Houston Llew – Spiritiles Artist

Written by: Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Houston Llew

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

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

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

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

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

Q&A Session

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

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

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

TCS: What is a Spiritile?

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

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


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

HL: The three best words would be:

  • Unique
  • Luminous
  • Collectible

TCS: How do you make a Spiritile?

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


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

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

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

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

TCS: What are the cracks in an enameled piece?

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

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

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

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

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


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

HL: Neither image nor story come first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

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

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

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

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

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Jeff Tomrell – Magical Mystery Doors

Written by: Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Magical Mystery Doors Tribute Band

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

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

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

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

Q&A Session

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

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

Magical Mystery Doors

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

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


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

JT: The band lineup consists of:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Vinny from Magical Mystery Doors

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

To stay connected, please join us on the following:

About Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

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

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

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

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

Michael Mogan – eBeach Wagon

Written by: Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Michael Mogan

Michael Mogan is a well-rounded Professional Engineer (PE) licensed in both the states of Pennsylvania and Delaware. During his career, Michael has specialized in highway engineer design and project management. Mr. Mogan has had experience with exposure to many disciplines including traffic, structures, survey, right-of-way, utility coordination, drainage, stormwater management, erosion control, environmental clearance, public involvement, highway lighting, and much more.

Michael has successfully led roadway design efforts from conceptual plans through construction services for many different types of facilities from rural local roads to limited access interstate highways. Mr. Mogan has delivered projects for clients including PennDOT, DelDOT, Montgomery County, Amtrak, and SEPTA.

Michael’s interest in product design started as a child tinkering and building various contraptions in his family’s garage. His father was a tin knocker who had a variety of tools. He started showing his son the ropes at a young age. It started in Cub Scouts where they built the sharpest looking pine wood derby car. As Mr. Mogan got older, he grew from his father’s assistant to developing creations of his own. His first prototype, that would be patented over 25 years later, was developed in that very garage. In high school, Michael gained experience in mechanical drawing as well as computer aided drafting (CAD). It turned out he had a knack for laying things out just like his old man. This accelerated the development of his skills and fueled his creative fire.

Michael initiated the building of his electric beach wagon after he and his wife, and their yorkie, experienced some difficulties carrying their gear and supplies across the sandy beach. Later, after the birth of their son, trips to the beach became more difficult as the weight and gear increased. What was supposed to be a fun, stress-free day, began and concluded with stress and angst trying to transport the necessary gear. It was then that he began researching electric beach wagons. The invention already existed at the time, but there was significant room for improvement in the design.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, we caught up with Michael Mogan where we talked about his work as a PE, his educational background, his latest creation known as e-Beach Wagon, his work with Gembah in designing the wagon, his strategic marketing and advertising plan, and his advice for young entrepreneurs.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: What made you decide to set up a business model like e-Beach Wagon and embark on your career choice as an entrepreneur?

Michael Mogan: I’ve come up with decent ideas in the past, but I’ve only seriously pursued a few. This idea solves a common problem, appeals to a broader market, and applies to parents trying to simplify life with kids. People will do almost anything to make raising kids easier.

When doing research, we found there was only one competitor in this space. We didn’t know about the product until we dug deep, so we felt by doing a better job with the marketing, we could boost sales easily. Also, we felt the price point of the competition was too high and we could develop a better, less expensive alternative.

It also helped that I received my wife’s blessing to pursue this opportunity. Tara is a marketing expert, so with her support, we can make this thing take off. We make a good team. I’m the engineer that determines the design and logistics, and she’s the marketing guru that gets the word out there.

eBeachWagon

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

MM: I graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering in 2001. Since then, I’ve been working in the transportation industry as a highway engineer, project manager, and business line manager. I am a licensed professional engineer in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Civil engineering is not related to product development; however, some skills are transferrable, like how to read plans and understanding facets of design like computer-aided drafting (CAD).

I’ve had lots of ideas throughout my life and have always wanted to develop a successful product. I was recently successful in obtaining a utility patent for a new beverage can insulator. Although it has not paid off financially yet, I learned quite a bit about the patent process that is applicable for e-Beach Wagon. I was also exposed to manufacturing overseas and logistics to get the product delivered.

I also watch quite a bit of Shark Tank, which is educational. I understand what investors are looking for and what it takes to make a product a success. Translating that into a reality is where the challenge lies, which is what we are perfecting now.

TCS: Describe for us what you think makes e-Beach Wagon the best beach wagon on the market?

MM: One obvious thing that sets us apart from most other wagons is that it’s a self-propelled wagon powered by a 24-volt motor. You press down on the thumb throttle and the wagon moves itself, so it’s effortless to pull over 300 pounds of gear across the sand. There is only one other known competitor that provides a similar product called the SandHopper. These types of wagons are in a league of their own and are intended for the avid beachgoers that regularly carry lots of gear to the beach. If you’ve pulled a regular wagon or beach cart, you know the feeling of dragging your gear across the thick sand. Once you try e-Beach Wagon, you’ll never want to go back to the old wagon.

eBeach Wagon

When compared to the SandHopper, e-Beach Wagon is clearly the better choice. e-Beach Wagon has eight built-in pole holders for your beach umbrella, flagpole, or fishing rods. SandHopper charges an additional $100 for one pole holder accessory. e-Beach Wagon comes with tall railings and dual USB charging ports standard. SandHopper charges an additional $200 for tall railings and $100 additional for USB charging ports. e-Beach Wagon has a removable plastic wagon bed for easy cleaning; SandHopper doesn’t. e-Beach Wagon has an enclosed electrical and mechanical compartment; SandHopper doesn’t. For the price of a SandHopper with all the features that come standard on e-Beach Wagon, you’ll save over $600 with us. Plus, compare the look of the two wagons and decide for yourself which is the more attractive design. We think it’s pretty clear.

TCS: Tell us a little about how you decided to hire Gembah in November of 2020 and describe how they specifically help you with e-Beach Wagon?

MM: We solicited about five product development companies to help us through the process. While Gembah was not the least expensive, they provided the best proposal that laid out all the steps of the design process, and their price included all design phases. Other companies only provided the preliminary design costs, so the final design was a big unknown. They clearly understood the product I was trying to develop and had good thoughts on how to complete a quality design cost-effectively.

Gembah is a product development company that specializes in product sourcing and manufacturing oversight. They enlisted the support of Spline Product Development that led to the actual design of the wagon. We had a kick-off meeting where I shared my ideas on the functionality of the wagon and Spline came up with a great-looking design that accomplished everything we needed. Spline then created the prototype, which is the wagon that you see in all the marketing materials.


Gembah then sent a request for proposals out to their network of manufacturers overseas to bid on the manufacturing of the product. Gembah is currently helping us through the sampling phase to have a factory produce a “golden sample”, which is the perfect sample that will be duplicated by the factory in mass production. Gembah will provide quality assurance and quality control during manufacturing to ensure the factory delivers a quality product. They are also able to assist with other steps along the way like logistics if needed.

TCS: Tell us how the beach wagon is ideal for young family excursions?

