Category Archives: Up & Coming Artists

Hard works pays off for singer/songwriter Erinn Brown

BY JULIA CIRIGNANO

Erinn Brown Band (SUBMITTED PHOTO BY NANCY WESTON)
Erinn Brown Band (SUBMITTED PHOTO BY NANCY WESTON)

Erinn Brown is living proof that if you work hard enough you can become a successful musician. Singer/songwriter Brown has released three records with The Erinn Brown Band: Road Signs To The Sun, Don’t Forget About It and Ruled My Life with The Erinn Brown Band. She currently plays gigs around her hometown of Salem, Mass., and also teaches private music lessons to a variety of different age groups.

Brown is a gifted musician herself yet she still loves teaching private home and studio lessons, private lessons at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass, and will soon be teaching the Modern Band Project at Endicott. She is beyond happy with her current musician career. She loves being part of both the Salem music scene and the Endicott College community.

Brown attended Berklee College of Music where she majored in Professional Music with a concentration in Performing and Songwriting. She uses many of the skills she learned there when she teaches music lessons and also when she writes her own music.

Brown has been teaching private music lessons for younger kids for eighteen years and teaching at Endicott College for over five years. At Endicott, she teaches piano, guitar and voice lessons.

“I started working there because the music and arts program decided they wanted to implement private lessons as an option for students,” Brown explained. “I was asked if I wanted to teach there privately. It was exciting for me to get involved in that because it’s a different level. I had been teaching little kids so it’s nice to have the adult students.”

After being part of the Endicott College community for such a long time, Brown was recently asked to teach the Modern Band project at Endicott for the Spring 2017 semester. During these fifteen weeks, she will be helping several students form a band and prepare for live performances on campus.

“I was just asked to fill in this coming semester to teach a class which I’ve never done before,” Brown said. “I’m really excited about it and I’m really nervous.”

Brown fits perfectly into the Endicott community, especially the performing arts family. She looks forward to her new, additional role within the community.

“I feel very lucky to be part of it. I think it’s a really neat program,” she said. “The people who I have been working with there are creative and fun and thoughtful. I feel a good sense of community and that’s comforting.”

Brown has been pursuing her own music with The Erinn Brown Band for over ten years. She plays many local venues with her band and also as a trio, duo, and solo act. Brown has grown both through her experience teaching and her work with her band.

“The Erinn Brown Band with all the different musicians has been inspiring to me,” she said. “I will always appreciate their input. It’s similar in the way I’ve grown with my teaching. I’m always learning from other people.”

Brown has worked with many different local musicians, yet her current band consists of Steve Peabody on drums, Sven Larson or Bryan Sheehan on bass, Randy Leventhal on lead guitar, and Brown on rhythm guitar and lead vocals. Brown has known Peabody the longest and talked about how he became part of the band.

“I worked with my drummer in college,” she said. “We were in an ensemble together and we wound up taking a couple classes together. We were good friends.”

While Brown and Peabody drifted apart after graduation, he ended up finding her on MySpace in 2005.

“At that time, the drummer I had been working with had just passed away so it was perfect timing for Steve to contact me; both as a good friend and being supportive and also he’s a great drummer,” Brown explained.

Brown’s work within her band is very near and dear to her heart. Her music is personal since her writing is so raw and honest. Brown has been a writer her whole life whether she is writing for herself or songwriting. While themes such as relationships may have first inspired her writing, she has also pushed her some towards more mature and controversial topics.

“I think I wrote mostly about my relationships in the beginning then expanded,” Brown explained. “Relationships are always a big part of my writing but I tried to, I mean didn’t necessarily try it just came out, but to be more political and socially aware in my writing. On my second record I wrote a song called ‘And In The End’ and that was very driven by the politics at the time. Feeling a split between political parties and others, kind of what’s going on these days.”

Brown has always written music that is very real and true to herself, to the point where she sometimes finds it hard to sing her own lyrics. She only writes about events and feelings which she has experienced, so recording and performing these songs can sometimes be very emotional for her.

Brown is currently working on some songs for a new record with various political themes. Keep your eye out for a new Erinn Brown Band record that will hoping be coming out in 2017. Brown has also written some songs with her drummer Peabody which she said will definitely be on the new record.

While Brown is dedicated to her band, she sometimes plays shows as a solo act, and some as a trio. She also plays many shows with her guitarist/boyfriend Randy Leventhal. No matter what the setup, Brown loves the community of musicians and friends she has acquired since moving to Salem.

“We play at In The Pig’s Eye in Salem frequently. It’s like a second home to me,” Brown explained. “When I first moved up this way, I first started playing guitar in front of people at this place. Before, I was a singer who just fronted bands. The Pig’s Eye was always a place that I enjoyed going to and hanging out with people there. Of course, the clientele changes but it always feels comfortable there and it’s really nice to feel that comfort with my friends; my best friend Randy on guitar and my friend Steve on drums.”

Brown plays at many other venues around the Salem area. While many of them are now closed, she still enjoys playing at Brodie’s Seaport since they have a big enough stage for her whole band to perform. She also plays at many venues in Somerville, such as Sally O’Brien’s.

Check out The Erinn Brown Band’s official website to get the latest update on her show schedule HERE. Also, check out the band’s Facebook page for updates HERE.

Liz Bills ‘Comes Alive’ through a variety of music endeavors

BY JULIA CIRIGNANO

Analog Heart (PHOTO BY SHIVOHN FLEMING PHOTOGARPHY, SUBMITTED BY LIZ BILLS)
Analog Heart (PHOTO BY SHIVOHN FLEMING PHOTOGRAPHY, SUBMITTED BY LIZ BILLS)

Liz Bills has a voice as sweet as cotton candy and as harsh as a dull knife. Her words erupt from deep down in her stomach and burst from her pink lips with hypnotic qualities. Bills is a mixture of Alanis Morrisette and Brandi Carlile with a passion for pop and psychedelic music. After one listen you will be swept into Bills’ rainbow colored world where she will gnaw at your heart strings then help you dance away the pain.

Liz Bills grew up in Haverhill, Mass., and started composing and performing music at the age of eight. She played piano with classically trained pianist Lynn Willby and self-taught herself guitar. In 2011, Bills attended Berklee College of Music where she studied songwriting and vocals.

During her classical studies courses, Bills decided to form a rock band, called Analog Heart.

“We formed back in 2011 on Craigslist,” she said. “I decided I wanted to start my own rock band from scratch so I took a chance and placed an ad. I found Jesse soon after and we clicked right away.  Most of our members have been from Craigslist including the new lineup and we are all very close.”

Analog Heart released an EP in 2012 consisting of Liz Bills on vocals, Jesse Cohen on guitar, and Austin Ferrante on drums. The band’s music has been given many labels such as indie, alternative rock, alt-country, pop, blues, and R&B.

Bills and David Cook were both on the TV show American Idol, yet Bills explained that her band name Analog Heart has no connection to the Cook album with the same title.

“I love hearts and wanted that in our name,” Bills explained. “I also wanted to write organic and honest music from the heart so that’s where Analog came from.”

Bills was on Season 12 of American Idol. She spoke about the experience where she made it all it way to the top 30 female and top 60 total.

“It was a very humbling experience reminding me to never stop working hard at singing and performing because I was surrounded by incredible musicians,” Bills explained. “It also taught me a bit about the demands of being on a major TV network competition and how it is more about the show itself then about the singing.  Not that I have anything against that, it just opened my eyes to the reality that shows like [American Idol and] The Voice are shows and singer’s lives are put on national TV. It’s also helped me become very strong and take people’s opinions with a grain of salt.”

She also would like to be a contestant on The Voice someday.

