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vocals • Relate Magazine

Interview with Audrey Scott of Sick/Sea

Interview with Audrey Scott of Sick/Sea

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

Hailing from a small town in Texas, Sick/Sea has anything but a small sound.  Audrey’s voice alone is expansive, reaching from the tips of your toes to the deepest part of your soul, but the overall band is just as explosive.  This isn’t music to politely play in the background while you study or listen to while you have a few friends over unless, of course, you want your conversation to center around the songs.  And this isn’t music that requires effort from the listener to understand; you fall in love immediately and effortlessly.  And you don’t fall in love easily because it’s gimmicky and shallow.  On the contrary.  You fall in love because it’s relatable and honest and good.  That, really, makes it the best kind of music.

So, if you haven’t listened yet, find out what Audrey has to say about music in general, or if you’re like me and you’ve already listened and want to know more…

Relate:  First memory of music:

Audrey:  I remember we had this music figurine in my home when I was a child. It was gold colored and played a music box sorta song. It had a glass dome cover like what covered the rose in Beauty and the Beast. I don’t know what happened to it but I used to wind it up all the time.

R:  Name one song you wish you had written and why that particular song:

A:  Imogen Heap’s Hide and Seek because it’s so vocal and brilliant. The lyrics don’t really make sense but I kinda love that.

R:  Since you’re on tour now-five things you couldn’t leave home without (besides instruments):

A:  Sunglasses because we kinda drive a lot, earplugs for when it’s my turn to sleep in the van AND for when we’re watching other bands play, dry shampoo for those lapses between showers, my laptop because I have band business to take care of every day, and my phone for the same reason.

R:  Most difficult part of creating music?

A:  I’d say it’s creating the right structure. Finding the perfect structure to make a song flow seamlessly is really difficult but fun to mess around with.

R:  Most rewarding part of creating music?

A:  It’s rewarding when we hear that people listen to our music over and over whether it’s a fan at a show or a blogger reviewing our CD.

R:  Favorite song of yours and what inspired you to write it?

A:  Right now, it’s Blinked. It’s the slowest song on Moral Compass but the climax is really fun to sing and the whole song has so much emotion. I was inspired to write it when I was missing a friend. Sometimes you can confuse missing a friendship with missing a romantic aspect that was never really there.

R:  I just listened to your first EP and was really surprised by the differences between it and Moral Compass.  Was that intentional or do you credit time and getting older/gaining more experience?

A:  I definitely credit the change in our sound to experience. Experience with songwriting techniques, life experiences, and experience performing. It all ties in to finding our sound and so far, we’re having fun with the whole process! We like the direction we’re moving in and we’re glad our fans do too.

R:  If you couldn’t write/create music for a living, what would you want to do instead?

A:  I would open a coffeeshop/venue. I want to serve drinks that make people happy and provide an outlet for musicians in the community to build up their repertoire.

R:  Best compliment a fan has ever given to you:

A:  My favorite compliment to receive is that we have good dynamics. It’s something we want our songs to utilize as much as possible but it’s not something many people are aware of.

 

Please visit http://www.facebook.com/SickSea for more information.

Bonaventure: Come Hell or High Water

Bonaventure:  Come Hell or High Water

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

I made the mistake of buying a Kings of Leon album a few years ago because I enjoyed the sound of the band’s hit “Use Somebody.”  But I was disappointed, overall, by the lyrics and the lack of substance in several of the tracks.  So whenever I get a press release promising a band is similar to KOL, I’m caught between being both eager to listen and a little skeptical.  I’m eager because I’m really hoping the new band delivers in a way that KOL didn’t, but I’m skeptical because many of the sound alike bands also lack that backbone to an album that I like to pass onward with a glowing review.  It seems that copying that “style” of music is easy, but digging deep and embracing the emotions shared by not only the music but the lyrics as well is obviously a little more difficult.

