Jess Lamb’s initial performance for the judges on American Idol’s bus tour was undeniably a show stopper. It wrapped up the episode and introduced America to one of Cincinnati’s brightest talents, while also moving her on to the Hollywood round after impressing the judges. Her second televised appearance, a group rendition of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” was considered one of the stronger performances of the Idol Groups round.
That is why it shocked many viewers when she was quietly cut from the show after the performance.
Allegations quickly followed blaming Lamb’s cut on comments that Jennifer Lopez had made regarding the age of some of the contestants, due to Lamb being one of the older performers in the competition (she is only 29). If there’s anything that Lamb would like to set straight it is this: Don’t believe everything you hear. And this is far from the end of the road for her.
“Honestly, I got nothing but really awesome comments from [Lopez]. No bad comments, nothing,” Lamb explains.
Lamb is still unsure as to exactly why she didn’t move on to the next round — American Idol never provided her with a reason — but she does not believe that it was Lopez’s comments or her age that caused the cut. Lamb frequently questioned the editing of the episode and the presentation of Lopez’s comments while discussing the episode and the ensuing fallout.
While the cut was undeniably a blow to Lamb, it is one she is quickly recovering from. In fact, when the episode aired, she wasn’t even able to watch because she was working on one of her myriad new projects at the time.
“I’m busier since Idol than I ever have been. I’m working with Bootsy [Collins], writing with his backup singer, talking with his wife about a project she wants me to work on, preparing for [record label] showcases,” Lamb says.
While Idol’s promised record contract is now out of reach, that hasn’t slowed down Lamb’s work towards her goal of signing with a label and releasing a full-length album. In fact, Idol gave her the exposure that she needed to land on the radar of several big names within the Pop music community. “Grammy-award winner” is descriptor not often connected to people working with local music acts, but it applies in this instance. (Lamb can’t divulge too much information about certain facets of her industry interactions, so vague hints will have to do for now.)
Details are still being discussed and Lamb is still under Idol’s contractual obligations restricting her from signing with any labels before the show is over and a set period of time has passed since its finale. But Lamb is making the best of the time between now and May.
“I’m just trying to do what I’m legally able to do,” Lamb says.
While American Idol continues its search for the next American pop star, Lamb is determined to grow her career using many of the tools that she’s been using for years. She’s constantly attempting to break into new markets, make music with new people and perform for new audiences. The only difference is that she now has a national TV show appearance to help with promotion and publicity. The details of her release from American Idol may be shrouded in a bit of controversy, but ultimately what will endure are her fans’ memories of her performances. It is those memories that will be reignited once American Idol runs its course and Lamb is able to finally take the steps she’s been feverishly working towards putting in place.
And with several months till Idol’s run completes, Lamb has plenty of time to make some very big plans.
The Glorious Sons are a strong up-and-coming act out of Canada (Kingston, Ontario, to be exact) with a Rock sound that’s a little rough around the edges, just the way they want it.
The band isn’t trying to fit into a cookie cutter world of the music industry but deliver an authentic sound that connects with audiences. The Glorious Sons are currently on a U.S. club tour, but one listen to their new EP shows big things are on the horizon. They are currently touring with 10 Years, Otherwise and Luminoth. The tour comes to the Thompson House in Newport this Sunday (tickets/more info here). Get on the bandwagon early and come out to enjoy a night of great Rock music.
CityBeat spoke with frontman Brett Emmons to discuss the grind to get to where the band is today.
CityBeat: I know you are on this tour with 10 Years and Otherwise. How did this tour come together?
Brett Emmons: Our agent put the offer on the table for us back when we were on tour with Airborne in Canada. I am not really sure how it all came together but we knew if we went on tour with (10 Years) in the States, they wanted to come on tour with us in Canada. We have a pretty big draw in Canada whereas nobody really knew us in the States before we started this tour. So we sat down for breakfast and started talking with each other and we decided we were going to do the tour. We looked forward to it and two months later we were on the road with 10 Years.
CB: I recently listened to the album this week and I have to be honest, I think it is one of the best things I have heard in a long time and I have specific questions about some songs on the album.
BE: Thank you.
CB: One of my favorite songs on the album was “Amigo.” Could you tell me a little bit of the backstory behind that song and how it came about?
BE: One thing when you are writing tunes, at least for us, it follows like every other song, a loose story with a lot of feelings. When I start writing, I never know what the ending is going to be like or what the song is going to completely look like. I know what the song’s direction is going to be but I never start the story at the end. It is about my time in Halifax when I was there a couple years and there was a particular person that I was hanging around with a lot and writing a lot of music with. It’s about his fall from grace during the time I was hanging out with him and my fall from grace as well. It is about watching someone with so much potential self-doubt themselves and losing it all because they were scared.
