THE GOLDEN HAT: TALKING BACK TO AUTISM

(Margret Ericsdottir, Keli Ericsdottir and Kate Winslet)

When her son was only 10-years-old, Icelandic mother Margret Ericsdottir was told that her child had a severe form of nonverbal autism. Medical professionals informed her that Keli, her son, would never be able to communicate with another human being and should be institutionalized for the rest of his life.

Unwilling to give up on her child, Margret set forth on a mission to help Keli learn how to communicate. To help raise awareness of her son’s condition, Margret took a camera crew with her on her journey and thus created the documentary, A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Austism.

After being picked up by HBO for distribution to international audiences, the inspiring film found its English language narrator in Academy Award-winning actress Kate Winslet. But after meeting Margret and Keli, Winslet was inspired to do more than just lend her voice.

“I did the recording, I met Margret and we became very close friends. And I went home on the train and I just had this feeling of ‘that’s not enough. That can’t be it. I can’t have just given my voice, oh clever me, what’s that about?’” Winslet recalled while appearing on Live With Kelly!

Not too long after, a new idea came to Winslet while she was brushing her teeth one morning. What if she teamed up with Margret to create a book of portraits of famous people around the world? These celebrities could use their public platforms to give their voices to those who couldn’t speak out for themselves. And in turn, they would begin to spread awareness of this condition that impacts approximately 67 million people worldwide.

Together, Winslet and Margret went to all sorts of extremes to put together their book, The Golden Hat: Talking Back To Autism. Each participant took a photo with Winslet’s favorite fedora and answered the question, “If you were unable to communicate your entire life until now, what would be your first words?”

Featuring portraits of celebrities such as Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Elton John, Julianne Moore, Oprah Winfrey, Zac Efron and James Franco, The Golden Hat: Talking Back To Autism is a true labor of love. All proceeds from the book (published in March by Simon & Schuster) benefit the charity and awareness organization that Margret and Winslet co-founded, The Golden Hat Foundation.

Following her recent appearance at the United Nations for World Autism Day, Margret chatted with me about the book, collaborating with Winslet, her son Keli, how you can contribute to the cause, and much more.

Alex Nagorski: Can you tell me a little bit about how the format of this book came about? How did you and Kate decide that taking portraits of these public figures was the way in which you wanted to spread awareness of your message?

Margret Ericsdottir: It was magical actually. One day I received an email from Kate saying that she had a great idea for fundraising, but didn’t have time to explain it now … she just said that it involved a hat and a lot of famous people.

I thought to myself that it was strange she said a “hat,” because Keli had just written a poem called, “The Golden Hat” that same day:

This boy had a golden hat.
The hat was magical.
 It could talk.
The boy did not have any voice.
He had autism.
His hat was always with him.
His hat was lost one day.
Now he had no way of telling them his stories.
His mom and dad became sad.
They taught him spelling on a letterboard.
It was hard.

I sent the poem to Kate, and she was so surprised by Keli’s poem and how similar it was to her idea that she called me and told me all about her plans to make this book. We both felt like it was more than a coincidence and that it was meant to be. So we named our book and the foundation after the poem.

AN: On April 2nd, you appeared at the United Nations for World Autism Awareness Day. From the time you shot A Mother’s Courage to today, how much (if at all) do you feel autism awareness has increased on a global level?

ME: Autism awareness has been very successful here in the States for the most part, but in other parts of the world these individuals’ rights are being ignored. I have had many emails and Facebook comments from people around the world who want to know more about how they can help their child and how the conditions in their country do not allow them the treatments and interventions that we are so privileged to have here in the US.

As you mentioned, we hosted World Autism Awareness Day in conjunction with the United Nations this year. We had a press briefing regarding those with nonverbal autism, as that is our focus at the Golden Hat Foundation. As I said, it seems autism awareness in general is very good here in the US, however, people know very little about those with nonverbal autism – which represents nearly half of those with autism. We are working hard to bring awareness to their need for effective means of communication and their right to receive an academic education.

AN: In a recent Ladies’ Home Journal interview, Kate told a funny story about how she “gate-crashed a private function to get the hat to Bill Clinton.” What are some other humorous or non-traditional ways in which you and/or Kate attempted to get the hat to a particular person?

ME: We really became quite fanatical about the hat. For the longest time we would not mail it. It was hand delivered and even flown first class with someone across the ocean. There were only a couple of times that we did send it via courier and we all held our breath until it arrived.

When I was taking the hat once to Conan O’Brien in his studio, he was trying to get a picture of the hat while he was using hairspray. I kept thinking that he had gotten so much hairspray on the hat that it will never come off his head! I wasn’t sure if I should tell him to stop or not. Have you ever seen Conan? He is like 6 foot 7 or something!

AN: Of all the celebrities who contributed to this book, who’s answer surprised you the most?