MM: Families with young children carry a lot of gear and the kids are just too young to pitch in. Most manual carts and wagons can’t carry everything that you need on the beach, or to the park, or at the zoo. e-Beach Wagon is great for wherever you take the kids. It not only carries your gear, but the kids love riding in it too. The wagon works on any surface, so while it’s great through the thick sand, it’s just as good over grass, blacktop, gravel, dirt, mud, etc.

eBeach Wagon

TCS: When someone places an e-Beach Wagon order what is the expected turnaround time?

MM: We are currently accepting pre-sale deposits on our website at e-BeachWagon.com. Special offers will be provided to those who sign up for the mailing list. Wagons will be shipped in the order the deposits were received. We are still in the process of confirming the shipping schedule; however, we are expecting the first container to arrive in May 2022. Status updates will be provided to customers who order a wagon, and anyone can request a refund at any time. However, you will lose your place in line if you request a deposit refund. Since we will have limited inventory initially, we anticipate it will take a little while for the supply to catch up to the demand. The sooner you make a deposit, the sooner you will receive your wagon. It’s worth the wait!

TCS: With the max weight capacity of e-Beach Wagon holding over 300 pounds, the uses for the beach wagon are endless. What feedback have you received from customers?

MM: We haven’t delivered any wagons yet, but we have received lots of positive feedback from people on the beach that have seen e-Beach Wagon. Many people notice the cool-looking wagon and ask where we got it. When we tell them it’s our prototype and it’s electric, they are shocked. Most people have never seen an electric beach wagon before. When we explain the features, they’re very interested in purchasing one for themselves. Some people have even made good suggestions for different uses or accessories. For instance, someone recommended providing a chair attachment to transport mobility-impaired people. This will be one of the first accessories we will work on once we get the product out there. There are countless accessories we can provide to improve the beach experience for different folks. We are looking forward to the opportunity to make that happen.

eBeachWagon

TCS: I love the fact that the battery-charged wagon offers you a way to keep your electronics charged while out on the sand. How did you come up with such an awesome idea?

MM: This was one of the first features we discussed with the product development team. It comes standard on our wagon. Have you ever been to the beach and your phone or speaker dies? We have and that’s why we wanted the capability to charge your devices. The wagon comes with two 12-volt, 22 amp-hour sealed lead-acid batteries. The 22 amp-hour is like the Energizer Bunny on steroids. We’ve run that wagon up and down the beach for miles and have yet to kill the batteries in one charge. There is plenty of juice in those batteries to charge lots of devices. We even bought a battery-powered blender to make frozen drinks on the beach. So, we can keep the drinks flowing thanks to the wagon’s battery power. The applications are endless.

TCS: Can you briefly describe e-Beach Wagon’s strategic marketing and advertising plan?

MM: Right now, our focus is getting the word out. Build the brand and increase awareness. We know our demographic. We know which beach towns to target. And we know which marketing channels to leverage. Not only are we marketing to consumers but also businesses that rent beach equipment, as well as ocean-front resorts and hotels. We’ve currently launched grassroots initiatives such as door hangers, word-of-mouth referrals through community groups, and social media promotions. Digital initiatives are being developed as well.

To stay connected, please join us on the following:

TCS: Do you have a personal or professional mantra? If so, what meaning does it have for you, and how does it apply to your life choices?

MM: For sure, “Work smarter, not harder.” I’m always looking for ways to get things done with less work. I have a couple of DIY YouTube videos that provide a better way of doing things. My “How to Demo a Mud Wall” video (https://youtu.be/tI9LbrEUM1c) has saved many headaches. I enjoy problem-solving. If there’s a better way to get something done, I’ll try figuring it out. That’s one thing that makes me a good engineer. I wasn’t the first one to develop an electric beach wagon, but I developed a better product.


TCS: As an entrepreneur, what’s your single greatest achievement?

MM: One of my greatest achievements as an entrepreneur was getting a utility patent for CustACan, my beverage can insulator invention that slides over the top of a can and covers the entire can label. I came up with the idea about 25 years ago but didn’t start pursuing it until 2015. I originally tried submitting my own patent application. When the patent office reviewed the application, they recommended that I get the help of a patent attorney, so I let that application expire and enlisted the help of a patent attorney. Six years after I began the process, I was issued a utility patent for my invention. It was a learning process, but my persistence paid off.

TCS: What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?

MM: Be persistent, never give up on your dreams, and partner with others that are good at what you’re not. I went to school to be a Civil Engineer and I’ve been doing highway design for over 20 years. I was never totally happy because my creative urge was never satisfied. I wanted to use my creativity to design a product that was helpful to many people. I’ve tried in the past to design a product that didn’t take off. I could have given up and stuck with civil engineering, but I persisted and kept working toward my dream. Eventually, I came up with another great idea and worked hard to make that a reality. Starting a company while working a full-time job with two kids isn’t easy. If you’re persistent and don’t give up, it will happen.

Partnering with others that are good at what you’re not is extremely important in being successful. You’re not going to be able to do everything yourself. I came up with a good idea, but I couldn’t have completed the detailed design and then sourced the manufacturers to build it. I partnered with Gembah, and they enlisted Spline Product Development to complete the detailed design. Gembah is overseeing the sourcing and manufacturing so that I receive a quality product ready to distribute to my customers. Thankfully I married a very talented marketing guru, so Tara is leading the marketing and doing a great job getting the word out. I couldn’t do these things on my own, so it’s necessary to partner with others to reach your dreams.

About Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

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

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

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

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

 

Karl Dietel – We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute

Written by: Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Ash Costello - New Years Day

Have you ever wanted to experience a live performance featuring legendary Billy Joel, the masterful musician, singer-songwriter and composer from New York City? If so, then the We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute band, based in the Manhattan, NY, Philadelphia, PA and New Jersey area, featuring Karl Dietel is a must-see experience for you!

We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute is a band that was born out of a sincere respect, admiration, and love of Billy Joel and his incredible and timeless music. As fans, they started off playing a few shows in which they played The Stranger album from start to finish. As musicians, the band feels passionately about performing Billy Joel’s music with authenticity and integrity.

We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute, a collection of seasoned musicians and performers experienced in both national and international music communities, is committed to providing all the showmanship, power and adrenaline of a true Billy Joel concert while always staying true to the music of his unforgettable songs.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, we caught up with Karl Dietel from the We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute band and we asked him a few questions about his musical influences, his career in a tribute band, their set list as well as their past and upcoming performances.

Q&A Session

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

Karl Dietel: I started piano lessons when I was 6 years old. My grandmother’s piano was in our living room, and Dad decided to start my older brother and I on lessons because we were banging on it too much. I took lessons until I was 16, when I learned ear training in a high school AP Music Theory class.

Karl Dietel

TCS: Did you think early on that you sounded like Billy Joel or was it something that you discovered over time?

KD: Hmmm. As a singer, it did take some time. In fact, when we started, we just played 9 songs off The Stranger for fun, so I sang everything in my own voice. It wasn’t until the band started getting some recognition that we decided to try to sound a little more like the records. As a piano player, I had been playing his songs for so long, particularly in my restaurant piano gigs, that it wasn’t much of a stretch to play an entire set of his music in his style.