CB: You brought up writing the lyrics. Can you talk about the band’s process and how you put the songs together and write together?
BE: We all do help with lyrics, too. If there is a lyric that is not covered right, everybody has their input; there are five guys and five guys who think they are songwriters and so you are never really short on ideas.
Usually somebody will bring something to the jam room and we will either be jiving with it or not jiving with it. What happens, someone will start playing something or singing something and somebody else will join in and a third person will join in and you will have five guys trying to whittle this broad thing into a song. Other times it may start with a bass riff or playing. We don’t have an equation for it and I don’t think we should. It is basically about spontaneity and just people working together doing their thing. Everybody has their job and everybody likes to do it. It comes pretty easy right now. Who knows? I imagine when we are 40 we will be dead tired.
CB: The thing I felt was interesting about the album was all the songs sound different. Sometimes I get albums and every song sounds the same, basically. I thought it was unique that, song to song, there was a different flavor you would get while listening.
BE: Yeah. That is what we thought, too. A lot of bands tend to use digital songs now and try to find what their sound is. We just rock and roll. We didn’t know what we wanted to sound like or what we wanted to be. We are just five guys playing instruments trying to write songs and whatever way they come out is the way we want people to hear them.
When you listen to the Stones, not every song on a Stones album sounds the same. If you think about that, nowadays, I feel like too many people are trying to fit themselves into a genre rather than finding out what happens.
CB: When did you know that this is what you wanted to do for your career?
BE: In high school I was asked to sing for a band and I didn’t know how to sing. I couldn’t sing worth a shit and I started singing with that band. They kicked me out of the band because they wanted a real singer. I bought an acoustic guitar and I took one of my favorite songs and I practiced it for months. I practiced singing it and I practiced playing it until my voice sounded good enough. Then I put a band together and we beat (the band I was kicked out of) in the Battle of the Bands and I won best singer at the show. For the first time I put together a song and started singing and realized how fun it was and I could be myself. When I started writing songs, I could put myself on paper and give myself a sound and words. That’s when I realized I wanted to do it.
Growing up my brother (Glorious Sons guitarist Jay Emmons) was in a band, a guitarist in a band. I grew up watching him play my entire life. When I really started playing, we started jamming together. It was always a dream of ours to throw a band together and play music together for a living. We didn’t know it would be this good but we just wanted to pay our bills with music and write songs. That has ended up happening and we are pretty happy.
CB: I have been talking to several bands that have siblings that play together. Are there any issues with that, being with your brother all the time?
BE: No. We argue a little bit because we are brothers and the most open with each other. He has always been my best friend and my rock. I grew up with him, taking advice from him, basically worshipping the ground he walked on. We are best friends. Playing in a band with your brother can go one of two ways — you can be assholes to each other or be real and good to each other, which is what we do, even though we are assholes sometimes.
CB: You said earlier you played one song over and over, what was that song?
BE: It’s a song called “Wheat Kings” by Tragically Hip, it’s a Canadian band. I’m not sure you would know them but they are Rock royalty, maybe Canada’s favorite band of all time within country. They come down here and play but in Canada every show they play is in a sold-out stadium.
CB: One of the songs on the album is “The Union,” which is also the title of the album. It seems to have a social and political message. Was that on purpose?
BE: No, not really. I’d like to clear this up, so I’m glad you asked. A few people get a bad taste in their mouth about the chorus: “I’ll never join the union because I never wanted it easy.” When you listen to the song it is just a metaphor for life and growing up and wanting to be different and still wanting to question things and question society and be the dirty little kid that you were when you were young and not caring about what people thought. There are some ties to the subject a little bit. My father’s shop was almost shut down when we were younger by a union. It was kind of an ode to him because he was able to maintain his shop without the union. He went from having 10 employees to having one employee. We went through some hard times but he was able to keep the family together and keep the shop up and running and to this day provide a comfortable life for us.
It is not a political stand against any union in any way. It is about growing up and not doing what everyone wants you to do.
CB: A lot of bands are collaborating now and playing together. I know you guys are just starting out but is there anybody you’d like to do a dream collaboration with?
