Archive | September, 2012

The Jessica Prouty Band: All Grown Up

18 Sep

Jessica Prouty Band (Photo by Merina Zeller)

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

While four of the five members of the Jessica Prouty Band aren’t old enough to legally enjoy a cocktail, they’re finally able to play at clubs after spending the last five years performing throughout the northeast at family-friendly events, such as theaters, fairs, school programs and charity gatherings.

“Those were great experiences, so we’ve really been able to enjoy the whole spectrum of entertainment,” said the band’s namesake, lead vocalist and bassist, Jessica Prouty, 18.

This winter, the Boston-based rock band plans to hit the studio to begin recording a fourth album. At the moment, they’re working on arranging music to lyrics Prouty has written, plus juggling the responsibility of being college students, as Prouty, along with the band’s two guitarists and backup vocalists, Cody Nilsen, 19, and Aaron Shuman, 22, are studying at Boston’s Berklee College of Music.

“It definitely is difficult, but we’re planning regular weekly practices over at the Berklee Fordham facility, and we’re really putting the band right up there in priority with our schoolwork,” said Prouty, who is majoring in music business. Nilsen is studying professional music, while Shuman has taken up contemporary writing and production.

“It’s helped us musically, too. I didn’t have a strong music theory background walking into Berklee and after my first year I’ve learned so much.”

They hope to apply what they’ve learned to their new album, which will be produced by Brian Maes, who fronts his own band, as well as performs with Ernie and the Automatics as lead vocalist and keyboardist. Prouty met Maes before she formed her band at a summer garage band camp he operated.

After camp, Maes contacted her and praised her original recordings, some of which she composed on her own, and others she wrote with her former band, Undecided Youth.

“He said, ‘Wow, you have some really good songs,’” said Prouty.

Maes then asked her if she would consider using his local studio to record an album under his record label, Briola Records. She discussed it with her parents and took him up in his offer.

“At that point, we started making a CD,” she said. “I didn’t want session players – I really wanted to have a band because I missed it so much.”

From there, she asked fellow camper and keyboardist, Andy Covino, 17, to join her. She also approached a few former members of Undecided Youth, including drummer Cam Pelkey, 19, who has been friends with Prouty since third grade.

Pelkey jumped at the chance and hasn’t looked back.

“Just being able to talk music and spend time with these guys has been the best experience of my life,” he said.

Shuman, the newest band member, who joined in May, agrees. Prouty met him in a shared course at Berklee.

“I love playing out and hanging out with these guys,” he said. “We get a lot of playing time, which I love. It’s everything a musician could want.”

The addition of a second guitarist, Prouty said, has enriched the band beyond her

expectations. The rest of the band concurs.

“It’s brought such a full sound to the whole project,” she said. “We can do so much more now.”

Through the course of their career, the band has won several battle of the band competitions. A few of the most notable include the 2012 Ryan J. Lariviere Battle of the Bands event, where they earned several prizes, as well as the honor of playing at the New England Music Awards at the Lowell Auditorium in Massachusetts this April, plus funding to record their album.

Additionally, they won second place in the NAMM-sponsored nationwide SchoolJamUSA contest in California at Downtown Disney. There, Prouty received the title of “Best Vocalist,” while Pelkey earned the title of “Best Drummer.”

Further, they were named “Band of the Year” at the 2012 Limelight Music Awards, along with runner up for “Best Live Act” and “Best Female Vocalist.” They performed at the event as well.

“That was so much fun,” Prouty said. “It was a cool experience. We have the awards hanging up at home.”

Aside from all their accolades, their original songs have been played on multiple radio stations, such as Boston’s 92.5 The River, WFNX, WAAF, WATD, Pixy 103, WBRU, Cool 102, WTOS, and 106.3 The Bone.

They hope their new album will garnish them with more airplay, but for now they are focusing on completing the music.

“Cody and I are working on the bare bones of a song and then the rest of the band will finish the piece,” Prouty said. “I think that’s how it’s going to work for the rest of the songs, as well. It’s been going really cool so far.”

To learn more about the band, visit jessicaprouty.com.

Repost – Jensen says success is the best revenge

12 Sep

(The following story was originally posted on our website on Jan. 13, 2012. Due to the heavy traffic to this site following Jillian Jensen’s appearance on tonight’s episode of the “X-Factor,” we’ve put it on our homepage as a convenience to our readers.)

Jillian Jensen

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

“Music is my life,” said singer/songwriter Jillian Jensen, 19, who in February is set to release a three-song demo, which she said features some of her most personal compositions.

She will also perform acoustic versions of her new material at the fifth annual Limelight Magazine Music Award Show at Firehouse 13 in Providence on March 10.

“Getting to play is so cool and I’m excited that I get to be there with a bunch of talented artists,” she said. “I like being able to listen to their stories.”

