Monday, January 25, 2016

7th Anniversary Blog with Mary Wilson

All Photos:  Alan Mercer

Mary Wilson still performs with the same passion as she did singing with the original Supremes, but the world renowned celebrity is now using her fame and flair to promote humanitarian efforts to end hunger, raise AIDS awareness and encourage world peace.

While Ms. Wilson is best known as a founding member of the world’s most famous female trio – they recorded 12 No.1 hits from 1964 to 1969 – the legendary singer’s career did not stop there, and she continues to soar to untold heights.

Ms. Wilson is a best-selling author, motivational speaker, businesswoman, former U.S. Cultural Ambassador, the recipient of an Associate Degree from New York University in 2001, and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Paine College in Augusta, Georgia. In 2007, Ms. Wilson was named international spokeswoman for the Humpty Dumpty Institute, a platform she uses to condemn the death and destruction caused by hidden landmines and unexploded ordnances in less developed countries.

Ms. Wilson’s “Dare to Dream” lecture, which she gives to young people, emphasizes the need for personal perseverance to achieve their goals, despite obstacles and adversities in their lives. The topic is the foundation of her best-selling autobiography “Dreamgirl - My Life as a Supreme.” Ms. Wilson later authored its sequel, “Supreme Faith - Someday We’ll Be Together.” In 2000, these two books, along with updated chapters, were combined to complete her third book. She is currently working on a fourth book, which will be a coffee table hardcover featuring the gowns, history and legacy of the Supremes.

Moreover, she has spread the Supremes’ legacy from the world stage to international museums with a touring exhibit entitled, “The Story of the Supremes from the Mary Wilson Gown Collection,” featuring their show-stopping gowns and coveted memorabilia. The gowns were on exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and will be touring The United Kingdom before going on to Europe for another two years.

Over the years, Ms. Wilson has been highly recognized as the consummate humanitarian. She continues to devote her time and talent to assisting a diverse group of non-profit organizations, including the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the American Cancer Society, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, The Po Leung Kuk schools of Hong Kung, UNICEF, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and Figure Skaters of Harlem, a youth organization committed to helping children realize their dreams o compete in the Olympics. She has been active with Child Research, supporting a child around the world for the past 20 years.

In 1988, Mary Wilson accepted the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of the Supremes when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1994, the Supremes received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 1998, they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

As a mother and a grandmother, Ms. Wilson’s personal desire is to be involved in worthy causes around the world that improve the lives of individuals, families and all humanity. Ms. Wilson’s experience as a Supreme and cultural ambassador broadened her horizons and afforded her the opportunity to be an advocate for social and economic challenges in the United States and abroad.

AM:  Mary, you have this great new music out now.  How did that happen?

MW:  It’s nice to have a new disco song out.  I have some other songs that are getting ready to be released as well.  They are all pending at the moment. 

AM:  I’m also liking the song, ‘Johnny Mae’ about your mother.

MW:  I LOVE that song.  It was written for me. 

AM:  How did that come to you?

MW:  It’s part of a project I’ve been working on for twelve years.  It was produced by the Holland, Dosier, Holland people.  This is an independent release.  They came up with an idea to ask me questions and then they wrote all the songs for me.  I was a part of the writing in terms of giving them topics for me to sing about.  They wrote the songs based on my thoughts.  I was very pleased with all of it. 

AM:  I know you have been doing a tribute show to Lena Horne.  Are you enjoying that?

MW:  Yes, very much.  I sing ten of her most famous songs.  I have always loved jazz music. 

AM:  How have you kept yourself relevant for so long Mary?

MW:  Well, I really enjoy it and I haven’t reached the end of what I want to do so I guess I just keep going.

AM:  Are you writing any more books?

MW:  I am working on a coffee table book right now.  It’s about the gowns we wore as Supremes. 

AM:  Like the ones on display at the Grammy Museum.

MW:  Yes. That’s it.

AM:  Did you ever imagine the gowns would have a life of their own?

