Houston Llew – Spiritiles Artist

Written by: Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Houston Llew

Houston Llew is a man with southern roots and all the charm to prove it. Houston’s kind heart, wit, and warmth emanate from his masterful Spiritile Collection. He took a circuitous route to the birth of Spiritiles.

As a graduate of Auburn University, Houston began a career in the corporate world. In 2008, he found himself unemployed in the middle of the great recession. Through fortuitous circumstances, Houston met the master enamelist Zingaro and followed him around, shadowing the artist around his studio until he gave Houston the keys to enameling that would later evolve into his first work – Spiritiles.

For months, Houston spent every waking hour over a kiln, experimenting and sketching. This tenacity kept him going so that when one thing wouldn’t work, he would step back, retool, and try a new path. He is infamous for “spitballing” ideas and trying seemingly crazy things just to see if they work. By harnessing that constant experimentation, his artistry evolved from enameled imagery to a combined image and story design. From the beginning, what pushed Houston forward was his uplifting thoughts and musings. This became the cornerstone of his work – create art that inspires, uplifts, and brings a hopeful connection to life.

Houston’s work in enameling is based on his belief that meaningful art is about emotion. Thus, every Spiritile created reflects a piece of our story. These icons stretch our memory and bring to mind the people we love, the things we cherish, and the passions we pursue. When Houston first started his artistic journey, he sought a medium to animate this inspiration. Vitreous enamel, the art of glass heat-fused to metal, is as ancient as Mesopotamia, with infamous historical artworks in royal jewelry and imperial treasures. It is an illustrious but little-known medium that Houston cast in a new form. With its metallic base as canvas and its myriad glass colors as “paint”, what makes this work unique is the story wrapped around the sides of each piece. Some Spiritiles quote authors and poets, other philosophers, and fellow artists, but every piece is designed to speak to our life and reach our emotive self.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, we caught up with Houston Llew and we asked him a few questions about his artistic influences, his career as an artist, his unique Spiritiles, as well as his marketing approach to reaching his collectors.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: How and when did you decide to embark in your profession and who or what influenced you to become an artist?

Houston Llew: I started enameling in a poorly constructed leaning garage in Atlanta, Georgia. In the middle of the great recession, during a record-breaking hot summer, I found myself unemployed. Through fortuitous circumstances, I befriended the master enamellist Zingaro. I shadowed the artist around his studio until he finally gave me the keys to enameling. This would later evolve into my first works ─ Spiritiles.

For months, I spent every waking hour over a kiln, experimenting, sketching, living on only “Ramen Noodles and Beer”. The only reason my art exists today is because I had no other option ─ no job to fall back on, no security other than what I could create myself. Tenacity keeps me going. When one thing doesn’t work, step back, retool, and try a new path.

TCS: What is a Spiritile?

HL: Spiritiles are enameled artworks that create happiness, spark joy and brings hope to each person who encounters them.

Each piece is made by hand with a copper canvas and colorful glass. The enameled image is enhanced by the natural “crazing” which magnifies the luminescence of the glass. This image is coupled with an uplifting story that wraps around the edges; each Spiritile is as unique as its collector.


TCS: What three words best describes your specific style of artwork?

HL: The three best words would be:

  • Unique
  • Luminous
  • Collectible

TCS: How do you make a Spiritile?

HL: First by laying powdered glass, or “frit,” onto a perfectly cut copper canvas, using a series of stencils for each layer of color, playing cards, and hand sifters to carve out the design. Once delicately aligned and layered, the glass and metal is carefully placed in the red-hot kiln.


TCS: Is there one specific thing that makes Spiritiles meaningful?

HL: I believe that meaningful art is about emotion. Thus, every Spiritile created reflects a piece of our story. These icons stretch our memory and bring to mind the people we love, the things we cherish, and the passions we pursue.

TCS: What do you feel makes them a unique piece of artwork?

Spiritiles offer community – a tangible, familiar image paired with a beautiful sentiment. When collected, Spiritiles become a montage of moments that make us smile, laugh, remember, and dare to dream. As gifts, they share brilliant moments with the people you love or admire. Whether it’s commemorating an important milestone like a big birthday, wedding, a graduation, first home, or even a sales goal exceeded, Spiritiles are the perfect way to honor the moment.

TCS: What are the cracks in an enameled piece?

HL: When the enameled piece is removed from the kiln it’s cooled under a planchet. The natural “CRAZING” occurs in enamel. It increases the luminescence of the glass.

By rolling a pin over the surface of each piece after cooling, the light refraction in the glass increases and the enamel becomes malleable enough to frame.

TCS: How do you hang a Spiritile on a wall?

HL: Typically, you can use 1.25″ drywall screws. The hole in the back is at a slight angle, so the weight will pull it to the wall.

The ideal spacing is 2″ between tiles. This puts screws at 7.25″ apart horizontally and 10.5″ apart Vertically.


TCS: What provides you with ideas and inspires you to create such beautiful tiles?

HL: Neither image nor story come first.

Before any of that there is that raw emotion. Every piece is designed to speak to our life and reach our emotive self. The imagery & medium are very engaging, but the story is where I’m able to gain access to the emotional connection. I spend great care crafting how I want each syllable to make you feel. Stealing & bending the words from others to create my own sentiments.

TCS: Over the course of your career, what is your favorite Spiritile?

HL: It’s always the one I’m currently working on! So, by the time you see it… it’ll be something else. I sort of live in the moment when it comes to my favorite art.

Picking a favorite would be like picking between your children. I’m proud of all of them equally (most of the time)!

TCS: How do you market your Spiritiles and do you participate in any public appearances?

HL: We only sell through our select Retail Partners who have brick and mortar storefronts. Human interaction is what Spiritiles are all about. We used to attend Markets around the country but more recently we’ve been fortunate enough now to have Retailers hear about us from seeing us in other partner shops during their own travels. So, essentially, we’ve been operating mainly by word-of-mouth!

In the past, I have done shows with our Partners in which I would visit and sign Spiritiles for collectors who attended, but when our first son was born, they became less and less frequent. Equally, we were then all stuck at home for a while due to the pandemic, so travel was severely diminished over regulations. So, the short answer is, it’s always a possibility. Additionally, it’s a great reason to have the opportunity to meet with collectors from all over the country!

TCS: What do you say are the best and worst parts of being an artist?

HL: The best thing is being able to see the smile and joy that I can bring to collectors. Seeing their personal connection to Spiritiles is exactly why I wanted to create them in the first place.

The worst thing is perfectionism. In every Spiritile, I can always see just one more week one more color change. I always feel just one more thing could have made it just a little tiny bit better. I don’t know when to stop getting lost in the trees for the forest so it’s necessary to have a team that tells me to step back and take a view from further out.

TCS: Every artist has at least one important tool that they can’t live without, so what’s the most indispensable item in your studio?

HL: The people. The team I work with makes everything possible that you see at Houston Llew!

TCS: What advice do you have for young artists who want to make a living through their art?

HL: My advice for young artists is for them to go to business school and study business.

About Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Since 2012, Francesco Vincenzo Iacono has served as the President and CEO of The Creative Spotlight, the ultimate destination for unearthing a wealth of undiscovered musical talent, reading exciting interviews, releasing new music and sharing exclusive videos.

Every good story needs a good storyteller. And, The Creative Spotlight has truly provided a quality forum for revealing those great stories. Through the years, the online publication has featured national and local musicians such as Ash Costello from New Years Day, Williams Honor, Stacey David Blades, Screaming For Silence, Ages Apart, Roxy Petrucci, Peter Beckett, We The Kings, Everything Falls, Rod Black, Derek Crider, Daniel Mason Band, The Rockin’ Krolik, Michelle Leigh, Jessie G., Karen Mansfield and Hillbilly Vegas.

Additionally, The Creative Spotlight has also focused on historic Pennsylvania-based paranormal venues such as the Eastern State Penitentiary, Pennhurst State School and Hospital, Paranormal investigator Kitsie Duncan, Spirit Medium Tiffany Rice, the Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride, well-known actors and actresses, published authors, professional artists, local businesses, consultants, trainers, speakers and more…

Francesco earned a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he also received a Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

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Jeff Tomrell – Magical Mystery Doors

Written by: Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Magical Mystery Doors Tribute Band

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if members of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and The Doors joined forces to create one incredible supergroup? Introducing Magical Mystery Doors, a tribute act that blends and layers the music of these three legendary bands to create something new and unique for music fans everywhere.

For those attending a Magical Mystery Doors performance, they can expect to hear timeless classics from each of these iconic bands. These are all incredible songs we all know, these songs we all love, and these songs we sing to at the top of our lungs!

Throughout the show, Magical Mystery Doors combines some of these classic compositions in ways that leave the audience both surprised and delighted. The melody from The Doors’ “Hello, I Love You” laying atop Led Zeppelin’s “Misty Mountain Hop.” The pounding beat of Zep’s “When The Levee Breaks” coupled with the serene strumming of The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence.” Equally, Magical Mystery Doors enhances the audience experience with a captivating visual presentation including modern video screens and a stunning array of lighting which truly makes the performance come to life.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, we caught up with Jeff Tomrell from the Magical Mystery Doors Tribute band and we asked him a few questions about his musical influences, his career in a tribute band, their set list as well as their past and upcoming performances.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you become interested in music? And, who or what inspired you to pursue a career as a musician?

Jeff Tomrell: I started playing the piano at the age of 6. Early on, my father was my biggest influence. I stood at the edge of our piano and watched him play. I tried to add parts to the songs that he was playing before I really knew what I was doing. Beyond that, my mother always pushed me to perform in public. Anytime we saw a piano, she sat me down and I started playing. The reaction people gave me following my performances made me feel good. This is where my desire to perform began.

Magical Mystery Doors

TCS: Can you share with us how you decided on the band name?

JT: This band is a hybrid tribute to The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and The Doors. Our original name was going to be “Beatles On Led Doors” but it just didn’t feel exciting enough. So, one night, I sat down with a notebook and just started writing down anything to do with these acts. Song names, album titles, members, etc. After an hour or two, I realized that Zeppelin had an album named “In Through The Out Door.” That obviously could work with “The Doors.” And then I saw “Magical Mystery Tour.” Putting all of that together, the name was going to be “In Through the Magical Mystery Doors,” but that just felt too long. We landed on Magical Mystery Doors and figured it was good enough!


TCS: Can you introduce us to the Magical Mystery Doors lineup?

JT: The band lineup consists of:

  • Vinny DeRenzis (Lead Vocalist)
  • Jeff Tomrell (Producer/Keys)
  • Brendan Marro (Guitar)
  • Greg Reigle (Bass)
  • Mike Intelisano (Drums)

TCS: So how long has the tribute band been playing together and how did you get started?