ME: Of course the funny ones are cute, like George Clooney’s, “Sorry about Batman and Robin” or Woody Allen’s, “Get off my property!”, but the one that struck the biggest cord with me was Elijah Wood. It seemed to me he totally understood what we were asking when he answered, “I exist and I am vital.”

AN: Do you feel that the accelerated rate at which technology is granting people access to instant communication wherever they are is more beneficial or harmful for our society? And how do these rapid changes impact people with nonverbal autism?

ME: Although I feel most kids these days get too caught up in social media, it is the most exciting time for those with nonverbal autism. The technology that now exists has changed many of their lives. iPads and iPhones have revolutionized this industry. Now, what used to be unaffordable is well within the means of school districts and even families to own. There are amazing new apps for those with autism – like Assistive Chat, which allows the user to type in what they want and it says it out loud.

Also with all of this technology comes the ability to work from home. When these individuals are given an effective means of communication, and are able to get an academic education, they will be able to have careers. Not just jobs folding towels or wiping tables. Working from home will allow them to “fit in” more functionally at a job.

AN: The book is named after a poem that Keli wrote about a magic golden hat that enables an autistic boy to speak. How important do you find art to be as a tool for self-expression for those with nonverbal autism?

ME: Nonverbal autism is a spectrum. I like to think of it as just another class full of students, some will like the arts, some will like math, some will be good at English, others will be good in science.

Keli loves poetry. He almost always expresses himself in some poetic manner. While another good friend of Keli’s (also nonverbal) makes jokes all of the time.  Still another likes to discuss his political views.

AN: How much do you think the representations of autism in popular culture (i.e. films like Adam or Rain Man or books like House Rules by Jodi Picoult) shape the way that autistic people are viewed to those who might not be entirely familiar with autism?

ME: I think any use of those with autism in media today brings more awareness and acceptance. The new show Touch with Keifer Sutherland stars a boy with nonverbal autism. He is not representative of this population, but they have shown some of the difficulties of having a child who does not speak. This will only bring more awareness to our cause.

AN: You and Kate have become very close friends over the past few years and together founded the Golden Hat Foundation. Do you two already have plans for another collaboration after the publication of this book?

ME: We discuss different ideas all the time! Kate is an idea person and is so whimsical! It is fun to talk about all the possibilities. Yes, we have some things up our sleeve … you will have to stay tuned to find out what!

AN: Other than purchasing the book, what are some ways in which people can help spread awareness and help make a difference for people with nonverbal autism?

ME: We need to spread awareness about the needs of those with nonverbal autism.

Talk to your school district and ask them to “Honor Intelligence.” Ask them to make sure they talk “to” these kids and not “about” them when they are present. Ask them to assume intelligence if a child can not communicate yet. Ask the schools to work toward getting effective communication strategies in place for all those who are nonverbal (or have nonfunctional speech). This means going beyond PECS and other picture programs. They need to learn to write, type, or point out words, even eye gaze can be used to spell words. Someone once said, “When you have 26 pictures, you can have 26 items. When you have 26 letters, you can have the world.” Then ask them to make plans to get these individuals an academic education. Life skills are important, however it should not be at the expense of an education.

We also have some wonderful resources on our website including videos. I suggest checking out our United Nations Press Briefing video and sending the link on to those you feel would benefit.

You can of course spread awareness by giving a copy of our book, The Golden Hat: Talking Back to Autism to teachers; or wear one of our shirts that say, “Honoring Intelligence”; or start a new “Follow That Hat” campaign on our website where you can raise awareness for nonverbal autism at the same time you raise money. This campaign is fun and whimsical and allows everyone to fundraise in any manner they choose. Once $500 dollars is reached, you will receive an actual “golden hat” in the mail that can be worn to tell others how important this issue is to you. Or just have some fun by donating online and adding your face to our Golden Wall … Facebook it and make it your profile picture and let others know what the Golden Hat stands for and why it is important to you.

Originally published on PopBytes

INTERVIEW WITH GREG LASWELL


Greg Laswell
is sort of like J.D. Salinger.

When it came time to write and record his fourth album, Landline, Laswell relocated himself to a place where he could not be disturbed. A place where he would be free to create his art without the distractions of his everyday world. A place so peaceful that his cell phone literally couldn’t even ring to disrupt the tranqulity.

As it did with Salinger, the whole hermit schtick proved to really work out for Laswell. Landline is a gorgeous and expertly crafted record from start to finish. And it’s easily the indie singer/songwriter’s strongest and most musically sophisticated body of work to date (just think of all the possibilties, Grey’s Anatomy music-picking-people!).

Gearing up for Tuesday’s release of Landline (via Vanguard Records), Greg spoke with me about the album, the various ladies he collaborated with on it, his recent foray into dance music, what animal stands no fighting change against him, and more.

ALEX NAGORSKI: Landline has a much larger and richer sound than your previous releases – in that there seem to be many influences and musical styles on the record that haven’t been prevalent in your repertoire thus far. What inspired this musical evolution?