But Jensen has a story of her own to tell and said she’s thinking about releasing a single this month, “From the Outside.” The song offers an intimate glimpse of a time she was bullied at school during her younger years.

When she was in junior high, she said she witnessed a schoolmate make a “bad choice” that was harmful to him and those around him. Wanting to help, she informed school officials. Shortly after, prank phone calls, cyber bullying and verbal harassment ensued.

“I was tortured and called, ‘tattletale,’ and ‘snitch,’”  Jensen said. “I was so confused and used to cry myself to sleep. I didn’t know how to cope.”

Not wanting to worry them, Jensen didn’t tell her parents of the situation. Through it all, she said she kept a smile on her face and pretended everything was fine.

“I guess that was the pageant side of me,” said Jensen, who began competing in beauty pageants as a toddler and won the title of Little Miss Talent New England before she turned two.

Nevertheless, her parents found out about the tormenting and transferred her to another school, as they noticed their daughter was depressed and isolated. She said getting away from it helped her grow.

“I learned that you can’t stop what every one else is saying but you can change how you deal with it,” said Jensen. “Now, I’m more vocal about it.”

Because of the experience, Jensen wants to support children and teens struggling with feeling alone and under attack. Through her music and website at jillianjensen.weebly.com, she hopes to lend her wisdom on the topic to others and help them overcome the abuse, teaching them to turn negatives to positives.

“People can contact me privately so they can talk and hear firsthand from someone that’s been through it,” she said.

Oddly, Jensen said some of the people who bullied her often attempt to add her as a “friend” on Facebook and other social media networks. She simply ignores them and believes “success is the greatest revenge.”

“Instead of worrying about what people think of you, you should be thinking about how to better yourself,” said Jensen. “If you get to where you want to be it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks.”

Not only does Jensen hope to help people with her music, she also wants to entertain them. When onstage, there’s no place she’d rather be.

“I feel at home onstage and putting a smile on someone’s face keeps me going,” she said. “I want people to feel my music so much that they can’t help but smile or cry because they just get it.”

It’s no surprise Jensen is at ease when performing, as she participated in several pageants through the years and won the contest for Miss Massachusetts Teen America 2007; the South Coast Idol winner 2006; and the Burt Wood Idol in 2006 and 2004.

Additionally, she was chosen out of 3,700 applicants as one of 150 to compete in the U.S.A. Talent Show Case in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2004. There, she earned first place in acting and placed in the top 20 best performers.

These days, she no longer takes part in pageants but is grateful for the opportunity.

“I had to be very proper and meticulous and that’s exactly what I didn’t want to be,” said Jensen. “But they are awesome outlets for people to gain scholarships and make friends. I enjoyed the community service aspect of them, too.”

She also got an education in performing when at the age of 16 she auditioned for American Idol, a reality television singing show that began airing on FOX in 2002. In August, she also performed on the morning talk and variety show, ABC’s LIVE! with Regis and Kelly, as one of two backup singers for former leader of the Pussycat Dolls, Nicole Scherzinger, who serves as a judge for FOX’s X-Factor, a show similar to American Idol.

Further, Jensen learned a lot about being a team player when she sang with the Varsity Girls, a Mattapoisett-based teen girl group.

“It taught me how to give my input and how to listen to others,” she said. “Being solo, I get to do my own music and it’s a good feeling because it’s my own. I know what I was feeling when I wrote it and I don’t have to create emotion for it. Instead, it comes naturally.”

But Jensen is also sharing her musical knowledge, too, as she teaches music composition, guitar and piano. While she first picked up guitar before her second birthday, she began dabbling on piano when she was six.

“I would take anything I heard and learn it from ear,” she said. “It was something that just came naturally to me.”

Now, she also plays bass, drums, violin, saxophone and ukulele, most of which will be featured in her new music. She described her style as a mix of “everything” and is looking forward to releasing the album.

“I’m really excited about it,” said Jensen.

Headspace release debut album, embark on tour

11 Sep

Headspace

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

Headspace, a British progressive rock band consisting of five best friends, including keyboardist Adam Wakeman, just kicked-off a U.K. tour in support of their debut album, “I Am Anonymous.” It follows their 2006 EP “I Am….,” which was recorded just in time for the band to earn the honor of opening for Ozzy Osbourne during the European leg of Ozzy’s 2007 Black Rain tour.

In a recent e-mail interview, Wakeman, son of former YES keyboardist Rick Wakeman, said Headspace is excited about performing again after spending the last five years writing and recording their full-length album. They are thrilled to be getting the chance not only to perform, but to also reconnect with one another.

