Singer/songwriter Barrie Hart takes listeners on a ‘spiritual, emotional journey’ on new CD

Written by Sabrina Tinsay

In the beginning there was a young girl who learned hymns at church, and now in the 21st century, we have Barrie Hart, who is a passionate musician and a worshipper. Hart’s love and dedication for her savior is apparent in her album titled Whom Shall I Send? Hart takes us in a spiritual, emotional journey, thinning the line of religion. Her heart-wrenching call for devotion seeps through her songs “Bread and Wine,” “Here I Am,” and “I Worship You” calls for one to reminisce amongst one self with the goodness of God. Hart’s music background reflects her variety of her songs, from joy, pain, and glory, the One will always be praised with her passionate heart.

Sabrina Tinsay: Were you always a Christian artists throughout the years; if so, how did you stay strong with your belief that you would get through the perception of worship songs as something that would only be sung in a church?

Barrie Hart: No. My first “professional” work was singing backup for a local blues artist, Sarah Baker. I began singing on a worship team and then leading worship in the ’90s. The team that I led got the opportunity to play at the local Farmer’s Market in San Rafael, California.  We played three sets, 80% worship, with a few secular covers thrown in. It’s a big market, three stages.  We held the biggest crowd.  That’s when I knew.

Tinsay: Do you remember your first composition?

Hart: Yes. My first composition is a song called “How Was I to Know.”

Tinsay: Where was your first performance at?

Hart: My first performance ever was the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco, California singing backup for Sarah Baker.  My personal first outside of church was the San Rafael Farmer’s market.

Tinsay: Your album titled Whom Shall I Send? has honest lyrics; did you always write your songs this way?

Hart: Yes. I don’t know any other way to write. My lyrics come from my experience…my heart…my view. I take great comfort in knowing that He “sees me as I am” and loves me. I know He loves my honesty.

Tinsay: When did you learn that you were going to focus on Christian music primarily?

Hart: I’ve actually done and still do both, but I’ve always known that I’m at my best when I lead worship. It is the best part of me. I believe I am first a worship leader and second a musician.

Published in: on October 10, 2008 at 3:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Canadian Angela Siracusa captures essence of country music

Written by Sabrina Tinsay

With her breezy vocals, Angela Siracusa captures the essence of country music. Siracusa’s latest album Drawn to the Flame has songs that can make one dance to their feet, sing along, and listen in complete stillness. In the song “It’s Not About Love,” once can decipher a sense of humanness and raw emotion spilling out into a piece of musical poetry. One song that stands out in Siracusa’s album is the title track, which is the cornerstone of her newest album. It is a great song to listen to during times of self-reflection. Without a doubt, Siracusa’s songs give us an assurance that we are not alone in this world, that a song can always mend a broken heart and make us smile any time of the day no matter where we may be. There is no doubt that Siracusa is a brilliant country musician with a new style.

Sabrina Tinsay: The country-music field is heavily competitive, especially among female artists. If I were a record label, what would you say are the qualities which separate you from the competition?

Angela Siracusa: I’m always open to the opportunity of being signed, especially because labels have superior distribution. I’m Indie right now, enjoying the successes without being signed. The best way to answer your question is what my manager told me when we began working together. He said so many female artists have the talent and the looks but invariably they lack the other qualities. In this business you can only go so far on talent and looks. It’s a tough business and you need the drive, the desire to keep you going when times get rough. You also need a great deal of intelligence and common sense as you will be faced with one career decision after another. If you have all these things coupled with personality, a desire to learn, and a strong work ethic, then you have the chance to rise above the competition. He says I have all these attributes and more, so who am I to argue.

Tinsay: Do you feel you’re at a disadvantage, in terms of being recognized by Nashville, by being based in Canada?

Siracusa: I feel I am at an advantage; they don’t call Nashville the “Music City” without good reason.  How many people get to travel and play in two great countries with amazing country fans in both?  I get to conquer both territories, spending about five months a year in Nashville and the rest in Canada. It’s important to my music business in keeping a strong artistic presence in Nashville. 