JT: The idea for this band started in 2018. Before we played our first show in April of 2019, we worked on the concept for 14 months. All members were currently playing full-time in other acts, so we could only do a few shows here and there. Our plan was to really push forward in 2020….and then…well, you know what happened. All progress was halted. We lost a few members in this period as well. It was such a difficult time. But we made it through and here we are today.


TCS: Why do you think tribute bands have become so prominent within the last couple of decades?

JT: People enjoy listening to bands and songs from their past. It brings back a lot of memories. Unfortunately, you can’t see these three legendary acts perform anymore. Honestly, most people have never seen them perform live. So, tribute acts can bring a piece of that nostalgia back to life.

TCS: What do you feel sets Magical Mystery Doors apart from other tribute bands?

JT: Truthfully, many things set us apart from other similar tribute bands. We put a lot of time, effort, and money into our visual display. Our versatility as musicians is another key factor. You’ll see many, many instrument switches throughout the show. But the main thing is our arrangements. We’re taking songs from 50-60 years ago and doing something new and different with them. It’s the surprise factor of our show that really makes it special.


TCS: Have you ever met any of the band members from one of the three bands? If yes, please explain to us where you met and how did that encounter go?

JT: Unfortunately, I have not had that privilege. My mom was once at an award ceremony for Ringo Starr from The Beatles a few years ago. That’s the closest I’ve gotten!

TCS: What’s the hardest aspect of re-creating a live show for The Beatles, The Doors, and Led Zeppelin?

JT: The hardest part WOULD BE nailing the vocals, but when you’re in a band with Vinny, that part becomes really easy!

Vinny from Magical Mystery Doors

TCS: What are the most requested songs from those bands at your shows?

JT: At our shows, people always want to hear more Led Zeppelin. Honestly, I think it’s because Vinny does such a great job with those Robert Plant’s challenging vocals.


TCS: Of the songs that Magical Mystery Doors plays, which are your most and least favorite? Additionally, is there a song that you and the band loves that is not included in the set.

JT: Honestly, this changes on a weekly basis. Lately I’ve been enjoying “Riders On The Storm” from The Doors. But other times, it’s “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin. I think it ultimately depends on the crowd’s reaction sometimes. If people are smiling, we’re having a good time. As for song’s not included in the set, we are always working on new arrangements now. We have a few lined up that we believe the crowd will LOVE.

TCS: Annually, how many gigs does the band play and which venues are among your favorites?

JT: As I mentioned earlier, we’re still in a building phase. However, our recent performances at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, NJ, have been very, very special and meant a lot to us. We would play there any time. The staff and everyone involved has been fantastic to work with.


TCS: Could you tell us about any strange experiences you’ve had while playing live?

JT: We haven’t really experienced anything too strange just yet. Maybe we’ll go with one of Jim Morrison’s classic songs with The Doors when he says, “People Are Strange.”

TCS: What advice do you have for new tribute bands trying to get established?

JT: Do something different. Do something unique. The tribute market is completely saturated right now. Seemingly every band has a tribute. Therefore, you must do something that will get people talking. You can’t do the same set as other tribute acts and expect it to succeed.

TCS: What’s the future look like for the Magical Mystery Doors tribute band?

JT: The future looks bright. There is a lot of excitement surrounding this band now. We feel like we’re ready to “Break On Through (To The Other Side).”

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About Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Since 2012, Francesco Vincenzo Iacono has served as the President and CEO of The Creative Spotlight, the ultimate destination for unearthing a wealth of undiscovered musical talent, reading exciting interviews, releasing new music and sharing exclusive videos.

Every good story needs a good storyteller. And, The Creative Spotlight has truly provided a quality forum for revealing those great stories. Through the years, the online publication has featured national and local musicians such as Ash Costello from New Years Day, Williams Honor, Stacey David Blades, Screaming For Silence, Ages Apart, Roxy Petrucci, Peter Beckett, We The Kings, Everything Falls, Rod Black, Derek Crider, Daniel Mason Band, The Rockin’ Krolik, Michelle Leigh, Jessie G., Karen Mansfield and Hillbilly Vegas.

Additionally, The Creative Spotlight has also focused on historic Pennsylvania-based paranormal venues such as the Eastern State Penitentiary, Pennhurst State School and Hospital, Paranormal investigator Kitsie Duncan, Spirit Medium Tiffany Rice, the Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride, well-known actors and actresses, published authors, professional artists, local businesses, consultants, trainers, speakers and more…

Francesco earned a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he also received a Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Shaun Benson: Actor and Director

Written by: Francesco Vincenzo Iacono and Celeste Iacono

Shaun Benson Actor

Shaun Benson is a Canadian actor and director who was born in Guelph, Ontario. From a very young age, Shaun studied the arts including piano, ballet, and modern dance. He attended the University of Western Ontario and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry.

During his University career, he began to perform seriously and garnered roles in university theater productions such as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Bones, and Biloxi Blues. Post-graduation, Shaun went on to study and train at the George Brown College Theater School in Toronto.

Shaun made his television debut as Jonah Gleason, a series lead, on the critically acclaimed series The Associates (2002), which led to another lead as Patrick Heller for the PAX network on Just Cause (2002-2003). He is best known for playing Leonid in Kathryn Bigelo’s K-19: The Widowmaker (2002) opposite Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, playing Steven Lars Webber on General Hospital (2004 – 2005), Bob Taylor in Populaire (2012), the mysterious Simon in Kept Woman (2015), Ezekiel in The Boys (2019), and Mike Farrar in A House on Fire (2021).

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shaun Benson and asking him a few questions about what first got him into acting, his career as an actor, his experience in directing Barn Wedding, his time on the daytime soap opera General Hospital, his experience filming A House on Fire as well as his musical aspirations.

Q&A Session

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

Shaun Benson: I’ve always been a performer. I played my first piano recital at age 5 (badly) and was dancing onstage by age 9. The inspiration was a blend of things like watching Singin’ in the Rain (still my favorite all-time movie), The Sound of Music, and James Bond, etc. as a kid and also just how much fun dancing and school plays were.

TCS: What famous actors were among your early influences and how do you think they shaped your acting style?

SB: Gene Kelly most definitely—he shaped my style in that I am not afraid to go classically large with a role and I’m not afraid for it to be fun. In later years, it was Keanu Reeves, Robert De Niro, and Matthew McConnaughey. De Niro for depth and Keanu and Matthew for the fun and joy of watching that sometimes actors who take themselves too seriously can lose.

TCS: Can you share with us your experience in directing Barn Wedding?

SB: Simply put Barn Wedding was the best artistic endeavor of my life. Working with the actors to create the characters – then the writer, then the cinematographers, then all of the editing and sounds mixing etc.— it challenged me daily and made my motor rev in every gear to the redline. Just the way I like it.


TCS: How did you prepare for your role as a villain in the 2015 movie Kept Woman?

SB: Preparing for Kept Woman involved a lot of research into my own favorite film villains and then giving myself daily permission to be bad — both as a human and as an actor. I had to embrace a lot of darkness and then let it out because Simon doesn’t actually disagree with his own actions. So first I had to dig into the perversity of the actions and then I had to have fun executing them. It took its toll.


TCS: Tell us about playing Dr. Steven Lars Webber, perhaps your best known role, on General Hospital.

SB: That was a sheer delight. The cast and network of that show are so talented and engaged – far more than I was expecting. My run was only a year but I learned and gained so much more than I could ever describe. Huge shout outs to Jill, Maurice, Rick, Corbin, and Nancy.

TCS: How did your participation in Louis Nowra’s film K-19: The Widowmaker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, influence your acting career?

SB: The influences of that film are still being felt 13 years later. I don’t even know what I learned because I was on set for 3 months but not in a ton of scenes. So I got to watch and absorb. Certain pennies only drop years later and some haven’t yet, I’m sure. The biggest thing I learned, that I’m aware of, is that it’s ok to be both technical and in the moment. Harrison and Liam are masters of this.

TCS: Tell us about how exciting it was playing Bob Taylor in the French film Populaire?

SB: It was exciting beyond measure. Paris 4 months Premiere on the Champs Elysee, working with Roman, Berenice, Regis, and Deborah and Laurent and Guillaume etc. etc. etc. — it was perfection from day 1. It is a beautiful film in a beautiful country made by beautiful people.


TCS: Can you describe for us your experience working on documentaries such as Flight of the Butterflies and Casting By?

SB: Flight of the Butterflies was a bit like Populaire (except for my Montezuma’s Revenge day 1!!!!) The people involved and motorcycling through the Mexican countryside with Stephanie Sigman (the next Bond girl) on the back and ultimately shooting a scene with half a billion butterflies — forget it. Perfection.


Casting By
was as eye opening as a project has been as I was the photographer for the first half and therefore was a fly on the wall and got to hear some of the world’s greatest talents talk about the casting process. Just invaluable.


TCS: Can you tell us about your new Lifetime Movie A House on Fire and what the true story is based on?

SB: The movie A House on Fire is based on the true story of Deborah Green and Mike Farrar. Debora (portrayed by actress Stephanie March) was a brilliant oncologist whose underlying mental illness led her to ultimately burning down her home, killing two of her children. The film follows her and Michael’s life together as they navigate each other and the last gasps of their marriage and her career as they careen towards this tragic conclusion.

“Shaun


TCS: How did you prepare for your role as Mike Farrar?

SB: Preparing for the role of Mike involved a lot of work both internally and externally. The external was doing the homework on the people, researching the incident and reading Ann Rule’s book, Bitter Harvest, which the film was based on. Additionally, it also meant getting a rhythm and way of moving and talking that, while not huge shifts, made it Mike and not me. The internal work involved intense imaginative work which opened myself up to what each heightened scene needed. After shooting, I spent my nights decompressing for an hour or more just to create space for the next day’s version of the same!

TCS: Share with us some background concerning your iTunes podcast?

SB: I always woke my lady up by ranting about politics or traffic or excitement about my week and I thought I should give her a break and share the ramblin! It’s been a huge success with thousands of listeners in 50 countries.

Listen to the Shaun Benson, Chatting Between Takes podcast now.

TCS: What would you consider your best and worst moment so far in show business?

SB: My best moment happened recently when the first film I directed sold out to standing room only and won 2 awards – but most importantly I felt like my 8 year old self watching it. And my worst was when drugs and alcohol killed my career for about 5 years. I’m in my own 2nd life in this career and I’m as grateful as a man could be.