TCS: Can you introduce us to the We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute lineup?

KD: Perry Andrews plays tenor, alto and soprano sax, plus flute and piccolo, with a side of rhythm guitar and percussion. He brings a jazz sensibility to our show and always plays exactly what the song needs at any given moment. We worked in the same high school for a number of years, I remember we huddled around the concert piano during one lunch block and worked out our arrangement for “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant.” Derek Davodowich plays a tasty, complimentary guitar and has the perfect feel for this music. He did some touring out of Nashville after he graduated college, and I met him through a mutual friend back when I played keyboards for Sean Kelly and The Samples. Luke Kessel is a road dog of a bass player, he’s played in Europe and China and also toured the U.S. with a few blues musicians. Andy Janowiak was our original drummer who left to do some recording with the late Bernie Worrell in his home studio, but has now been able to rejoin the tribute. It’s a tight band with many years of experience and camaraderie!

Karl Dietel

TCS: So how long has We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute been playing together and how did you get started?

KD: We started off playing a few shows in which we played The Stranger album from start to finish. That had been a pet project of mine, just to say we did it. We kept getting asked back, I think we played it three different afternoons at our local home base, it was really going over, when some other venues asked us to play an entire night at their places. After we accepted the new dates, we realized we had to learn two more sets of Billy Joel’s music!

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

KD: I’m not sure, to be honest with you. People have been trying to figure this out. I could go into a long speech about the decline of popular music, particularly in terms of live performance, but I’ll just say that I think the music to which tribute is being paid reminds people of simpler, better or even more innocent times of their lives. So, they gravitate towards that. Also, certain albums and sounds and genres are becoming the new classical music, in that specific bodies of work by artists are being presented in full much like classical-era symphonies and operas have been presented in full for centuries. It will be interesting to see how long the tribute scene continues!


TCS: What do you feel sets We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute apart from other Billy Joel tribute bands?

KD: One of our strengths lies in the fact that we’ve had the same lineup since the beginning. Although we rotated two drummers off and on, we have the same four people out front every show. It’s comforting to the fans to see Perry on one side and Luke on the other. Having the same people play night after night really adds to the musical dynamic, particularly as we stretch out and explore a few of these endings of certain songs to shake things up a bit. We have that luxury because we know how each other plays and reacts to musical situations. And, that adds to the fun of the overall show.

TCS: What’s the hardest aspect of re-creating a Billy Joel live show?

KD: If we’re doing it right, it’s all fairly exhausting! Remembering all the lyrics is a challenge in and of itself, not to mention the chord progressions. As musicians, we always push each other on stage, we don’t cut corners or play it too safe. I’m drained at the end of a good night. Of course, that’s the way it should be.

TCS: Have you ever met Billy Joel? If yes, please explain to us where you met and how did that encounter go?

KD: I have never met him, no. I’m only two or three degrees away, in some circles, but I’ve never pushed the issue. I wonder what I’d say.

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

KD: A woman yelled at me once for not playing “Piano Man.” Shook her finger at me and raised her voice! Truth is, we were outside and ran up against an unexpected curfew, so we ran out of time. She wasn’t happy about it. “Vienna” is one request that surprises me, usually coming from younger fans. Different people gravitate towards different songs. “Goodnight Saigon,” for example.


TCS: Of the songs that We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute plays from Bill Joel’s extensive library which are your most and least favorite? Equally, is there a song from him you or the band loves that is not included in the set? If yes, then why.

KD: I enjoy watching the crowd sing along. Sometimes, they play air drums, it’s a nice connection. As a musician, I enjoy playing the songs that give the band members a chance to stretch out. Perry can play his piccolo on “Rosalinda’s Eyes” and he plays a great flute line on “Get it Right the First Time.” Luke’s walking bass line on “Zanzibar” is always amazing. I’ve been know to leave Derek hanging because I have such a good time listening to his guitar playing! He wanders over to the keyboard, never missing a note of his solo, and gives me the nod that says, ‘Anytime you want to end the song, go ahead…’ and it’s all good, fun, in-the-moment playing. I also like hearing the 3-part harmonies in “My Life” and “Don’t Ask Me Why.” We have a 5-part harmony arrangement for “All About Soul.” That’s fun for us. “Prelude / Angry Young Man” is both my most favorite and least favorite song to play 🙂 “Root Beer Rag” is always a throw down, we love to take that one out when the time is right.


TCS: How many gigs does the We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute band play annually and what and where are among your favorite venues?

KD: We’ve been playing quite a bit these days, eight or ten shows a month, but that will slow down slightly during the colder months. We didn’t play much last year, for obvious reasons. Summer is always the busiest time, and we’ve picked up a few private parties recently, and two weddings, I believe, for 2022. As far as venues go, we can turn any room into a party. We originally cut our teeth in Pattenburg House in Asbury, NJ out in Hunterdon County, so that’s significant to our history. Recently, we’ve had some great shows at Brook Arts Center in Bound Brook, NJ and then Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA is something we look forward to every year.


TCS: What is the most interesting We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute road story?

KD: Well… there was a night when the band was setting up at two different venues…

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

KD: Good question. We sort of backed up into this, based on playing The Stranger album. What I always tell any bands is that they should take it seriously, but not too seriously. And that your overall sound, whatever it may be, benefits from having a strong musical foundation. Practice. Get your metronome out. Keep at it. And, don’t lose faith.

TCS: What’s the future look like for We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute?

KD: I don’t like to look too far into things, but we’ll have to pick a steady booking agent soon. We’re reaching a larger audience now, and that is allowing us to play in larger venues.

To stay connected, please join us on the following:

  • We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute Website
  • We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute Facebook
  • We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute Instagram
  • We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute YouTube

About Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

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

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

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

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

 

Ash Costello – New Years Day

Written by: Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Ash Costello - New Years Day

Gifted with theatrics, vocal chops and fashion — Ash Costello, the frontwoman from the Orange County California-based band New Years Day, is one of the most prominent rock singers of the American music industry. As the lead vocalist of the band, she is truly the driving force behind their national and international success.

In the beginning, Costello teamed up with lead guitarist Adam Lohrbach and guitarist/keyboardist Keith Drover and they worked on writing a few songs. Dubbing themselves as New Years Day, the group started promoting themselves on the then popular social media networking site, MySpace and soon gained relevance and prominence. Additionally, the band was also featured on the MySpace Records, Volume 1 compilation CD and on the video game soundtrack for Saints Row.

Subsequently, the band inked a deal with TVT Records and released their first self-titled EP entitled Razor in 2006. From there, the band released several studio albums including My Dear in 2007 and Victim to Villain in 2013, which featured their breakout single “Angel Eyes.” Apart from releasing albums, the band also landed several prestigious tours. First, they were a prominent member of the 2010 Vans Warped Tour. In 2013, New Years Day performed at Warped Tour with Andrew Velasquez and the rest of Crown the Empire, a metalcore from Dallas, Texas. Then, in 2015 Costello and her band took the biggest leap in their career, when they became the headliner on the summer’s Vans Warped Tour.

