EXCLUSIVE: INTERVIEW WITH EDEN XO

Eden xo

Eden xo is ready for pop domination.

It took a few false starts before she emerged as the confident and exciting songstress that she is today. The 25-year-old musician started out in a female-fronted punk band, Shut Up Stella, before moving to England to collaborate as a songwriter with some of the biggest hit makers it pop. When she returned to the US, she fronted Jessie and the Toy Boys, but after a handful of singles and a successful tour, she found her true artistic calling by rebranding herself as Eden xo.

Her infectious debut single “Too Cool To Dance” (iTunes) is rapidly being added to radio stations across the country, has been featured on the smash compilation Now 52, and was named one of “Tomorrow’s Hits” by Billboard. With over 900k plays on Spotify, the single is slowly but surely exploding into the mainstream, paving the path for a huge and pivotal 2015 for Eden xo. I caught up with the singer about her inspiration behind the song, her upcoming EP and album, her Norma Jean moment, her aspirations for the future, and more.

“Too Cool to Dance” is very clearly influenced by Madonna’s early material. Will the rest of your music continue to incorporate this throwback ’80s pop sound with a contemporary spin?

Yeah, absolutely. It’s a little bit late ’70s and early ’80s for me. Definitely early Madonna or Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson, and Sheila E. It’s funny because it’s obviously not my generation’s music at all. But being a dot com child of the internet, I discovered it recently and really fell in love with the musicality, the live horns, the guitars, and that whole feel. It was a real goal of mine to not just try and emulate that era, but really go to the source and try to make the record with people who were involved in that music. So the guitars were played by Paul Jackson, Jr., who played on a bunch of Madonna records. My favorite thing he did, though, was the rhythm guitar on “Thriller” for Michael Jackson. And then the horns are live. We have the guys from Earth, Wind and Fire – their horn sections play all those horns. So it’s absolutely throwback, you hit the nail on the head with the Madonna thing, but obviously with a 2015 spin.

You spent some formative years in the UK writing for Xenomania, singing backup for the Pet Shop Boys, and recording demos for Kylie Minogue. How did those experiences shape your identity as a solo artist?

Well, it made me realize I don’t want to be a songwriter. What I mean by that is I love writing songs for myself. If other people cut or use them, that’s great, but I always have this weird thing where it’s like, “Oh, those are my ideas, and this is strange that someone else is doing it.” When I was at Xenomania for a long time, I was kind of trapped in this writer role where I had all of these ideas, and Girls Aloud were coming in and singing them, and it was actually really frustrating in some ways, because, I was just like, “Ugh, this is not right…” It’s not how I intended it. So, the best thing I got out of it was I learned so much, because obviously working with Xenomania, and with Pet Shop Boys, and people like that, they’re just on another level. So they stepped up my game as a songwriter, but it just kind of reinforced how badly I want to be an artist myself and not only a songwriter.

Under the moniker of Jessie and the Toy Boys, you received the coveted honor of opening for Britney Spears on her 2011 Femme Fatale tour. What was that experience like and did she give you any advice on the road?

It was like everything I’m sure you’d imagine. I couldn’t believe that I was opening up for Britney Spears, arguably the queen of pop of our time. It was insane, especially for me. Growing up, Baby One More Time was one of the first CDs I owned. It was just like, “Wow, I can’t believe that she picked me,” you know? It was such an honor.

Advice? Not so much specifically like “Let me sit you down and tell you how it is,” but she has a great aura about her. Just being in her presence and seeing how her ship is run and how she operates and performs every night, you can’t help but to pick a few things up. It was great to be on that tour. I learned a lot and it was another stepping stone.

I bet! Have you seen her Vegas show yet?

No, I haven’t. I heard it’s really similar to the Femme Fatale tour though, because I think she basically just went from that tour to the Vegas show and then they added a couple numbers. So I feel like I’ve seen it, because I saw the other show every night for three months. But I haven’t seen the new show. I would love to. I love her. I will always be a fan.

What made you decide to drop the Jessie and the Toy Boys and reemerge as Eden xo?

Well, the truth of the matter is that after that tour, I was kind of in a very lost state. I mean, the tweets stopped coming in, the phone had stopped ringing, and I just was isolated and left kind of by myself. Because I was doing this thing, I was on this mission, like, “I’m independent,” you know, “fuck major labels, I don’t need you, whatever.” And, ultimately, it turns out that if you really want to have your music on the radio and out there to the masses, you can’t really do everything yourself and you need a little bit of help.

