Category Archives: National Artists

Ani DiFranco hopes to make a connection through her music

This story originally appeared as an online exlcusive in the fall of 2009.

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

After playing at Bonnaroo, Rothbury, and Mile High Music festivals this summer, Ani DiFranco began a fall U.S. tour in September and will take the stage at New Bedford’s Zeiterion Performing Arts Center on Nov. 14th. If you’re familiar with her music, it should be no surprise her new album, “Red Letter Year,” is filled with political rants and love songs, but it is also one of her most joyous records yet.

 “There’s a certain kind of contentment underlying the whole album,” said DiFranco. “The place that I have to sing from now is on more stable grounds than before.”

 The album starts out with the events of Hurricane Katrina and how she feels there have been many positive changes in America since the disastrous storm.

  “There’s been this huge transformation going on in society,” DiFranco said. “Now we have Barrack Obama in the White House as opposed to George Bush. It sort of represents the return of democracy to the American people.”

DiFranco said her personal life has undergone several transformations as well, as she moved to a new city, got married, and had a daughter.

“I live in New Orleans now and have a family now,” she said. “I think whenever I feel a resonance between my personal life and the life of my society, a lot of songs come out of that.”

Interestingly enough, her husband, Mike Napolitano, co-produced her new album.

 “Working with him is terrific,” said DiFranco. “A big part of the sound of ‘Red Letter Year’ has to do with him and his production prowess.”

DiFranco said it’s a rare luxury for her to have someone in the studio with her producing her music.

 “Usually I’m on my own making records, so it was really terrific for me to have somebody better than me at recording and production,” she said. “He’s someone I really trust and rely on in the studio and I can just focus on being the artist and not have to sit back and be objective at the same time.”

DiFranco wasn’t kidding when she said she is used to making records on her own. In fact, she started her very own record label, Righteous Babe Records, when she first began her music career.

 “That decision came along very early on for me because I was always a very idealist person,” DiFranco said. “When I was very young, I started to get interest from labels because I was kind of getting a thing going on my own and I was building an audience and creating a buzz.”

DiFranco said small labels approached her at first and then major labels began contacting her.

 “I met some of these people and I talked to them and I realized very early that I have a deep seeded loathing for capitalism and what it does to society and art,” DiFranco said.

She said not signing with a label was about not participating in a hyper capitalistic society.

 “I find it dehumanizing and numbing.” DiFranco said. “Beyond that, I didn’t have a grand plan of how I was going to do it. I was just taking it a day at a time.”

DiFranco said she still takes life one day at a time and one show at a time.

 “I stay present and in the moment,” she said. “I don’t regurgitate my banter, I just walk out on stage and I react to the moment. That for me is what performance is about.”

She said it’s hard to tell her fans what they can expect from her at a show because it changes from night to night.

 “I change my set list up as often as I can,” she said. “I’ve got a bunch of new songs that are unrecorded songs I’ve been work-shopping onstage.”

Sharing her music with her fans is very important to her and she said she feels very fulfilled by aveling town to town, giving her songs to people.

“Music is a social act and I find it very inspiring,” she said. “To get together with a bunch of strangers in a room and make that connection through music is very profound. It uplifts us all and makes me feel less alienated and less alone. ”

DiFranco said she has received many letters over the years saying how her music has helped fans through hard times.

 “It’s always striking for me because it does that for me too,” she said.

After over 20 years of making music, DiFranco said she continues to love what she does.

“I have the coolest job going and I’m lucky to have it,” she said. “I still have the will to write poetry and figure out my world and my place in it. I just try to stay grateful. As long as I am, people will meet me there.”

Marianne Faithfull: Keeping the faith

This story originally appeared as an online exclusive in the fall of 2009.

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

With a new album released this past November, the legendary Marianne Faithfull is on a US tour that will hit the Zeiterion Theatre in New Bedford on September 26

 “I’ve already played in America and it went very well,” said Faithfull. “Now I’m back to do a proper tour.”

The album, “Easy Come, Easy Go,” consists of 12 cover songs the music icon handpicked herself, including The Decemberists’ “The Crane Wife 3,” Espers’ “Children Of Stone,” Morrissey’s “Dear God Please Help Me.”

“I love the record and I’m very proud of it,” she said. “I want to help it as much as I can which is why I’m touring so much.”

Faithfull said she is very excited about touring and has the rhythm section from the album on tour with her.

“I’ve got a wonderful band,” she said. “We have a beautiful set list. We did it all summer through my tour of Europe. I’m really happy to get the chance to do this in America too.”

She said she chose to do a covers album because she has had a bit of trouble writing new material but was ready to get in the studio to record and take it on the road.

“I wasn’t able to write recently,” said Faithfull. “I’m a bit dried up for the moment, but hopefully I’ll get it back.”

In the meantime, producer Hal Willner worked with her on the compilation album.

“Hal and I did a record like that before called, ‘Strange Weather,’ but it was very different than this one,” Faithfull said. “So, we thought we’d do another.”

In addition to working with Willner, Faithfull also had Sean Lennon play on ‘Easy Come, Easy Go.’

“He plays guitar and sings on, ‘Give You Pleasure,’” she said. “He’s a very good guitarist. John would be very proud.”

Another musician Faithfull said she got the chance to record with on her new album was her “guitar playing friend” Keith Richards.

“It was wonderful working with Keith on this record,” Faithfull said. “He worked with me on a Burl Ives song, ‘Sing Me Back Home.’ Keith’s a great guy.”