“I’ve learned that I must trust myself, stay true to myself, and not be sensitive or take things personally and keep working hard,” Bills said. “I now audition for The Voice every six months. It took me seven years of auditions with American Idol to make it on the show.”

While pursuing The Voice, teaching music lessons, and playing shows with Analog Heart, Bills also finds time to post YouTube videos displaying her immense, raw talent. On YouTube she covered many of today’s popular musicians such as Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, Vance Joy, Taylor Swift, John Legend, Sia, Hozier, Ariana Grande, and Meghan Trainor.

Within these covers, Bills explores her vocals which are both potent and sensitive and her creative ability. Bills talked about how YouTube has helped to propel her career.

“YouTube has been a way for me to connect with my fans and my students (I teach voice, guitar and piano lessons for a living),” Bills said. “I treat YouTube as a resume — a way to show people what I can do.”

Along with the artists Bills has covered on YouTube, she is also inspired by “Hanson, Billy Joel, Lady Gaga, Grace Potter, the killers and other classic rock music.”

“I actually love pop music and bring that element into the band. I will be launching my solo project this winter with an EP,” she said.

She explained that this album is going to be more pop than the pop/rock sound that Analog Heart has captured.

Jesse Cohen and Bills are the two main songwriters in Analog Heart. While Bills leans more towards a love for pop, Cohen will always be a rocker. They combine both their tastes to create Analog Heart’s unique sound.

Although their tastes in music may differ a bit, they have found one similarity. Both Bills and Cohen’s music style and music videos have been influenced greatly by the psychedelic era.

“We shied away from this for a long time because we wanted to be ‘modern’ but through that experience we have come to embrace what we gravitate to naturally, which is this groovy hippy late 60s/70s feel,” Bills said.

Analog Heart truly expressed their psychedelic vibe in their new music video for “Come Alive.” Click HERE to see the video.

“I wanted to do something fun and colorful and I also didn’t want to take myself too seriously, though the song itself is about abusive relationships and of course that isn’t something to laugh about,” Bills said. “I am over my angsty music writing years and just want to make people smile and feel good about themselves and to be entertained.”

“Come Alive” is featured on Analog Heart’s newest album titled Sun Here I Come that was released on March 5, 2016. Bills talked about the album title and the song it was named after.

“We wrote a song called ‘Sun Here I Come’ and it’s about coming out of a depression I was going through,” Bills said. “I remember being in the woods camping with the sun on my face and feeling better than I had in a long time, that’s where the title comes from.”

Bills explained how the band has evolved since their EP release in 2012 and their first full album Sun Here I Come.

“The EP sounds very young and polished, more poppy,” she said. “I wrote all four of the songs on the EP at the time. We were a new band still trying to find ourselves together. The latest album is much more mature, more guitar driven with Jesse’s influence writing half of the songs, more uplifting and positive with my emotional shift from depression to self-love and acceptance.”

Bills expanded more on the positive themes within Sun Here I Come and the main message she hopes to convey with this album.

“I want people to feel empowered and strong and loved and like they can do anything!” she exclaimed. “This is the kind of album you put on when you want to pump yourself up!”

With new positive energy, Bills talked about the band’s plans for the future.

“Our plans are to write a lot of new music, tour in the spring and tour in the late summer to support the next album. We will also be releasing a single this winter,” she said.

Ashley Jordan: From street performer to rising star

BY JULIA CIRIGNANO

Ashley Jordan (SUBMITTED PHOTO BY ASHLEY JORDAN)
Ashley Jordan (SUBMITTED PHOTO BY ASHLEY JORDAN)

In 2010, singer-songwriter Ashley Jordan was just one of many street performers in Boston until she released her debut album at only 17 years old. Six years later, Jordan is currently in the process of releasing her fourth studio album titled He’s Crazy and has gained substantial recognition. She has won over twenty awards from radio stations, country award organizations, and magazines, including Limelight Magazine. 

“I started playing the guitar and singing at about the age of 13,” said Jordan. “I started doing open mics in the area and one night I was at Amazing Things Open Mic (in Framingham, Mass.) and the featured performer was a guy by the name of John Gerard. He was an incredible performer — he was so passionate about every song he performed and his guitar playing and songwriting were so meaningful that I had to meet him. I was a shy girl and John was a tough looking guy with tattoos and a mysterious demeanor but I walked right up to him and introduced myself.”

This moment of bravery opened a giant door for Jordan. She ended up working with Gerard for several years and took advantage of every opportunity he gave her. He introduced her to busking (street performing). She met many street performers through Gerard and he helped her become one herself.

“I started doing busking myself on the streets of Harvard Square and that’s really where I learned a lot about performing and writing songs that people wanted to listen to,” Jordan said. “John had a close family friend who had a home studio (Steve Rapson) and John introduced me to him and asked if he would record me. I had already written a bunch of songs – so we started recording them one by one and it turned into an album!”

This was her first experience with recording and it wouldn’t be her last. Jordan continued her story as she talked about her appreciation for the other people and producers who have helped to propel her career.

“At the age of 19, I completed my second album called Liquid Words with producer Don Hooper at his studio called Juke Village Records in Shrewsbury, Mass.,” Jordan said. “Don heard me perform at a festival and said he believed in my music and decided to not only produce my second album but covered all the costs as well. Then when I was 21, I recorded my third album called Nothing In Doubt with Adam Jensen at Night Owl Studio in Boston and the album was funded by my generous fans through a Kickstarter campaign. With my latest album this year, He’s Crazy, I had the honor of recording with Joe Merrick at his Guilty Dog Studio in Marshfield, Mass. The amazing male vocals/harmonies you hear on my newest album are Joe’s voice and he also played many different instruments on my album.  It was really great working with Joe!”

Jordan wrote every single song on her debut album and has continued to make songwriting the focus on all of her other albums.

“Songwriting is as important to me as performing because the songs I write are usually written by me alone and are very personal and provide the emotional connection that goes far beyond performing a cover song,” Jordan said. “I feel strongly about songwriting and feel that there’s a huge difference between an artist who just performs music and an artist who writes and performs music.  It’s just feels like a different level of connection.”

Jordan gave the backstory into the life of a young girl with a passion for writing that turned into a woman with a talent so compelling she was able to make a career out of it.

“I started writing lyrics before I even would call them lyrics,” Jordan began. “They were more poems or thoughts in a journal when I was 11 or 12 years old. I was a very shy child and loved to sing alone but never would perform in front of anyone.  One time my family and some close friends overheard me singing privately in another room and they came running in to hear me. I recall thinking, ‘Oh, maybe my singing is good?’ So I secretly entered a talent show in sixth grade and shocked my parents by marching up on stage and belting out an Avril Lavigne song. The overwhelmingly positive reaction I got was probably what pushed me forward. I learned to play the guitar and suddenly all my journal writing became song lyrics and things sort of moved on from there.”

Now a seasoned songwriter and musician, Jordan has played shows with many big names in country and pop music.

“Probably the most memorable show was when I won a contest to open for Mixfest 2015 by Boston radio station Mix 104.1 and got to open for 40,000 people at the Hatch Shell in Boston,” she said. “I got to hang out with Phillip Phillips and Christina Perri (and more) and it was an amazing crowd in Boston that really responded to my original music.”

“Another memorable show was more recently when Nash Icon Radio asked me to open for Trace Adkins at Indian Ranch in Webster, Mass.,” Jordan continued “First of all, Indian Ranch is an awesome place and Nash Icon Radio in Worcester is an incredible group of people!  I was so excited to share the stage with Trace and what made it even more memorable was that they asked me to do a 45 minute set. That gave me the time to really play full-out to a country audience and I felt like my music was a fit!”