Adding to their already impressive achievements, Malevolence their third full-length studio album, which was released in 2015, became a major hit. It debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard rock chart and landed at No. 45 on the Billboard 200. In 2018, New Years Day released the Diary of a Creep EP and spent a great deal of time out on the road touring with In This Moment and Halestorm. Then in 2019, they released Unbreakable, which featured hits like “Come for Me,” “Shut Up” and “Skeletons.” Loudwire, an online magazine, named the album one of the 50 best rock albums of 2019.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, we caught up with Ash Costello from New Years Day where we talked about her musical influences, her songwriting and recording process, her on and off-stage persona, her love for Horror movies, her memorable night with Marilyn Manson as well as her short and long-term future plans.

Q&A Session

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

Ash Costelllo: I actually knew I wanted to be a singer at a really, really young age. Probably like four or five. I started doing musical theater when I was really young, like really, really young. But I didn’t know what it meant to be in a band until high school when I kind of joined a band by accident. My high school ska band needed a singer and saw me singing in a high school play and asked if I wanted to sing in a ska band and that’s how I started doing that and just never quit. I started writing my first song when I was probably around ten or eleven years old, but I never really played any instruments. I was always a lyricist and songwriter, though.

Ash Costello

TCS: That’s great. The vocal is definitely one of the key instruments in the band. So, what famous musical artists and/or bands were among your early influences and describe for us how they impacted and/or shaped your musical style?

AC: Well, you know, I’ve been doing music, writing music and a fan of music from a very young age, so like most people as we mature and grow our tastes change, but early on I was highly influenced by Gwen Stefani and No Doubt. That was my first major introduction to what being a female rocker would be like.

New Years Day Ash Costello

TCS: How would you describe New Years Day’s overall sound and musical genre? And, can you introduce us to the band line-up?

AC: Employing an opulent mix of spirited pop-punk and flamboyant, goth-tinged stadium rock, New Years Day invokes the dark pageantry of artists like Evanescence, Garbage, Alkaline Trio and Motionless in White.

The band lineup consists of:

  • Ash Costello – Lead Vocals
  • Nikki Misery – Lead Guitar
  • Jeremy Valentyne – Rhythm Guitar
  • Brandon Wolfe – Bassist
  • Tommy Rockoff – Drums

New Years Day Rock Band

TCS: For the benefit of those who may not be too familiar with Ashley Costello or your musical career with New Years Day, please describe for us how you started out from Anaheim, California and eventually ended up being this band’s lead singer?

AC: Well, I was in a couple bands before New Year’s Day began. You know, when one band or one sound kind of ran its course we’d start another band. So, I was in a previous band called Face the Fact, which was like a whole 80s new wave and our representative from Chrysalis Music Group who have, like, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Smashing Pumpkins and a lot of my favorite bands at the time happened to be at one of my shows and asked to take a meeting with me almost immediately and I got signed pretty quickly as a solo artist.

After that, I wrote a couple songs with songwriters, some of them being Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy and Justin Pierre from Motion City Soundtrack and Adam Lazzara from Taking Back Sunday and it was kind of this experiment of what if we did a girl solo artist and her songs are written by more prominent rock artists at the time. And so, I played by the rules, I did what they wanted for, you know, a couple tries and then I wrote my own music and kind of planted it on the desk and said what if it was a band. And I turned in our first song called “Ready Aim Misfire” and after they listened to it, they said, “You know what, do whatever you want. Go get band members, make it a rock band and pick a name.” And that’s how New Year’s Day got started.


TCS: How would you describe your on-stage personality and how is it both similar and different from your off-stage persona?

AC: Well, I think if you’re a genuine artist then you’re good at pulling elements of who you are and putting it out on stage even if it is delivered in very subtle ways. You know, it doesn’t have to be very obvious. I’m a big horror movie fan, a big Halloween fan, a big haunted house fan and a big fan of goth and alternative subcultures and it just weaves naturally into the art. How I dress on stage and how the whole band dresses on stage works with New Year’s Day because it isn’t contrived. In fact, it’s very genuine and very natural. The boys in the band get asked a lot of questions concerning makeup, including, “so, was it tough when Ashley, like, made you guys wear makeup?” And that’s all those guys, like that’s all them. They do their own makeup, that’s what they want to do. I’ve actually tried to stop them from wearing makeup, but that’s what they want to do, and I think it’s why New Year’s Day really stands out from a lot of other bands of our genre because it’s very, very natural and very genuine.


TCS: How would you describe your overall songwriting style?

AC: Um, gosh, I have a love-hate relationship with songwriting. I truly love writing music and writing lyrics, I really do, but I also, like most artists my own worst critic and I’m very self-deprecating and I’m very hard on myself. So, the final product you hear took a lot of time and effort in singing and a lot of good moments and a lot of bad moments to get to that point where it’s even listenable and I feel good about even releasing it out to the world for everyone else to hear. So, my style of songwriting is just a lot of trial and error and a lot of time. When I’m songwriting mode I’m songwriting seven to eight hours a day seven days a week and so last record I spent about a year on and off doing that and that’s all I did. So, I think the hitting my head against the wall a lot is my major songwriting style, if that makes sense.

TCS: Personally, one of my favorite tracks off your Unbreakable album is a song called “Come For Me” which you co-wrote. Can you share with us some of the background behind your hit and the video?

AC: Okay! I’m actually really proud of the song “Come For Me.” From all of the New Years Day songs that track means the most to me. I had the most say in it because, I don’t want to say it wasn’t a joke, we were just playing around not in a joking way, we just weren’t really thinking about trying to make it anything specific. We were just having fun. And my major inspiration for that song was the song “Hella Good” by No Doubt which is one repeated riff throughout the entire song. So, I thought why doesn’t New Year’s Day have a song where it’s one riff that just repeats the whole time, but maybe the dynamic shifts from verse to chorus to intro to re-intro. So, we made our own version of that which is the initial riff you hear, and I just wanted a fun, heavy dance song like Hella Good. But that’s how “Come For Me” was born.

And then the music video, I love making music videos because I get to play director and producer, and I’m a big movie fan. I’m a big cinephile! So, I wanted to be Quentin Tarantino for a day. So, the music video is a nod to From Dusk Till Dawn, Pulp Fiction, Planet Terror, etc. Even though I know that Quentin Tarantino only directed some of those and produced others, but anything Quentin Tarantino is related in I wanted a strong influence from that. And the character that I play in the music video was heavily based off of Santanico Pandemonium portrayed by Salma Hayek in From Dusk Till Dawn.


TCS: Not being a performer myself, I can’t imagine what it felt like to walk out on the stage for the very first time. Could you tell us about that experience and is it much easier for you today?

AC: There’s really not a big difference actually. I still get really nervous and I still kind of don’t know what I’m doing. Every time I get on stage I just kind of hope for the best but I still get nervous. So, there’s really not a big difference except I have learned a lot. I feel like I learned how to play with the audience and connect with the audience more as I go along, but I’m still pretty much the same.