Faithfull originally hooked up with Richards and The Rolling Stones back in the 1960s when they wrote her the song. “As Tears Go By.During that time, she said it was difficult being a woman in the music industry.

“It was very hard to be a female in rock n roll in the 60’s because there was a lot of misogyny,” Faithfull said. “I don’t think it’s quite as bad now, but it must be still there.”

She said she does not feel the same kind of pressure she used to feel mainly because she does not let it bother her anymore.

“When I was young it affected me a lot,” she said. “But I wasn’t alone and I got through it. There were more than a few highly intelligent, very honest, interesting female singers out there with me.”

Faithfull grouped herself in with artists like Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, and Carole King.

“I somehow go along in there,” she said. “You could actually be yourself and not make yourself a construct for the pleasure and delight of men. That’s a freedom. We’ve carved out a new sort of niche.”

She said her all time favorite female singer is Billie Holiday and she paid a tribute to Holiday on “Easy Come, Easy Go” by covering the classic song “Solitude.”

“I just love everything about her,” Faithfull said. “I love her voice and I love the mood she can create.”

Faithfull can create moods all her own whether she is singing or acting.

“I love acting,” she said.

She has played characters such as Ophelia from “Hamlet,” God, and even the Devil.

“I played the Devil in ‘Black Rider,’ a musical play written by William S. Burroughs with music and songs by Tom Waits and directed by Robert Wilson,” she said. “That was wonderful.”

One thing she said wasn’t wonderful was the process of writing her autobiography, ‘Faithfull.’

“I wrote one real autobiography and it was very difficult,” she said. “The other one I wrote was more of a memoir and it’s much less depressing.”

She said although her personal life has overshadowed her career in the past, it doesn’t overshadow it now because she has made it that way.

“I don’t see myself as a victim,” she said. “It’s tempting fall into the role of the victim because it’s easy, but that’s not a good idea. Never stay a victim-ever.”

Not only has she fought to move beyond her mistakes of the past, including drug addiction, Faithfull is a cancer survivor.

“I’m very pleased to be a survivor because I’ve turned it all around,” she said.  “I think I’ve won actually. I’m a winner as well as a survivor.”

She said she continues to have a positive outlook on life and is happy to be where she is in her career.

“I’ve always thought that the point of being a survivor is to turn it into something really good,” Faithfull said. “If I can do it anyone can.”

Although rumors have been flying about her retiring, she said she is not ready to give up singing.

“Sometimes I say I’d like to retire and I do think about it but I don’t really mean it,” laughed Faithfull. “I’ll get there at some point, but not yet.”

When she is not on tour, Faithfull resides in both Paris and Ireland.

The Bangles begin recording a new album

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2009 issue of Limelight Magazine

By GEORGE AUSTIN

Back in the 1980s, when they were exploding onto the music scene with songs like “Walk Like An Egyptian” and “Manic Monday,” members of the Bangles were being asked if they were starting a new trend with all-female rock bands.

Despite their considerable success, the women rock group thing never really took off. Vicki Peterson, guitarist/vocalist for The Bangles, says it’s still a mystery to her why more women did not form their own bands after that. She said she does not know if she should blame the music industry or she wonders if The Bangles and The Go Gos were just not big enough precedent setters.

But The Bangles, who also include Vicki’s sister Debbi, the drummer, vocalist/guitarist Susanna Hoffs and vocalist/bassist Annette Zilinskas, since having had families, are still around, playing concerts and are working on a new album.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” Peterson said in a telephone interview. “There’s a very nice dynamic when women play together. It’s different than when women and men play together. It’s different than when all men play together. It’s a different attitude.”

The Bangles recently started recording a new album and they are going about the process differently than in the past. Instead of taking a collection of 40 songs and going into the studio, they are kind of making it up as they go along. Peterson said The Bangles are growing the album as they record it and doing some experimentation with the music.

“In the end, it will sound like a Bangles record,” Peterson said. “There will be lots of jaggly guitars and lots of harmonies.”

Peterson said today’s state-of-the-art technology makes it possible for the band to make an album that way and it also weighs less on their family lives. She is not sure when the new album will come out, maybe by the end of the year, but she said the band is working steady on it. But the days when they would spend 24/7 on The Bangles as they did in the 1980s are over.

“Probably the biggest change is the double-edged sword in that we’ve structured the band, so it’s viable for us to do as mothers with children,” Peterson said.

Peterson said the demise of the band in 1989 had come because they could not sustain their work schedules and needed separate lives. And they are content with the way their lives are now.

“We’re not expecting to be big stars anymore,” Peterson said. “We’re not as concerned with radio hits. We just want to continue to put on good shows.”

Peterson said it is also not as expensive to record an album nowadays. They do not have a record company involved with their new album and Peterson said The Bangles may go back to their own label, called Down Kiddie, that they used in the beginning back in 1981.

Peterson said “it is about bloody time” for a new album.

Peterson said she has very eclectic tastes when it comes to the music she likes to listen to, from Bonnie Raitt to World Cafe to music of the 1920s.

The members of The Bangles also do a lot of charity work. They have done several events to raise money to find a cure for breast cancer. Peterson has designed a bra to go along with that work. They have an ongoing fund raiser on their web site for Doctors Without Borders and they also do a lot to help schools.