Jordan recently finished her fourth album He’s Crazy. While it is for sale at her shows in CD form, it hasn’t been officially released yet.

“I have some interest in the album and I want to be smart about making the full release,” Jordan explained. “I’ve decided to release one song, ‘Weapon’ and it will be available on iTunes in the near future. The response to my album so far has been incredible. Matt Reid, music director at Mix 104.1 Boston radio, got an early copy and he loved it so much he decided to play every song on the album (he played one song each night for 10 nights) because he said he loved them all and couldn’t decide which ones to play.”

Reid was recently quoted saying, “My favorite album of 2015?  Adel’s 25. My favorite album of 2016, so far? Boston singer/songwriter and Open MixFest 2014 Winner, Ashley Jordan’s He’s Crazy.”

Jordan talked about the surprising way in which her fans of responded to “Weapon,” which is one of her own personal favorites on the album.

“I guess I really love ‘Weapon’ because it resonates strongly with me,” Jordan said. “I actually wrote it about a relationship but people have been coming to me and responding to the song at a whole different level given the violence that has been going on in our country recently. So it’s touched a nerve and I love that.”

Jordan explained why He’s Crazy is different than her previous releases.

“I’ve taken a long time to release it,” she began. “My past albums were completed and it was a rush to get the physical CD in time for the release shows and everything going on. This time I have the album in hand and now I’m sort of sitting on it. I’ve been selling it at shows but I’m waiting for the right time and circumstances to move forward.”

“Recording this album was a different process than past albums because when I wrote the songs I could hear every single instrument and harmony that was going to be in the song,” Jordan explained. “I could just hear it. I knew what I wanted very clearly.”

Along with those differences, He’s Crazy is also far more personal than Jordan’s other albums.

“I think the songs came together more quickly because I had so much material to use given a tough breakup and other things that were going on in my life,” Jordan explained. “It cleanses the soul to write about a crazy ex-boyfriend but that’s not all my last album is about. I also seem to write songs in clusters. I’ll be in a creative mode and songs just flow out of me. Then there will be a quiet time. At any given time I may be working on three or four songs.”

With a life that circulates around her songwriting, it’s a blessing that Jordan finds writing so self-healing.

“It’s like therapy only much cheaper,” she said. “There’s so much emotion behind a lot of my songs that sometimes I can’t record them for a while because I am so emotional when I perform them but I’m not embarrassed about that because the emotional content is what I think people connect to. My songs are honest and I try to tell the truth.”

Jordan also spoke about her recent experience meeting Garth Brooks at the IEBA conference in Nashville.

“Garth Brooks is amazing. He is bigger than life and a total sweetheart,” Jordan exclaimed. “I was in Nashville doing a showcase as part of the IEBA conference which books shows for artists and entertainers at venues/casinos etc.  Garth was being honored and received an award and later they had an incredible show with performances by Randy Houser, Eric Pasley and more. It was a very small and intimate setting and all of a sudden there was Garth just hanging out! He was so cool and I was in awe of him.  I had performed a pre-show for him at the DCU Center some time ago so we had a small connection!”

Jordan said there was one specific moment with Brooks that she will never forget.

“He is such a gentleman,” she said. “An elderly woman who is highly regarded in the industry came into the room and the whole room sort of quieted down. Garth bowed down to her, took off his hat, and she cupped his face in her hands as she walked by. It was so sweet and exactly what I would have expected from him and so cool to see in person.”

Check out Jordan’s newest single “Weapon” which was released in late October on iTunes. You can also keep up with Jordan on her social media pages by clicking on the following links: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

 

Local musicians share their inspirational stories about health and fitness

BY JULIA CIRIGNANO

Sex, drugs & rock n’ roll. That’s all you need to be a successful musician, right? Not so much. Twenty-first century women know better. In 2016, musicians and humans alike are beginning to realize that a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. Confidence and happiness is created through self-love and respect for your own body. If you are nice to your body, it will be nice to you in return.

Limelight Magazine recently spoke to three female musicians from Massachusetts (Amy Marie, Amanda Lee McCarthy and Erin Elizabeth Ollis) who candidly shared their personal stories about weight loss and physical fitness. These three women took control of their own lives and proved that eating health and exercising actually does work. We also spoke to a personal trainer (Nina McGoff) who offered expert advice for this story.

photo-amy-marie
Amy Marie (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Amy Marie (of Just Like That)

Amy Marie is singer/songwriter from the band Just Like That. This spring, she won “Female Vocalist of the Year” at the 8th Annual Limelight Magazine Music Awards in April 2016. With raw, honest lyrics, Amy Marie has inspired her fans to be open and honest. She has also inspired people to be physically healthy because she believes physical health leads to one’s mental health.

Amy Marie spoke with Limelight Magazine about her journey in becoming the healthy, happy woman that she is today.

Amy Marie started the interview by talking about her band Just Like That and how being in the band has changed her as a person. Before auditioning for the band, she had had experience as a classical singer yet she didn’t have any experience fronting a rock band.

“I had zero experience in fronting a band and my appreciation and respect for the energy it takes to be a working performer has exponentially increased,” Amy Marie began. “It’s helped hone my communication skills as well since we all know being in a working band is kind of like a marriage and takes a lot of non-verbal as well as verbal discussion to make things really work in a ‘band family’. Because of my bandmates support as well as countless hard working hours performing I most importantly gained the experience I needed as a vocalist and an artist to branch into writing and performing my own music. I credit my experience with Just Like That to helping me find that big part of myself.”

Amy Marie talked about her former writing partner and how he helped her to open up and become the raw, honest musician she is today. She explained how she uses singing and songwriting in a self-healing way.

“I was at first really apprehensive that audiences wouldn’t listen to them as I don’t hold back anything when the lyrics would come out of me,” she said. “Sometimes my lyrics come from really traumatic incidents. Sometimes the songs would be so painful to perform I wouldn’t be able to sing them for months after they were written because emotionally they would be too intense for me. However, eventually I learned letting go of those emotions and just let the songs take on lives of their own really helped me with self-healing. The first song I ever wrote with him, ‘Stay Awake’ saved my life, a few times. Eventually I realized that people like that kind of emotional rawness and confidence to put it all out there when it comes to song writers. So I kept writing.”

Amy Marie explained why she doesn’t believe that staying healthy while being a musician is difficult.

“I think that the choice to live a healthy lifestyle is all about maintaining balance and finding out what your body can and cannot tolerate,” she said. “Do I like to eat healthy and exercise regularly? Yes. Do I always? No, but I know my limitations. Some nights after a late gig I’m starving and the only place that’s open for a snack is McDonalds. Do I enjoy it? Yep. Do I feel it the next day? You bet your ass. I know my body well and know what it needs to get the energy and ‘good’ feeling back so I take a few days and get back on track. Those kinds of nights make me hope that I’ll remember to grab a protein bar to bring when I’m working a gig more than an hour away next time but it doesn’t always happen! Finding time to exercise is hard enough. Working a full-time job, being a mom, as well as working gigs, but somehow I find it because I know that I need to work out a certain amount a week to maintain my weight as well as have the energy level to do all of those fun jobs.”

Amy Marie talked about the specific ways in which she balances her career and healthy body. While she has the additional struggle of being a musician, she also realizes that everyone has a job and life will always get in the way. Everyone has excuses why they can’t work out and Amy Marie explains how she overcomes her own excuses.

“When it comes to working out I try to schedule my ‘rest’ workout days on the days I have gigs,” she said. “My other full-time career is running a gym/personal training studio here on the Cape and I find the best way for me to stay motivated to eat healthy and workout is being held accountable by my members there. They look to me for inspiration and ideas on how to balance ‘life’ with being healthy so I try my best to set a good example.”

