Amy Zamarripa on Lyrical Venus Radio! Tues 7/5

Singer-Songwriter Amy Zamarripa

Singer-Songwriter Amy Zamarripa

Generous, hard-working and talented to boot, Amy Zamarripa is a major player in the Austin Open Mic scene, hosting her own on Fridays at Fair Bean Coffee every week.   You can find her playing out at others around town almost any other night of the week!  Besides being a musician, Amy is a massage therapist, painter, poet and shutterbug, taking pictures of all the performers at the open mics and posting them in the Austin Acoustic Open Mic Network group on Facebook.

Informed by her other artistic passions, Amy’s music is lush with poetic lyrics and imagery of colors, nature, spirituality and the human condition.  Mix that with a rich, bluesy voice and you get the soulfulness of Janis Joplin, the spark of Bonnie Raitt and the mystery of Tori Amos.

Have a listen to Amy singing Turtle Blues by Janis Joplin:


If you are reading elsewhere, you may need to come to the blog to see the video.

Check out Amy’s website to hear more of her music and connect with her elsewhere online! With one album under her belt and another one in the works, she shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Tune in to KRUU-LP 100.1 FM in Fairfield IA or kruufm.com from anywhere in the world on Tuesday from 9-10am Central to get to know Amy, hear a few songs celebrating the 4th and more! Amy will be on the air at 9am.

10 Questions with Erika Lloyd of Little Grey Girlfriend

Little Grey Girlfriend

Little Grey Girlfriend

Mash up a foundation of classical training with years of honing a pop sensibility, mix in a generous portion of creative originality, a splash of quirk and top it off with the liquid silver of Erika Lloyd’s voice and you get one of Brooklyn’s more unique indie bands – Little Grey Girlfriend.

Bringing to mind other stylistic trailblazers like Regina Spektor, Bjork and Joanna Newsom, more for a simpatico of fearless approach and extensive range than a similarity in sound, Little Grey Girlfriend is ready to take their show on the road this summer, kicking things off with a tasty 70’s power-pop inspired single, Lovesick For The World.  The track is free for a limited time over on Bandcamp, so go snag it and listen while you read Erika’s answers to my 10 questions!

1.Do you remember writing your first song(s)? How does that compare to your songwriting process now?

As a little music student, I always preferred to write songs on the piano rather than practicing the music from my lesson books. I started writing full songs with lyrics in elementary school. They were mostly R&B pop influenced songs with stories about things of which I had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. For instance, I co-wrote this song with my friend for the seventh grade talent show about our gangster boyfriend who got shot. No kidding, those were really the lyrics. (We did win second place.)

In high school I got a little better about writing honest songs from life experience and did everything by ear, just voice and piano. Because of my upbringing with popular music, the songs were often made up of common chord progressions by default, but had some interesting twists. These days I still write a lot by ear, but do know the chords and their relationships as I go along because of my music degree (Voice Performance Indiana University.) I don’t let textbook rules of voice-leading or common progressions ever change what I do, I’m just aware of them now and sometimes use them to help me through a rough spot. I’m not one of those people who can write a composition from my head right to the staff or lead sheet. I always have to be sitting at the piano, even when I’m arranging music for other instruments in an already finished song.

I’m also a melody-first kind of writer. The harmony supports the line and pushes it in new directions. Brad, our keyboardist who co-wrote a large amount of our music, is more interested in harmony than melody, so we write really well together.

2. Where is your favorite place to sing?

It depends on what I am singing. In a choral or recital setting I love singing in the sanctuary of the church where I’ve had a choir job for a couple of years. The acoustics are gorgeous. With Little Grey Girlfriend the best club we’ve performed in, as far as sound goes, was Arlene’s Grocery. The balance on stage was crystal clear and the engineer was extremely attentive. Clearly hearing my voice bounce back at me makes all the difference in the world for my confidence level at the time, which can really affect a performance. The place I sing most often is in our living room, I mean, recording studio, which has nice small-space acoustics.

3. What’s the hardest thing about performing? What’s the best thing?

The thing I get most nervous about as a singer is memorization. I’ve performed hours of memorized music at a time, other people’s music in other languages, and yet I still worry that I’ll blank out on lyrics I wrote myself that I’ve been performing for years. Oddly, what’s made me a lot less nervous about that was actually blanking on lyrics in a show, only to realize that few people noticed and no one cared.

The best part of performing is the return from the audience. I am so happy when I can get a crowd to dance or sing along. The rush after stepping off stage is also fantastic. If I could bottle that feeling to sell, I’d be a rich lady.