MW:  At first we bought our gowns off the rack, but we all loved glamour and playing dress up.  Thank goodness Motown realized we should be glamorous.  They didn’t make us dress that way.  We told them this is who we are and they agreed. 

AM:  How did you end up with the gowns?

MW:  I’m the only one who stayed with the group so I inherited them. 

AM:  Are you surprised that you have such a large and long lasting fan base?

MW:  I don’t know if surprised is the word but it has been a long time.  The Supremes were pretty well admired.

AM:  When you left the group were you excited at the thought of being alone on stage?

MW:  Well, I knew it was time to leave when I did but I didn’t know how well prepared I was as a solo singer.  I didn’t know if people would like me or if my voice was even strong enough. 

AM:  What year did you officially leave the Supremes?

MW:  We had our last performance in 1977.

AM:  You never considered doing anything else?

MW:  No, I have always known that I love being on stage.  It’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.

AM:  What makes you happy these days?

MW:  Being with my grandchildren.  Also I enjoy being my age and doing what I want to do.

AM:  Is there anything left for you to do?

MW:  Yes, I’m taking acting classes now with every intention of going into that.  I’m still writing books. 

AM:  Your books are really good!

MW:  Thank you, I love to write.  

To learn more about Mary Wilson visit her web site:

Monday, January 11, 2016

George Ducas: Country Music Trendsetter

All Photos:  Alan Mercer

A Lone Star native whose heart and soul are rooted in the honky tonks, roadhouses and dancehalls, George Ducas is a musical talent seasoned with experience, driven by passion and humbled by a God-given talent. With a string of Billboard charting songs that established him early as a country music trendsetter, George Ducas is a recording artist, hit songwriter, global entertainer and father to his children; his musical offerings encompass a creativity, sentiment, edge and wisdom of a man who lives life with a passion.

Ducas entered the country music genre as a deep-rooted traditionalist and defined vocalist who brought a contemporary edge to the format in the mid-90s. A Capitol-Nashville Records artist, Ducas was among a hefty roster of award-winning label mates Garth Brooks, Trace Adkins, Deana Carter and Suzy Bogguss.

Since his success as a national major label and critically acclaimed recording artist (with a string of hits including the Top 10 single "Lipstick Promises”), Ducas took an intended “recording hiatus” to devote his attention to raising his son and daughter (Will and Grace) in their early years.

With a noticeable personal “presence missed” on mainstream radio in recent years, Ducas has remained a mainstay in the country recording industry –his talents for putting words into music have been recognized by his peers and heard loud and clear echoing throughout stadiums, across the dance floors, and booming from stereo speakers over the past decade. It is only his voice that has been quieted from the “front and center” over the airwaves. His reputation has made him a sought-after songcrafter.

Making a subtle yet impacting and lasting impression on the country audience and the music industry from the shadows, Ducas has become the “go-to” guy for good songs. His name can be found behind the pen of some of country music's biggest hits including: Sara Evan's No. 1 "Real Fine Place To Start," Josh Thompson's "Won't Be Lonely Long," The Eli Young Band's "Always The Love Songs" as well as cuts recorded by George Jones and Garth Brooks, The Dixie Chicks, Trisha Yearwood and the Randy Rogers Band, only to name a few.

I met with George at the live music venue and restaurant, The Rustic in Dallas for this photo session and interview right before he went on stage.

AM:  George, you are a wonderful and unique artist who has been around a while but you dropped out of the business for a few years.  What caused you to make that decision?

GD:  A number of things contribute to the ups and downs of your career in this business.  I was on Capitol Records and had four or five top forty hits and one bonafide hit with ‘Lipstick Promises.’  It was a great ride.  We had a hit video and toured the world.  Three record label presidents later, the game changed.

AM:  Oh I get it now.  You didn’t feel the same kind of support from the new executives.

GD:   Then you’re left with picking up the pieces and figuring out what to do with the rest of your career.  A lot of people don’t know this but I actually got started as a songwriter before I got signed to Capitol Records.