Tinsay: Where where you born and raised? Did you grow up in an environment wherein country music was constantly played?

Siracusa: I was born in Toronto, Ontario and raised in Woodbridge, Ontario. Country music was not the music I experienced with my friends but it was one of the major genres celebrated in my house. My mom has a love for country music and we would watch Grand Ole Opry, re-runs of The Tommy Hunter Show and Hee-Haw. Anne Murray, Debbie Boon, Linda Ronstadt and Crystal Gayle were some of my favorite singers. I’d learn their songs, then perform in front of crowds at weddings and parties. I knew early in my life my voice was made for country ballads. 

Tinsay: You did a duet with Walter Egan on his ’70s classic, “Magnet and Steel.” How did that come about?

Siracusa: My manager, Ken Kahler, called his long-time friend Walter Egan and asked him to listen to my demo songs. He then responded in an e-mail that he liked my voice and that he had some songs to suit my tonal quality, which he thought had a Linda Ronstadt tonal quality. I came up with the idea for the duet, and we just asked Walter and he said that he’d love to redo “Magnet and Steel” as a country duet. He co-produced the following songs, “Drawn to the Flame” and “Magnet and Steel.” Walter is so amazing to work with, a brilliant talent and super nice guy as well. 

Tinsay: Is there a large market for country music in Canada?

Siracusa: Indeed! Millions of country fans span across our country. Our CCMA’s and CMT Canada and the thousands of country radio stations and venues deliver the traditional and the new country music to Canadian country fans.

Singer/songwriter Andrew Portz summons ghost of old Tom Petty

Written by Carson James

While many Americana artists openly cop vocal signatures and guitar riffs from Johnny Cash or Hank Williams, Sr., singer/songwriter Andrew Portz jumps further into the timeline of alt-country ancestry. There’s no denying the influence of vintage Tom Petty on Portz’s rejected snarl and speaker-busting jangle. When Petty first appeared in the late ’70s, his roots-rock angst was an anomaly in a rock & roll scene ruled by disco on top of the charts and punk overthrowing the underground. Perhaps it’s fitting that one of his spiritual kin is breaking away from predictable Americana staples and embracing the unfashionable Petty.

Carson James: Would you describe your lyrics as personal? If so, are you writing about your own experiences here or that of others?

Andrew Portz: When I write songs, I like to weave together personal experiences, fiction, and history in an abstract way. “Three o’clock in the mornin’/Staring at these records on my wall” is what I was actually doing when I wrote “Rollercoaster Ride.” The rest of the song is just lyrics that I thought sounded cool, and I really do dig rollercoasters.
James: Do you write the words down first or do you come up with riffs initially and then add lyrics on top of it?

Portz: I just write songs the way they come to me. I usually hear a melody and a lyrical hook in my head, and I start to work with that. I wrote “I Can Hear You” in about 20 minutes starting with the opening guitar riff. When I wrote the song “Blue Lake California,” I came up with the melody along with lyrics that I dropped because they didn’t fit the sound of the song. The story of “Blue Lake” came to me much later during some time I spent there recording the early demos for the CD.

James: Some artists I’ve spoken to in the past believe that the environment they’re in can have an influence on their words. Has this ever happened to you? If so, can you provide examples from your record?

Portz: I think your environment can influence the words as well as a song’s feel. I wrote “Road Trip” sitting around a campfire, and it has that sound to it. We went into the studio and tried to recapture that vibe with the banjo and harmonica.
James: What song on Blue Lake California has the most meaning to you and why?

Portz: “You and I” has a lot of meaning for me. It was the first song I ever wrote that made me feel like, “Hey, I can do this.” I wrote it years ago for my wife. It’s a song about everyday people and what they go through in their relationships.
James: Is it harder to write sad tunes than happy songs? Or is it the other way around?

Portz: Some people drink, some people get stoned. I write songs. That’s my way of dealing with the down and outs. When life kind of gets good it’s a lot harder for me to write.