Amy Marie has many good tips for musicians and also anybody who is trying to balance a busy schedule with a healthy body.

“Twice a week I do a meal prep and make myself plenty of quick meals to have during the week,” Amy Marie said. “For example I cook three chicken breasts, chop all of my lettuce/veggies for my salads, make a couple cups of quinoa or brown rice or sweet potato. I mostly try to follow a balanced macro flexible diet although I tend to eat the same things pretty often. This keeps it easy, especially when I’m not a very picky eater. Once or twice a week I have a treat like some ice cream with my son or some kind of alcoholic beverage after a gig with my band. Some weeks I have more, some I have less.”

Although eating well is a huge part of in staying healthy, Amy Marie also explained her workout schedule.

“I workout at least every other day but probably about five days a week,” she said. “I switch up my routine every few weeks. Being that I work at a gym, Koko FitClub, my training is very easy since most of the time I follow my SmartTraining protocol that I’ve set up for myself based on my fitness goals with our equipment. However, I like to switch it up with at home workouts that I set up with my trainer. They are quick and very intense and help when I need to shred down the pounds quick. I also love to run outdoors a couple of times a week, it’s very good for the body and spirit.”

Moreover, Amy Marie discussed her journey in becoming the healthy, happy woman she is today. Although she first decided to live a healthier life because she was overweight, she believes that what comes first is self-esteem, self-worth, and self-respect. Once you empower yourself, you can achieve the weight loss you want.

“In 2011, I was an overweight, miserable human being with no self-esteem, a very inaccurate body image and very unhealthy lifestyle,” she began. “Up until that point, I had never learned to take care of myself as I spent the majority of my time taking care of others (I became a mother at 20 years old and have three beautiful children). This led me down a very dark path of self-destruction to try and make myself happy. The truth was that happiness was never anyone else’s responsibility but my own. To get to this point I had to hit rock bottom. I realized that the only thing that was truly in my control was two things: what I put in my mouth and how I moved my body.”

“What I realized during that time is that everyone has a set of skills, talents and qualities they can offer to other people that can either help, inspire, motivate or make them have an overall sense of wellness,” Amy Marie continued. “You can make others happy without sacrificing your own happiness just by being yourself. I found these qualities about myself at that time. When I started to take control of what I put in my mouth and how much I moved, I started small: ‘eat less, move more’ was my policy.”

Eventually, Amy Marie started noticing a difference in her body.

“When the weight started dropping off (I was my heaviest at 247 pounds) and others saw me diligently working at it, it became infective and others started following me and asking for advice,” she said. “This accountability has become one of my strongest motivators to stay in shape and continue the healthy lifestyle I’ve adopted.”

Amy Marie concluded with a few more tips for anyone struggling with their weight.

“Anything is possible if you want it bad enough,” she said. “Having a solid support system is essential for any lifestyle change as well as the belief that you are capable and worthy of your own attention and respect. Making time for yourself and your health is as essential for your new physical self as your emotional and mental health. Learn to embrace a healthy relationship with food and fake it until you make it. Even if you hate exercise with a passion, do it anyway and tell yourself you love it. Eventually it becomes habit and before you know it you’re teaching a Zumba class and preaching the benefits of quinoa. It happens.”

Amanda McCarthy (PHOTO BY ATHEL ROGERS, SUBMITTED BY AMANDA MCCARTHY)
Amanda McCarthy (PHOTO BY ATHEL ROGERS, SUBMITTED BY AMANDA MCCARTHY)

Amanda Lee McCarthy 

Amanda Lee McCarthy is a singer/songwriter from New Hampshire. She has released two EP’s consisting of all original music. While her music is mostly pop, she also incorporates alternative, rock, country, indie, and blues. McCarthy has won many awards including “Singer/Songwriter of the Year” by Limelight Magazine in 2013.

McCarthy recently spoke with Limelight about her new lifestyle. She explains how she balances the life of being a busy musician with keeping a healthy body. McCarthy acknowledged that staying healthy is hard for a lot of people but it’s especially difficult for musicians due to their chaotic schedules.

“I definitely think there is a challenge that comes along with staying healthy, especially with me in particular,” McCarthy said. “I am on the road driving to gigs very often and when I am at my busiest, it feels as though I live in my car. Not having a lot of time to prepare healthy meals, I used to find myself constantly in the drive thru line at McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, etc. It took a lot of discipline to snap out of that habit and choose healthier snacks and meals when I am on the run.’

McCarthy talked about her personal journey towards the happy, healthy woman she is today.

“I was personally very unhappy with my body and my appearance,” she began. “It really clicked with me when I started performing with my band members as opposed to only playing acoustic shows. I realized that always having my guitar in front of me was almost like a safety net and a shield to hide the parts of my body I was insecure about. It made me nervous to really open up and perform to the best of my ability when singing with my band.”

Once McCarthy realized she was unhappy with her appearance, she made a change. Her first step was eating healthier. She went pescatarian for a while and eventually settled on a diet that she was happy with.

“I’ve lost almost thirty pounds and feel much more comfortable on stage now,” she said. “It’s much easier to let loose and get into the music without being so insecure about my appearance, and even off stage, my confidence in my body and myself has skyrocketed.”

McCarthy talked about the strategies she uses to stay healthy while actively pursuing her musical career. She started by talking about the black hole of snacking. Although snacking can be one of weight loss’s biggest enemies, McCarthy explained some ways in which she snacks in a healthy way.

“All gas station marts, in addition to junk food, offer granola/energy bars, trail mix, nuts, peanut butter crackers, (most offer) bananas, and many more great options if you are hungry and need a snack,” she said. “If you feel the need to munch on something, I highly recommend Harvest Snaps. Also, Dunkin Donuts offers their DDSmart menu which has some healthier options lower in fat and calories. I also really enjoy ProSnax snack packs, which I have seen available in both Walmart and Hannaford’s. My final advice, if you have an early start to your day, is to wake up even 20 minutes earlier and eat breakfast at home as opposed to grabbing something on the run. Not only is it better for you but you save money as well!”

Eating well is the most important challenge for someone trying to lose weight but so is working out. McCarthy said that she wishes she had more time to workout but can only fit in some formal walking workouts since she is also a full-time mom to a beautiful two year old daughter. For musicians, or anybody with a busy schedule, McCarthy recommends making diet changes the priority, especially at first. She also recommends switching things up and keeping your diet interesting so you don’t stray.

“I know it’s so tough to balance the on-the-run lifestyle with healthy lifestyle choices,” McCarthy began. “My best advice, especially with food and snacks, is to mix it up. When I eat the same things, I find myself craving a default to a cheeseburger or a bacon filled breakfast sandwich. Mix up your snacks: granola bar one day, fruit the next, nuts the day after. Meals: Don’t just eat salad. Include different vegetables, rices, and a variety of protein. Even if you don’t eat meats, you can find great amounts of protein in fish, beans and avocados.”

McCarthy also spoke about the connection between a healthy body and a healthy mind.

“For me personally, having a healthier body led to me having a healthier mind but it was because of an unhealthy mind that I had an unhealthy body with unhealthy habits,” she said. “However, I’d say that a healthy body can lead to a healthy mind quicker than the other way around. All it takes is the inspiration to start, willpower to avoid the cravings, and the courage to stick it out until you start to see a difference in your body. From there, the inspiration is natural and will carry you through to whatever your own personal health goal may be.”

Erin Ollis ( (PHOTO BY SYDNEY ROSE PHOTOGRAPHY, SUBMITTED BY ERIN OLLIS)
Erin Ollis ( (PHOTO BY SYDNEY ROSE PHOTOGRAPHY, SUBMITTED BY ERIN OLLIS)

Erin Elizabeth Ollis (of Thirty 6 Red)

Erin Ollis is a local singer/songwriter born and raised in central Mass. She is both a solo artist and country singer in the band Thirty 6 Red. With a passion for music and also fashion, Ollis told Limelight Magazine about her journey in becoming the confident, healthy woman she is today.