GREG LASWELL: I’m in a good place in my personal life these days. I think these songs reflect that. Plus, I had gotten a little comfortable with knowing how to make a “Greg Laswell” record. I wanted to start over in a way.

AN: Since you self-produced the album, what were some of the biggest obstacles/challenges you faced while crafting this expanded version of your signature sound?

GL: My problem is always knowing when to stop recording. I can be quite the perfectionist and more often than not, perfection is not what a song needs. There’s no one in the room to say, “that’s it! that’s the take!” But I love being alone in the studio. One of these days I’ll work with a producer, but not yet.

AN: You’ve mentioned that Landline is heavily influenced by hip-hop records that you were listening to while writing and recording the album. Specifically which musicians/albums were you referring to?

GL: Method Man, Eminem, Kanye, Nas, Dr. Dre and Notorious B.I.G.


AN: You left Brooklyn to record the album in a small church-turned-house in a Maine lobstering town. Is it safe to assume that you can now cook the meanest lobster in New York?

GL: No, but it is safe to assume that I am a stone-cold murderer of them.

AN: After hearing the vocals that Sara Bareilles recorded for the album’s lead single, “Come Back Down” (which I reviewed here), you went back into the studio to re-record your own. What about Sara’s vocals triggered you to rework yours?

GL: The melody and phrasing all stayed the same, they just needed a slight energy boost next to hers. It’s easy for me to ease into what I know works for my vocal range, she helped me out of it momentarily.

AN: Your album features a wide roster of guest vocalists, including Sara Bareilles, Sia, Elizabeth Ziman (of Elizabeth and the Catapult) and your wife, Ingrid Michaelson. What triggered you to work with so many female vocalists on this record?

GL: It was an idea that I had been throwing around for years, and I’ve always had female vocalists somewhere on my records (Ingrid sang on a few songs on my last one). I thought Landline was the record to take it a little further on. I wanted these songs to be bigger than just me, and with the help of these four amazing singers, they are.

AN: Hypothetically, if you were to re-record another four of your songs as duets with male musicians, whom would you ask to sing with you and on which tracks?

GL: Honestly, I wouldn’t want to re-record four of my songs with male musicians.

AN: Can you tell me a little bit about your creative process behind the stop-motion video that Entertainment Weekly premiered for “Back To You”?

GL: It was a laborious one … 1500 pictures. However, it was by trial and error to get the motion right, so I ended up doing it three times (4500 pictures altogether). Take a picture, move everything an inch or so, take another picture. That, 4500 times.

AN: You recently collaborated with producer Morgan Page on “Addicted,” a track from his new album, In The Air. How did the experience of working on a club song differ from what you’re used to? And can your fans be expecting to hear your voice on any more dance tracks in the future?

GL: It was different because all I had to do was write the melody and sing it. Morgan did everything else. I didn’t have to obsess over the parts or the mix, or the song itself. I just got to come in, write lyrics and sing them. It was like taking your friend’s dog for a walk – you have a great time and then give it back. No responsibility.

AN: In a world run by cell phones, social media and instant on-the-go web access, imagery of a landline almost seems a bit antiquated. Can you talk a little bit about how you came up with the title track and why you felt naming your album after it was the most representative name for the record as a whole?

GL: I think the age of landlines and answering machines was romantic. I miss it. I’m thankful that I got to grow up without cellphones. That aside, the reason the album is called Landline is because there was little to no cell service where I recorded the record in Maine. So I had to use the landline. Easy title choice.

AN: As a songwriter, what’s the most moving response you’ve heard a fan have to your work?

GL: More than a couple times now, I’ve had someone tell me that they played “What a Day” during the birth of their child. I suppose there isn’t a better compliment than that.

AN: If you were to open your fridge on any standard day, what would you find inside?

GL: Another, smaller fridge. And one inside that, etc..

AN: This spring, you’re embarking on a national headlining tour. How will your shows supporting Landline differ from your previous tours? Any cities you’re most looking forward to playing in?

GL: Well, I’m taking out the largest band I’ve ever had. There will be six of us up there (including  a cello player). And Elizabeth, who sings on the record, will be playing and singing in the band as well. Pretty excited for these shows. I always look forward to playing my two hometowns, LA and New York.

Landline is available to preorder on iTunes now.

Originally published on PopBytes

“CALL MY NAME” BY CHERYL COLE (SINGLE REVIEW)


28-year-old UK pop sensation Cheryl Cole has been poised to break America for quite some time now.

In her home country, Cheryl is a household name. As part of pop group Girls Aloud, Cheryl had twenty top ten consecutive hits, including four number #1s. She then landed two #1 hits of her own with “Fight For This Love” and “Promise This” after launching a solo career in 2009.

