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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

Entries in Music (139)

Wednesday
Sep182013

Chris Botti: New York Pops Interview

Chris BottiChris Botti has become the largest- selling American instrumental artist since the release of his 2004 critically acclaimed CD When I Fall In Love. His success has crossed over to audiences usually reserved for pop music and his ongoing association with PBS has led to four #1 jazz albums, as well as multiple Gold, Platinum and Grammy Awards. Most recently, his latest album Impressions won the Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album at this year’s 55th Grammy Awards.

On October 4, 2013, The New York Pops orchestra will launch its 31st Season at Carnegie Hall with An Evening with Chris Botti. Music Director and Conductor Steven Reineke will lead the orchestra in a highly-anticipated opening with America’s largest-selling instrumental artist, trumpeter Chris Botti. The performance will include selections such as Chopin’s "Prelude in C Minor," "Emmanuel," and "When I Fall in Love" from his recent Grammy Award-winning album Impressions, as well as other popular favorites, at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage. Click here for tickets!

For more on Chris be sure to visit http://www.chrisbotti.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

Chris Botti1. Who or what inspired you to become a instrumental artist/trumpeter? My mom is responsible for exposing me to and got me in to music at an early age. Being a piano player, my mom first got me into piano but as many kids do, I rebelled against it and wanted to do something different. That’s when I saw Doc Severinsen on television and thought the trumpet would be cool. I picked one up and then a few years later when I was twelve years old I heard the first three notes of Miles Davis’ "My Funny Valentine" and at that moment, I knew I wanted to be a jazz musician.

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? I’ve always wanted to work with Peter Gabriel.

3. You are going to be The New York Pops special guest on October 4 as part of their evening dedicated to you. What excites you most about this upcoming evening? This is my first true orchestra show in the New York area so that makes this very, very special. I’ve had the opportunity to play Carnegie Hall a few times and of course everyone feels the same when they walk out on that very famous stage…it’s really an honor to be there.

4. What does it mean to you to have The New York Pops dedicate an evening to you and your music? I’m deeply honored to have the evening dedicated to me. I think it’s something you dream about as a kid when you’re practicing the trumpet for so many hours and truly, it’s a dream come true.

5. What excites you most about performing at Carnegie Hall? The very first time I played Carnegie Hall, I was in high school with the McDonalds All American High School band. Back then I never thought I’d be playing there with the New York Pops as a headliner and honestly, I still get a major dose of butterflies when I walk on stage at Carnegie Hall. It’s just a really special experience.

New York Pops Conductor/Music Director Steven Reineke conducting The New York Pops, Photo Credit: Richard TermineNew York Pops Conductor/Music Director Steven Reineke, Photo Credit: Michael Tammaro6. What are looking forward to about performing with New York Pops Musical Director/Conductor Steven Reineke? He’s truly one of my favorite conductors to work with. He has that rare gift of being able to understand the jazz group and how we feel time and tempo and are loose. At the same time, he takes the structure of classical music and molds the two styles together to fit perfectly.

7. What do you hope audiences come away with after attending this concert? Like any of our shows, I hope that they’re moved emotionally and I hope they have a great time. I know that’s an overused cliché sometimes but if you can get those two things to happen, whether they cry or laugh or feel some extra emotion and then they leave the night saying "Wow I never thought I’d see musicians like that," then the whole night fits together for a really entertaining experience.

8. As an artist who travels around the world, what do you enjoy most about this part of your work and what challenges does it present for you? Well certainly coming to NY isn’t really a challenge since it’s like coming home in so many ways. However, the challenges you get traveling around the world 300 days a year are far outweighed by the rush or the energy that you get from an audience and being able to walk out and perform for them. I think if you were able to look back at your life and say this is why I practice music, it makes all those challenges like going through security at airports go away quickly.

Chris Botti, Photo Credit: LeAnn Mueller9. How have you stayed grounded in an industry that has led others down a darker road? I think the trumpet is a great solidifying instrument. In other words, you have to practice it everyday and you can’t take a vacation from it. Having a very workman’s attitude towards music, I mean there’s music and then there’s playing the trumpet, and having to do it everyday keeps me a bit more grounded.

