Watch Demi Lovato Sing “Stone Cold” Live at #NataliesHouse

By Gabriella Steffenberg

demiPowerhouse vocalist Demi Lovato made a special performance last week at #NataliesHouse as a feature on The Late Late Show with James Corden. The live performance featured Lovato’s new single, “Stone Cold,” and was performed exclusively for a lucky lady named Natalie, along with her roommates and James Corden.

The stripped-down song showcases Lovato’s heart wrenching vocals and earnest portrayal of heartbreak. With lyrics such as “God knows I try to feel happy for you – know that I am, even if I can’t understand,” the listener is able to feel the intense sincerity in her words, not to mention that the gospel-inspired song showcases Lovato’s incredible range and gusto as a performer.

Watch and listen to Lovato perform “Stone Cold” below (but be sure to have box of tissues at hand).

Brittany Howard Performs “Joe” at Live at Billboard Women in Music

By Gabriella Steffenberg 

From Billboard.

Taken from Billboard.

Brittany Howard officially can do no wrong. The Alabama Shakes front woman graced the Billboard Women in Music stage and gave a stellar performance of “Joe,” a track off of Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color. Howard also received the Powerhouse award, with the show airing on Lifetime Friday, Dec. 18.

Always one to cause jaws to drop, Howard powered through a soul-stirring performance of one of the more toned-down tracks of Sound & Color. Her power does not come from her belt – it’s found in her conviction and honesty that is ever-present in her vocals.

Towards the end of the performance, Howard hits what is most arguably the gut-wrenching lines of “Joe,” singing, “See people, God gave me so many things, fulfilled my many wishes, and I’ve achieved my many dreams. But oh, see that Joe? He’s the only thing I want, but I ain’t going to get what I want.” Heartbreak displays itself centerstage in the song about traveling, growing up, and achieving, but uncovering that the ache of one true love is something that can never be shaken.

Watch Howard perform a beautiful live rendition of “Joe” for yourself below:

Billboard Names Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes Women in Music ‘Powerhouse’ Artist for 2015

By Gabriella Steffenberg

This award may come as no surprise to any avid Alabama Shakes/Brittany Howard lover, but Billboard has officially crowned Howard as their 2015 Women in Music ‘Powerhouse’ artist, joining Lady Gaga (who was named Women of the Year) for one of the lists’ top honors.

Taken from www.grammy.com

Taken from www.grammy.com

Co-president of Billboard Janice Min says of Howard, “Brittany Howard is the true definition of a powerhouse, from her unique and crushing vocals, to her meteoric rise in the last four years.”

Alabama Shakes most recent debut, Sound & Color, debuted No. 1 on the Billboard charts, and played this past year at Coachella and headlined the Boston Calling Music Festival alongside Hozier. Oh, and not to mention she released a complete LP under the moniker Thunderbitch last month.

To catch the event, tune into Lifetime on Dec. 18 for the first-ever broadcast of Billboard’s Women in Music.

Front and Center: FOH Engineer for Janelle Monáe, Amanda Davis

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here

Front and Center: FOH Engineer for Janelle Monáe, Amanda Davis

By Gabriella Steffenberg

Traveling the world, working with one of the most influential female artists, and being surrounded by music that you love and are passionate about… Sounds pretty ideal, right? Amanda Davis gets to call this her reality, because she works for powerhouse musician and activist, Janelle Monáe, and is fresh off of touring with the whole Wondaland Records crew as their Front of House (FOH) Engineer.File_000

Davis has learned that the thrill of FOH Engineering is the equivalent of happiness for her. Having gone through schooling focused on studio engineering, upon graduation she realized that she had a greater calling: live, front of house engineering.

Read on for more about Davis, her inspirations, and what she’s learned along her journey, and for more on Wondaland Records, check out their official website.

WiMN: How did your love for FOH engineering come to fruition?

AD: My love for FOH was an evolution. The school I went to focused more on studio recording, so when I graduated that was the goal: to be a recording engineer. While interning I needed money, so I got a church job and some local club gigs and I found that I was having more fun doing that. I then decided I was going to focus on live sound and figure that out. I love traveling and learning, so being a FOH engineer enables me to both and I love it!