Diverse tastes like the Clash and Dierks Bentley shaped singer/songwriter Tony Cutino

Written by Carson James

Tony Cutino offers a different flavor to roots rock. Instead of merely displaying his country influences, both Cutino’s voice and sometimes his ’70s-leaning pop/rock is reminiscent of glam-era David Bowie. Considering the glut of underground Americana acts today, delivering a slight twist on the genre is always a plus.

Carson James: Every singer/songwriter has their own method of inspiration in crafting their music. What is yours? Does it begin with a specific line popping in your head or a riff?

Tony Cutino: When writing songs, sometimes it’s an experience or event that happens which spark a catchy phrase or an idea for a story line or a hook. Then again, there are times I can be playing my guitar and come up with a musical riff that strikes a nerve and gets things going. But its always those personal moments which happen in our lives that create the best songs.

James: When did you first pick up the guitar? What compelled you to play it? Was there anybody who encouraged you to do so or was it something you did on your own?

Cutino: The first time I picked up a guitar I was about five years old, a plastic guitar with a crank on it that played the Mickey Mouse song. I used to play for my family at holiday gatherings. But seriously, I was about 12 when I got my first electric guitar and amp. I happened to hear some older kids in a band practicing in their garage and I’ve been playing since.

James: Which of the tracks on your album are the most personal to you and in what way?

Cutino: The songs that are the most personal to me are the songs I wrote about experiences in my life. I wrote “Find Your Angel” after turning on the TV one morning and watching the World Trade Center towers fall. “Cowboy Now” is a song about my dad who was a real John Wayne kind of guy, a cowboy at heart.  He told me once if he could ever come back as someone else he wanted to be a cowboy. “Big Joe’s Dad’s Guitar” is a song about a dear friend who gave me his dad’s guitar because he couldn’t play it and wanted me to have it.  I took the guitar home and this song just poured out.

James: Growing up, what musicians had the biggest impact on you creativity?

Cutino: Musicians and groups that inspired me while I was developing my talent and playing in a band called Toby Redd, were The Who, Zeppelin, The Beatles, U2 and then early English groups like Elvis Costello, The Clash, and The Jam.  More recently Keith Urban, Jeffrey Steele, and Dierks Bentley.

James: Do you “read” music? Or are you mostly a player by feel?

Cutino: I can read music but not fluently. In fact, it’s been a while since I’ve done that. It’s mostly what feels right and sounds good to me and how things flow. Sometimes too much correctness can cause distractions.

Published in: on June 7, 2008 at 6:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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No longer solo, singer/songwriter Dodd Lede forms superb rootsy modern rockers the DML Cartel

Written by Carson James

When we last heard from singer/songwriter Dodd Lede, he released an album called Sophomore Jinx that, given a major-label financial push, could’ve found its way alongside John Mayer and Jack Johnson on commercial AAA radio stations. Since then, Lede has formed the DML Cartel, a rootsy modern-rock outfit that was once Lede’s covers band Bare Necessity. Lede discusses their consistently good debut album Word of Mouth and how the DML Cartel enabled him to finally achieve the bigger sound he had been aiming for. 

Carson James: The DML Cartel sounds like a full band effort, but then again so did your last solo album, Sophomore Jinx. Did your approach to songwriting change with having a group backing you up?

Dodd Lede: No. My approach to songwriting is pretty consistent. It was a little easier to record with the same group of musicians, but it didn’t start out that way. The musician process changed on me a few times throughout this recording until all the pieces finally fell together. In the end, the same musicians played together on about 80% of the entire CD. Of course, I expect the next CD to go much easier.

James: The guitars are a little louder and crunchier here than on your solo efforts. Did you feel back then, acting alone, that you were limited in terms of how rocking the tunes could be?

Lede: The original working title for this CD was going to be Twice Removed; since I never got the sound I wanted on the first two CDs, this was going to represent that sound twice removed. I thought it would have been a cool title, but no one else seemed to get it. This was the sound that I originally wanted for the both CDs, but since I didn’t have a permanent band at the time, I chose to scale it down. The decision was made since I was performing more solo acoustic shows. I wanted to be able to successfully pull off the songs live without the band aspect missing too much.

