I love the first night of MidPoint; the anticipation, the excitement, the friends, the music, the potential for getting wetter than you’ve been since the birth experience. It’s magic, a sensation perhaps intensified on Thursday, being the first night of the festival’s tenth anniversary.
Jordin Sparks became the youngest winner of American Idol in May 2007. She followed her victory with the release of her self-titled debut album, which has gone platinum and sold more than 2 million copies worldwide, and then winning an American Music Award for Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist and receiving two MTV Video Music Award nominations for Best Female Video and Best New Artist. Finally capping off a remarkable year, she earned a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals for “No Air” in 2008.
“I will sing that song for the rest of my life,” Sparks notes.
She released her sophomore album, Battlefield, last July and is currently touring to promote the album. She came to Cincinnati on June 15 to play the 20th Century Theater in Oakley.
CB: What was the biggest lifestyle change that you had after winning American Idol and releasing your debut album?
JS: Well for one, being on the road 300 days a year and living out of a suitcase! Being away from my family has definitely been a big change but singing for my job is amazing! I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
CB: What do you miss most from home when you are on the road?
JS: My family, my bed, my brother annoying me. Ha ha ha.
CB: I know that you toured last year with Britney Spears on the Circus Tour. What was your funniest Britney tour story?
JS: I had to enter from beneath the stage every night, and I don’t know how my head is still round.
CB: What is your favorite song that you've written? What is your favorite song to perform live off the new album?
JS: I love all of them but if I had to choose it would probably be “Faith.” Anyone can relate to it and I just love how it turned out. I love performing the songs that everyone knows and I love hearing them sing along.
CB: What is your favorite activity to do when you're not touring?
JS: Everything! Reading, spending time with my family, playing guitar, chilling with my best friends and playing with my doggies.
CB: You're involved in a ton of charity work, including Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Center, Clothes Off Our Back and Feeding America. Why is it so important to you to give back? Is there a charity that's near and dear to your heart?
JS: I’ve always wanted to give back, and my family was involved in a lot of stuff before Idol. Once I won Idol I was really excited to make music, of course, but to also use my name for something bigger than myself. I love working with all kinds of charities, as you mentioned. I also want to start working with or create a charity to stop teen violence.
CB: I saw that you'll soon begin an engagement on Broadway. How is preparing and performing on the Broadway stage different than performing for a concert tour? What have been some of the highlights for you so far?
JS: Well, I’ll probably have to let you know what performing is like when I actually start to do it. But preparing is different because I have to learn lines and stage blocking. As far as the music, I have to memorize the songs and make sure I can tell the story through my voice. The highlight of touring is just being able to put a face to the people who voted and support me as well as being able to sing the songs that people haven’t heard on the radio.
CB: What's your favorite U.S. tour city and venue to play in and why?
JS: Umm, that’s a good question. I love playing in my hometown. There’s nothing like seeing your family sitting amongst fans and seeing the smiles on their faces. I love playing Boston. They always seem to be super hype. I love playing anywhere people are excited.
CB: If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?
JS: I’d probably still be pursuing music but going to college. I would love to work with kids ... like be the singing nurse who gives them lollipops and band aids.
CB: You have played and collaborated with some amazing artists. Who would be your dream collaboration?
JS: All the people I’ve worked with before, I would definitely love to work with again. I would love to work with John Mayer, Fergie, Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera, Stevie Wonder and do many more great talents. Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.
CB: What was the career moment where you felt most fulfilled?
JS: Singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl was one of the best moments ever. Also performing for Bush while he was in office and at President Obama’s inauguration.
CB: Some of my favorite So You Think You Can Dance moments happened as the performers danced to Jordin Sparks songs. I know you've also performed on the show live, but do you have any feelings as you see the choreography that's created to your music?
JS: When I saw them perform “No Air” a few seasons ago, it brought tears to my eyes. I watched it 10 times in a row. To see them express the story with their movements gave me goose bumps!
CB: Please tell us about the great charities and organizations you're involved with.
JS: I just launched my new campaign in M.A.D. Are You? with my brother in February. M.A.D. stands for Making a Difference. It’s all about letting people know that it doesn’t matter how big or small your effort as long as you do it. Anyone can make a difference. Currently I luckily have Mike and Ike and Allstate sponsoring my tour. Mike and Ike is teamed up with Alex’s Lemonade Foundation to fight childhood cancer. Allstate has a campaign called X the TXT to stop texting and driving. I’m involved with many others as well. Please check out www.immadareyou.com to learn more.
CB: Who are your favorite indie and hard rock bands? Who would you most like to collaborate with?
