Tag: Amy Winehouse

Throwback: Happy 38th Birthday, Amy Winehouse!

JOVM celebrates what would have been Amy Winehouse’s 38th birthday.

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Yola Releases a Rousing, Feminist Anthem

With the release of her critically applauded, Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut, 2019’s Walk Through Fire, the Bristol, UK-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Yola had a breakthrough year with a series of career-defining highlights including:

making her New York debut at Rockwood Music Hall
playing a buzz-worthy, breakout performance at that year’s SXSW
opening for a list of acclaimed artists including Kacey Musgraves, Lake Street Dive and Andrew Bird on a select series of US tour dates that featured stops at Newport Folk Festival, Hollywood Bowl, Austin City Limits Festival, and Lincoln Center Out of Doors
playing a YouTube session at YouTube Space New York
making her nationally televised debut on CBS This Morning: Saturday Sessions
receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Artist, along with fellow JOVM mainstays The Black Pumas
making her late night national television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! 
releasing a soulful cover of Elton John‘s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,”that not only quickly became a staple of her live sets — but caught the attention of Sir Elton John, who praised her and her cover

Last year, the JOVM mainstay had hopes to build upon the momentum of the previous year with a handful of opportunities that came her way that many artists across the world would kill for: Early in the year, it was announced that she was going to play blues and rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s musical drama Elvis alongside Austin Butler in the title role, Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Presley’s mother. Unfortunately, much like with everyone else,the COVID-19 pandemic threw a series of monkey wrenches into her hopes and plans: Tom Hanks wound up contracting COVID-19 while filming in Australia and because of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions, filming was delayed. During breaks in the filming schedule, she was supposed to open for a handful of dates for country superstar Chris Stapleton and Grammy Award-winning acts  The Black Keys and Brandi Carlile — with one of those shows being at Madison Square Garden, which also got postponed until later on this year. (More on that below.)

However, Yola was able to finish her first Stateside headlining tour, a tour that included a stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg, a few weeks before the world went into lockdown.  In lieu of touring, the Bristol-born, Nashville-based artist wound up making virtual stops across the domestic, late night television show circuit: She played album bonus track “I Don’t Want to Lie” on The Late Late Show with James Corden — and she played a gospel-tinged cover of Nina Simone‘s classic and beloved “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” filmed at The Ryman Auditorium for Late Night with Seth Meyers. 

The Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay used the unexpected gift of time and space to ground herself physically and mentally as she began to write the material that would eventually become her highly-anticipated sophomore album Stand For Myself. Some of the album’s material was written several years previously and inspired by deeply personal moments, like her mother’s funeral. Other songs were written during pandemic isolation, and as a result they reflect on her personal and collective moments of longing and awakening — inspired and informed by Black Lives Matter and other movements.

Tracks were also cowritten with Ruby Amanfu, John Bettis, Pat McLaughlin, Natalie Hemby, Joy Oladokun, Paul Overstreet, Liz Rose, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Hannah Vasanth and Bobby Wood. But importantly, the album’s material will most likely make a connection with anyone who has experienced feeling as though they were an “other” while urging the listener to challenge the biases and assumptions that fuel bigotry, inequality and tokenism — all of which have impacted her personal life and career.

“It’s a collection of stories of allyship, black feminine strength through vulnerability, and loving connection from the sexual to the social. All celebrating a change in thinking and paradigm shift at their core.” Yola says in press note, adding, “It is an album not blindly positive and it does not simply plead for everyone to come together. It instead explores ways that we need to stand for ourselves throughout our lives, what limits our connection as humans and declares that real change will come when we challenge our thinking and acknowledge our true complexity.” Ultimately, the JOVM mainstay’s hope is that the album will encourage both empathy and self actualization, all while returning to where she started, to the real Yola. “I kind of got talked out of being me, and now I’m here. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life. There was a little hiatus where I got brainwashed out of my own majesty, but a bitch is back.”

Continuing her ongoing collaboration with acclaimed producer, singer/songwriter, musician and label head Dan Auerbach, the album which was recorded late last year at Easy Eye Sound is inspired by the seminal albums she initially discovered through her mother’s record collection, as well as the eclectic mixtapes she created while listening to British radio that featured neo soul, R&B, Brit Pop and others. Featuring a backing band that includes Nick Movshon (bass), best known for his work with Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars alongside Aaron Frazier (drums), a rising solo artist in his own right, the album is sonically is a noticeable shift from her debut, with the album’s aesthetic meshing symphonic soul and classic pop while occasionally hinting at the country soul of her critically applauded debut.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Stand For Myself’s first single, “Diamond Studded Shoes,” a woozy yet seamless synthesis of densely layered Phil Spector-like Wall of Sound pop, country, 70s singer/songwriter pop and late 60s/early 70s Motown soul centered around the JOVM mainstay’s powerhouse vocals and some of the most incisive sociopolitical commentary of her growing catalog. “This song explores the false divides created to distract us from those few who are in charge of the majority of the world’s wealth and use the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic to keep it,” Yola explained in press notes. “This song calls on us to unite and turn our focus to those with a stranglehold on humanity.”