TCS: Exactly, we learn from each of those experiences and take it to the next one. Over the years, I’ve interviewed a lot of singers and they’ve expressed how they really like being on stage and in the spotlight while performing as it brings out their inner personality which may not have otherwise in other social settings. I don’t know if that happens for you too?

AC: It’s really different every time. Sometimes I love being on stage, but just like someone who loves what they do they’re going to have their bad days, too. There’s some days where I walk off stage and I’m like, “well, that fuckin’ sucked.” And then there’s other moments when I walk off stage and say, “well, that was the best moment of my life.” So, you know, it’s like everything else. You just try and do your best.

TCS: Tell us about the background of your hit single “Angel Eyes” from the 2013 release Victim To Villain as well as your experience in working with Chris Motionless of Motionless In White on both the track and music video?

AC: The song “Angel Eyes” is about the classic internal battle between Good vs. Evil – with the devil on your shoulder while having that angel in your ear when you first meet someone new that you know is trouble, yet you just cannot help yourself.

I met Chris Motionless from Motionless In White during the 2010 Warped Tour, when we played on the same stage. We were the only two goth looking bands and quickly became friends. For the track “Angel Eyes,” we wanted to have a male vocalist perform with us and having Chris join us was a no brainer. We asked him, and he agreed.

When Chris came in to record vocals for the song, it really felt like the last puzzle piece had fallen perfectly into place. Upon laying down his first vocal track, I knew we had something brilliant on our hands. He was a dream to work with and in my opinion, sounds incredible on the song! About a year following the recording, I contacted Chris with a music video concept and once again he agreed to join us and together, we made something epic. “Angel Eyes” remains our most popular music video as well as most requested and streamed song too.


TCS: From a song writing, studio recording and accompanying music video perspective, can you share with us some of the details surrounding the single entitled “Shut Up” also from Unbreakable?

AC: At the time when I wrote “Shut Up,” I was going through some pretty heavy personal stuff. The song was co-written by Chrissy Costanza, frontwoman from Against The Current, and Scott Stevens who has produced such bands as Shinedown, Halestorm and American Authors. This marked the first ever song that Costanza has written away from her own band. From a recording perspective, “Shut Up” came together pretty easily and was completed within a day. The original version was very poppy and was heavily influenced by an artist called Kehlani.

When we recorded the song “Shut Up,” I knew right away what I wanted to do if we were ever to make a music video for the song. In fact, the idea came to me immediately. So, when “Shut Up” was chosen, I was thrilled because it meant that I’d finally get an opportunity to make my vision come to life, which was to recreate one of my favorite horror movies of all-time, American Psycho. Yes, it’s a homage to the 2000 Christian Bale-starring film, and actually features the original axe from the movie. The song’s bloody music video was directed by Galileo Mondol (e.g., Raging Nation Films) and stars Sirius XM’s Jose Mangin.


TCS: Could you share with us one of the strangest experiences you’ve had during the course of your touring career and what you learned from it?

AC: During my musical career, I’ve had so many strange experiences. Someday, I swear that I’m going to write a book. The first encounter that comes to mind is when we were touring with Marilyn Manson. While Manson sang “The Dope Show,” a classic song from his 1998 album Mechanical Animals, he held my hand and together we walked around the entire stage. Even stranger was that I was wearing a t-shirt that said, “Marilyn Manson Is My Daddy!” He changed the lyrics to “I’m Not Your Daddy” as we walked the platform.

With Manson, you never really know what you are going to get. He might be in a very playful mood, like that night, or he could be in a standoffish mood so you kind of get a little nervous being around him. But, for me that was a special night. I felt like I had finally broken through and kind of bonded with him. Then unfortunately Paris, France was attacked, and the rest of our concert tour was cancelled.


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

AC: If I weren’t involved in the music industry, I could easily see myself doing something along the lines of set decoration or special effects for horror movies. Perhaps decorating haunted homes or anything with a Halloween-based theme.

TCS: Amid this pandemic, what does the short and long-term future look like for Ashley Costello and New Years Day?

AC: Once everything has been declared safe again, New Years Day will once again return to the song writing process and daily grind. Our short and long-term goals include recording new music, creating videos as well touring and playing for our loyal fans. Although we don’t have a planned release date for our new record, I am scheduled to start writing new music next month.

To stay connected, please join us on the following:

About Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

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

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

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

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

 

Tiffany Rice – Spirit Medium

Written by: Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

tiffany_rice

Throughout the years, Spirit Medium Tiffany Rice has always had a sense of “knowing”. Upon becoming a Reiki Master, a person who chooses to manifest the will of Divine energy here on Earth, Tiffany became aware of her senses and abilities increasing with each life event.

Being able to identify with fellow colleagues, Tiffany realized her gift of being a Medium was accelerating rapidly. At that time, she began to embrace this awareness and studied under her colleague and good friend (Spirit Sister), Maureen Hancock.

Today, Tiffany is a renowned Spirit Medium and former talk show host of Spirit Connections. She dedicates her life sharing her uplifting and enlightening gift with those that are going through various stages of grief.

Tiffany is highly intrigued by the paranormal and takes a very special interest in this field. She knows the paranormal is an extension of the Spirit World and finds this area captivating as it is still a continuation of our loved ones. Spirit simply chooses to have an uncanny connection to certain locations. The subject of paranormal activity spans over a wide range of topics and theories which she loves exploring!

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, we caught up with Tiffany Rice and we talked about her work as an evidential spirit medium, her work on Kitsie Duncan’s new show Paranormal Crossroads, her partnership with Dune Jewelry, her volunteer work with Aruba Animal Shelter as well as her short and long-term aspirations.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: What is your earliest memory where you realized you were gifted as an evidential spirit medium and how old were you?

Tiffany Rice: I’ve always had a sense of “knowing”. I can remember having conversations with people and as I looked at them, I could see information pop up about them around them in my mind’s eye. It took me years to realize that it was spirits trying to come through with information. I thought I was just weird. I took a class that I actually teach now on how to open up your own intuition. That’s when it really hit me with the connection to spirit. It was then when I knew had to continue to provide validations, messages and healing.

Tiffany Rice Spirit Medium

TCS: For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Tiffany Rice or your specific profession, please share with us how you first started out and how you have cultivated your psychic abilities?

TR: I’m a Spirit Medium. That means I’m able to connect to your loved ones in spirit whether it is family, friends and even pets can come through. I started with becoming a Reiki Master/Teacher learning more of an understanding about energy. I started telling people about my readings and it spread quickly. I was giving my friends readings and then their friends readings. I would go to people’s homes and do a reading of their home. The local historical societies started to hear about me, so they would have me go to their locations. I was able to connect the emotional side to the factual side for them. I never said never to an opportunity of connecting to spirit. I had found my passion. The healing modality of being able to connect and bring peace of mind during grief is priceless.

TCS: How did you know being an evidential spirit medium was the right career path?

TR: That’s simple, I had no doubt.


TCS: Please describe for us the different types of readings that you offer? Additionally, can you provide any advice on what someone should do to prepare themselves for a reading?

