Category: music

An Interview With Across The Board Lead Singer Jacqueline Auguste

Photo by Bobby Singh/@fohphoto


Jacqueline Auguste is the lead singer for the band Across The Board; here is a link to the band’s website:

Q:  What is the overall theme of Sonic Boom?


A: Sonic Boom was written on our cross-country train tour last summer and is meant to chronicle the “breaking”of a band. I pictured the listener’s journey through the album as a rock opera—with a story, a heroine, and the trials and tribulations of a musical climax and anticlimax. The story starts off in the small city of Camrose, where I grew up—a small farming community in the heart of Alberta, and moves across the country to Toronto. As a young musician, I always dreamed of taking my music to the ‘big city’ and the album echoes this journey by rail to Toronto where I eventually meet the characters who will either try to steal the dream, or help me succeed. It has highs and lows, sadness and happiness and takes the listener on a musical and hopefully emotional journey. The idea of the title for sonic boom started with the phrase “making a splash”, which eventually became “making a musical splash” and when we realized that was like a sonic boom, it just fit—a band breaking out of obscurity onto the global scene in one big sonic boom that everyone hears. I think my most favorite song from the album is “No Curtain Call”- it’s the lowest point of the rock opera when the heroine is playing in a lonely bar, by herself, no one is paying attention, the lights come on the reveal the old wood floors, the sticky old bar top and all the folks who just don’t seem to care—and the revelation that comes to her after this experience—it’s not about making a splash, or having everyone pay attention to you—it’s about the journey, the music and staying true to one’s self-not getting lost in the hype or steered off course.


Q: How did you guys get together?


A: Across The Board, as a band, started as a Youtube channel where we would get together and create weekly music videos to popular covers. It grew from there, driven by a fan base asking us if we had original music to the release of our debut album in 2016 “Jane On Fire”. It was forged initially from garage jams and basement jam sessions and landed right where we are now–with a core of four musicians and a supporting cast of musicians who come out for live shows or collaborate on Youtube videos as we have kept up a solid online offering of musical and entertainment for our fans, expanding to a musical cooking show “Kitchen Sessions”, a daily vlog “ATB 365”, as weekly acoustic jam session, a carpool Karaoke feature called “Caravan Karaoke” (we drive a Dodge Caravan) as well as a weekly Live Broadcast on Facebook, Youtube and Instagram every Sunday Morning. We even publish a weekly behind the scenes “ATB AT REHEARSAL” segment.


Q: How did you come up with the name of your band?


A: Our band is such an ecclectic group of musicians from all walks of life, across all age ranges from young to “older”–we decided we were just a group of musicians that literally represented “across the board” — and thus the name!


Q: What is your strangest performance story?


A: Funny you should ask. On May 4th we had our CD Release Party in Toronto for our newest album “SONIC BOOM”. It was a sold out show and it happended during the worst wind storm in Toronto’s recent history. People were trapped in their cars by falling poles and trees, ambulances were everywhere. There was a power outage, yet still–the venue managed to rig the entire venue and sound stage with two generators and rewire everything to work on gas! They went and bought ice for the bar and in 90 minutes transformed the venue into a fully lit, fully powered show! Folks braved the weather, the obstacles and the “apocalypse” outside to make the show!


Q:  How does your work as an orthopaedic surgeon effect your ability to perform and record with the band?


A: As with any “art” including medicine, practice makes perfect. And surgery is a performance in and of itself–with the same preoperative anxiety that a musician feels before a show. I’ve learned how to practice, to rehearse, to study to perform from being a surgeon–and it transfers perfectly to music. Music for me is my creative outlet. It can be stressful at time to look after patients–particularly those who are very ill, or very broken in our case in orthopaedics. Music is that perfect blend of creative art, and technical prowess that is so similar to what I do on a daily basis in my job as a surgeon!


Q:  What is your creative process for writing songs?


A: Typically, songwriting for me starts as an idea. I like a beat, a riff, a lick, and suddenly a chord structure comes. I then add a melody to that and during the process of finding that melody, words just start to emerge. And something inside takes over and creates lyrics that match the mood, the melody, the current thoughts in my head about my life, the world–and bam–a song emerges. I then take that song to my cowriter or producer and we work on the beat and genre, as well as the bridge usually. I write my best work when I am procrastinating something like taxes or cleaning my house!


Q: Who are some of your influences and how is this evidenced in your work?


A: My biggest influences as a musician come from the music I grew up with –the music of my parents I suppose–The Doors, Pink Floyd, CCR, The Beatles and then the music I discovered as a young kid—Fleetwood Mac, Roxette, Queen. Today I relate to Broken Social Scene, Walk Off The Earth, Taylor Swift, and even Shania Twain, Meghan Trainor and so many others. I love all kinds of music! It all influences me.


Q:  You play a lot of different kinds of guitars. What kind of musical training have you had?


A: At the age of 10 I picked up my first guitar. Beyond that I learned oboe, flute and sax from stage and concert bands in school. I picked up the drums in my last years of highschool and started writing music and playing other stringed things like ukelele, mandolin and banjo in college. I’m classically trained in that I can read and write music, and I have spent so much time in front of musical scores… but I am a self-taught piano player and tend to write alot by ear. I wouldn’t say I have “perfect pitch”–but I can certainly tell when something is not right and find ways to fix a sound, a chord progression, a bridge, a key change, a harmony without much effort…that part comes naturally to me and I am grateful for that gift above all else.


Q: What are some of the things you have done to promote your band?