Ollis has joined Thirty 6 Red two years ago, and since then has grown both as a persona and as a musician.

“I couldn’t be happier with how my life has evolved though joining the band,” Ollis said. “I have gained a tremendous amount of confidence and better stage presence. The songs that we perform are a variety of country and rock and, specifically with the rocks songs, I had to completely break out of my shell. My band members knew that I had the potential to break that shell and with their help and guidance, I certainly have.”

As Ollis began to break out of her shell and thrive within the music scene, she noticed one thing that was holding her back. While she wasn’t drastically overweight, she wasn’t happy with the way she was being portrayed as a musician on social media. This pressure was all she needed to start treating her body better by both eating right and exercising.

“I became very disappointed with the way I physically looked in mostly all of the pictures of me on social media,” she said.

Ollis now had the impending pressure of being a touring musician, on top of being a female touring musician. She knew she needed to make a change within her lifestyle but she didn’t know how.

“I then turned to Weight Watchers which really helped me in a positive way,” Ollis said. “Yes, it is a diet plan but it was easy to follow and I became really good at watching my ‘food points.’ I made it a habit to weigh in at their facility every Sunday to track my progress. With the diet came the workout routines. It definitely took time to stick to a specific routine but after a while, it became easier. I stopped looking at it as a ‘diet’ and thought of it more as a lifestyle change.”

Once Ollis committed to her new workout and eating habit she began to lead a far healthier life. Although she doesn’t use Weight Watchers anymore, they taught her how to create a healthy, long-term lifestyle.

“Soon enough people started commenting on my weight loss and it was exciting to tell them how much weight I actually lost,” Ollis said. “I am currently down 39 pounds. I’ve learned how to have more self-control and what I should and shouldn’t be eating. I owe all of my motivation and dedication to Thirty 6 Red. My band members have supported me through it all and without them, I’m not sure what I would be doing today.”

Ollis spoke about how she managed to stay healthy while pursuing her career in music and also her full time job in the Healthcare industry.

 “It’s definitely a challenge to get in a workout when the band travels for shows, so if I can’t fit a workout in, I do make sure that I’m not eating junk food all day long,” she said. “Of course, I will still indulge here and there, but I still have a weight goal for myself and don’t want to lose focus.”

When Ollis does have time to workout, she has a very specific routine. One thing she has also discovered is the benefits to doing all different types of workouts.

 “I try to workout about four to five times a week, sometimes more,” Ollis said. “I do mix up my workout routines because I’ve noticed that from doing the same type of routine, my body stopped showing results. I recently started taking barre classes, which are really fun. I couldn’t walk for about two days afterwards, but it is definitely one of my favorite workouts.”

Over time, Ollis has gotten into a habit that works for her.

“I’m usually up at 5:20 a.m. to workout before I go to work. I found that this is the best time for me personally to workout because it gets me energized and ready for the day,” Ollis explained. “I’ve definitely become a fan of a few of the Beachbody workouts because even though they are about 30 to 45 minute workouts, they are definitely effective. I also belong to Worcester Fitness, which offers great workout classes such as spin, cardio sport and morning pump, to name a few of my favorites.”

 Ollis has great tips for her fellow musicians who struggle with staying healthy on the road.

“If you know that your band will be ordering a bunch of appetizers, be sure to bring your own healthy snacks and keep busy while everyone else is chowing down,” she said. “Whether you’re practicing through your set list for the show or just listening to some new tunes, keep your eye on the prize and stay focused!”

 Ollis is now a new woman with even better fashion.

“After I shed a lot of my weight, I knew it was time for a fashion makeover,” she said. “I ended up connecting with my friend and personal stylist, Danielle Marie. She is also the “fashionista Gemini” behind, A Chic Voyage, which is an awesome site where she shares amazing fashion tips and the latest fashion trends. By answering a few questions for her, she was able to transform me into a more confident version of myself. She taught me that it’s okay to show a little skin here and there and to always dress to impress! With her guidance, I’m now not afraid to wear certain outfits that I was too scared to before the weight loss. She has definitely been an inspiration to me!”

photo-nina

Nina McGoff

Nina McGoff has been a group fitness instructor for eight years and a personal trainer for four years. She has several group fitness certifications such as Group Fitness Certification, AFAA 2007, BodyCombat, LesMills, BodyPump, LesMills BodyAttack, LesMills Spinning, and MADDOGG. She also has the following training certifications: TRX Suspension Trainer, Personal Trainer, NASM, and TRX Rip Trainer, and is certified as a level 1 Nutrition Coach, Precision Nutrition.

McGoff has a true passion for the work she does and spoke with Limelight Magazine about what inspired her to become a personal trainer and what keeps her passionate about her work.

 “After teaching a class one day, a woman approached me and told me that my class was the best part of her day and that she has been feeling great since attending regularly and I knew right there and then that I wanted to do it full-time,” McGoff said. “I love being part of someone’s journey to a better self.  Helping people fall in love with fitness, that’s inspiring.”

 Many touring musicians struggle with balancing their career and healthy bodies. McGoff spoke about this struggle.

“The challenging schedule is probably the biggest hurdle,” she said. “It’s hard to make healthy choices  when constantly on the road or on the go.  It can be done, but it takes a very conscious effort.”

McGoff had great advice to give musicians struggling with staying healthy while on tour.

“Start focusing on making better choices no matter what your options or situation is,” McGoff said. “If fast food is the only option, ask for a side of fruit instead of fries, chose a bottled water instead of a sugary fountain drink.  Protein bars and drinks can be great on the go options.  Make an effort to hit the hotel gym (if available) or get out and exercise even if it’s just for 15-20 minutes daily when on the road.  A little can make a big difference.”

McGoff loves music and uses it to pump her up while working out. She talked about what she likes to listen to and why,

 “Anything that inspires me to work harder, run faster,” McGoff said. “When I’m running I like anything with a beat that builds up and drops an intense beat for a short amount time, it pushes me to go faster even if just for 10 seconds. And, I love listening to old school hip-hop and reggae when I’m strength training.”

Visit “FIT with Nina” on Facebook by clicking HERE.  This page is loaded with helpful tips on how to eat healthy and exercise regularly.

Dan Masterson wins Last Band Standing Competition and plans next moves

BY JULIA CIRIGNANO

Dan Masterson and his band after winning The Last Band Standing Competition. From left, Jamie Howell, Alec Gaston, Dan Masterson, & Matthew Silva. (PHOTO BY PATRICK CREAN, SUBMITTED BY HAILEY MAGEE)
Dan Masterson and his band after winning The Last Band Standing Competition. From left, Jamie Howell, Alec Gaston, Dan Masterson, & Matthew Silva. (PHOTO BY PATRICK CREAN, SUBMITTED BY HAILEY MAGEE)

Dan Masterson is a Boston based singer/songwriter who is best known for his emotion driven, pop/rock music. On October 15th, Masterson won The Last Band Standing Competition, hosted by New England Music Awards that featured nearly 200 acts from across New England.

Masterson sat down with Limelight Magazine to discuss his recent win. He talked about the competition which was hosted at The Hard Rock Café in Boston and his gratitude towards his band, fans, and the judges.

“The band and I are really proud to have won and we’re excited for the opportunity that comes along with the prizes of studio time and promotion,” Masterson said. “Especially because so many great acts competed (not just at the final round but in the preliminary rounds) we feel lucky to have made it. A few judges who had seen us perform before said we were far more polished and comfortable at this show. I credit that to my bandmates who have been playing out with me now for around two years and to our friends who come through again and again, singing along at the show.”