TR: Mainly people will contact me for my Medium readings which is connecting you to your loved ones in spirit. I also offer intuitive readings as well with a focus on clarity on current situations. To prepare for any reading, be open to the information being provided. Take notes. I can’t stress that enough! There’s always so much information coming through that when receiving the information, we may forget. It’s great to come back to put the puzzle pieces together. Also, it doesn’t hurt to set your intentions on the person you want to connect with or the question you want more insight on. I always say it’s the information that you need to hear not the information you want to hear. Be open!

tiffany-rice-reading

TCS: Besides readings, do you offer any other services?

TR: Yes, I also teach guided meditation sessions to help clients get back to the basics. Today, more and more people are looking to get back to feeling focused and grounded meditation helps bring one that sense of clarity. Additionally, I’ve also created workshops to help hone in on your intuition and align with your own empowerment in order to live your true authentic self.

TCS: In 2008, you investigated the legendary Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, Massachusetts along with members of the then paranormal investigative team named SPIES. What can you tell us about your experience, especially since it was your first paranormal-based investigation and how it impacted/changed your future?

TR: It was my first investigation alright. Go big or go home! I had a group of friends that would go to all different locations whether it was well-known or even residential. They brought me in as their Medium. This experience was my first overnight investigation. I definitely felt a presence in Andrew Borden’s room. I wasn’t scared it was enlightening to actually feel energy that heavy. Since then I’ve done multiple gallery readings at that location. I do feel like I have a connection with Lizbeth since being familiar with her energy all of these years.


TCS: Can you provide us with some highlights from your 2015 appearance at the Rhode Island Comic Con, where you moderated a Ghost Hunters and Ghost Facers panel?

TR: I love being a guest at Comic Cons all over. I was given the opportunity to host the paranormal panel in Rhode Island. It was fun. I love my Ghost Hunter/Ghost Nation family. I’ve known them for quite some time. Ghostfacers was based off of the show “Supernatural” so their take on the Q&A was a little different than the guys that actually do the “hunting”.

TCS: Can you elaborate on your collaboration with our mutual colleague and paranormal researcher Kitsie Duncan on her new show, Paranormal Crossroads?

TR: Kitsie and I have been friends for years. I actually gave her a reading in a hotel room at one of the Comic Cons. I consider her another one of my “Spirit Sisters”. We connected. That girl puts her expertise at work when it comes to knowing her paranormal stuff. I’ve helped her with opening her intuition and we would always talk about our own personal spiritual experiences. She’s done her share of film with Oddity Files, which I’ve helped on a couple of cases remotely. Knowing that spirit comes through regardless of being present in the room together we figured we would put it to the test. She asked me to help with a few of her cases through giving a reading or I would say putting the puzzle pieces together and it seems to mesh really well.


TCS: Can you share some details with us about your partnership with Dune Jewelry and the creation of the spiritual Cardinal Necklace?

TR: I love women supporting women. Dune Jewelry is owned by Holly Daniels Christensen a total no nonsense business woman who knows how powerful keeping the memories alive are. She also has a heart of an angel. That’s all we have is our own personal life experiences. She created experiential jewelry to help keep those memories alive. We collectively are working on multiple pieces of jewelry that are currently in production. They symbolize mind, body, spirit.

The first piece that came out was the cardinal. Why the cardinal? Well, our loved ones in spirit show us signs to let you know they are with us. The Cardinal being one of the most common signs that hold a place in your heart. People have shared that they filled their piece with sand from all over, abalone shells, even roses. It really is beautiful to see how they keep their own personal memory of their loved one alive.

TCS: Do you have a professional or personal mantra? If so, what meaning does it have for you and how does it apply to your life choices?

TR: My trademark is “We Are Never Truly Alone.” I feel like we are connected to spirit all of the time. I also am a firm believer that the Universe will always provide you with what you need for your highest and greatest good. What’s meant for you will not pass you by. You have to remain in a love base of positive mental attitude releasing all doubt. There really is no other option. I know sometimes it might be difficult to see the whole picture at once, however, when you make that commitment the abundance will flow.

tiffany-rice-paranormal

TCS: What is the most rewarding aspect of your volunteer work with Aruba Animal Shelter?

TR: I help give them a voice. There are animals neglected, abused and abandoned. Some countries I work with don’t have the funds to spay and neuter. I help create the awareness. I’ve gone to Aruba on a special mission to help local shelters care for these animals and get the word out to adopt. Most recently I created a fundraiser to help raise funds for food, vitamins and total care for these fur babies. Since posting we collectively have been able to get around 20 dogs adopted so far. I will always have a soft spot for animals. I have three dogs of my own.

TCS: Can you describe for us both your short and long-term aspirations?

TR: I would have to say being grateful to wake up every day healthy being surrounded by some pretty amazing people in my life. As far as career, I want to continue to provide healing and validate that your loved ones in spirit are here with you. It doesn’t matter where you are located, energy is energy. Your loved ones come through regardless. I want to be that connecter. Essentially,  reaching as many people as I can through spirit connections and total inspiration connecting you to your full alignment of mind, body and spirit.

To stay connected with Tiffany Rice, please join her on the following:

About Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

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

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

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

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

 

Shaun Benson: Actor and Director

Written by: Francesco Vincenzo Iacono and Celeste Iacono

Shaun Benson Actor

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

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

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

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

Q&A Session

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

“Shaun


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

SB: COMEDY! COMEDY! COMEDY!

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

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


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

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

About Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Francesco Vincenzo Iacono  Photo

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

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

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

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

The Who: One of the Most Influential Rock Bands of the 20th Century

Written by: Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

The Who are a legendary rock group, formed in London, England in 1964. The Who’s classic line-up consisted of lead singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist and singer Pete Townshend, bass guitarist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon.

The Who are widely considered one of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century, selling over 100 million records worldwide. Appearances at Monterey and Woodstock helped solidify them as one of the greatest live rock acts.

Their major contributions to rock music include the development of the Marshall stack, large PA systems, use of the synthesizer, Entwistle and Moon’s lead playing styles, Townshend’s feedback and power chord guitar technique and the development of the “rock opera”.

In celebration of the 57th anniversary of The Who, we selected five of their legendary songs and ranked them accordingly.

5. “Who Are You”

Released in 1978, “Who Are You” is the title track to The Who’s eighth studio album and unfortunately the last recorded before drummer Moon’s death in September 1978. This super-heavy title track and lead single features one of their all-time greatest group performances. It was released as a double-A sided single with the John Entwistle composition “Had Enough”.

“Who Are You” summed up a real-life alcohol-induced episode in Townshend’s life after he went out drinking with Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols. A policeman did indeed, as the opening lyrics state, find the rock star drunk in a “SoHo doorway”. The song instantly recognizable for its chorus and Who-like breakdown, was one of the band’s biggest hits in North America, peaking at number 7 in Canada and at number 14 in the , guitarist and singer Pete Townshend, bass guitarist John Entwistle and US, and has become a crowd favorite and serves as one of the band’s signature tunes at their live shows.