TCS: Backtracking to your time at the University of Western Ontario to now working as a professional actor, is there a specific role that you’ve either played or portrayed that you would you say is your favorite and why?

SB: My favorite would have to be the character of Lewis in a play called Waiting for Lewis. I was so naive and inexperienced but got guided by Fabrizio Filippo and Joanna McIntyre to do what I still believe is some of my best work and it also let me know this was a career I could excel at.

TCS: Is there a specific role or type of character that you haven’t played yet but would really like to?

SB: COMEDY! COMEDY! COMEDY!

TCS: Can you share with us your interests and hobbies outside of acting and directing?

SB: Karate, car racing, cycling, motorcycling, hangin at the mall with my lady, playing in my band Emmy Rouge, chillin’ out, and binge watching TV shows.


TCS: Where did your interest in music come from and how did you land writing for the LA based band Analog Smith?

SB: My house was always full of music. We had a piano, banjos, guitars, and a violin — so I just mucked around. Truly the summer camp I went to was where it all coalesced into writing and performing. The band was started like most — a few dudes who liked how each other carried it. The writing followed pretty naturally from that.

About Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Francesco Vincenzo Iacono  Photo

Since 2012, Francesco Vincenzo Iacono has served as the President and CEO of The Creative Spotlight, the ultimate destination for unearthing a wealth of undiscovered musical talent, reading exciting interviews, releasing new music and sharing exclusive videos.

Every good story needs a good storyteller. And, The Creative Spotlight has truly provided a quality forum for revealing those great stories. Through the years, the online publication has featured national and local musicians such as Ash Costello from New Years Day, Williams Honor, Stacey David Blades, Screaming For Silence, Ages Apart, Roxy Petrucci, Peter Beckett, We The Kings, Everything Falls, Rod Black, Derek Crider, Daniel Mason Band, The Rockin’ Krolik, Michelle Leigh, Jessie G., Karen Mansfield and Hillbilly Vegas.

Additionally, The Creative Spotlight has also focused on historic Pennsylvania-based paranormal venues such as the Eastern State Penitentiary, Pennhurst State School and Hospital, Paranormal investigator Kitsie Duncan, Spirit Medium Tiffany Rice, the Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride, well-known actors and actresses, published authors, professional artists, local businesses, consultants, trainers, speakers and more…

Francesco earned a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he also received a Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Williams Honor – Jersey Shore’s First Country Duo

Written by: Frank Iacono

Williams Honor

Williams Honor, the Jersey Shore’s first ever country duo, hails from Asbury Park, New Jersey and features Gordon Brown and Reagan Richards. Both Gordon and Reagan (affectionately nicknamed G & R) spent several years in Nashville, Tennessee writing, recording and touring with other artists until their fateful meeting in 2014 at a benefit for Hurricane Sandy victims. Their chemistry was truly undeniable and the two knew it was time to start a new venture together and thus Williams Honor was born.

G & R’s New Jersey influence plays a huge part in Williams Honor’s music, combining modern country sound with traditional Nashville country music. Individually, Gordon and Reagan bring years of professional music experience to Williams Honor. For instance, Gordon has been on the road or working with Jessie James Decker, Audrey Kate and Jackson Harris. While Reagan’s resume includes working with artists like Lisa Loeb, David Gray and Les Paul.

As a group, Gordon and Reagan had quite a rewarding 2018. In that year, Williams Honor achieved their first Music Row Country Breakout Top 30 with their song “No Umbrella,” won Best Music Video for “Send It To Me” in the Asbury Park Music & Film Festival and opened for fellow neighborhood superstars Bon Jovi, at a sold-out monumental performance at Madison Square Garden.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, we caught up with Reagan Richards and Gordon Brown from Williams Honor where we talked about their musical influences, their songwriting and recording process, their experience in the music industry and how COVID-19 and the pandemic has affected their musical career.

Q&A Session

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

Reagan Richards: For me, music always played a big part in my life. Long before I was born, my mom was a big band singer and actually sang with Les Paul, the legendary jazz, country, and blues guitarist. She also was supposed to be the singer of the late-night TV talk show called The George Gobel Show. However, she turned down moving out to Los Angeles, California but kept the musical spirit alive. She never said to me as a child, “Hey, kid, can you sing? If so, you should pursue it” but it just came automatically, as well as song writing. One of the earliest songs that I wrote was a tune called, “Count Me Out (I Don’t Wanna Be in Pictures)”. I wrote that song when I was 6 years old and it apparently referenced the crappy side of modeling, which sounds like a joke, but unfortunately, it’s not. My Dad was a huge country music fan, so artists like Marty Robbins, Glen Campbell and Johnny Cash were among the great guests who appeared on our special playlist during road trips. So, I’d say that my parents were my two main catalysts for getting me in the zone.

Williams Honor Country Duo

Gordon Brown: Growing up, music served as my greatest escape from undiagnosed childhood depression. I was very fortunate to live in areas where I knew successful musicians came from. In New Jersey, I lived close to the beach and Bruce Springsteen, “The Boss”. On the weekends, my dad had an apartment in New York City down the street from The Dakota where the legendary John Lennon lived. Ultimately, I was destined to figure some of it out. Equally, tracing out Gene Simmons’ makeup face on the back of my KISS Alive II album probably helped too.

TCS: For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Gordon Brown and Reagan Richards as well as Williams Honor, how would you describe your musical genre?

RR: Williams Honor’s musical genre is country music. We believe we are a nice weaving of the old traditional sound along with the modern sound. We truly respect and love how country music was born and love the foundational key players that paved the way. At the same time, we understand and have been excited about how much country music has evolved. We certainly give our fans all of the above.

Williams Honor Performing

GB: We love everything about country music. Our roots are based from where WE hail from. That’s what makes it Jersey Country. My DNA can be directly traced to Asbury Park, New Jersey and all the artists that have come from there, including Johnny Cash who also had roots from there many years ago and got very involved in helping the community.

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

RR: For me, it goes back to the music that my parents played. For example, I can sing word-for-word and note-for-note the greatest songs of Marty Robbins, Merle Haggard and a lil’ country crooner by the name of Patsy Cline. Between Patsy, artists like Hank Garland and male powerhouses like Johnny Cash & Waylon Jennings …I was hooked. To me, those artists spoke to me as early as five or six years of age and I remember listening to their music and getting actual goosebumps. I had a strong feeling that my school friends weren’t listening to music and receiving it the same way that I was. That’s how I knew I was a little different. I couldn’t just put a song on and be done with it and continue on with my day. Those tunes stuck with me. Today, when we write a song, we want to have that same impact on a listener …it’s about singing a lyric, being authentic and having someone in their car go, “OMG, I feel that”. That’s why my influences are so powerful to me because I never forgot how they made me feel.

Williams Honor Performing on Stage

GB: Restless Heart, Diamond Rio, Blackhawk, Vince Gill, Keith Urban, Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, Rascal Flatts and Dixie Chicks, all pulled me into country music by my short hairs. After listening to those bands, it was tough for me to listen to anything the same way again. I grew up with the storied songs of Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, KISS and the harmonies of The Eagles by the beach. My first signed band would be considered country if that album came out today.

TCS: How thrilling was it to share your first public performance in Asbury Park on stage with the legendary Jersey Boy Bruce Springsteen?

RR: Oh boy. For me, that was a truly surreal, beautiful moment. I’ve had some very incredible musical moments in my life …a show with the legendary Emmylou Harris and singing with Les Paul for several years until he died as well as Steve Allen’s radio show were among my many proud moments. Now I am embarking on a new journey with Williams Honor where our first public performance was for Light Of Day at the sold-out Paramount Theater, where we performed a 20-minute finale with Bruce. It was thrilling, it was a “feel good” moment because it was for the LOD foundation which raises money for Parkinson’s research. It was breathtaking to look around onstage and just see incredible people surrounding you. If Williams Honor had to have a “kickoff”…I’d say that was a damn good one.


GB
: Nothing I can write could ever truly capture in words how personally exciting that was for me. Coming from the NJ area makes it even more special. This was not the first time I’ve been on stage standing next to Bruce…actually there’s been a few more times since then too. Always incredible.

TCS: Personally, one of my favorite songs off of your self-titled debut release is the track entitled “Send It To Me,” so can you share with us the meaning behind it and the video concept?

RR: Thank You! It’s always great hearing what people love from our records! There’s never a textbook way to write a song. Show me a successful songwriter and I’ll show you napkins with lyrics, tapes with melodies, random words in a notebook …and how you put all those pieces together determines what you have in the end. The track “Send it To Me” was a song that didn’t come from a list of titles we had stashed for years. It actually came together during the recording of the first album. Gordon and I would send each other files and one afternoon I sat across from him and I said, “Send It to Me.” He said, “what?” I said, “Send It To Me”. WHAT? I thought something wasn’t exactly translating. My phrase struck him and he ran in and got the guitar and within a half hour we had the song. Our energy going into writing it was what gave that song it’s energy. It became our first single and to this day, it’s a fan favorite and we absolutely have so much fun performing it.


GB
: The video for “Send It to Me” is our personal story. In the video, we’re driving on Ocean Avenue through the streets of Asbury Park, driving past The Stone Pony, performing at The Saint, and then standing on Broadway in Nashville in front of Tootsie’s as I’m convincing the owner to let us Jersey people in. We then, try to break into The Ryman right up the block with Bridgestone Arena located right behind us. It’s our roots of the music and who we are. We had Jersey director George McMorrow work on it for us and we ended up winning Best Music Video in The Asbury Park Music and Film Festival that year.

TCS: Please describe your Madison Square Garden performance as an opening act for hometown heroes Bon Jovi?

RR: How do I even begin to describe something of that magnitude? It’s everything anyone would think it would be. Imagine working your entire life writing songs …leaving your family and moving away, working day and night to support your dream …having major ups and major downs …and then starting a new project, getting a #27 song on country radio and after that, being selected to directly support hometown heroes, Bon Jovi, on their first local show after being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That’s the kind of stuff you dream of and the kind of stuff you stand in your bedroom acting out as a kid. And it really happened to us. We weren’t in the bedroom dreaming, we were on the stage …and quite honestly, I’m very proud of that moment. It felt like a really nice, big nod for the work that we had done.


GB
: Imagine growing up down the street for one of your childhood idols, who taught you how to break down all the barriers through their music. THEN all of a sudden you find yourself on the world’s most famous stage opening for them RIGHT AFTER they get inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Once again, It’s tough to put into words but I still tear up when I think about it. Dreams can come true. And, in some cases, even better than you ACTUALLY imagined!

TCS: Tell us about the background behind another fan favorite, entitled “No Umbrella” and your live appearance on the Hard Rock Cafe Stage during “Today in Nashville”?