Interestingly, Stand For Myself’s second and latest single is the album title track “Stand For Myself.” Centered around a rousing, shout-along worthy hook, Yola’s powerhouse vocals and a clean, pop-leaning take on the Nashville sound, the song was cowritten by Yola, Dan Auerbach and Hannah Vasanth — and features The McCrary Sisters contributing backing vocals. The track manages to be a bold and proudly feminist anthem written from the perspective of a survivor, who wants to thrive and be wholly herself — at all costs. And yet much like its immediate predecessor, there’s incisive social commentary underpinning the whole affair: Essentially, the track reflects on the JOVM mainstays’ belief in the possibility of paradigm shift beyond the mental programming that creates both tokenism and bigotry.  “The song’s protagonist ‘token,’ has been shrinking themselves to fit into the narrative of another’s making, but it becomes clear that shrinking is pointless,” Yola explains. She adds “This song is about a celebration of being awake from the nightmare supremacist paradigm. Truly alive, awake and eyes finally wide open and trained on your path to self actualisation. You are thinking freely and working on undoing the mental programming that has made you live in fear. It is about standing for ourselves throughout our lives and real change coming when we challenge our thinking. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life.”

Directed by Allister Ann, the recently released video visually is indebted to Missy Elliott’s classic videos of the ’90s and ’00s but with strobe lights and a motorcycle to symbolize, the JOVM mainstay’s escape — and freedom — from those forces that have been oppressing her. And most importantly, depicting a much more nuanced definition of Black female strength — a strength thats balanced with vulnerability. r”My school years were during the 90s and 00s, and Missy Elliott’s videos were always aesthetically superior to me,” Yola says of the video. “I feel that the video is set in the antechamber to freedom. The feeling of escaping something truly oppressive and heading towards an unknown with a sense of hope and choice you haven’t felt in a long time. We all have the capacity to go through this process in our own minds, I kinda look like a superhero at times, but I’m not. I’m just a person trying to be free.”

New Video: London’s Mariachi Las Adelitas Cover Amy Winehouse

Rising London-based septet Mariachi Las Adelitas is Europe’s first all-female mariachi band. Founded in 2013 by bandleader Anna Csergo (a.k.a Anita Adelita), the act, which features a collection of exceptionally talented musicians and vocalists from Mexico, Cuba, Colombia and the UK, actively shatters stereotypes in an extremely male-orientated genre. Their repertoire includes the mariachi classics, as well as mariachi-styled arrangements of well-known and beloved classics in English.

In their almost decade-long history, the septet has established themselves as a highly in-demand live act. They’ve opened for Arcade Fire at London’s Earl Court. They’ve shared a stage with the two-time Grammy Award winning Mariachi Divas at International Mariachi Women’s Festival, where they received a standing ovation. They’ve also played the Victoria & Albert Museum and at The Roundhouse. And they’ve serenaded Selma Hayek on her birthday.

Late last year, I wrote about the septet’s debut single “El Toro Relajo.” Featuring a new arrangement by the band’s founder and recorded during pandemic-related lockdowns, the gorgeous Mariachi Las Adelitas rendition revealed a self-assured and super talented band that can really play– and a vocalist, who belts like a young Linda Rondstadt. The London-based septet’s latest single finds them crafting a loving Huapango mariachi arrangement of Amy Winehouse‘s classic, heartbreaking ballad “Back to Black.” Both versions are gorgeous –but interestingly enough, the mariachi rendition somehow manages to enhance the bitter heartbreak at the song’s core.

“Writing this arrangement was a delicate and controversial issue for Mariachi Las Adelitas,” bandleader and producer Anna Csergo explains in press notes. “Mariachi is a complex traditional art form that we want to preserve, revive and bring out into the wider world. Arranging a popular song from our hometown of London had to be done with the utmost respect and authenticity for the style. We decided that if we were going to cover a non-mariachi song we would arrange it in true mariachi style.

“Of course we also wanted to do justice to the writer herself, not make a bad copy of already great music.”