BE: I’d love to pick Bruce Springsteen’s brain a little bit. Words, mostly. He is one of my favorites of all time. That is a huge dream though. In Canada, we collaborate with people like The Trews and heroes from that country and it would be cool to see what it would be like to write with Kings of Leon or bands like that. Mainly, we are more focused on collaborating with each other. Everyone in our band knows what we want. We work well together. I guess it would be fun to collaborate with (KoL’s) Caleb Followill or The Tallest Man on Earth or someone like that but, again, these are big, big pipe dreams.
CB: You mentioned The Trews. I know you worked with (Trews guitarist) John-Angus MacDonald on your first and second EP. What was that process like and why did you choose him? I recently talked to Godsmack and they were talking about the role of their producer and that he keeps the peace and how they really trust and listen to him. Why did you choose MacDonald and how did you work together?
BE: When we chose him … he chose us actually. We were playing a competition and we won it. He was one of the judges and came up to me after the show and said he wanted to see what it would be like to produce one of our albums. My brother grew up going to Trews shows and we were all fans of The Trews. Basically, that was the most excited I have ever been in my entire life. It felt like our shot and it really was. He took a chance on us. We got into the studio and we started playing our tunes and listening to him and fighting with him a bit too on things.
We didn’t really look for a producer. At the time, I don’t think I even knew what a producer did. I had never had a producer on any of my albums before and I never really made an album that had cost any amount of real money. We got in there and he showed us the ropes of what it was like to work in a real studio. We let him go off when he had a good idea or a good pass. When I felt like what he was doing was against my vision, I’d take a hard stance and he’d have to prove me wrong or he’d listen to me. He was really the guy who found our band and took a chance on us. He is the reason we are doing this for a living right now. We love the guy and he has been so good to us. He is one of our best friends. He took us on tour. It has been such a great experience with him.
CB: It sounds like you guys are excited to be on the road. What is your craziest tour story so far?
BE: It was on our first tour in Canada. It was in late November, just before December. The snow was falling and it was starting to get really cold. The bus we were on broke down on the highway and was unfixable. We had to rent a U-Haul truck because it was the only thing that had a hitch on it and we weren’t going to leave our trailer that had all our gear in it. For two weeks, we slept in the back of a U-Haul moving truck while two people drove, in the Canadian cold. It was a tough couple weeks, but then again, we knew stuff like that was going to happen, if you spend your life on the road, especially with your vehicles. But you get over things like that. When we finally got off the U-Haul, we were home in Kingston. It made being home that much better.
Local Rock crew Electric Citizen (winners of a 2015 Cincinnati Entertainment Award in the “Hard Rock/Metal” category) just unleashed a new music video for its delicious slab of trippy heaviness, “Light Years Beyond.” The clip, which features some cool throwback visual stylings and was directed by David Brodsky, premiered on Vice’s music site, Noisey, today.
The track is off of the band’s great album Sateen, which came out last year on RidingEasy Records. Click here for more on Electric Citizen. And read CityBeat’s interview with the band from last year here.
A lot of people still call it “Jazz Fest” (a hold-over from some of its early names, like the Kool Jazz Festival) and more recently (as of last year) it went by the name of Macy’s Music Festival, but Cincinnati’s popular, long-running celebration of classic and contemporary R&B and Soul is now cutting to the chase and, for its 2015 edition, will be called the “Cincinnati Music Festival.”
The name and logo may be different (and the primary sponsor is now P&G), but not much else has changed. This year’s event takes place July 24-25 at Paul Brown Stadium on the riverfront. Tickets for the fest — which began in 1962 in Carthage as the Ohio Valley Jazz Festival and has featured everyone from Miles Davis and George Benson to Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye — go on sale this Saturday through Ticketmaster.com.
This year’s lineup features Maxwell, Jennifer Hudson, The O’Jays, Joe and Luke James on July 24. For July 25, the event will feature longtime fest faves Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, plus Jill Scott, KEM, Avery Sunshine and Mali Music.
Click here for complete info on the 2015 Cincinnati Music Festival.
Veteran Cincinnati Funk bassist/singer/songwriter Freekbass announced this week that he has signed a deal with the esteemed Ropeadope Records. Freekbass’ next album — the follow-up to last year’s self-released Everybody’s Feelin’ Real (which you can stream/purchase here) — is currently slated for release on the label early this fall.
“I grew up listening to artists and music on Ropeadope and it's such an honor to actually be a part of the label now,” Freekbass said in a press release.