4. What things are you passionate about besides music?

I am also a painter and graphic artist. I love living in a city with so many galleries and museums, not to mention the most amazing street art. There is inspiration everywhere here, everyday. I’ve been lucky this year in having some really interesting commissions right in a row. When I sit down to paint I don’t normally get up for at least 6 hours, which in the alternate realm of painting-time feels like about half an hour. The music I listen to while working is very important and I’ll always remember what I was listening to when I look at each section of the painting that correlates.

5. What is the one thing (besides your instruments) you can’t leave for tour without?

Snacks on snacks! Anyone who’s ever traveled with me in any capacity knows that I take great pride in being on cooler duty. I’ll make sure the band is always well fed and stays hydrated.

6. What is your favorite way to relax?

I’m a sitcom junkie. We don’t have a television, but don’t let that fool you. I watch way more “television” than any of my friends, just online. Laughter helps me relax and all of the ridiculous plot lines keep whatever my current stress is about in perspective. I’ve also been watching the same shows over and over for years now which is comforting because Monica’s kitchen or Blanche’s living room feel like home, no matter where I am or in what new unfamiliar situation.

7. What are you most excited for with the tour?

Seeing all of the people along the way. This is our very first tour with Little Grey Girlfriend so we’ve set it up to be playing in places where we already have strong support systems and good draws (band members’ home towns and alma maters.) I’m hoping to see all sorts of people from high school and college that I haven’t seen in a long time.

8. Any new projects currently or on the horizon?

I am always writing music and have about half of a new album worth of material right now. I’m not sure if we’ll record anything until fall 2012 though, because Brad and I are getting married next summer and planning the wedding will be my project for a while!
I have to say, a lot of the work being done for this group has been outside of the creative aspect of being in a band. We’ve been a self managed band for five years and it’s a full time job booking, promoting, budgeting, networking, and producing, while also doing all of the song-writing, album artwork, poster design, making of music videos, recording, mixing, mastering, performing… I guess our biggest project when returning form tour will be trying to get a manager or small label to take us on. In this highly saturated market of awesome bands in Brooklyn, it is harder than you would think to get an established management team to commit to you (or even notice you.)

9. Do you have any pre-gig rituals that help you prepare for a show?

As many times as I’ve done this, and as unnecessary as it might seem now, I always sing through the entire set by myself the day of a show. Even if I just rehearsed it with the band, I still do this. I guess I’m a bit superstitious that if I don’t keep that habit, something will go horribly wrong.
Also, if I’m at all nervous I clean the heck out of our apartment. I don’t get nervous for LGG all that much anymore though, which is a great great feeling.

10. If you could create a musical super group with any artists, living or dead, who would you choose and what would they play?

Ah, that’s a great question. It would have to include Björk, David Bowie, Elizabeth Fraser, Kate Bush, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Enya, Joni Mitchell, and Jeff Buckley. Mike Patton would write all of the music for the album and Phil Spector would produce it. I think it would be a ton of vocals, providing the orchestral texture too. I’d have them all play many percussion instruments and when they felt like it they would trade off on piano, organ, synths, guitars, harp, and bass. I’d also make sure to have plenty of studio string players around, only the best for my group.

Bonus questions!

What’s your favorite sandwich?
Peasant bread, olive oil , salt & pepper, mozzarella, avocado, and tomato. Excuse me for a second while I eat a snack.

What’s your favorite hot drink?
Hot chocolate!

Do you have pets or a favorite animal?
My son Benjamin (He’s a cat and he is my favorite guy.)

So there you have it!  If that whet your appetite for more of Little Grey Girlfriend, you can start by check out this music video for their song Fulfill:

If you are reading this elsewhere, you may need to come to the blog to see the video.

Then be sure to check out the band’s official website http://littlegreygirlfriend.com for their tour schedule, the latest band news, more photos and videos, and of course links to buy their music and connect on all the social networks.

I’ll be kicking off this week’s Lyrical Venus with a feature set by Little Grey Girlfriend, so tune in to KRUU right at 9am Central Time US to hear all four songs and get a real sense of the fantastic, dynamic range of this band that actually deserves the descriptor “unique”.

Emily Zuzik Featured on Moby’s New Album “Destroyed”

Emily Zuzik and Moby

Emily Zuzik and Moby

When Lyrical Venus first featured Emily Zuzik about a year ago, I wrote that her bio seemed to indicate she could do pretty much anything, and her latest collaboration with Moby just serves to prove that hypothesis further!