Much like its immediate predecessor, the song was recorded and produced remotely as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions. The recently released video was also shot and edited in a similar DIY fashion, so we see the individual band members performing — in full mariachi regalia — in their backyards, their home studios or their dens. The video is a reminder that for contemporary artists everywhere if there’s a will, there’s a way.

Rising London-based septet Mariachi Las Adelitas is Europe’s first all-female mariachi band. Founded in 2013 by bandleader Anna Csergo (a.k.a Anita Adelita), the act, which features a collection of exceptionally talented musicians and vocalists from Mexico, Cuba, Colombia and the UK, actively shatters stereotypes in an extremely male-orientated genre. Their repertoire includes the mariachi classics, as well as mariachi-styled arrangements of well-known and beloved classics in English. 

In their almost decade-long history, the septet has established themselves as a highly in-demand live act. They’ve opened for Arcade Fire at London’s Earl Court. They’ve shared a stage with the two-time Grammy Award winning Mariachi Divas at  International Mariachi Women’s Festival, where they received a standing ovation. They’ve also played the Victoria & Albert Museum and at The Roundhouse. And they’ve serenaded Selma Hayek on her birthday.

Late last year, I wrote about the septet’s debut single “El Toro Relajo.” Featuring a new arrangement by the band’s founder and recorded during pandemic-related lockdowns, the gorgeous Mariachi Las Adelitas rendition revealed a self-assured and super talented band that can really play– and a vocalist, who belts like a young Linda Rondstadt. The London-based septet’s latest single finds them crafting a loving Huapango mariachi arrangement of Amy Winehouse‘s classic, heartbreaking ballad “Back to Black.” Both versions are gorgeous –but interestingly enough, the mariachi rendition somehow manages to enhance the bitter heartbreak at the song’s core.

New Video: Genre-Bending Artist Kitty Coen Releases a Cinematic and Psychedelic Fever Dream

Kitty Coen is a 22 year-old, Austin-based singer/songwriter, who emerged with the release of an acoustic cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie.” Influenced by Tame Impala and STRFKR, the emerging Austin-based singer/songwriter has balanced a rooted commitment to the classics with a psychedelic, Western and bluesy sound — with subtle nods to disco. 

Centered around the Austin-based singer/songwriter’s sultry vocals, shimmering reverb-drenched, guitars, propulsive drumming, some fuzzy and funky synths and an infectious hook. “Dark Soul” is a sultry and self-assured debut single that to my ears reminds me a bit of Too True-era Dum Dum Girls and 80s New Wave — with subtle nods to country. But under the material’s polished sheen is a beating and sensitive heart — while being a bit of a tell off/warning reminiscent of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good.”

“This release of music is a coming-out party for tunes I’ve had in my soul for a while,” Coen explains. “As an artist who took some time to perfect her sounds, I feel that the music I’m putting out in the coming months is introducing my voice and style to the world. The stories and themes have been acquired over my life. Growing up in a small Texas town I was exposed to a lot of country music and influenced my a western aesthetic, but this isn’t country, it’s more like Dolly Parton on an acid trip.” 

“‘Dark Soul’ is basically a warning label to any potential suitors who might think I’m all smiles and rainbows,” the emerging Austin-based singer/songwriter adds. “Just because I seem sweet at first doesn’t mean I always am. Especially with relationships that don’t let me breathe. I’m an independent woman and if you want to be with an independent woman you have to accept one thing: they don’t need you. ‘Dark Soul’ was originally a song I wrote on acoustic guitar in my friend’s garage. But as I performed it live I realized I wanted it bigger and ultimately better. I went to Nashville to work on it with my producer and we re-worked it into a western disco dance track.”

Directed by Kitty Coen and Aaron Brown, the recently released is a psychedelic and cinematically shot visual that begins with Coen driving on an open highway with burning orange skies with her red hair mirroring the color of the sky. She eventually parks the muscle car she was driving and enters into a smoky, neon room with bubbles, palms, glitter and explosive bursts of color. We also follow her to a pool and to a futuristic Western club. But throughout we see Coen be sassy, seductive and remarkably self-assured. ‘“The vibe of the video is disco cowgirl realness. I wanted to take the viewer on a psychedelic trip through the mind of Kitty Coen,” Coen explains.