10. What have you learned about yourself from your illustrious career? It takes a long time and the higher up the mountain you climb the more you realize that you haven’t achieved the musical satisfaction you’re looking for because you’re always trying to reach the next goal. Coming back to having a workman’s attitude, developing a routine and feeling good about going city to city to play music, I’ve learned to try and not put too much pressure on myself as an artist. For me, I feel grateful to have the band I have and the musicians we travel around with and I try not to look at the top of the mountain…or at least hopefully not the bottom.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. What's the best advice you've ever received? Again it’s a cliché, but we’re playing Carnegie Hall and how do you get to Carnegie Hall? You have to practice and have behind it the intent to sacrifice a lot. People say, "I would practice" or "I did last week," but you have to put years and years and years of practice in and keep having that satisfaction given to you by the instrument. Practice and not to veer off too much is probably the best advise I gave myself and I keep seeing it in other people I recognize to be very talented. People like Sting have that very driven, focused, workman’s like attitude built around the fundamentals of music rather than the pop culture aspect of it.

12. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Is there a super power for more sleep?

Chris Botti, Photo Credit: Fabrizio FerriMore on Chris:

Performing worldwide and selling more than three million albums, he has found a form of creative expression that begins in jazz and expands beyond the limits of any single genre. Over the past three decades, Botti has recorded and performed with the best in music, including Sting, Barbra Streisand, Josh Groban, Yo-Yo Ma, Michael Bublé, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, John Mayer, Andrea Bocelli, Joshua Bell, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and even Frank Sinatra. Hitting the road for as many as 300 days per year, the trumpeter has also performed with many of the finest symphonies and at some of the world's most prestigious venues from Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl to the Sydney Opera House and the Real Teatro di San Carlo in Italy. Impressions, Botti's 2012 Columbia Records and Grammy Award-winning release, is the latest in a stellar parade of albums – including When I Fall In Love (2004), To Love Again: The Duets (2005),Italia (2007), and the CD/DVD Chris Botti in Boston (2009) – that has firmly established him as a clarion voice in the American contemporary music scene. Playing with his uniquely expressive sound and soaring musical imagination, Botti is joined on the disc by featured artists Andrea Bocelli, Vince Gill, Herbie Hancock, Mark Knopfler, and David Foster in a warm, intimate celebration of melodic balladry. With Impressions and the albums that preceded it, Chris Botti has thoroughly established himself as one of the important, innovative figures of the contemporary music world.

New York Pops Conductor/Music Director Steven Reineke conducting The New York Pops, Photo Credit: Richard TermineMore on The New York Pops:

The New York Pops is the largest independent pops orchestra in the United States, and the only professional symphonic orchestra in New York City specializing in popular music. Led by Music Director Steven Reineke, the orchestra performs an annual subscription series and birthday gala at Carnegie Hall. The New York Pops was founded by Skitch Henderson in 1983 with a mission to create greater public awareness and appreciation of America’s rich musical heritage. The New York Pops is dedicated to lifelong learning, and collaborates with public schools, community organizations, children’s hospitals and senior centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City. Pops Education allows thousands of New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds to participate in fully customizable music programs that blend traditional education with pure fun.

Steven Reineke, Photo Credit: Michael TammaroSteven Reineke is the Music Director of The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, Principal Pops Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Principal Pops Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Reineke is a frequent guest conductor with The Philadelphia Orchestra and has been on the podium with the Boston Pops, The Cleveland Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia. His extensive North American conducting appearances include San Francisco, Houston, Seattle, Edmonton and Pittsburgh. As the creator of more than one hundred orchestral arrangements for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Mr. Reineke’s work has been performed worldwide, and can be heard on numerous Cincinnati Pops Orchestra recordings on the Telarc label. His symphonic works Celebration Fanfare, Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Casey at the Bat are performed frequently in North America. His numerous wind ensemble compositions are published by the C.L. Barnhouse Company and are performed by concert bands around the world. A native of Ohio, Mr. Reineke is a graduate of Miami University of Ohio, where he earned bachelor of music degrees with honors in both trumpet performance and music composition. He currently resides in New York City with his partner Eric Gabbard.