Masterson spoke about how he met the other three band members Alec Gaston, Matt Silva, and Jamie Howell.

“I met Matthew Silva (bass, vocals) when he responded to a Craigslist ad,” Masterson said. “I’m always very specific in Craigslist ads for bandmates. I think I referenced James Jamerson and a few other bass players I really like so I could find the best match. It’s a tricky business using Craigslist but [Silva] knew all the names, understood the vibe, and was a great fit.”

“Alec Gaston (guitar, vocals) I met in the middle of one of his solo cover gigs in the basement of the Harvard Square Tasty Burge,” he continued. “I stumbled in just to kill some time and grab a bite. There were maybe five people in the room and he was laying it all out, like he was determined to melt those five faces. When he took a break, I introduced myself, asked him if he’d be interested in checking out my group and possibly joining up.”

“Jamie Howell (drums) came on board about six months ago after Alec suggested he join up. Alec and Jamie also played together in a Brooklyn-based group called Chameleon Culture so the transition was very smooth.”

These four band members form a tight knit band family and have continued to refine their music ever since meeting. Masterson spoke about the experience of playing with his band during the competition.

“The Hard Rock Café has one of the best sound systems in Boston and a great staff and vibe to go with it,” Masterson said. “I’ve had the pleasure of playing there five or six times in the last few years and every time our friends are excited to come to the show because they know it’s going to sound good.”

During the competition, Masterson performed several of his original pop/rock songs and a cover of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” He explained why he chose each song he performed, showing just how much thought really goes into picking a playlist.

“In a showcase/competition scenario, we have a relatively short amount of time to both entertain the crowd and impress the judges,” Masterson said. “We knew that ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ got great feedback from a recent benefit show we did at Oberon so we decided that would be the cover tune for both rounds. We also rolled out a brand new arrangement of ‘Helpless’ at the first round, which gave our fans something fresh and showed the judges we had some versatility to our sound.”

“For the final round, we went for all the crowd pleasers — the songs that have been popular on Spotify and Pandora like ‘Learn To Live’ and ‘Slow Burn’. We put ‘Atlas’ last at the final because it has a fun bridge that the audience likes to sing along with. These are all things we’ve learned by playing shows, watching footage from the gigs, and thinking critically about how we can constantly engage with the audience,” he continued.

Masterson’s prize for winning the competition included studio time at three recording studios. He talked about how excited he is to record especially at Rocking Horse Studio in Pittsfield, N.H., with producer Brian Coombes.

“We already had some plans in the works for recording new music so to some extent we’re planning to hold that studio time in our back pocket for when it’s most needed,” Masterson explained. “I have chatted with Alex Allinson at the Bridge Sound & Stage (in Cambridge, Mass.) about doing something really special for our biggest supporters but I don’t want to let the genie out of the bottle too soon. Your readers will have to jump on my e-mail list to find out!”

Masterson released his first album in 2011 title The Father Time. He explained the copious ways in which he has evolved since his debut album.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with several professional engineers and producers since that release and I’ve played tons of venues both solo and with my band,” he said. “I’ve played to audiences of all sizes on instruments of varying quality with sound systems of even more varying quality. All of those experiences reform how we arrange a song, how I play a song, and future writing. Most importantly, I think I’ve learned that the only way to really improve your craft is to work with musicians who are more talented than you, engineers that are more knowledgeable than you, and producers who are more experienced than you.”

Masterson released his most recent album Atlas in April of 2015 and has plans to work on new music soon.

“We’re definitely itching to get back in the studio and put some new tunes down,” he said. “I’m excited to be working through the preliminary stages of a new project with Boston Music Award winner Dave Brophy. I don’t want to let the genie out of the bottle too soon but we have some exciting plans that involve new music coming your way at the start of 2017.”

Masterson is known for his emotional performances both live and on his albums. His music is first and foremost piano driven pop/rock which is evident within his exceptional performances. Masterson said that his favorite part of performing is the “connection the music fosters between people and the ability of songs to reach people.”

“It’s great to look out from the stage and see friends meeting new people,” he said. “It’s energizing and inspiring to hear from fans after a set that a certain song helped them through a breakup or a tough move or some other life stressor. There are also these moments where the whole band vibes and plays off one another in a really indescribable, improvisational way. Those moments are thrilling and keep the songs alive.”

While Masterson’s ability to produce emotional performances has it pros, it also has its cons. He talked about how he deals with being open and honest all of the time.

“I always remember that even though I’m drawing on my personal experiences and personal emotions (which can leave me feeling exposed for sure) these are often universal feelings: rejection, existentialism, financial stress, jealousy, heartbreak,” he began. “Sometimes, I’ll start off writing a song that’s very personal but fictionalize or embellish the story to make it slightly more compelling or more relatable. Putting emotion into a performance is essential to me.”

“It’s great that fans turn to these songs because they are raw, open, and relatable,” Masterson continued. “It’s also great to perform the tunes with a full band because we can enhance the dramatic nature of the lyrics with our arrangements and that makes for a show that sticks with the audience.”

When writing songs, Masterson likes to challenge himself by starting with fictitious scenarios.

“It’s easiest to write about real life scenarios because I can draw on every thought and emotion I might have at the time but a good portion of my writing starts off with a fictional character or hypothetical situation,” he said. “I try to come up with a clear idea of what a person might feel or say or do in a given situation. Sometimes they relate directly to my personal experience. Other times, it’s purely an exercise in empathy and creative writing.”

Although Masterson takes on as much creativity as possible with his songwriting, it is also a therapeutic, self-healing experience for him.

“A good number of the songs off [my sophomore EP] Learn To Live were written after a particularly difficult time for me, when I was questioning my own character and dealing with the fallout of a failed relationship,” Masterson explained. “Sometimes it’s good to vent through songs. My priority though is on the craft of writing a good song. I really respect songwriters who choose each word carefully, consider the meter and placement of words, even how a word sounds on a certain note or how the melody helps augment the emotions of a certain phrase.”

Masterson is a perfectionist when it comes to songwriting. He is passionate about his writing but is also greatly aware of the world outside of emotions and rock n roll. Masterson explained his mission as a musician both on a micro and macro scale.

“I want to write songs that reach people and connect us to one another,” he said. “I strive to have a great, energetic live show and carefully crafted studio recordings. I treat songwriting and performing as a craft that I’m constantly working to improve. I also aim to support other artists, craftspeople, and small business owners who play an active role in their community and do amazing work while doing good. I buy USA made merchandise via locally owned and operated vendors like QRSTs in Somerville. I work with designers and photographers from the immediate area. At the Last Band Standing Final, we also raised $55 (which we are doubling) to donate to the Cambridge Health Alliance’s Haitian Mental Health Clinic. They offer culturally sensitive counseling for folks in our community who may be dealing with family loss or stress following Hurricane Matthew’s devastating impact on the people of Haiti.”

Off the heels of his Last Band Standing win, Masterson has some future plans that he can talk about.

“We’re looking toward a victory mini-tour around New England to celebrate the Last Band Standing win and bring our band to some cities we haven’t been just yet,” he explained. “We’re also starting in early on applications for summer festivals, hoping to get in front of new audiences and keep our momentum moving forward. The radio promotion campaign from Powderfinger Promotions (another Last Band Standing prize) has the potential to really boost our visibility across New England and we want to have some high profile appearances lined up so listeners who happen upon our new tunes have the opportunity to catch our live show too.”

Don’t miss Masterson live at The Common Man in Concord, NH on Nov. 3 and Article 24 in Brighton, MA on Nov. 18. Masterson’s music and complete list of upcoming shows can be found HERE. You can also check out Masterson’s email list which is the primary destination for updates on new music and performances HERE.