New Video: Holy Hive Releases a Dreamy and Nostalgia-Inducing Animated Visual for New Single

Holy Hive is a Brooklyn-based soul act featuring:

Paul Spring, a St. Cloud, MN-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who spent his formative years studying ancient languages, poetry and classical guitar before making a name for himself as a folk artist, eventually self-releasing seven albums, including a well-received children’s album Home of Song.
Homer Steinweiss, a Brooklyn-born and-based drummer, who has played, toured and recorded with a who’s who of contemporary soul and pop music including Amy Winehouse, Bruno Mars, The Jonas Brothers, St. Vincent, Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings— before settling into a highly-south after session player.
Joe Harrison, a Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist who has played with Frank Dukes and Charles Bradley.
The band can trace its origins to when Spring and Steinwess met on a Minnesota farm through their respective girlfriends, who are cousins. Steinweiss and Spring soon began a long-distance friendship, which, over time developed into a folk music recording project. Harrison, was working at a studio assistant at The Diamond Mine Studios at the time and he started to sit in on the duo’s sessions, eventually joining the band as a full-time member in 2015 when the band began recording as Holy Hive.

In 2016 Spring relocated to New York and the members of Holy Hive were invited to tour with JOVM mainstay Lee Fields. That tour dramatically changed their approach and sound: after the tour they began exploring the relationships between the traditions and lyricism of folk and the aesthetics and rhythms of soul music — seamlessly meshing them into something anachronistic yet uniquely theirs. And with a new sound, they began honing their sound with a year-long monthly resident at Red Hook, Brooklyn-based dive bar Sunny’s with a rotating cast of collaborators. Then they spent the next couple of years working on folk and soul inspired material that thematically focused on love and loss.

The end result is the band’s long-awaited full-length debut Float Back to You. Slated for a May 29, 2020 release through Big Crown Records, the album is the follow-up to their critically applauded debut EP Harping and a string of well-received singles. Recorded at Steinwess’ Diamond Mind Studios, the album was produced by Steinwess and consists of 10 originals, a cover of Honeybus’ “Be Thou By My Side” and a re-working of the old Irish folk standard “Red is the Rose.” The album also features an impressive array of guest stars including Mary Lattimore (harp), El Michels Affair’s Leon Michels (sax, keys), The Shacks‘ Shannon Wise (backing vocals), The Roots’ Dave Guy (trumpet), Nick Movshon (bass) and Spring’s wife Sophia Heymans (piano).

Earlier this year, I wrote about the album’s first single “Broom.” Tracing its origins back to the band’s first tour with Lee Fields, the track is a shimmering and mournful bit of blue-eyed soul meets 60s folk. “At the time, we were a folk trio with nylon guitars playing Nick Drake inspired arrangements,” the band’s Homer Steinweiss recalls in press notes. “These songs did not go over too well with the So-Cal soul audience. Inspired by Lee’s music, we saw a need to write a more soulful song to appeal to them. After covering Donnie and Joe Emerson’s ‘Baby’ in San Diego, Joe made some chords, Homer laid a beat and paul activated the falsetto to make this tune.” Interestingly, “Float Back To You,” the slow-burning and shimmering third album single and album title track is a achingly plaintive ballad that further cements the band’s sound — in particular, I’m reminded Simon & Garfunkel, Scott Walker and blue-eyed sound.

Featuring line animation by Sophia Heymans, the recently released video for “Float Back To You,” the video manages to capture those things we can’t quite have — carefree summer afternoons and nights, while following a woman, who decides to take various garden gnomes, rocking horses and the like into her home to read to them.  It’s a simple yet surreal fantasy centered around the sort of feverish nostalgia we all have right now. 

A Q&A with Jennifer Silva

Jennifer Silva is a Boston-born, New York-based singer/songwriter. Influenced by Stevie NicksAretha FranklinTori AmosThe Rolling StonesFlorence + The Machine and Alabama Shakes, the Boston-born, New York-based singer/songwriter has received attention for bringing a sensual and soulful energy to her live shows — and for lyrics that explore universal and very human paradoxes — particularly, the saint and sinner within all of us.

Silva’s debut EP was an EDM collaboration with DJ Sizigi-13 under the mononym Silva — but since the release of that effort, her material has leaned heavily towards singer/songwriter soul, rock and pop with 70s AM rock references, as you’ll hear on her most recent album, the Reed Black-produced Bluest Sky, Darkest Earth.

Silva’s latest single “I Wash My Hands” is a shimmering and gorgeous country soul/70s AM rock-like song centered around a fairly simple arrangement of guitar, bass, vocals and drums that’s sonically indebted to Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac. Interestingly, the song was originally written as a weary lament over a major relationship that has come to an end – but the song manages takes on a heightened meaning, reflecting on a heightened sense of uncertainty and fear, suggesting that maybe Mother Earth is attempting to wash her hands of us.

The recently released video for “I Wash My Hands” was created during the mandatory social distancing and quarantines of the COVID-19 pandemic – and it features Silva, her friends, family, bandmembers and voice students, separated by quarantine but connecting through the song.