With a resume like that, one would assume that Cheryl would have at least been on the radar of American audiences. Yet her music never attracted the airwaves of US radio, causing her to be relatively unknown this side of the Atlantic.

Following a successful stint as a judge on the British version of The X Factor from 2008-2011, Cheryl was offered a spot by Simon Cowell on the judges’ panel of the reality show’s American incarnation. Finally it seemed as though she was going to get her chance to make her real introduction to the land of the free and the home of the Big Mac.

But then like the venomous cockroach that she is, Nicole Scherzinger struck down with her reign of terror and ruined everything. It was almost Shakespearean; the way Nicole poisoned her competition. One devious plan later, Cheryl was out just weeks into the initial auditions and guess who was suddenly first in line to be her replacement? What’s done is done, indeed, Lady Macbeth.

Maybe it’s true then that the third time’s a charm. Because with her new single, “Call My Name,” Cheryl has delivered a smash so massive, its chart impact will most likely be felt across the world. And this time around, America will be no exception.

Released this morning on British radio, “Call My Name” marks the debut collaboration between Cheryl and hit-making producer Calvin Harris. His Midas touch for monster hits (i.e. Rihanna‘s “We Found Love“) and signature emphasis on gargantuan electropop hooks (i.e. Scissor Sisters‘ “Only The Horses“) makes for the perfect formula to re-launch Cheryl from a national into an international pop treasure.

And while Harris’ formula is in no way innovative or boundary pushing, it’s a catchy one that fits perfectly with Cheryl’s voice. We don’t say that Cheryl’s always sounded more like Britney than Christina. We don’t say that she’s not exactly the vocalist of her generation. But now we said it. And if Cheryl is looking for a global genre takeover, submerging herself into a pool of electronica-amplified dance/pop is without question the way to go.

“How do you think I feel when you call my name/ You got me confused by the way I changed/ How do you think I feel when you call my name/ My name/ Say my name, baby,” Cheryl croons over the fist-pump-inducing and addictively repetitive chorus.

The lead single from Cheryl’s upcoming third album, A Million Lights, “Call My Name” is the closest contender so far to being the song of the summer. Which only goes to show that sometimes a feel-good generic dancefloor anthem goes a lot further than a messy mashup of too many genres and sounds (are you taking notes, Nicki Minaj?).

A Million Lights, out in the UK on June 18th via Polydor Records, features collaborations with Alex Da Kid, frequent musical partner Will.I.Am, the glamorously infamous Lana Del Rey, Jim Beanz and newcomers Pantha and HyGrade. With a roster as impressively fruitful as that, it’s pretty safe to assume that Cheryl will score her third #1 album in a row.

And while details of a US release for A Million Lights have yet to surface, Cheryl Cole is a name that American audiences are about to become increasingly familiar with. The singer will be appearing in the upcoming chick-flick What To Expect When You’re Expecting (starring Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez) and has reportedly been offered a role on ABC’s smash sitcom, Modern Family. Meanwhile, the now unemployed Nicole Scherzinger (can you say karma?) is still trying to track down the e-mail addresses of the producers of Where Are They Now?.

With an accompanying Anthony Mandler-directed music video set to drop on Vevo on May 2nd, “Call My Name” is the ticket Cheryl has been waiting for to become America’s favorite new British import. It may not be her first single, but the song marks the debut of a huge new era and turning point for Cheryl – one in which she breaks out from her comfort zone and dominates pop charts everywhere.

Don’t be surprised once Call My Name takes over clubs and airwaves. Between the release of this explosive new single and Cheryl’s string of upcoming high profile appearances, it looks like America will finally catch on and start calling her name after all.

Originally published on HardCandyMusic

INTERVIEW WITH KERLI

Estonian popstar Kerli has undergone a major makeover.

When she first entered the scene in 2008 with the release of her debut album, Love Is Dead, Kerli’s dark and haunting sound immediately drew comparisons to musicians like Courtney Love and Evanescence. It’s a no-brainer, then, that the maestro of all things grim-and-twisted, film director Tim Burton, asked the singer to contribute two tracks for the soundtrack to his movie, Alice In Wonderland.

But when it came time to start building buzz for her follow-up record, Kerli abandoned the eerie pop/rock sound of her debut. With the release of “Army of Love” in December 2010, she reemerged as a pop/dance act. After spending eleven weeks on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Songs chart (peaking at #1), it’s not surprising that the singer has decided to continue to make music more suited for dancefloors than tattoo parlors.

This summer, Kerli will finally be releasing her long awaited sophomore album. And it seems as though her fans are too. The music video for her latest track, “Zero Gravity,” premiered only three weeks ago and has already garnered over a million hits on YouTube.

I chatted with Kerli about her upcoming record, fashion, blogging, and also bonded with her over our mutual Eastern European heritage. Duh.

ALEX NAGORSKI: Your upcoming record sounds like it’s going to be an entirely synthpop/dance album. What triggered this musical evolution and how has your fanbase reacted to this directional shift?