WiMN: What’s your favorite part of the job?

AD: My favorite part of the job is that first down beat of the show! You’re at the venue all day preparing for the production, and when the band hits the stage and the crowd is going crazy it’s the feeling of, “Ahhh this is what it’s all about.” 🙂

WiMN: You used to be a studio engineer. Can you describe the key differences between that and FOH engineering?

AD: One difference between studio work and live sound is that everything needs immediate attention. A lot of times when recording, people will say, “We’ll fix it in the mix.” That’s not an option when you’re mixing FOH, because the mix is what’s happening right at that moment. If it’s not “right” now, then you better figure out how to get it as close to “right” as possible. Another is mic choice and placement. Some of those decisions need to be made based on the venue and/or application. When recording in the studio, you’re dealing with a contained situation and a room that has been specifically designed for recording… That’s not always the case with live sound venues.

With Janelle, the look of the stage is a key component of the production, so there’s no drum shield. With that, I can’t really have a lot of condenser mics on my drums – the toms in particular. We have to be specific about our vocal mic choices as well, especially with an artist like Janelle – she’s all over the stage! We don’t travel with a PA so I have to really tune the PA and ring out her mic. She comes out into the audience, where sometimes the PA hangs low and close to the stage, so she’ll run right in front of it.

WiMN: Do you have any gear and tech “must haves?”

AD: I don’t really have any “must haves.” I use a Yamaha CL5 and the onboard processors are pretty good. It also has the U76 compressor that simulates the 1176, and that works great on my main vocal. I just started using the Waves CLA compressor plugins on my drums, and I love it. That’s about it!

WiMN: Have you faced any adversity being a female FOH engineer?

AD: I haven’t really had to face too much adversity for being a female in this industry, thank God. When I’ve walked into a venue or have had a call about a show, I would get the whole “double take” look, or after the show guys would say, “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but great job!” Like, how am I supposed to take that? LOL!! I just say “thanks” and keep on moving. I’ve been with Janelle for two years now, and after all that time you tend to work with the same people, so that doesn’t really happen to me anymore.

WiMN: You’re on the road a lot with Janelle Monáe. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned along the way?

AD: The most important thing I’ve learned is to keep a good and positive attitude. Knowing your stuff is very, very important, but if you walk into a venue or festival with a chip on your shoulder, you’re going to taint the experience. Show days are already long as heck – no need to make them longer by being a scrooge. If you love what you do, take refuge in that and positively approach your day in every aspect – if you feel good, then the music and the mix will, too.

WiMN: The protest song, “Hell You Talmbout,” was released this summer through Wondaland Records – did you play it during the tour? Tell us about your experience playing “Hell You Talmbout” at rallies, and the importance of this track.

AD: The rallies took place on show days during load in, so I didn’t get the chance to participate and play the song during that time. But we did close every show with it, and the crowd response was quite moving. People really engaged and felt the passion and intention of the song.

Police brutality is real and we can’t keep quiet about it. We have to continue to bring awareness to people who may not know that things like this happen all of the time in our communities. I’m proud to have played a small part in the “Hell You Talmbout” movement – we have to continue saying these names, and keep encouraging people to look out for humanity. I do believe that these attacks from the police were racially charged, but we have to know that at the end of the day, we as human beings have to be more aware that this is about humanity as a whole. If we don’t look out for ourselves, who will? Black or white, we have to show love and respect for all.

WiMN: Do you look up to anyone in the music and audio industries?

AD: I look up to anyone who’s doing their own thing and aren’t being buttholes about it. I’ve connected with some very successful engineers and they have looked out for me – I admire that about people. All that we do is make music – there’s no reason to be mean to people, especially to the young engineers just looking for a chance or for advice. Someone gave us a chance, and it doesn’t cost a thing to give that to someone else.

WiMN: Which musicians do you find yourself jamming out to the most?

AD: It’s cliché, but I honestly love all types of music. I particularly love the old school, soul sound, as well as alternative electronic. I jam out to The Suffers, Lucius, Lianne La Havas, Emily King, ACEG, Com Truise, anything Pharell does… I could go on and on!

