Steve Harris: Lead Singer of Hillbilly Vegas

Written by: Frank Iacono

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q&A Session

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

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

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

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

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

SH: The Hillbilly Vegas band lineup consists of:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To stay connected, please join us on the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

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

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


Jim Werner: Pennhurst School and State Hospital

Written by: Frank Iacono

In 1903, the Pennsylvania Legislature authorized the creation of the Pennhurst State School and Hospital, originally known as the Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic. The institution, which officially opened its doors on November 23, 1908, was the second such state-operated facility and served the mentally and physically disabled individuals of Southeastern PA.

From the outset, the Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution was overcrowded. Designed for epileptics and persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, there was tremendous pressure to admit many different persons whom society, steeped in the eugenics movement, wanted removed from the gene pool, including immigrants, orphans, criminals, etc.

Unfortunately, cruel punishments were common at the facility. Overworked staff responded to unruly patients by drugging them into submission or chaining them to their beds. Other residents were isolated for such long periods of time that they regressed and lost their will to speak, fight or even to live.

In 1968, Philadelphia CBS correspondent Bill Baldini produced an exposé on the institution entitled “Suffer the Little Children” which uncovered the atrocities of the facility and created a sympathetic public sediment. His exposure led to a massive lawsuit. In 1987, the facility officially closed its doors and the network of buildings was neglected and left to the tortured, sad spirits.

In 2010, to the shock and dismay of many – especially those in the mental and physical disabilities community – Pennhurst owners worked with Randy Bates of The Bates Motel Halloween attraction located in Glenn Mills, PA to turn Pennhurst’s historic lower campus into a commercial Halloween “haunted” attraction.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Werner, the Operations Manager of Pennhurst Asylum, and asked him about the history, the eugenics movement, the five-part news report, the annual haunted attraction and “good to know” facts concerning the Pennhurst State School and Hospital.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: When the Pennhurst School and State Hospital opened its doors on November 23, 1908, how did the Eugenics movement influence the purpose of the institution for the feeble minded and epileptic and what problems ensued?

Jim Werner: At the time, when the Pennhurst School and State Hospital opened its doors in 1908 in Spring City, Pennsylvania, people with special needs were perceived as a subclass very similar to how African Americans were regarded. Pennhurst was part of a national trend to segregate individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities from mainstream society. To that extent, I feel that the Eugenics movement was a flawed science in that it truly discouraged aiding the sick and poor. In the prior century, the ongoing idea was that by pulling those with special needs out of society it both protected society and also gave them a place to live safely. We know that without knowledge there can’t be change and as society was never exposed to the disabled, they were seen as an almost non-existent and unknown population.

TCS: Can you provide us with at least three historical facts about the Pennhurst State School and Hospital that the average person wouldn’t know?

JW: Three “Good to Know” facts about the Pennhurst School and State Hospital, include:

  • When the facility opened in 1908, the administration building had not yet been completed so the Philadelphia building was actually used as the original Admin building.
  • There was a time when train cars could travel all the way up from the main tracks to the middle of the lower campus in the area of the Dietary building
  • The Pennhurst School and State Hospital was never actually an asylum.

TCS: How many building encompassed the Pennhurst facility and what were the buildings used for?

JW: At its height, the Pennhurst School and State Hospital encompassed more than 30 buildings. The earliest of which, designed by Phillip H. Johnson, were constructed of red brick, terra cotta and granite trimmings and are connected by a series of underground tunnels that stretch for miles. Pennhurst was a self-sufficient community as its 1,400-acre site contained a firehouse, general store, barbershop, greenhouse, hospital with a morgue, auditorium, farm, power plant, and even a graveyard.

TCS: When Pennhurst was built how many patients was it initially built to accommodate and how many occupants did it have at its fullest capacity? Additionally, what was the ratio of doctors and nurses or employees to patients?

JW: The Pennhurst facility was initially designed to house around 500 patients, by 1912 the institution was almost immediately overpopulated. Once in, every patient was given a classification of mental prowess, either as an “imbecile” or “insane” and physically as either “epileptic” or “healthy.” Many of the people that were placed in the School and State Hospital should not have been. In 1946, there were only seven physicians serving over 2,000 patients with no room for the 1,000 still on the waiting list for admission. By the mid-1960s, the facility, housed 2,791 people, most of them children, which was about 900 more than the administration thought the buildings could comfortably accommodate. The staff was extremely overwhelmed and unable to properly care for the patients.

TCS: In your opinion, do you feel that Pennhurst predominantly assisted in providing a positive learning experience for the patients or do you feel its programs and resources caused more harm than good?

JW: For some of the patients, the answer is “yes” and for others the answer is “no”. The high functioning patients could work and live a pretty full life on site without the persecution of the general public raining down on them. However, with a budget shortfall and staffing issues the low functioning patients were not cared for in a manner that would help to improve their condition. By the mid-1960s, only 200 of the residents were in any kind of art, education, or recreation programs.

TCS: In 1968, Bill Baldini, a local CBS Philadelphia newsman, opened the eyes to the horrors of Pennhurst when he exposed it during a five-part series entitled Suffer the Little Children. How did this expose change the daily operations of Pennhurst and Pennsylvania laws concerning the treatment of the mentally disabled?

JW: Bill Baldini, then a fledgling TV reporter, heard about the Pennhurst School and State Hospital facility and went there one day to visit and was immediately appalled at the conditions. Baldini has said that when he left that day, he cried the entire way home in his car. His five-part exposé outraged the public and truly painted a picture of neglect and abuse in the Chester County, PA institution. Many of the regular news viewers found it very difficult to stomach the coverage. This state-funded school and hospital center was at the heart of the human rights movement that revolutionized this country’s approach to healthcare for the mentally and physically handicapped. This facility was one of the most striking examples of the maltreatment that was characteristic of such institutions––at one point, papers labeled it “The Shame of the Pennsylvania”.

TCS: Who and how many are buried in the Pennhurst Memorial Cemetery? Can you tell us if these were patients of the hospital and why didn’t family members come to claim their bodies?