With all that said, I’m really happy to write about Bonaventure.  This Nashville based band’s EP explodes with sound and sets up a momentum that carries the four tracks (or five-if you’re lucky enough to find the bonus track).  “Gaining Speed” is all about staying true to yourself and hanging on “‘Till our fingers bleed” as life gets difficult.  All this duo’s talents are on display here-vocals, lyrics, melody, and a rich sound that fills a room; nothing is held back.  The urgency of the second track, “I Dare You,” kept the album moving because although the tempo is slowed somewhat, the earnestness and the passion of the vocals and the story made the song a favorite.  Lead singer AndrewAlbert (formerly of Holiday Parade) makes that leap into faith that is so difficult to take sound so alluring.  “Running On Empty” is self explanatory, but make no mistake-the song is loaded with fuel to go for miles.  This song is a comfort to me;  I may feel like I have absolutely nothing left and that I am at my rope’s end, but leaving and letting it go are the only way to travel down that different, and often better, path.  “Come Hell or High Water” is a song about loyalty, a vow that puts this band’s heart and intensity in plain view.  Sometimes we look in all the wrong places for the answers; sometimes the people who want to help show the way are right there in front of us.

The bonus track, “These Shoes,” oddly enough considering the track it follows, is about walking away.  But that’s what makes these five songs so dynamic-the various positions we play in people’s lives are in constant flux-sometimes we are just coming to realize who are friends really are, sometimes we are realizing we need to leave, other times we see who we must hold onto.  It’s getting rid of the weeds while holding tight to the flowers that makes us grow-and the discoveries  can help us become better people if we allow them to.

And those realizations and lessons are making Andrew Albert and Dan Smyers (previously the guitarist of Transition) an indispensable band.  Tinged with piano that sometimes reminds me of Lifehouse, other times of Needtobreathe, vocals that rival David Cook’s or Chris Daughtry’s, lyrics that remind me of, well, no one, and tangy guitars that give this EP layers, Bonaventure proves that this Nashville band got it all right.

Please visit www.BonaventureMusic.com for more information.

Lisa Bianco: Momentum

Lisa Bianco:  Momentum

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

Lisa Bianco:  MomentumThere’s nothing not to love about this seven song EP.  Generally, I prefer a woman’s voice to a man’s, but unfortunately, it’s that extra something in a male dominated band that has me listening to more guys than girls.  That “extra something” isn’t missing on this album.  Lisa brings it all to the table:  excellent vocals, enough guitars to make me feel like rocking out, and enough relatable material to make me feel like I’m sitting down on a rainy Saturday afternoon having a chat with my best friend.  Nope, no guys required here.

Lisa opens the album with “Breakin,’” a song about a dissolving relationship that neither he nor you are fighting for.  And so you’re watching in dismay as it deteriorates.  But, there’s more comfort in the song than motivation to save it.  Because some relationships aren’t meant to be salvaged.  The other break-up song, “Erase You,” follows “Breakin,’” and has a miffed Lisa realizing that “you never cared for me” even though she wanted so badly too see that he was capable of loving someone.  Because the guy doesn’t treat her the way she deserves to be treated, she wants the mere memory of him erased.  Hey, we’ve all been there.

But there’s more to Lisa than the girl who’s been treated badly.  “Big City Lights” explains the draw Lisa has to be more than the girl residing in a small town with a quiet life.  While I don’t share her ambition to stand out in a crowd of people, I very much relate to her desires to chase down her passions and what inspires her.  I loved this song about chasing down a dream and being attracted to what makes you feel alive.

“Lovely” is more reflection on a relationship that didn’t work, but it’s vastly different from the first two tracks.   Wistful and sad, this is a different side to Lisa and shows her vulnerability and gentler spirit.  Missing a relationship that didn’t last for various reasons, she allows herself to entertain, for just a moment, what it would be like if it had worked out.  Sweeping and emotional, this is a great track.  “No Doubt About It” shows different side yet again-this is a happier song about finding the right guy and being absolutely positive he is the one she wants to be with.

The song Lisa closes with, “Low,” is my favorite.  Sometimes acoustic, sometimes electric, but always raw, this five minute track is a reach out to someone who is struggling with depression and some dark times.  It reveals a songstress with heart and a strong sensitivity to someone else’s pain.