James: Your band used to perform covers with you. Was it an easy transition to go from remakes to original material?

Lede: I had already released Whatever Happened To You and Sophomore Jinx when I joined Bare Necessity. I was hesitant about joining a cover band in the first place and was pretty adamant that I would never do it, but Derek [Prather] is such a phenomenal guitarist and friend that I really wanted to work with him. The idea was that I would help his band out, and he would record in the studio with me. I even put a time limitation on how long I would stay with the band. I think it was supposed to be for one year. It didn’t exactly turn out like that, but it became pretty cool playing to packed houses that were very much into what we were doing. I’ve been with Bare Necessity for almost four years now. It’s still a lot of fun. But as things go, I eventually wanted to release some new original material. The band, at that point, did not want me to quit so they opted to assist me in completing what I had already started with John [Rinkus], Mark [Head], and Richard [Magallanes] .

James: What made you decide to turn Bare Necessity into a full-blown recording group?

Lede: I didn’t actually turn Bare Necessity into a full-blown recording group. It was an idea that never really panned out. Bare Necessity’s bass player, Fred [Morecraft], was not interested in pursuing the originals as much as the rest of us. He was happier just doing the cover songs. Instead, Derek and I are in both Bare Necessity and the DML Cartel. The chain of events goes like this. John had been jamming with us over the past year doing the originals, but he did not want to be a part of the cover band.  So he started jamming with Mark and Richard, whom had both been in the studio recording Word Of Mouth with me before Bare Necessity. They were working on songs that will probably be part of John’s solo project. They didn’t have a singer, so I went out to jam with them while Bare Necessity was on break. We booked a couple shows and asked Derek to come and play with us. That is how the DML Cartel became a separate entity altogether.

James: The opening track, “Best of Monday Night,” recalls the Gin Blossoms. Were they an influence on you?

Lede: It is a safe assumption that I am influenced by the Gin Blossoms although I get more comparisons to Bon Jovi on that song. I’m glad someone else can see the similarities and influence.

Americana singer/songwriter Lisa Dudley finds inspiration in patriotism, sacrifices of troops

Written by Carson James

America seems to be in a state of confusion right now, caught in a whirlpool of political divide and indecision, fatigue over the war in Iraq, and a troubling recession. So singer/songwriter Lisa Dudley caught me by surprise with her unflinching and sincerely felt patriotism, one that does not swing left or right but instead reaches into this country’s warm red, white, and blue heart.

Carson James: “Bring ‘Em Home, Lord” can be interpreted as being about soldiers currently serving in Iraq. Was this the basis for the lyrics? Or does the tune actually predate the current war?

Lisa Dudley: I wrote “Bring ‘Em Home, Lord” for the miners when they were trapped in the hole.  It’s a prayer I used to say when I handed my husband his lunch box and sent him off to work.  “Bring him home, lord.”  Then I found myself doing it when I put children on a school bus.  “Bring them home, lord.”  When I found out all those men were trapped, I sat down at my piano and wrote the song, “Bring ‘Em Home, Lord.”  If you remember, one man did get out of there alive. Prayer works. And miracles happen.

James: You have a lot of classic country influences in your songs. Is that the music you grew up on? How did you become exposed to it, and who were your biggest influences within that genre?

Dudley: I was raised on classical music almost exclusively and a little Joan Baez and the Kingston Trio when I was very little.  As an adult, I bought a new car that had a new radio feature — scanning — and I heard a voice that blew me away. It was Vince Gill. I stopped the radio at that country station and never changed it again. I was completely hooked on Vince Gill, and he changed my life forever. The song was, “I Never Knew Lonely.” I was stunned that one song could do that to me. I was made so aware of how lonely I was in my marriage. Two years later, I divorced my husband and moved to Nashville. I am very influenced by Dolly Parton.  I have big boobs, too!  The other influence was Townes Van Zandt.  I met him before he died.  We partied together.  I don’t drink so I just watched him drink a whole bottle of something or another. But he kept asking me to sing more and more of my songs and telling me how good they are. I keep a photo of him in my office so I can remember how good my songs are.