AM:  What was your first hit as writer?

GD:  I had written a big hit titled ‘Just Call Me Lonesome’ that I co-wrote with Radney Foster.  I had just stumbled into town and we got hooked up.  He took me under his wing.  I refer to him as my uncle or a big brother that I never had in the music business.  That song was his first single as a solo artist.  It really catapulted me to my first publishing deal and that led to my first record deal. 

AM:  So even though you weren’t recording you were still writing hit songs.

GD:  After the Capitol Records deal ended it was a natural segue to move back into songwriting until I figured things out.  I had a good run that lasted about ten years.  My songs were cut by the Dixie Chicks, Garth Brooks and George Jones.

AM:  How did it feel to have a song recorded by George Jones?

GD:  It means so much because he is the kind of legend that will probably never be again.  That era of music had a longer shelf life.  The world has sped up.  If you can build a career real quick now, that’s great, but it probably won’t be there for very long.

AM:  Are you pleased when other singers record your songs?

GD:  It’s always a huge compliment when other people record my songs.  It’s been a career builder for me.  I work all the songs I’ve written into my live show.  Often people don’t know that I wrote the song. 

AM:  What do you sing at your live shows?

GD:  It’s a mishmash of songs I recorded on Capitol to my new songs from ‘4340.’

AM:  That is such a good album!

GD:  Thank you.

AM:  Did you write all those songs specifically for that album?

GD:  Yes, it was originally a 6 song EP that I released five years ago.  So we added a few more songs that I’d written over the past five years and made a full album.  The record is two years old now. 

AM:  Are you writing songs for your next album?

GD:  I’ve got another seven or eight songs ready for the next album. 

AM:  Are you planning that release yet?

GD:  Yeah, I’ve already recorded quite a few.  Some of the songs were recorded a year ago so I’ll look back at those songs now and some may not apply anymore. 

AM:  Will you ever record the songs that were hits for other artists?

GD:  A lot of people have asked that.  I could do something acoustic with them.

AM:  Do you plan to continue writing new songs for a while?

GD:  I don’t know how much longer I’ll stay plugged into the Nashville songwriting machine.  I’m not concerned one way or the other.  I’m happy with what it’s provided me.  Unfortunately for those of us who love getting on stage, the money is really in the songwriting.

AM:  So it serves you to keep writing those hits!

GD:  That’s how you stay in the business to do what you love to do.  Unless you’re out there on the road selling a bunch of t-shirts every night with major label support, it’s pretty tough.  We rely on our songwriter income.  With that said, it’s been really good to me. I’ve had way more than my share of good fortune.  I anticipate at some point on moving back to Texas.   

AM:  Do you live in Nashville now?

GD:  Yes but I tour Texas more than any other state.  I have a place in Nashville because that’s where the songwriting community is.  I’ll stay at least a couple more years. 

AM:  Is that where your children are?

GD:  Yes.

AM:  How old are they now?

GD:  I’ve got a fourteen year old and an eleven year old.

AM:  You’re with them all the time then?

GD:  All the time!  If I’m writing a song that day, I’ll be finished by 2:00 and the highlight of my day is picking up my kids and being a Dad.  I love taking my son to football practice and taking my daughter to wherever she’s got to go.  It’s great to come home and grill steaks with them.

AM:  You’re really a family guy.

GD:  I am!  I really love spending time with my kids.  It may not sound sexy, or maybe it does.  It’s funny to me because if I had never had kids I wouldn’t miss it.  I was never the kind of guy who said, “I can’t wait to have kids.”  Now that they’re here and so incredible, I can’t imagine not having them.  We laugh a lot and learn life lessons together.  I have to get them off to college and then I’ll be able to do whatever I want. 

AM:  It seems to me your priorities are pretty much in order.

GD:  They feel like they are pretty well aligned.  I always feel like I’m teetering.  I wonder, how do  I keep this little train rolling.  At the beginning of my career it was all rolling for me automatically.  The Nashville machine had kicked in and it kept me amazed that my music could take me to so many places.

