Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Atomic Blonde Show The Bigboys How To Rock

The metal scene seemed to take American by storm back in the late eighties. It has mostly been a testosterone driven style of music that women have a hard time being taken seriously in. Whether it's metal or hard rock in general, women have had a negative stereotype brought against them when it comes to playing in this male dominated field.

Through the years, many female rock/metal bands have come and gone. Remember Vixen? The Donnas are still around. Lita Ford pops up from time to time as well as the never aging Joan Jett. There's a new force to be reckoned with on the scene. They are Nashville, Tennessee's own Atomic Blonde. They are a mix of pop, metal, punk, sexiness and attitude. The ladies brought their style of playing to the people in 2004. The band consists of Dacia on guitar and vocals, Kendra on drums, Fran on guitar and Danielle on bass. I spoke with Dacia recently about the band and what's going on in their career.

Being an all female rock/metal band, do you find that there is a double standard for women in this industry? "Yes, it is difficult at times, especially in rock music. You are constantly being told by the labels that there are no all girl bands doing this. You have to keep your focus and believe in yourselves. We don't want to be pop, so we are not going to change for anyone. Alot of legendary groups have similar stories. You stick to your guns and wait for that right person who believes in your vision with you," said Dacia.

The band has different influences and it can be heard in their sound. "We listen to alot of stuff. I'm influenced by everyone from Gwen Stefani to Sheryl Crowe to Nirvana and to Chris Cornell. Kendra loves Primus and Nickelback and Linkin Park. Fran tends to be into bluesy stuff like Hendrix."

The band has a six song self titled CD that is available on Amazon.com , CD Baby and i-Tunes. It can also be purchased at their official website www.atomicblonde.net. It is a great showcase for how talented these women are. there are too many stereotypes in this world, whether it's in music or not. These women give the men a run for their money. The rhythm section of Danielle's pulsating bass and Kendra bashing the drums gives them a tight sound that is way beyond their actual years of playing together. Fran is a beast on guitar and Dacia......it's hard not to be taken away by her beauty, but this woman brings it to the table each and every time she gets behind the microphone. This woman can sing and she demands your attention.

Can we expect to see these ladies burning up the road anytime soon? "I think we will more extensively in the fall. We want to play more shows so that we can win over our audiences. We have to do everything ourselves so maybe we can get them to help us carry our equipment?"

Speaking of playing live, I asked Dacia if she had any interesting road stories to share with us? "One of the worst stories would be at this venue that we played that was not set up for live music. Two songs into our set, we blew the breaker. We had no electricity. One of the better memories was when we played at a film festival and it was really late. There was a guy in the crowd moshing and he actually ran into our bassist Danielle and knocked her into our drum kit. The next thing we knew, she had taken off into the crowd and was ready to kick this guys ass!"

So, how has the band coped with this double standard that we spoke on earlier? "It seems like the whole entertainment industry, not just music, is so much about image. First impressions can be lasting ones. We always hear people scream out, 'Girl bands suck!' Then at the end of the night, they come up to us and tell us how good we were and that they didn't really expect us to play as well as we did."

With the music industry in such a transitional stage, I was curious as to what Dacia's thoughts were? "The industry has had a hard time keeping up with technology. Radio is absolutely dead! Labels seem to be unwilling to look at new things. In the eighties, labels would take a band and put money into them and develop them. That's not happening anymore. Most bands have to do all of that themselves. As an artist, doing both the management role and the creative role is very hard. This past year I have suffered from writer's block because of it."

My last question for Dacia was my stuck on a desert island with only one CD what would it be question. "Wow, that's a good question. I have to pick two if I can. One would be Linkin Park's 'Hybrid Theory' plus Justin Timberlake's 'FutureSex/Loveounds'.

Do you want a dose of sexy rock and roll with a punk edge plus catchy hooks? I dare you to check these young ladies out. Don't think about the fact that they are an all female band and the fact that all four look like models. What if you were blind and put on their CD? Forget the image aspect and just listen to them for their musicianship and amazing songwriting abilities. You will find yourself rocking out with them in no time.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Jennifer Benson: Rocking God's Message

Every now and then you hear a singer whose voice stops you in your tracks. I was searching through some bands and singers not too long ago on MySpace when I heard a female singer with an amazing voice. I did a little research and found out the singer's name was Jennifer Benson and this lady can really rock. I actually got to talk to Jennifer about her venture into music.