Tuesday
Sep172013

Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana: The New York Pops and Ronald McDonald House New York Benefit at 54 Below

On Monday, September 23, 2013 at 54 Below, (254 West 54th Street), Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana will perform an intimate benefit concert titled Remember When…. The New York Pops Music Director Steven Reineke will host the evening beginning with a champagne reception at 5:30PM followed by dinner and a performance at 6:30PM. The evening is a joint benefit in support of The New York Pops Education Programs at Ronald McDonald House® New York, which provide creative outlets to the children and families in residence. Click here for tickets!

For more on:

The New York Pops: http://www.newyorkpops.org

Ronald McDonald House New York: http://www.rmh-newyork.org

54 Below: http://54below.com

Cinderella on Broadway: http://cinderellaonbroadway.com

1. On September 23, you both are participating in The New York Pops/Ronald McDonald House benefit concert "Remember When...," a concert benefiting the The New York Pops' Educational program at Ronald McDonald House in New York. How did you both get involved with this benefit? Santino and I were approached by Steven Reineke, who asked if we'd be interested in performing a duo concert together for this event. We eagerly said Yes!

2. What does it mean to you to be part of this special benefit concert? I have done a couple birthday concerts with the NY Pops at Carnegie Hall and am always thrilled to collaborate with them on any project. This one is special because we get to celebrate and honor their relationship with the Ronald McDonald house. I lost my mom to cancer two years ago and Santino has also had family members battling this horrible disease, so our hearts are deeply connected to the cause, especially its focus on children.

3. What are you looking forward to most about the evening? To be honest, Santino and I have discussed the idea of doing a concert together for a while now, so this was a perfect opportunity! And to do it all for such a worthy cause makes it all the more exciting and fulfilling.

4. What excites you about working with New York Pops' Musical Director/Conductor Steven Reineke? Steven not only possesses immense talent, but a tremendous respect and passion for music. Santino and I were honored to be personally invited by Steven to headline this special event. We are bringing in our musical director, Andy Einhorn, to accompany, arrange, and musically direct our concert, but Steven has been pivotal in overseeing the process and coordinating with 54 Below and the Ronald McDonald House.

5. What do you enjoy about performing at 54 Below? The venue is classy yet comfortable. The sound is superb, the food is delicious, and the intimate setting makes performing there such a treat!

6. What do you hope audiences come away with after attending this benefit? We hope to not only entertain but truly touch the hearts of our audience that evening. Our theme of "Remember When..." hearkens back to our childhoods. From playful songs that Santino and I each sang as youngsters, to heartwarming songs that conjure up some of our most special memories, there's sure to be a "remember when" moment that each audience member can relate to.

More on Laura:

Laura Osnes is currently starring on Broadway as the title role in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (Drama Desk Award; Tony, Outer Critics Circle, Astaire Award nominations). She also received a Tony nomination for her performance as "Bonnie Parker" in Bonnie & Clyde, which she originated at Asolo Repertory Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse (San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Award).

Photo Credit: Janet Mayer / PRPhotos.comMore on Santino:

Santino Fontana was nominated for a 2013 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Musical for his work in Broadway's Cinderella. He was most recently seen Off-Broadway in Sons of the Prophet at the Roundabout (Lucille Lortel and Obie Awards). Broadway: The Importance of Being Earnest (Clarence Derwent Award), Brighton Beach Memoirs (Drama Desk Award), Billy Elliot, and Sunday in the Park With George.

More on Steven Reineke:

Steven Reineke is the Music Director of The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, Principal Pops Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Principal Pops Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Reineke is a frequent guest conductor with The Philadelphia Orchestra and has been on the podium with the Boston Pops, The Cleveland Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia. His extensive North American conducting appearances include San Francisco, Houston, Seattle, Edmonton and Pittsburgh. As the creator of more than one hundred orchestral arrangements for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Mr. Reineke’s work has been performed worldwide, and can be heard on numerous Cincinnati Pops Orchestra recordings on the Telarc label. His symphonic works Celebration Fanfare, Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Casey at the Bat are performed frequently in North America. His numerous wind ensemble compositions are published by the C.L. Barnhouse Company and are performed by concert bands around the world. A native of Ohio, Mr. Reineke is a graduate of Miami University of Ohio, where he earned bachelor of music degrees with honors in both trumpet performance and music composition. He currently resides in New York City with his partner Eric Gabbard.

