You've had quite an amazing year locally. It seems you've made the move from upcoming star to star very quickly, what are some of your best memories of the year?
This has been a crazy year for me, with so many ups and downs and so much soul-searching and decision-making to do. My best memories are all the great people I've met (and keep meeting), and all the fun I've had playing with these people. Sonny from Espresso Joe's has supported me from Day One. Some awesome, talented people let me record with them on their music, and recording my own music has been very cool. But I'd probably hold off on that "star" label just yet, ha ha.
Do you ever think things are moving too fast (ex: being asked to be Glen Burtnik's back-up singer for major shows) or have you been able to handle things so far?
I'm pretty sure that anyone would tell you that working with Glen is a blast. He creates these amazing shows, and he makes it fun for everyone, so that you don't mind when it gets crazy, because that's part of the fun. It's like we're all part of this nutty team, and there's a great camaraderie. And I really appreciate these opportunities. I'm glad that people are starting to know me. It doesn't feel like things are moving too fast, because I'm impatient to keep moving forward. I am always looking forward to the next experience.
Tell me about meeting Steve Forbert? What was that like?
It was actually Michael Dante Summonte who met Steve Forbert, haha. In August, I was playing at the Sand Witch (love you, Marnie!), and it was a beautiful night, and we had a large crowd gathered around. Apparently Steve Forbert was heading down the boardwalk with his wife and a bottle of wine, on his way to dinner. According to Dante, Steve stopped in his tracks and asked who I was, and listened for a while, apparently digging it. I was excited to learn this, but we've never spoken, even though we are now Facebook friends!
Personally, I love when I see an artist like yourself that makes such an amazing jump in a brief period of time. Just a few years ago at Twisted Covers you showed great promise but still seemed a bit in awe at people paying attention to you on stage. What has changed for you? Did your experience at Berklee really help prepare you for this?
This is a hard question to answer, because I can't tell if I've changed or if people have just gotten used to me. I mean, I know that I've gotten more experience, but my basic performance style seems the same to me. I've been performing since I was 11, and I used to go to the open mic at Coffee Blue in Belmar when I was 12 by myself (my mom used to drop me off out front) And I won the Big Joe Talent Show at Point Pleasant around that time. And you should know that you are talking to the 2007 NJICON Champion, haha! That was a 13 week contest held in Cape May, and I guess I broke it, because after I won, they never did it again!
I have tapes of some of these performances, and I think you can tell that I'm younger, but I'm not a whole different person today. I've never had that slick, smooth stage presence, but I've never been afraid. I've just been myself, and I like to say whatever comes to mind and be spontaneous, and I like to talk to individuals in the audience and joke around. I especially like it when Michael Brett plays with me, because aside from him being ridiculously talented, I like to think we have a great rapport. I have fun, at least. He's such a great sport and takes my abuse. I think a lot of times people don't expect me to be like that, with my ridiculous stories. I might say anything. Anton Daub said that my audience banter was "awkward, but it works." I guess that's a compliment, right?
I remember that Twisted Covers. The Who!! That was the first time I ever performed an original song for strangers. And it was the first song I ever wrote. I was the youngest one there, and I was definitely wondering if I would be welcomed. I mean, there was George Wirth, Anthony D'Amato, Michael Brett, Joe Harvard, and Lindsey and Keith. Everybody knew each other, and I felt like I was 10 years old. But everybody was so welcoming. It was really great. That was a great idea you had, and I only wish I could have done more of them. I was away at school when you did a lot of my favorite artists.
What do you think you got out of your time at Berklee? Would you recommend it to other young artists?
I'm still processing my Berklee experience. It was great because I was surrounded by fellow musicians. It was also horrible because I was surrounded by fellow musicians, and all their insecurities. I met some great people, and I worked hard, and I got great grades, but I think that I wasn't willing to do what it takes to fit in. Like, you know that little "break" in my voice? I had singing teachers there who were trying to cure me of that. So, I'm thinking Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton are allowed to do that, but I'm not? And you know I like to sing Cranberries songs. One teacher was trying to make me stop doing that yodeling thing. Since Berklee is really big for jazz, pop, and Latin, I felt a little insecure. I think that it's a great school for people who fit in those genres, and especially instrumentalists. If you work hard there, you can get a lot out of it. But I felt that I was losing my individuality, and I really didn't want all of my rough edges smoothed out.
Speaking of Berklee, do you have plans to return or are you in a "wait and see how things turn out mode"?
Definitely wait and see. Berklee is great about letting you come back after you've gained some experience. They have a total open door policy, and some students return years later. I don't think I'd go that far, but I'm learning so much here that I want to continue that.
You've been getting some airplay on 90.5, when can we expect a full release by you? Will it be a full-length record or EP?
Thank you, Jeff Raspe! I have recorded an EP with producer and bassist Jack Daley. He has worked with Lenny Kravitz, Joss Stone, Beyonce and Rob Thomas, just to name a few. Jack brought in some of his incredible friends to record on it. Nir Z (John Mayer,Genesis) played drums. Local guitar god Marc Muller (Shania Twain) played the guitar and Raymond Angry (The Roots) played piano and organ. So, I was in good hands! They are tunes that I've played out all the time, but they are definitely transformed here. I am planning on releasing the EP early this year.
What do you miss of Boston?
I miss my coworkers at the Berklee admissions office. We were a strange little family, and how many jobs have a foosball table in the office? I miss my roommate, Caitlin, and the city itself, which is great. But I am very much a Jersey girl, and the Asbury Park area has been great to me.
Finally, what do you hope to accomplish in 2011?
I'm thinking that I might actually be able do this music thing, so I'm just going to go all out with it.
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at email@example.com.