KERLI: Well to me, production is just production. It’s really all about the melody and the lyrics. The artists I’ve always listened to and have been a fan of are people like Bjork and Massive Attack – who are all electronic music. So it was only natural that I was also going to go more electronic myself. I didn’t even know that I was going to go so much down the dance and rave route in the beginning. I just knew after I released my last album that I wanted to make an electronic album. It kind of naturally came about and I think my music is going to stay that way for a little while. But who knows?

While describing the sound of your second album, you coined the term, “BubbleGoth.” Can you please elaborate a little bit about what you mean by that?

Actually “BubbleGoth” is more about fashion than it is about music. But to me, it stands for the coming together of things that don’t usually go together. There’s always a dark element but then there’s also always a light, beautiful element that I try to mix with it. Even if you listen to “Zero Gravity” and the next single to come, there are always two polarities. I really, really enjoy playing with polarities in everything I do.

You’ve frequently cited film director Tim Burton as having had a huge influence on you. What about Burton’s work do you find to be so inspiring? And what are the greatest challenges you face when incorporating influences from a visual medium into an aural one?

Well, where I’ve been going visually and musically has evolved from this dark, introverted, creepy Tim Burton-like space but now it’s going towards the sky. It’s kind of euphoric and fantastical. So the direction I’m going with my new album really has nothing to do with that quirky Tim Burton aesthetic. But that being said, he’s my hero and he always will be.

The toughest thing about being influenced by people like him though, is that I get these visions – and these visions are not things that I can just pull off Google and show people like my video directors. In order to be able to create this stuff, I started sketching everything down because the things I see in my head don’t exist in the real world.

With the “Zero Gravity” video, I wrote the treatment and knew exactly what I wanted everything in it to look like. But I couldn’t just go out and buy those things, so I handmade most of the stuff you see in it. Like all the shoes, the blue geisha outfit – I made that from scratch with $200.00. For me, the execution of these elaborate visions is the hardest part because I’m my own designer. I have to make most of this stuff on my own.

Wow. So can you tell me a little bit about your creative process? When making things like the ethereal music video for “Zero Gravity,” do you already have the visual concept in mind when you’re in the preliminary songwriting stages, or does that component not come in until later?

Really often when I write a song, I get the whole visual concept right then and there. I’m so picky about every detail. I also do a lot of research about what different things symbolize and what different colors mean. For example, when you look at “Zero Gravity,” you’ll see only purple, blue, white and pastel colors. That’s because those were the colors that I felt were the color of the music. I would have never done a video for the song that had red in it.

That’s very interesting. Another thing about you that’s really unique is your sense of style. If it were up to you, what current fashion trends would you like to see come to an end?

A lot of the times I don’t really have opinions about what’s going on in that world. I prefer to just sit back and observe. I have noticed, though, that all of these recent over-the-top costumes are getting a bit tired and so fashion is reverting to a more effortless style. In terms of my own style, I can’t not be me. I’ll always love playing these fantastical characters but it’s not about what they’re wearing. It’s about what they stand for.

I see. You grew up in the newly independent Estonia but now reside in Los Angeles. At this point in your life, do you identify more as Estonian or Californian? What are some of the biggest cultural differences you’ve had to adjust to?

I think the biggest thing is the way that people interact with one another. Where I come from, people are kind of closed off and aren’t very expressive with their feelings. Americans are very celebratory. Do you know what I mean? Where are you from?

I’m Polish.

Oh, you’re Polish? So you know exactly what I mean. Americans are always saying things like “thank you” and “please” and “excuse me.” They’re always talking about how nice things are and compliment one another far more often. And I always felt really out of place where I was from so I like American culture more than Eastern European culture. Everyone is just nicer. In Europe, we tease Americans for that but I don’t care because I’d rather have a friendly waitress. I like that and I like their expressiveness.

It’s so much easier, too, when you’re working with American producers because they’ll always have some sort of party going on in the studio. I really like that loose vibe and just being crazy and living it up. Whereas European producers are a little more serious.

More serious as in they’re all work, no play?

Yeah. But I did find this Swedish producing team that I did “Zero Gravity” and half of my next album with and we definitely had a big party going on in the studio.

Oh really, who was that?

They’re called SeventyEight. They’re two Swedish kids who I found that haven’t had their break yet but I really think they’re going to be epic.

How did you find them?

I was in Sweden and I was doing a bunch of sessions. Major labels have these sessions where they fly you around and make you write with everybody. I was just doing that for a couple years and wasn’t able to find anyone who got me musically. So I told my label that I didn’t want to write with anybody and I started to just write and produce on my laptop on my own. I was already giving up and so that’s when I picked up producing because I thought “nobody is going to get the sound I’m trying to create so I’ll just have to make it on my own.”

