Posts tagged with "musical theater"

Elena Brody "Rock Steady" image via Jon Bleicher for use by 360 Magazine

Elana Brody Q×A

By: Emily Bunn

Celebrating the beauty of human experience and the universality of dance, Elana Brody enchants fans with her exhilarating dance-pop music. Her most recent single, “Rock Steady,” showcases the singer’s joyous choreography and passionate songwriting ability. The “Rock Steady” music video can be viewed HERE. The bold, emotional ballad was produced by Max Martin protégé, Dominic Fallacaro. Brody spoke with 360 Magazine about the spirituality that courses through her songs, her music production process, and upcoming releases.

Your recent material was written during the pandemic. How did you manage to find inspiration during lockdown?

As a songwriter, lockdown – with all its grief and deep, life-changing themes- was a very fertile time for me. For one, I retreated from NYC to my childhood homestead in Virginia – in one of the most remote places East of the Mississippi. While there in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, with the music world at a stand-still, I found myself with very little to do but be in nature and play music. My then-partner had come with me, and we spent much of our time playing music together. I also felt called to offer musical prayer services online for those who needed inspiration and connection to Spirit. Because of this, I began by writing new prayer music – which felt right for the time. But, after my partner decided to split with me, as you can imagine – the folk songs started pouring out. This break-up, combined with being my original creative habitat, the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter uprising, the political election-year insanity, and a life far from community, took me the deepest I’ve been in my writing for a long time – especially as a lyricist. I think some of the lyrics you will hear on my upcoming EP are possibly my best yet.

What does your songwriting process look like?

It depends on the song. Sometimes snippets of lyrics, with a bit of their melody, come first. Sometimes a really awesome piano hook comes first. Over the last many years, I have found my songwriting process to be mostly a long-winded jam session where I sing out my heart for hours, creating spontaneous free-style lyrics. Many of those lyrics disappear forever, but at least a few of them make the cut! Once I get a sense of the general narrative of the song, I think about phrases that will help move the story along, and then build new lyrics around the original “spontaneous-gems” to flesh it out. Over the pandemic, lyrics were everything – and I found myself caring more about them than the music. The music could have been 3 chords, and I’d be totally okay with that, as long as the lyrics were telling the story. But, in other phases of my life as a writer, I would basically compose a piano concerto! And then, lyrics come in afterwards. I love and live music. And honestly, I don’t have to work hard to have music flow through me. I have found the best music and lyrics that I have written, have written themselves. It’s actually that simple. “Rock Steady” was a bit like that.

Are you still looking to release your EP eventually, or have you decided to shelve it in favor of tracks like “Rock Steady”?

Yes, to the EP! If all works out with piecing it together (because it was recorded in many different settings over the pandemic) then I would really like to release it in the late fall. But! Because “Rock Steady” is such a banger and I want to make more songs like that, I decided to quickly write and record a new song called “Quicksand,” which is another pop-influenced song, to release as a follow up – before I transition into my folk music.

Why did you choose Costa Rica as the location for the “Rock Steady” music video?

It chose me! My friend lives there and she invited me to come out to visit. I said I would, but under the one condition – that we film a music video! She is a great networker and knows so many people to reach out to and work with. She also happens to be an ecstatic dance facilitator and DJ and was planning a dance on the weekend of my visit. So, naturally, we organized to film the dance party at an already scheduled and high-vibe (to use a very Costa Rican term) dance party! It couldn’t have been more perfect. We also did all our beach filming at a beach called Roca Beach – aka Rock (Steady) beach!

How does your spirituality factor into the way you create music?

Once, after I auditioned for the first season of USA’s XFactor, I left the stage (a story for another time!) and was interviewed by a faceless producer speaking to me from behind a black curtain. This producer asked me, “When you sing, it seems as if you are connecting to some higher power. Is this true for you? And what is that higher power?” At the time, I wouldn’t have considered myself a prayer-leader or religious at all, but I knew the answer to that right away. I said, “Yes. God.”