A: We are everywhere on social media–we try to maintain a solid social media presence with creative and high quality content, and bring fans along for the journey. We are story tellers and our lives are open. I don’t hide the fact I am a surgeon, I don’t hide the fact I am a mother, I don’t hide the fact I am now a grandmother! My middle baby has two little babies! My life is open and I’m hoping to inspire other women musicians and physicians and any professional who wishes to add music or other creative art back into their lives~it’s a balance. It’s an essential balance. It’s an outlet, but it’s also a lifestyle.


Q: What do you hope to express through your music.


A: In the early writings, my songs seemed to express loss, sadness, dark moments, intertwined with the occasional breath of air to relax, unwind. “Jane On Fire” is such a collection of emotional songs from “Sad Guitar” to “Take A Minute”. This new album however, is written to chronicle my journey–and I hope to inspire our listeners by finding some common ground in our collective stories!




Eliza’s interviews are done by email; all answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)


An Interview with Jordan Casty of Eleven Dollar Bills


Jordan Casty is the lead singer for the band Eleven Dollar Bills; here is a link to the band’s first album:

All Our People


Q: When did you know you wanted to be a musician?


A: I’ve been singing and messing around on instruments for as long as I can remember but something strange happened when I was sixteen and I found out just the slightest bit of music theory.  I felt like I was stepping into a different world and speaking the same, mysterious language all my musical heroes were speaking.  I felt like I had joined a new club and I never wanted to leave.



Q: What is your creative process?


A: My creative process starts with drinking a whole bunch of coffee and messing around with my guitar or piano.  I feel around in the dark, humming melodies and fiddling on the guitar until something sounds like the beginning of a real idea.  Some melody that feels sturdy enough to build on or some group of words that sparks a song idea.  It’s just a construction job from there.  That’s how our new single ‘Waves’ came about.  Some mumble sounded like the key to a joyful idea about serious fun.  A couple hours later we’d fashioned up a whole new chapter of our musical lives.


Q: What is the overall theme of your album, All Our People?


A: The All Our People EP is about bringing people together through celebration of life.  It’s about amplifying experience across the entire spectrum of emotion so that life becomes a deeper and more exciting ride.


Q: Did Bob Dylan inspire your name or is there another meaning behind it?


A: Bob Dylan has been my favorite songwriter since I started diving deeply into his work during my college years.  I felt like if I named my band after one of his lyrics, I might be able to direct a bit of whatever spirit has been speaking through him to come through me for a while.


Q:  How did you and the other band members get together in the first place?


A: This incarnation of the band came together in Los Angeles and we all met through playing music in the bars out here.  There are so many places to see killer live music in LA and when I got out here, I just started talking with everybody I thought was great after they got off stage.  We’d jam and play some trial-shows together and then it congealed into the lineup you see today.


Q:  What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your music?


A: I drive a bit of Uber when the music money is slow.  I like to talk with my passengers if it feels like they’re open to it.  I feel like it helps in my songwriting to get so many different people’s stories.  The more varied your perspective, the more powerfully you can write.


Q: Your recording is very professional sounding! How did you get the album financed?


A: Thank you for the kind words!  Our producer Jim Huff is indeed a master craftsman.  And a master with the budget!  He called in a lot of favors to get this record made and we had a bit of family funding for whatever we weren’t able to cover ourselves.



Q: What would you change about the music industry?


A: If I could change one thing about the music industry, it’d be updating the royalty rates for songwriters.  Songwriters are really getting shafted lately and it’d be nice to see the money split up more fairly.


Q: What is your weirdest LA story?


A: One of my weirdest LA stories came while driving Uber.  I picked up this guy who told me to “just drive”.  I said okay and when I looked over, he was ‘making it rain’ on Tinder.  That’s when you rapidly and indiscriminately swipe right to rack up a swath of matches.  He kept it up and I kept driving through Los Angeles until he’d found a match that met his criteria.  He must’ve been a pro sweet talker because he had her address in minutes and we headed that way.  I pulled up and he went in.  But not before asking if I’d like to join.  I told him I’d have to take a rain check.


Q: At which club do you most look forward to having a concert?


A: Since I grew up in Chicago, playing the main stage at Lollapalooza will be a pretty serious thrill.  But the Hollywood Bowl might be even more fun.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.

An interview With Rapper Hiiigh Quality

Hiiighquality is a rapper who recently released the EP, PSA’s and Heartbreak; here is a link to his Soundcloud page:







Q: What made you interested in music?


A: What made me interested in music was basically the surroundings growing up, hearing it, experiencing & relating to it then I also saw some of my older friends tapping into it.


Q:  What kinds of things inspire you to rap?


A: The kinds of things that inspire me to rap are original, amazing lyricists, & looking at all the things Ive been through & overcame because of the most highs within me.


Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it affect your music?


A:  I actually have errand running and home cleaning gigs I participate in weekly, & it effects my music in a pretty positive way, as far as motivation.


Q: What kind of formal training have you had?


A: I haven’t had any formal training.



Q: Who are some of your influences?



A: Some of my influences are John Lennon, Bob Marley, Damien Marley,Steve Jobs, Ice Cube, Snoop dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Vince Staples, Ab-Soul, Mac Miller, A$AP Rocky etc.


Q: Where do you record your music?


A: . I record my music inside of my home at the moment.


Q: What is Hydro about?


A: Hydro is basically kind of an alter ego, or nickname because lots of people call me that.


Q: What is the one thing you would change about the music industry?


A: The one thing I would change about the music industry is the evil actions.


Q: What have you done to promote your music?


A:  Ive strictly promoted online on social media, & also outside on the streets as well.



Q: If you could write a rap musical, what would the plot be?



A: If I could write a rap musical the plot would probably be A Kid trapped in his city with a vision, battling everyday obstacles who soon finds that life is much more bigger than his vision, which leads him to his purpose after all.



Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.

An Interview With Saxophonist Kyle Cripps



Kyle Cripps is a New Orleans based saxophone player for the bands One Love Brass Band Smoke and Bones; here is a link to One Love’s website:

Q: What made you want to be a musician in the first place?



A: Though most of my family is not music-oriented, my mother was a painter and an art teacher and always encouraged having music and art in the house. My sister was a few years older than me and had already started playing flute and we had a keyboard in the house that I’d mess around on, so when I was finally old enough I was able to join the school band.

I had a knack for playing pretty quickly and was one of the top players in school. After a few years I also learned that I had perfect pitch, which I more or less took as a sign that I should maybe try and pursue a life doing music. By high school I was spending less and less time on other subjects and more and more time playing. Around this time I started to write a lot of original music, and would hurriedly get home from school and hole up in my room all night to do so, often at the expense of my actual school work.

I had some teaching experience before I got to college but my dream was always to perform so when I got to college I knew that was the route I had to go. I was definitely tempted to take the “safer” education route but my roommate was an education major and that life seemed totally unappealing to me (earlier hours, more emphasis on classical music, more work away from the instrument).

The short answer is that it was the first thing I noticed I had a natural talent for. I was very involved in athletics and had an athletic body but my natural skills were not quite as obvious as they were for music, so it just kinda made sense for me to try and take it as far as I could. Having a mother who pursued a career in painting helped, and she always assured me she’d support me going that route. It’s something I know is not a common thing for a parent and I was very lucky in that regard. She was also the one making sure I practiced every day on the few days where I didn’t really feel like playing.





Q: What made you chose the sax?


A: The summer before 4th grade my school had a day where perspective music students could come try all the instruments to see what they liked. I had already started falling in love with 90s rock and hip hop and wanted badly to play drum set but unfortunately my parents were against the loud drums in the house and when the music teacher at school informed me I’d have years of learning timpani and snare and xylophone before ever getting behind a drum set I started looking at other options.

The saxophone ended up being my first choice simply because it was the easiest instrument to get a note out of that day. I don’t necessarily chalk that up to natural ability, as I still find sax to be the easiest of the winds to play at first, but it was definitely a match from the very first moment.


Q:  What gave you the idea for a brass/reggae fusion band?



A: I grew up at the beach in New Jersey and had always loved hearing Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and the 90s stuff I had mentioned, Sublime, Reel Big Fish, etc. and had always wanted to be in a band like that. At the time, I had been living in New Orleans for about 3 years and was looking to start a new project of my own. New Orleans is chock full of brass bands but I had been trying to find something a little different.

One night I was hanging with some friends and got re-introduced to the Skatalites. I had been familiar with them but this particular night was inspiring for some reason and I decided it might be fun to set up some sort of instrumental ska outfit but still being kinda new in town I didn’t know too many people interested in that style, especially on drums. A few months later I ran into my drummer friend Boyanna and mentioned all this to her only to learn that she had coincidentally been trying to put together a similar concept but in the style of a traditional New Orleans brass band. Another few months later we had assembled a crew of people to try out some ideas. Though the relationship between Caribbean and New Orleans rhythms seemed like a natural fit together (there are a lot of stories about how ska originated because Jamaicans could pick up New Orleans radio stations from Jamaica), it was a pretty unique concept and there were a lot of details to be ironed out, so the band didn’t play our first gig until about a year later. We’ve had several personnel changes and our sound has greatly evolved since then but that was the original idea.



Q: What was your criteria for choosing band members?



A: At first we were simply looking for people who were available enough to come and just try out some ideas without the intention of actually doing any immediate gigs. This was harder than it might seem, most musicians here are gigging regularly and expect when they come to rehearse it will be rehearsing for a specific gig, not just “jamming” and seeing what sticks. That’s rare for real pros.

After the band got off the ground, we realized we had to find the right personalities to fit together, which was actually even harder. We have some complex arrangements which require at least some ability to read sheet music, and that’s not a skill most players here have. I’ve also made it a point to ask everyone that came to try it out whether or not they actually liked ska and reggae before playing with us, as it is a unique style and if you approach it like it’s a jazz or funk band it won’t sound right IMO.

Another big thing for me is actually being friends with everyone in the band. I’ve been in lots of bands that are together just to make money and never hang out other than when we’re on the gig together and to me, it can be very obvious. This doesn’t always effect the music negatively but I always appreciate a band that actually looks like they are having a ton of fun on stage and I’ve tried to cultivate that with every group I play with.



Q: What kind of day jobs have you had and how did they influence your music?



A:  I haven’t actually had a non-music day job since I left Philadelphia in 2008. I taught music at a school down here when I first moved but got out of that around 2011, so I’ve been purely freelancing for about 6 years.

The last few years I lived up north I had a few interesting jobs but I was still in undergrad so it was pretty much relegated to the summers. I had a pretty consistent job at a game and hobby store that I had started working for in high school. It was a family-run business operated by some amazing people and they worked with me a ton to make sure I could do gigs around my hours at the store. This was one of my first real jobs and since we were dealing with toys and games and most of our customers were kids, it really hit home to me how to always have fun with what you’re doing. I think that’s influenced how I make music now; fun is a big big priority for me when picking gigs and who to play with.

Later, I cooked burgers and cheesesteaks for a few summers, worked very briefly serving and had just one shift as a bartender. I didn’t enjoy it and wasn’t very good at it so I quickly decided it was something I’d prefer to stay away from. I kind of randomly fell into my last non-music job the last year I lived in Philly, working as a customer service rep for a video distribution company. Only after I arrived for my first day did I learn that company primarily dealt in adult movies.