Nikki Coogan: The Tattooed Devil’s Twin

BY JULIA CIRIGNANO

The Devil’s Twins released their debut album Handsome Devils in 2012. Since then, they have released two underground albums. The first they released later in 2013 titled Old Fashioned Mischief, and the second was released in 2015, titled Consequences. Influenced by acts such as Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Amy Winehouse, Johnny Cash, Social Distortion, Local H and Iron Maiden, this trio has had giant success within the underground cult party.

The band consists of Nicole “Nikki” Marie Coogan and Jeremiah “J”  Louf who founded the band in 2010. They later added Matt Young to their auxiliary of live drummers and Shaqed Druyan, who began to drum in new recordings.

Nicole Coogan Tattoo Artist
Besides being a musician, Nicole Coogan is also a tattoo artist. (PHOTO BY JULIA CIRIGNANO)

Although Coogan is very passionate about her music, her other love and creative outlet has always been her work as a tattoo artist. While some girls dream of rose scented futures, Coogan dreamt of being a tattoo artist before she even got her first tattoo. Limelight Magazine sat down with Coogan while she tattooed one of the co-owners of Limelight on Sept.28th to ask her about both her music and her life as a tattoo artist.

“I’ve always been a painter and artist,” Coogan said. “I’ve been really interested in tattooing for as long as I can remember. When I was young I starting noticing them on people and when my dad would get tattooed sometimes he would let me come along. I was hooked”.

Coogan got her first tattoo when she was 18 and started her apprenticeship at Inflicting Ink Tattoo in Portsmouth, R.I., during her senior year at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She graduated and got her tattoo license the same year and has been working at Inflicting Ink for five years now.

Coogan loves the artistic elements to being a tattoo artist and also the social experiences. She loves to talk to people, hear the stories behind their tattoos, and when they see the end result. She also enjoys the process of getting to know the person she is permanently tattooing.

“I like working with my customers on their ideas,” she said. “I have a couple of favorite parts in each appointment. The first being when I get to meet the person I’ll be working with and hear their ideas. Sometimes they don’t necessarily know exactly what they’re looking for but when I come back down from the drawing table with their ideas put together visually it’s really satisfying to see the excitement they get in seeing it come to life. My second and truly favorite part is when they look in the mirror and see themselves and the tattoo for the first time. I watch for their facial expressions. It makes it all worth it to see themselves become more of who they want to be”.

“It’s interesting,” she continued. “Being tattooed is a vulnerable time for a person because they’re trusting me with their body and we’re very close. It’s like, ‘nice to meet you. I’m going to hold your arm for four hours’ but when I’m tattooing someone they really open up to me and that’s really cool.”

Coogan spoke about the ways in which being a tattoo artist has affected her.

“Both of these parts of my life have really made me a lot more confident. I used to be quieter,” she said. “As a tattoo artist, I get to make people happy all day. I get to talk to them and learn so much. That’s made me so much more comfortable in my own skin.”

Working at a tattoo parlor, Coogan has met a variety of interesting people. She has done some crazy and humorous tattoos. One of her favorite moments was when a nervous chef came to her asking for a tattoo.

“It took her a while to tell me what she wanted,” Coogan said. “What she ended up getting was two sunny side up eggs and a piece of bacon as a smiley face on her bum.”

Another crazy moment was when an older gentleman who Coogan has tattooed showed her a tattoo that surprised even her.

“His body is completely covered in tattoos,” Coogan began. “There’s this myth that he had a totem pole on his weiner and sperm whales on his balls. So one day I got really nervy and asked him and he told me it was true. I just had to know. It definitely was.”

One of Nicole Coogan's favorite tattoos was the (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Pictured above is one of Coogan’s favorite tattoos that she did for a friend. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Coogan talked about one her favorite tattoos she has ever done which she did on her friend Kacey Ellis.

“She has distant ancestors to Lizzy Borden so she wanted to get a Lizzy Borden tattoo,” Coogan said. “We did a lot of research on the story so we could keep it pretty historically accurate. The two of us live in Fall River so it’s pretty common folklore in town. We did a lace doily with the broken axe on it with a couple of peaches with bites taken out of them. The peaches were part of her alibi. We rounded it all up with ‘Daddy Issues’ written around it. It was a pretty sassy tattoo.”

Pictured above is a tattoo of Amy Winhouse by Corey Goyette that Coogan got on her leg after Winehouse died.
Pictured above is a tattoo of Amy Winhouse by Corey Goyette that Coogan got on her leg after Winehouse died.

Coogan herself is covered in tattoos that instantly draw your attention when she walks into a room. She talked about her personal favorite tattoo: a portrait of Amy Winehouse on her thigh.

“I got it the year she died,” Coogan said. “I remember when I heard Amy Winehouse for the first time it woke me up inside. She has this really unique voice. When I was first trying to find my voice, I feel like I tried to sing like a lot of other people but when I started listening to her, I realized that I didn’t have a bad voice. It was just really different.”

When she started singing like herself and not anyone else, Coogan became a far better vocalist. She found her sound, herself, and friends like her.

“If you own it, that’s it. It only takes one person to say something’s cool, before everyone else joins in,” Coogan said.

Coogan talked about her perspective on the way people with tattoos are stereotyped.

“It’s too bad the way some people judge others based only on the way they look,” Coogan said. “I do find that as time has passed things have gotten a lot better as far as tattoos go in means of judgement. Fear and judgment really do just come from people not understanding. It’s too bad that so many people decide that they know you right away rather than just asking questions.”

Coogan talked about one experience she had a few years back.

“I was working at my last job in retail at a tennis place,” she began. “It was when I had started getting a little more tattooed and an older woman came up to me at a tennis tournament and said, with a super straight face, ‘does your mother still talk to you?’”

Coogan understands that most judgement towards tattoos comes from fear of the unknown. She wishes that everyone could enjoy tattoos or at least try to understand them. She said that getting tattoos makes her happy and said, “When I get a tattoo I feel so much more like myself.”

Coogan said stereotyping has changed over the past couple of years. She explained that she now tattoos people of all ages and professions, including teachers and elderly people.

“Tattoos have been a lot more prevalent in the media, newspapers, and TV. Reality TV has really brought the industry way more into the spotlight. In some ways it’s good because it makes it a little easier to digest and understand but at the same time it gives people this preconceived notion of what the job actually entails and means. It’s not all like a show where you walk in and can get a back piece in a few hours.”

Besides being a tattoo artist, Coogan is also a member of The Devil’s Twins. She explained the natural progression to which she and Louf started making music together.

“J and I have obviously known each other for a long long time.” Coogan said.

Although their styles in music differed growing up, they came together in The Devil’s Twins. “In college J had started writing some music with a drummer from Berklee named Jesse Hangen. They were in the studio at MassArt writing ‘I Can’t Stop Sinning’ and they got stuck at a part where J really wanted a soul singer. He came up to my studio floor and brought me down there to lay it down. I think it was a kind of ah-ha moment where we all looked at each other and realized we had really started something.”

The band’s music can be found on Spotify, but Coogan explained why they chose to release these last two albums underground, after releasing their debut album in a more mainstream fashion.

“In the last year or so we’ve definitely made a change in how we want to do move forward together as a band,” she said. “What we’ve really worked for and what has made us successful in the last year or so is totally changing our format. We play less shows so they’re a bit fewer and far between and are more selective to how often we’ll play an area in a concentrated time. For Boston, we’ll plan four or five big events a year and really work sell them out and release something at each one of those.”

Coogan explained why being an underground artist attracted her and Louf and why they have stuck with it.