4. “My Generation”

“My Generation,” the title track from their debut studio album, was written by Townshend on his 20th birthday, May 19th, 1965, while traveling on a train ride from London to Southampton for a television appearance. The song was reportedly inspired by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, who is alleged to have had his 1935 Packard Hearse towed off a street in Belgravia because she was offended by the sight of it during her daily drive through the neighborhood.

“My Generation” became The Who’s first British Top Five hit – and “encapsulated the angst of being a teenager” all over England. This rock anthem truly defined their ticket to legend. Rolling Stone named it the 11th greatest song on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and 13th on VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Songs of Rock & Roll. It is also part of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and is inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for “historical, artistic and significant” value. In 2009, it was named the 37th Greatest Hard Rock Song by VH1.


3. “Pinball Wizard”

When Townshend was first developing the timeless “rock opera” Tommy, The Who’s fourth studio album, he played it for Nik Cohn, an influential UK rock critic, who felt the emotionally intense opera was just a bit too dark. The guitarist asked Cohn, “If it had pinball in it, would you give it a decent review?” Cohn responded, “of course I would. Anything with pinball in it is fantastic.”

With that, the resulting “rockaboogie” tune as Townshend referred to it, “Pinball Wizard” was immediately written and recorded. The original recording of the song was released as a single in 1969 and reached No. 4 in the UK charts and No. 19 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. This last-minute addition to the album, which told the story of “deaf, dumb and blind boy” named Tommy Walker, ultimately became one of the Who’s most enduring rock anthems.


2. “Baba O’Riley”

Townshend originally conceived the song “Baba O’Riley,” better known to rock novices as “Teenage Wasteland,” for his Lifehouse project, a rock opera intended as the follow-up to the Who’s 1969 opera, Tommy. The song served as a reflection of the aftermath of the music festivals including The Isle of Wight Festival and Woodstock which dominated the late ‘60s, where everybody was smacked out on acid and 20 people had brain damage. However, when the project was scrapped, eight of the songs were salvaged and recorded for Who’s Next, The Who’s fifth studio album, with “Baba O’Riley” as the lead-off track.

For “Baba O’Riley,” Townshend combined synthesizer experimentation with three simple chords to create one of the most iconic songs in rock and roll history. With both Townshend and Daltrey delivering memorable lines, this song will long endure. To illustrate, this epic anthem appears in Time magazine’s list of the All-Time 100 Songs, Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.


1. “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

Like “Baba O’Riley,” the song “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was originally written for Townshend’s aborted Lifehouse project and was also selected to appear as a standalone track on the album that became Who’s Next, arguably one of the best in rock and roll history. In Townshend: A Career Biography, Pete explained that the song was about antiestablishment, but that “revolution is not going to change anything in the long run, and people are going to get hurt.” This impressive eight-minute track serves as the climactic finish to the record as well as rock’s greatest declaration of independence.

“Won’t Get Fooled Again,” considered a stroke of genius musically, was released as a single in June 1971 and reached the top 10 on the UK Singles Chart and top 15 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. This masterpiece features an epic storm of doubt and refusal of acceptance coupled with amazing music and lyrics to drive home an uprising. Equally, Townshend’s synthesizer experimentation along with his rolling-thunder power chords, Entwistle’s remarkable bass, Moon’s brilliant drum solo and Daltrey’s truly colossal superhuman scream near the end, have all made “Won’t Get Fooled Again” one of the greatest rock anthems of all-time and paved the wave for rock immortality.

About Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

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

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

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

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

For Those About to Rock (AC/DC Salutes You)!

Written by: Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

AC/DC are an Australian rock band, formed in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia in 1973 by Scottish-born brothers Malcolm and Angus Young. In addition to the Young brothers, other prominent band members have included lead singers Dave Evans, Bon Scott, Brian Johnson and Axl Rose, Guitarist Stevie Young, Bassists Mark Evans and Cliff Williams, and Drummers Phil Rudd and Chris Slade.

For almost half a century, AC/DC’s inimitable brand of high voltage rock ’n’ roll has served as one of the most defining sounds of hard rock and heavy metal in music history. In its own way, their sound developed as a reaction against the pompous art rock and lumbering arena rock of the early ’70s.

AC/DC’s rock was unassuming — no matter how huge and bludgeoning Angus Young’s guitar chords were, there was a clear sense of space and restraint. Combined with Scott and Johnson’s larynx-shredding vocals, the band spawned countless imitators over the next four decades and enjoyed unbelievable commercial success well into the 2000s.

AC/DC have sold more than 200 million records worldwide, including 71.5 million albums in the United States, making them the tenth highest-selling artist in the USA and the 14th best-selling artist worldwide. Back in Black, their seventh studio album, has sold an estimated 50 million units worldwide, making it the third highest-selling album by any artist, and the highest-selling album by any band. The album has sold 22 million units in the US, where it is the sixth-highest-selling album of all time.

AC/DC ranked fourth on VH1’s list of the “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock” and were named the seventh “Greatest Heavy Metal Band of All Time” by MTV. In 2003, AC/DC was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked them No. 72 on the list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”. In 2010, VH1 ranked AC/DC number 23 in its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”.
and Chris Slade

In honor of AC/DC’s incredible musical career, we selected five of their legendary songs and ranked them accordingly.

#5 ” For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”

Inspired by the legendary salute proclaimed by Roman gladiators as they entered the arena, “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You),” the title track from the band’s eighth studio album, was the sort of grand statement AC/DC simply had to make as a follow-up to 1980’s world-conquering Back in Black release. For Those About to Rock became the first AC/DC album to ever hit No. 1 in the US on the Billboard chart and stayed on the top for three weeks. To date, in the US, it has achieved four million sales. In the UK, the album’s two singles, “Let’s Get It Up” and “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”, made it to No. 13 and No. 15, respectively.

#4 “Highway To Hell”

The title track from “Highway to Hell,” their sixth studio album, finally established AC/DC as a serious hard rock band all over the world. New producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange helped the band craft catchy songs that popped on radio, and none worked quite as brilliantly as this one. The song details an account of the trials and tribulations of touring and features one of the best riffs the Young brothers ever strummed. The single hit number 17 in the U.S. and number eight in the U.K., becoming the group’s first million-seller. This seemed like the beginning of a new era in Scott’s life, but sadly, it would end up being his final chapter as he died from acute alcohol poisoning six months following the album’s release. Recently, AllMusic called the song “Highway to Hell” “one of hard rock’s all-time anthems.”

#3 “Thunderstruck”

By 1990, it appeared that AC/DC was losing steam. It had been 10 long years since the release of the epic album Back in Black, and although they remained a popular live act, they had a hard time scoring a blockbuster hit. Well, that all changed with “Thunderstruck,” an enormous song that sounds like a vicious thunderstorm. The track helped The Razors Edge, their twelfth studio album, sell millions of records and it’s been a highlight of their stage show ever since. The song has sold over a million digital copies since it became available for digital download. In January 2018, as part of Triple M’s “Ozzest 100”, the ‘most Australian’ songs of all-time, “Thunderstruck” was ranked number 8.