“The writing took place over many years purely because of our individual schedules,” Wakeman said. “I was on tour most of 2007/8 and 2010/11 with Ozzy, so a lot was done by sending ideas back and forth. I am very lucky to spend a lot of time with bands such as Ozzy’s or Sabbath and many other artists I really enjoy, I just felt that I never actually got to see some of my older friends and this gave us the opportunity to get together and work as a band on something for ourselves. This band is the sum of its five parts and everyone’s input is essential.”

The Headspace line-up includes Wakeman, plus Damian Wilson on vocals, drummer Richard Brook, bassist Lee Pomeroy, and guitarist Pete Rinaldi. Wakeman said he and Rinaldi got together as often as possible to collaborate and sent the rest of the band what they worked on so they could add their parts.

“Damian wrote all the lyrics and the majority of the melodies, plus a few acoustic sections, too,” said Wakeman. “‘Soldier’ was a finished song he bought to the table, but it was too ‘folky’ with major chords, so I just got him to sing the melody and played some different chords to make it fit with the band.”

From there, the album continued to evolve. During the process, Wilson and Rinaldi came up with the idea for a concept album, which encourages the listener to ponder his or her relationship with humanity and the mental battles he or she endures.

Wakeman said the concept can be analyzed by showing the connection with The Kübler-Ross model, commonly known as The Five Stages of Grief, a hypothesis introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ book, On Death and Dying.

“The Soldier in our story is reflecting on emotions from coming back from war and struggling to understand Man’s inhumanity to fellow Man,” said Wakeman. “He is also questioning religion in ‘In Hell’s Name,’ and in ‘The Big Day,’ he ends up on a plane on its final journey. ‘Heads were bowed – Hand’s clenched with fear,’ draws a beautiful image of people in the ‘brace’ position. Are they praying or just ‘bracing’ for the crash? At a time like that no one knows what’s going through your head. Is the search for a God futile and pointless, or is that where it begins?”

As is often the case with most prog-rock bands, many of the album tracks are lengthy, as one is 15 minutes long, and at least four others hover around 10 minutes. There are eight songs on the album.

“We don’t ever have any preconceived ideas about song length,” Wakeman said. “We had lots of time to reflect on sections and whole songs, and we recorded the whole album first to make sure it worked musically and lyrically. Then we re-recorded everything again.”

Wakeman said the experience was fulfilling and highlighted attributes of each of his band mates, noting that they are the “most talented musicians I know, and the people I would choose to spend time with, if I actually had any free time.”

Aside from their musical talents, he said Rinaldi brings clarity to a lot of situations and helps him with the business dealings for the band. Also, they have their comical sides, as well.

“Because we all know each other so well, there’s a lot of humor involved when we’re all together,” said Wakeman. “Lee and Rich are great fun to be around and Damo is the most random character I know, which is why he’s so good as a front man.”

Wakeman went on to say that some of the situations Damo gets into on tour are quite interesting, to say the least. He anticipates the remainder of their current tour to be no different.

“He was once late for a recording session at my studio because he was arrested on a bus after being wrongly pointed out as a robber,” Wakeman said. “Another time, he was thrown out of a bar and arrested for someone else starting a bar fight [and was] released with no charge. He just seems to find himself in the most bizarre situations.”

Touring with Ozzy, he said, is just as entertaining, as well as enjoyable.

“Ozzy is a true, old school rock royalty in my book,” Wakeman said. “He has the utmost respect for people and is the most genuine, honest person I know. What you see is what you get and that’s pretty rare in anyone and almost extinct in the music business.”

Another well-known musician in Wakeman’s life is, of course, his father. Having a highly talented keyboardist/composer like Rick Wakeman as a dad has put a bit of pressure on him, yet, he has developed his own notoriety through the years.

“When I was young and we toured and recorded albums together, there were people who just said, ‘He’s only doing that because his dad’s Rick Wakeman,’” he said. “But once I got a bit older and worked with a lot of other artists, I think people realize that I have my own career.”
He also said he father was and continues to be a huge inspiration.

“He’s the person I call with questions about the business that I need advice on, because chances are he has come across it in his long career,” Wakeman said. “I appreciate YES a lot more now than when I was younger. I swapped my YES albums for a football when I was eight.”

For Wakeman, he’s just grateful to be a musician. He said he loves being able to jump from one project to another so he never gets bored.

“I recently finished a film score for a British indie film called “Nothing Man” and then went straight on tour with Ozzy and Friends for the summer,” he said. “Then it was lots of press for the Headspace shows and album, and a recording session with a singer/writer from Nashville.

I have friends who gave up touring to just be writers or producers, but I know that I would really miss touring if I were to stop doing it. You can never replace the feeling of playing in front of a crowd and seeing people really enjoying a show.”

To learn more about Headspace or find out how to purchase their music, visit headspaceonline.com.

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