Talented and versatile, Lisa has a lot to offer with Momentum.  Radio friendly yet better than much of the music that over saturates the current stations, I will be listening to Lisa when my thirst for strong rock with a soul that can’t be sated by anything else.

Please visit www.lisabianco.com for more information.

Kelly Clarkson: Stronger

Kelly Clarkson: Stronger

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

Kelly Clarkson: Stronger

Kelly Clarkson: Stronger

As a rule, I don’t review popular mainstream artists. There are literally thousands of
reviews written for them, by the media and the general public. I doubt Relate readers
want a rehashing of what they could read elsewhere. But when it comes to Kelly
Clarkson, I want nothing more than to write an homage to her.

When she first entered the music industry ten years ago, she had something special that
other vocalists didn’t have. I remember watching her in concert for the first time on her
Hazel Eyes tour and being astounded by the fact that this little blonde belting it from the
stage was someone I felt I could relate to, someone I could have a conversation with,
someone who wasn’t so disconnected from my reality that she wouldn’t understand me.
While massive voices haven’t been elusive, there’s been a Whitney and Mariah for every
generation, for once an ordinary person with humble ambitions had become a pop star.
Ten years have lapsed, and she’s still that down to earth person who just happens to be
able to sing.

From my perspective, I don’t see her songs as angry. Okay, yes, there is that
song “Never Again” where she may be slightly miffed, but even songs like “Since U
Been Gone” and the latest single, “Mr. Know It All” aren’t about anger to me. All I hear
is a girl declaring her independence, a girl who has spent some time evaluating what the
relationship meant to her and what she wants in the future, whether it is freedom from
what holds her down to a man who can offer her what her last relationship didn’t.

“Mr. Know It All” has taken some slack for being “boring” and not being that anthem
that everyone expected. Yawn. It really is so tired. Personally, I love the song. We’ve
all been judged because we all do it…judge, that is. Every time I hear it, I get all feisty as
I remember every person who has slapped a label on me, and just when I’m getting full of
myself, I’m reminded of that pretty girl who intimidated me, the one I wanted to paint in
a corner and say she wouldn’t understand my life. In reality, though, it is me who doesn’t
understand a thing about her. Think about it. If you say you don’t judge, you’re not
human. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make an effort to do less of it. Nothing
like a pop song to hold up a mirror and make me want to hide from the reflection.

“Honestly” is Stronger’s SoberAddictedBecauseofYou power song that in my opinion,
All I Ever Wanted didn’t have. This song is so incredibly raw and exposed, it’s gut
wrenching. “If you’re hating me, do it honestly.” Only Kelly could do this song and
carry off the emotion it requires. I look at all the gimmicks and attention seeking
female “entertainers” charting right now, and the thought of any of them attempting this
makes me cringe. I repeat, only Kelly could do this song.

“Hello” is another song that made an impact with me. The guitars in the intro are a nice
deviation from the tracks preceding it, and all I can think is the Stones need to roll right
on out of here to make room for this one. She’s also channeling Sheryl Crow, which is
weird for me because I never thought of the Rolling Stones when I hear Crow, yet I’m
putting the two together in this song. While the thought of Kelly ever feeling invisible
sounds ludicrous to me, she sings this (and “Hear Me” from Breakaway) with such
conviction, I really am wondering if any of our journal passages would read the same.
While it’s an up tempo track, this is all about loneliness.

“Dark Side” and “The Sun Will Rise” (from the deluxe version) are the only other two
songs I will dedicate a paragraph to. “Dark Side” is again, an up tempo song, but its
lyrics are not. Reading the lyrics before I heard this left me disappointed, but once I got
the album, I understood it really is about her voice and her gigantic ability to interpret
a song’s depth that is amazing. I cried the first time I heard this. Here is Kelly feeling
vulnerable to losing someone, not only because she has faults, but because she has
something darker lurking. Coming from a family with debilitating depression, I’ve seen
this first hand; friends will disappear when they are needed most. “The Sun Will Rise” is
the answer. Sung with Kara DioGuardi (co-judge on Idol; she has many writing credits
with Kelly over the years), this isn’t sappy the way “If No One Will Listen” is from
AIEW. Kara holds her own with Kelly, and I love the uplifting message, the country
vibe, and the way the momentum keeps the song from weighing itself down.