God can bring up a lot for people. And for me too. Growing up in rural Virginia, the idea of “God” sometimes felt like some kind of angry, repressive, overpowering righteousness. But – in my family – and in my own experience – God was gentler than that. The spirit between things. As a youth, I was surrounded by the most beautiful, untouched nature – and witness to the seasons in their full force. With below-zero cold and windy winters, slow-to-pop springs, abundant green summers with my folks’ organic gardens in full bloom, and then the rainbows of colorful Appalachian autumns – I knew what Spirit had to offer us humans. And music had always been my human way to offer Spirit back to Spirit, if that makes sense. It’s a giving and receiving from the big, wild wonders of creation, and then music is my way to return it back. Now that I have dived into my Jewish roots, and studied the traditions, I would say that song is the modern equivalent of sending burnt offerings up to the Creator. Instead of smoke, we let our voices rise. And I don’t see prayer music and pop music as all that different. Different themes, different stories, but ultimately, what we sing or speak is all prayer. And, especially now that I am very involved in prayer-leadership, as I create more songs, I do think about that in my writing.

What do you anticipate the reaction to “Rock Steady” will be like?

A fun one! Hopefully one that makes people dance and dance some more! Because I haven’t released much of my other music yet on the bigger platforms, most people won’t know the difference. Like, how did that happen? All of a sudden, I’m a pop star! The truth is, I’ve always been a pop star. Christina Aguilera and Celine Dion were my first vocal idols, and all of the first music I ever wrote sounded like it could have been in a Disney Channel original movie. Anyhow, I had this thought that I should go about my career in the opposite way of other folk artists, a la Jewel circa “Intuition,” and drop in with the fun and danceable stuff first. I don’t see myself ever being too genre-confined, anyway. Life is too short not to write whatever you feel and whatever is coming through you! I did think, “oh, maybe I should sell this song to Rhianna or another artist who could do it amazingly.” But honestly, this route of self-producing is very fun, and maybe even better. Now I get to be heard singing like a pop star too!

What other artists, musicians, or bands serve as inspirations for your music?

It’s a long list…

Joni Mitchell is my in-utero and post-utero,songwriting teacher. I used to call her my piano teacher, because I learned to play by playing so many of her songs. Several other musicians of my parents’ 60s/70s era also come in close as primary inspirations – including Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Carole King, and the Beatles. They have shaped what a well-written song could be for me.

It’s hard to decipher what is an influence now because it’s just one big, long-cooked stew or spicy mole at this point.

I have always liked lyric-forward music, with bands like Of Montreal (his candidness in writing was life-changing for me!) and Death Cab for Cutie (the simple metaphors and speaking-style of his writing) and the Decemberists (storytelling, bard-like songs.) And the orchestral and lyrical artistry of the Fleet Foxes is stellar.

I have also always liked some good classic, chunky, Rock’n’roll and music that gets ya’ dancing, like Led Zeppelin and CCR. And the blues, especially blues piano music, has played a role in my music education since early childhood.

Then, there’s the eternal list of female influences. My most listened to, other than Joni, from the beginning are Ani DiFranco and Sarah McLachlan. Then: Jesca Hoop, My Brightest Diamond, Regina Spektor and Kate Bush. And now: artists like Gillian Welch, Brandi Carlile, Sylvan Esso, and Sarah Jarosz have taken up a lot of my listening time. Sarah Jarosz’s album World on the Ground was really powerful to listen to last year during the pandemic. I hope that I can achieve that level of presence and intelligence in the instrumentation when I go to make my full-length album next year!

I also derive a LOT of influence from pop music. I can’t help it. I definitely fell in love with Ariana Grande’s album positions this year, and right now I am going down a Dua Lipa rabbit hole. I would say Rhianna is my number one, though. And I finally fell in love with Lady Gaga after seeing A Star is Born and listening to Joanne. Her belt has inspired me a lot. And I love vocalists in general. I have spent a lot of time really listening to vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Judy Collins, Barbra Streisand. These days, Elvis is my number one!

I will also never not want to listen to albums of bands like Nickel Creek, the [Dixie] Chicks, Bela Fleck, Mandolin Orange/Watchhouse, or the band Solas, to bring me the feeling of my early mountain roots and make me feel good.