AM:  I’m sure it kept you very busy.

 GD:  I was always on tour and playing giant stadiums with Alan Jackson in front of 50,000 people.  You can think it’s all you but it’s not, it’s a marketing machine.  I understand that now, but at the time I was barely twenty years old.  You don’t know any better. 

AM:  You seem to blend the traditional country sound with the more contemporary music.

GD:  I try hard not to stay in the same box.  I’m still really proud of the neo-traditional country sound records I made but I was really lifting the sound from the old records I played.  Now I’m more my own thing.  I have maintained some of those elements because they are so ingrained in me.  

To learn more about George Ducas visit his web site

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Spirit of Christmas

The "Spirit of Christmas" is a phrase with a long history in American pop culture. It first appears in the mid-19th century, and is often given religious overtones, suggesting that the "true meaning of Christmas" is the celebration of the Nativity of Christ.

 But in pop culture usage, overt religious references are mostly avoided, and the "true meaning" is taken to be a sort of introspective and benevolent attitude as opposed to the commercialization of Christmas which has been lamented since at least the 1850's.

The poem ‘A Visit From St. Nicholas’ written in 1822, helped popularize the tradition of exchanging gifts, and seasonal Christmas shopping began to assume economic importance. Harriet Beecher Stowe criticizes the commercialization of Christmas in her story "Christmas; or, the Good Fairy".  An early expression of this sentiment using the phrase of "the true meaning" is found in The American magazine, Vol. 28 in 1889.

"To give up one's very self — to think only of others — how to bring the greatest happiness to others — that is the true meaning of Christmas”  The phrase is especially associated with Charles Dickens' ‘A Christmas Carol’ written in 1843, in which an old miser is taught the true meaning of Christmas by three ghostly visitors who review his past and foretell his future.

The first purpose of Christmas is celebration! We learn this from the angel's opening statement to the shepherds of Bethlehem. God had wonderful news for us that would cause us all to rejoice, celebrate, and throw a party: "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." Luke 2:10

The good news of Christmas is worth celebrating for three reasons. It is personal: "I bring YOU." It is positive: "GOOD news of great joy." And it is universal: "for ALL the people." It doesn't matter who you are, what you've done, where you've been, or where you're headed — this news is for you.  It unquestionably means to be happy, joyful and light-hearted.

Wishing everyone all over the world a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Marvel of Veronica Martel

An Album Review

Photo:  Nino Ignacio

Veronica Martell made the wise decision to record a contemporary Country Music album and of course, it’s a winner. 

Born and raised in New York, Veronica began her singing career where most singers cut their teeth, in the church.  As a singer in New York, she recorded and released several jazz CDs and had a successful career as a jazz vocalist with appearances worldwide and performances that include the acclaimed Cophenhagen Jazz Festival.

While appearing on a television show on CMT Nashville, Veronica had a chance meeting with Country Music Hall of Fame legendary songwriter, Bobby Braddock, which turned into a mutual friendship and a musical collaboration. Veronica then joined forces with Nashville songwriter/producer Joey Sykes and a team of Nashville's best songwriters and musicians to complete her first country CD, ‘City Limits.’

The album contains eleven cuts that were all brilliantly produced and arranged by Joey Sykes.  Eight of the eleven songs were co-written by Sykes.  Marcia Ramirez and Joey Sykes sing all the background vocals. 

Though her recording background is primarily jazz, Martel proves herself to be a natural country singer.  She brings real style and class to country music with her warm, soothingly seductive and sweet voice as she takes us through a good selection of songs.  This album was recorded in Connecticut and has a refreshing sound. 

The opening cut, ‘Every Town Has A Broadway’ is a rollicking upbeat number and sets the tone for the album which feels like a journey of sorts, with opening lyrics, “Jenny started packing the day she turned eighteen.”  Movement, changing circumstances and being open minded are recurring themes in ‘City Limits.’ I have featured lyrics from several of the songs.