JS: Greenley Estates is a local band from Arizona that I’ve listened to since the eighth grade. Silverstein is really good, too. Something Corporate is my favorite band ever, and I would love to work with them.
CB: What would our readers be surprised to learn about you?
JS: Hmm, that I can walk on my toes ... or used to be able to. I haven’t tried for a long time. Ha ha.
CB: Will you have time to take in any of the local Cincinnati culture while in town?
JS: I wish I did, but not this time. Hopefully next time I come through.
CB: Are you familiar with any local Cincinnati bands that you would like to take on the road with you?
JS: I’m not at the moment, but I would love to learn about them.
CB: How do you respond when people accuse American Idol winners of having manufactured careers?
JS: I can see why they’d think that, but having gone through it no one can understand except those who have been on the show. The career starts after they win. It’s what they do with it after the show ends where the hard work starts and where success comes from.
CB: What positive impacts do you think American Idol has had on the music industry?
JS: It’s given more people the ability to live the “American Dream” in a way the music industry didn't allow before.
CB: What negative impact has it had?
JS: Now why would you ask me that? I can’t say because I have always been a fan of the show and will remain one.
We've written a bit in the past about the new film-meets-music "One Shot Music Video" series, beautifully shot, black-and-white short films of various local musical acts shot at the historic Emery Theatre (which is back in action as a functional venue this weekend). Shot by world renowned photographer Michael Wilson with audio help from the musical duo Pop Empire, the clips are filmed in one continuous take (thus the name).
The project has started to take shape and is on a roll now. Pop Empire's Cameron Cochran reports that the series is now named for the venue — "The Emery Sessions" — and will be comprised of footage from 10 artists, all shot at the theater. It's a great way to not only spotlight local music, but also show off the theater in a great light.
Wilson and Pop Empire have completed a couple of videos for Daniel Martin Moore for the first of the series. The second in the series is Over the Rhine (longtime compadres of Wilson's, who has shot OTR album covers and promo shots — including the one above — since the band's very beginning). OTR is familiar with the surroundings; the band played the "preview party" hosted by The Requiem Project which re-introduced the 100-year-old theater to locals late last year.
Here's a clip of Over the Rhine's Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist performing "The Laugh of Recognition" from the twosome's latest album, The Long Surrender. (Click over to local blog Each Note Secure to check out another clip from the project.)
Cochran also runs the all-free, all-digital "record label" The Recording Label, which has issued stellar recordings by The Kickaways, Vacation, Sacred Spirits and Pop Empire. He says working on "The Emery Sessions" inspired him to give the label a more local-specific name. The Recording Label is now called Cincinnati Recording Service. Click here for the new site.
And here are a few words from Cochran on the Sessions and the label:
If we are consuming light then sound is accompanied by sight. Many musical performers understand this concept and will incorporate a visual component to their audio performance. The idea behind the "One Shot Music Video" is to approach music from the opposite direction. The audience approaches the music from a visual perspective first because whether they know it or not the first performance they see is the photographer's. It is the photographer's eye that navigates them through the musical performance. The hidden live performance is the one done with the camera.
The Emery Theatre was the perfect place to begin our exploration of this relationship between listening and watching live musical performances. Each musician we have recorded and that we are going to record have a love for this amazing space and understands what the Emery Theatre means to our great city of Cincinnati. It is perhaps our own experiences working in this theatre and the pride that has developed for our hometown of Cincinnati that inspired us to change the name of The Recording Label to Cincinnati Recording Service. This name change is also a tip of the hat to another person who loved his city as well as the power that American music has to bring people together, Memphis' very own Sam Philips.
Cincinnati's Walk the Moon has been on a roll for about the past year and half but now that the band has a physical release out on its new major-label home, RCA Records, things are starting to move even faster and more and more people are discovering the young Alt/Dance/Pop band's charming sound and great, energetic live show. Having already mastered the fine art of blanket social media marketing (few acts are as interactive and accessible to fans), WTM is now set to conquer late-night TV and add even more new fans. Wednesday night, Walk the Moon made its second appearance on Last Call with Carson Daly on NBC. The first time was when they were scrappy young lads at South By Southwest looking for a record deal. This time, they're RCA recording artists working a big theater in L.A. and looking already like confident, veteran Rock stars performing to a mob of adoring (and sweaty) fans.
The group will perform LIVE for the first time on network TV on April 5, appearing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. And you can catch them in the flesh next Friday (Feb. 24) at the Madison Theater with current tourmates Young the Giant. If you have a ticket, that is. The show is sold out, no doubt helped by WTM's appearance on the bill (the group's own homecoming show a couple months ago at the same club was also a sell out).
