Boo Ray by E

Catch up with singer-songwriter Boo Ray, listen to his single "Redneck Rock & Roll" off his album Sea Of Lights, out now, and look for more to come soon.

What got you interested in music?

Boo Ray: I liked the cowboy singers as a kid and then there were a couple things. Hearing Dwight Yoakam made me want to play guitar and be a troubadour. And The Highwaymen made me want to be a songwriter.

Do you remember the first song you wrote that you were proud of?

I remember the first one I wrote that I was embarrassed of - but I still liked it - it was called "Oh Sheryl" [laughs]. It was my next door neighbor who was older than me; she was 15, I was 12.

Which musicians - other than The Highwaymen and Dwight Yoakam - have you been influenced by?

Oh man, it's something I realized - I didn't know it at the time - but Jerry Reed has probably had a ton of influence on me and for most of my life I didn't realize because I didn't know, as a kid, that Jerry Reed was the master musician that he was, I just thought he was a cool guy who played guitar in bands. That sound has had a big impact on me.

Is there anyone that you're hooked on now you'd recommend everyone take a listen to?

I've got some buddies in East Nashville that make great records. Derek Hough is making great records. Elizabeth Cook makes great records that I listen to. Darren Bradbury makes good records. That's three East Nashville cats that I listen to. I totally dig North Mississippi Allstars and JJ Grey & Mofro.

How would you describe your sound to someone who hadn't heard your music?

When I listen to something I definitely hear the Georgia sound in it. I've spent years tromping around South Georgia; that tawned out Macon sound is part of my DNA, I believe. And running around the Gulf Coast has had an impact on me too. I've tried to wash the red clay out and it won't come out [laughs].

What were your inspirations behind your single "Redneck Rock & Roll"?

One of the sideline jokes that I was making, or maybe it was just disclaiming, while we were writing it was that I was making a joke that I was writing the song first-person as Kenny Powers. I wrote that song with my Texas songwriting buddy Davy Ulbrich, he wrote the title track on Jon Pardi's Write You A Song. I really do like that stuff; I love old Monte Carlos and I love old Panhead Choppers; I know how to ride a jock-shift chopper, I know how to ride a footrest motorcycle - which is more like a lawn tractor than it is a motorcycle.

Could you tell us more about your album Sea of Lights?

Sea Of Lights was recorded live with a live band tape to tape in Los Angeles and it's a fun group of songs. It's a pretty up-tempo record, I think. That record reflects some of the Jerry Reed thing that we were talking about and it might reflect some Bob Seger and some rock stuff like Thin Lizzy or some Allman Brothers and stuff like that.

Is there a song off that album you'd call your favorite?

I really do love "Redneck Rock & Roll", that song just does its job really, really well. It's a ton of fun to play, it's a good riff, and people like that song. I got trapped in a honky-tonk one time and there was a group of patrons who got way too inebriated way too early in the evening and I literally was made to play "Redneck Rock & Roll" four times in a row at the honkey-tonk [laughs]. Good thing I like that song. Another one off the CD that I like a lot is "One More Round"; it continues to be an excellent song with the band. And then, of course, the title track, too. But "One More Round" is cool, it's kind of got that Houston sound.

In one sentence, how would you sum up Sea Of Lights?

I think Sea Of Lights is a rough and tumble ride across country.

What can fans expect to hear from you next?

Well we actually just finished a brand new record. We just got the finished, mastered record sent back to us and everybody is crazy about it and we can't wait to turn it around and show it to you guys a little bit later this year.

What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?

I hope that the music satisfies their need for a big beat and a guitar riff that takes their mind off things for a little while. I hope there's a good melody and a clever turn of phrase that is able to catch their attention and maybe help them think about something else besides the trials and tribulations of day to day life. That's what I look for in music, I want something to take my attention away from the details that I'm forever lost in, trying to wrangle my way through life.

Is there anything you want to add?

The "Bad News Travels Fast" live performance video is pretty cool. It's a Joshua Shoemaker video and he's a Nashville video maker - he shot the first Alabama Shakes video. Check out the "Sea Of Lights" video and I think they'd get a kick out of the "Bad News Travels Fast" video too, it's us doing a string band type of thing around a campfire.

Website             Facebook             Twitter             SoundCloud             YouTube             Instagram

Zeke Finn by E

Catch up with singer-songwriter Zeke Finn and watch the video for his single "Plight" ft. Matisyahu off his self-titled EP, out now.

What got you interested in music and in songwriting?