It was very humbling in some ways and I felt like I was such an underdog for so long. So I just threw myself into the studio and I was kind of in a depression. I started writing different stuff and I felt like I had changed so much and evolved so much as a person that I didn’t feel like I was the same person anymore. And so, I was thinking that maybe I should create a new project or whatever, just to have a fresh start.

Also with my sound changing and shifting from, you know, wanting to stray away from the electro thing and going more organic, I just felt like I was creating something new. And then when I thought of all of these names, I thought, “This is so lame.” I actually just wanted to strip away the gimmick and I just wanted to be myself. Then I was just staring at my driver’s license, because Eden is my middle name, and I looked at it and I was like, “Oh, there you are,” and it was staring me in the face my whole life and I just didn’t realize it. And now is the time. It’s almost like I had to go through everything to figure it all out. So now, when people call me Jessie, it’s actually strange to me. It’s really weird. I feel as though I’ve completely evolved. It was my Norma Jean/Marilyn moment.

What was it about “Too Cool to Dance” that made you decide it was the perfect debut single to launch this new chapter of your career with?

Well, it was the first song I finished, so that helped. The message of the song really resonated because of everything that I have gone through. It’s a fun pop song but, I’m tired of being in the corner, taking selfies and not dancing, in all forms life. I just felt like it was time to let loose and ask, “Who cares?”

And so “Too Cool to Dance” to me really hits a lot of points personally that I wanted to put out there, which is like, “Don’t care about what other people think, let’s not be too cool to dance,” and “let’s just enjoy life and have fun.” You can waste away worrying about what other people think and I just don’t care anymore.

The music video is super cute too. It features you stuck in a retirement home with your grandparents until your friends show up and save the day by getting everyone in the community to dance. How did you come up with the concept?

Thank you! I actually originally made a gif video myself. I did that version first and then the director saw that and it kind of inspired her to write the treatment she wrote with the older people. Because in mine, I have the random Asian Jazzercise club at the end and she was like, “Oh, my gosh. This is so brilliant,” and was like, “What if we did Palm Springs?” and la, la.

So, that’s kind of how it came together. And I liked her style, I liked her photography a lot. I hadn’t seen a lot of her videos but I kind of decided to work with her more based on her fashion photography, because I love fashion so much and I thought she had a good vision. So it was something we tried to focus on in the video with nailing the look of everything, and the clothes, and whatnot.

Do you have any ideas regarding the titles and/or release dates of your upcoming 5-song EP and your debut album?

Yeah, I do. I know that I’m not allowed to say the title. So lame, I know. But I do have the title. I have all songs mixed and mastered, everything’s done, and the EP is coming out in March. I don’t think they’ve given a date on the album, but it’s close to being done too. It’s at least all written. The album is on the way, but mostly the EP is the focus right now, five songs. It’s going to be awesome.

Which producers and songwriters are you working with to craft both of these records?

I worked a lot with this guy named Jesse Shatkin. I met him a few years ago and he, at the time, was Greg Kurstin’s assistant engineer and we had a writing session. We just had an instant creative connection, and we wrote something like eight songs in two weeks. So we were like, “Whoa, we’ve got to keep working together,” so we did. And I’m so proud of him, because he wrote “Chandelier” with Sia and had a massive year with her and that song, and now he’s up for Grammy for Best Record. I also worked with Tony Kanal from No Doubt and Jimmy Harry on a couple of songs. And then there was another collaboration with Fred Falke and Ron Fair, who I did “Too Cool to Dance” with. There’s another song called “Savoring Up My Love” on the EP that we did together, and I think that’s it.

Oh, and a lot of French influence somehow. There is this other French producer named Will Simms, who oddly enough does all these K-pop records but he is one of the freshest programmers I’ve ever heard. He had this beat, this idea, and we called the song we did together, “The Weekend.” That’s another song where we got the Earth, Wind and Fire horns in, and so it’s kind of another one of those mixed fusion moments of the old and the new.

Music isn’t your only forte. You also had a recurring role on the soap opera, One Life to Live. Do you foresee doing any more TV or film acting in the future?