RR: “No Umbrella” is a song we co-wrote with country superstar, Cyndi Thomson. Both Gordon and I had been huge fans of Cyndi’s for years and we asked her if she wanted to get together to write. She was so incredibly cool and immediately said yes. We met for a writing session and just started talking about life for the first 90 minutes. From our talk, we came up with “No Umbrella” which is a song about suffering loss and allowing yourself to feel the pain instead of running from it.

We conducted a radio tour all over the country for both of our singles, and “No Umbrella” reached #27 which was such a gratifying feeling. This campaign was a total team effort, and everyone involved truly felt a great sense of accomplishment. The night before the Country Music Awards in Nashville they held a Top 30 party/show for us and so many of our musical peers came out to support and celebrate. It was amazing.

We’ve performed on NBC TV’s “Today in Nashville” show three times already, but the FIRST time was really bittersweet. My dog of almost 16 years passed away while I was on the road (literally on the road while I was in my car headed to Nashville). I had to perform “No Umbrella,” a song about how to deal with loss 30 hours after I experienced such a huge loss in my life.

I will, however, say that the TV lights are amazing because I had ridiculous red, puffy eyes like you wouldn’t believe from crying all those hours, but TV made me actually look like a human.

TCS: As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, have you had to cancel or postpone any tours or festival appearances?

RR & GB: Ohhh absolutely. Williams Honor had an entire record campaign laid out for our long awaited second record. In fact, we had already begun the whole release in Nashville at the end of February, three weeks prior to lockdown. We conducted TV interviews, had a release show for the first single off the record, distributed press, completed a photo shoot session you name it. We had bookings covering shows all over the country for the summer to coincide with its release. However, as soon as the lockdown hit, we put a big halt on all of that. We knew it was NOT the proper time to release it. We stand by that decision.

GB: All of them.

TCS: As artists, have you found COVID-19 and this quarantine to be a highly creative time period for writing and recording new music or has it been difficult to focus on creative endeavors?

RR: 10000% absolutely a creative time. No matter what happens in life, we have to find a way to keep going, but not just for the sake of existence. We have to LIVE! Living means doing what makes you feel alive. We stopped the planning of the record release but took this valuable and highly unpredictable opportunity to go back into the studio and add more things to the songs we had. During this unprecedented time, we’ve written a ton of new material, and even put together a livestream variety show, hich taps into our creative side at every turn.

GB: Go ahead and give creative people more time to think and deal with life’s seemingly impossible hardships and watch what comes out.

TCS: Can you describe for us the song writing and recording process behind your most recent hit single entitled “Step”?

RR: The song “Step” is a tune where the melody and lyrics came together simultaneously. It doesn’t always happen like that. I had an idea and I called Gordon and bounced it off him and we just ran with it. Right off the bat we knew it was going to be a song of empowerment. Our beloved followers are called the Williams Honor Army, so this was dedicated to them.


GB
: This is a song dedicated to the home team. They are why we continue to exist. We hope to empower them as we continue on.

TCS: As recording artists, have you both embraced social platforms to help market your songs, albums, merchandise and/or appearances?

RR and GB: Absolutely. We’ve certainly embraced social media.

To stay connected, please join us on the following:

TCS: Can you provide us with some details about “The Willi Ho Show” presented by Nashville-based Centerstage Magazine and airs WHednesday nights at 6:30 PM CT”?

RR: “The WILLI Ho Show” is our livestream variety show that is authentically, clumsily but beautifully ….Williams Honor. There’s no pretending. There’s no bells and whistles. There no perfection. That stuff just doesn’t exist. What DOES exist are two people who write songs …two people who have musical history …two people who have a love to make people laugh …two people who get on each other’s nerves (as Gordon & I do) and put that all together and you get this show that has hopefully helped our audience get through these difficult times, but it truly has helped US.

We have been so grateful to everyone who has tuned into our show and turned it into a top ranking POLLSTAR show. That certainly was never a goal …because a POLLSTAR livestream chart didn’t exist before lockdown. The goal was to be real and give our audience a piece of ourselves …which is our music, our influences and our history mixed with some crazy, funny added characters.

GB: Talk about a train you never saw coming …we have had more fun with our audience doing this show than should be legally allowed by law. THEY are the biggest part of the show, with their comments, requests, suggestions and jokes. #BannerDown #DontTouchMe #REAAAAGS are just a few of the sound bites that have become WHArmy approved.

TCS: What lessons do you both think that you’ve learned during this pandemic? What kind of advice would you give to fellow musicians who are trying new creative ways to supplement their income until this is over”?

RR: Our on-going motto has been “Never Stop. Keep Creating!” In a time where we didn’t know what was going to happen one minute to the next, I think it could’ve been very easy to say …I’m going to sleep for 3 days straight and just watch TV. But if the pandemic taught us anything (besides wash your hands!) it’s that nothing should stop a creative mind. Not even uncertainty of the world around us. My advice to a musician in these times? Be you. Don’t look at another artist and think you have to do what they are doing. Let them be them. Do You and constantly work on a great version of YOURSELF for people to fall in love with.

GB: Couldn’t have said that better myself.

Editors’ Note, December 31, 2020:

After initial publication, the article met with some criticism from Reagan Richards and Gordon Brown concerning The Creative Spotlight’s content editorial, prompting editors to review it and forgo our typical editing process. Upon further review, we have updated the article to feature the original unedited answers provided by Williams Honor as requested.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Since 2012, Frank Iacono has served as the President and CEO of The Creative Spotlight, the ultimate destination for unearthing a wealth of undiscovered musical talent, reading exciting interviews, releasing new music and sharing exclusive videos.

Every good story needs a good storyteller. And, The Creative Spotlight has truly provided a quality forum for revealing those great stories. Through the years, the online publication has featured national and local musicians such as Ash Costello from New Years Day, Williams Honor, Stacey David Blades, Screaming For Silence, Ages Apart, Roxy Petrucci, Peter Beckett, We The Kings, Everything Falls, Rod Black, Derek Crider, Daniel Mason Band, The Rockin’ Krolik, Michelle Leigh, Jessie G., Karen Mansfield and Hillbilly Vegas.

Additionally, The Creative Spotlight has also focused on historic Pennsylvania-based paranormal venues such as the Eastern State Penitentiary, Pennhurst State School and Hospital, Paranormal investigator Kitsie Duncan, Spirit Medium Tiffany Rice, the Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride, well-known actors and actresses, published authors, professional artists, local businesses, consultants, trainers, speakers and more…

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

Danielle Morgan – Singer, Songwriter & Musician

Written by: Frank Iacono

Danielle Morgan Musican

London-based singer, songwriter and musician Danielle Morgan is making a big impact in the UK and internationally, sharing her music, performed with great passion and attitude. Those who have seen her “live” write and talk about how they are uplifted by Danielle’s universal themes and original melodies, delivered with real power and honest emotion, supported by her amazing band.

Danielle began her musical journey at a young age, and it was her path to enter the world-famous BRIT School in London. She has composed over 70 original songs and works with co-writer John Merrigan, and has also worked with highly credited Los Angeles, California Producer, Jonathan Smith [a.k.a. TheRealJonSmith] – (Luna Halo, four-time Grammy Award winner Kevin Max, etc.) among others.

Danielle’s compositions are diverse in topic and eclectic in mood. She writes about her life experiences that everyone can relate to and interpret for themselves. Her vocals are compelling, uniquely her own.

Recorded at London’s Abbey Road Studios, Danielle released her debut EP, The Session in June 2016 to critical acclaim. 2019 saw Morgan inking a global distribution deal with Universal Music Group to build on her strong fanbase and social media profile. In 2020, she is very excited to be performing new songs to audiences around the UK, Ireland and beyond. July saw the release of her new EP entitled The Faces of Danielle Morgan and further EPs / album release are planned in the coming months before getting back on the road.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, we caught up with Danielle Morgan where we talked about her musical influences, her songwriting and recording process, her experience in the music industry and how COVID-19 has affected her musical career.

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?

DM: As a young girl, I always loved performing at family events but early on I got into Johnny Nash, an America reggae star who sang: “Tears on My Pillow” which combined reggae and country and I loved it. I “stole” the tape from my parents and played it over and over, and absorbed the melody, emotion, and sincerity of those songs. I then got into Motown and whilst my friends were listening to more contemporary music in the 1980s, I was listening to that, hidden away in my bedroom.

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

DM: When I was 16 at music / drama college in London, I was heavily influenced by musical theatre – strong songs with a message and a big sound. I liked Crystal Gayle, Neil Sedaka, Billy Joel and all the Motown stars; especially how they crafted their songs and got the message across simply and directly. At 18, I was approached by a major record label to take on my songs, but I didn’t like how they wanted to change them or how they said I’d have a pop lifespan as an artist of 12-18 months! No thanks!

TCS: For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Danielle Morgan or your musical career, please share with us how you first started out in United Kingdom and eventually became a singer, songwriter, and musician?

Danielle Morgan Singer

DM: My early path took me to the BRIT School in London and that set me off writing songs. But after a few years, I realized that I had no real-life experience. From then on, a lot of things happened to me, some good and some bad. I turned to my song writing on the piano to help find my expression, only for myself, and to relieve those stresses. After a long break from the business, I found myself auditioning for a band led by John Merrigan and I began to love performing again. That led to me having the confidence to share some of my personal songs and the reaction was so positive and loving that I decided to once more embark on a professional music career. Since then, I’ve worked with amazing people and recorded at places like Abbey Road; and the journey continues.

TCS: Personally, one of my favorite songs from your EP The Session is the track called “No Trace of You,” so could you describe the history behind the song as well as the music video concept?

DM: Normally, I don’t interpret my songs, only because everyone will take the meaning for themselves. “No Trace of You” is not about a personal relationship, it’s about moving from one chapter of your life into a new one and leaving the past behind.

We contacted a number of people involved in shooting videos and only one that came back who understood the meaning was director Nick Kirk. We shot the video over a weekend, with the track freshly recorded at Abbey Road, produced by LA based therealjonsmith. It was an amazing experience and the storyline shows me leaving the life of a hotel maid (though my old life was actually a London police officer), waving goodbye as I enter the world of a music singer! It turned out to be pretty prophetic!


TCS: Can you tell us about your new EP and introduce us to the band line-up?

DM: In July 2020, I will be releasing a new EP entitled The Faces of Danielle Morgan and I am really looking forward to sharing those songs with my fans and your readers! This is the first in a series of EPs we plan to release in 2020 to get more of the new tracks out and we hope this will lead to an album by the end of the year. There is so much new material ready to go!