Ropeadope began in 1999, originally created by founders Andy Hurwitz and John Medeski to release the Project Logic album by Soul/Jazz/Hip Hop turntablist extraordinaire DJ Logic. (At the start of this decade, Freekbass was a part of a side-project band called Headtronics that featured Logic, as well as Particle keyboardist Steve Molitz.) Ropeadope has since put out an impressively diverse array of unique music, including releases by Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Charlie Hunter, Phish’s Mike Gordon, Antibalas, Christian McBride and Fusion ensemble Snarky Puppy, which won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance last year for its collaboration with Lalah Hathaway on the song “Something.” (You can read more about the label’s history here.)
Freekbass, who crafts a contemporary brand of Funk that mixes in shades of Electronica and Hip Hop, has been one the leading figures in the Cincinnati music scene for decades, starting with the popular ’80s Alt Rock band Sleep Theatre before holding down the bottom end for successful Funk crew SHAG in the ’90s. He started his solo career in the late ’90s and has released six full-lengths and toured relentlessly. His albums have featured some impressive guests; artists from Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell to Buckethead and DJ Spooky have appeared on Freekbass recordings. His stunning bass-playing skills have also lead to the release of several instructional videos and he was featured at the 2014 London Bass Guitar Show, heading up a master class/clinic and performing.
Here is Freekbass (with his band The Bump Assembly) in their most recent video release, for the song “Never Enough” off of Everybody’s Feelin’ Real.
Read more about Freekbass in CityBeat's 2014 feature story here.
Late last year it was announced that Brad Schnittger (member of the great local band The Sundresses) was selected as one of two "Haile Fellows" for 2015 by People’s Liberty, which provides $100,000 grants to local projects in an effort to “uncover opportunities to accelerate the positive transformation of Greater Cincinnati.”
The grant will allow Schnittger the opportunity to fully focus on his MusicLi (pronounced "musically") project, which is described as “an online music-business management dashboard for artists.” Artists who create MusicLi accounts will be able to use the service to digitally distribute and protect their music, and also enter it into the company’s licensing catalog, providing musicians with a nice alternative (or, if things go well, primary) revenue stream. MusicLi's “core principle” is described thusly: “There are wonderfully talented musicians in the Greater Cincinnati area, and if their music is digitally cataloged, published and made accessible for the purpose of licensing, this music can generate income for those musicians and make Cincinnati a better place to live.”
MusicLi recently launched a brief, 10-question survey to get some feedback from musicians to help guide the project’s direction. If you’d like to participate, click here. For more on People’s Liberty, this year’s grant’s recipients and complete details on their efforts and initiatives, click here.
The Bunbury Music Festival will present its fourth annual three-day event on Cincinnati’s riverfront (Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove) June 5-7 this year (moved up from the usual July dates due to Reds/All Star Game activities). This morning, organizers of the festival — which was purchased by Columbus-based PromoWest Productions late last year — officially announced the lineup this morning.
Bunbury 2015 will feature headliners The Black Keys, Snoop Dogg and The Avett Brothers. The rest of the lineup includes Brand New, Tame Impala, The Decemberists, Old Crow Medicine Show, twenty one pilots, Walk the Moon, Matt and Kim, Bleachers, Royal Blood, Manchester Orchestra, Father John Misty, Atmosphere, Temples, Shakey Graves, Kacey Musgraves, The Devil Makes Three, Reverend Horton Heat, Lindsey Stirling, Catfish & The Bottlemen, Jamestown Revival, Mikky Ekko, The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Mini Mansion, The Front Bottoms, Jessica Hernandez, Secret Sisters, Lil Dicky, machineheart, Go Analog, Bummers and Indigo Wild.
So far, Cincinnati acts on the bill include Multimagic, Buggs Tha Rocka and RCA recording artists Walk the Moon, who have been touring relentlessly behind their sophomore major label release, Talking Is Hard (the band recently appeared on The Tonight Show; see video below). More artists are expected to be announced leading up to the festival.
One-day and three-day tickets for the 2015 Bunbury fest are available now. Click here for pricing and links.
While Jess Lamb’s American Idol journey may be over, the show is still very much a part of her everyday life. Fans of the show know that the performers often leverage their appearances into work on other projects, such as backup singing or working with national acts in collaborations. It is a process that takes a great deal of time and effort but there is another aspect of being an Idol contestant (current and former) that many fans may not consider — namely, keeping up with the social media explosion that coincides with debuting on the show. It’s a deluge of activity that, initially, can’t be adequately prepared for and it’s one that Lamb experienced firsthand.
“At first, after my audition aired, my sites couldn’t keep up. My stuff was literally shut down,” Lamb explains.
As a local artist, Lamb was used to receiving a friend request on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram fairly often. She relied (and still does rely) on social media for the majority of her publicity regarding upcoming shows and releases. But after her premiere, the number and frequency ballooned in a very short period of time. Furthermore, friend requests from friends of friends or local fans morphed into a nationwide fan base that searched Lamb out on her social media outlets.