It was a fascinating job; most of my coworkers were involved in some creative endeavor (writers, artists, one other musician) and were super diverse. The customers ranged from incredibly sweet (because I was hooking them up with porn) to incredibly rude and/or stupid and I have several insane customer stories. This company also worked really well with me to allow me to get to my gigs on time and everything.

I guess the main thing from those jobs that affect my music now is knowing that lifestyle, and remembering to look back on it the next time I feel like I’m on a gig that I don’t enjoy so much or is maybe less glamorous than I’d like it to be. At the end of the day I’d rather be on a terrible gig than back in that office or behind a hot grill all day, or even teaching little kids the notes on the piano.


Q: What makes Smoke and Bones unique?



A: Smoke n Bones is definitely unique to the New Orleans area because of the style we play. I wouldn’t necessarily say the style of our music is unique, we play mostly R&B and soul kinda stuff, but there aren’t many bands here doing it quite the way we do it. Most R&B kinda bands here aren’t as vocal-driven, usually only having one, maybe two vocalists and the band is there for solos and that kinda stuff. We use four vocalists and I even use a vocoder on certain songs. The emphasis is on stronger songs themselves without the need for long winding solos.


Q: Who are some of your musical influences and how can we hear it in your music?




A: Originally my influences were more rock oriented, Nirvana, Green Day, Weezer, Sonic Youth, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden. As I got older I gained more of an interest in jazz, mostly saxophonists, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, especially Eddie Harris (more on him shortly), Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Herbie Hancock. Also a lot of reggae, Marley and Tosh, but also Desmond Dekker, Eek-A-Mouse, The Ethiopians, The Melodians, Mighty Diamonds, Toots & The Maytals, Sublime. Once I got to college in the city I was exposed to a lot more experimental styles, a lot of free jazz, Alice Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, John Zorn, and really started to learn more about 70s funk and R&B, James Brown, Earth Wind and Fire, Funkadelic, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Jimmy Smith, Sly Stone, Ray Charles. These were increasingly becoming my strongest influences but music in Philadelphia is not so heavy on funk and R&B (at least most of my peers weren’t interested in doing any of that) so I felt like an outsider and it was hard to create music in that vein.

My influences after moving to New Orleans are probably most present in my playing now, obviously the music here is front and center no matter if you like it or not. The Meters, Dr John, Galactic, Chocolate Milk, James Booker, and also others from out of town but related, Shuggie Otis, Soulive, Ohio Players, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu. These all heavily influence my keyboard playing more than anything.

Eddie Harris is probably my biggest overall influence, he played several instruments, mainly sax and piano and recorded many many albums in a wide variety of styles. He also wrote several music exercise/etude books I worked a lot out of. He started with mostly straight-ahead jazz but evolved into some more pop stuff, then went off into funk and R&B, even getting into some spacey free-jazz at times. He is also notable for being a pioneer of the electrified saxophone, which enabled him to use effects pedals to alter the sound of his horn. This is something I’ve tried to incorporate into my sax playing for years now, but it’s difficult to set up and not always necessary. I’ve been lucky, my bandmates in Smoke n Bones have more or less given me full reign to be as expressive as I want in that regard.


Q: What is the most challenging thing about promoting your music?



A:  There are several challenging things about promoting my music here. Primarily it is that I have very little real training on that side of things. I had a couple of business classes in college but they were either poorly taught or had them for too short a time to get too good at any specific aspect. I’ve really had to learn on the fly the little bit that I do know.

Another problem specific to New Orleans is that it’s such a self-contained place that many bands don’t feel the need to expand outside of the local clubs because the pay can be relatively good (compared to other cities) and everyone in the band is almost certainly in at least one other band. We all spread ourselves a little thin to pay the bills and can only devote so much time to one project musically, let alone on the promotion side.

The clubs themselves also have a built-in tourist audience nearly all the time and while it can be nice to make money primarily that way, it’s much harder to actually create fans that will come back and see subsequent shows (we’re mostly playing to people who A. have likely been drinking and are prone to forgetting or B. are only in town for a few days and will likely never see us again or C. are only in the club because a lot of clubs don’t charge cover and there’s a crowd). I try not to book One Love Brass Band in certain clubs because we’d only play to tourists and we’re at the stage where we really need actual fans that will come back to see us again and buy our CD. There’s definitely value to doing those clubs (getting the band tighter, putting even some money in our pockets, increasing our visibility) but with that band I think we get more value out of playing different spots and actually gaining fans.

New Orleans is also kind of in its own world, the nearest major city is at least 5-6 hours away, so touring can be especially more expensive.

Another thing is that my two primary original bands play styles that aren’t so prevalent here. Most of the major publications/festivals in the area really try to promote music that is primarily New Orleans-influenced and as such it’s hard to break through if you’re doing something different.

All of these things make it really tough to promote a band here. Using the internet has become more and more valuable in this regard though.


Q: What is your strangest performance story?


A: I have a few really strange performance stories but my favorite one is probably when I played with a brass band by the pool for an out of town swingers meet up. This group was about 50-60 swingers who rented out a giant mansion in the treme with a massive pool and hired a brass band for their orgy party. We needed a password to get in to the house, and once we entered mostly everyone was naked/having sex and consuming all kinds of substances. I played in just my brass band hat and my undies and did my best not to fall in the pool with my sax. We weren’t allowed to take pictures but they had their own private photographer there; I never found out their contact info and I greatly regret it because I’m sure there’s a few amazing shots of me in there.


Q: If you could create your own music festival, comprised entirely of local New Orleans bands, who would you include and why?