 A beautiful ballad titled ‘Slow and Steady Burn’ follows with lyrics that include, “I will always be in love with you, no matter where this life will take us to.” Moving along to the third cut ‘Diggin’ The Detours’ where once again the singer tells us life is ”taking me places I’ve never been before.” Martel is able to capture the highs and lows of life.  Her voice excels with the rocking beat as she belts out the melody.

‘Old Ghost Town’ follows with the opening lyrics “Suitcase in the backseat, a duffle bag full of shoes, Looks like jumping in and leaving is the only thing left to do.”  Martel brings an interpretive subtlety and rhythmic naturalness to her performance of this cut. 

The next cut is a stunning centerpiece of the album.  If we were all still playing records this would end side one.  ‘Hello Out There’ was co-written by the artist herself with Bobby Braddock.  Martel sings with powerful, but never over-the-top vocals and maximum soul.  This is a torchy, pop-influenced country ballad.  “I’ve got so much to say, but you’re light years away.” 

Next is the up tempo ‘Change’ written by Victoria Banks. Martel sings it as an anthem for “The only thing that always stays the same-CHANGE.”  ‘Some Summertime’ is a lovely mid-tempo ode to the simple joys of the season. 

Perhaps the most somber cut is next with the gorgeous ‘Let’s Call It A Day.’  Martel creates some memorable vocals with this cut about the realization the relationship is over.  ‘Beautiful Waste of Time’ lifts the listener back up with another mid-tempo cut about having fun.  “Flying under the radar, crossing over the line.”

The heartfelt ‘Something That Will Always Be’ is a tribute to all loving Mothers.  This soft rocker allows Martel to shine and keep up her high standard of excellence.  “You stood by my side through life’s crazy ride.”

Marcia Ramirez wrote the closing cut, “Somewhere Down The Road” a plaintive look at the possibility of love not lasting forever and accepting that “What used to be forever is somewhere down the road.”

After listening to ‘City Limits’ a few times I find myself hoping Veronica Martell continues to record in a variety of musical styles and broadening her appeal as a total entertainer.

To learn more about Veronica Martell visit her web site

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Amazing Cassandra Peterson

All Photos:  Alan Mercer

Cassandra Peterson was born in Manhattan, Kansas, and grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  She was scalded by boiling water when she was five years old and underwent seventeen skin grafting operations over the course of her childhood to repair the scar tissue.

She began her career at age 17 as the youngest showgirl in Las Vegas history in the show "Vive Les Girls" at the Dunes Hotel. After receiving advice from "The King" himself, Elvis Presley, she traveled to Europe where she pursued a career as a singer and actor. She worked in several Italian films, including Federico Fellini's Roma and performed throughout Europe as lead singer of an Italian rock band.

Upon returning to the United States, she toured the country as star of her own musical-comedy show, "Mama's Boys". She eventually settled in Hollywood, where she spent four and a half years with L.A.'s foremost improvisational comedy group, The Groundlings. In 1981, she auditioned for the role of horror hostess: on a local Los Angeles television station. Her show, ‘Movie Macabre,’ and her newly created character, Elvira, became an overnight sensation.

Cassandra has used Elvira's celebrity status to bring attention to many worthy causes and organizations over the years, including her well-known work for animal welfare and raising money and awareness for the prevention of HIV/AIDS. In addition to co-writing and performing in both the local L.A. and nationally syndicated television versions of ‘Movie Macabre,’ she co-wrote, produced and starred in two feature films, ‘Elvira: Mistress of the Dark’ in 1988 and ‘Elvira's Haunted Hills’ in 2001. Her latest endeavors include producing, writing and starring in the reality series ‘The Search for the Next Elvira’ on Fox Reality and the nationally syndicated series ‘Elvira's Movie Macabre.’