Peterson said the band has been active, just not actively recording lately. The Bangles have been out playing regularly in recent years. They’ve toured Europe, Australia and Japan. They are playing a few shows, but are not doing a full concert tour at this time. They played the House of Blues in Boston on May 27.

Peterson said she thinks the band will be playing some of their new songs at the shows, but promises the audiences they will hear the familiar material from the ‘80s, as well.

“If you come to a Bangles show, you’re going to hear at least one of your favorite Bangles songs,” Peterson said.

Sarah Borges: The transition from alt country to pop rock

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2009 issue of Limelight Magazine

By GEORGE AUSTIN

If you knew the music of Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles before, you would think of alt country and Americana. But that is not what her latest album sounds like. Borges and her band have gone toward a more pop rock genre.

“This new record has a lot less country,” Borges said. “There’s a lot less pedals and steel guitar. It sounds like our band and it definitely sounds like us, but there’s no pedal or steel. Even taking that away lends a different sound to it.”

Borges said the band decided to go a different direction on the album, called “The Stars Are Out,” because when she and the Broken Singles toured, they saw what worked well. Their performances are very energetic and they wanted to reflect that on the CD. And so far, it seems that trying to translate the live show to the recording has worked. Borges said the album has done really well and the band is playing a lot of shows behind it.

The song “Do It For Free” has gotten radio play. Borges wrote about creepy men in bars.

“There’s so many men songs written about women, so I decided to turn it around a little bit,” Borges said.

The album has five original songs and five covers. There’s a Smokey Robinson song on the CD called “Being With You.”

“That’s a song a lot of people know, but we did our version of it,” Borges said. “We’re so excited to be showcasing that one, too.”

Borges had grown up in the small city of Taunton in southeastern Massachusetts, not exactly the music capital of the world, but it was a close knit place where the high school had a great drama program. She was in theater and the choir at Taunton High School where she graduated in 1995. Borges started playing guitar as a teenager. At 16 years old, she started playing in bands.

“My parents listen to a lot of classic rock and Bob Dylan,” Borges said. “When I got older, Boston had a vibrant music scene, so I went to see a lot of college rock bands, like Buffalo Tom and Morphine, on the weekends.”

Borges said her musical influences include Bonnie Raitt, The Grateful Dead and The Rolling Stones.

“And I like a lot of new music, too,” Borges said. “It depends on the day.”

Borges studied radio at Emerson College in Boston where she graduated in 1990.

“I knew I wanted to do something with music and be close to what I love to do,” Borges said.

After graduating from Emerson, Borges played in various bands in Boston before meeting the members of the Broken Singles who she hit it off with. The members of the Broken singles include guitarist Lyle Brewer, bassist Binky and drummer Rob Dulaney.

“I think our personalities really were complementary,” Borges said. “We had a good time hanging out, which is really important since we spend a lot of time hanging out together.”

Borges has played at the famous South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas five times.

“It’s really just sort of a mecca for people in bands,” Borges said.

Bela Fleck: Back to the origins of the banjo

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of Limelight Magazine.

By GEORGE AUSTIN

Bela Fleck is known for his innovations with playing the banjo. But the Grammy Award winning musician wanted to go back to the origins of the instrument. So, in 2005, he traveled to Africa where he played with other musicians and bands, made a film, came back with ideas for an album and made some friends who he is bringing to America for a concert tour.

“I think it was the completing of the circle of the banjo,” Fleck said. “I was able to bring over the modern American banjo and introduce it to the African music of today.”

Fleck said his experiences in Africa were very exciting.

The African musicians who will be playing with Fleck on his current concert tour, include Vusi Mahlasula, Toumani Diabate, D’Gary, and Anania Ngoglia. They will come to the Zeiterion Theatre in New Bedford, Mass., on April 11. Fleck said there will be a lot of improvisation in the concert. He said all of the African musicians will play individually, he will join them in their individual performances and then they will all play together at the end.

“The main job is going to be for me to learn their music,” Fleck said. “I’ve already played a few songs with them. Everybody plays in different keys and everyone plays in different disciplines, so it’s going to be exciting to see what we can come up with.”

Some of the members of the band come from Madagascar, South Africa and Tanzania. Fleck knew about some of the musicians in the band before he went to Africa and some of the other ones he met in villages in Africa.

When he went to the dark continent, Fleck went to different towns where he found musicians to play with.

“It was different from anything I’ve ever done because we grew up in different worlds,” Fleck said. “But it was exciting because there were some things we had in common with the rhythm and melodies from folk and bluegrass, so there was a natural bridge.”

When African musicians come to the United States, Fleck said they often play popular music from their continent with electric bass guitars and drums, but he said on his concert tour, audiences will be hearing traditional African music. He said he will be showcasing some of the beautiful instruments from Africa, such as the kora which is a West African harp, and a thumb piano.

“This is a much more intimate type of music, like folk or bluegrass,” Fleck said. “It will be almost like you’re in a living room and I’ll be playing with these people.”

In Fleck’s album, called “Throw Down Your Heart: Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Volume 3: Africa Sessions,” listeners will hear a variety of music, some of which are from musicians who are not coming over to the states for the current tour.

While he was in Africa, Fleck played with groups as large as 200 people and with vocal groups of 30 people. He said there were instruments he never heard of and a marimba that was played by 10 people. Fleck said his experiences in Africa have had a large impact on his music. When he came back, he was editing the film and working on an album, so he was listening to the music he played with other musicians there every day.