Zeke Finn: My family is pretty musical. My dad plays everything, basically - mandolin, banjo, recorder, any whistle - and my mom plays guitar, sings - and so does my sister. Folk music was a big part of my upbringing and my grandmother sang on Broadway [laughs]. There wasn't just one particular thing, my life kind of filled with music from the get-go. In terms of songwriting, I only started really writing songs - like poems and raps - when I was about 15/16.

Do you remember what the first poem or rap you wrote was about?

I used to beatbox at first and all my friends and I would beatbox style over each other's beatboxs. So at one point I wrote a rap or a rhyme or whatever it was on a little piece of paper and I brought it to class in school and my English teacher saw it and he was like, "oh, that's cool, you should come sing that with my hip hop band," and I'm like, "oh I don't perform, I just wrote this little thing," and he kind of pushed me to develop these little writings into actual songs. He'd bring me to the studio and we'd record demos, he had me open up for him a few times, so that was kind of how the real songwriting process came about.

Which musicians would you say you've been influenced by?

I feel like initially, Woody Guthrie, as a songwriter, was a big influence in the way that he just wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote so, so much all the time. In terms of hip hop, Top Quality was a big influence on me, I think he was one of the first MCs that I really started to study and listen to how he wrote and flowed. In later years I've really liked bands like Alt-j, just in their songwriting and performance and I think they're really innovative. There's so many, I don't know how to answer [laughs].

If you were to make a playlist, who are a few artists you'd have to include?

So definitely Top Quality, Alt-j, Coldplay, Eminem, Sylvan Esso, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. And Matisyahu.

How would you describe your sound to someone who hadn't heard your music?

I think it depends on the song, but I'd say alternative hip hop with a lot of electronic meanings.

Can you tell us more about your single and video for "Plight" featuring Matisyahu?

The song I wrote actually a few years ago when I was in a place called Yeshiva, which is kind of like a rabbinical college, and I was studying mystical Jewish text and I was learning about the journey of the soul as it comes from the outer spiritual realms down into a physical body and the physical world. Because that was the concept, I didn't see a regular music video to be fitting for that song and I really thought animation would be cool and I got in touch with some animators that I really liked their style and they put it together and that was it. It was cool because they use a technique called rotoscoping and basically they filmed us performing the song and doing the movements and whatnot, and then they redrew every movement frame by frame. It's almost like when you draw on a wax sheet of paper and so they basically traced our movements and re-drew everything that we did and turned us into cartoons.

What were your inspirations behind your single "Unicorn"?

There's definitely a love interest connected with that song and I kind of embellished a little part of my life into something bigger; I kind of meshed a dream and a real life happening into one and put that to the music and that created something bigger than the dream and the story itself. The music, particularly, is the most electronic sounding song on the EP and I really like that. I felt like it was a new style of music for me and it's a bit of the direction that I'm taking my music, in general. It's always my favorite track on the EP, or at least the most relevant to me.

Could you tell us more about that EP?

What I wanted to do is basically show as many different sides of my music as possible with just four songs. I tried to make them pretty different, like "City" is a little bit more harder hip hop with a little bit of a country twang to it; "Love Song" is like your feel-good, pop-y, love song; "Plight" has strong hip hop flows but then it opens up into this big, almost jam-y, outro; and I don't know how to describe "Unicorn" [laughs]. It's definitely a variety of sounds and I think different people will connect with different parts of the EP and I wanted to see which parts and which songs stuck in different ways with different people. The common denominator of all of them is that there's strong hip hop bases in all of them, but they're pretty different, all four songs.

You mentioned "Unicorn" was your favorite track off the EP, but do you have a favorite track to perform live?

I don't know if I have a favorite... I like performing "Plight" live, that's a lot of fun. When my sister can perform with me, she sings really nice harmonies on "Love Song", so when she can perform with me, I think "Love Song" is my favorite song to play live. And I think the crowd likes that song a lot because it's easy to dance to and move to.

In one sentence, how would you sum up the EP?

An introductory exploration into the music of Zeke Finn.

What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?

That's up to them [laughs]. Each person will have their own musical journey and experience when listening to any one song, so I can't tell them how to experience my music. I think that's the beauty of music, is that we each connect in our own way to it and we each need music for different reasons.

Is there anything you want to add?

I had a show at Bowery Ballroom on March 11th and a lot more music is coming after this EP, so that's something people should know. I hope they assume that already [laughs].

Website             Facebook             Twitter             SoundCloud             YouTube             Instagram

Astra the 22's by E

Catch up with Brooklyn-based indie glam rock duo Astra the 22's and listen to their single "Creature" off their upcoming EP, Paris Love, to be released this Summer.

What brought you two together to start Astra the 22's?

Astra The 22's were brought together by forces larger than life… to bring back the rock...

Where does your name come from?