Every other song on this album (buy the deluxe, it’s worth it) are memorable and
remarkable in their own way. The songs with longer titles (“Standing in Front of
You,” “The War Is Over” and “Breaking Your Own Heart”) are generally the slower
songs, but these aren’t typical ballads, and again, they were what was missing from
her previous record. “Standing in Front of You” is my favorite; I love the message of
opening yourself up to what has been right there all along. The songs with three word
titles (“Let Me Down,” “I Forgive You,” “You Can’t Win” and “You Love Me”) are
faster tempo. Incredibly catchy. Irresistable. And of course, there is “What Doesn’t Kill
You (Stronger).” This will be all over radio soon enough; it is this album’s “Since U
Been Gone.”

Kelly’s vocals have always been front and center; even in all those “angry” anthems she
does, no one can carry them off as well as her. But, really, it’s her personality that is the
backbone of everything she has ever done. She emotes like no one else. She reveals like
no one else. I love her for who she is and who she has always been. She’s been strong
these past ten years, under the glare of the media who wants her to look and act different,
and under the scrutiny of an industry that wants her to bend and fold according to what
they deem popular. And she’s maintained integrity throughout. The example she sets
makes her fans stronger. She’s just now been able to give an album this title, however,
because it is only just now that the public may be able to accept it and understand that it’s
true.

Be sure to download from a digital retailer of your choice (but I recommend the deluxe
edition found on iTunes or at Target).

Eisley: The Valley

Eisley: The Valley

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

Eisley, The Valley

Eisley, The Valley

(photo courtesy of www.eisley.com)

After the members of this band experienced heartbreaks of the worst calibers-dissolved
marriage, broken engagement, and a serious breakup, they did what artists do…they
turned to their art to make sense of it all. The Valley is the result; eleven tracks about
loss and what remains of the heart as all the pieces are put back together.

Musically, this band is spot on. Eisley is three sisters (vocals, guitars, and keys) and
a brother (drummer) and a cousin (bass). And just as only family can complete each
other’s sentences, this band so completely understand each other’s emotions, there is no
weakness in the resulting music. Whether Sherri’s and Stacy’s vocals are answering each
other (heard best in “Better Love”) or harmonizing (the entire album), their voices are
like ribbons weaving through each song, creating a delicious story that is a journey to
listen to. With each listen, there is something new to be discovered.

And that’s just the vocals.

The band is also phenomenal. While the vocals alone would draw comparisons to
Vedera or The Sundays, the band anchors their voices with either aggressive guitars and
drums (“Smarter” or “Sad) or delicacies of piano lightness (“Kind” or “Ambulance”)
or even strings (“Watch It Die”). The results are rich, but no two songs sound the same
and every one of them extracts emotion from the listener. I dare you to listen and not be
affected by the music.

Usually, I’m all about the lyrics, but the stories told here are too good for me to explain
with words on boring white paper. What I enjoyed best was their ability to both spell
it out for me and explain exactly what they were feeling and why or leave things a little
more ambiguous, allowing me the freedom to decide what the song meant to me. I also
felt that while they would focus on a certain moment, sometimes so accurately my heart
was on the floor right along with theirs, I never suffered tunnel vision with this album.
I wasn’t so lost in their heartaches that I could only see the pinnacle we had just fallen
from; I could see through a broader scope and appreciate the other mountains that I
would surely be at the top again, given enough time. I so do appreciate that while this
album is about heartbreak, there is not so much melancholy that there isn’t hope at the
end of it.

I will admit to favoring “Smarter” because the song doesn’t have to be about just a guy;
it could be about anyone who underestimates you. “Sad,” too, is good, for the empathy
she feels for the girl about to experience exactly what she went through is genuine.
And “Watch It Die” takes me to that precise moment that it’s all lost. But that’s all I’ll
reveal to you. Listen and discover for yourself.