Tuesday
Sep102013

Sheri Sanders: In Concert Interview

Sheri Sanders, the mastermind behind the revolutionary rock musical theatre audition technique, Rock The Audition, took time out of her busy schedule to once again sit down with "Call Me Adam." This time around we discussed her upcoming not-to-be-missed concert experience at the American Theatre for Actors in NYC from September 25-October 2 (314 54th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue). Click here for tickets!

For more on Sheri be sure to visit http://www.sheri-sanders.com and follow her Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

1. You are about to kick off your concert tour right here in NYC from September 25-October 2 with a unprecedented format: part concert, part pop music history lesson, and a special inside look at your rock class, Rock The Audition. Why did you choose to format the concert tour this way? Well, people don't have ANY idea what on earth goes on in my classroom unless they take the class. They just know that people change...A lot. I wanted the theatre community to see how I work, what I ask of people, and most importantly, what I stand for as a teacher and liberator. Oh, and I am a performer FIRST so that part is just me getting to "fill my own cup" so it can "runneth over" for everyone else. I couldn't perform while I was pioneering and I hated that part.

Sheri Sanders at Transcendence Theatre Company with Steve Mazurek, Photo Credit: Ryan Daffurn2. What made now the right time to do this concert? Um, these amazing young producers Kenny Metzger and Kristin Morris from the Araca Project contacted me to see if I knew anyone who needed something produced and I said, "yeah! Me!" I tried to do this concert in NYMF a few years ago, but I was so exhausted from writing then launching my book, that producing my own concert was too much for me. So I cancelled the concert until further notice. And now, it's further notice cause Rock The Audition has really hit a new and exciting level. And I've gotten some sleep :) And I have two people producing it now. I don't have to do it all myself!

3. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing your concert? Your questions are always amazing. That popular music is not just important to study how to audition for Rock Musicals, it also creates a profound opportunity to soul search. Something that I fear too many actors don't get a chance to do because they are told they are "ingenues" and need to sing "ingenue songs" and play "ingenue roles" is ask themselves how they FEEL. About ANYTHING. They have messy raw wild feelings that get completely lost in the shuffle. Popular music allows for those feelings. Insists on them actually!

Sheri Sanders in concert4. Joe Barros is directing. How did you decide that he was the one you wanted to work with? What has been the best part about the collaboration so far? Joe Barros knew me from a concert we did. I had a cold for it, but I was like," OK, cool. My voice is gonna have some texture on it" as opposed to freaking out. So my guess is he remembered that about me and called me in as an emergency replacement in a Fringe show. I had 3 days to learn the show before it opened. Why I chose him for this was that in those 3 days, he allowed me to be who I was, do my best, find my way through, be imperfect, with some real clear guidance and trust. And he is a FANTASTIC director/choreographer that I was dying to work with anyway. So when I asked he was like," F*&% yes." And so was I.

5. The NYC leg of the concert is being presented at the American Theatre of Actors. How did you decide on this venue? What do they offer that another venue might not? This venue came along with getting booked with the Araca Project. The Araca Project is really cool. The Aracas are these FAB producers whom I had the pleasure of working with when I did Urinetown. They have this UNBELIEVABLE mentorship program for Syracuse University. They mentor young producers, writers, casting directors. You name it. So when they asked if I wanted to do my concert with them, that's the spot they do it at! How wonderful for me since thats where Urinetown had its off-Broadway run!