WiMN: Where do you see yourself in five years?

AD: In five years I would like to still be on the road, and mixing great music. I just finished a tour mixing all of the artists on Janelle’s label, Wondaland Records – that gave me a chance to mix six different genres in one show! I’m aware that I may not be a good fit for EVERY type of artist, but I do want to continue to expand my clientele and skill sets.

WiMN: What advice do you have for other women who want to venture into the sound engineering track?

AD: My advice to other women wanting to venture into live sound is to believe in yourself and the knowledge that you have acquired. The only difference between you and a man is just that: your gender. It’s easy to get in a bind and second guess yourself because things happen so quickly in live sound, but be confident in yourself and go for it.

If you mess up, fix it and remember it so that it won’t happen again… That’s the best way to learn. If you don’t know, admit that you don’t know and then figure it out. Don’t approach a mix from a technical perspective, because if you get all technical you lose the life out of the live music experience. People come to shows to feel something, and an overly processed mix can take away from that feeling. I dance when I mix LOL, and that works for me… Find what works for you, and have fun!

Beyoncé, Naughty Boy, and Newcomer Arrow Benjamin Release New Track & Visuals

By Gabriella Steffenberg

Stop what you’re doing and enjoy your start to the week the right way by viewing this gorgeous piece of art, with a new track produced by Naughty Boy featuring vocals by Queen B and up-and-comer Arrow Benjamin.

Ok – now you’re all caught up on the hype, let’s discuss. “Runnin’ (Lose It All)” is a certified hit, but with the accompaniment of the music video, it takes it to cinematographic masterpiece. The video features an underwater world with the focus on two people and their journey’s apart and together. Director Charlie Robins takes the calming backdrop of the ocean as juxtaposition to the emotional turmoil experienced by the woman and man going through their ins and outs.

Stirring visuals aside, the bare vocals layed out by Beyoncé mesh perfectly with the soulfulness of Arrow Benjamin, providing the listener with an emotional journey through personal struggle and enlightenment, with the lyrics stating “Ain’t running from myself no more, I’m ready to face it all, If I lose myself, I lose it all.”

Victoria Theodore Releases Chilling Debut Single, “Human”

By Gabriella Steffenberg

Singer-songwriter and pianist Victoria Theodore is gearing up for center stage with the upcoming release of her debut album, Grateful. She recently released her first single titled “Human.”HUMAN-Sq-700x700

The track features lyrics with a strong, clear message: we are all the same. The verses walk through injustices faced by people of color, with the chorus reinforcing that we are often quick to judge and profile others, with the fact being that we are all indeed “Human.”

I represent your greatest fear, your terror. The monster you think you see ain’t real. I’m human… Just like the ones you love. No different… I’m no different from you.

– Victoria Theodore, “Human”

The message is especially prevalent now, when it seems as if every day there is a new victim taken by our current justice system. Theodore begs for peace, for tolerance, and for kindness, which is what many of us have found ourselves asking for as tensions continue to escalate in our country.

With her impressive musical background, Theodore has toured with the legendary Stevie Wonder, supporting him with background vocals in his band in 2007. But now it’s time for her work to speak for itself. Theodore is set to release her debut solo album, Grateful, on Sept. 1. For more information on Theodore, visit her official website victoriatheodore.com. Take a listen to her powerful piano ballad and debut single, “Human,” below.

Adrian Conner of AC/DC Tribute Band Hell’s Belles Launches Pledge Fund to Help Release New Solo Acoustic Album

By Gabriella Steffenberg

Adrian Conner, the lead guitarist for the all-female AC/DC tribute band Hell’s Belles, is gearing up to release her eighth studio album next month titled Hush!. Hush! is a fully acoustic album, which is a first for electric shredder Conner.

Cover art for 'Hush!'

Cover art for ‘Hush!’

The Austin rocker is a seasoned pro, having traveled and toured all over (including opening for Brody Dalle last year in San Francisco), playing music and letting her guitar skills flex. Now it is time to move into a realm in which she feels more exposed – the acoustic world.