A:  New Orleans is a town that hosts a ton of festivals, so it’s really difficult to imagine something different than what already occurs and I’m going to cheat a little on this question. In April we have French Quarter Festival, which is heavy on local acts, and the Jazz & Heritage Festival, which strangely enough is not nearly as heavy on local acts. If it were up to me I would have more jam-oriented acts (Medeski Martin & Wood, Soulive, The Meters, Chocolate Milk, Skerik, Les Claypool, Trombone Shorty, Jon Cleary, Charlie Hunter, Nth Power) but force the bands swap members on a rotating basis. We already do this quite a bit during the week between Jazz Fest weekends (it’s two weekends long) but I’d maybe try to do it in one giant venue with several rooms (I’m not sure a venue that size exists here). A lot of clubs here will host mash-up events with some absolute giants who rarely play together getting thrown into something and they often just wing it. The results aren’t always as good as a super tight band but some of my fondest memories here are seeing random people thrown together during jazzfest week making magic happen.


Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.

An Interview With Rapper Young Yeama


Young Yeama is a rapper; here is a link to his website:


Q: What made you want a career in music?


A: I started late coming from a Christian church background, being taught that secular music was from the devil and what not so I didn’t grow up listening to Nas, Jay Z, Tupac and the like. I was introduced to HipHop around 11 or 12 when that ‘Tell Me If You Want Somebody’ by Aaliyah and Timberland came out, you know, with the baby whining along with the beat. I fell in love with the way the beat was orchestrated and went ahead to create my own beats after being engulfed in the Bay Area music scene ‘going dumb’ ‘hyphy movement, etc. So when it comes to making music now, it’s natural. Like, I’ll record in my studio and beat myself to shingles to perfect my work, even if it still sounds shitty to the next person. But when I’m finshed, the burst of excitement that runs through my body, my mind explodes and I’m freakin happy! I’m going to do what makes me happy, at 27 years old, before working for anybody else at this point in my life.


Q: What motivates you to write?


A: Life motivates me to write. Interacting with people, partying, relationships, working, trapping, and trying to get some pussy, smoking weed, how much money I just spent is all motivation to write. The good and bad‎, the struggles and the blessings are motivation and I feel I express that best through music, words. Being heard motivates me as well as the lucrative incentives.


Q: What is the story behind, Because You A Thot?


A: I was in a relationship with a woman whom appeared to be modest in every sense of the word. She was very pretty but covered herself and worked and went to school. I fell in love. She falls in love. She literally brings me back to my hometown, my place of birth, East Oakland, California and I fell in love all over again, this time with a city rather than a woman. Things got hard for me financially and I took my frustrations out on her, verbally, which lead to an agreement on taking a ‘break.’ I needed this break to do a self-reflection on myself and stop trying to make everyone else happy and do what I want. I guess she thought the same thing because two weeks being apart and she with the next nigga. This was shocking to me as I loafed in disbelief and believed that they were just co-worker friends until I hacked her phone. Don’t worry, Jesus whispered the password in my ear, I swear. I found pics of her naked with this bafoon! In my video, ‘A Break’ I catch them at the mall together!! But I’m glad I found out because even after I found them at the mall, Izzy came back and made very passionate and rough love to me! Head Honcho! Three days later I find the nudes and couldn’t get out of bed, the pain, I never felt it before. Hence: Because You A Thot and A Break. ‘Now I just play with these guns and rap! Nigga butt hurt off of love! Ya.. ya.. yaaa.. yaaaa..’


Q: Who are some of your influences and how can we hear this in your music?


A: Andre 3000 best emcee ever!

Lil B BasedGod greatest rapper alive!

Thom Yorke is my idol!

Sigur Ros‎ are my ancestors!


I like to think of myself as eclectic ‎when referencing my music. From slow to fast, love to hate, sing to rap to rock to mumble, God, Pagans, you name it! My flow, the way I lay the words over the beat is deeper than an art, almost like it’s a science to it. I get that from Andre. My consistency with over 300 songs under various names from years ago; I get that from BasedGod. My mating calls or soft yells I get from Thom and the rhymthm, even though very different, one like myself is able to find a linking bridge.



Q: How do you decide what to wear in your videos?


A: Wear something that’s not in your other videos. I’m doing so much shopping now I feel like a diva. But as an independent artist, I have to work on my image. I just want to look clean! Always some fresh kicks on my feet unless I decide to go vintage. Most of the time it’s spur of the moment because when you are the rapper, producer, marketer, video producer and writer, video editor, engineer and cast, shit can get hectic!


Q: How do you finance your videos?


A: I used to shoot everything on my BlackBerry Passport until I copped a video recorder and on average I spend about $10 to $20 a video. My cousin does the camera work for a couple hits if the weed, gas, break food and we good. Just time to get creative. The Bay Area offers a great amount of visuals, both natural and artistic, to shoot videos and have them looking fancy.


Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your music?


A: I sell drugs and I rap about it. I rap about how I should stop because I’ll only end up dead or in jail but being a Black dread head convict doesn’t help either. I can’t get a job. Regardless of my conviction, I’m still black with dreads. Not to following the assumptions but that’s all I can do now to prevent homelessness. I know it sounds pitiful but aye, they want it. Fuck it. I’m getting tired of getting rejection emails our the interviewer looking at my hair more than my resume. I’m tired of being told ‘no’ to work for $14 dollars a hour everyday! Fuck that! I’m worth way more! My art will save me one day.



Q: What’s the point of referring to woman as hoes? Why not just call them women?


A: Women and hoes are two different things just like men and niggas are two different things. When I mention a hoe, that what she is, she sells her body or simply enjoys sleeping with rich niggas/men.‎ Girls tell me to hit them on therie service line when I wanted company and all for free, just because I was ‘different’ and ‘not like everyone else’. I guess. But I like em! They in the same boat as me! I sell something different but you get my gist. Hoes make you feel good. They were revered in the bibilcial times and even necessary in some cultures. Lol, let me stop.