Here's Walk the Moon playing "Anna Sun" at The Wiltern in Los Angeles from Wednesday's Last Call:
I love the last night of MidPoint. And I hate the last night of MidPoint. I love it because it’s typically the most attended of the festival’s three nights, the energy is beyond amped, the venues are packed, the very air seems charged, like Duke abandoned electric cables and is beaming power through the aether straight into your skull.
I hate it because this is the end, my only friend the end, and even as the evening begins with a promise of greatness, it comes with a melancholic touch and before the light has started to diffuse, I’m already missing this year’s festivities and anticipating next year’s first night.
Hip Hop star Young Jeezy performs tonight in Corryville, bringing his tour behind the recent Thug Motivation 103: Hustlerz Ambition album to Bogart's for an 8 p.m. show. The Def Jam Records recording artist released his major label debut, Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101, in 2005, spawning the hit single "Soul Survivor," featuring singer Akon. The South Carolina-born, Atlanta-based MC (once a member of the group Boyz n da Hood) put out two more albums — The Inspiration and The Recession (in ’06 and ’08, respectively) — which featured guests from R. Kelly and Keyshia Cole to Nas and Kanye West (their collabo "Put On" was nominated for a Grammy), and he's appeared as a guest himself on singles by Usher ("Love in This Club") and Rihanna ("Hard"). The Thug Motivation masterclass skipped ahead to 103 (perhaps Thug Motivation 102 is audit-only?) and was released late last year after several announced release dates came and went. The album landed at No. 3 on the album charts its first week out (in the midst of holiday shopping fever, making it more impressive).
TM 103 once again features a pretty heady guest list, with cameos by Yo Gotti, Lil Wayne, Freddie Gibbs, Jay-Z, Andre 3000, Jill Scott, Snoop and Ne-Yo, who appears on the most recently released single "Leave You Alone." Check the video below (NSFW for language, excessive head tattoos and gratuitous product placement for Crown Royal and Ciroc vodka). Tickets for tonight's show are $25 (plus fees). Read more about Jeezy here.
• Indie rockers Brighton MA — neither from Brighton nor Massachusetts — hit MOTR Pub tonight for a free show with great locals The Mighty. The Chicago band was formed by two members of Scotland Yard Gospel Choir upon their departure from that acclaimed Indie Pop ensemble, emerging as a successful and acclaimed unit in its own right not long after. An intense mesh of Folk, Rock and Pop, the band's songs have been used on TV shows (like Gossip Girl and Community) and in a successful Jack Daniels ad campaign last year during the holidays. The band also scored a sweet tour van to take a trip on Route 66 for an extensive promotional web series called "Rock the Route," which was sponsored(-the-hell-out-of) by Red Bull. Earlier this year, the group released a new 7-song EP called Billboard Sun, a warm-up for their second full-length, due later this year. Tonight's show starts around 10 p.m.
Oh, and Brighton, Mass., is the neighborhood in which singer Matt Kerstein was born (in case you were wondering).
Here's the band's "Good Kind of Crazy" (aka "the song from the Jack Daniels commercial"):
Two highly anticipated concerts this week have been canceled. Last night, I received an emailed press release from the promoters of the Stone Temple Pilots concert at Taft Theatre at 7:24 p.m. announcing the show had been called off due to singer Scott Weiland’s inability to perform (not for the reason you’re thinking — Weiland was suffering from “inflamed vocal chords”). The concert was scheduled to start last night at 7:30 p.m., so that was a close call (especially for fans already at the venue). Today, Live Nation announced that the rare performance by Black Star (featuring modern Hip Hop heroes Mos Def and Talib Kweli) at Bogart’s this Saturday had also been canceled.
How did 48 hours of exciting live music draw to a close so fast? I woke up Sunday morning with the slightly wistful feel that my whirlwind weekend would soon be over, but I quickly shook that and rushed to the “L” to get downtown for the final day of Lollapalooza 2011.
Due to my persistent caffeine addiction, I was late to Grant Park. I missed The Joy Formidable (though luckily we can all see them at the MidPoint Music Festival on Sept. 22), as well as Titus Andronicus and Fences, all bands I wanted to give a good go. I guess that’s what YouTube, Soundcloud, Facebook, MySpace, etc. are for.
I must admit that I haven't been to Bogart's since high school close to seven years ago. The last time I went, I could see some people (less accustomed to small venue concerts) struggling for breath in the smoke-filled venue only to find that they could not escape the building because their shoes were glued to the floor with an adhesive made from beer, sweat and midwestern rage.