I am truly a world music fan. I love to listen to the magic of music across the world. I am really inspired to hear virtuosity, no matter what genre. I love vocal virtuosos and am listening right now to the artist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. I am curious as to when I’ll be able to imitate him. (I’m really good at imitating!) Bobby McFerrin has also been a teacher in real life. He inspires me to become more accurate in my improvisations.

I also listen to prayer music, but mostly of the Sikh or Kundalini yoga genre. Sometimes you’ll find me jamming out to Jewish artists (many of them friends of mine) or Gospel music. Anita Wilson, a modern gospel singer, has been a vocal inspiration for me because she really sings with the lows of her range.

Musical theater music is also a major influence. That Roger and Hammerstein stuff pours out of me like it were an extension of my soul! Lastly, at this point, after spending time at Berklee College of Music, I have been greatly inspired by jazz and R&B.

Besides “Rock Steady” and the EP, can fans look forward to any other releases to come in 2021-2022?

Yes! I mentioned that I am wanting to get cracking on my full-length album that will be mostly in the Americana, New Orleans blues, Rock-and-Roll, and folk pop styles. I am really, really excited about it. But I’m not sure yet who I will work with on it. An exciting unknown. I imagine it will end up feeling like a magnum opus when it is finished because I’ve been with these songs for so long. Nothing will be more amazing than when they are out in the world surrounded by strings, the right instrumentation and arrangements. I also would like to produce my song “City of Man” in a big vaudevillian, brassy style. [I want to] make a little music-video theater piece out of it. I have also been sitting on this one for a long time. It sort of harkens to the fall of capitalism…that is going on in our world and the post-Trump era– it’s due time that I get that one out. Look out for it all!

AZRA solo album cover for use by 360 Magazine

AZRA – SOLO

AZRA shares her upbeat and introspective new single, Solo. An anthem for independence, “Solo” celebrates not only self-empowerment, but also the journey we take to realize the powers that bind us and to break ourselves free from them.

“The process of creating this song was a mix of introspection and genuinely connecting with my listeners (aka Azradeities) about their own struggles in living their truth, finding self-worth, and dealing with societal expectations in the midst of all the external pressures,” shares AZRA“It’s an empowerment song claiming that we own our individuality and path through our lives.”

LA-based AZRA is an independent Korean American substance pop artist, performer, singer-songwriter, hip hop dancer, model, published author and motivational storyteller with a mission to inspire people to be their authentic selves and to empower others to live out their dreams unapologetically and boldly. Through bewitching music and memorable performances, she creates an experience toward a whole new state of mind: the 6th Dimension.

Audacious, spirited, and limitless, AZRA sees beyond what meets the eye. She grew up on musical theater, church choir as well as playing the piano, violin and hip-hop dancing and wrote the inspirational book The Cupcake Theory. This same fiery determination is what compelled her to reinvent herself to pursue her music career, no holds barred.

Her first single “Dimension” (2019) reached #1 on the Digital Radio Airplay Independent Chart, while her single “Dangerous” (2020) charted #1 on the Independent Digital Radio Airplay charts. She was selected as a ’20 and ’21 GRAMMY NEXT Artist by the Recording Academy and has garnered acclaim from publications such as Hollywood Life, LA Weekly, Celeb Mix and more.

Citing Freddie Mercury, Whitney Houston, Cher, Madonna, and Michael Jackson as her influences, AZRA has collaborated with some of the best names in the industry. She has opened for Plain White T’s and has toured for Pride Festivals all over the country. Her magnetic stage presence and infectious energy undoubtedly captivate audiences wherever she performs.

Griffin Matthews Photography By Carson Davis Brown

Q×A With Griffin Matthews

By Justin Lyons

360 Magazine had the opportunity to sit down with actor, Griffin Matthews, to discuss his successful career. Matthews has been able to work on shows such as Dear White People, Ballers and The Flight Attendantas well as co-writing a successful musical. We were able to discuss his future career plans as well as his activism in the community.

Among acting, writing, directing and other creative positions, which one do you like the best, and which one allows you to best express your own creativity?

I love acting. I love writing. But I ultimately think I’m a director through and through. The responsibility of guiding the entire vision is so exciting to me. It’s such an honor when I get to direct because every story is a little baby that needs to be nurtured properly and guided along her way. And guess what? I’m such a dad. 