I would really love to act more. I actually got my first movie offer a couple of months ago and I had to turn it down because it was at the exact same time I got the green light to put out “Too Cool to Dance,” so it was impossible to do both. It was kind of a weird and bittersweet moment where I was like, “Oh my God, I’ve been waiting for all of these things to happen and they’re both happening now,” and I had to make a decision. But music is my first love so, you know, that’s kind of why. But I think acting would be great. I’d like to find the right kind of role. I mean, One Life to Live was a good learning experience. It was like the basics, but if I’m to continue acting, I’d like to kind of pay my dues in acting the way I have in music – maybe start out in an indie feature or something like that.

What’s at the top of your holiday wish list this year?

Oh, my God. Sleep. No, I’m just kidding. I know it’s weird, but probably furniture. That’s such an adult answer. Where before it would be clothes and whatever, now I’m into furniture. I’m into design and … like, this is so weird. Any time I have a moment off, I’m watching HGTV and watching shows about flipping houses. And I’m like, “Oh, I want this like antique settee.”

What’s been your favorite album of 2014 so far?

Probably Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey. I really love that. She’s incredible. I also love the new record that the Arctic Monkeys put out, AM. I listen to it all the time. It’s my jam.

Tell me a little bit about this online dance competition that you recently launched. I know that it’s happening now through December 31st, and it’s called “Are You Too Cool to Dance?”

Yeah. Basically, given the message of the song about dancing like nobody’s watching, it’s this fun opportunity I’m giving fans to win a trip to LA for two and to be in my next video for “The Weekend,” which will be filming at the end of January. All they have to do is make a video and upload it towww.toocooltodance.com. Dancing wherever they want. Some people think, “Oh, I’ve got to put a lot of thought into it, it’s got to be really creative,” but really, the simpler the better. It’s just whatever you feel. If you’re grocery shopping and you just want to break out and dance, just do it; capture it on film, and you could win a trip to LA and be in my next video.

So, just to wrap up, with all of the music you have coming out and all of the exciting things you have to look forward to over the next few months, where do you hope to see yourself this time next year?

I hope to have a #1 album, I hope to have Grammy nominations and I hope to be on fucking top. Finally. I really want a full album out. Because I just know that once people get to peel the other layers of the onion, it’s just going to change the game. There is so much I want to say, so much I want to do, and there is so much creatively that’s out there. So, really, as long as I can keep doing what I love to do and not have to wait tables, I’ll be happy.

eden-xo-2

Originally published on PopBytes

INGRID MICHAELSON CELEBRATES “LIGHTS OUT” IN NYC

Shervin Lainez 4

She’s been performing for nearly a decade, but 2014 is shaping up to be Ingrid Michaelson’s biggest year yet.

On Wednesday, the 34-year-old played to a sold-out crowd of approximately 5,500 adoring fans at New York’s iconic Central Park SummerStage. It was the singer / songwriter’s largest headlining show to date, and Michaelson was very visibly moved by the turnout when she stepped onto the stage to commemorate the milestone.

But the size of the venue wasn’t the only reason that the flame-haired native Staten Islander was celebrating that night. “Girls Chase Boys,” the lead single off her new album Lights Out (iTunes), had just sold a coveted 500,000 copies. And her band surprised her by presenting her with a plaque lauding the achievement right before she broke into the song.

With an accompanying viral music video that pays homage to Robert Palmer’s “Simply Irresistible,” “Girls Chase Boys” is Michaelson’s highest-charting single since her breakout “The Way I Am” peaked at #37 in 2007. The upbeat track can be found not only on the Billboard Pop Songs top 40 chart, but also in a Target ad, movie trailers, and an upcoming episode of The Voice. Not too shabby for someone who was discovered on MySpace and doesn’t have the support of a major record label (Michaelson still records under the Cabin 24 Records banner–a label she started so that she can keep full artistic control and rights to her music).

It’s not just the growing list of accolades that makes “Girls Chase Boys” a defining turning point in Michaelson’s repertoire. Upon its release, the song signaled an artistic evolution that found the singer straying away from her indie rock roots to exploring her pop sensibilities in ways she never has before. It became instantly clear that she’s now more inspired by artists like Sia and Lana Del Rey, who have managed to blend their unique styles with contemporary pop to form layered and distinct new sounds, than by musicians like Regina Spektor or the late Elliott Smith, whose influences were very apparent in her earlier work.