The name comes from staring into a crystal ball and seeing the same star and number 22, 22 times...

Which musicians have you been influenced by?

Prince, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Blondie, Def Leppard, Jack White..

Is there an artist or band that you're hooked on now?

Always hooked on something, ha.

But always hooked on… Jack White and The Kills!!

Which words would you use to describe your sound?

Beautiful/deadly and glamorous.

What were your inspirations behind your single "Creature"?

"Creature'' well, we were high on caffeine, nicotine and whiskey and listening to The Kills, Blondie and G’n’R. After talking bullshit about NYC narcissism, materialism & vanity, we wrote "Creature".

Could you tell us more about your upcoming EP Paris Love and if that single is indicative of what we can expect to hear on it?

Our EP Paris Love is a call to all degenerates, derelicts, outsiders and freaks to join us to bring love & beauty to the world under the universal flag of Rock n Roll!

Is there a track off the EP you're most excited to share with fans?

How about you choose?! :)

What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?

Fuck everything, Let’s Rock!

Is there anything you want to add?

We have a show March 16th at Pianos NYC at 8pm.

See you there... Yea!

Facebook             Twitter             SoundCloud             YouTube             Instagram

Nick Blaemire by E

Catch up with singer-songwriter Nick Blaemire and listen to his single "Coffee & Wine" ft. Daniel J. Watts off his forthcoming EP, The Ampersand, out soon.

What got you interested in music and songwriting?

Nick: I never really reacted to anything else. From when I was a kid to all the way up, I feel like I look at people who are in nine-to-five jobs and trying to crack the American Dream and it always felt like they were depriving themselves of the meaning of life in a lot of ways - which I find to be in music and the idea of the study of humanities through the way they express themselves. I tried to figure out how to do something more stable, because clearly the music business is not a stable industry [laughs] but it is an incredibly fulfilling art and it's one I'm totallly addicted to.

Do you remember the first song you wrote that you were really happy with?

[Laughs] Yeah, when I was like 14 I had a favorite pair of jeans and I had really worn them and my mom and I had stitched them up a couple times and it just wasn't working anymore, so I wrote a song that was called "The Funeral" to my favorite pair of jeans and it was my first grappling with loss. It actually happened at a time when a family friend of ours had passed away and I realized I was writing about that through this funny lens and the idea of hiding stuff that I'm really feeling in another seemingly odd subject matter really interested me. Burying the lead and writing unsuspecting songs is something that I'm still trying to do today and I remember doing that by accident when I was 14 and being like, "oh, that's interesting," and then starting to see that other people have been doing that forever [laughs]. But I discovered it then. With my jeans.

Which musicians would you say you've been influenced by?

Oh man, so many. I grew up on Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Bruce Springsteen; Bruce Springsteen is a huge influence on my dad who's a drummer. The Beatles were huge growing up. I started branching out a little bit and when I got to 5th or 6th grade I started buying my own tapes and Green Day's Dookie was my first tape and then I got into Weezer and got into the punk rock thing for a little while. Then I moved back into modern pop in the late '90s and found my love of pop music that is as smartly constructed as The Beatles' songs. I got into the idea of R&B and the way that The Beatles came from R&B and the way that R&B has influenced everything that's on the radio in some way. Lately I've been listening to a lot more stuff that clearly connects those two in the form of The 1975; Chance the Rapper; I love Flume; Madaila is another band that does a really good job of bridging the rock/pop/R&B spectrum. I love music that defies its categories and fights the brandings that the business tries to put on it. Over the past month I've gotten really into Madaila and Flume and it's that feeling when you find a new artist you really love and you're like, "how did I survive without them until this point?" and it's a really great feeling.

Other than them, is there anyone you'd recommend everyone take a listen to?

There's a ton. A ton, a ton, a ton. Besides those guys - and Chance the Rapper doesn't need my help at all - I'm also a big fan of this band I Fight Dragons that is a power pop punk band that my friend Brian is in and I've always loved them. Actually Packy Lundholm is one of the producers on my EP and part of the reason why I wanted to work with him is because of his work with I Fight Dragons which is like nerd pop punk; they use Nintendo sounds to do stuff in their music and their songs are super rad, so I love them. I love The Limousines, they have a song called "Very Busy People" that I've definitely worn out. I love the new Bon Iver album very much. Faded Paper Figures is another band that I really love. Gavin Castleton is a total virtuoso. This guy Sampha is an R&B artist who I think is amazing; he wrote a song called "(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano" and it's just the best image ever. So many songwriters can identify with the idea that the songs that you write in your parents' house and how those are just a bit more close to who you might be than the ones that you write drunk in a studio some night.