Cassandra Peterson has spent over three decades solidifying the Elvira brand and building it into an international cult icon that has become synonymous with Halloween and the horror genre.  She was inducted into the Horror Host Hall of Fame in 2012, as her character Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

AM:  Cassandra, I’d like to start off talking about Elvis.  I have photographed many women who knew or dated Elvis so I find it interesting.  What was your Elvis experience like?

CP:  Yes, mine was very innocent.  You couldn’t even call it a date.  I was with Elvis one evening at a party and he kind of just stuck with me.  I was a showgirl but only seventeen. Today I am kicking myself wishing it hadn’t been so innocent!  (Laughter) We spent an entire evening, night and the next day together.  I typically didn’t go to sleep until the sun was coming up anyway. 

AM:  What did you do?

CP:  We were talking, singing and he would show me a belt that President Nixon had given him.  He also gave me advice about show business and that turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. 

AM:  You pretty much said the same things all the other woman have said.

CP:  He was gentlemanly and so sweet with a naive quality to him.  It was easy to see how he could have been taken advantage of by the Colonel. 

AM:  Speaking of innocent, did you feel innocent as a seventeen year old showgirl?

CP:  I don’t know if innocent is the word.  I had been go-go dancing since I was fourteen when I moved out of my family’s house.

AM:  How did you get away with that at fourteen?  Were they not strict back then?

CP:  I guess not.  Supposedly I was not allowed to drink.  I did look mature for my age.  I was the one who my high school friends sent out to buy liquor. 

AM:  Why do you think you looked older?

CP:  Probably because I wore tons of make-up and a wiglet on the top of my head and I had a lot of cleavage.  So people just got a vibe that I was a lot older. 

AM:  Did you have the emotional maturity to go along with it?

CP:  No I wouldn’t say that.  I was street wise because of being on my own but emotionally….I always say Elvira is me as a teenager because I was a smart ass know it all.

AM:  Aren’t you from the Midwest?

CP:  Yes I was born in Kansas and lived there until I was seven.  Then from seven to seventeen I was in Colorado.  My parents started out on a farm.  I grew up in a really small town of 350 people. 

AM:  We have similar beginnings.  I grew up in Nebraska.

CP:  Did you really?  My Mom is from Nebraska.  I could walk through the town and see all my relatives. 

AM:  So Las Vegas must have been very uptown for you.

CP:  It was my dream after seeing ‘Viva Las Vegas’ with Elvis and Ann-Margret.  I just knew that’s where I’d have to be.  I obsessed about it all the time.  I was fourteen and telling everybody that I wanted to go to Vegas and be a showgirl. 

AM:  How did people react to this?

CP:  Everybody just laughed at me.  My relatives told me I wasn’t tall enough or pretty enough. 

AM:  Were they telling you these things because they didn’t want you to get disappointed?

CP:  Some people did.  They’d tell me things like that don’t really happen.

AM:  I love that you proved them wrong.

CP:  That’s what I always did.  I think because I had a tough upbringing I was always rebelling.  I was one of those people who if someone said to me I couldn’t do something I wanted to prove them wrong. 

AM:  So were you part of the Vegas scene that included Frank Sinatra?

CP:  Oh yes! 

AM: I know you knew Tom Jones.  Did you like him?

CP:  Oh I loved him.  I wasn’t a big Tom Jones music fan because I was still so enamored of Elvis and I felt Tom Jones was cutting in on his territory. 

AM:  So how did you get interested in Tom?

CP:  A couple of male dancers from my show took me to see him and I thought, ”Oh my God!”  He was the sexiest man alive!  I couldn’t believe it.  His music just wasn’t for me.

AM:  You were much more rock n’ roll weren’t you?

CP:  Yes I was.  I even stopped liking Elvis music after I was a teenager.  I was much more into the Beatles and I became somewhat of an infamous groupie after a while. 

AM:  Being a groupie at that time was more fun than now wasn’t it?

CP:  Yes and it wasn’t sleazy.  Pamela De Barres calls me the virgin groupie in her book because I would hang out with these guys and wash their hair.  Nobody ever forced me to have sex. 