Sheri Sanders with one of her "Rock The Audition" masterclass studentsSheri Sanders and her "Rock The Audition" masterclass students6. As part of this concert, you are going to be bringing students on stage and adjusting their rock songs in front of the audience. What excites about this part of the show and what makes you nervous? Love this question too. The same thing excites me and makes me nervous. I have no idea what they are gonna do. They are brave enough to get in front of the audience. Just like they're brave enough to take my class and get up in front of class as well. But I don't know them, I don't know who they are or what kind of acting technique they have. So it REALLY is a gamble. It feels a bit dangerous and that really excites me!

7. You are also going to have emerging contemporary pop/rock musical theatre artists and songwriting teams to present selections of their work as the "opening act" of the shows. How did you decide which artists you wanted to feature? Well, it's funny cause this was the producer's idea, and the producers and I had different lists. They did the reaching out on my behalf and got some coooool folks, like JOE ICONIS!!!!!!! Then I said hey hey can I get these other folks too? Some are my friends who NEED to be seen, some are HUGE influences in the musical theatre scene. We've got a little of everybody which is awesome.

8. In this day and age of Social Media, how do you feel Social Media outlets have helped your brand? How do you think it will help promote this concert? I think social media has been INCREDIBLE for me because I have created a "Facebook persona" that invites people to come explore lots of stuff with me. If I say, "look at this" or "do this" people do it cause they KNOW I am doing my homework for them about growing in this genre. I am gonna do my BEST to send them to the right places to learn the coolest things. So social media may have turned me into the pied piper. :)

Sheri Sanders proud of her students in "Rock The Audition" class9. What are you looking forward to most about taking this tour around the country? Well I've ALREADY gone to 24 colleges with my classes and that will continue. It's really about, for example, going to Chicago where there are several musical theatre programs and a VIBRANT musical theatre community. And that I get to do this concert as part of my "residency" there so people get to see the impact popular music has had on ME. It turned me into a much cooler person.

10. What do you enjoy most about teaching your students and interacting with your fans around the country? What have you learned from them? This is my favorite question. My students have given me courage. When they break through I come back to my own life and say, "Sher, are you gonna break through your crap like that boy did today? Or sit in your dirty diaper and do nothing about it?" So thats the best part. What their courage gives me. I can speak honestly when I say it's saved my life.

More on Sheri:

Sheri Sanders is the acclaimed author of Rock-The-Audition—a required read in more than a dozen top musical theatre training programs around the country, and her in-demand master class has been a part of the syllabus for students at renowned institutions like Pace University, Boston Conservatory, NYU, Syracuse, Berklee School of Music and Oklahoma City University, to name a few. Sheri has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Out Magazine, Playbill, The Huffington Post, as well as on NBC News, Good Day New York, and on Oprah’s OWN Network. Sheri’s students consistently receive callbacks and are cast in Broadway’s top rock shows, concerts, and national tours; many also number among the top competitors on reality competitions like The Glee Project, The X Factor and American Idol.

Saturday
Aug312013

Jay Brannan: Around The World In 80 Jays Interview

Photo Credit: jeffcassuto.comJay Brannan is one the world's biggest indie recording artists. With over 125 online videos, Jay has had over 8.5 million views. Jay travels the globe performing his music to sold-out crowds, a mixture of original compositions and covers. With the release of his newest album, Around The World In 80 Jays, Jay Brannan is bringing all of his fans together by releasing an album of multi-lingual covers.

He will be celebrating the release of Around The World In 80 Jays with a new tour, including a CD release party concert on September 6 at 11:30pm at Joe's Pub and a fan request concert on September 7 at 9:30pm

For more on Jay be sure to visit http://jaybrannan.com and follow him onFacebookTwitter, and Youtube!

1. You are about to release your latest album "Around The World in 80 Jays," which you titled based upon your touring around the world. What is your favorite part about touring? What challenges do you face on the road? I guess my favorite part is just having the chance to travel the world playing my songs for people, and that people show up :) Sometimes they even seem really excited to be there, or know the words to some of the songs haha. That's all very exciting and surreal. Getting to explore so many foreign places has really changed my life, and introduced me to a new addiction that now extends beyond traveling only for work, whenever possible :)

I think the biggest challenge while touring is the pace...It's hard to stay awake when you travel all day every day, work all afternoon & night (I don't just show up, play, and leave -- there are hours of work before & after a show, which many people don't realize), then wake up and do it all over again the next morning...for weeks! I get tired of lugging all my bags around the globe haha. But i'm lucky, I can't really complain.