The band consists of:

  • Danielle Morgan – Lead Vocals / Piano
  • John Merrigan – Drums
  • David Barbour – Guitarist
  • Peter Rutherford – Bassist
  • Andrew Dascalopoulos – Keys
  • Lucy D. – Backing Vocals
  • Rob McCann – Harmonica

TCS: What financial impact has the coronavirus pandemic had on both personally and professionally? Have you had to cancel or postpone any tours or festival appearances?

DM: We have to see the financial impact in the context of so many others losing dear friends and relatives – our health is before our wealth more than ever. But, yes, we had to cancel so many shows and summer festivals which we had spent a long time securing – it was extremely hard on the band, the artists and ourselves. Luckily, we’ve been able to work with promoters and others to minimize the impact and we are looking forward to getting back on the road.

TCS: Amid this pandemic, what’s your daily routine been like? And since musicians spend so much time on the road, have you found it hard adjusting to so much time at home?

DM: Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we were rarely at home, either gigging, rehearsing or doing promotional activity. We are blessed to be living in a beautiful part of the world, on the coast and close to the countryside. It’s made us appreciate so much more what we have on our doorstep. Our daily routine takes us to the beach or on walks in the local area and we are much calmer.

TCS: Is there something you’ve been putting off for a long time, but are now doing with this time at home?

DM: We have been too busy to work on releasing some new tracks and finishing others that we’d started. The time we have now has meant we’ve been able to finish arrangements on some great new songs and to work on our musical theatre shows.

TCS: Tell us about the background behind another favorite entitled “Take Him Away” and the special Lockdown Edition music video”?

DM: This is one of our favorite songs to perform live and always gets the crowd going with its energy and positive vibe – the lyrics speak for themselves! We wrote it with Dave Barbour who brought the guitar sound to what was originally a piano-based track! John and I were putting out videos in the early part of lockdown, and after many requests we decided to record the song with the full band working from home to hopefully bring a smile to our friends. We really enjoyed doing it, though it’s complicated to record and mix it live on video. But it’s honest music and because of the response we will roll-out more lockdown videos in the coming weeks.


TCS: Have you been doing any live-streamed concerts during COVID-19 or do you plan to? A lot of artists have been doing them, do you think it’s a challenge to make them original and interesting?

DM: Yes, we have done quite a few live tracks online and some videos with the band working together from home. It’s been a lot of fun and much needed therapy to stay in contact and keep playing together.

TCS: As a musician, have you found this quarantine to be a highly creative time period for writing and recording new music or has it been difficult to focus on creative endeavors?

DM: Initially, it was a difficult time as we were trying to absorb what happened and to guess what was going to happen. But fairly quickly, we took a decision to be positive and focus on what we could do from home. We have written a lot of new songs and begun work on a new musical drama. So overall, it’s been a very productive time creatively.


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

DM: John and I would always have a connection with music – it’s in our blood but if we left the industry, we would probably be running our own small hotel focused on great food and a space for musicians to come and work in a rural setting and be inspired to create. I think we will do this anyway!!!

TCS: What kind of advice would you give to other musicians who are trying new creative ways to supplement their income?

DM: We think it’s important to stay focused on practical things to stay safe and well in mind and body. To get replacement income, there are lots of ways to set up virtual gigs, or crowdfunding. There are interesting things happening in theatres and gig venues, so it’s important to stay in contact with them. Above all, it’s really important not to devalue your work just for short-term gain. Your work is art and personal and don’t let anyone take advantage even though things are challenging.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Since 2012, Frank Iacono has served as the President and CEO of The Creative Spotlight, the ultimate destination for unearthing a wealth of undiscovered musical talent, reading exciting interviews, releasing new music and sharing exclusive videos.

Every good story needs a good storyteller. And, The Creative Spotlight has truly provided a quality forum for revealing those great stories. Through the years, the online publication has featured national and local musicians such as Ash Costello from New Years Day, Williams Honor, Stacey David Blades, Screaming For Silence, Ages Apart, Roxy Petrucci, Peter Beckett, We The Kings, Everything Falls, Rod Black, Derek Crider, Daniel Mason Band, The Rockin’ Krolik, Michelle Leigh, Jessie G., Karen Mansfield and Hillbilly Vegas.

Additionally, The Creative Spotlight has also focused on historic Pennsylvania-based paranormal venues such as the Eastern State Penitentiary, Pennhurst State School and Hospital, Paranormal investigator Kitsie Duncan, Spirit Medium Tiffany Rice, the Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride, well-known actors and actresses, published authors, professional artists, local businesses, consultants, trainers, speakers and more…

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

Stacey David Blades – Lead Guitarist & Songwriter

Written by: Frank Iacono

With L.A. Guns, Stacey David Blades has shared the bill with Alice Cooper, Whitesnake, The Scorpions, Dokken, Skid Row, Warrant and more. He’s been around the world 10 times, done 4 albums with the legendary late producer Andy Johns and on the bill of many prestigious music festivals including M3, Rock Weekend (Sweden), Rockin The Rivers, Buffalo Chip and more! Stacey has also appeared in Rolling Stone, Spin, Metal Edge, and Premier Guitar Magazine to name a few. Stacey is proudly endorsed by ESP Guitars, Pig Hog Cables, Crafter Guitars and Crate Amplification.

Back in April of 2009, Stacey wrote and published a very revealing and often-humorous autobiography, “Snake Eyes: Confessions of a Replacement Rockstar.” The book received high marks from fans all over the world. In 2010, Stacey also released his first ever solo instrumental album, Symphonic Slam. It is a remarkable collection of rocked-out classical numbers by Strauss, Bach, Handel, Beethoven and more.

Blades has a vast Music Production Library with Jason Donnelly for Music by Design. They’re music can be heard on such TV hit shows as “Duck Dynasty,” “Shark Week,” “The Wahlburgers” and “Pitbull and Paroles” just to name a few. In the summer of 2016, Stacey did a very big successful tour with Bobby Blotzer’s RATT Experience, playing arena’s, amphitheaters and stopped over to play a sold-out London show and headlined “Hard Rock Hell” Festival in North Wales.

Stacey’s new active rock band Electric Radio Kings is taking the Nation by storm with the release of their album Purrr, produced by Metallica’s longtime engineer Mike Gillies.

Their single Back to Black hit the airwaves nationally last spring of 2019. ERK broke the top 30 at @28 on Billboard Mainstream Rock charts. ERK is in pre-production again with Mike Gillies to work on their highly anticipated follow-up album.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, we caught up with Stacey David Blades. where we talked about his musical influences, his songwriting and recording process, his experience in the music industry, his new band Electric Radio Kings as well as his short and long-term future plans.

Q&A Session

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

Stacey David Blades: I started my musical career at a very young age. I was 9 when I began playing the piano with extensive lessons up until the age of 11. Then one Christmas, I got this little acoustic guitar and that was it!!! That guitar never left my hands. At the time, I was getting very good at piano so after a year of lessons on the guitar I got really good pretty quickly! After taking proper guitar lessons for three years, I purchased my first electric guitar. I am so grateful to have had a musical family and blessed to have been in a position to take lessons for all those years as a child.

(Photo Credit: Arjen Van E)

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

SDB: Early on, I was really into bands like The Cars, Cheap Trick, Ozzy, Rush, Journey, The Rolling Stones and Van Halen. I was all about listening to different styles! With that, I was also very much into bands like U2, Missing Persons, The Motels and Duran Duran. Form that early new wave sound mixed in with Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Cheap Trick, I think all of these bands impacted and shaped my musical style.

TCS: For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Stacey Blades or your musical career, please share with us how you first started out in Toronto, Ontario Canada and eventually became a well-known guitarist in popular bands like Roxx Gang, LA Guns and now Electric Radio Kings?

SDB: I had played the club circuit for quite a few years in Toronto. In 1992, I finally got my big break when I joined Virgin Recording artists Roxx Gang from St. Petersburg, Florida. I was in that band for 8 years then moved to Los Angeles, California. About a year after the move, I landed the gig with LA Guns. In 2017, I formed Electric Radio Kings (ERK), my dream band, with the goal of playing something a little alternative, punky and modern. I’m a huge Stone Temple Pilots (STP) fan so this is the band I have wanted ever since the mid 90’s.

TCS: Can you introduce to the Electric Radio Kings band lineup? And, how would you describe your overall sound and musical genre?

SDB: We have the awesome Peter Ross on Lead Vocals, me on Lead Guitar, David Harris on Second Guitar, Carl Raether on Bass Guitar and we’ll be announcing our new drummer in July. This is the dream team lineup. I’m the only original member left from the earlier lineup. When we started, we had a very Velvet Revolver vibe but now I’d say the band has morphed into more organic sound similar to bands like Rival Sons, STP and a little White Stripes. Our new album will absolutely bleed those sounds. Every song on the new album is a little different. You may also hear early sounds from The Cult, Soundgarden or even legendry David Bowie.

TCS: Personally, one of my favorite songs from your album Purrr is the track called “Back to Black,” so could you describe the history behind the song as well as the music video concept?

SDB: “Back to Black” was actually a remake of Amy Winehouse’s 2006 song. It was our old lead singer Paul Christiana’s decision to record it. Mike Gillies, longtime Metallica engineer-extraordinaire, did an amazing job crafting that into a masterpiece! Nationally, we did quite well with that track scoring #28 on Billboard Mainstream Rock Charts last year and got over 1,100 spins Nationally on Active Rock Radio. This was our second time working with the great “Mason Wright,” who directed and shot the music video. We also had our friend Cassiopee’ play the ghost girl in the video. We think it turned out fantastic.


TCS: As an established musician with an interesting career background, how has the coronavirus pandemic affected you both personally and professionally? Have you had to cancel or postpone any tour dates or festival appearances or delay an album release?

SDB: Well everything has been on pause and it really sucks for musicians. We halted production on recording and postponed shows as well as cancelled a big PR campaign we had planned. However, over the last 3 months we’ve been on such a creative high that we totally wrote the new record.

TCS: What effect do you think shutting down music venues across the country has had on our culture? And, what do you think we’ve learned as a result of this pandemic?

SDB: I think that we’ve learned how life can truly change on a dime. People are starving for live music, so I think we will ultimately come out of this for the better on all avenues but businesses, like music venues, are really suffering right now.

TCS: What inspired you to write your first book entitled “Snake Eyes: Confessions of a Replacement Rockstar?”

SDB: I thought I had a very interesting story to tell and once I started writing it, I couldn’t stop. The book chronicles my childhood, early exposure to music up to when I replaced the legendary Tracii Guns in LA Guns. Along the way, you’ll read how I discovered the Sunset Strip music scene, handled relocation to join Roxx Gang, experienced drama amidst stalkers and strippers and so much more.