I recently exchanged emails with Jennifer Silva for this edition of JOVM’s ongoing Q&A series – and naturally, we chat about her new single and video, her influences –including her love of Stevie Nicks, and her songwriting process. Of course, with governments across the world closing bars, restaurants, nightclubs and music venues to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the impact on the music industry – particularly on small and mid-sized venues, and the touring, emerging and indie artists who grace their stages, has been devastating. Over the course of the pandemic, I’ll be talking to artists about how the pandemic has impacted them and their careers. And in this interview, Silva reveals that the much-anticipated follow-up to Bluest Sky, Darkest Earth has been rescheduled, with her and her backing band figuring out how to finish it with the use of technology. Then add lost gigs and the uncertainty of when you’ll be able to play or promote your new work, and it’s a particularly urgent and uneasy time. But the dedicated will find a way to keep on going on for as long as they can.

Check out the video and the Q&A below.

jennifer_silva5
Photo Credit: Paxton Connors

Jennifer Silva_IWMH

________________

WRH: Much of the world has been in quarantine and adhering to social distancing guidelines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. How are you holding up? How are you spending your time? Are you binge watching anything?

Jennifer Silva: The world is upside down right now and it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions for me.  Shock, depression, anger, acceptance — feels like the stages of grief sometimes! I really miss my friends and my social life. Playing shows, my band. The good news though, is that my family and I are safe, healthy and well stocked. We left Brooklyn right before it got really bad and headed upstate. So, I’ve been in the woods, pretty secluded, with limited cable news (thankfully) and some great outdoorsy vibes all around me.  I’m very lucky and I really can’t complain. I’ve been spending the time connecting with my family, homeschooling my daughters, cooking, knitting, reading and writing songs!  We’ve been living a simple life these days and that’s actually a great thing sometimes. I just started watching Ozark on Netflix, finally, which is perfect for this quarantine! I’m always down for an epic drug/murder/survival story. Oh, and wine.

WRH: Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, festivals have been postponed or cancelled outright, artists of all stripes have postponed, rescheduled or cancelled tour dates. Most of the world has been on an indefinite pause. How has COVID-19 impacted you and your career?

JS: This has got to be the hardest part of it all for me. I’ve also had to cancel shows, but, most significantly, literally one week before the pandemic really hit NYC, I was in the studio with my band and producer (Reed Black of Vinegar Hill Sound) tracking my next record.  We spent two full days laying down all the music and scratch vocals for 10 tracks, and I was so hyped and excited for the next two months of recording all the overdubs, lead vocals, background vocals and getting that final mix completed. Now, we must wait. Luckily though, we have the rough mixes to listen to and some of my band members are working on and planning overdubs at home. It’s frustrating but I’m still so grateful to have had those days in the studio. What we have already, sounds amazing!

WRH: How did you get into music?

JS: I’ve been singing all my life.  My father played guitar around the house throughout my childhood, and so at a young age I was singing classic rock and soul music to my family. “The House of the Rising Sun” (The Animals), “Bring it on Home to Me” (Sam Cooke) and “To Love Somebody” (Bee Gees) were my first covers!

I also went to Catholic school as a girl where the nuns always made me sing the solos at the Christmas and Easter performances. And of course, I was singing in Church every week. That really helped shaped me as a singer because I was taught to belt without shame because it was a “gift”, so I have always been a loud singer, haha. I’m not religious anymore (thankfully), but man, I love me some Church hymns! And there is nothing like the acoustics in a Cathedral.

WRH: Who are your influences?

JS: I have so many influences from so many different genres of music.  The Animals, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Lionel Richie, David Bowie, Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke and all of Motown were early loves of mine.

Then I had a whole Neo Soul moment, falling in love with singers like Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, and Jill Scott. They definitely influenced me with their powerful female energy and style and the vocal choices they made. I also love 80’s and 90’s female badasses, like Tori Amos, Bjork, PJ Harvey, Hole, Garbage, Madonna and Annie Lennox. Artists with true points of view and the guts to say it.

I love Blues and Jazz greats like Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Etta James, Ray Charles, Lead Belly. Their emotional rawness and vocal prowess has always been a guide.

Singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Tracy Chapman, T. Bone Burnett, Dolly Parton, Rufus Wainwright and Joni Mitchell have helped shape my lyric writing and storytelling. I love Lana Del Rey as well.

Vocalists like Amy Winehouse, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, Stevie Nicks and of course, Aretha Franklin will always be the pinnacle of greatness for me. These artists INSPIRE me.