Fleck’s first album was with the Massachusetts based Rounder Records in the 1970s. He said it is difficult for a banjo player to get a record deal with a major label. He was able to land contracts with Warner Brothers and EMI. But he has since gone back to Rounder. While he says a lot of the people he dealt with at the major labels changed during the years, he said the same people he worked with at Rounder were still there when he decided to go back to that label, so he said it was “a homecoming,” of sorts for him. One of the things he likes about Rounder is the label keeps its records in print for many years. He said he wants people to be able to buy his records for years to come.

Fleck, who has won eight Grammy Awards and has been nominated for that honor more than anyone in history, is best known for his band the Flecktones. He has opened for Dave Matthews Band and the Grateful Dead.

The film of Fleck’s experiences in Africa has played at festivals and will be put in art theaters.

“The Beverly Hillbillies” is what first got Fleck interested in playing the banjo. He took up the instrument at 15 years old and has played pretty much every day since that time for the last 35 years. Fleck said he has tried to make the banjo a more flexible instrument to play in different musical genres.

“For me, I play the banjo more like it’s a contemporary musical instrument,” Fleck said. “Most banjo players don’t learn the skills to play jazz.”

This Lennon is creating her own legacy

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of Limelight Magazine

By GEORGE AUSTIN

Lennon Murphy thinks that it was “cool” that her mother named her after the late, great Beatles singer. As John Lennon and the Beatles did, she does draw a lot of attention because of both her music and non-related music aspects of her life. But that’s about as far as the comparison goes. She’s not a Beatles fan at all and has not done research on John Lennon. Her music sounds nothing like the Fab Four. But Murphy says her mother loved John Lennon.

“To her, he was a good man, a gentle man,” Murphy said. “I was born in New York. He was a New Yorker. New York loved John Lennon.”

In her young life, Murphy’s has been the subject of stories in the national media. From becoming an 18 year old rock star to her mother dying and her custody battle for her sister, to a controversy with Yoko Ono over the trademark of her name, much of her life has been in the public eye. But even though she does not get a lot of radio support for her music, she says the press has helped her to develop that loyal fan base. Perhaps they may find out about her because of the controversies, but when they listen to her music, they like what they hear.

Murphy said the disagreement with Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow, over the trademark of her name helped her to get a lot more fans for her music.

Because of the issue, radio show host Howard Stern and television show host Bill O’Reilly did interviews with her.

“I was trying to do Stern for seven years and it took her suing me to get on,” Murphy, who performs under the name Lennon, said. “It’s a little weird.”

Murphy said she never talked to Ono. She said there was a mediation about the issue with lawyers. She said Ono could have handled the matter better. Murphy said Ono sent her a paper asking for termination of the Lennon trademark because she felt Murphy falsely acquired it.

“She could have had the damn trademark if it was that important to her,” Murphy said.

When asked about her musical influences, Murphy said her mother brought her up with musicians like Barry Manilow and Harry Chapin, but as she got older, she got into much different music with bands like Nine Inch Nails. Murphy says what draws her to a band, no matter what type of music it is, is the songs more than anything else. She is currently writing some songs for some young pop acts who are clients of her manager.

“It’s something I’ve never done before,” Murphy said of writing songs for other artists. “It’s something new and maybe it’s something that will help me buy a house. It’s fun.”

When Murphy was a young girl, her mother, who was a chef for people who were chronically ill, wrote songs in her spare time. Murphy wrote songs as a young girl as well, and said her mother quit writing songs after admitting her daughter was better at it than she was.

“It’s all her fault I got on that stage,” Murphy said of her mother. “I like writing songs. I didn’t want to be in the spotlight. She said I had no friends, I was always staying at home. I’m putting a band together for you. I said I’m not getting on that stage. Needless to say, I got on that stage and fell in love with it.”

Murphy said she writes songs about things that happen in her life.

“I always find it’s better to write something about what you know instead of faking it,” Murphy said. “So I write about my experiences. I write a general story so people can interpret them into their own lives.”

With her new band, Devil’s Gift, Murphy has gone a much heavier route with her music. She said she always wanted to perform more in the metal music vein, but never had the opportunity, especially living down in Tennessee which is not a hotbed for metal. She said she and Jason Suecof had some time off and decided to go into the studio to produce some music. They started working on the record for Devil’s Gift in September of 2007 and finished up in December of that year. Suecof could not tour with the band, so Murphy had to get five musicians for a tour of Europe that lasted three months at the end of last year.

“The music was a great hit,” Murphy said when asked about the audience reaction to the band in Europe. “People loved the record. It’s got a lot of great press.”

Murphy said she wants to continue with Devil’s Gift, but also with her solo career and acoustic performances.

Murphy was named “one of the hottest chicks in metal” by Revolver Magazine. Asked if there is a stigma to being a beautiful woman in the music industry or if it detracts from her music, she said good looks helps a woman or a man, not just in music, but in many other industries. She said musicians have to personify the music themselves, not just with the words and the guitars, drums and keyboards, but also with how they act and dress on stage to get people’s attention, especially for opening acts.

Murphy’s advice to young, female musicians who want to make it in the music industry is to go to school, get a college degree and become a doctor or lawyer.

“That will make you happy,” Murphy said. “I grew up in the country world and I saw what happened. It’s a hard business.”

Murphy has toured with a lot of well-known acts, such as Alice Cooper, Tesla and Heart. She says Cooper has become like family and his daughter is one of her best friends.