How has working with streaming services like Netflix and HBO Max changed the way you address your audience?

When you work on Netflix or HBO you get to really find your unedited voice. You get to be risky, controversial, imperfect, fabulous, complicated, political…I’ve been so lucky to get to work on Dear White People, Ballers and The Flight Attendant because I always felt like I could fire from all cylinders on day one. I did not need to ask for permission. I got to bring my entire self to each role. I got to curse. And kiss boys. And wear g-strings. And travel the world.

How do you use your experience acting in productions like The Flight Attendant to inform and influence your ideas on the stage?

I will always go back to the theater. I’m a theater kid. It’s where I honed my talent. So every experience that I have, I think about how I will translate that to the stage. I was lucky enough to travel the world and meet incredible people and see exotic places while we were shooting The Flight Attendant. I spent afternoons alone rummaging through the Bangkok market and got lost in the streets of Rome. I made friends with strangers and made peace with being a grown man and also homesick. As a writer, I’m a sponge. I soak up life and then look for an opportunity to let the water run out all over the stage.

How do you approach the assembly of a theatre show differently from how you approach the direction of a concert?

I approach concerts the exact same way that I approach theater. When I directed Shoshana Bean and Cynthia Erivo’s holiday concert at The Apollo, we had endless conversations about story and themes and vulnerability. All of those things make for an exciting night in the theater! I think a lot of concert directors only think about pyrotechnics, but I like to think about the heart of the performers. The message. The mission. And let all of those things spill out…and of course, we add some pyrotechnics, too!

How does your activism influence the projects you choose to be involved in or choose to create yourself?

Activism is such a sexy word these days. It seems like everyone claims to be. For me, my personal pledge is to be an activist when everyone’s looking, but more importantly when no one’s looking. That pledge always checks my motives and my ego as I navigate projects and stories that I want to be a part of it. Every time I sign on to a project, I bring my whole self, my whole truth, the parts that are great and the parts that are ugly. That’s what I’ve learned running a nonprofit for over 15 years. So much of the work is tough. It’s messy. But it’s real.

What are you most excited about with your career in the near future?

I’m currently developing a musical series with Ester Dean that will center black queer voices. It’s really exciting because I’m a fan of Ester and her work (Pitch Perfect, songwriter of Katy Perry’s “Firework” and Rihanna’s “Rude Boy”). She’s broken many ceilings in this industry as a songwriter, actor, musician, and host. We both want to create a show where young people (who look like Ester and I) will see their truths accurately and joyfully reflected on screen. I’m also directing a film called The Amish Project by a playwright named Jessica Dickey. When I tell people that I’m working on it, it can raise eyebrows because people don’t often hear about black directors working on pieces that don’t center black narratives. But here’s the thing: black directors want to direct EVERYTHING. And we can. And we will. And I’m excited to finally get my shot!

What is a creative role you haven’t taken up that you’d like to at some point in your career?

I really want to direct for TV. For some reason, the thought scares the hell out of me! There’s so much to manage: logistics, people, locations, safety, technology, performances, but I’m fascinated by it. It’s time for me to tackle that fear and get behind the camera ASAP. 

RJ Word

As an American pop-artist and Latin sensation, RJ Word is quickly rising to the top of full-fledged international stardom. Growing up in the heart of the entertainment industry, Los Angeles, RJ took inspiration from local legends Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Quincy Jones. By the age of five, RJ developed a passion for singing/songwriting, and at just 10 years old he kicked off his music career performing on stage in musical theater – flourishing under the spotlight. Now, at 21 years old and with a handful of hit original singles, RJ has garnered 1M+ Instagram followers and 17.8M+ YouTube views. Most recently, RJ was featured alongside Pitbull and Rich The Kid on Juan Magan’s new Latin-pop single “Echa Pa’ Acá” (August 2018), with an accompanying animated music video. The video amassed over 14M views on YouTube alone in the first two weeks following its release.