2. What have you learned about yourself and this world we live in from touring the globe? Well at the risk of almost quoting American Beauty there is quite a lot of beauty in the world. It's no secret through my music & public persona that I am not the biggest fan of the human race haha. There is a lot of evil and pain and disappointment in the world. But the history and the architecture and the food and the artistry and the ingenuity...all of that comes from people too, and some of it is quite mind-blowing. Getting out of bed or staying upright for long periods of time is not really my natural state of being haha, so all this booking & touring & traveling & working has certainly taught me that I am capable of more than I think I am. :)

3. How do you feel your live shows have grown/evolved since you've started performing? Well the audience sizes have grown, and I went from playing tiny open mics in New York City to headlining my own shows in places as far away as Australia, Europe, Israel, Brazil...I think over time I've become a bit more comfortable, although I'm still often nervous, which allows me to be more myself, and I think people appreciate that. I put a lot of effort into making my shows feel casual & real & personal, if that makes any sense. My catalog has grown immensely. I used to not have enough material to put together a 30-minute set, and now I have a hard time choosing which songs to play under a 75 minute limitation :)

Jay Brannan with his fansJay Brannan and his fans4. You always take time before and after your concerts to interact with your fans. What do you enjoy most about meeting your fans? What has been the most heartwarming story you've come across? What has been the most outrageous fan moment you've had thus far? I do it because I appreciate that people show up & spend their time and money on coming to support what I do. It means a lot to me, and apparently it means something to many of them to have a personal moment to say hello or get a photo or whatever. I'm incredibly shy and socially anxious, so it's not easy for me and has taken practice. But I do it because I feel I should, and I am sincerely grateful for people's support. I've had some very moving stories, particularly through email -- some so moving i'm not even sure if they are true haha. I won't share any outrageous fan moments, but there are def some insane stories...I prefer to not fan the flames of those situations by discussing them publicly. haha.

5. One of your touring stops this time around is at Joe's Pub in NYC on September 6 & 7. What excites about coming back to Joe's Pub? Why do you love performing there? Well NYC has been my hometown for 10 years now, so there's that home-turf feeling of playing in New York -- having consistently strong turnouts & your friends showing up to support you, etc. Joe's Pub is one of my favorite small venues anywhere. It's a great room with great sound and they are such a pleasure to work with. It just feels good to sing there, and the vibe is friendly and supportive. It's an absolutely legendary spot and has done SO much to foster the arts scene of this town. It's really an honor to play there. AND THEY PUT MY FACE ON A KIOSK OUTSIDE ON THE SIDEWALK!!! What more could I ask for. I'm excited about that. Haha.

6. September 6 is the CD release/party for Around the World in 80 Jays. and September 7 is a fan request concert. Why did you choose to split your shows this way? What has been the response thus far for the fan request night? Are you surprised by any of the requests? Oh I don't know, the shows tend to sell out in advance here, so I figured I'd try doing 2 nights. I get a bit bored & feel too much pressure about being repetitive, so I thought I'd build in a new way to keep it different for myself. Haha.

The voting felt like a fun idea, and the response has been huge. Some of the top songs are not so surprising -- the ones people usually request. But others are a bit surprising, if not maybe a bit annoying, as it means I have to re-learn songs I never play anymore. Haha. That's probably why people are taking the opportunity to request them :) 

Jay Brannan in Egypt7. What can fans expect from you on Around The World in 80 Jays? It's a multilingual covers EP. 3 songs are in English, and 6 are in various other languages. It's stripped-down and simple, like a lot of my recorded stuff, with some accenting on certain tracks from other instruments. I'm really happy with how it's turned out, I'm super excited for people to hear it. Hopefully they like the tracks, and have a sense of humor about it as well. It was just fun to make & something I've wanted to do for a long time.

