’s Piers Adventure Pier in 2013?

JM: [artBOX] is a work in progress museum in the making. After being inspired by the creative and adaptive re-uses of shipping containers we decided to create a pier that was an alternative to the two other more classically themed piers. The [artBOX] is a studio and gallery of 11 shipping containers that has attracted local artist. The artist have helped to create a personality for the rest of the pier via creatively re-using old rides from our boneyard and converting them into works of public art for things like benches. Adventure Pier is all about extreme rides, live music, and of course art.

 

TCS: Share with us the background behind the book Fab-o-rama! A Wild Ride: The Story Of Morey’s Piers, Planet Earth’s Greatest Seaside Amusement Park?

JM: When our 40th anniversary snuck up on us we decided it was time to publish our first book. Having seen too many coffee book dust collectors we searched for a better way to tell our story without sticking to a purely chronologic method. The credit goes to Jack Wright of Exit Zero publishing whom appreciates tacky, quirky and history. A purposeful pun about the book is that it actually has two covers. One is Faborama (for my brother Will) and the other is Wild Ride (for me). Same exact interior ingredient, two completely opposite exteriors…get it? A video of the book launch is attached which is none other than a man being launched out of a cannon holding two books. That was a great day.

 

TCS: Over the last few years, we’ve heard about plans for the construction of a brand new big roller coaster project. With that, can you share with us some specific details about the ride, how much of a financial investment are you making, and how does it compare to other coasters across the country?

JM: Due to concerns for sufficient public parking we needed to place the proposed coaster on the back burner. The coaster would have been the most expensive attraction ever built in the Wildwoods by a factor of two and the risks were just too high without the proper governmental support for strategic long term parking concerns for the entire boardwalk entertainment district.

Go-Wild

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

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.