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

JS: There is so much amazing music out right now. The talent level in this industry can be intimidating actually! Right now, we’ve been listening to a lot of indie rock and singer-songwriters like Marlon Williams and Aldous Harding, Töth, The Dø, Future Islands, Julia Jacklin, Sun Kil Moon, and Heartless Bastards.  And we are always playing The National and Arcade Fire. The Grateful Dead and Tom Waits are spun pretty regularly too around here. And of course, we’ve been listening to lots of John Prine since his recent passing from Covid-19.  What a loss.

WRH: I’ve probably referenced Stevie Nicks’ “Stand Back” more times than any other journalist in town. I think of a certain synth sound – and that song comes to mind. Plus, I love that song.

I know that Stevie Nicks is a big influence on you. What’s your favorite all-time Stevie Nicks song?

JS: One thing I really love about Stevie, which I read in her biography a few years ago (by Zoe Howe), and that I can totally relate to, was that she didn’t have any formal musical education. She just had her gorgeous melodies and emotional lyrics and really, just a simple catalog of basic chords.  Lindsey [Buckingham] would get frustrated with her because he’d have to finesse her songs so much to make them work. “Dreams,” for instance, only has 2 chords! But her songs were always their biggest hits. She tapped into an emotion and style and energy that people love and her voice is just absolutely unique and powerful. In a way, the reason she was so successful with her songwriting was because she wasn’t trapped in a musical box. She would write whatever she felt, and her uniqueness and melodies were memorable and beautiful. She inspires me so much! It’s nearly impossible to choose one favorite Stevie Nicks song, but I’ll go with “Edge of Seventeen.”  A close second is probably “Landslide.”

WRH: Your first release was an EDM-like collaboration with DJ Sizigi-13. Since then your sound has gone through a dramatic change. How did that come about?  How would you describe your sound to those unfamiliar with you and your sound?

JS: After my old band broke up in 2014, I was searching for new musical collaborations on Craigslist. I connected with Sizigi over email and we decided to make a song together.  One song led to four, over the course of a few months. I knew going in, EDM wasn’t going to be my personal sound forever, but I was down for the challenge of writing to existing beats and learning to record all my vocals at home with GarageBand. I bought a microphone and set up a vocal booth in my closet with towels on the doors to pad the sound.  I learned to edit. I love my lyrics and vocals on those songs, and I am very proud of the work I did. So, ultimately, I chose to have the record mastered and to release the 4 song EP independently. It was a stepping-stone for me.

The music I make now is all me though. I pen all of the lyrics and write the melodies on guitar, or sometimes I use my Omnichord (a vintage electronic harp/synthesizer from the 80s, which is AMAZING) and then my band brings it all to life!  My sound can be described as indie rock soul. I love the Alabama Shakes so that’s a decent comparison, I hope. The lyrics are evocative and dramatic, and the music is organic rock, but I always sing with soul. I also love to explore the saint and the sinner in all of us and tap into themes from my Catholic upbringing — like with “The Convent” from my last record Bluest Sky, Darkest Earth and “Purgatory Road” which will be on my next record. I am inspired by elements of the occult (tarot cards, following your intuition, voodoo) and I use nature and other metaphors to write about complicated relationships.

WRH: Rockwood Music Hall celebrated their 15th anniversary earlier this year. Sadly, during this century, existing 15 years as a venue in New York time is like 149 years. Rockwood Music Hall invited an All-Star list of artists, who have cut their teeth playing the venue’s three stages to celebrate. The bill that month included JOVM mainstay Anna Rose, acts that I’ve covered like Eleanor Dubinsky, Christopher Paul Stelling, The Rad Trads, Mike Dillon, Melany Watson, as well as Jon Baptiste. How does it feel to be included with those acts?

JS: It feels amazing! I am so lucky to have played a small part in Rockwood’s incredible history. It was an absolute honor to play the stage that night, and to join that list of talented artists. Rockwood Music Hall was the first place I ever played in NYC. I remember getting an early Saturday afternoon acoustic slot with my old guitarist and playing to a mostly empty room. It was still so damn exciting to me, the opportunity to play that famous stage.  Fast forward a few years later to my packed record release show on Stage 1 and then my graduation to Stage 2, last year. Rockwood has supported me since Day 1 and to help celebrate their anniversary, on the very stage where it all began for me, made me so proud!

WRH: Your Rockwood Music Hall set included a cover of one of my favorite Lead Belly songs ever “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.” It’s one of those songs that for whatever reason doesn’t seem to be covered a whole lot. So, what drew you to the song? And how much does the blues influence you?