#2 You Shook Me All Night Long”

In 1980, “You Shook Me All Night Long,” the first single released from AC/DC’s Black in Black featuring Brian Johnson as the band’s new lead singer, reached number 35 on the USA’s Hot 100 pop singles chart. The track, features one of the catchiest choruses and showcases their musical versatility, was placed at number 10 on VH1’s list of “The 100 Greatest Songs of the 80s”. Additionally, it was ranked number 1 on VH1’s “Top Ten AC/DC Songs”. Guitar World positioned “You Shook Me All Night Long” at number 80 on their “100 Greatest Guitar Solos” list. Equally, it was a huge hit all across the world and remains their signature song during concerts.

#1 “Black in Black”

In February of 1980, following the untimely death of lead singer Bon Scott, AC/DC could have easily produced an oversentimental nostalgic record honoring his death, but instead they rallied together and realized that a better way to honor their fallen comrade was to create the most bombastic, hardest rocking record of their lives. With the help of new powerhouse singer Johnson, they succeeded beyond anything they could have imagined. As far as rock anthems go, the title track of the album “Black in Black” — AC/DC’s greatest hit — is truly a celebration of Bon and a vivid reminder that the band still had plenty of life. The track is as close to perfection as it gets. Starting with a scratchy guitar count-in, things go large when the song’s gargantuan riff kicks in — perhaps the most iconic guitar riff in rock history. Ever since its release, “Black in Black” has been used in countless TV shows, movies and commercials over the years, but it somehow still retains its primal power.

About Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

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

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

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

The Beatles Led the “British Invasion” to the USA

Written by: Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

The Beatles were a legendary rock group, formed in Liverpool, England, in 1960. The Beatles (a.k.a. the “Fab Four”) consisted of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Together these four lads went on to transform popular music as a creative, highly commercial art form over the next decade—producing classic songs like “Yesterday,” “Penny Lane,” “Lady Madonna,” “With A Little Help From My Friends,” “Day Tripper,” “Back in the USSR” and “Come Together.”

In 1963, The Beatles recorded their debut studio album entitled Please Please Me, a roaring success in the UK, peaking at number 1 in the charts. Extensive European tours followed, with thousands of fans filling the streets outside venues on a nightly occurrence. The reaction to the band was dubbed “Beatlemania”.

1964 saw the ‘British Invasion’, with The Beatles hitting USA for the first time. The Ed Sullivan Show played host to their first US television performance, which was a landmark for the band and was watched by approximately 73 million viewers in the States.

The Beatles are the best-selling music act of all-time, with certified sales of over 183 million units in the US and estimated sales of 600 million units worldwide. They hold the record for most number-one albums on the UK Albums Chart, most number-one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and most singles sold in the UK.

The group were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, and all four main members were also inducted individually between 1994 and 2015.

In 2008, the group topped Billboard’s list of the all-time most successful artists on the Billboard Hot 100. The band have received seven Grammy Awards, four Brit Awards, an Academy Award for the Best Original Song Score for the 1970 film Let It Be and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards. Time named The Beatles among the 20th century’s 100 most important people.

In honor of The Beatles incredible musical career, we selected five of their legendary songs and ranked them accordingly.

5. “The Long and Winding Road”

McCartney said he came up with the title “The Long and Winding Road” during one of his first visits to his property High Park Farm, near Campbeltown in Scotland. The phrase was inspired by the sight of a road “stretching up into the hills” in the remote Highlands surrounded by lochs and distant mountains. He wrote the song at his farm in 1968, inspired by the growing tension among the Beatles. By early 1969, creative and financial issues were fracturing the band. Lennon had already told the others that he was quitting, Starr had gone on a hiatus, and Harrison and McCartney disappeared for weeks.

When the Beatles issued “The Long and Winding Road” as a single in May 1970, a month after they broke-up, it became the group’s 20th and last number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States. In fact, it was the final single released by the quartet.

4. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”

Despite the rumors that the classic hit “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” written by John and credited to the Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership, was about a hallucinogenic drug known as LSD, Lennon insisted that it was not about drugs, but instead, inspiration that came from his then four-year-old son, Julian, who painted a picture of Lucy O’Donnell, his classmate whom he sat next to. His nursey school drawing depicted “Lucy – in the sky with diamonds”.

Lennon attributed the song’s fantastical imagery to his reading of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland adventures, with ‘kaleidoscope eyes’ and ‘newspaper taxis’, creating a psychedelic nursery rhyme. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” has been recognized as a key work in the psychedelic genre.

3. “Strawberry Fields Forever”

The song “Strawberry Fields Forever” was based on a Salvation Army children’s home in Liverpool, known as Strawberry Field. The hit was written completely by Lennon when he was in Spain away from his fellow bandmates. For this track, he reached into his childhood memories and remembered the orphanage – he used to climb over the wall and play within the wild gardens. As Lennon had been abandoned by both his parents, living with his Aunt Mimi, he found solace in the gardens of the orphanage.

When he returned to England, Lennon played the song for the rest of the band and was met by stunned silence. McCartney complimented him in a respectful tone, claiming “that is absolutely brilliant”. “Strawberry Fields Forever” was the first track The Beatles recorded after completing Revolver and was intended for inclusion on their forthcoming Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Under intense pressure from EMI Records, their record company and management, to release a new product, they were forced to issue the track as a double A-side single with “Penny Lane” versus appearing on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

2. “Let It Be”

Written by McCartney during the 1968 sessions for The Beatles, also known as The White Album, “Let It Be” was inspired by a dream the singer had of his deceased mother, Mary. In the dream, Mary was assuring him, amongst the turmoil of the Beatles’ slow breakup, that everything would be all right. McCartney eventually transformed the song into a gospel-style number for the Get Back sessions that would eventually be released as the album “Let It Be”.

At the time, the single “Let It Be” had the highest debut on the Billboard Hot 100, beginning its chart run at number 6. The song gave The Beatles their seventh consecutive year charting a number 1 hit, sharing the all-time record, at the time, with Elvis Presley. Unfortunately, it was their final single before McCartney announced his departure from the band on April 10.

1. “Hey Jude”

“Hey Jude” was one of the few Beatles compositions to be written directly about, and for, a personal associate. It was composed by McCartney for Lennon’s son, Julian, on the occasion of John’s impending divorce from his first wife, and Julian’s mother, Cynthia. Paul and Julian had always been very close, and he knew that his dad’s new relationship with Yoko Ono, along with his desire to distance himself from his old life, had to be hitting Julian, then age 6, pretty hard. Paul composed the melody and basic lyrics for the song while driving to Cynthia’s home in Weybridge, a town by the River Wey in the Elmbridge district of Surrey, where he often visited during June of 1968. When he returned home that day, he recorded a demo version on his piano. It was originally titled “Hey Jules,” but Paul thought “Jude” would be easier to sing.

“Hey Jude” spent an unprecedented nine weeks at Number One in the US, making it the biggest Beatles single ever in America. In 2013, Billboard magazine named it the 10th “biggest” song of all-time in terms of chart success. It has sold over eight million copies, three million in just the first two months.

About Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

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

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

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