“To get to do Europe with Journey was an amazing experience,” Murphy said of another one of the acts she has opened up for. “You never realize how many hits they have until you see their show every night.”

Murphy, who is now based in Florida, said the only time she gets nervous is when she is playing on stage by herself. She said she is fine when she is playing with a band. To get over those nerves, she said she tries to have a good time on stage, making an acoustic show like a rock show, as much as possible.

Murphy had a battle against family members to get custody of her sister. But Murphy apparently has been a good influence on her sister, considering her sister is now about to graduate from high school early at 17 years old.

Murphy allows her fans to download her records through her website and to pick the price.

“Music is free,” Lennon said. “If they want the song, they are going to find it one way or another. It’s the state of the music industry. You want to get the music out there. If it’s free, I’d rather have them enjoying the music than make the $10.”

Dream Theater: Making dreams come true for other bands

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2008 issue of Limelight Magazine.

By George Austin

With the success of the band over the last 23 years, Dream Theater has cemented its place in the music world. Now, the band is trying to help other progressive rock groups to have some success. That is part of the goal of the Progressive Nation Tour that Dream Theater has embarked on this year.

“I wanted to provide something for fans out of the mainstream,” Mike Portnoy, drummer for Dream Theater and the brainchild for the tour, said. “There’s a whole world of progressive bands that don’t get the attention they deserve.”

Dream Theater, Opeth, Between the Buried and Me, and Three were the lineup of progressive bands that fans on the Progressive Nation Tour got to sample. While Dream Theater does not have to worry about selling tickets to its shows since the band has a worldwide following, Portnoy said he wants to assist progressive bands that don’t draw big audiences at their shows.

Portnoy said he would like to make the progressive rock bill an annual event for music fans that is different from other music festivals.

“It’s been great,” Portnoy said. “It’s been a total success. All four bands are getting along great, having a good time together.”

As far as advice he would give up-and-coming bands today, Portnoy says not to sign their careers away to someone else. He said musicians are not as much at the mercy of the record companies as they once were.

“It’s not like that in 2008 anymore,” Portnoy said. “They’re all folding. They’re at the mercy of the artists, finally.”

After this tour, Portnoy said Dream Theater will be working on a new album. If you went to see Dream Theater in the same city on the Progressive Nation Tour, as you did on the band’s last tour, you would have seen a different set list. Portnoy actually goes over the setlists that were played during the last tour in each city, to make sure Dream Theater gives its fans a different show. He says he does a lot of research.

Dream Theater has played concerts with a lot of well known bands over the years, including Yes, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Deep Purple and Queensryche.

“We’ve toured with everyone we’d like to, except Rush and Metallica,” Portnoy said. “We’re still waiting for the phone calls from them.”

Dream Theater has its roots in the East Coast. The members of the band are from New York, but Portnoy, bassist John Myung and guitarist John Petrucci attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

“We were just some teenagers who wanted to play music,” Portnoy said of the establishment of the band. “We didn’t start this to become rich and famous.”

Portnoy said the members of the band are like brothers now.

“We’ve been together for more than half our lives at this point,” Portnoy said. “Now, we’re in our ’40s with wives and children.”

Portnoy said he is also looking forward to working with Petrucci, Dream Theater bandmate and keyboardist Jordan Rudess and Tony Levin, known for his gigs with Peter Gabriel and King Crimson, in the Liquid Tension Experiment.

“That will be a lot of fun,” Portnoy said. “We haven’t played those songs in a long time. It’s going to take a lot of work to put those shows together because they are so intense.”

Flyleaf fuses rock with religion

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2008 issue of Limelight Magazine.

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

While they do not market themselves as a Christian rock band, A&M recording artist Flyleaf definitely flirt with the line. In fact, religion and faith are very prevalent in the band’s lyrics. Their songs often focus on heavy issues, but always seem to involve the spirit of believing in a higher power to get through the turmoil.

“We are all Christians, we just don’t label ourselves a Christian rock band,” said Flyleaf bassist Pat Seals. “This may sound coarse, but we don’t want that label to stop people from liking us. Our music is for everybody. I hope our music does point them towards faith. I would hope they listen to it and become more aware of what’s out there in the spiritual realm. That is the goal of our band. It’s the only thing that holds us together and makes us really believe in it. I hope our band can stand through all the genres and the labels and just be what it is.”

Seals, who joined Flyleaf in July 2002, gelled perfectly with female lead singer Lacey Mosley, drummer James Culpepper, and guitarists Sameer Bhattacharya and Jared Hartmann, who originally started the band in January 2002. The five of them got together when several local bands in the Temple, Texas, area broke up and members from different groups solidified to form Flyleaf. While Seals was with his former band The Grove, Flyleaf was in need of a bass player. They sought out Seals to fill the void.

“They called me up to see if I wanted to do it,” he said. “We just tried each other out and it’d been this way ever since.”

Over the last six years, they have been busy writing and recording albums and going on tours.

“We have one E.P. and one album,” said Seals, “The E.P. came out in 2004 and we toured on that for a short while and the album came out in October of 2005. Then, the record label wanted to add a little incentive for kids to buy our album, so they decided to re-release it with a DVD and a different booklet.”

To perfect their sound, the band worked alongside producer Howard Benson, who was a big help during the recording process.