Ingrid Michaelson

When it came time to work on Lights Out, Michaelson decided to take a slightly different creative approach than with her previous albums. This time around, she chose to invite various other artists and producers to lend their talents to the record–including BusbeeA Great Big WorldKatie Herzig,Mat Kearney, and Trent Dabbs. This allowed her to turn it into a passion project that resembled a musical family affair.

“The first half of 2012 was pretty rough in terms of just my own health and my family’s health, and there was just a lot of darkness,” Michaelson recently told Yahoo! Entertainment, explaining what inspired her to switch gears and ditch her solo act. “When you have a really hard time it changes you in a lot of ways, and when I came out of it, I just wanted to do things differently. I had this change of heart and I wanted to embrace the idea of making a very collaborative record.”

During the recording of the album, Michaelson’s mother was battling cancer, her dog died, and she herself was diagnosed with Graves’ disease. As a result, the album is lyrically rather dark, despite its sonically poppier sound. “A lot of what I wrote about in the past was just straight up love and I have no problem admitting that,” she explained to The Wall Street Journal. In contrast, Lights Out is “more about coming to terms with losing people and your mortality.”

It’s fitting, then, that when Lights Out was released on April 5th, Michaelson performed an intimate concert at the gorgeous chapel in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery. With a tiny audience that included celebrity pals Taylor Swift and Mariska Hargitay, the exclusive event quickly underlined just what an emotional and raw record Michaelson had created. Performing many of the tracks for a live audience for the first time, the chanteuse masterfully introduced her sixth record–which would go on to debut at #1 on iTunes and #5 on the Billboard 200.

Ingrid Michaelson / Lights Out

In May, when the official Lights Out tour first hit New York, Michaelson told another sold-out crowd at Terminal 5 that she had just learned the day before that her mother was finally cancer free. Two songs later, she helped an audience member propose to his girlfriend, further amplifying the celebration of life that the night had turned into. It was there that Lights Out became the work of someone who had emerged from a period of profound devastation, rather than that of someone still trying to work through it.

So when this week’s Central Park concert rolled around, Michaelson was ready to pull out all of the stops to make it her splashiest gig yet. All of a sudden, these songs of harrowing despair took on a new meaning of survival, and the singer was determined to show what that meant to her.

She brought her husband Greg Laswell (also a musician) to the stage to perform their Lights Out duet,“Wonderful Unknown,” a beautiful exploration of what new spouses have to look forward to together. “We make bread on Sundays and the little ones are climbing up the walls,” the duo lovingly crooned while Michaelson played piano and Laswell stood by her side. “Oh, nothing lasts forever but the sound of love astounds me every time that it calls.”

Ingrid Michaelson

And Laswell wasn’t the only guest performer joining Michaelson throughout the setlist. During “Over You,” Glee star Darren Criss sang the male part that usually belongs to A Great Big World. Irish folk-rockers Storyman came on stage for their collaboration, “You Got Me,” and singer/songwriter Eric Hutchinson assisted Michaelson on a rowdy cover of current MAGIC! summer hit, “Rude.” But nothing was more surprising than when former Journey lead vocalist Steve Augeri joined Michaelson during her encore for an energetic and unforgettable performance of the classic “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

While the night consisted primarily of cuts from Lights Out, the songstress also treated her fans to some of the most beloved tracks in her back catalogue–including “The Chain,” “Parachute,” “Soldier,” “Blood Brothers,” and a stirring medley of “Maybe” and “Everybody.” Additional highlights included one of Michaelson’s favorite songs to cover, “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You,” the always adorable “You And I,” and a gorgeously stripped down rendition of “The Way I Am.”

For her last song before the encore, Michaelson played Lights Out closer “Everyone Is Gonna Love Me Now.” A ballad that builds to a cinematic crescendo, the song feels like it’s specifically written for audience participation. After teaching the crowd how to sing their part, the voices started to slowly trickle in before it felt like everyone there was fully participating. While this made for a similarly poignant moment at the Green-Wood Chapel, it packed an even mightier punch to see and hear a group of people so large come together and release whatever inhibitions they had to form a united chorus and appreciate Michaelson’s extraordinary talent.

To wrap up the show, Michaelson sang “Afterlife,” the second single from Lights Out and the one for which she recently shot a music video. She prefaced the song by telling the audience that she has a tendency to neurotically worry about the past and the future, but has a difficult time living in the present. Yet that was all about to change.