Q: What is the oddest thing you have done to promote your music?


A: Travel around the Bay Area and post stickers of myself throwing up my middle fingers with Young Yeama printed in bright colors on poles posts, mailboxes, walls, storefronts, etc! Got chased by the police once and got away!! Hehehe!


Q: What would you like to changes about the San Francisco music scene?


A: Big big difference between San Francisco music and Oakland music when it comes to rap but the Bay Area collectively, I would love for us to get the recognition we deserve so badly. Everybody bitting our style and getting rich off of it and even though people know it’s talent in the Bay Area, they over look us for some odd reason so recognition for sure!


 Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.

An Interview Folk Singer Jay Elle


Jay Elle is a folk music artist who has just released the EP Rising Tide; here is a link to his website:


Q: When did you know you wanted to be a performer?


A: Great question. My first performance was a bit part in an elementary school play. I was carrying a small chest. I was one of the kings bringing gifts to the baby Jesus.


I loved the whole experience except that I had to wear tights and for some reason I didn’t dig that part of the outfit so much. Otherwise, I enjoyed appearing in front of an audience and I guess that was enough of a jumpstart to get me going.


I did not get into music until a few years later, in grammar school. But once I started playing guitar and singing with bands there was no doubt that performing music was the way to go for me. The more I did it, the more I wanted to do it. It was just a lot of fun. And still is.


Q: Why folk music?


A: Folk is a genre that I love because it can bring together great music and great lyrics. It gives you a lot of freedom, especially when you are by yourself: one voice and one guitar. The possibilities are endless. And it is a lot easier to travel with an acoustic guitar.


It is only one of the genres I enjoy exploring though. Add to that other ways to use a guitar or many guitars. My debut EP, Rising Tide, brings together different guitar based orchestrations and arrangements.


I love variety in an album, much like what you find in the “News of the World” or “Jazz” albums by Queen, or the first albums by Billy Joel for instance.


I would love to include at least one instrumental guitar piece on my upcoming CD, or have one or more available for download. I write classical inspired pieces for guitars, pieces that I think might actually be potential Ballet dance music.


In my view, an album should be a journey to various places, much like a live performance. I would love for me and my guitar to take you to a dance hall, the Appalachians, or a Chicago Blues club while you sit in your favorite chair. Even better if I can make you time travel…


Folk music written for guitar is one of these genres and a great starting point. The rest of the EP, “Rising Tide,” gives you other flavors. On the second song, “Twelve on Sunday,” I use a nylon string Ovation and no other instrument. It’s just me and my guitar. The other songs were recorded with a full band and incorporate edgy rock elements, varying from one song to the next. They all tell a story that is meaningful to me lyrically.


Q: Who are some of your influences and how can we see this in your music?


A: I admire anyone who writes well-crafted songs from Cole Porter to many contemporary writers you hear on the radio today, in all genres. Of course, I have my preferences, writers who combine lyrics and music in a very unique way, and happen to be amazing musicians and singers or performers, some of which are now classics in my mind: Billy Joel, Freddie Mercury, Paul McCartney, Sting, Eminem, Snoop Dogg,…etc.


I am a big fan of Billy Idol, B.B. King, Katy Perry, Elvis Presley, Pink, Avril Lavigne, Celine Dion, Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, Pat Benatar, Eric Clapton, Jay Z, Beyoncé, etc… so the list is quite long and eclectic. Add to that classical composers like Bach, Chopin and Liszt, to name only a few, and the list of influences becomes endless.


Hopefully, my songs reflects my openness to music in general and, over time, I hope to share more and more of my discovering different genres and what I find exciting when I listen to other writers and performers.


If there is a second universal language, beside love, it would be music, in my humble opinion. Bringing people together through songs and music is a fantastic opportunity to “make the world a better place.” That may sound a bit idealistic of course. To me, bringing people together means being open and looking forward to hearing something new and different. Perhaps it’s an offshoot of the New York City cultural melting pot model. When you think about it, New York City brings together such various groups of people in a very peaceful way compared to places in the world where much less cultural variety seem to be more threatening to some groups of people. I would say that one of my overall messages is “keep an open mind.”


Q: What do you look for in the people that you collaborate with?


A: A completely different view point and approach to what I do. Lots of creativity and skills I don’t have.


Otherwise, I would run around in circles. I do my best to challenge myself and “think outside my little box, the one between my ears,” but it’s a lot of fun when you have the opportunity to include other artists and share knowledge and experiences.






Q: What has been the most successful thing you have done to promote your music?


A: Working with Star1 Records and MTS Management Group has been amazing. Laura Patterson, the head of Star1 Records has a fantastic team. Sherry works with College Radio stations and over 100 of them are playing songs from the EP “Rising Tide,” which was released on December 1st, 2016.


Michael Stover (MTS Management Group) has lined up great interviews like this one. It has been the perfect example of team work from day one. I am forever grateful for the energy and time they are dedicating to the promotion of “Rising Tide.”


Laura has brought Chris Purcell on board to create and direct a video of “You Got Away,” the third cut on the EP. Chris is both a very talented director and animator. I am very excited about the concept he came up with and I look forward to presenting the video to people. A great video can be a powerful promotional tool.


Q: What has been the least successful?


A: I have dabbled with some of the well-known Internet social sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, etc…


I think I have much to learn to use them effectively. I look forward to that challenge in the coming months. These sites are great. I just need to do my homework.


Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your music?


I have hopped from office jobs to office jobs, either managing projects for marketing companies or insurance companies.