But then I met SeventyEight. It was the last of my sessions and I was tired and on the road but when I met up with them, magic just started suddenly happening. After that, we’d get together all the time. We love each other so much. Their energy is just really something else. I’m so excited for you to hear this new music. I think you’ll hear that energy and all the passion that we had in the studio. We have stuff even better than “Zero Gravity.”

Have you thought about what your second single will be yet?

Actually, supposedly “Zero Gravity” is technically not the first single. It’s kind of just a little taste-tester to get some buzz going. I think we’re going to release the first real single in a couple of months. So it’s really on the fast track now.

What’s that song called?

I can’t tell you yet. But the album is going to be a summer release.

You’ve played a lot of festival shows, including Lollapalooza and South By Southwest. Do you have any North American touring plans set for this year to coincide with the release of the record?

I really, really, really want to tour. But it’s almost easier and more effective for me to just be online and be in touch with my fans that way, which I am on a daily basis. Because I’m a solo act, it’s a lot of work to get a band together, pay everybody and take everybody on the road. With the new album, though, we’re definitely going to make it a priority to tour.

Do you find that having launched your own blog with Buzznet this year has made you feel a closer personal connection to your “Moonchildren” (what your fans call themselves)?

Well I’ve always been really close with my fans. We have a very honest relationship but a different kind of honest relationship. Like I always tell them not to buy my music if they don’t like it, you know? You should support the artists you believe in. Everybody is struggling and everybody needs support so you should support the musicians you’re really feeling. Don’t buy my stuff just because you saw my ad or whatever. Buy it because you like it.

The blog is great because it lets me put up a lot of little, extra things – like how I make a music video. It allows me to communicate my world more. It’s also great because, people can ask me all sorts of questions and even for advice, which is really nice. I also give out handmade stuff like the shoes from my single cover. I gave those away as a thank you for fans who shared my video. It’s just a lot of cool stuff that makes the fans feel like they’re part of the whole process.

In addition to being a performer, you’ve also dabbled in writing tracks for other musicians (i.e. Demi Lovato’s hit “Skyscraper,” which you co-wrote with Toby Gad and Lindy Robbins). Is this a career path you plan to continue pursuing on the side, or is your focus now entirely on your own music?

It’s definitely something I want to do. Absolutely. I have crazy respect for songwriters. I’ve met people like Diane Warren, who is an amazing, classic songwriter with tens and tens and tens of songs that have touched people and saved the world. I definitely see myself doing that on the side right now but maybe one day when I really don’t feel like being an artist, it’ll be my main job. Who knows if that’s ever going to happen because I love to make music but I also love to write for other people.

Three of your songs have been used as source material on the popular reality TV program, So You Think You Can Dance. What do you find to be both the most rewarding and bizarre aspects of seeing your music interpreted into a different form of art?

I think that the fact that humans are the only species that are able to create things not just for survival makes any form of art extremely touching to me. I don’t mind other narratives being used to interpret my music because I try to abandon my “kids” right after they come out. I’ve already abandoned “Zero Gravity” and am getting ready for another child.

What do you mean?

Well when a song is out in the universe it doesn’t belong to me anymore. It belongs to the people and they can do whatever they want with it, you know what I mean? You can go remix it if you want, for example, because the song belongs to the world now, not to me.

What about the release of your second album are you most looking forward to?

I’m just really excited to see how the audience is going to respond because it’s a total 180 from my last album. That record was called Love Is Dead and I’m so not that person anymore. I’ve gone to a totally different place. I’m just happy now. I’ve come to terms with how little time we have here on earth and I want to make the most of it. So my new music is going to be about that. It’s not in pain, it’s not introverted – it’s just about being everything I can be. It’s almost ecstatic.

A lot of fans have had mixed feelings and miss the old sound and say things like, “I wish you would write songs the same way you used to.” But I just can’t! I’m not the same person anymore. Maybe I will be my third album. Maybe I’ll be totally depressed and write another really dark album. I have no idea where I’m going to go. All I know is that I’m just always going to try to grow and do my best. And whatever comes out of me is just going to be a reflection of who I am at that moment.

Originally published on PopBytes

10 ESSENTIAL TRACKS FROM GARBAGE


Fans of Garbage haven’t been this excited since 2005.

It was then that the rock band released their last album, Bleed Like Me. This year, however, the freshly reunited quartet is back to inject some grunge into the mainstream.

On May 15, Garbage will be releasing their fifth studio album, Not Your Kind of People (via their own record label, Stunvolume). For those unfamiliar, Garbage are the musicians behind such monster ‘90s hits as “Only Happy When It Rains,” “Stupid Girl, and” the theme song to the James Bond film, The World Is Not Enough.

At 4 PM (EST) this afternoon, the iconic rockers will be participating in a live Ustream chat to talk about the upcoming record with fans and debut their music video for the album’s lead single, “Blood For Poppies.”