James: What’s the story behind “Twenty-One Guns”?

Dudley: Harry Moore and I were living together in my pace arrow motor home in the driveway of Valerie Amerling’s home in Lebanon, TN, about a half hour east of Nashville.  One night I went into the house to shower and found her husband Ray Shell had passed over and met his maker – right there in his favorite chair.  We transported him and Valerie to Kentucky to be buried, and he had a full military funeral for an officer of the Air Force. I had never seen a military funeral before and I was blown away by the white gloves and the way they move their hands across the flag as they fold it. We wanted to honor Ray because the last thing he had said the night before he died was, “I never got any respect for Korea, and I never got any respect for Vietnam.” Originally we wrote the song for Vietnam veterans and we sang it that way for a long time. Vietnam veterans would cry when they heard it. Harry was a Vietnam vet. When Harry’s son went into the Marines and was sent to Iraq, he asked me to rewrite the lyrics to be more modern and reflect all war.  Shortly after I did that, Harry died.  Three friends of mine, all Vietnam vets, died a month apart that year.  That was tough for me.  All the songs on my next album, Angels Will Carry You Home, came from that experience. There’s only one more thing he asked me to do before he died.  He asked me to get “Angel on My Shoulder” to Josh Turner. I haven’t figured out how to do that yet.

James: There are many young people who feel that patriotism is corny and outdated. Why do you think they’ve grown to feel this way and have you encountered experiences to the contrary?

Dudley: I don’t think patriotism is corny and outdated at all. I was raised overseas, and I have experienced martial law. It isn’t funny to always wonder if you’ll be put in jail and to live in fear in a world with curfews. We have incredible freedoms here and I for one appreciate them. However, let me say this.  I do not believe we should curtail our civil liberties. I am fiercely patriotic but it doesn’t mean I always agree with what our government does.  But as an American citizen, I still have the right to speak how I feel. Unfortunately, now I can have my phone tapped if I say it too loudly.  My grandparents on my father’s side were immigrants from Germany.  I remember them taking us with them to vote.  It was a really important thing to do, especially after becoming American citizens.  They held hands and it was a loving, patriotic, magnificent thing to watch.  I wouldn’t have a man in my life who didn’t vote.  Voting is important. In my town, we recently lost the election by 17 votes.  If 18 people had gotten off their bottoms and voted we would have won. I don’t have kind things to say to people who think their vote and their voice doesn’t count. 

James: You don’t make a political statement in your EP as either being pro or against the war. Was that a conscious decision?

Dudley: I feel I have to support our troops and their families and the returning veterans.  But I have allowed my song to be placed on Neil Young’s site.  And it was in the Top-10 three times. I could have put out a longer CD. I have lots of “soldier songs,” and I play them for veteran’s events.  I chose to put out just the EP because I think it says it all.  I pray for the troops to come home safely, I sing an anthem to my country (that contains the line “I will fight for their right to speak as they please…”), and I celebrate the life of a soldier who believed in his country enough to die for it.

James: How long have you been writing lyrics? Do all of your songs reflect real-life experiences or about people that you know? Is it easier to write that way?

Dudley: I started seriously writing lyrics after a bad car accident with a double head injury.  Believe it or not, angels came to me and started speaking to me, and I was told to purchase an old autoharp and to write songs.  Yes, all my songs are true stories.  I wouldn’t know what to write about otherwise. For example, I am working on a demo of a new song called “Buford’s Heart.”  It’s basically a true story in that my uncle stayed alive long enough to get to the hospital and have his parts harvested for transplant.  We got a letter thanking us and telling us 16 people had benefitted – two retinas, two corneas, two lungs, two kidneys, his heart… but not his liver! So the new song is about Buford, a man who parties hearty and then dies in a car crash.  His heart is transplanted to a librarian-type who starts dancing on tables.  It’s going to make a great video.  In the song, she sends “Buford’s babies” a letter “thanking them for…Buford’s heart!”

Published in: on April 26, 2008 at 6:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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