Seven years ago my mom passed away after battling breast cancer. She left me a little bit of money and some wise words: “Time passes faster than we think.”


So, I decided to save up as much money as possible and cut down on my expenses. I have a very tiny studio in Manhattan. I don’t have a car, I don’t have cable, and I don’t buy anything I don’t need. I also have a very generous aunt who helps out as much as she can. She bought me my first guitar, and my second guitar as well.


I quit working a year ago altogether to dedicate myself to making music for as long as I possibly can, living off my savings. I hope at some point I can generate enough income to support myself. As with any small business though, the first years are expenses after expenses and very little income.


I love that I can dedicate myself to writing and recording songs, and be available for interviews and supporting the promotion of my debut EP, Rising Tide.


It’s a big leap of faith.



Q: What is your creative process?


A: Stitching and sewing.


I practice guitar and sing every day. Part of the practice time is dedicated to pure improvisation and during that time I occasionally hear some musical ideas that I like. I record the ideas on a small Olympus Digital Voice Recorder and keep on going. Every few days I listen back to what I have recorded. I have tons of them. When one really catches my attention and keeps coming back to my mind I dedicate time to it on a daily basis to see where it wants to go.


I also write a lot of lyrics. Some of them were put to music by other artists. I collect words that I think I could use eventually.


I find that music leads the way, sometimes immediately associated to lyrics or a lyrical idea or an image that I translate to words. Most of the time I look for lyrics in my collection that could go well with a musical idea. When I start with a “finished” lyric I am rarely happy with the result. I need to get better at that. Some people can do it super well.


Then the process gets tedious as I go back and forth between the music and lyrics, that’s the stitching and sewing, if you will.


I get to what I feel is a finished product at some point and start recording a guitar and vocal track.


Then there is more listening and fine tuning. It’s really the song that tells me when it’s done. If I can listen to it from beginning to end without “stopping myself,” then it’s done. Sometimes my mind stops over and over at the same place in the song and it can take a long time to figure out why.


Some parts of the song come out just right and I never question them. I never stop while I listen to these parts. I couldn’t tell you why either.


I wish I could just pick up my guitar, turn on the recorder, sing and play and have a whole song come out all at once. A good one of course. Done! That would be great. Hasn’t happened yet.


Q: What is the overall theme of Rising Tide?


A: “Rising Tide” is both the title of the first song on the EP, and the title of the EP.


I would say the overall theme of the EP is “standing for yourself and others.” By yourself, or with others. It’s a theme I like as we all face challenges in life. How we deal with challenges is very revealing of who we are. We learn from each one of them. And no matter what happens, we have to get back up on our feet, should the outcome be disappointing. Sometimes we are elated by unexpected positive results. Either way.


One thing I believe we realize pretty quickly is that nothing can be achieved by one individual alone, as much as society glorifies “individual achievements,” there is no individual achievement. Nothing good or bad is achieved by one person.


We should be aware of what we stand for and why, who we influence, who influences us, knowingly or unknowingly so.


There is a famous statement and provocative poem that I think illustrate this perfectly. It was written by Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis‘ rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group. It is titled “First they came …”


“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.


Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.


Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.


Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”


Martin Niemöller


It’s easy to follow without questioning. Keep an open mind but question everything.


For the song “Rising Tide,” I experienced missing someone in my life and the emotion was so powerful that it brought to mind how no one can stop the tide when it comes in.


You may be able to fight a fire, but rising waters will rise until they stop on their own. The feeling of being on an island and watching water rising around you while you stand on the last piece of ground reflected my state of mind. Especially in this case, where I did not know how the other person felt. It added to the loneliness of the experience and the need to keep going.


Q: If you could ask any famous folk singer in history a question, who would you ask and what would you ask him or her?


A: I would ask Bob Dylan if he would be willing to collaborate on a song. That is, if he would allow me to sit quietly while I watch and listen. I’d go get coffee every now and then.


 Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.



An Interview With Singer Aleisha Simpson




Aleisha Simpson is the lead singer for the band Heart Avail; here is a link to their self titled  album:



Q: When did you know you wanted to be a musician?


A:  I’ve known I wanted to be a musician since the 8th grade. I was in choir and was being tested on some music theory. I started singing and the whole class went quiet and my music teacher put me in the select choir that day. I was a really shy kid so getting that kind of attention and realizing I was really good at something, changed my life.


Q: Why heavy metal?


A: I think we are considered more symphonic metal then heavy since we have the operatic vocals instead of screaming. Honestly I always figured I would end up doing music like Sarah McLachlan or Sarah Brightman. I play piano and that’s how I began composing music. But once I met Greg, I knew I had finally found my nitch. Greg writes really symphonic and complex pieces that somehow are perfectly fit to my voice and range.

Since our first attempt at songwriting I knew I never wanted to go back to just being a classically trained singer. I love the challenge that each new piece presents and makes me go outside of my musical box.


Q: Who are your biggest musical influences and how can we hear it in your music?


A: Heart Avail is very heavily influenced by European rock. Bands like Nightwish and WithinTemptation are some of our biggest influences as they also do really strong operatic vocals with a heavy symphonic instrumental sound. The U.S. hasn’t quite adopted this form of music yet with the exception of Evanescence. When I heard my first Evanescence song, I was instantly hooked. Greg and I defintiley follow the style of our fellow female fronted European bands and since we intend on traveling there we think this works out just fine for us J


Q: What kinds of life experiences do you like to write about?