Taking a stylistic turn that was outside of her usual comfort zone but perfect for the track, the result is titled The Low Hum and has elements that remind of Dido or Imogen Heap.

Have a listen while reading what Emily has to say about collaboration, working with Moby, and getting a burst of new creative inspiration from the experience.

1) How did you connect with Moby for the track?

I met Moby initially when I was auditioning to sing for a blues-rock band he was putting together. I knew the drummer, Aaron Brooks, from a cover band we both played in called Aki is the Glue. Aaron suggested me, and I came into sing. That project never really took off, but later Moby contacted me about singing on some songs he was working on. That experience led us to working on co-writing a few and “The Low Hum” made his new record, Destroyed.

2) What was the most challenging aspect about the project?

Well, I think co-writing is always a challenge. When you factor in that I was working on compositions that Moby had already written, and I’m sure in some way had envisioned a particular way, I found it challenging to bring something new to the song. I had heard that he worked with lots of people on the same track and then selected the version he liked best, so there was always a little bit of pressure to write the most intriguing version of the tune. It’s really funny how the lyrics I wrote for “The Low Hum” (without any background from Moby on the entire project) seemed to actually reflect his concept for the book and record.

3) What was the most satisfying aspect of the project?

There’s the obvious one, which is to work with a successful artist to cowrite a song. There’s also the personal goal of getting worldwide exposure as a music writer and singer by being featured on Moby’s record and mentioned in the press for it. There’s an artistic aspect that I got to write outside my comfort zone on lyrics as well as in another music genre, and then have it released to the public in a big way. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet, get to know and work with Moby, who is a very successful artist and a very interesting man who works hard on causes he believes in.

4) How does the collaboration process differ from your solo process?

Collaboration is always more difficult, but often yields greater results. You have two distinct personalities creating together. Sometimes it flows easily, and other times it’s like scaling a mountain. It really depends on how much oversight each writer takes on the other’s part, or if you’re creating both the music and the lyrics together, then how aligned are you at a concrete and interesting story? When I write on my own, I can say or play whatever I want–it can be good or bad, but the choices are all mine. When I work with someone else, we can get caught on a chord change or a turn of phrase to tell the story of the song. Sometimes “demo love” becomes part of the argument–that’s when you’re stuck on a particular version of the song and can’t hear it any other way. I’ve been doing a lot more collaboration in the last few years, and I really like where it’s pushed me as a writer and singer.

5) What new inspirations do you have or what are you excited about doing next after hearing the completed track?

After working on “The Low Hum“, I was really excited about singing in a softer, more vulnerable way. My go-to is the big, alto voice I have, and reigning it in to a softer, less “precise”, almost whisper quality has a lot of power in it. I learned that from working on this song. From here, I’m releasing my next record, The Wild Joys of Living, which has elements of that kind of singing on it in different songs like “Step Back” and “Outside.” I also have a couple electronic releases on XY Records in the UK that play with that singing style. It’s like a new page of creative energy was unleashed.

6) Anything else you want to share about the process?

I would love to continue to work with others, and Moby again, should the opportunity present itself. I think it keeps writers working to make better songs and tell new stories. I’m not worried about staying genre specific and actually enjoy crossing the streams a bit.

Stay tuned to Lyrical Venus for more, as we’ll be interviewing Emily about her new album, The Wild Joys of Living in the upcoming weeks!  In the meantime, connect with Emily online:

http://www.emilyzuzik.com
http://www.myspace.com/emilyzuzik
http://www.twitter.com/emilyzuzik
http://www.facebook.com/emily.zuzik.music

10 Questions with Atoosa Grey! Featured Artist on Lyrical Venus 5/24!

Singer-Songwriter Atoosa Grey

Singer-Songwriter Atoosa Grey

Wow, how has it been two months since I last posted?  I guess that’s what happens when I get caught up in moving!  For any of my readers not caught up on my personal music adventures, I am taking a year in Austin, Texas to work on my own music.  Thanks to the power of the internets, I can continue to share new artist finds and send in my radio show from here (remember when I did that from another continent?), now that I’m more settled in.  Austin is a city saturated with musicians, so I am excited to interview lots of women musicians while I am here!  On that note, if anyone knows how to record Skype calls, I would love some tips so I can also continue interviewing artists from afar!