JW: The Pennhurst Memorial Cemetery is located on the grounds of the Pennhurst State School and Hospital. From a time period between 1918 and 1933 there were 40 former residents are buried. Unfortunately, I cannot answer why they didn’t claim their bodies with anything other than just speculation.

TCS: Can you describe for us some of the coverage that the Pennhurst School and State Hospital has received especially on shows like Ghost Finders, Syfy’s Ghost Hunter and the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures and Paranormal Challenge?

JW: The Pennhurst School and State Hospital site has long been regarded as a paranormal hotspot by some of the shows within that genre and they draw specifically on that reputation.

On Ghost Finders (Season 4, Episode 10 and Season 4, Episode 9 Pennhurst), join team members Rob, Heather and Amber as they capture some incredible evidence caught on camera.

On Ghost Adventures (Season 2, Episode 12), Zak Bagans, Nick Groff, Aaron Goodwin travel to Pennhurst State School and Hospital in Pennsylvania, which was an institution for both the mentally and physically disabled. Pennhurst State closed in 1987 after several allegations of abuse, including dehumanization.

On Ghost Hunters Live: Pennhurst State (Season 7, Episode 21), the Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) team and some special guests spend six hours at Pennhurst State School and Hospital, with live interactive features so that the viewing audience can join in the chase.

On Paranormal Challenge (Season 1, Episode 3), creator and host Zak Bagans invites two teams of amateur ghost hunters to spend the night locked down inside haunted hotspots. During the night, the teams will put their paranormal skills to the test by conducting a ghost investigation with high-tech gear and their own knowledge. The teams will then present their findings to Bagans and a panel of three paranormal experts who judge the teams on teamwork, use of technology and evidence collected during the lockdown.

In this episode, the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society take a more methodical approach to investigating the looming spirits of Pennhurst State School, while the rough-and-tumble Quest Paranormal Society employ an in-your-face plan of attack.

TCS: While working at Pennhurst, have you personally experienced any paranormal encounters such as shadows, unexplained lights or apparitions? If so, can you please describe where and what happened specifically?

JW: Fortunately, or unfortunately, while I’ve worked at Pennhurst School and State Hospital I have not personally experienced any paranormal encounters.

TCS: In October of 2010, Pennhurst owners worked with Randy Bates of the Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride attraction in Glen Mills, PA was to turn Pennhurst historic lower campus into a commercial Halloween “haunted” attraction. With that, can you share what visitors to the annual event will experience during their trip to the Pennhurst Haunted Asylum?

JW: Visitors to the annual event can enjoy four terrifying attractions featuring the Pennhurst Asylum, The Dungeon of Lost Souls, Containment and Mayflower After Dark.

Pennhurst Asylum

The Pennhurst Asylum is a “Hospital” themed walk through attraction featuring many items and artifacts that are salvaged from the original State School. Located on the upper floors of the old Administration building, which dates to 1908, this attraction features fine detail and realism through a combination of high tech animatronics, digital sound and highly trained actors.

The Dungeon of Lost Souls

Enter the world of the underground as your soul is led down the steps of the past to go back in time to a labyrinth of dilapidated cells, never ending halls, and be forced to confront a series of human experiments that have gone horribly and deadly wrong. This experience includes CGI special effects, illusions, attention to detail and ghosts that have never left the halls.

Containment (Tunnels) New* 2017!

Containment is a new attraction for 2017 that takes you through a 1,200-foot-long gauntlet underneath the Pennhurst complex. Stationed as a government facility hidden underground for decades, you will bear witness to patients being experimented on in the most inhumane ways possible. Lucky for you, this research facility is still accepting patients! The brand-new sets and scares of this attraction are guaranteed to produce horrifying screams and nightmares to come.

Mayflower After Dark

The final attraction, Mayflower After Dark, is a self-guided tour of the Mayflower Building, reportedly the most ghostly active of all the locations on the campus. It’s featured on Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters. No actors or props, visitors are sent at their own risk to wander through the dormitory, left caught in the sands of time just as it was 26 years ago. Search for spirits on your own, or let them find you first. Included is a museum of Pennhurst State School artifacts with real former employees taking you back in time to what life was really like for the patients.

Contact or Visit Pennhurst

Pennhurst School and State Hospital
Church Street and Bridge Road
Spring City, PA 19475
Phone: 484-886-6080
Get Directions

TCS: What can you tell us about the Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance?

JW: The Mission of the Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance is to promote an understanding of the struggle for dignity and full civil rights for persons with disabilities, using the little-known history at Pennhurst. By sharing this tragic story as well as its landmark victories, they seek to educate citizens in local, national and international communities, to assure that we never go back.

The Vision of the Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance is to be part of an effort to create a world-class museum to honor and memorialize the ongoing civil and human rights struggle of Americans with disabilities at a location of national significance.

TCS: Where do you see the Pennhurst property in the next 20 years?

JW: We very much hope that the essential buildings located on the Pennhurst site can be economically restored. From a historical perspective, we plan to have a museum or other venue on the property to recognize the site’s vast history and display artifacts. Additionally, our goal is to continue to operate and expand the Halloween haunted house attractions on a year-to-year basis.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

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

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

Eastern State Penitentiary: America’s Most Historic Prison

Written by: Frank Iacono

Construction of the Eastern State Penitentiary, America’s most historic prison, began on a cherry orchard outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1822. The chosen design created by British-born architect John Haviland was a technological marvel which consisted of seven wings of individual cell blocks radiating from a center hub; this was unlike any other prison design seen before the penitentiary opened in 1829.

Eastern State, at its completion was the most expensive public structure ever built, is considered to be the world’s first true penitentiary. It was initially renowned for its Enlightenment-inspired efforts to reform inmates rather than merely punish them. Eventually, this system was abandoned in favor of solitary confinement and a Death Row block. The once-genteel penitentiary housed, at one time, the most notorious prohibition-era gangster – Al Capone. Capone’s private cell even allowed him to have fine antiques and Oriental carpets.

The prison was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and closed in 1971. It is now considered by several sources to be one of the most haunted places in America. The penitentiary has been featured on the Travel Channel’s Most Haunted Live, Ghost Adventures, and Paranormal Challenge; Fox Television’s World’s Scariest Places; TLC’s America’s Ghost Hunters; and MTV’s FEAR.