AM: I think we need to educate people today that it wasn’t an orgy scene.

CP:  It so wasn’t.  It was always about the music.  If I didn’t like the music I didn’t even want to talk to the group.  If you weren’t seriously into the music you wouldn’t be around. 

AM:  How did you get into the world famous Groundlings?

CP:  I was lucky I got in the Groundlings when I did. 

AM:  Beautiful women don’t even make it in that group.  It’s the smallest demographic.

CP:  It is.  I think there are more beautiful women today doing comedy but back then you had to be Phyllis Diller, Totie Fields or Anne Meara.  I don’t know what it was.  I’m sure pretty women could be funny but you just didn’t see it. 

AM:  Did you know you were naturally funny?

CP:  I did.  I was always self-deprecating and made jokes mostly about myself.  I grew up with scars all over my neck and my back from being burned as a child.  I had kids making fun of me and I was bullied a lot.  I was very quiet and super introverted so I discovered in Jr. High that if I acted goofy people liked me.  If you talk to a lot of comedians they will tell you similar stories of how they were not popular for one reason or another.  I don’t think I know a comedian who didn’t have a hard time as a kid. 

AM:  I think everyone knows the story of Elvira so I don’t think we even need to talk about her.

CP:  Oh thank you.  I’ve talked about her enough.

AM:  I don’t know how you keep answering the same questions.

CP:  It’s automatic pilot.  I just turn on the switch.

AM:  So are you content in your life now or do you still have some burning ambitions?

CP:  I’m pretty content and happy with my accomplishments.

AM:  You’ve already done more than most people could do in ten lives.

CP:  I’m happy about that but I don’t feel completely over it.  I don’t want to stop.  I wouldn’t know what to do if I wasn’t working.  I am trying to write my autobiography and I’m not trying very hard yet! 

AM:  That’s a great idea.

CP:  I’d love to do that and get an animated Elvira going.  I believe the character can live on even if I’m not doing it. 

To keep up with Cassandra as Elvira visit her web site

Monday, October 26, 2015

Jon McLaughlin Makes Beautiful Music

All Photos:  Alan Mercer

Born and raised in Anderson, Indiana, singer/songwriter Jon McLaughlin began taking classical piano lessons at an early age. Though he lost interest in the instrument during high school and was side-lined by an accident that injured both wrists; he rediscovered his talent during senior year and began incorporating his piano skills into soulful pop music. Jon enrolled in the music program at Anderson University, where he studied piano and spent his free time writing songs. Eventually, he won a school competition that allowed him to release his self-titled debut album in 2004.

‘Indiana’ a follow-up EP, ‘Songs I Wrote and Later Recorded,’ came out the following year, and Jon was soon given the opportunity to audition for three major labels. One such label, Island, signed him to its roster, which led to the nationwide release of ‘Indiana’ an album that included re-recorded versions of two songs from his first effort  in 2007. Later that year, McLaughlin's profile received an extra boost when he contributed an Oscar-nominated song, "So Close," to the Disney film ‘Enchanted.’  He also performed the song during the 2008 Academy Awards Ceremony and used the resulting momentum to drum up support for his third studio album, ‘OK Now.’

Since signing with Island Records, Jon increased his public image by providing music for the NBC comedy Scrubs, episode "My Conventional Wisdom," on May 10, 2007. Jon McLaughlin's song, "Human" was included in the episode. The same song appeared at the end of the episode "The Walk-In" of Ghost Whisperer. "Beautiful Disaster" can also be heard in the hit TV series, ‘A Little Thing Called Life’ in the season two episode titled "The Greatest and Worst Halloween Ever." "Beautiful Disaster" sold over 420,000 digital copies.