8. What made you want to do another album of cover songs as opposed to original music? I don't write fast enough to do annual original music albums, and also those take a bit more time & budget to make. This was meant to be 4 or 5 songs recorded in a neighborhood studio I found on Craigslist. But I got so into it, and was so pleased with the results, that I kind of kept going until there were 9 tracks and some simple arrangements. I'm working simultaneously on another album of originals, but that is a really long process from conception to release.

Jay Brannan in New York City9. In this day and age of social media, how do you feel social media platforms have helped your career grow? Social media is basically responsible for my career. It's the ability to connect directly with listeners for little to no financial investment upfront (although that is changing, for example Facebook handicaps the reach of your posts to your own fans now, unless you pay) that has allowed me to reach my audience, and to continue to help it develop and grow. Even in the early days of Myspace, Shortbus (a film I acted in and had a song in) was being released around the world, so people would Google me, and find my Myspace page -- which would just be on the web doing marketing for me even while I was asleep :) Social media has become this big overwhelming beast, and it has become more & more difficult to stand out (because it has become so overloaded with content), but...we're all using it because it works. Even with it's flaws & frustrations, it's still a hugely important tool.

10. In addition to singing, are there other aspects of entertainment, you'd like to work in? I still have acting aspirations. I travel a lot and music sucks up a lot of my time & energy, but I get to audition for film & tv roles now and then. I'd love the chance to do more of that. Sometimes I have fantasies of writing a book or a play or a screenplay...who knows. I really don't know what the future holds, I just try to take one day at a time and see where my feet take me :) 

Wednesday
Aug282013

Jim McCarthy: Goldstar Interview

Jim McCarthy is the CEO of Goldstar, but he is also Customer Service Agent Number 1 for the company. Jim has spent the last decade and a half in e-commerce, starting way back at GeoCities before it was bought by Yahoo in 1999. Even before that, he helped to open about 50 Noah’s Bagels locations in California, where he learned about delighting customers, developing employees, and managing high growth. He’s written articles and commentary in Fast Company, Business Insider, and other well-known publications, and has appeared as a speaker at conferences like SXSW, TEDU (part of the main TED conference), INTIX and others. He co-founded TEDxBroadway, which he also hosts and curates. Jim graduated from Harvard College and has an MBA from the Anderson School at UCLA. He also speaks Japanese, writes ghost stories and is a certified lifeguard.

For more on Goldstar be sure to visit http://www.goldstar.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

1. You are the CEO and one of the founders of Goldstar (along with Robert Graff and Richard Webster), the world's largest ticket booth, offering half-price tickets to various theatre, comedy, dance, concerts, sporting events, and other live entertainment outlets. What made you want to start Goldstar together? You know those conversations you have where you say "Someday, we'll..."? The three of us had been having those conversations about starting a business for a couple years, and 'someday' finally came.

Jim McCarthy with co-founders Robert Graff and Richard Webster2. What have you learned from working together? Trust in equal doses with candor. It's impossible to work with partners if you don't give them the leeway to run the part of the business they're responsible for, but at the same time, if you do that without an atmosphere of candor with each other, that doesn't work either. I imagine putting on those big puffy boxing gloves...I may hit (or get hit) pretty hard, but there's no intent to hurt. The intent is to be honest and get to the heart of a solution.

3. Why did you want to focus Goldstar on entertainment events rather than another area of interest? It's a perfect match for what the Internet/web/mobile technologies do well, which is taking a whole complicated mess of different things a person might be interested in and match them to millions of people, quickly and elegantly. Not just that, but there was and still is a basic breakdown in the world of live entertainment: people want to be at these events more and the events would love to have more people there! Our thought from the start was that's a problem that deserves a solution.

Not only that, but it's fun. You can make a fortune in cement, but it's pretty hard to get excited about it. Last week, on consecutive nights, I saw a baseball game, a rock opera, and a Broadway play. I suppose there's an amount of money I'd take to work in the cement industry instead of this, but it would have to be quite a bit more!

Summer night at the Hollywood Bowl, just one of the many venues Goldstar sells tickets to4. How do you decide which events you are going to sell tickets for? Our goal is to be broad, so we'd like to have a wide range of things in every city that we're in. We've done this for long enough that we can filter for shows and events that are professionally done and are going to be good experiences for our members, though to some degree we do let our members tell us what they think about an event.