Today, Eastern State Penitentiary is open for tours seven days a week, year-round. Visitors can explore the cell blocks and learn about the history of this facility and its relevance. Eastern State offers a daily guided tour with one of their expert tour guides, or visitors can take a self-guided audio tour, “The Voices of Eastern State” Audio Tour, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sean Kelley, Senior Vice President & Director of Interpretation and Amy Hollaman, Associate Director, Events and Operations; Creative Director for Terror Behind the Walls and asked them about the history, the correctional system of incarceration, notorious criminals who were incarcerated, the annual Terror Behind the Walls and “good to know” facts concerning the Eastern State Penitentiary.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: The Eastern State Penitentiary, which was designed by John Haviland and opened its doors on October 25, 1829, was considered the first true penitentiary. Why do you think it received this designation and what made it so controversial?

Sean Kelley: Eastern State is considered the world’s first true penitentiary because of its intent, to instill penitence and true regret in the hearts of its prisoners. Eastern State’s focus was on achieving this penitence through silence, prayer, and labor, all of which took place in the solitude of inmates’ cells. Solitary confinement was a revolutionary concept when compared to prisons at the time, where inmates of all ages and crimes were housed together and physical punishment was the norm. Now, we can look back at the system of isolation that was so prevalent at the beginning of Eastern State’s history and recognize how, although it was supposed to be a solution to prison reform, it truly was harmful for inmates.

TCS: For the benefit of those who are not familiar with the Eastern State Penitentiary, can you provide us with at least three “Good to Know” facts?

SK: Three “Good to Know” facts about the Eastern State Penitentiary, include:

  • Eastern State Penitentiary’s system of solitude was seen as a revolutionary concept in prison reform. But what we know now, nearly 200 years later, is that solitary confinement is incredibly damaging for people’s mental health.
  • Architect John Haviland’s wagon wheel design of Eastern State has been copied over 300 times. There is a prison that looks just like Eastern State on every continent except Antarctica.
  • The penitentiary had running water and central heat before the White House!

TCS: Eastern State Penitentiary is touted as America’s Most Historic Prison. Can you perhaps share with us some stories about notorious criminals who were incarcerated there such as bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al “Scarface” Capone?

SK: One of the most famous bank robbers in American History, “Slick Willie” Sutton spent 11 years at Eastern State Penitentiary. In 1945 Sutton, along with 11 other prisoners, escaped from Eastern State in an inmate-dug tunnel that went almost 100 feet underground. Sutton was recaptured just minutes later. Over the course of his criminal career Sutton is credited with over 50 bank robberies, three successful escapes from prison, and over 30 years served behind bars. Visitors can step into the cell and view the hole from which Sutton and 11 others escaped.

Our visitors also enjoy viewing the cell of Chicago’s most famous mob boss, Al Capone. According to news reports, his time at Eastern State was spent in relative luxury. Reports stated that his cell housed a cabinet radio, oriental rug, and fine furniture. He also had his tonsils removed from the penitentiary operating room in 1929.

Take a 360-degree panorama view of Al Capone’s cell by visiting

TCS: Please explain Eastern State’s revolutionary so-called separate philosophy or correctional system of incarceration, dubbed as the Pennsylvania System of Confinement?

SK: The separate system, or Pennsylvania System, was based on the idea that penitence would lead to reform. Through silence, spiritual reflection, and physical labor, criminals were supposed to find this penitence in their hearts and change their ways. The early system was strict. Inmates has no contact with each other, and even interactions with guards was mild. Meals were even passed through a feeding hole, limiting guard/inmate interaction further. When inmates were taken from their cells, a hood was placed over their head to avoid any contact.

TCS: Can you please describe for us what an inmate experienced in the 1800’s under the Pennsylvania System of Confinement?

SK: When Eastern State was designed, its architect had to create solutions to ensure the success of this separate system. Originally, each cellblock and individual cell was designed with similar architecture to a church, with high, arched ceilings and a single skylight. Because each cell was meant for a single inmate, each has its own exercise yard and flushing toilet.

The penitentiary’s most famous architectural aspect is its radial design, with a central surveillance hub and seven cellblock which radiated from it much like a wagon wheel. This was to ensure complete and total surveillance to ensure control. As additional cellblocks were built over time, this idea of surveillance became harder and harder to achieve.

TCS: Can you please describe for us some of the horrible forms of punishment that the inmates encountered when they broke the rules?

SK: Eastern State officials mostly avoided physical punishments, though straightjackets and other restraints were occasionally applied.

In the 1800s, Eastern State’s “silent system,” or “Pennsylvania system,” stood in opposition to the Auburn system of incarceration employed in New York State prisons such as Auburn and Sing Sing. The Auburn system housed prisoners in solitary cells overnight, but grouped them together during the day for silent labor. Auburn administrators used corporal punishment on those who broke prison rules, while Eastern State officials largely avoided such punishments.

On occasion, Eastern State officials placed prisoners who became unruly or violent, and those who repeatedly disturbed the penitentiary’s silence, in restraints such as the “iron gag” and the “composing chair” (also called the “mad chair” or “tranquilizing chair”). One prisoner, Mathias Maccumsey, died after being placed in the iron gag for attempting to communicate with other prisoners.

Another punishment that officials used on occasion in the 1800s was the “shower bath.” A “shower bath” was a punishment used by prison officials in which a prisoner was restrained and doused with water.

Though solitary confinement had been used in the prison’s early years for rehabilitative purposes, by the early 1900s, solitary cells were reserved for those who broke prison rules. Infractions that resulted in solitary confinement included stealing items from the kitchen, fighting, gambling, cursing an officer, and other misconducts.

TCS: Please share with us the specific changes that occurred to the Penitentiary in the 1900’s and how those changes affected the prisoners daily living conditions and interactions with other inmates versus the 1800s?

SK: The separate system that Eastern State was so infamous for had begun to erode early on. By the late 1800s, inmates were issued hoods with— for the first time—eye holes. They would exercise together, in silence and anonymity. A congregate workshop was added to the complex in 1905, eight years before the Pennsylvania System was officially discontinued. With a large number of prisoners in an aging structure, the system of solitary isolation was completely abandoned in 1913.