Which words would you use to describe your sound to someone who hadn't heard your music?

I feel like nerd soul is probably the best way to describe it. I definitely don't take myself very seriously when it comes to the image the music projects and so I'm writing about the underdog and it's sort of like if Anthony Michael Hall morphed with Justin Timberlake.

Has your Broadway work influenced your sound?

I feel like it's all stories at the end of the day so I definitely don't think of myself as a Broadway performer or a musician as much as I do like a guy who's making stuff, it's just whichever venue I'm in at the time. I do think that I sort of write pop music to get away from theater in that there's something about pop writing that can be a little bit less specific and be, lyrically, a little more impressionistic and I like that feeling a lot. I also really like focusing on my relationship with the musicians that I'm playing with which is something that, in theater, especially when you're doing a Broadway show as an actor, if you're thinking about the band, you're not doing the job that you got paid to do, which is to tell the story of the character you're playing. In pop music, it's the absolute best part to be on stage with a band of musicians you respect and listening to the choices they're making and the way that they're coming together in that specific moment, it's all about that. I certainly do make pop music to scratch that itch.

What were your inspirations behind your new single "Coffee & Wine"?

I'm starting to realize how obsessed we all are with external forces on our demeanors, like looking at our phones all the time, and it's just not a surprise to me that people become addicted to stuff because of the dopamine rush that we get from introducing these synthetic things into our natural life and coffee and wine are two that I find myself around all the time. I drink coffee every morning and we drink wine a lot in our house and I smoke pot and I like these things as an artist because they change my frame of reference ever so slightly, but I see the danger in them and I see the danger, societally, in the way that we just accept those addictions. It's not really an indictment of that, but it's an exploration of how I feel about being somebody who's sort of part of that societal addiction. Working with Daniel Watts on that song was such a wonderful experience because he brought a different perspective to that same subject and he plays a different character in the song: whereas where I'm coming from is more thematic and he describes a day in the life of his experience with outside chemicals.

Is that single indicative of what we can expect to hear on your EP and could you tell us more about The Ampersand?

Yeah, I think it is indicative. I am trying to deconstruct as many subjects as I can and focus on the things that are really on my mind lately. The idea of the ampersand is the ultimate collaborative symbol; it just intrinsically means that you're combining two things. So while my name is on the front of it, there's no way that this would have gotten made without the people who played on it, the people who collaborated and produced it with me, and the people that I wrote about. A lot of these songs are about my wife who is the ultimate ampersand in my life and I tried to do that from as drastically different angles, from song to song, as I could. It's a bit of an ADD stylistic experience and then there's stuff that pulls it together and we try to find thematic strains that made it feel like one EP and one sonic experience; those are my favorite kind of albums, the ones that you have to listen through. But hopefully the songs stand alone, as well.

Do you have one song off the EP you'd call your favorite?

It changes. I really love this song called "Trees" that Jo Lampert sings with me on the album. I love it because it's talking about the stuff that I'm talking about in "Coffee & Wine" from, again, a different angle. In terms of my musical ability, I'm constantly trying to grow and acknowledge my weaknesses and find new sounds within the palette that I'm able to find on a piano or a guitar and that was a song that really came alive in the studio. I liked the top a lot and what it was about but I hadn't found the way that it should feel in terms of the arrangement and it was such a collaboration - again, ampersand times a million - that we came up with a bunch of arrangement stuff in Chicago and we were tracking the arrangement with this amazing band that Packy put together; and then in New York where we mixed the album, our other producer Chris Leon came up with a bunch of different production ideas of how to add spice to what Packy had already laid down and all of that was built on these core ideas that I had had alone in my room a long time ago. It just became this thing that I could never ever come up with on my own and yet it's exactly what I had in my head in some way. I just love that, that that's possible and that, through collaboration, you actually reach more of yourself than you can by yourself.

How would you sum up The Ampersand EP in one sentence?

It's about collaboration in all the different kinds.

What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?

I hope people are able to zoom out a little bit because of it. I think we get pretty myopic, especially these days, and it's easy to do that - I know I do it, too. Part of the reason I make music is to go on that experience with the audience to just remind myself - and ourselves - that we are in a very strange, hilarious situation, being human beings stuck on this planet, and how miraculous and funny it all is. Hopefully, these songs can do a little bit of work to widening perspectives.

Is there anything you want to add?

I'm playing a gig with my band at C'mon Everybody which is a club in Brooklyn on Franklin Avenue. Great club, we're playing there on St. Patrick's Day - Friday the 17th of March - at 8:30.

Facebook             Twitter             SoundCloud             YouTube             Bandcamp              Instagram