Iranian-born and New Jersey-raised Atoosa Grey’s fourth album, When the Cardinals Come, balances lush poetry and soundscapes with clear, simple and straightforward delivery.  Filled with imagery of the natural world and the journeys of the heart, Atoosa’s songs capture the articulate sweetness of Lucy Kaplansky crossed with the twangy quirk of Neko Case.  Atoosa recently took a the time to answer some questions about her songwriting, performing and artistic life.

The entire album, When the Cardinals Come, is available to stream on her website, atoosa.net and makes for good listening while you read her answers. (hint, hint :) )

1. Do you remember writing your first song(s)?  How does that compare to your songwriting process now?

I think I was twelve years old when I wrote my first song. When I first started writing songs, I would sit at the piano and it would all happen at once – the melody would inspire the words, and vice versa. There was a lot less thought given to the craft of songwriting when I first began. It was more about inspiration, expression, and a place to reflect on my experiences. I played classical piano from a young age, and was always so in love with the piano. Those pieces, as well as being raised by Persian parents in America, inspired me to begin writing. Writing was my outlet, a way to express myself in a bicultural world.

My process is more developed now, and I give more attention to crafting songs, and enjoy that now – whereas before I was writing to release myself from some of my more complex and melancholy emotions. These days, a lot of my songs are based on my poems. The lyrics almost always come first for me. I usually sit at the piano, or with a guitar, and start to sing parts of the poems. And then the magic part happens.

2. Where is your favorite place to sing?

My favorite venue is The Living Room in NYC. I love singing in the car with my daughter too.

3. What’s the hardest thing about performing? What’s the best thing?

Performing used to be hard for me when I needed recognition and approval of my songs. Being a naturally quiet person didn’t make it any easier. But now I know that quietness is a part of the way I perform, and it is a gift. I don’t feel the need to get over my nervousness. I focus instead on coming from my heart. The best thing is that I have the opportunity to connect with my audience; to be generous, and offer some joy. I also get to be fully alive in that moment.

4. What things are you passionate about besides music?

Being a mom. Writing and reading poetry. Flowers.

5. What are you proud of with your new album?

I am proud of the songs on this album. I think they’re some of the best songs I’ve written.  I learned a lot over years performing and writing, and some little jewel came out here. Something that has a life of its own and is very connected to my heart. I was lucky to partner with my husband on this record – he produced it and he did a beautiful job. A lot of it was recorded live. The imprint of this record is what I had hoped it would be.

6. Any new projects currently or on the horizon?

I just started writing again for a new album. I’m going back to school in the Fall to work on my poetry too and I’m really excited about that.

7. Do you have any pre-gig rituals that help you prepare for a show?

I meditate for a couple of minutes and remind to give everything to the songs.

8. What’s your favorite sandwich?

Goat cheese panini with grilled vegetables. I also love a great burger.

9. What’s your favorite hot drink?

Coffee.

10. Do you have any pets or a favorite animal?

No, I have a 2 year old daughter, and besides that, I can only care for my plants right now!

There you have it!  I hope you enjoyed getting to know Atoosa a little better!  If that whet your appetite for more, check out her website and connect on her Facebook Page.  You can also tune in to kruufm.com on Tuesday, May 23rd from 9-1o am Central Time US, for a feature set of Atoosa’s songs!

Sarah Sample Returns to Cafe Paradiso Sat, 3/26! Lyrical Venus Interview Tues 3/22

Sarah Sample someday someday album cover

Singer-Songwriter Sarah Sample

Like an angelfood cake soaked in whiskey, the music of Sarah Sample is a delicate dessert that packs a pleasant punch. Her voice will stop you in your tracks and her megawatt grin will light up a smile across your own face. Radiating grace, yet brave enough to share raw honesty, her easy and genuine connection with audiences appears effortless. Combine that with her polished collection of song gems and it’s easy to see why Sarah is a fast favorite wherever she goes.

As Sarah is already a Lyrical Venus favorite, let me direct you to my previous posts about her most recent album, Someday, Someday, as well as her 2007 release Never Close Enough, to read more about my thoughts on her music, either as a refresher or an introduction.

When you come back, check out this video of Sarah’s sing-along-inspiring title track of her previous EP Born to Fly:

Feed and email readers may need to come to the blog to see the video

Come fall in love for the first time, or all over again at Cafe Paradiso on March 26th at 8pm. Tickets are $8 advance, $10 door.

Get to know Sarah a little before her concert by tuning in to the Lyrical Venus Radio Hour from 9-10am Central this Tuesday, March 22nd.  Interview with Sarah at 9:00, followed by more great music by female singer-songwriters.