An issue that faced the wardens of Eastern State, which we still face today, is prison overcrowding. As the penitentiary took in more and more prisoners, the separate system was no longer realistic or achievable. The original seven cellblocks were no longer enough to hold inmates, and by the time the penitentiary closed in 1970, an additional 8 cellblocks had been added. This compromised both the system of isolation and surveillance that was so pivotal in the 1800s.

TCS: By 1965, the Federal Government designated Eastern State Penitentiary as a National Historic Landmark. In 1971, it was closed. Can you describe for us the various proposals the City of Philadelphia had for the property after it purchased it for redevelopment?

SK: Eastern State sat abandoned for about 16 years before it went up for sale in 1987. Developers placed bids ranging from $2.5 million to $3 million. Suggested developments included a condominium complex, a supermarket, restaurants, and a nightclub. The following year, the preservationist group Eastern State Task Force (which would eventually become Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc.) was formed and the first limited group tours of the prison are offered. The rest, as they say, is history.

TCS: Please describe for us what the public can expect to see or encounter during one of the historic public tours?

SK: There is something for everyone at Eastern State. We offer a daily guided tour with one of our expert tour guides, or visitors can take a self-guided audio tour, “The Voices of Eastern State” Audio Tour, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi. Eastern State also features history exhibits and a critically acclaimed series of artist installations. Visitors can enjoy Hands-On History interactive experiences which allow visitors a closer look through short demonstrations with our expert tour guides. Our latest exhibit, Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration, looks at our nation’s skyrocketing incarceration rate and the driving factors behind it. Eastern State sits on nearly 11 acres, so we encourage visitors to walk around and explore everything the museum has to offer!

TCS: When do you start preparing for Terror Behind the Walls and tell us what exactly goes in to the overall preparation process?

Amy Hollaman: Terror Behind the Walls, America’s largest haunted house, is located inside the massive, castle-like walls of Eastern State Penitentiary. This extraordinary theatrical production is consistently ranked among the top haunted attractions in the nation. Preparation takes place year-round, and once the event is up-and-running it takes an elite team of 14 makeup artists almost three hours to prepare the cast of more than 200 performers each evening.

Terror Behind the Walls is the single largest source of revenue for Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc., the 501(c)3 tax-exempt, charitable organization that administers both the daytime prison tour program and the Halloween fundraiser. Since 1991, Terror Behind the Walls has raised more than $5.3 million to fund preservation efforts at this National Historic Landmark.

With the help of Terror Behind the Walls, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is thriving. Daytime prison tours are available every day, year-round, from 10 am to 5 pm.

TCS: Terror Behind the Walls an annual Haunted House Halloween event, consists of six startling attractions. Can you please describe each of the attractions and tell us what you feel entices visitors from across the country to attend year after year?

AH: Terror Behind the Walls (TBTW) consists of six haunted attractions that create a seamless experience for visitors. All six attractions are included in one admission price. As visitors enter Terror Behind the Walls, they are confronted with a critical decision: should they explore the prison and watch the action, or should they mark themselves to truly interact with the denizens of the cellblocks? Those who opt in for true interactivity may be grabbed, held back, sent into hidden passageways, removed from their group, and even occasionally incorporated into the show. They will deal with the consequences of their decision through six long attractions:

  • Lock Down: The creatures of Lock Down: The Uprising have risen to TBTW from the depths of the darkest universe. They are agile, ruthless, and hungry for flesh. They have no law, no chain of command, no concept of confinement.
  • Machine Shop: Hidden deep inside the cell blocks is a long-forgotten Machine Shop. Evil pervades this space – an evil with one mind but with many bodies.
  • Infirmary: The Infirmary takes the fear of hospitals to a whole new level. Discover the world of prison medical treatment, including shock therapy, hydrotherapy, and other torturous experiments gone wrong.
  • Quarantine 4D: Flat walls appear to have depth, creatures emerge from seemingly nowhere, and some brave visitors will be challenged to face their worst fears.
  • Break Out: Inmates surround you using every way imaginable to escape. Keep an eye out at every corner, as inmates may even be using YOU to aid in their attempt to gain freedom.
  • Blood Yard: The carnage sends a clear message: You could be next. Hunt or be hunted!

Be the first to know about our new attraction – follow us @TerrorAtESP on:

TCS: Can you describe for us the coverage that Eastern State received on Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures and Most Haunted Live, Syfy’s Ghost Hunters, MTVs Fear and others?

SK: Many people believe that Eastern State Penitentiary is haunted. As early as the 1940s, officers and inmates reported mysterious visions and eerie experiences in the ancient prison. With the growing interest in paranormal investigations, Eastern State Penitentiary may now be the most carefully studied building in the United States. Approximately 60 paranormal teams visit to explore the site in a typical year. The penitentiary has been featured on the Travel Channel’s Most Haunted LiveGhost Adventures, and Paranormal Challenge; Fox Television’s World’s Scariest Places; TLC’s America’s Ghost Hunters; and MTV’s FEAR. Footage captured on the second tier of Cellblock 12 by paranormal investigators during filming of SyFy’s Ghost Hunters may be the most controversial ghost sighting in history. During the filming of Paranormal Challenge S01E02, host Zak Bagans called Eastern State Penitentiary “one of the most haunted places in the world.”

Contact or Visit:

The Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site
2027 Fairmount Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Phone: 215-236-3300

About Frank Iacono


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

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

Donna Melanson: Azul Yoga

Written by: Frank Iacono


Donna Melanson, ERYT200/ RYT500, is an experienced yoga teacher who teaches weekly classes and special events in collaboration with businesses and corporations in the Boca Raton, Florida area. She has studied yoga principles for years but has been fully teaching since 2011.