“We were pretty intimidated going into it, but it was overall a good experience,” Seals said. “We were this baby band that was lucky to be there. We learned a whole lot and Howard is really a brilliant guy for songwriting. He works very scientifically and has a really good team of people working for him. He’s a cool guy. He’s very personable.”

But, Benson’s work alone was not the sole reason their debut album went platinum for sales of one million copies. Unlike some bands that have other artists write songs for them, Flyleaf writes all their own music and they do so as a team.

“Mostly, it is a collaborative effort,” said Seals. “Usually, Lacey or Sameer and sometimes myself will have an idea for a song – sort of a seed or a skeleton. We bring it to the group and they put the meat on the bones. James will add this or Jared will add that. We try to fit it together. It starts out on an individual basis, but the songs are written as a group. It’s a little old-school in that way.”

Seals, who grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, and the Foo Fighters, prides Flyleaf’s ability to resist the urge to mimic what other bands did before Flyleaf became a group. They do their best to keep their music fresh and original and do not cite just one single band that motivated them to become musicians.

“We don’t have one influence that inspired us to do it as a band,” said Seals, who credits lead singer Mosley for giving their younger fans courage. “I’ve been on YouTube and looked up ‘Flyleaf’ and all these kids, mostly girls, will play our CD and record themselves singing along with the CD to the camera. It reminds me that what we do does influence people and a lot of little girls look up to [Mosley]. I think that’s really important. Lacey’s a good influence because she’s not selling what is being sold to children these days. She’s not trying to be this ‘it girl’ type person whose values are self-propelling. She stands for something more.”

Mosley and the rest of Flyleaf openly invite their fans to be confident, hopeful, and “fully alive.” They do this by never forgetting that their biggest influence is God.

“God gave us everything we have and it’s entwined in our nature to try to talk about Him and make Him known,” said Seals.

Interestingly enough, the name of their band even is a bit spiritual.

“I’ve come to really like the name because a flyleaf is a blank page in the front and back of a book where you sign your dedication,” Seals said. “If you look at your life like a story, that blank page is like a moment of clarity before you are born and after you die. It’s kind of your moment with God-a moment that touches eternity.”

Seals said they decided to call themselves Flyleaf after they were forced into changing their former name due to a cease and desist order.

“One of us saw ‘flyleaf’ in a dictionary or thesaurus,” said Seals. “We had been writing down words instead of practicing. Flyleaf was the last word on this list of words that Lacey read to our manager. We didn’t think it was cool or anything and she just kind of read it off, but our manager loved it.”

Another big decision Flyleaf was recently forced to make was canceling the last six shows they were scheduled to play on their tour alongside Seether because Mosley’s vocal cords had been bothering her for quite some time.

“She was feeling O.K. because they gave her a bunch of steroids,” said Seals. “But, she didn’t want to run the risk of damaging her voice when she couldn’t feel she was doing it. So, we just opted out of the last six shows of the tour and came home. She’s going well. She has a doctor in Pittsburgh that’s helping her re-learn how to use her voice a little bit. It’s not an easy thing to go through, but I think she’s going to be alright.”

While Mosley’s vocal cords heal, Flyleaf is keeping busy by writing songs for their upcoming album.

“We’ve got five songs written right now,” said Seals. “We have a long way to go, but it will hopefully be ready by the fall. As a band, we’re more than ready to get some new songs out there.”

Charlie Farren keeps on rollin’

This story originally appeared in the Fall 2007 issue of Limelight Magazine.

By JOE MILLIKEN

Although not a household name to many, Charlie Farren remains not only a favored son of New England music fans, but the versatile singer/songwriter/guitarist is also most respected amongst his musical peers throughout the region.

However, despite garnering substantial national success in the 80’s with his rock trio FARRENHEIT! and before that as sideman in the Joe Perry Project, Farren truly remains one of the best-kept secrets of the New England music scene over the last 30 years.

Farren’s Formative Years

Growing up in Malden, Charlie’s interest in music was sparked at an early age after being exposed to different genres of music through radio, his parents’ record collection and his older sister, who had been in a band herself.

“I have always lived around the Boston area and always had a love for music,” Farren recently said in an exclusive Limelight interview. “When I was in eighth grade my older sister Sheila had a band with three of her friends and they were great. I would listen to them practicing and thought – I need to have my own band, but I need to learn how to play!

“The Beatles were a big early influence – but I also recall loving some of the music my parents listened to, later learning they were songs performed by some of the great singers of the day like Sinatra, Bennet, Torme, but were written by folks like Johnny Mercer and Cole Porter,” Farren continued.

“It was the play of the melody against the chords that would grab me, which is still true today. The Beatles do that well and I think that was the thing that initially grabbed me about their music.”

As Charlie’s interest in music continued to grow he formed his first band even before entering high school, as rock music was becoming a greater influence on his music.

“My first band was called the White Knights, but we changed it to The Internationals because we thought it was much cooler. We only played a few times and really only knew a few songs. Then I had a band in high school called Blue Willow,” Farren said.

“The first 45-single I owned was “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night” by The Electic Prunes – awesome record! The first two albums I owned were Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde (and still one of my favorites), and Paul Revere & The Raiders Greatest Hits. Then I bought Are You Experienced by Jimi Hendrix, and The Bee Gees.”

“Later on big influences included anything by Hendrix and The Free, the first Moby Grape record, Surrealistic Pillow (Jefferson Airplane), early Led Zeppelin, Yardbirds, Animals, Who’s Next, Steely Dan, Court & Spark by Joni Mitchell and anything by James Taylor.”