“Living like you’re dying isn’t living at all, give me your cold hands, put them on my heart,” she triumphantly sang. “Raise a glass to everyone who thinks they’ll never make it through this life, to live a brand new start!”

To Michaelson, “Afterlife” is about living in the moment and appreciating being alive. It’s a theme that was there throughout the whole show, but it was no more evident than during that last song. Joined on stage by all the guest performers from the evening, Michaelson had a lot to celebrate. It was the culmination of what proved to be the most critically and commercially successful point of her career thus far. No artist–and no audience–can ask for much more than that.

Ingrid Michaelson and Alex Nagorski

Originally published on PopBytes

CELINE DION SHOWCASES “LOVED ME BACK TO LIFE” AT INTIMATE NYC CONCERT

IMG_1155It’s been six years since pop icon Celine Dion has released an English-language album.

“I had two babies and a French album and a Vegas show! I’ve been busy!” Dion explained to an adoring audience at her concert in New York City on October 29. But with this week’s release of her new album, Loved Me Back To Life (which hit stores yesterday), the French Canadian songstress is more than ready for her comeback.

When it came time to record Loved Me Back To Life, Dion decided to recruit some fresh blood to put a contemporary spin on her signature Lite-FM sound. She turned to songwriters and producers like Sia, Ne-Yo, Babyface, and Tricky Stewart to build a record that was still distinctly Celine – but with a slightly grittier edge than her audience has come to expect from her.

“For 30 years, I’ve had the same recipe, which puts a lot of reverb on my voice. But for this album, I wanted to break from that. There are no effects on my voice. It’s very pure. Very direct,” the singer recently said. “I have nothing to lose. I’m not looking for career attention, for more success, more money. I’m just singing songs I chose because I love them.”

IMG_1162“I’m not trying to reinvent myself,” Dion continued. “I don’t want people to think, ‘This is a brand new Celine,’ but I am at a place in my career where I’m 45, I’m at the peak of my life, and I’ve never felt like this before. I want to have a good time.”

It was that passion and artistic versatility that was on full display during Dion’s concert last week. Sponsored by Pandora, the invite-only show found the five-time Grammy Award winner playing an array of her greatest hits and select new tracks to celebrate the release of her record. And unlike the Colosseum at Caesars Palace – the massive Vegas venue she’s used to – the Edison Ballroom provided a much smaller setting, making it one of the most intimate concerts Dion has performed in years.

Opening with a stunning medley of “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” and “The Power of Love,” Dion instantly had her audience entranced by her trademark vocal runs and often-dramatic delivery. The singer followed with her first English-language hit “Where Does My Heart Beat Now,” and the epic power ballads “Because You Loved Me” and “The Reason,” before breaking into a trio of new songs from Loved Me Back To Life.

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The first of this set was “Water and a Flame,” originally recorded by Adele and Daniel Merriweather (fun fact: Dion’s new album was initially meant to be named after this song, but was retitled after Merriweather publicly criticized Dion for not crediting the song to him during an interview with Katie Couric). A perfect example of the huskier flavor Dion’s voice is currently sampling, “Water And A Flame” is a harrowing lament for a couple that is just too opposite to attract. And Dion’s subdued live performance added layers of rawness and vulnerability to the already heartbreaking song.

Next was the album’s lead single and title track. Co-written by Sia Furler (the mastermind behind Britney Spears’ “Perfume”), “Loved Me Back To Life” is easily the most radio-friendly song on Dion’s new record. Featuring a chilling vocal loop and a dubstep beat drop, the song expertly blends classic Dion with contemporary pop trends to attract both longtime and new fans alike.

The final Loved Me Back To Life song that Dion performed was the Janis Ian cover, “At Seventeen.” An anthem of remembering teenage awkwardness, the song was the weakest of the new offerings, but still managed to pack an emotional punch when the singer wailed about “ugly duckling girls like me.”

Dion wrapped up her set with her cover of Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself,” which seemed to have a majority of the audience singing along full volume, the disco-tinged “Love Can Move Mountains,” and the rock-n-rolling “River Deep Mountain High.”