JS: I have been listening to Lead Belly for a very long time. I only knew his version of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” and never actually heard Nirvana’s version until many years later, which is what I think most people think of when they hear that song these days. I used to love singing that song in the car with my boyfriend. We each took a verse. It always seemed so chilling and powerful and it really tells a story that leaves you wanting more. You are right though, it’s not covered a whole lot and when we first tried in rehearsal, we knew it would kill. Everyone really responds to that one.

I generally gravitate toward big singers. Full voices filled with heartache and soul and you get that in spades with the Blues.  The Blues are rooted in emotion and that kind of expression comes naturally for me. Lead Belly and Big Mama Thornton are definitely my favorite blues artists, but I also really dig Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Son House, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Bessie Smith. I love how Bonnie Raitt, Larkin Poe and Gary Clark, Jr. are keeping that tradition alive and having success with Modern Blues too.

WRH: How do you know when you have a finished song?

JS: I know a song is finished when I love the melody and lyrics enough to play it over and over again, day after day and when I can get lost developing the vocal runs. A good sign is when my family really responds to it as well. I also think nailing the bridge usually seals the deal for me. That’s when I write over my penciled lyrics and chords, in my black, Papermate flair pen and make it final!

I’m not a person who usually tinkers on a song for years though.  I write most songs in a few hours, or a couple of days or maybe, up to a week. I like to capture the emotion of a sentiment and get most of it right and then move on to the next song. In all honesty, the best songs write themselves in 10 minutes! I actually wrote my new single “I Wash My Hands” quickly like that.

WRH: Your latest single “I Wash My Hands” and its accompanying video officially drops today. It’s a gorgeous country soul/70s AM rock song, a weary lament of someone who’s desperate to move on from a relationship or some other major life tie. You wouldn’t have known this at the time, but the song has an eerie double meaning that reflects our current moment of uncertainty and fear. Curiously, how does it feel to have written something that initially was supposed to be about something specific that suddenly transforms into something altogether different?  

JS: Thanks. I think the lyrics are very relatable for anyone in a long-term relationship who understands that compromise and respect are needed for a couple to survive and more importantly, thrive. But in this unprecedented moment in our lives, that can also be said about humans and our planet. Fear of Covid-19 leaves us all washing our hands like never before, so now, this track also invokes Mother Nature’s demand for more respect. She is also washing her hands of our abuse, forcing us all to pause while she shows us just how powerful she is. It’s humbling.

WRH: The video for the song is pretty intimate almost home video-like visual, as it features a collection of loved ones, including family and friends lip synching along to the song – while they’re in quarantine. How did you come about the concept? And how did it feel to have your loved ones participate in the video?

JS: Last week, my brother Chris and I were talking on FaceTime, about the need for interconnectedness even while social distancing. We thought about how lonely people are, even though we are Zooming and chatting on the phone, more than ever.

We thought it would be really special if I could get some of my friends and family to lip-synch parts of this song and create a montage. Video production resources are limited here in quarantine, but everybody has a phone with a camera and time on their hands!

The video is like being on a Zoom call but this one makes me feel so happy every time I watch it! It’s all my favorite people singing my song. People in Brooklyn, California, Detroit, New Jersey, New England, and even as far as Kenya! Everyone just really came through and had fun with this project, including my voice students, family members and close friends. People I haven’t seen in two months or more! I don’t know when I’ll see them again frankly, but the video makes me feel connected to them and I think it makes them all feel connected to each other. I love it so much.

WRH: What’s next for you?

JS: While I’m quarantined, I’m going to keep making art. Keep writing music. Keep singing.

I’m also going to continue to work on my next album. Right now, the plan is to release it in the Fall, so I’ve got shows to book and all the pieces in between to plan. Follow me on Instagram (@sheissilva) for all updates, single and video releases and of course, details about the album release party and tour dates.

Please stay safe and healthy, everyone. I’m sending vibes to you all. We will get through this. And I think we will be stronger for it. And don’t forget to keep washing your hands!

Live Footage: JOVM Mainstay Sam Fender Covers Amy Winehouse’s “Back To Black” on BBC Radio 1’s “Live Lounge”

Over the past two years or so, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering the 
Newcastle, UK-born and-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Sam Fender. Last year, was a breakthrough year for the Newcastle-born and-based artist: 
his Bramwell Bronte-produced full-length debut Hypersonic Missiles was a critically applauded, commercial success. Fender also made several nationally televised late night appearances — and went on a successful international tour that saw him play across North America twice. He then closed out the year with the release of “All Is On My Side,” a propulsive track that was sort of synthesis of Gerry Rafferty and Billy Idol, complete with a Eric Clapton Slowhand-era like guitar solo.