TCS: Describe for us the song writing process and video concept behind the single entitled “Jack Black Flower”?

SDB: I think “Jack Black Flower” was actually one of the very first songs I wrote for the band. I thought Paul did a great job with the vocal melody and lyrics. This track turned out so great in the studio that we decided to release it as the second single. Additionally, we also produced a music video too. It’s just a live video spattered with some images from different decades in L.A. It’s about the pitfalls and vices of moving to that city to make it as an actor or musician.


TCS: As a recording artist, how have you embraced social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to market your songs, albums, merchandise and/or appearances?

SDB: Absolutely. As a recording artist, you either embrace social media or you drown.

To stay connected, please join us on the following:

TCS: Tell us about the background behind another favorite entitled “Sympathy For Me”?

SDB: “Sympathy For Me” was one of the first ERK songs written. The music video was a ton of fun to shoot. I thought the recording, which was produced and engineered by Alister James, also turned out quite good too.


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

SDB: At the age of 11, I started playing golf. By the time I was 17, I was a really good golfer. By 20, music had turned into my main passion and became a full-time thing, so I stopped playing. If I hadn’t had music in my life, I would have probably pursued a golfing career.

TCS: What does the short and long-term future look like for you and Electric Radio Kings?

SDB: For Electric Radio Kings, we are totally focused on recording our follow-up to Purrr. Once again, we’ve employed the services of producer Mike Gillies. We feel this record is going to be MONSTROUS! With that, our goal is to become the biggest new rock band of 2021. Unfortunately, 2020 has been cancelled.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Since 2012, Frank Iacono has served as the President and CEO of The Creative Spotlight, the ultimate destination for unearthing a wealth of undiscovered musical talent, reading exciting interviews, releasing new music and sharing exclusive videos.

Every good story needs a good storyteller. And, The Creative Spotlight has truly provided a quality forum for revealing those great stories. Through the years, the online publication has featured national and local musicians such as Ash Costello from New Years Day, Williams Honor, Stacey David Blades, Screaming For Silence, Ages Apart, Roxy Petrucci, Peter Beckett, We The Kings, Everything Falls, Rod Black, Derek Crider, Daniel Mason Band, The Rockin’ Krolik, Michelle Leigh, Jessie G., Karen Mansfield and Hillbilly Vegas.

Additionally, The Creative Spotlight has also focused on historic Pennsylvania-based paranormal venues such as the Eastern State Penitentiary, Pennhurst State School and Hospital, Paranormal investigator Kitsie Duncan, Spirit Medium Tiffany Rice, the Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride, well-known actors and actresses, published authors, professional artists, local businesses, consultants, trainers, speakers and more…

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

Sean D. Austin – Singer-Songwriter, Paranormal Investigator & Demonologist

Written by: Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Sean Austin is a singer-songwriter, published author, paranormal investigator and demonologist. Currently, Sean is starring on the Travel Channel’s new paranormal show called Ghost Loop. Previously, he also starred on the Destination America Network (Discovery Channel) pilot series The Demon Files with retired NYPD police officer-turned-demonologist, Ralph Sarchie, upon whom the movie Deliver Us from Evil was based.

On and off of TV, Sean travels the country with fellow paranormal investigators, documenting evidence of the paranormal in video, photo and audio forms. He not only employs his growing medium and psychic abilities to investigate and help spirits and families find peace, but he also uses the latest paranormal technologies to “see” and “hear” entities to determine whether or not specific hauntings are residual or intelligent, friendly or malevolent.

With a strong Catholic faith, Sean’s pursuits in the paranormal are grounded in his religious beliefs. In his first published work Shadow Chaser, Sean shares some of the experiences that shaped his path in the pursuit of the unexplained and unknown. In the book, he discloses these profound encounters with the hope of helping people and expanding upon spiritual awareness.

Sean’s musical style exists in the vein of the Goo Goo Dolls and Pearl Jam. His music is heartfelt hitting home to the emotional high and low points of life’s obstacles with doses of encouraging hope within every shadow of our yesterdays. Fans of new Pop Rock Music 2020, Maroon 5, Switchfoot, The Voice artists, America’s Got Talent and American Idol will enjoy listening to Austin’s songs.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, we caught up with Sean Austin where we talked about his musical influences, his songwriting and recording process, his first published book and soon to be released second book, his work on Ghost Loop and The Demon Files as well as his short and long-term future plans.

Q&A Session

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

Sean Austin: I first realized I wanted to be a musician around age 12, when I watched Pearl Jam’s music video for their song “Jeremy”. Watching that video and seeing how they represented such a taboo subject like teen suicide, coupled with Eddie Vedder’s highly emotional and forceful vocal performance, it truly left a lasting impression on me. I honestly had full body chills seeing Eddie’s eyes roll up into his head as if he was actually possessed with the spirit of Jeremy Wade Delle, a high school student who shot himself in front of his English class because he was being tormented. From that moment, I knew exactly what my destiny held for me from a career perspective. That experience lured me right in with the desire to sing and play guitar. From there, I took three guitar lessons and then my ear became my teacher. This led me to writing songs and being in a band. Ultimately, I would gravitate toward being a solo artist. On my first solo project, I actually played all the instruments including drums, bass guitar as well as sang.

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

SA: As I mentioned above, Pearl Jam was one of those defining bands that truly influenced me as a musical artist but there were a few others too. Equally, I was also motivated by emotional and inspirational bands such as the Goo Goo Dolls and Swithfoot. The songs these bands create really resonate with the music that I would ideally like to produce. Music has always been my “invisible therapist”. Like those artists, I too enjoy singing about real-life experiences, expressing emotions that hopefully inspire and/or help others cope with daily situations that we all face. The power of being able to extend your emotions from writing lyrics, adding music and then releasing it as a song can really be soul healing. The ultimate goal is to have someone listen to my music and be as inspired the same way my favorite bands moved me.

TCS: Personally, one of my favorite songs off of your Shapeshifter album is the track called “That’s Enough,” so can you share with us the meaning behind the song?

SA: “That’s Enough” was written about someone involved in a toxic relationship. Sometimes, in a relationship, we let things buildup and fester behind the scenes without being honest to ourselves or with one another leading to more chaos. This song examines how people sometimes shutoff their feelings – ultimately leaving the other person emotionally caught up without explanation. This can be a push-pull, back and forth kind of thing but truthfully the individual has to learn to lead more with their head rather than their heart. Even if there are still feelings, he/she has to know when it’s time to walk away. There are always valuable life lessons to be learned but the most important is to not let history repeat itself.


TCS: What inspired you to write your first book entitled Shadow Chaser?

SA: Honestly, the main reason I decided to write Shadow Chaser was because I felt compelled to share some of the experiences that have shaped my path in pursuit of the unknown. In my wildest dreams, I never could have imagined that I would become a published author but in hindsight it was the best decision I ever made. In the book, I disclose my profound experiences in the hopes of potentially helping one person or thousands of people while expanding upon spiritual awareness. As the saying goes, everything happens for a reason and with that kept in mind we should all share our own spiritual experiences for the greater good. Today, my mission or calling is to help souls.

TCS: What is the title of your second book, what is it about and when will it be published?

SA: I plan to call my second book Shadow Chaser The In Between with a tentative Summer 2020 release date. Essentially, this book will serve as a continuation of paranormal experiences and cases that I’ve worked on since the completion of Shadow Chaser. We cover subjects including the demonic possession of a pregnant girl, haunted woods with a demonic pig, a shapeshifting demon forming into a spider and my personal experiences with the actual Amityville Horror House in New York. Additionally, I also provide prayers for the dead giving incentives to earthbound spirits to find peace and accept God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. So, it’s not all dark and evil!

TCS: I understand that you have some connection to the actual Amityville house and the spirit of a young child named John, can you share some specific details with us?

SA: Yes, the connection all started one day while I was live streaming in front of the Amityville house and by the DeFeo gravesite. This little boy, named John, started coming through on my spirit box even asking for prayers. I know that demonic entities can disguise themselves as any voice but according to professional opinion demons would never ask for a prayer. So, I prayed for the little boy as I would any earthbound spirit. For weeks following and even up until today, I’ve felt a presence that has awakened me many times at 3:15 am. After having all of these experiences, I began writing the story about this and all of the unsettling experiences involving the case. I will delve more into the story, and what transpired in my new book.

TCS: Describe for us your experience working with the Spirit Hunters on the Travel Channel’s new series Ghost Loop?

SA: When paranormal entities terrorize the living through endless and repetitive supernatural cycles, manifesting again and again in the same location, it is known as a “ghost loop.” Now, a team of highly specialized paranormal experts known as Spirit Hunters, who focus on this distinct type of haunting, are stepping in to help both the living and the dead. At each haunted location, my team and I build an emotionally charged trigger environment to lure the entity and break the terrifying cycle.

The most important reason why I got involved in the show was based on the opportunity to help people from across the country who are dealing with these types of hauntings. We don’t charge people for this kind of service which is great. Having the financial backing to reach a great number of people that I would’ve never been able to reach on my own is the special factor that attracted me to this project.

TCS: In the Ghost Loop episode entitled “Alarmed and Dangerous” explain how you the Spirit Hunters were able to help a Houston, Texas woman who was being terrorized by an aggressive entity?

SA: In this episode, the Spirit Hunters head to Houston, Texas, to help Becky, a woman being terrorized by an aggressive male entity who rushes her from her front door. The house is steeped in bloody history, the home is packed with negative energy that threatens to tear the team apart.

The story involves a man who was very abusive toward his girlfriend. One night, he lost control and began attacking her. In defending herself, she took matters into her own hands and shot him dead. The man seemed to be manifesting in Becky’s house in one concentrated area. In order to remove the “ghost loop” haunting, we first had to lure him out by recreating a trigger environment linked to the 1920s when this murder allegedly took place. This allowed us the best chance to have the entity listen to us and either accept his judgment in the light or we would need to force him out by blessing the home. In this case, I believe he decided to accept our offer and go towards the light. Becky has not seen this man’s spirit manifest since we were there.


TCS: As a practicing Catholic, under the apprenticeship of retired NYPD police officer-turned-demonologist Ralph Sarchie, tell us about how you learned your crafts of paranormal investigation, mediumship and demonology?

SA: Within the first few years of conducting investigations and having experienced many unique happenings, it truly felt like I had triggered an internal spiritual awakening. As a result, I believe that I had advanced my education and knowledge of the Paranormal but realized that I still needed more training and understanding on why these things occur and how best to protect myself from them.