Learning The Ropes

After high school, Farren was in a number of cover bands before starting a group with some guys he had seen play in Harvard Square Common, which would become Live Lobster. With Charlie on vocals, Bob Kilbashian on guitar, Joe Bourke on bass and Bob Sutton on drums, Live Lobster would steadily develop their skills and gain regional success throughout the Northeast.

“Live Lobster toured almost non-stop regionally,” Farren stated. “Although we mostly played cover songs we didn’t play the hits, rather focusing on artists like Savoy Brown, Zeppelin, Jeff Beck and Andy Pratt, with a few hits sprinkled in to keep us employable.”

In the mid-70’s Live Lobster hooked up with the late Mickey O’Halloran who put the band on the road. “Travelling in a van we played every roadhouse from Philadelphia to Albany, Maine to Providence – and of course, Boston. We played as much as 45 weeks a year – usually four to five nights a week and up to five sets per night. That band was where I learned to sing and what it would take to go further up the ladder.”

Farren and Kilbashian then formed Balloon with the plan to begin writing and performing original material. “Ken and I formed Balloon to focus on developing an all original show,” Farren said. Balloon worked hard to build a following and were regularly filling clubs such as The Club (in Cambridge), The Rat (Boston), Jaspers (Somerville), The Main Act (Revere) and Bunratty’s in Allston.

“After several sessions in area studios, we got hold of a 4-track machine and set up in my house in Malden to record “Listen To The Rock” and “East Coast, West Coast”, both of which became regional hits on several local stations including WAAF and WCOZ,” Farren said.

As a matter of fact Balloon would even have one of their shows from The Channel (then called Channel 1) in Boston, broadcast live over the WCOZ airwaves. The show is now available on CD through Farren’s web site.

The Project

Charlie’s big break would come when invited to team up with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry in 1980 for the guitar legend’s second Joe Perry Project solo album titled I’ve Got The Rock ‘N’ Rolls Again. In search of a new singer after the release of his critically–acclaimed solo debut Let The Music Do The Talking, Perry hand–picked Farren after an audition at Boston’s famed Orpheum Theatre.

“We listened to over a hundred audition tapes and picked Charlie,” Perry stated in the 1997 Aerosmith autobiography Walk This Way. “He was a good rhythm guitarist and singer, so we started rehearsing in my basement and came up with a few songs.”

As an equally strong vocalist, guitarist and songwriter, Farren co–wrote four tracks with Perry for the album, as well as bringing in two songs from the Balloon days, “East Coast, West Coast” and “Listen To The Rock”, both of which also got airplay on the Boston–area radio waves as Perry Project songs.

“It’s been 25 years since I worked with Joe, so I know my songwriting style has morphed quite a bit over time, as I’m sure Joe’s has as well, Farren stated. “But at the time, I was surprised that Joe was so open to ideas.

“He had a process around capturing those riffs for which he’s famous – he’d play a long time with tape rolling and then go back and sift out the cool parts – play them for us – and we’d brainstorm around that to see if we could find a song.

“I thought Joe was very open and very tireless. Hearing the Aerosmith songs before and since, I can imagine that those trademark Aerosmith riffs might still take shape at least in part, that same way.”

The Joe Perry Project would tour the country, opening for some of the biggest rock acts of the day including Rush, Boston, ZZ Top, Ozzy Osbourne, The Kinks, Heart and Def Leppard. “One night on a three-band bill we opened for Ozzy,” Farren added. “But Def Leppard opened for us, imagine that!

“I remember meeting Randy Rhodes–who was a pretty innovative guy at the time–and having this little sound check moment with him backstage. I remember just playing with him and thinking that it was really cool”.

The Rising Of FARRENHEIT!

In 1986, when it appeared that Perry was headed for a reunion with Aerosmith, Charlie, Project bassist David Hull (who recently sat in with Aerosmith for some shows while Tom Hamilton recovered from cancer) and drummer John “Muzz” Muzzy formed FARRENHEIT!, signing with Warner Bros Records’ after industry legend Ahmet Ertugen of Atlantic Records had shown interest in Charlie.

“Before I joined up with Joe some folks at Atlantic Records were interested in some demos I had sent them, but weren’t completely sold on the band. So when the chance to join Joe’s band came along I took it – but we still kept in touch with the Atlantic guys,” Farren said.

“After leaving Joe – Atlantic was still interested in my material and Ahmet got involved by coming to see us play – he also came another time to hang out with me in my Back Bay studio – and convinced me to sign as a solo artist with Atlantic. I worked for a year on songs and when nothing materialized, [getting to record in the studio] I felt I had waited too long.

“So Ahmet let me walk – and very soon after Dave [Hull] and I connected with Muzz, and got a deal with Warner Brothers for FARRENHEIT!”

The garage–rock trio released their self–titled debut and had instant success with the singles “Fool In Love” and “Lost In Loveland”, with the former receiving regular video rotation on MTV.

Although FARRENHEIT! were indeed creating strong rock songs when bands such as Smithereens, The Del Fuegos, and Tears For Fears were on the charts, once the “hair band” scene completely settled in, they no longer seemed a good fit for the masses

“FARRENHEIT! really never fit with the big hair and tattoo crowd that emerged shortly after our debut CD came out in 1987. It’s probably why that CD still sounds fresh, and why the songs still work.”