Stream “Echa Pa’ Acá” by Juan Magan, ft. Pitbull, Rich The Kid & RJ Word:
MUSIC VIDEO | SPOTIFY | ITUNES/APPLE MUSIC

RJ was discovered by renowned voice coach Roger Love (The Beach Boys, Eminem) in the 6th grade, and has since honed his craft over a decade as a singer, songwriter and producer. In 2016, RJ’s single “Here Today” premiered on NBC Universo, which was followed by the release of “I’m Gone” that clocked 1M+ YouTube views in the first week alone. Last year, RJ released his hit single “Hold Tight”, which topped charts in over 14 countries and has since reached 3M+ YouTube views. RJ’s worldwide fanbase has led him to perform around the globe, including at Navi Fest 2016 at Arena Monterrey, Mexico, and at the EXA Festival in Puebla, Mexico, House of Exile 2017 in NYC.

Most recently, RJ released his latest original single “What You Need” with an accompanying music video (April 2018). The funk-inspired dance anthem is brought to life by live horns, and carried by RJ’s lyrics and falsetto-laced melodies that truly make it a smash hit. The music video, which has since garnered 7M+ views on YouTube alone, highlights the brass backing while showing that RJ’s moves are nearly as smooth as his silky vocals. With this single, and many more to come from the young recording artist, RJ continues to break through the mold of monotonous tracks that dominate radio airplay today and shape the future of music.

Stream RJ Word’s latest single “What You Need”:
MUSIC VIDEO | SPOTIFY | ITUNES/APPLE MUSIC

Connect with RJ:

YouTube | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Spotify | iTunes/Apple Music

Ryan Chernin Releases Debut LP

His Debut Release Brings “A Sultry Collection of Songs About Life, Love and Loss” to Fans of the NY Based Singer-Songwriter

Following the release of the single and video “Ash Tray Kisses”, Singer/Songwriter Ryan Chernin recently dropped his Debut LP “You Know Who You Are” via Inhuman Records. Packed with “mature songs, personal lyrics, and intricate instrumentals” its being called “more like an exploration of self than a combination of songs”. And for the NY based Chernin, it seems likely only more positive feedback is headed his way!

Singer/songwriter Ryan Chernin showed an inclination for music at an astoundingly young age.

My mom has this one story – my grandmother swore by it too – that at three or four months old they were talking to me in my crib and I apparently gave them their exact intonation back,” Chernin recalls, laughing. “According to my mom, that was my introduction to music.” He insists that his real introduction was the Yellow Submarine tape she’d play for him in the car, and the piano lessons he begged his parents to sign him up for as a child.

Over the years Chernin’s parents continued to encourage his love for music and his passion for performing, knowing even back then that it was more than just a phase.

Watch:

“Ash Tray Kisses” (Official Music Video)

“Accessories” (Official Music Video)

“The Drought” (Official Music Video)

In college Chernin studied film, and as an accomplished actor, spent much of his time in and around theaters. However the spotlight is something the soft-spoken artist has never been entirely comfortable with. The reason, according to him, is simple: “Every time I got on stage and did musical theater, I was always a character. I was very much about throwing myself into those characters.” That disconnect is something Chernin struggled to overcome as he began working on his latest LP, “You Know Who You Are”. “It’s me up there. It’s my pain, my happiness. It’s all out there and it’s very vulnerable.

You Know Who You Are is the culmination of a year’s worth of work in and out of the studio, a sultry collection of songs about life, love, and loss. “What was most important to us was to take our time with it and really make sure it was perfect every step of the way,” Chernin explains. “It was about selecting the right people.” That list of people includes producer John Eugenio, mixer Chris Davies, and SNL guitarist Jared Scharff. The result is a maturity and depth that takes most artists years to capture, with Chernin’s quick wit and caustic sense of humor complimenting his raw indie rock sound.

To Purchase Ryan Chernin’s “You Know Who You Are” via iTunes, VISIT: http://apple.co/2rGq6vS

To Hear “You Know Who You Are” via Spotify, VISIT: http://spoti.fi/2InkcH0

For More Information on Ryan, VISIT:

www.RyanChernin.com

Facebook.com/RyanCherninMusic

Instagram: @ryanchernin
Twitter: @ryan_chernin

Ryan Chernin’s YouTube Channel – Inhuman Records

For More on Inhuman Records, VISIT: www.InhumanRecords.com