With that, I purchased several books including Ralph’s Beware of the Night. At the time, I had my own radio podcast and later had him on as a guest and we discussed his book. The first time we chatted, we got into many deep conversations about what he calls, and I now also refer to as, “the Work”. This references the spiritual “calling” of God to be a religious Demonologist. Essentially, investigating cases of the demonic and assisting in the exorcisms of humanity’s most ancient–and most dangerous–foes.

Ralph taught me a lot about demonology especially concerning the different types of cases you can encounter in the process. With the combination of on-the-job training and reading his book now known as Deliver Us From Evil, the name of the movie based on his book, I have learned a great deal of valuable information that has helped me formulate a definitive direction of who I am as an paranormal investigator as well a religious demonologist.

I was tremendously proud to be associated with Ralph. He was involved in the paranormal during its pioneering years when it wasn’t “cool” to be a paranormal investigator. Back then, most people became investigators for research and to genuinely try and help people, not just for the fame on television like it is today.

TCS: Describe for us your experience working with Ralph Sarchie on Destination America’s series The Demon Files?

SA: Working with him on Destination America’s series The Demon Files was nothing short of humbling. It was truly a gift to be a part of such a great show with someone who is so well respected in this field. Ralph has really honed his craft. He has a strong willed personality but shines in his sound belief in faith and knowledge. He approaches each case with the ultimate goal of helping people. I have nothing but the upmost respect for him and for “the Work” he’s accomplished, and I will always be grateful for everything he has done for me personally and spiritually.

TCS: In The Demon Files episode entitled “The Mirror” explain how you and the team helped Leigh-Ann and her family when they were being plagued by demonic attacks?

SA: “The Mirror” was a really emotional case for the team. In this episode, an evil latched onto a family forcing them to reach out to Ralph and his team for help. During the investigation, we found out Leigh-Ann, their daughter, who struggles with addiction and even tried to kill herself, had previously made a pact with the devil by cutting herself over a pentagram. Additionally, we discovered that there was another boy who allegedly took his life on the property too.

Once we entered the home, you could feel the high level of oppressive energy in the house. You could cut through it with a knife. As we investigated, we smelled Sulphur. Ralph performed a religious provocation to force the evil entity out, so we could expose exactly what it was, so we could properly move forward and perform an exorcism on the property. At one point, as Ralph stood near the mirror in the upstairs bathroom, I tasted crushed pills in my mouth. I didn’t know at the time, but Leigh-Ann had taken a bunch of pills in front of that mirror when she attempted to end her life. Another interesting fact we learned about the mirror was that it had been in house with the previous owner and death. It really seemed connected to what was going on.

Towards the end of the night, I was on Leigh-Ann’s bed trying to coerce the alleged boy spirit who took his life to crossover. As soon as I did this, I felt the presence of a demonic entity in the room with me, and I saw this red like mist appear in front of the bed. At the same time, I could see a creature with scales all over its face with piercing fangs and cat like eyes. I stood my ground but then the window drape began to move violently, and I jumped to my feet. Earlier that night, Ralph had been in her room as well and a bunch of DVDs were thrown off the shelf in front of him and one of those DVDs was the movie based on his book Deliver Us From Evil.

In hopes of having Leigh-Ann regain her life and faith, we performed a full exorcism over the house and also had her say a revoking prayer three times in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We felt that this would provide her with the best chance to live without this dark cloud that had been haunting her.

TCS: What is the most bizarre paranormal situation that you’ve worked on during your illustrious career?

SA: Bizarre? Hmm one of the stories I am writing about in my second book is about a girl who was possessed while she was pregnant. The amount of experiences and evidence I have without even being in the same state as the girl is truly astounding. I have recordings of her speaking Latin, English, backwards and even hissing at a crucifix without even seeing me on the phone. I once received 13 scratches on my arm while praying for her on the phone. Oddly enough, I heard her being choked with laughing coming through the phone. I even had one experience of her and her friend calling me screaming bloody murder as they were driving. I could hear pelts hitting the car. Both of them in terror screaming “what is happening right now?” They explained how black birds were hitting the car as they were driving home. To this day, I have never experienced similar things to that level and I believe it’s important to share this horrific unsettling story in hopes of preventing other people from messing around with dark magic.

TCS: What does the short and long-term future look like for Sean Austin?

SA: As previously mentioned, I’m currently working on my second published book. Additionally, I also have a new EP being released in the near future entitled Foresee. Equally, I hope to continue being active as a paranormal investigator and religious demonologist trying to make a significant difference. While I am on this planet, my mission is to help any person or earthbound spirit that I come in contact with in any way possible.

To stay connected, please join me on the following:

About Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Francesco Vincenzo Iacono Photo

Since 2012, Francesco Vincenzo Iacono has served as the President and CEO of The Creative Spotlight, the ultimate destination for unearthing a wealth of undiscovered musical talent, reading exciting interviews, releasing new music and sharing exclusive videos.

Every good story needs a good storyteller. And, The Creative Spotlight has truly provided a quality forum for revealing those great stories. Through the years, the online publication has featured national and local musicians such as Ash Costello from New Years Day, Williams Honor, Stacey David Blades, Screaming For Silence, Ages Apart, Roxy Petrucci, Peter Beckett, We The Kings, Everything Falls, Rod Black, Derek Crider, Daniel Mason Band, The Rockin’ Krolik, Michelle Leigh, Jessie G., Karen Mansfield and Hillbilly Vegas.

Additionally, The Creative Spotlight has also focused on historic Pennsylvania-based paranormal venues such as the Eastern State Penitentiary, Pennhurst State School and Hospital, Paranormal investigator Kitsie Duncan, Spirit Medium Tiffany Rice, the Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride, well-known actors and actresses, published authors, professional artists, local businesses, consultants, trainers, speakers and more…

Francesco earned a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he also received a Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Kassie K. Lead Singer & Songwriter

Written by: Frank Iacono

Kassie K. is a Canadian-born singer-songwriter from a small city an hour outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Kassie who first gained music recognition for her fitness parody “All About Those Gains,” has since attracted fans from across the globe with her vast vocal variability as well as her exceptional lyrical talent. This pop music sensation, who recently signed with Mi5 Recordings, continues to record covers for her fans on social platforms such as Instagram, YouTube and Facebook; but her main focus nowadays is working on her original work – something not unfamiliar to the young artist.

Since a young age, Kassie loved music. With the support of her parents, she began taking singing lessons and performing at local festivals in grade school. By the time she was 11 years old, Kassie was already writing and recording her own music. During high school she fronted the four-piece pop/rock band, Bell Tower Dreams, winning Band of the Month honors in 2009 for local prominent radio station 99.3 CFox. Citing musical differences, the band eventually went their separate ways leaving her with the necessary experience she needed to thrive as a songwriter and performer.

Since making her debut as a solo artist, Kassie has released a total of six original songs. Her first release under the Mi5 Recordings banner, “Out of Sight,” garnered high praise from those within the music industry. With its synthesized pop sounds and strong vocals, she introduced herself in bold fashion turning heads and making everyone take note.

Her latest single entitled “Let Go” is a great track that truly demonstrates her exceptional lyrical talent, powerful pop vocals and solid guitar work. Her vocal talent is obvious from the first verse of any of her songs; her voice dances through her ballads, reaching out to touch the heart of the listener. Even more moving are her vividly real lyrics that spell out her desires and emotions unfettered by what they “should” be. She is incredibly honest in her music and is not afraid to change aspects of her style between songs, which is to her benefit.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, we caught up with Kassie K. where we talked about her musical influences, her songwriting and recording process, her experience in the music business, her parody music videos as well as her short and long-term future plans.

Q&A Session

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

Kassie K.: Ever since I can remember, I always knew I wanted to be a singer. When I was really little, I actually preferred singing over speaking during conversations. As a child, I was always profoundly infatuated with performing. I would often sing and dance for anyone who was willing to watch and listen. Even now, whether I am performing for just one person or a large crowd, that feeling of excitement, passion and genuine happiness that I feel while on stage is unmatched. I’m not sure if I could say any specific person or moment in my life inspired me to become a singer – it has always just been an innate part of me. Music has always been and always will be a huge part of my life.

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

KK: Growing up, I was obsessed with the major pop icons of the time such as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and the Spice Girls. However, due to my parent’s influences, I also grew up listening to and becoming enamored by artists like Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Whitney Houston and The Beatles. I definitely drew inspiration from those artists who had both a vocal and storytelling perspective. During my adolescence, I started to become more influenced by pop/rock bands like Paramore, Rise Against and Jimmy Eat World, which definitely helped shape my musical style at the time and led me to fronting 2 pop/rock bands.

Although these styles had a dominant focus during different times of my life, I have never boxed myself in with a particular genre. My playlists can be wildly unpredictable, playing everything from Hip Hop to Classical music. I feel that my love for diverse music has ultimately helped shape my style in such a way that I often don’t write a song with the intention of following a strict genre guideline, but instead simply create something that I enjoy, and hope that others will too. I think that’s why I have always been such a huge fan of the band Queen – they never let anyone box them into a straight-line genre, they just created music that they loved.

TCS: For the benefit of those who may not be too familiar with Kassie K. or your musical career, please share with us how you started out in Vancouver, BC, Canada and eventually became a solo recording artist and songwriter?

KK: I have always had a passion for music and songwriting and have been performing ever since I was very young. I started performing at the age of 5 performing in local festivals and showcases. By the age of 11, I started writing my own songs. When I was in high school, I started learning guitar and joined my first band – an all-female pop/rock trio. Unfortunately, we only played a few shows before separating. Later on, during my senior year I joined Bell Tower Dreams, a pop/rock band out of Vancouver, BC, Canada as their lead singer/songwriter. We released 2 physical albums and won a Band of the Month contest with a prominent local radio station, earning radio play and headlining a showcase.

Being so young, I remember having to get a fake ID just so that I could perform in the bars around town. After several years of success, we eventually decided to part ways due to musical differences. Although leaving the band was an extremely difficult decision, it was important for me at that time to follow my heart musically and go back to my roots as a pop artist. Being on my own has afforded me the opportunity to collaborate with so many artists and producers across the world. Equally, it has allowed me to create and release music I love while also being able to play shows around Vancouver. I am extremely excited for everything I am currently doing musically and cannot wait to share what I have been working on with everyone.