"I guess I was 15 when I turned to Christ and made my decision to follow him. I knew that I wanted to be a Christian artist but I had a few obstacles to overcome. I got married and then divorced, I made alot of wrong decisions. I had no support with my career. I had a baby and remarried and he's very supportive of my career. I feel like I am on the right track again," said Jennifer.

Jennifer's music draws upon her close relationship with God. Now, I know that some people may have a preconceived notion about contemporary christian music. I wish that people could just appreciate music for what it is: artistic expression. Jennifer's music is very positive and encouraging and I think that most people would be amazed at her style. You can definitely hear her influences on these songs. " My influences do vary from Pat Benatar to Superchick, the Barlow Girls and Pink and Avril Lavigne. My band Pierced and I have been together for about a year now. I have had trouble finding musicians that will stay committed, but God's calling for me to do this. I am focusing on my writing and moving on."

Jennifer seems to be focusing on delivering God's message through her music and she is determined to get this music train back on the right track. "I am focusing on getting ten good songs ready and putting out a full CD. I toured some last summer but the band fell apart and I want to make sure I have the right people on board. I will be auditioning for an A&R rep in May as a solo artist. I hope to get a record deal out of that and then start touring nationally. I want to share God's love through my music."

My interview concluded with my what CD would you like to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island? " Wow, that is a tough one. It seems like every period of my life is different. Right now I would have to go with Krystal Meyers CD "Make Some Noise", it's a great CD."

My talk with Jennifer really did make me think twice about how alot of people think contemporary christian music is not for them. I think too many people who are stuck in that mindset are really missing out on some talented artists like Jennifer. She has an amazing voice that is full of raw power and emotion. Her music is a great mixture of rock and pop and it definitely has God's message in it. Just listen to songs like "Oxygen" and "Run To Me" and you can tell that her music has a rock/alternative edge that sounds right at home with most Top 40 formats. It's very positive and encouraging and we all need a message like that in these times that we are going through right now. Jennifer is a very talented artist who deserves to be heard in this industry of manufactured stars.

If you are looking for some great music with a positive message, go check out Jennifer at www.myspace.com/jenniferbenson4u. You can also visit her official website at www.jenniferbenson.net. Her CD can be purchased at CD Baby and on i-Tunes. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the end results.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Melissa Bel - Canada's Newest Export

Most six year old girls are playing with Barbie dolls or watching cartoons and thinking how icky boys are. Melissa Bel was not your typical six year old girl. Now, outside of the boys being icky part, Melissa had big plans laid out. "I just remember looking into my mirror and telling myself that I was going to be a singer. I knew that was what I wanted to be. Of course, I did the normal standing in front of the mirror singing along to a song routine. I started playing the guitar when I was fourteen and I started writing my own songs then also," said Melissa.

Now, I know most of you may be thinking that kids always say things like that when they are little. Well, not only did Melissa say it, she also acted upon it. Through hard work and perseverance, she was signed to a distribution deal at the age of 19. "I was very torn at graduation about what to do. Should I pursue singing or go to school. My singing teacher got me to choose and I chose to pursue my music career. This is my second full year off from school," said Melissa.

Her EP was recently released and let me tell you, this young lady has an immense arsenal of talent that she brings to the table. Her songs range from heart felt ballads to bluesy numbers. "I write from personal experiences and my own crazy, emotional turmoil. When I was sixteen, I wore my heart on my sleeves. It's kinda funny, I seemed to have alot more of material to write about back then too." Melissa also covers a song called "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" that was written by Smokey Robinson. She shows that she also has a very sexy side on the delivery of this song. The emotion and power of her vocals on this song are amazing. "Distance" is another personal favorite of mine that really brings out a more bluesy side of her.

She draws her influences from a very wide and diverse group. "First and foremost, I would have to say that the Beatles are my main influence, without a doubt. I also love Alannis Morrisette and Jason Myraz. Oh, I really love blues and early Motown. There's also a Canadian blues artist by the name of Colin James who is amazing. John Mayer, he's someone that I would love to work with. I keep telling myself that if I say it enough times, it will eventually come true."