To date, three Hollywood-released films have included songs from Jon. The song "Another Layer" appeared on the soundtrack for the Motion Picture ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ and "Beautiful Disaster" is used in the 2007 film ‘Georgia Rule.’ Jon McLaughlin also made an on-screen appearance and performance of the song, "So Close" (written by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz) in the Oscar-nominated Disney film ‘Enchanted.’ The song received an Oscar nomination. This led to Jon performing at the 80th Academy Awards, which he attended with his wife Amy.

Jon parted ways with Island after the release of ‘OK Now.’  In 2011, he rallied with the self-released ‘Forever If Ever.’  The album gained enough good word of mouth that he wound up with a contract with Razor & Tie, who added a couple of tunes to ‘Forever If Ever’ and released it under the title ‘Promising Promises.’ Two years later, the all-new ‘Holding My Breath’ appeared on Razor & Tie.

In 2015, he announced a new album ‘Like Us’ with the premiere of his single "Before You" in July.  A follow-up single "I Want You Anyway" was released in September.  The album ‘Like Us’ was released on October 9, 2015.

Jon lives in Nashville with his wife Amy and two daughters.  I met with him at Poor David’s Pub in Dallas right before the opening night of his tour.  

AM:  Jon, I have to tell you the new album is so amazing.  I absolutely love it.  What was your inspiration?

JM:  It’s supposed to be a relationship album.  Writing songs about relationships is not groundbreaking but I wanted to write a whole album of songs that covered ‘not just love at first sight songs.’  Amy and I have been together for twelve years so I wanted it to be the kinds of songs I can write now.   These are songs that you can’t write after twelve weeks. 

AM:  I know you are inspired by your daughters now.  Did you write anything for them?

JM:  I’m in a house of girls so I did write ‘Don’t Mess with My Girl’ for them.  I don’t write many songs like that but I grew up listening to Ben Folds.  I like those nerdy, ironic lyrics. 

AM:  All of your music has a theme that is you.  How do you describe it?

JM:   I don’t know.  I’m terrible at that question.  People often ask me how do I describe myself as an artist.  It’s so easy to be a fan of somebody and say they are like this and their artistry is about that, but for me I’m right in the middle of it all the time.  I do feel like I am changing all the time so the further away I get from my past projects, I can then see the continuity of it.  Sometimes I think I’m doing a jazz record!

AM:  I can hear the jazz influence and even some classical influence.

JM:   I grew up studying classical music.  As far as jazz goes, that comes out with me trying to do the thing I never did.  I never played jazz although I grew up listening to Harry Connick Jr., Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson.  The jazz scene in Anderson, Indiana is not too big!

AM:  Do you still live in Anderson?

JM:  No, I live in Nashville now. 

AM:  But you did live in Indiana for a long time?

JM:  Yes for thirty years.

AM:  How do like living in Nashville?

JM:  I love Nashville.  It’s everything it’s supposed to be.  It’s not just a bunch of hype.  There are so many insanely talented artists in general.  I’ve never been to a place like it.  It feels small in the way it’s not an LA or a New York City where everything is bursting at the seams.

AM:  It’s the perfect place for you.

JM:  I really love it and wish I had made the move earlier than I did. 

AM:  This is the first night of your current tour.  Is there anything different about this one?

JM:  For me the biggest difference is using these great musicians.  On the record it’s a lot of me playing bass on a moog.  There’s not a lot of real bass on there.  I wanted it to be real instruments.  Having the real musicians there is a night and day difference. 

AM:  You’ve been in the business about ten years now haven’t you?

JM:  Yes I guess so.  I made my first album in college in 2003, but my first record deal is ten years ago.  I cannot believe that.

AM:  Is this record considered a concept album?

JM:   I feel like this one is the first concept album.  Whenever you put a record out you are supposed to have some reason for the album as a whole, especially when people ask what the meaning of the title is.  I always answer I don’t know.  There is no big congruent idea in any of my other albums.  This one was the first.  There were some songs that I really liked that conceptually I didn’t go on this one.

AM:  Will they go on another album?

JM:  Yes I still love them and they will go on another album because I really wanted to stay true to doing the concept album.

To learn more about Jon visit his web site