CHAT WITH GARBAGE LIVE AT 4 PM (EST) BELOW:

Before you go see them on their nearly sold out spring tour, check out the list I’ve compiled of the band’s top ten essential tracks. Whether you’re a lapsed Garbage fan or a new one looking for a jumping on point, this list has got a little something for everyone. And be sure to share your favorite Garbage tracks in the comments section below!

10. MILK 

from Garbage


One of most the most mellow and subdued single choices in Garbage’s playbook, “Milk” is a haunting song about lost love. Laced with a slow dripping trance downbeat, it also paved the path for the band’s future expanded experimentation with electronica.

“It’s a dichotomy, a paradox,” Garbage front woman Shirley Manson told British music newspaper Melody Maker in 1996 about the song. “The thing I really like about ‘Milk’ is the fact that it’s been dismissed by people as the ballad at the end of the album. To me, ‘Milk’ is the darkest, most hopeless of the songs. People say ‘Oh, it’s lovey-dovey, so therefore it’s a love song’. But it’s a very bleak song, it’s about loss and the fear of loss; about things you can’t have and things you will forever wait for.”

9. QUEER 

from Garbage

Nominated for “Breakthrough Video” at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards, the music video for Garbage’s “Queer” stirred quite the controversy upon its initial release. Shot on a hand-held camera, the (mostly) black-and-white music video depicts the first-person perspective of the cameraman as Manson holds him hostage, takes off his clothes and shaves his head.

For a song about liberating your inner-freak, the accompanying music video for Queer” couldn’t be more brilliant. It perfectly matches the song’s message about embracing one’s “strangeness” as what makes them individuals rather than social misfits. The “be yourself” moral of the track is not one seldom found in music, but its unique execution is one that makes “Queer” a real standout in the band’s career.

8. BLEED LIKE ME 

from Bleed Like Me

There was a time not too long ago when songs like Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R,” Katy Perry’s “Firework,” P!nk’s “Fuckin’ Perfect” and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” dominated the radio all at once. Inspired by the horrifying increase of suicides amongst homosexual adolescents, these songs were written with the hopes of inspiring people to not only remain true to themselves, but to also be at peace and be comfortable with their identities.

Taken from their album of the same name, Garbage’s “Bleed Like Me” has a similar message but with a different approach. Instead of focusing on the “it gets better” dreams of a future, “Bleed Like Me” is about the present pains of waiting for that future to happen.

The verses of “Bleed Like Me” are split into vignettes that tell stories about people suffering from eating disorders, gender confusion, depression and substance abuse as a form of escapism. The message? Even though you might feel disconnected from the world at a low-point in life, your feelings are never isolated. Even though it may seem like nobody understands, people cope with growing into themselves in countless ways, many of which are unfortunately self-destructive.

And while saying “you’re not alone” may not be the saving advice that drags the characters Manson has described out of the funk they’re in, it’s at least a comforting reminder that there is still a sense of hope out there, no matter how unattainable it may temporarily seem.

7. PUSH IT 

from Version 2.0

The lead single off of Version 2.0, “Push It” showcases a part of Manson rarely seen in Garbage’s music: the glass-half-full, positive-spin-on-things side.

“I want to see you happy/I want to see you shine,” Manson seductively purrs on the track. “Don’t worry baby/We’ll be alright.”

Describing her lover’s pain as causing pain to her, Manson begs and persuades her lover to forgive her for whatever she’s done. A true love song, “Push It” is a battle cry to save a relationship that might be headed towards its end. And Manson is unafraid to fight until her lover is convinced that what they have is worth saving.

Set against a pulsing wave of electronica-backed percussion, it’s a track that injects a welcome shot of adrenaline to what might otherwise be written off as a somewhat generic plea for a second chance.

6. SPECIAL 

from Version 2.0

Nominated for “Best Rock Song” and “Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group” at the 2000 Grammy Awards, “Special” remains to be one of Garbage’s most adorned hits to date.

Inspired by a tumultuous breakup, “Special” depicts the crossroads lovers face when they realize they’ve grown in opposite directions and no longer satisfy one another’s expectations. In the song, Manson sings about her disappointment and her decision to embark on a solo journey – one in which she’s not restricted by the failed promise of a symbiotic relationship with her lover.

“Do you have an opinion?/A mind of your own?/I thought you were special/I thought you should know/But I’ve run out of patience/I couldn’t care less,” she croons as she kisses her lover goodbye.

Manson masterfully relays the feelings of exasperation and frustration that come with discovering your lovers’ true colors don’t blend well with your own. Acting like a canvas of sorts, “Special” pinpoints exactly what happens when these colors run parallel to one another – they may seem pretty at first, but they’ll ultimately never meet.

5. TEMPTATION WAITS 

from Version 2.0 & Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Album

Although originally a track on Garbage’s album, Version 2.0, “Temptation Waits” reached its true immortality when it was included on the official 1999 soundtrack to the television show, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. One of that record’s biggest hits, the song has since been associated with the cult phenomenon TV program in the same vein that Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” is linked to Dawson’s Creek or Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” is attributed to Grey’s Anatomy.