FARRENHEIT! would release two more albums, 1989’s Raise The Roof and 1994’s Farrenheit III Greasetown, on Farren’s own label, before Charlie settled into cultivating his own solo career. One in which he could make music in his own home studio and on his own terms.

The F Man

“F Man Music started when I wanted to release Deja Blue [Charlie’s first solo release] in 1999,” Farren said. “When I decided that I wanted to sell my own CDs, F Man Music began as the business vehicle for me to release my own music.”

Farren, who also works for Hewlett Packard in a global business development role, would release three solo albums of new material within a five–year span, including the aforementioned Deja Blue in 1999, World Gone Wild in 2002 and 4 Letter Word in 2003.

After the CD release of the old Balloon show, Farren put out two more live CDs in 2004; Charlie Farren Live At Club Passim and FARRENHEIT! Live At The Roxy , before embarking on his next and most recent project of new material, which would take some eighteen months to complete.

“The two live recordings were made in 2003. The Roxy was a show reuniting the original FARRENHEIT! trio, and the Club Passim, a live, solo guitar/voice recording at the venerable Harvard Square listening room in Boston,” Farren said.

“I remember starting to write songs for the new CD as I was mixing those live records, and was just couldn’t wait to get into the studio to begin sketching it all out.”

Old & Young

Produced and recorded in his Chelmsford home studio, the new CD titled Old & Young, features 10 original tracks penned by Farren, with one of the songs co–written with old friend Ken Kalayjan from the Live Lobster days. “Half of these songs are brand new and half were ‘diamonds in the rough’ that had been begging for attention for some time. I was just waiting for the right forum to present them,” Farren said.

“Some song I wrote when I was signed by Atlantic Record’s Ahmet Ertugen directly after my time with Joe Perry. At the time we liked the melodies and grooves, but I never really finished them because they were so far from where pop music was at the time. While other songs such as ‘Lies, Lies, Lies’ and ‘Woman In My Life’ go all the way back to the Balloon days–songs that went on the shelf and waiting for the right moment.”

Farren and Kalayjan had reunited after many years, when Charlie had invited him (along with the other members of Live Lobster) to record a song called ‘Poor Old Romeo’ for the Farren solo album Four Letter Word released in 2002.

“It was great to connect with those guys again – great musicians all – and Ken plays some spectacular guitar on ‘Lies’ and ‘Woman In My Life’ from Old & Young with that signature clear, soaring tone and trademark melodic style.

Guest appearances on Old & Young also included a couple Boston–music legends, veteran guitar slinger Jon Butcher, and Barry Goudreau, formerly of BOSTON.

“Barry and I have been friends for years and I had always wanted to recruit him for one of my songs,” Farren said. “Barry and I had recorded an album of demos together at his studio in the mid–1990’s and one of those songs, ‘Nobody’s Somebody’, still remains a cornerstone of my current live solo show.”

“I did a couple shows last year opening for Extreme, where they had invited Barry and BOSTON lead singer (the late) Brad Delp onstage. Barry sounded great, so I grabbed him backstage and asked him to play,” Farren continued. “I thought his trademark slide guitar would be perfect for a song I had just written called ‘Sorry’.”

“Barry’s lead is perfectly tuned emotionally for the message of the song, and as he wraps up his solo he delivers that classic Goudreau twist that he brought to so many BOSTON hit songs.”

Jon Butcher, whose band Jon Butcher Axis was another up and coming Boston band during Farren’s Balloon days, also delivers a dynamic performance on “Too Far Gone” from the new CD.

“Jon was a buddy from the Balloon days and remains a friend and inspiration to this day. I asked him to play lead on ‘Too Far Gone’ because the song has its’ roots in a band for whom Jon and I share an affinity, The Free. He delivered an explosion that lifts the song to another level.

So how did the “Old & Young” concept itself, in which the cover depicts Charlie with his favorite “old and young” guitars, come about?

“The concept just came to me as I was writing the song, which was one of those tunes that almost fell out of my head in complete form,” Charlie said. “I had tried a friend’s full-size jazz box guitar and after getting some tips from Johnny A, who worked closely with the Gibson Custom Shop designing his own Signature “Johnny A Model” Gibson, I knew I had to get one of my own. I went home and wrote that song in an hour, then went and found my own arch top guitar,” Charlie continued.

“So this became one of those inspirational moments that was to define my new project. I could introduce the CD with this new song, and I could blend the best of my unrecorded older songs with my new songs… and I’ll record them with both my new arch top, and my old mainstay 1968 Telecaster that I got when I joined the Joe Perry Project in 1980.”

The combination works well as Farren blends the tracks nicely, despite the fact some of the songs were written as many as 30 years apart. Additional tracks like “Say That You’ll Be Mine”, “Forgot To Remember” and the closing “All The Way Home” show that Charlie’s song writing abilities have clearly evolved, carefully crafted songs full of insightful lyrics, tasteful guitars and a lot of interesting hooks. The CD clearly states how far Farren has come and grown as a musician and songwriter.

Since the release of Old & Young, Farren has kept quite busy, playing both solo and FARRENHEIT! shows throughout New England, as well as making guest appearances with Dave Mason, James Montgomery and the tribute show Come Together, celebrating the life of the late BOSTON vocalist Brad Delp.

To learn more about this true diamond in the rough, visit Charlie Farren and F Man Music at http://www.charliefarren.com.

Joe Milliken is a freelance writer and music journalist based in Southern Vermont. Contact Milliken at natusz@sover.net