Although the year was full of momentous, life-changing achievements for the young singer/songwriter the year ended on a frustrating note with Fender having to postpone a handful of sold-out UK live dates with Fender having to reschedule them. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was looking bright for the JOVM mainstay: he was hand-picked by the legendary  Elton John to play at his annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Party — and much like last year, was gearing up for this year’s BRIT Awards, in which he received a nomination for Best New Artist. 

Desperate to prove that he’s not a one-hit wonder, Fender has an urgent desire to improve upon his critically applauded debut. Musically, he started the year with “Hold Out,” a slow-burning 80s inspired anthem with an enormous, arena friend hook and shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars that further established his reputation for crafting earnest yet ambitious material with a novelistic attention to detail. Earlier this year, Fender made an appearance on BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge series, and the appearance including a a haunting and achingly bluesy cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Back To Black.” After a persistent fan campaign online, Fender officially released the cover — and the footage from the live session. 

“‘Back To Black’ is such a long-standing favourite of mine, and Amy remains a national treasure,” Fender says in press notes. ” I love that album too. I hopefully did the track some justice. You’ll all be the judge of that…”

New Video: Brooklyn’s Holy Hive Releases a Playful Visual for Mournful Single “Broom”

Holy Hive is a Brooklyn-based soul act featuring:

Paul Spring, a St. Cloud, MN-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and guitarist. Spring spent his formative years studying ancient languages, poetry and classical guitar before making a name for himself as a folk artist, who self-released seven albums, including a well-received children’s album Home of Song.
Homer Steinweiss, a Brooklyn-born and-based drummer, who has played, toured and recorded with a who’s who of contemporary music including Amy Winehouse, Bruno Mars, The Jonas Brothers, St. Vincent, Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings– before settling into a highly-south after session player.
Joe Harrison, a Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist who has played with Frank Dukes and Charles Bradley.
The band can trace its origins to when Spring and Steinwess met on a Minnesota farm through their respective girlfriends, who actually are cousins. Steinweiss and Spring soon began a long-distance friendship, which, over time developed into a folk music recording project. Harrison, was working at a studio assistant at The Diamond Mine Studios at the time and he started to sit in on the duo’s sessions, eventually joining the band as a full-time member in 2015 when the band began recording as Holy Hive.

In 2016 Spring relocated to New York and the members of Holy Hive were invited to tour with JOVM mainstay Lee Fields. That tour dramatically changed their approach and sound: after the tour they began exploring the relationships between the traditions and lyricism of folk and the aesthetics and rhythms of soul music — by seamlessly meshing them into something anachronistic yet uniquely theirs. And with a new sound, they began honing their sound with a year-long monthly resident at Red Hook, Brooklyn-based dive bar Sunny’s with a rotating cast of collaborators. Then they spent the next couple of years working on folk and soul inspired material that thematically focused on love and loss.

The end result is the band’s long-awaited full-length debut Float Back to You. Slated for a May 29, 2020 release through Big Crown Records, the album is the follow-up to their critically applauded debut EP Harping and a string of well-received singles. Recorded at Diamond Mind Studios, the album was produced by the band’s Steinwess and consists of 10 originals, a cover of Honeybus’ “Be Thou By My Side” and a re-working of the old Irish folk standard “Red is the Rose.” The album also features an impressive array of guest stars including Mary Lattimore (harp), El Michels Affair’s Leon Michels (sax, keys), The Shacks’ Shannon Wise (backing vocals), The Roots’ Dave Guy (trumpet), Nick Movshon (bass) and Spring’s wife Sophia Heymans (piano).

Float Back to You’s latest single is the shimmering and mournful blue-eyed soul meets 60s folk-like “Broom.” Centered around shimmering guitar chords, a steady backbeat, a gorgeous yet soulful arrangement and Spring’s aching falsetto, the song can trace its origins back to their first tour with Lee Fields. “At the time, we were a folk trio with nylon guitars playing Nick Drake inspired arrangements,” the band’s Homer Steinweiss recalls in press notes. “These songs did not go over too well with the So-Cal soul audience. Inspired by Lee’s music, we saw a need to write a more soulful song to appeal to them. After covering Donnie and Joe Emerson’s ‘Baby’ in San Diego, Joe made some chords, Homer laid a beat and paul activated the falsetto to make this tune.”

Directed by Sesse Lind, the recently released video for “Broom” is shot on a Long Island City, Queens industrial rooftop — and we follow the band’s Homer Steinweiss as he kind of jazzercises to the song.