In other words, if you're a pro or a talented amateur running an event, your show should be on Goldstar, so call us!

5. Goldstar is a membership driven service, with nearly 4 million members, many of your members being the average age of 37 years old and female. Did you start out trying to get this demographic or did they find you and now you cater to this age group? We paid attention early on to who was most responsive to what we had to offer and then went deeper into that audience as much as we could. It's important to say though that although our audience is 2/3rds women, we have a lot of men in the audience, and they're great members too. Goldstar is for everybody, really, though if you polled 100 women and 100 men, more of the women would respond more quickly.

We also saw that it was really important to many of the venues and shows that we worked with that they reach a different audience from the ones they are already reaching. That could be age, gender, or ethnicity based, or it could be a whole bunch of other things, but we saw that they didn’t need "help" selling discount tickets to the people they already had a strong connection to. What they needed more than anything was to reach a whole bunch of other people who have every reason to be interested in what they’re selling.

6. How do you feel Goldstar has helped inspire a younger generation to go to live events? We're about choices, information, and variety. We make going to live entertainment something that's easier to do, more social, and where you're better informed. I think there are a lot of unintentional barriers to getting out to live entertainment and arts, and we're breaking those down in ways that helps everyone get out there. This especially helps younger adults who generally come to this kind of content a bit later in life.

I also think that there’s a strong connection between making live entertainment part of your life and truly exploring your own personal creativity. People are creative in a million little ways in their work and just in their daily lives, but how much of the time is that creativity really activated? I think everyone, but perhaps young people in particular, want creativity of whatever kind to be part of not just what they do, but in fact who they are. I can’t think of an easier or more fun way to stir your own personal creativity than to see it on a stage as a regular habit. When you see a smart performance, you get a little smarter. When you hear someone funny, you get to be a little funnier. When you see an athlete do something amazing, you feel somehow that you too could strive to be more like them. I think we’re on the midst of a personal creativity explosion and going to live events has a big role to play in that.

7. Goldstar has been in business for over 10 years now. Did you imagine Goldstar would be what it is today when you first started out? What has been the best part about this venture so far and what challenges have you faced? Yes, actually! This is a lot like we imagined it, which means we've been tremendously fortunate. Being a bootstrapped company, the challenges mostly relate to patience. Many very high-powered fads have come and gone in the time we've been in business, and there's a kind of pressure to jump on board those fads, but if they don't make sense, you have to resist. That's tough.

The most fun part is seeing the impact of the business on all the people we touch, including Goldstar employees, the venue and show partners whose businesses we help build, and of course, the millions of people we send to all these great nights out. That's the best thing, really.

8. What do you see for Goldstar's future? In a few years, most people will think of us as the place they go to find something to do. This is already true for a lot of people, but we're uniquely positioned to take that to a mass level. We'll be able to provide people with a good answer to the question of how to figure out what they should do with their free Saturday night.

9. What event don't you sell tickets for that you would like to? Every event belongs on Goldstar, because we have the largest channel solely dedicated to live entertainment and arts in the country. If you want to reach that audience, you need to be there, so the show that I'd like to see on Goldstar is Call Me Adam, the Musical.

10. In addition to selling tickets, you also provide for those less fortunate through your Thanksgiving Appeal where members can provide a Thanksgiving meal to one of the local food banks in their area. How did you decide to start this program ? What has been the greatest reward knowing you are helping so many people? We started this program the second year we were in business because we realized the year before that the week of Thanksgiving is a pretty tough time to try to sell tickets.  We had, really, no money at the time, but what we did have was an audience whose attention we could command for a few minutes with our emails and our website. We thought it would be nice to use that for something, and Goldstar members have always been really responsive to the Thanksgiving Appeal.

It's all to their credit, really. I'm just happy we can facilitate it, but it's about the generosity of the Goldstar members, not about Goldstar. I'm always proud but not surprised at what our customers do for the organizations, and it's one of my favorite things that happens during the year.