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

KK: I feel like my style is always evolving so I always have such a hard time answering this question. In today’s age of music, artists don’t have the same pressure to stick so closely to one genre or style anymore. Current music is continuing to create new subgenres which I feel is amazing, as it creates more variance, moods and diversity within a specific genre. I’m definitely inspired by new things every day, so trying to fit myself into a box in which I have to stay the same all the time is just not me. Although my current music falls somewhere on the pop spectrum, I’ve created alternative rock, electro-pop, indie pop, country pop and electric dance music (EDM) tracks. I would definitely say that I am more focused on expressing the message behind my music rather than making music that fits within a certain genre.


TCS: Personally, one of my favorite tracks is your song called “Let Go,” could you describe the creative process behind the song as well as the in-studio music video concept?

KK: Thank you so much! This song was actually written several years ago but was never properly recorded until just recently. When I was writing the song, I had been going through a hard breakup and was experiencing a lot of mixed emotions. I was scared to let go of a relationship that I cared so deeply for, but at the same time it also caused so much pain and heartache. I think I was in love with something that “could” or “should” have been, and not what really was. Like all my music, my songs are an outlet for how I am feeling and what I am going through. It can be a bit personal, having my diary out on full display, but it’s always been how I’ve worked my way through things. This particular song was written on my couch with just a few simple chords on my guitar, which definitely kept the pop/rock vibes during production. The music video concept was simply a fun way to show my fans the creative process of being in studio. We actually filmed at the location where I primarily record and mix my songs so that place is like a second home to me.


TCS: What would you say is your motivation and muse when you write songs? Is there a specific formula that you follow?

KK: My muse for creating and writing new music is simply my life. All of my songs are very personal and have such a strong connection to either something I’ve gone through personally or witnessed from someone else. I’ve definitely had my share of heartbreaks and missteps, and like many people; I used to bottle up my emotions, which made it a lot harder to move forward. Writing music to me has always just been such a great way to express and put words to how I am feeling. It’s almost like finding comfort in some sort of musical closure. However, it’s important to note, that just because I write a sad song, it doesn’t mean that I’m still in that place currently. I am actually a pretty darn happy person! However, I don’t think anyone really forgets the feelings we once felt or the memories we’ve made in our past, and often those are the songs which are most raw and real, and yet therapeutic to create.

When it comes to writing a new song, I don’t really have a set formula. Sometimes I’ll just be driving in my car and a melody pops in my head, so I’ll use a recording app on my phone and just sing. I literally have THOUSANDS of voice notes on my phone and will listen back to them during a writing session and see if anything stands out and build off that. Sometimes I’ll create new music or melodies by just goofing around on my guitar or piano, while other times I’ll write lyrics over a pre-made beat or instrumental. Literally no song creation for me is the exact same. In fact, sometimes a song can take less than an hour to write completely, while others can take months and, in some cases, may never get finished.

TCS: Tell us about the background story behind “What Do You Want From Me”?

KK: This song is actually one of my own personal favorites because of how personal and honest it is. I’ve always been brutally honest in my lyrics, but I was never great at sharing this honesty – maybe for fear of judgement or unwanted sympathy, or maybe for people figuring out whom the song was about. This particular song was written about an ex right after we broke up. We had broken up and gotten back together a couple times – and there was always this hope that things would change. I wanted so badly for this person to come around and fix what was broken. The song for me was about the frustrations of being with someone I loved, but also feeling like I was in a state of delusive contentment, like I was stuck in a loop of being strung along, while also being deeply loved and relied upon. I had given so much of myself to the relationship, without getting the same in return. It was exhausting. The song itself, is about that longing for things to change, but when things finally do, it’s too late. The honesty behind the song, was that there actually was a change, but time had changed my point of view, and it didn’t matter anymore, it was too much to go back from and even though it hurt a lot at the time, I needed to let go, and I needed him to let me go too.


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

KK: I can’t say that I’ve had anything particularly weird happen, but my cats definitely start to freak the hell out whenever I start to sing – definitely hurts the feelings a little bit lol.

TCS: As a recording artist, how have you embraced social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to market your songs, albums, merchandise and/or appearances?

KK: It’s honestly amazing how many social platforms we have now to connect with each other! Instagram has been a huge for reaching new fans and showcasing my music. With Facebook, people are only able to find you when they already know you, but with apps like Instagram and now Tik Tok, you are able to reach millions of people across the globe who can stumble across your content randomly, through related hashtags, or as a recommendation (or tag) from friends and content creators. You can interact with fans on a personal level and show them pieces of your everyday life and creative process through “IG Stories”, while also being introduced to so many other talented musicians. I actually recently released a song titled “Out of Sight” which was a collaboration project with Jameo, an EDM producer out of Los Angeles, California, who I originally connected with through Instagram.

 

YouTube has also been amazing so far for my career. Several years ago, I created fitness parody music video on YouTube, which I then simply shared to my own pages via Facebook. The video ended up going viral and was reposted on websites and other Facebook pages from Australia to Germany, acquiring over 12 million views worldwide. Due to the success of the parody, I released a follow up fitness parody the following year, which was also picked up and shared internationally, this time receiving notable media attention from websites like ESPN, People Magazine and Kiss Radio. It’s pretty cool that I still have fans who found me through my parodies and have continued to follow my musical journey and support me and my music. Aside from my parodies, YouTube has always been an amazing place to share and promote both cover songs and original music.

TCS: Can you describe for us the history behind your viral fitness parodies and the worldwide attention that they received with notable features by ESPN, People Magazine, CBC and Kiss Radio?

KK: The first fitness parody I created was honestly just the result of me wanting to put together a super simple and fun music video with my friends. I had been a gym rat for a while and when I heard Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” my mind instantly went to “All About Those Gains.” I was just messing around one day and ended up writing the entire song in one session and everything kind of just snowballed from there. I’ve always been really into comedy, and thanks to my dad I grew up listening to a lot of Weird Al Yankovic (he was actually my very first concert!) so writing and filming a fitness parody was totally up my alley.

 

I ended up releasing the music video for “All About Those Gains” on Reddit, Facebook and YouTube. Within about 2 weeks, the video went viral. Based on the success of the parody it led me to create another parody the following year. This time, I selected Mariah Carey’s classic holiday hit “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” changing the title to “All I Want For Christmas Is Gains,” which quickly gained international attention. It’s always funny how sometimes the simplest of videos can reap the biggest success. Both parodies were produced at no cost and were filmed primarily with an old iPhone using no tripods or fancy equipment and were edited on my computer through Windows Movie Maker.


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

KK: Honestly, I am not really sure. Music has always been the one constant in my life. Currently, I am also working as a personal trainer and health coach, which I absolutely love. Gotta pay those bills! Fitness is so much more than just lifting weights and getting in shape, the biggest transformations come from within, and it’s amazing to get to be a part of someone else’s life journey. Moving into the health and fitness industry was a natural transition for me, not just because I was already active and had experience in psychology, but because it allowed me more freedom and time to pursue my music career. However, I would be lying if I didn’t say that my ultimate dream job is to work in an animal sanctuary petting lions all day.

TCS: What does the short and long-term future look like for Kassie K?

KK: Well I am really excited to announce my recent signing to Mi5 Recordings! Coming from Vancouver, BC this is such an amazing opportunity for me to work with some highly talented and experienced industry professionals – ultimately helping to take my music to the next level. In the short-term, I am looking forward to releasing a digital album and physical compilation of my previously released singles as well as some of my soon to be released tracks entitled Happy Never After. I have SO much going on right now, but I can honestly say that I’ve never been more excited and prouder of the music that I am creating. Long-term, I am really looking forward to working with Mi5 Recordings and enjoying the adventure.

To stay connected, please join me on the following:

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Since 2012, Frank Iacono has served as the President and CEO of The Creative Spotlight, the ultimate destination for unearthing a wealth of undiscovered musical talent, reading exciting interviews, releasing new music and sharing exclusive videos.

Every good story needs a good storyteller. And, The Creative Spotlight has truly provided a quality forum for revealing those great stories. Through the years, the online publication has featured national and local musicians such as Screaming For Silence, Ages Apart, Roxy Petrucci, Peter Beckett, We The Kings, Everything Falls, Rod Black, Derek Crider, Daniel Mason Band, Michelle Leigh, Jessie G., Karen Mansfield and Hillbilly Vegas. Additionally, we’ve also focused on historic Pennsylvania-based paranormal venues, well-known actors and actresses, published authors, professional artists, local businesses, consultants, trainers, speakers and more…

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

Inga Rudin – Lola Montez

Written by: Frank Iacono

Inga Rudin - Lola Montez

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

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

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

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

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

Q&A Session

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

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

Lola Montez

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

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

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

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

The band lineup consists of:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

To stay connected, please join us on the following:

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

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

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

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

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Since 2012, Frank Iacono has served as the President and CEO of The Creative Spotlight, the ultimate destination for unearthing a wealth of undiscovered musical talent, reading exciting interviews, releasing new music and sharing exclusive videos.

Every good story needs a good storyteller. And, The Creative Spotlight has truly provided a quality forum for revealing those great stories. Through the years, the online publication has featured national and local musicians such as Screaming For Silence, Ages Apart, Roxy Petrucci, Peter Beckett, We The Kings, Everything Falls, Rod Black, Derek Crider, Daniel Mason Band, Michelle Leigh, Jessie G., Karen Mansfield and Hillbilly Vegas. Additionally, we’ve also focused on historic Pennsylvania-based paranormal venues, well-known actors and actresses, published authors, professional artists, local businesses, consultants, trainers, speakers and more…

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

Jean-Francois Perotin – The Rockin Krolik

Written by: Frank Iacono

Jean-Francois Perotin - The Rockin Krolik

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

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

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

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

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

Q&A Session

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

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

Jean-Francois Perotin - The Rockin Krolik

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

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

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

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

Jean-Francois Perotin - The Rockin Krolik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

JFP: DIY!! Full stack creative!

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

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

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

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

To stay connected, please join us on the following:


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

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

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

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

Jean-Francois Perotin - The Rockin Krolik

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

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

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

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

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

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Since 2012, Frank Iacono has served as the President and CEO of The Creative Spotlight, the ultimate destination for unearthing a wealth of undiscovered musical talent, reading exciting interviews, releasing new music and sharing exclusive videos.

Every good story needs a good storyteller. And, The Creative Spotlight has truly provided a quality forum for revealing those great stories. Through the years, the online publication has featured national and local musicians such as Screaming For Silence, Ages Apart, Roxy Petrucci, Peter Beckett, We The Kings, Everything Falls, Rod Black, Derek Crider, Daniel Mason Band, Michelle Leigh, Jessie G., Karen Mansfield and Hillbilly Vegas. Additionally, we’ve also focused on historic Pennsylvania-based paranormal venues, well-known actors and actresses, published authors, professional artists, local businesses, consultants, trainers, speakers and more…

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