As Conner recently told Austin.com, “there are no effects on an acoustic guitar… I’m totally naked and have to be more technically proficient. But on the flip side, I can hear my voice more than ever.”

Conner is excited to release Hush! to the public because she wanted to create an album that her and her band could perform at any and every venue. The album has no fixed genre, with musical stylings of blues, rock, indie, folk, and alternative. Her newest effort covers acoustic versions of her own previous works and new material, as well as acoustic takes on rock classics such as Led Zeplin’s “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp.”

Although she’s surpassed her goal, her fundraising page on Pledge Music is still open for another 29 days until the release. The extra money will go toward the promotion of Hush! and different donations allot to various exclusive items for fans. Stay “in the know” with Conner at www.adrianconner.com and keep an ear out for Hush!, her rad new album due this September.

Terri Lyne Carrington’s All-Star Album Featuring Natalie Cole, Chaka Khan, and more, Drops August 7

By Gabriella Steffenberg

Terri Lyne Carrington is back in full force with a new album titled The Mosaic Project: LOVE and SOUL.

Photo by Tracy Love

Photo by Tracy Love

The Boston native’s new work features a fresh blend of jazz, R&B and soul, all with her signature smooth vocals. Carrington shines on her newest project with an all-star roster of female vocalists and musicians accompanying her on her album. Guest appearances include:

  • Natalie Cole
  • Paula Cole
  • Chaka Khan
  • Lalah Hathaway
  • Oleta Adams
  • Ledisi
  • Jaguar Wright
  • Nancy Wilson

In fact, every song on the 12-piece LP but one features other talented female vocalists singing along with Carrington, not to mention Tia Fuller (saxophone), Ingrid Jensen (trumpet), Meshell Ndegoecello (bass), Linda Oh (bass), Geri Allen (keyboard), Patrice Rushen (keyboard), and Rachel Z (keyboard) are all featured in the instrumentals. Talk about talent!

Every song is a treasure and worth a listen (or 10), but a standout track features singer Ledisi in “Get To Know You.” With the sweet, smoky vocals, and the depth that both women provide, the breezy instrumentals coalesce perfectly with the strong, rich voices – it’s quite the treat.

Be sure to check out the The Mosaic Project: LOVE and SOUL once it’s released on Aug. 7, with three tracks currently available when you preorder the album on iTunes. Keep up with Carrington on her website at http://www.terrilynecarrington.com/.

Check Out Up-And-Comer Alessia Cara’s New Music Video

By Gabriella Steffenberg here

“Here” by Alessia Cara is the 18-year-old’s lead single produced by Aaron A, featuring samplings of Portishead and Isaac Hayes.

As the fresh face of Def Jam Records, the Ontario native’s debut album is in the works. “Here” is an autobiographical penning by Cara, an unimpressed partygoer.

While many cite high school memories to wild nights and crazy house parties, Cara is over the whole scene. From being continuously hit on, witnessing someone who “can’t handle what’s in his cup,” and gossiping girls, that scenario is the last place where Cara wants to be. The refreshing take on the societal expectation of the teenage years is masterfully paired with Cara’s old-school vocals, with a clear Amy Winehouse influence.

Along with her strong voice and witty lyrics, the music video that dropped on May 26, features many of the partygoers who were at the party that inspired the song. Check out “Here” for yourself:

Ashley Xtina Releases New Single, “I Choose Me”

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Photo by Anabella Veress

By Gabriella Steffenberg

On May 20, singer/songwriter Ashley Xtina released her inspirational new single “I Choose Me” produced by newcomer Max Magallanez. This is the first single released with her new alternative sound, hailing comparisons to epic vocalists such as Adele and Grace Potter.

At 23, Xtina is no newcomer to the music scene, having previously been a member of rock band Queen of Wands, as well as being an honorable mention in American Songwriter magazine’s March/April Lyric contest. It’s been less than a year since her last record Stability was released, but Xtina is already working on a new studio album with a blend of rock, soul, and upbeat tempos.

Check out Xtina’s new single here, and keep an ear out for more new music this year.