But naturally, Dion saved the best for last. Closing the show with “My Heart Will Go On,” the Academy Award-winning theme to Titanic, the chanteuse managed to breathe new life into a song she’s sung countless times over the past sixteen years. Using just her voice, Dion re-created the song’s iconic instrumental introduction, producing a haunting effect that really utilized the intimacy of the venue. It was truly like watching a master class in perfection.

With the release of Loved Me Back In Life now behind her, Dion has her sights set on preparing for her return to Vegas for a new concert series, which will last from this December through next March. And does Dion plan to see the show of another pop legend kicking off a residency in Sin City next month?

“If Britney wants to give stability to her family, I really can’t think of a better place,” answered Dion. “I’m not a wildcat. I don’t smoke, drink or do drugs, and Las Vegas has been wonderful for me. I wish (Britney) the best there, and I will make time to see her.”

Although she may not be a “wildcat,” Dion certainly is a risk taker. Loved Me Back To Life is far bolder and more interesting than her last English-language record, 2007’s Taking Chances. And if her once-in-a-lifetime concert in New York last week proved anything, it’s that her star power has anything but faded over the years. In fact, it’s still burning as brightly as it ever has.

Welcome back, Celine.

IMG_1866IMG_1153Originally 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

Best Albums of 2008

Rounding Out The Top 20:

20. The Kills “Midnight Boom”

19. The Black Ghosts “The Black Ghosts”

18. Mates Of State “Re-Arrange Us”

17. Fall Out Boy “Folie A Deux”

16. A Fine Frenzy “One Cell In The Sea”

15. Why? “Alopecia”

14. MGMT “Oracular Spectacular”

13. Yelle “Pop Up”

12. Mother Mother “O My Heart”

11. Santogold “Santogold”



10. The Ting Tings “We Started Nothing”

By far the best party album of the year, The Ting Tings’ debut is an upbeat collection of eclectic indie rock that provides the formula for a night of crazy dancing. The sharply punctuated vocals and thumping bass lines makes it easy to hear this record as the soundtrack to any art house film where the protagonist teenage girl discovers drugs, sex, and nightclubs. It is a feel good album with intelligent pop lyrics and a unique sound that can please both mainstream radio and hipsters alike.

Must have track: “Great DJ”



9. Madita “Too”

One of the most unique artists in today’s music scene, Madita’s sophomore album far surpasses her already groundbreaking self-titled debut. Her originality comes in the form of genre fusing, as “Too” may be the first album to successfully accomplish the morphing of electronica and jazz. Think Imogen Heap meets Fiona Apple, and you have Madita’s sensual, tantalizing, and calming piano and synthesizer duets. With “Too,” Madita has strung together two completely different genres to create a unique, refreshing, and addictive sound that will make this record a constant in your car’s CD changer.

Must have track: “Because”



8. Sia “Some People Have Real Problems”

For her third album, Australian folk singer Sia sticks to her soothing, sensual, and melodic signature, yet incorporates layers of new electronic elements to create a brand new more evolved sound. Hands down her most personal and emotional album to date, “Some People Have Real Problems” explores life’s many tribulations, ranging from heartbreak to frustration to pain to sorrow. Think of this record as a really hurt and pissed off Feist drawing on her best Natalie Walker influences to get things off her chest in an attempt for inner peace. Do not be fooled, however, this album is far from a whiny cry for help. Instead, it proves Sia’s remarkable songwriting talent as it puts us on an emotional rollercoaster navigating us in feeling and understanding the various suffering life provides us along our journeys.

Must have track: “Academia” (featuring Beck)



7. Ida Maria “Fortress Round My Heart”

If Regina Spektor were ever to undergo an identity crisis and decide she was a full blown out rock star then she would be Ida Maria. On her debut album, Maria serves as a fresh dish of sass, honesty, sarcasm, sexuality, and rock and roll. Her singer/songwriter vocals make it seem like she should be playing an acoustic guitar at Lillith Fair opening up for Ani Difranco, however, her heavy percussion and electric guitar instrumentation makes “Fortress Round My Heart” sound like a collaboration record between Nirvana and Liz Phair. With intelligent lyrics that can be both vulnerable and abrasive, Maria has created a truly memorable and edgy debut that will keep her on the music map for years to come.