Donna is the founder of Azul Yoga and Azul Yoga Institute. She recently graduated her inaugural class of yoga teachers who have been trained in the Melanson Method, which is an amalgamation of the best parts of her training in several yoga disciplines including Vinyasa, Restorative and Yin Yoga, Yoga Nidra, Pranayama, Vedic Thai Yoga, and Meditation.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Donna Melanson and asking her a few questions about her educational and professional background, her perspective on yoga, her wellness philosophy, her daily live video streaming Sunrise Beach Yoga and Meditation on Periscope and Facebook Live, and her upcoming yoga retreat.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: How and when did you decide to embark in your profession as a Yoga Instructor and how many years have you been teaching?

Donna Melanson: I became a yoga teacher after years of pursuing all the things that I felt that I should be doing; Go to college, start a family, provide for that family, keep your head down, sacrifice, and work. Divorced, single for ten years, raising children as a single parent, while being self-employed left me feeling very empty. I was very successful in business and then I wasn’t, life happened, as it always does and I found myself reinventing my life. This time I told myself I going to recreate my life in the way I want to live and be in this world.


At the time I was reflecting and making my decisions I owned 100 acres in the mountains of North Carolina I would go there often and hike the land and commune with nature. It was the first time in many years that I would do something for myself and I felt truly happy and at peace. As I walked in the silence of nature I kept hearing the chant Yoga Yoga Yoga in my head in the way they said Toga Toga Toga in the classic movie Animal House. I wanted to practice yoga at the top of the mountain for some unknown reason. I didn’t know anyone who practiced yoga, and really didn’t know much about it. I must have talked about it a lot because a friend gave me a 30 min VHS gentle yoga tape and a too small too flimsy yoga mat. I started practicing every day and it left me in a deeper state of peace. A state that I could be in without having to go into the woods. I knew then that this was the path that I wanted to go in. This is how I wanted to live in this world. I’ve studied for years and have been fully teaching since 2011.

TCS: In your own words what is yoga? Additionally, please discuss for us some of the benefits yoga has for children, teens, and seniors?

DM: Yoga is the uniting of the body, mind, and spirit, and it’s this union that allows us to live in a more effortless state of being. When are body is settled, our minds become settled, and it allows us to see clearly. In this clarity we connect to the spirit not only within ourselves, but we begin to see this divinity in everyone else as well.


Yoga is perfect for children, teens, seniors, anyone, and everyone at any age, at any level of fitness, or any ability to stretch. We all have to start where we are with what we have. The first yoga sutra states that yoga begins now. Meaning now in every present moment. Our yoga practice is about introspection, so we’re tuning in to ourselves discovering more about yourself. Noticing habits and patterns while connecting with the true nature of who we are. We practice these things on the mat doing the best that we can in that moment even if the best we can do is just show up and imagine doing the postures in our head that day. We show up, we practice, we get stronger in both our mind and body, and we practice these things on the mat so that we can take them off the mat and into our lives.

TCS: For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Donna Melanson or Azul Yoga, please share with us your education, certifications, training, and/or additional qualifications that you possess?

DM: I’m an experienced yoga teacher ERYT 200/RYT500 and have also had formal training in Yin, Restorative and Vedic Thai Yoga. I’ve had the opportunity and benefit of being with some of the top teachers in this country, I love my training and I love everything about my job, and I will forever continue to be a student of this practice.

TCS: How many different types of yoga do you teach and is there one specific style that you prefer and why?

DM: I teach Hatha, Vinyasa, Restorative, and Yin Yoga. I prefer the mindful meditative gentle approach to any style I teach.

TCS: As a Yoga Instructor what is your overall wellness philosophy?

DM: Mindfulness.


TCS: In your opinion, what do you think draws people to yoga and specifically to participate in your program?

DM: I think people are looking for something when they find yoga. And, I’ve often wondered what drawls people to my program. Certainly there are many instructors who are stronger and more adept in the postures, and certainly there are people who are more well versed in every aspect of yoga. But what some have told me it’s just who I am, and I only assume that they yoga has changed me and does affect every sense of my being, and that people feel that.

TCS: What advice do you have for people who have never tried yoga? And, why do you think some people may feel intimidated by yoga?

DM: I think many people are confused about yoga and I have to admit it can be a little confusing if you don’t know anything about yoga because now there are as many types of yoga as choices in types of food. A big difference between a scoop of white rice and a meal that may be served at a fine French restaurant. Many people come to me and think yoga is about stretching, and others think it’s more of a power exercise class, where you need a prerequisite in gymnastics to attend. So it’s no wonder it’s intimidating. Truth is, just like finding what foods you like. You may have to try a few different styles of yoga, and then once you fine a style that resonates with you may need to try like chef’s different teachers to serve that style to you. Whatever style resonates with you will all help to lead you down the same path. Many studios offer yoga basic classes to help you get started. Just remember it’s your time on the mat. Pay attention to your own body and do what’s best for you.

TCS: In a class full of people with wildly different aims, how do you strive to keep everyone engaged and motivated?

DM: There are many factors that can keep people coming to your class or keep them away. All you can do is show up and give the best class that you can at the moment. With the intention that they receive everything that they need at that moment.


TCS: Can you describe some of the safety precautions you take during your yoga class sessions to prevent injuries?

DM: I’m not a doctor, although I do know a lot about anatomy, therefore I never ask people about injuries. If, however someone wants to talk to me about their injury before or after class I’m happy to talk to them about how they can accommodate to protect themselves. If I witness someone during class struggling I let them know that they are free to come out of the pose. I give everyone permission listen to their bodies and to not do any pose or adjust as needed. Yoga as I said is about self-awareness. We need to learn to tune in and trust our innate intuition on what is best for us.

TCS: Tell us how you discovered live video streaming on Periscope and describe for us your Sunrise Beach Yoga and Meditation?

DM: I’ve been streaming on Periscope for about six months. I started after moving to close to the beach a year and a half ago. I wanted to create the daily habit for myself of yoga and meditation at sunrise at the beach, a desire that come to me during my first yoga teacher training many years before. I started going to the beach every morning and it was so beautiful and t was so inspiring that I felt that I had to share. So over a year ago I started posting photos to my Instagram account with inspirational sayings. While on the beach one morning I ran into a friend who told me about periscope. So I began. That’s how things happen right, it’s about just showing up and just doing it, and you set the intention to help, and hopefully you do. Periscope has propelled me to a higher level. Broadcasting to people from all over the world suddenly gaining well over 20,000 followers and still growing.