Gritty, sexy and upbeat, “Temptation Waits” tells the story of undying love and thus expertly compliments Buffy’s tone. And no, I never played the song on loop while writing fan letters to Sarah Michelle Gellar. How dare you even ask?

4. WHEN I GROW UP 

from Version 2.0

As an adolescent, everyone thinks about how different their lives will be when they “grow up.” For little kids, growing up means things like being able to have ice cream for dinner if you want without getting in trouble. For teenagers, it means things like not having a curfew or paper assignments about historical events you’ll never care about. There’s that ideal notion that after we’ve “grown up,” we’ll have complete control over the reigns of our lives.

Characteristically, Garbage’s take on this concept looks at it through a no-bullshit lens. Almost like a retaliation to the critics who dubbed Garbage as child’s play, “When I Grow Up” sticks up a middle finger to those who enforce social expectations of adulthood.

Manson has never been shy about having a dominant wild side. In this synthpop-fortified grunge banger, she dares her haters to try to silence her from voicing her opinions or to stop her from partying and engaging in what are commonly regarded as defiant acts of sexuality. And while her suggestions of keeping life spicy with golden showers and helicopter rides may not make Manson a parent’s ideal role model for their child, it certainly makes her one of the most bold, unapologetic and interesting women in the industry.

3. #1 CRUSH 

from Romeo + Juliet: Music From The Motion Picture

Like the flawless soundtrack to Cruel Intentions, the tracklisting for the soundtrack for director Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet reads like a Now! That’s What I Call Music installment of greatest hits from the 90s. Featuring songs like The Cardigans’ “Lovefool,” Des’ree’s “Kissing You” and Everclear’s “Local God,” the album undoubtedly acts as a time portal for anyone who paid attention to contemporary music in 1996.

Garbage’s contribution to the soundtrack, “#1 Crush,” was originally released as a b-side to their single, “Vow.” The song was then remixed by producers Nellee Hooper and Marius de Vries for Luhrmann’s film and ended up hitting #1 on Billboard’s Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart. And as it’s written from the perspective of a stalker Manson had, it remains arguably the creepiest song Garbage has ever recorded.

“I would die for you/I would kill for you/I will steal for you/I’d do time for you/I would wait for you/I’d make room for you/I’d sail ships for you/To be close to you/To be a part of you/’Cause I believe in you/I believe in you/I would die for you,” Manson growls over the song’s trip-hop beat.

Perhaps the song’s definition of self-sacrifice for forbidden love doesn’t match Shakespeare’s definition, but its alarming display of being blinded by desire fits perfectly into Luhrmann’s twisted interpretation of his source material, and into the airwaves of mainstream radio.

2. I THINK I’M PARANOID 

from Version 2.0

Three years after the release of their enormously successful debut, Garbage eleased their sophomore album, Version 2.0, in 1998. Another collaboration with Nirvana producer Butch Vig, Version 2.0 was more than just the eagerly anticipated follow-up to a successful rock band’s first album. It was a statement on how rapidly evolving technology was influencing the music industry – and why that wasn’t such a bad thing.

Blending acoustic live instruments with newly available digital resources, Version 2.0 paid homage to classic rock while simultaneously ushering in a new era of pop/rock. As Billboard put it, the record put “a late ‘90s spin on ‘60s pop varieties.” The result was a multi-platinum album that continued to chart from the time of its release into the new millennium.

Version 2.0’s second single, “I Think I’m Paranoid” perfectly exemplifies this marriage between the “new” and “old” sounds that the album set out to combine. With a stomping percussion background accompanied by an electric guitar and thrashing electronica, the unique structure of the song raised the bar for its peers and crowned Garbage as an innovative band that not only challenges convention, but sounds damn good doing it.

1. SUPERVIXEN 

from Garbage

Although never the smash single it deserved to be, “Supervixen” is a landmark track in Garbage’s repertoire. The opening track off of the band’s eponymous debut album, “Supervixen” rolled out the red carpet for Shirley Manson and Co. when they entered the scene in 1995.

It makes sense that “Supervixen” acts as the introductory cut in Garbage’s catalog as it’s a song that perfectly represents the band’s sound. It’s an up-tempo shake-the-glitter-out-of-your-hair alternative rock track built out of a soaring pop hook, sprinkled traces of electronica and a heavy serving of the classic grunge Garbage helped define as the signature of ‘90s music.

Combine that with Manson’s deliciously raspy vocals and cut-throat lyrics like “I can take you out with just the flick of my wrist,” and the repeated commands of “bow down to me,” “Supervixen” is like the college guy you dated in high school: sexy, smart and with a enticing rebellious attitude. And that makes for the ultimate Garbage track.

Originally published on Hard Candy Music