Must have track: “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked”



6. Jack’s Mannequin “The Glass Passenger”

Andrew McMahon’s return to the music industry after taking a medical hiatus for a few years comes in the form of his second solo album since his days as lead singer of Something Corporate. Incorporating vintage California piano-rock elements that made him a superstar of the Warped Tour generation in the first place, “The Glass Passenger” is arguably Andrew’s finest songwriting to date. Adding a full band behind his trademark god-like piano playing creates an epic musical experience that could fill and inspire stadiums full of people.

Must have track: “Swim”



5. Meiko “Meiko”

The re-issue of Meiko’s self-titled debut serves as a reminder that a pretty voice alongside gorgeous string arrangements can be the perfect accompaniment to a relaxing day. Her voice is both melancholy and soothing, creating an aura of zen that makes it impossible to not want to close your eyes and absorb all the sounds floating out of your speakers. After a successful stint on the Hotel Café Tour and appearing as a guest vocalist on albums by artists such as Joshua Radin and AM, Meiko re-recorded her album as it sought distribution by a major record label (in 2007, she self released it). The end result is a beautiful, floral-like compilation of fantastic songwriting being sung by a phenomenal artist that reinstates how alive and thriving folk music really is.

Must have track: “Under My Bed”



4. Jay Brannan “Goddamned”

Creating a name for himself through his countless YouTube videos and self-released demo EP, Jay Brannan’s debut full length record has made him a household name in the Lower Village art scene of Manhattan. Easily the most raw and personal songwriter around, his lyrics not only give us a lens to his perspective on relationships, but allow us to see all the obsessive, quirky, and sometimes ugly inner demons he faces. Never afraid of exposing too much, Brannan’s in-your-face songs and flawless tenor voice have quickly transformed him into an icon in the gay community as an honest and refreshing performer. He sings truths that you’re too afraid to ever say out loud but secretly relate to. Dealing with everything from love and sex to politics and religion, “Goddamned” is not just any piece of art, but a door to someone’s mind and soul.

Must have track: “Half Boyfriend”



3. The Veronicas “Hook Me Up”

Twenty-three-year-old twins Lisa and Jess Origlassio make up this dynamic pop duo that at home in Australia are as huge as Beyonce is in the United States. For their sophomore release, the girls evolved their sound from simple Kelly Clarkson-esque pop/rock to a more dance floor influenced album with not a single bad track. Heavily inspired by the L.A. electronica scene they immersed themselves in for the past year, the record draws on their previous sound and enhances it by adding disco elements and synthesizers. Although the album serves as nightclub dancing material, the lyrics stay true to their style as they are intelligently written, metaphorically rich songs about heartbreak and moving on with life after a traumatic experience. The album serves its’ purpose by still being rock heavy and pleasing the old fans, while experimenting with new genres to draw in new ones. Already having five successful hits from the record in Australia, their debut American single “Untouched” has finally began garnering Top 40 airplay, and it’ll only be a matter of time before The Veronicas become a global pop phenomenon.

Must have track: “Revenge Is Sweeter (Than You Ever Were)”



2. She & Him “Volume One”

Although released in 2008, the debut collaboration between acclaimed singer/songwriter M. Ward and actress Zooey Deschanel sounds like it could be your parents’ best kept secret record from the ‘60s. Drawing on various influences, “Volume One” sounds like what Bob Dylan’s early recordings may have sounded like if he were a woman. From original songs to covers of The Beatles and The Miracles, this is more than just a stellar first record but a gate-way to becoming underground superstars. The conclusion of the album has listeners begging for the 2009 release of “Volume Two,” as it may just be the sequel to one of the absolute best indie/folk albums of the decade.

Must have track: “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?”



1. Adele “19”

With her sultry, mysterious, seductive and sometimes even haunting vocals, Adele has become the United Kingdom’s best musical import. Paying homage to legends such as Ella Fitzgerald, Adele’s debut record is a compilation of the finest quality jazz, with just a hint of pop mixed in. Upon listening to the album it is hard to believe that she is only nineteen and is not in fact a classically trained middle-aged woman who has been performing at upscale blues clubs her entire life. Sometimes accompanied by a full orchestra and sometimes backed by nothing more than an acoustic guitar or a piano, the track listing is entirely unpredictable as each song offers something fresh and new to the mix. Written completely by herself, “19” is the album Amy Winehouse dreams of being able to record, and establishes Adele as a powerful musical force not to be taken lightly.

Must have track: “Hometown Glory”

by.Alex.Nagorski.