TCS: Describe for us in greater detail the many benefits of some of the more common yoga postures including the following:

DM: Here are some of the more common yoga postures and their specific benefits:

  • Alternate Nostril Breathing – We practice alternate nostril breathing to clear energy pathways. When the left side, which is the feminine side, is clear it brings us more peace and serenity. When the right side, the masculine side is clear it gives us more energy. So when we practice flowing back and forth alternating the nostrils, we balance and get that perfect blend of strength and peace.
  • Child’s Pose – A relaxing posture that is great for digestion. The forward flexion massages the abdominal organs, and helps release muscular tension along spine into the hips. It’s a great time to take a moment to honor yourself, honor your body, and your time on the mat.
  • Downward Dog – Strengthens and stretches the legs, arms, and shoulders. Creates balance, integration, and grounding of the whole body. Helps to calm the nervous system.
  • Gratitude Meditation Meditation – Is meant free our awareness from identifying with our thoughts and what we’re sensing. When we practice gratitude meditation or any meditation where we are concentrating on one thing, be it gratitude, our breath, or a mantra, it’s the first step in learning to have awareness in every moment but not to cling to our thoughts that keep popping into our heads. Aware that they are there but then letting go, as we focus our attention on one thing. Meditating on gratitude specifically allows us to shift our thought to all that is good and working. We shift our thoughts because our thoughts become words, and our words become actions, and our actions become our present reality. We want to live in a world where we have more things to be thankful for, so this where we need to begin.
  • Lotus Pose Increases – Flexibility in the hips, legs, knees, ankles and feet. It strengthens the core and helps to develop good posture.
  • Mountain Pose – Teaches us the basic alignment for all poses. You are grounded and you pause here to witness your conscious thoughts with detachment.
  • Plank – Strengthens your overall body especially your core.
  • Tree – Strengthens the legs and your core for balance.
  • Warrior – Helps to increase flexibility in the hips and shoulders, strengthens the core. In fact, all muscles are engaged as they are in every pose but they’re softened after engagement. We want a little bit of movement in a lot of places. We want all muscles involved and working. So here in this warrior pose is a great place to feel the strength of the warrior and the peace of the yogi. Strong but soft.


TCS: Are there any celebrated situations where you feel you’ve made a huge impact in someone’s life?

DM: I can’t really speak to how huge an impact I’ve made on other people although I have had people come up to me, call me and write me in gratitude. But I can speak to the huge impact I’ve made on my own life. I once looked on the outside as a very lucky and successful person. I had money, cars, and many other “things”, but I wasn’t happy and I tortured myself in my mind with thoughts. That’s what yoga did for me, and it’s why I want to share and teach. I know that happiness starts here, and I want everyone to get to this place of peace.

TCS: What is your mantra and, how does it sum up your life?

DM: My mantra is So hum meaning – I am. I am on the sense that we are connected to all things.

TCS: I understand that you’re planning a Yoga Retreat for your Periscope audience so can you please provide us with specific details regarding your upcoming program scheduled for January of 2017?

DM: Yes, I’m currently planning a yoga retreat for January 2017 – New Year, New Beginning.

The beginning is now. With that, I invite you to join us at the oceanfront Wyndham Deerfield Beach Resort in Deerfield Beach, Florida to start the new year with peace, love, and joy on and off your yoga mat. Our five-day/four-night retreat will include two yoga sessions daily, sunrise meditation on the beach, breakfast together, conversations, community and plenty of free time for you to swim, enjoy the watersports, fish from the pier, shop, have a massage or just relax.


Azul Yoga Retreat Information

Contact: Dindy Yokel
Website: Azul Yoga

Stay Connected

I invite you to stay connected with me on the following social platforms:

TCS: For those suffering from low self-esteem and deep rooted emotional issues what specifically do you bring to the table to help them discover and/or focus on making improvements to their overall health and well-being?

DM: That’s a big question, and again I’m not a doctor, but I do know what helped me, and I do believe that the practice can help anyone. There are 8 limbs to yoga, and when we have time to dive deeper into these limbs they all help to get us to that place of peace and self-acceptance. Our minds and bodies are connected so when we practice the totality of yoga. The breathing, the physical practice the mindfulness, the meditation, the observances and restraints. We not only become stronger physically but mentally.

The photography shown in this article was shot by Andrea Blakesberg Photography.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

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

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

Tony Trujillo: Beyond Today

Written by: Frank Iacono


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

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

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

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

Q&A Session

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Beyond-Today-The -Artifical-Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Song List on The Artificial Heart (2016)


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

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

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

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

Kick It Out: A Tribute To Heart

Written by: Frank Iacono


Have you ever wished you could experience the masterful voice of Ann Wilson, the craftsmanship of guitarist Nancy Wilson, and the rest of the legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group hailing from Seattle, Washington known as Heart? If so, then Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart, based in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and South New Jersey area, featuring long-time friends Sandy Hall and Susan Salmon is a must-see experience for you!

Kick It Out is a tribute band that was born out of a sincere respect, admiration, and love of Heart and their incredible and timeless music. As fans, all the members of Kick It Out have followed the Wilson sister’s careers since the early 1970’s. As musicians, the band feels passionately about performing Heart’s music with authenticity and integrity.

Kick It Out, a collection of seasoned musicians and performers experienced in both national and international music communities, is committed to providing all the power and adrenaline of a Heart concert while always staying true to the soul and magic of their unforgettable songs. For those eager “to keep the love alive”, it’s an experience guaranteed to leave audiences thrilled, emotionally engaged, and moved.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sandy Hall, Susan Salmon, and Joe DeLuca from Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart and asking them a few questions about their musical influences, their career as a tribute band, their set list, and their past and upcoming performances.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: Can you introduce us to the Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart lineup and share with us how you decided on the band name?

Kick It Out: We were throwing around some Heart song titles as names and many of them had already been taken by other Heart tribute bands all over the country, so our guitarist Billy Salmon thought that Kick It Out would be a good band name. The song “Kick It Out” appears on the Little Queen album.

The Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart lineup features:

  • Sandy Hall — Lead Vocals
  • Susan Salmon — Electric & Acoustic Guitar, Mandolin, and Background Vocals
  • Billy Salmon — Electric Guitar
  • Mark Evans — Bass Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, and Background Vocals
  • Joe DeLuca — Keyboards and Background Vocals
  • Ritchie DeCarlo — Drums and Background Vocals


TCS: So how long has Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart been playing together and how did you get started?

KIO: We were out performing during the Summer of 2009. I started talking to our original bass player Chris Hall and Jeff Gordon (former KIO drummer) who I have known since my teenage years and Susan Salmon (KIO guitarist) that I knew from Archbishop Ryan High School believe it or not about forming this band at the end of 2008. I believe we started talking about it after I saw Heart perform at the Susquehanna Center in Camden NJ with Journey and Cheap Trick. I thought…you know…I would LOVE to do a tribute to Heart and I know exactly who would be the perfect “Nancy”….Susan Salmon! Wow! I can’t believe it has been THAT long! I have always been and still am a BIG Heart fan. Moved and inspired by their music ever since I heard the album Dream Boat Annie. Ann and Nancy Wilson were a big inspiration and reason why I started singing professionally. It was the love of and connection to their music really. The music is challenging and vocally like a master vocal class. It takes a lot of stamina, power, and control to sing those songs for up to 2 hours.


TCS: At what age did you become interested in music? And, who or what inspired you to pursue a career as musicians?

Sandy Hall: I was in grade school, like maybe 3rd grade and I fell in love with music. I remember singing Karen Carpenter songs, The Beatles, Elton John, The Who, Jefferson Starship, and of course HEART. I would say that Ann and Nancy Wilson, Pat Benatar, David Bowie, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Pretenders, and Stevie Nicks all of them inspired me to purse music as a career.

Susan Salmon: I became interested in music at the age of 3. My mother was a piano teacher and she inspired me to pursue a musical career.

Joe DeLuca: For me, my love of music began when I was 10. I remember listening to my sister and brother’s 45’s of The Beatles, 3 Dog Night, The Doors, Motown, and etc.

TCS: Sandy did you think early on that you sounded like Ann Wilson or was it something that you discovered over time?

SH: Early on I actually felt and identified with Karen Carpenter’s tone and vocals in the alto/lower vocal register. Then when I started to really wail and rock out songs like Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”, Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog”, and Bette Midler’s version of “When A Man Loves A Woman” from the movie The Rose…well then I really started to appreciate the female rock vocal and of course I started singing Heart songs like “Magic Man” and “Crazy On You” and I really did identify and connect to the upper range and power vocals of Ann Wilson. If you listen to those songs….you almost hear that lower warmer tone in the lower range and then the build up and jump to the full voice wailing. It was a combination of the Karen Carpenter tone and then some Robert Plant wailing in the upper range. It was challenging, yet very moving on a deep, deep low in the gut level kind of soul connection vocally. There is something really freeing when you sing in a strong full voice in that higher vocal register. Certainly there is an adrenaline high there. I like a challenge so naturally I felt that singing Ann Wilson’s songs would help me become a better vocalist.

TCS: Why do you guys think tribute bands have become so prominent in the past ten years or so? And, has Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart ever been criticized for being a tribute band?

KIO: Well, some artists like Queen, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Led Zeppelin are just not touring anymore or very infrequently and there is a desire in people to hear the music live in a nostalgic way and more frequently. You know recreate the feeling of that music that you fell in love with as a kid in a more intimate way….in a small venue instead of a large stadium in the nose bleed seats where you are looking at the artist over a big projected screen. Personally, I think people want to hear the music that they love live and in person and feel the connection to the music during a live performance. Tribute artists like Kick It Out channel the original artists during a performance in a smaller more accessible intimate level at a venue where they feel more connected to the artists and also at a more affordable cost as concert tickets are through the roof.

As for being criticized as a tribute band. No, Kick It Out has not been criticized for being a Heart tribute band. Although I know there is a school of thought out there that musicians should only perform their own music. My answer to that is that classical musicians in a way are playing covers and not their own original music and the very, very best are playing a piece as close to the original written music as humanly possible. So in a way that is what tribute artists do also. Ha!! And, I have to say that people do have a very high expectation of you when you put it out there that you are paying a tribute to what many consider the greatest female vocalist of this generation. That’s a lot of pressure actually. You can feel them checking you out and ready to put you down. I do my best to do a respectful tribute. Not an imitation. Of course, you want to recreate the experience for people so you do what you can to channel the original artists. A tribute is by definition an act of gratitude, affection, respect, and honor.

TCS: Let’s talk about the music for a moment. When you’re in a tribute band, obviously your music will be picked apart and compared to the original. So how did Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart sculpt its sound and its stage performance?

KIO: I think it comes very naturally for us. We all connect to the music and love it so playing it was easy even though the songs are challenging. When you love something you do your best to play it well. The stage performance is a combination of who we are and our own individual personalities with the understanding and intention of “channeling” the energy of Heart. You want to channel that energy and essence so that the audience can “feel” the songs as if they were at a Heart concert. But I do really feel that we all are infusing our own individual presence on stage in our performances. Again….it’s not an “imitation or impression” of Heart and their music …it’s a “tribute”….our tribute.

TCS: What do you guys feel is the hardest aspect of re-creating a Heart show?

KIO: For me it’s the stamina and power needed sing up to 2 hours during each show. It takes a lot of vocal control and lung power. I also feel that we would all agree that it is frustrating if you don’t have a good sound tech who knows the songs and they don’t turn up the guitars when they need to be up front and also for me it is essential to have good in ear monitor balance and mix as I depend on that to sing in pitch and not blow out my voice. If all that is in place…it’s a blast and not hard at all.


TCS: What do you feel sets Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart apart from other Heart tribute bands?

KIO: There is an aspect to my voice that has a similar timber and tone on these songs and power and energy on the high notes. Of course there is a visual resemblance that Susan and I have to Ann and Nancy. Additionally, Susan can actually play Nancy’s parts on both the guitar and mandolin whereas many Heart tribute bands don’t have that . She is a top notch musician. The band is made up of seasoned professional multi-talented musicians with excellent stage presence and high energy. Billy has that early Roger Fisher vibe going on too and is an excellent player and performer. Same goes for the other members, Mark Evans is a top notch pro all the way around, Ritchie DeCarlo, and Joe DeLuca also…pros with great attitudes.