“It’s crazy that I can make a post about a song and get 90 likes and in two days see hundreds of streams,” Lamb says. “It’s actually reaching people who are friends of mine because they want to hear the music, not because they’re interested in the scene. They’re literally curious about what I’m doing — they want to hear more.”
But this influx of attention has heightened Lamb’s time on said social media, simply so she can keep up with all of the activity across her accounts, while still trying to maintain a public presence and keeping her fans up to date with her myriad projects. In fact, Lamb has had to cut back on the time she spends at her 9-5 job so she can answer fan requests and emails in between interviews, studio work and live performances.
It’s been a dramatic transition for Lamb who, before Idol, rarely used her social media for any personal or professional purpose. In fact, it was her fiancé who initially showed her the value of using social media to self-promote. Social media activity actually lines up with Lamb’s well established indie sensibilities. She takes pride in having a control over her public output, whether that be an Instagram photo or uploading a new song onto iTunes.
“I still own all the songs, I’m not going to get slapped on the wrist for releasing songs because I’m not releasing for a label —it’s still mine, it’s on me. If I fail, I’m the one filing bankruptcy. If I succeed, I get to hire more people,” Lamb says.
She also leverages her public output to help other artists that she works with as well. For example, many of her fans have seen clips of Lamb’s work with local Electronica act Black Signal or marveled at her unique jewelry and clothing, much of which comes from local boutique Lulu White. Lamb has been repeatedly asked about her collaborations and takes great pains to make sure that her partners get the recognition they deserve. In doing so, she is able to shine a light on not just projects that she is personally a part of, but also projects that she is a personal fan of, showing her fans another aspect of her personality and artistic output.
In many ways, keeping up with her social media has become another job for Lamb, requiring large amounts of time and thought to be put into its upkeep. But it’s a job she enjoys doing and one that she has no intention of passing off to anyone else.
“I would prefer to spend my time doing the social media stuff, I really do enjoy it. It helps me to come out of my shell when I’m sitting behind the computer,” Lamb says.
For her fans this is great news, because they can be assured that anything they see coming from Lamb online is actually coming from her and not a hired gun. It’s a genuine correspondence, which in today’s pop music world is a rarity.
Last year, Cincinnati Hip Hop artist MC Till (aka Adam Hayden) did the unexpected and released The Neighborhood, an amazing album that brilliantly fused Jazz with Hip Hop rhymes. This year, Hayden is working on another delightful musical curveball — a Hip Hop-centric album (available on vinyl) and book project for children titled The Corner.
The seeds of the project were planted several years ago when his friend, graphic designer/videographer/rapper Vernard Fields, who has worked over a decade with special needs children in the Cincinnati Public Schools system, mentioned to Hayden that he wanted to make a Hip Hop album for kids. In 2012, while Hayden was working as an assistant CPS teacher, he discovered that by rapping some children’s poetry, he quickly and easily captured the attention of the first grade class in which he was in charge. Recalling Fields orginal suggestion, Hayden got back in touch with him and the pair worked out some material and presented it to an even younger audience (pre-schoolers), where they were again a big hit. Hayden and Fields then teamed up with illustrator Charlie Padgett to create the visuals for The Corner.
The high-quality book and album will be made available as hard copies and digitally (an app and website are also in the works) and the trio hopes that schools will be interested in using their project in the classroom. The Kickstarter perks offered for the campaign for The Corner include having bundles sent to specific teachers and schools (there’s even an accompanying study guide for teachers).
The ambitious project won’t be cheap to produce; the three artists are currently aiming for more than $48,000 in their Kickstarter campaign. If you’d like to contribute and/or check out the project, click here or on the video below.
Musical acts interested in being considered for a showcase slot at the 14th annual MidPoint Music Festival (scheduled for Sept. 24-26 in various venues around Downtown and Over-the-Rhine) can begin submitting today.
The festival — owned and operated by CityBeat — has announced a new partner for facilitating submissions, switching from Sonicbids to the locally-based CloudPressKit. The move will save artists some money — the submission fee for MPMF 2015 is $15 (through Sonicbids, it was $25, plus a Sonicbids membership) — and CloudPressKit is described as more “artist friendly.”
Click here for MPMF submission details. MPMF.com has a Q&A with the fest's head honcho, Dan McCabe, about the application process that answers a lot of questions submitters may have (other questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org). Applications are being accepted through May 17.