Melissa's hard work is starting to pay off in many ways. In 2008 at the Toronto Exclusive Magazine Awards, she won Best Pop Album and also the Artist of the Year. Not too shabby for such a young artist on the rise.

I finished my interview with asking her my "trapped on a desert island with only one store bought CD what would it be" question and she did not disappoint. "Oh, without a doubt it would be the Beatles 'White Album'. That is such an amazing CD and there are so many songs on it that it would be hard to grow tired of it."

I encourage fans to go to www.myspace.com/melissabelmusic to check out her music. Her self titled EP can be purchased at her shows and she is currently in talks with i-Tunes to make it available there also. Give this young lady a listen. She has a ton of passion and conviction behind her voice and lyrics. I dare you to listen to her CD one time and not be hooked on this young artist. I double dog dare you.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Chrissy Coughlin Looks Ahead To The Future

Sometimes it takes a life altering experience to change ones life and make them refocus. This is exactly what happened to Chrissy Coughlin. She knew that she wanted to pursue music, but it was the discovery of a tumor in her leg that gave her a new sense of direction. "I started singing in the ninth grade and gaining musical knowledge. I started writing in graduate school. I moved to DC and started playing live and gaining confidence. I was working in the environmental field and about 5 years ago the doctors discovered a tumor in my calf. It actually gave me the inspiration to make a change in my life. It was then that I decided to put all of my focus on my music," said Chrissy.

Chrissy is one of those unique artists whose vocals can transport you to another place. She does an amazing cover of "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars" and you feel as if you are transported to a smoke filled jazz club and she's lying on top of the piano singing to you. It's a very sexy translation of the song. "My producer works with alot of Brazilian music and I've always loved the song. I've never sung the song, but I thought that I should give it a try. There is a part that is sung in Portuguese and I was very adamant about keeping that in there. I think it turned out pretty good," said Chrissy.

Another standout track on her newest cd "Look Ahead" is an interesting choice of a cover song, Robert Plant's "Big Log". I asked her how that cam about. "I wanted to do a cover of a song by a male vocalist and I have always loved that song. I wanted to do something, but not one that everyone knew automatically but not one that was very obscure. I also wanted to put a female twist to it. At the time, Robert was in the news because he was working on his collaboration with Allison Krauss. I told Tim , my guitarist, about it and that i wanted to do a kind of bluesy cover of it."

Chrissy's cd "Look Ahead" also contains very personal songs that touch on the human emotion element of everyday life. "I write about whatever captures my eye. Whether it's observations of people in my life or just walking down the street and seeing something that catches my attention. Some of my songs are about personal relationships. I want to write more about emotions and not necessarily about the environment." Listeners need to look no further than to standout tracks such as "Do It Out Of Love" and "Perfect Time" to hear fine examples of these.

So, who does Chrissy site as being inspirations in her musical journey? "I love Lucinda Williams. I love her grittiness and she just says it like it is. Her lyrics are very simple yet so powerful at the same time. I also love Patty Griffin. She is a poet with very soulful lyrics. You can actually picture what she is singing about because she's so elegant in her delivery. I think Stevie Nicks' vocal ability is just amazing. I think U2 is one of the few bands around who can actually get it all right."

Chrissy's sound is also one that crosses different classifications. She's a little pop, a little country, a little adult contemporary. Songs such as "Perfect Time" or "Back To You" actually have a Sara Evans kind of feel to them. "Look Ahead" also has a certain Sheryl Crowe feel to it. "I don't really follow country closely, but I do know it. I think country fans are some of the most loyal fans out there. I love the comparisons."

Chrissy hopes to do a few mini tours around the Boston, Portland and DC areas to share her music with the masses. No big tours are in the plans right now, just smaller, regional ones. I concluded my interview with Chrissy by asking her if she was trapped on a desert island with only one cd, what would be her choice? "It would have to be something powerful. Probably REM's 'Murmur'. That was such a great release for them. The songs just take me to another place, it definitely relaxes me. Their earlier stuff was just so amazing."

It's easy to listen to Chrissy's cd and hear her influences. Her vocals have a calming, soothing sense to them. Just like her influence Patty Griffin, Chrissy's lyrics do enable the listener to see what she is singing about. Her lyrics touch you and you can feel and hear the emotion in them. Check her out on MySpace or her personal website, www.chrissymusic.com.