TCS: Have you played with any other Heart tribute bands and if so what type of reaction have you received?

KIO: No. We have not.

TCS: How many gigs does Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart play annually and what and where are the venues in which you’ve performed?

KIO: We are a specialty act so we don’t play every week. On average we play about 10 to 12 good gigs a year. We don’t want to over saturate the area and Heart also is actively touring every year. We want to give people the music when they miss a Heart show or when they are not touring. All of us are also all involved in other music projects and we try and balance all of that out. We have played as far south at Virginia and north up to Boston and in between. We love outdoor music festivals, amphitheaters, casinos, and theaters like Delmarva Bike Week, Penny Pack Park, Sellersville theater, Scottish Rite Theater, Showcase Live in MA, Delaware Park Casino, Hollywood Casino, Wildwood Crest Concerts. In 2015, we played at the Burlington Amphitheater and La Costa in Sea Isle, New Jersey.

TCS: What are the most requested Heart songs at your shows?

KIO: The most requested Heart songs during our shows are:

  • ”Barracuda”
  • ”Crazy On You”
  • ”Alone”
  • ”Never”
  • ”What About Love”
  • ”Magic Man”

TCS: Has Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart ever performed internationally? And, if you could perform in any venue in the world right now, national or international, where would that be and why?

KIO: No we have not performed internationally. We would though for the right situation and venue. There is a great festival in Akron, Ohio called Lock 3 that would be awesome, perhaps a cruise like Monsters of Rock (MOR) which our bass player who is also a front man/writer, Mark Evans just played MOR with his original band Heaven’s Edge. We love big stages, big crowds…anywhere where there are people who love Heart music and where the stage and sound are professionals. Why? Well it is an unbelievable high to play to a huge crowd….the energy is infectious and we would get to travel and see the world.

TCS: Of the songs that Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart plays from Heart’s extensive library which are your most and least favorite? Equally, is there a song from Heart that you guys really love that is not included in the set currently? If yes, then why.

KIO” We love “Crazy On You” and “Rockin’ Heaven Down”. The song “Alone” is also great and very moving and powerful too. I don’t think that we picked up songs that we didn’t like. Then again, we love them all. Ha! I would love to do “Mistral Wind”. Very powerful, magical song we just have not had a chance to add it to the set yet. The great thing about this band is that we play these great songs that we love.


TCS: Individually, what’s your favorite Heart song of all time?

SH: For me it is “Crazy On You” from Dreamboat Annie.

SS: It is really hard to choose a favorite. It switches all the time. Right now, the song, “How Deep It Goes” from Dreamboat Annie plays in my head. Before it was “Sylvan Song” and “Dream of the Archer” both from Little Queen. I like the more obscure songs that show a lot of Heart.

JD: I really like Heart’s “Who Will You Run To” from Bad Animals

TCS: As a collective group, the band, what has been the toughest challenge you’ve faced to date, and do you think it made you stronger as performers?

KIO: The toughest challenge is always with sound and mix. The outdoor shows can be challenging in that way as wind and weather can really affect how it all turns out. We try and go with the flow and do the best show we possibly can no matter the obstacles.

TCS: How do you market Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart songs, merchandise, and appearances?

KIO: To stay connected with our fans, we market our songs, merchandise, and appearances on:


TCS: Has anyone in Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart met any of the members of Heart? And, how thrilled was the band when Heart was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013?

KIO: We were thrilled of course! It’s about time they were recognized for their contribution to music as musicians and women! I (Sandy Hall) have met Ann and Nancy 3 times now. The first time was back in the 80’s when they came to Philadelphia on tour. I got to go back stage and meet them and hang for a while talking with Howard Leese. That was a really cool experience and a real spontaneous hang. I was so star stuck and shy and didn’t say very much to Ann and Nancy except “you are so great”. The last two times were recently during their organized VIP Meet and Greet thing before the show. During one of those two sessions both Susan and I met them together. They were nice.


TCS: Besides Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart, if you could play a set with any artist alive or dead who would you choose and why?

SH: I would love to play/sing with Ann Wilson, Robert Plant, and John Lennon all were inspirational to me.

SS: Probably Jeff Beck. I love the feel of his playing.

JD: I would love to play to play a set with Tom Petty, Leon Russel, Joe Cocker, Alice In Chains, and Soundgarden.

TCS: What’s the short and long-term future look like for Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart?

KIO: We just want to keep doing what we are doing which is having fun playing songs that we love with great band mates who are also family and friends. We would love to do more of the larger spring/summer venues where the people go crazy for the music!

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

KIO: Do it because you love and connect to the music. The money is secondary and won’t always be there. Get a good agent or person in the band that books you in the right venues. Don’t over saturate your audience locally. Be very selective about what venues you play.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

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

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

Karen Mansfield: Singer And Songwriter

Written by: Frank Iacono


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

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

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

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

Q&A Session

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


TCS: In what ways do you market your appearances?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song List on Karen Mansfield (2014)


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

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

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

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

Michelle Antonucci Smith: Zumba® Fitness Instructor

Written by: Frank Iacono


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

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

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

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

Q&A Session

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

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

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

Everything Falls: Modern Rock Band

Written by: Frank Iacono


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

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

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

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

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

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

Q&A Session

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MR: Alongside Rage Against The Machine at Woodstock.

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

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

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

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

MR: Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”.

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

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

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

Booking Everything Falls

For booking information, please contact Aaron Linkous via email at

Song List on Through the Storm (2015)


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

Song List on Fight From Within (2011)

Everything-Falls-Fight-From Within

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

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

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

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

Aandra Bohlen: Business Coach

Written by: Frank Iacono


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

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

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

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

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

Q&A Session

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

To find out how gritty you are you can download the FREE guide to grit and take the test at


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

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

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

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

To stay connected with me and discover any future opportunities to take this course, please join my Biz BABE Facebook Mastermind group at


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

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

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