Please visit www.eisley.com for more information; they’re on tour during September, and
be sure to familiarize yourself with The Valley by downloading from iTunes or any other
online music store before they release their new EP!

Ted Hovis: Let It Shine

Ted Hovis: Let It Shine

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

Ted Hovis

Ted Hovis

(picture courtesy of www.myspace.com/tedhovis)

Ted’s voice is a beautiful instrument; an engaging one. And fortunately for him, it also
sets him apart. It was difficult for me to place a comparison; he’s that unique without
being weird. The focal point for me is often the lyrics on an album, but there were times
I had to force myself to pay attention to what he was singing about rather than how he
was singing it.

Also fortunately for him, Ted guitar skills are as good as his vocals; only making my
predicament with focusing even more difficult. He alternates so well between soul and
blues and rock, there isn’t a genre for him to fit in, and that’s a good thing because talent
like this shouldn’t be contained to one space. For him, it just spills over.

So now, the lyrics. Who is this guy and what is he about? There’s a lot of loss here.
In “The Well Has Run Dry,” Ted makes my heart hurt as he sings, “Have I lost my
place in this world/If I haven’t the strength to try anymore.” He also seems to hold onto
something he often feels he’s about to lose. In “Until It Fades,” he sings, “But it all feels
so right/To be here by your side/Until it fades away.” This sentiment seems to be an
underlying current to many of the tracks on the album.

But there’s also hope. In “The Place You Called Home,” the chorus declares, “You’ll
find me waiting for you/In the place you called home” as a loved one struggles to return
to happier times. In “Twisting in Denial,” one of the stand outs on the album, Ted
promises that he’d rather feel the pain than living with false hope. In “Thinking Out
Loud,” he realizes that “Time is a healer, time is a means to an end/Time lets me see
again.” And even in “Until it Fades,” while the written lyric has such a heaviness to it,
Ted delivers it in a way that reveals he’s just appreciating the moment and not focusing
on the heartache at the end of the road.

Ultimately, hope floats. Even if it seems lost in the quagmire of heartbreak. And I
appreciate the sentiment that Let it Shine gave to me; without the valleys, we can’t
appreciate the pinnacles for the beauty that resides there. Ted’s got a beautiful way of
taking you on that journey, from one end of the spectrum to the other.

Please visit him at www.tedhovis.com and be sure to purchase on iTunes.

Katey Laurel: From Here

Katey Laurel: From Here

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

Katey Laurel

Katey Laurel

(photo courtesy of www.kateylaurel.com)

Katey has a deep, rich voice that is startling at first, simply because it’s so unexpected,
but by the end of the first song, “Begin Again,” her vocals are comforting and alluring at
the same time. Grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and get to know her through her songs.

With only eight tracks on From Here, Katey has no room for filler, and every song is
solid. “Begin Again” is my favorite; its message is inspirational and a fantastic way to
establish this as a positive songwriter who isn’t wallowing in her heartbreak. “Here we
are, lesson learned, this is not the end; slow it down, turn around, we can begin again.”
She cites the temptation to look at the past, but encourages forgiveness and a blank
canvas.

“Blue Sky’s Comin’” lyrics follow that spirit. “I know the blue clouds comin,’ rain
clouds will hit the ground running,” she croons, and any negativity found in your heart at
the start of the song will be gone by the end.

“Everything I Love” is flirty and playful; absolutely perfect for Valentine’s Day
and “Somebody Like You,” also embraces that wonder of being with that certain
someone that makes you happy.

“From Here” ponders the meaning of our existence; “Is this really all there is?” she asks.
“Is this really where we fit?” I loved her honesty and questioning spirit that revealed a
vulnerability other artists choose to hide or ignore, but the song is so relatable because we
all think about these questions.

Katey’s voice is pure magic, and her talent is undeniable. This songstress has heart and
integrity; focusing on characteristics that define true love or celebrating for what makes
it wonderful, and choosing to take the high road and embrace hope even in the midst of
hardships. Please visit www.katelylaurel.com for more information on Katey, or find her
on twitter and facebook.