A: Oh gosh, we have had so many. Honestly some of my favorite experiences are meeting other bands and our fans. This last tour we did for New Year’s Eve was one of our most memorable for sure. We met up with LaRissa Vienna and the Strange, another female fronted rock band that I had been trying to get together with for a year. They got signed with our management company to which I was thrilled and so we finally got to meet these guys on December 30. And it was amazing; the bands had instant chemistry with each other and were totally supportive of every member. It’s so rare that you meet bands that not only have talent but are humble and in that band, we found both. The bands danced with each other, stayed up together, had breakfast in the morning, we all talked to our fans and treated them in a thankful manor and just showed such a sense of comradery that I left tour with a full heart.  Our New Year’s Eve was brought in with style and full celebration together and I couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend it.

That’s just one of the many experiences but it’s the one freshest in my mind and honestly one of the best moments of my musical career.


Q:  Who is your biggest musical influence and how can we hear it in your music?


A: I think this is a repeat of question three but I will see who my biggest musical influence in my life was my grandfather. When I was a little girl I used to sit at the guitar with my grandpa. He would write and play music for me and those moments were always so special. When he died I knew that I had to continue on the legacy and make him proud.


Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your music?


A: I currently work at a drug and alcohol treatment center for teen girls. For me personally, music isn’t just about getting my music out there. Musicians have the ability to have a huge impact on the world around them and that has always been my goal. I want to inspire these girls that no matter how hard their circumstances and no matter what they have been through, that they can live their dream. I want to give them hope that they can get past this addiction; they can live a better life, a life that is full of promise and hope and has so much beauty in it. In our music, a lot of our lyrics are inspired by loss and depression and conquering both of these things. I want that, I want to inspire everyone around me, that they can overcome anything.


Q: You are a female fronted heavy metal band. Have you had to deal with much sexism?


A: Oh yeah. I started out this sweet innocent girl with big dreams and a view that everyone is good and wants you to succeed, which people instantly tried to crush so I had to become much harder. Unfortunately if you don’t take shit from people, you are instantly labeled a bitch. If a guy is rough and a jerk to people, he’s metal as hell, but if a girl doesn’t take shit from anyone and runs her band like a business, we get the “bitch” label. The problem is when you aren’t a female who takes off her clothes in music and refuses to be pushed around; you have to work even harder to get people to listen to you. To me, just because I’m a girl, it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be treated as an equal in rock. I’m not going to start bawling in the middle of a set, or throw tantrums, like I’ve seen a lot of my fellow male musicians do, and yet there is always this stigma that girls just aren’t as good. It’s always funny to see the look of shock on people’s faces when they hear us for the first time. Yes I’m wearing a dress and my hair is curled and I just rocked your face off, get over it. My fans know I love and appreciate them and I didn’t have to sleep with anyone to get where I am and I am really proud of that.


Q: What is the song, “Broken Fairytale” about?


A: “Broken Fairytale” was written in the middle of a very bad breakup. When I was little I had this dream that I would meet a prince on a black, not white horse that would come rescue me and we would live happily ever after. Unfortunately, that prince never came and each one that came a long crushed a little more of my heart. So when Greg presented me with the music of Broken Fairytale we discussed how we wanted a really happy instrumental sounding piece with really dark lyrics. So I made my own fairytale out of the lyrics. Broken Fairytale is a metaphor for a broken relationship that almost destroyed me and a warning to girls who try and stay in destructive relationships.


Q:  What have you done to promote yourselves?


A: The first thing I realized about music was that no one is out looking for you. In other words I had to find every outlet possible to get our music heard because I believe we have a good product worth “selling”. So I began to search for podcast radio stations, online magazines, anyone who said they were looking for Indie artists I sent music to, no matter how big or small those companies were. It took a lot of time, I no longer have a social life, lol, and sacrifice, but we began to get noticed and approached by companies instead of me approaching them. When we got offered opportunities to hang out with people in the industry and get pointers on how to be better musicians, we took those opportunities no matter how much money they cost because we want to be the best musicians and band we can possibly be. We have run an 8 week radio campaign with our single “Broken Fairytale” and it topped online charts for 10 months. We then did a 3 month press campaign with Asher Media Relations where he got us published worldwide and we released our first 5 song EP with on iTunes through our distribution label, Milagro records. We also played at Sundance Film Festival last year and spent 10 days there networking with people and also went to Nashville, and California to meet up with industry people as well. In other words, a whole heck of a lot. I am promoting our band 24/7.


Q:  What is your most horrible music industry story?


A: Uhhhh. This year we got invited to attend a music conference in Nashville Tennessee with the intent on meeting people in the industry who wanted to teach musicians how to succeed in the music industry. We were told we were handpicked and that our music would be distributed to labels, radio stations, sponsors etc. but we had to pay to get to Nashville. So we bought our plane tickets, booked our hotels and Greg, my manager Kim K. Jones and I flew to Nashville. The first thing we saw was this “Christian” based event had jacked up parking to $25 a day just for their lot. We then got into the building and registered for the classes we wanted to take. And so began the four day conference. During this conference everyone was pretty much told, you are not good enough in the music industry, its evil and the only way you can succeed as a musician is if you donate your talent to “God” oh and pay this guy or that guy money so he can make you a better musician. Everything involved large amounts of money that was musicians were expected to pay and then told they needed to preach to people about the grace of God…….one guy insisted if you paid him $400 you could be as good as Taylor Swift. Each speaker told horrible stories of how they had lived, and really really bad stories that just made you feel dirty and then a speaker would get up and say and I quote “None of you are going to be good enough to make it in the music industry but God will take you. “ Bands had traveled from all over the world for this event to be told, you aren’t good enough. It was horrible and discouraging as hell and we left angry. Luckily my manager salvaged the trip by introducing us to an incredible guy with an amazing music studio and we did have a good time once we realized we did not want anything to do with this company and in fact skipped the last two days so that we could just tour Nashville, which is cool as hell fyi.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.