“We’ve also found that with these more formal releases and special events, we’ve grown so much closer to our fan base and it’s all be so much more special. They’re the reason we can do what we do,” she said.

Many of The Devil’s Twins’ fans come from an underground cult following. Coogan explained how these dedicated fans helped propel the band and how unique and special their relationship is with the band.

“They’re all crazy. They do ridiculous things,” she said. “We have this attitude with them, we’ll never stop playing this music with you and we’re going to support you and make you part of our family but what you do to support us is in your hands. They’re all really in the public eye with their support. So many of them have come to me to get the ‘2’ tattooed which is crazy. So many of them have made patches and pins and merch for our table. They’ll go to other shows and hand shit out and like tag walls and graffiti things. They’re extremely extremely supportive.”

Not only are The Devil’s Twins close to their fans, they’re also close to their crew.

“We try to keep our crew close. The 2 crew are our core fan base. The ones who are always there no matter what.” she said. “They’re like a family that has developed over the past years. They have their own Facebook group where they’ll make plans and share videos and talk. They all have the tattoos and they’re all out of their damn minds. They definitely all feel included and they know we couldn’t do it without them. It’s all felt a lot more special since we started treating things like that.”

The Devil’s Twins are currently working on new music. They’re experimenting with new sounds and collaborating with other musicians.

“We’re working on some new material now that we’re really excited about,” Coogan said. “We just finished a song with the Boston rapper, Slaine which has always been a dream of ours. We’ll be releasing that soon and I’m so excited to have everyone hear it. We’ll be releasing it as a single in the very near future.”

Coogan explained that The Devil’s Twins’ new music will sound like them but with a new twist. They are exploring new instruments and sounds to create what they think will be the band’s best album so far.

“I feel like we’re melding into a new era where we’re less afraid to use more auxiliary sounds,” she said. “We have so many options open because right now it’s just J and I making all of those decisions and we’re both so into just kind of getting free with our music now. I’m really into our lyrics being very wordy and almost tripping over themselves. I love making music that has a real narrative storyline to make people think.”

Recently, The Devil’s Twins have been nominated for two Boston Music Awards: Best Rock/Indie Band and Best Live Artist of the Year. Cast your vote HERE!

Nicole "Nikki" Marie Coogan shines on stage at a recent performance with The Devil's Twins. (PHOTO BY
Nicole Coogan shines on stage at a performance with The Devil’s Twins. (PHOTO BY ROGER GORDY, SUBMITTED BY NICOLE COOGAN)

 

10 musicians from New England share what their tattoos mean

BY JULIA CIRIGNANO

To coincide with our 10th year anniversary, Limelight Magazine has decided to post ten of our favorite tattoos that were submitted to us by local musicians throughout New England. These musicians have also explained what their tattoos mean to them. Read below to learn more about these musicians and the reasons why they decided to get a variety of intricate and meaningful tattoos.

Emil Belisle (of Impending Reflections)

“My two face tattoo stands for inner struggle between good and evil.”

tattoo-emil-belisle

Emil Belisle (of Impending Reflections)

“My wolf tattoo is really special. It is a painting that someone very special in his life did. My tats were all done at Altered Images in Cumberland, RI.”

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Nicole Marie Coogan (of The Devil’s Twins)

“Johnny Cash was a familiar background voice in our home growing up. My dad has always had great taste in music and truly immersed us in a huge variety of big and small name artists in all different genres. I think that’s what really kept me open to hearing and loving all different types of music. Johnny Cash was always one of my favorites though. He definitely followed an interesting path in his life and sometimes he didn’t make the right choices but those were the choices that led him to his happiness in the end. His storytelling ability and charm were something that really stuck with me. I took a lot of that along in the back of my mind when I started writing and helped form my narrative based writing style. It only seemed right to thank him with a reminder of his voice and songs following me through my life. “

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April Cushman (of The April Cushman Band)

 “This tattoo I got for my grandmother and grandfather, who have both recently passed from liver disease and liver cancer. My grandfather, Paul Daoust, who passed on Sunday, September 18th, 2016, was an extremely skilled archery champion and hunter who came from very deep French-Canadian and Native American roots. The arrow symbolizes his hard work, determination and most of all his passion for doing what he loved the most. My grandmother, Kathleen Daoust, passed away on May 6th, 2004. She was the most kindhearted human on this planet. She laughed often, gave more than she ever received and was a very skilled chef. She was in love with angels and is coincidentally my guardian angel. I feel her often and know she is always with me. The beads on this tattoo represent liver disease and cancer awareness, as well as my angel number, 66. My grandparents had gifted me my very first acoustic guitar at Christmas when I was just five years old, which shaped me into the person and musician that I am today. My father (their son), is also in my band, sharing the family’s love for country, folk and acoustic music.”

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Mike LaRoche (of Landsdowne/Blameshift/State of Emergency)

“I started getting this sleeve when I was 18. I was inspired by the TOOL music video for “Schism” where a little creature comes out of the body and only has a mouth and no eyes. I also loved H. R. Giger’ s work with biomechanical drawings so I wanted to incorporate that as well. I started off with a small scene on my forearm. Within the next year, I kept adding a couple scenes at a time eventually forming into a full sleeve. My entire arm is one full theme. There are a bunch of those little creatures running around inside my arm pulling levers and climbing ladders essentially running it like a factory.”

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Ken Macy 

“This tattoo celebrates 10 successful years of my business: Ken Macy Music. I started to become a professional musician ten years ago and wanted to live out my dream. Now 10 years later, the tattoo reminds me of the people I’ve met and the places I’ve been. It’s my first tattoo (I got it this past August 2016) and it means a lot to me. The logo is the Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers logo to which he and the band influenced my writing. I was also born on Valentine’s Day hence the heart and V guitar (arrow) through the heart. We as artists all go through blood, sweat, and tears to do what we love for a living so my tattoo is for all the musicians out there who wear their heart on their sleeve.”

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Stan Matthews

“I have two tattoos, one on each arm. The tattoo on the right is “Pat Patriot”, the old Patriots logo. To say that I’m a big Patriots fan is just a start. I went to my first game in 1967, my dad was a season ticket holder for many years.”

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Ryan Stark (of Far Above the Ground)

“One of my tattoos is of Frank Sinatra on my right arm driving a 1955 T-Bird. I got the tattoo because to me Frank is the original rock star. He had a rollercoaster career and ended up on top of the world.”

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Arline Urquhart (of The Teter Todders)

“I got this tattoo to represent my passion for music. I sing for self-therapy and would not have overcome so many obstacles without being blessed with my musical gift. If you notice the notes flow up as well as my faith and belief that music heals.”

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Mark Vinciguerra

“Ok so Seven League Boots was a rock/reggae band from Boston in the early 90’s featuring Bobby Sullivan of Soulside along with trhee local guys from Massachusetts – including former Rumble winner Bow Thayer.

They were the band who influenced me in 1992 to start my own band and become a musician, which I still am. I’m not in a band right now though since I’m waiting on hand surgery and can’t play guitar. The last band I was in was Jah Fist out of Providence who are still playing, just without me.

So 20 years later on a whim I searched and found the guys on Facebook. Started that page above for them, then ended up DIY (do it yourself) remastering and re-releasing their only CD release, which had been out of print for 20 years.

All their music is HERE, along with a full set live video from 1992.

They ended up doing a couple reunion shows in 2012, where I was made an official member, although they have since split up again.

One of the shows was at a huge festival in Vermont where I got to play with pretty much everyone from the ‘90s Boston scene…Roadsaw, the remaining members of Morphine, Laurie Sargeant, Dan Blaksee, etc…When I got home, I got this tattoo with the money I was paid to play the festival.”

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