Late last month, #WomenCrush artist Ellisa Sun released the follow up to her acclaimed 2017 debut, Moon and Sun. It came in the form of a short 5 track EP titled Just a Little More. JALM came out of a relatively small budget. However, despite this, Sun’s latest effort is as beautiful and polished as ever, much thanks to the production efforts of herself and her bandmates.
Raised in Los Angeles, eventually finding her home just a bit north in San Francisco, Sun’s specialty lies in her gift of songwriting and her unwavering strength in vocal performances. With JALM, these forces of Sun’s talent are on full show. Throughout the EP’s short run time, Sun takes us on a journey, delving into the chaos of love with beautiful overtones.
Opening up with the title track, Sun’s influences and styles are clear. “Just A Little More” is the perfect introduction to her Norah-Jones-esque stylings, feauturing a jazzy mix of plunky pianos, beautiful horns, and a riveting bass riff. All of the production is topped with Sun’s light voice, floating above the landscapes of sounds painted across the track.
As the EP continues, Sun and her band lead us through the challenges and pitfalls of a relationship, making stops at highlight tracks like “Whiskey,” which features a beautiful a-capella bridge that puts Sun’s vocals on full focus.
It all concludes on the closing track, “Forever.” Through all the challenges and chaos explored, Sun’s project ends on a slow, sweet, and romantic note. With only 5 tracks, Just a Little More is able to take listeners on a trip across all spectrums of love, and conclude with the full-hearted happiness found in the end.
Ellisa's follow up effort is a beautiful gesture, and a win on all accounts. Though looping the EP over and over may satisfy tastes, for a true experience of her talents, a live performance is a necessity. Luckily, Elissa Sun is taking to the road, starting off in Montreal on October 7th and making her way around the States, with stops in New York October 20th through 27th.
For more information on Ellisa Sun’s tour and EP, go to www.ellisasun.com, and follow her on her socials @ellisasunmusic.
Article by: Brendan Swogger
Brendan Swogger is a freelance music writer and college student in Portland, OR. You can follow him on IG and Twitter @indiealtpdx
Our #WCW today is Grammy-nominated songwriter Amanda Richards who has not only written seven albums and two EPS to date, but has also just written and will be starring in her very first full length musical "Whiskey Dixie and The Big Wet Country". The musical follows Whiskey Williams (played by Richards herself), a hot-mess country singer beating off the demons of her past, through a rough weekend of poor decisions and hangovers, and all the while tackling sexual taboos & the American patriarchy. We sat down with Amanda to learn more about how she came up with it all!
What inspired you to write Whiskey Dixie?
For years I have hoarded a collection of raunchy country songs that I would break out occasionally at late night gigs. Many of the songs were written when I used to open burlesque shows under the alter-ego “DeManda.” Last year, I went on a writing retreat with a few good friends and thought about how fun it would be to use some of those songs as inspiration to write a stage play.
How long did it take you to put the musical together? Were the songs written first or the script?
Some of the songs I have had for a few years. It took me 4 days to write the first version of the script. I have since written 21 drafts of the script. By the time the play opens, it will have been nearly 10 months since pen was first brought to page, so to speak.
You touch on some pretty taboo topics - why do you think it’s important to talk about them (ex: women’s sexuality)?
I didn’t necessarily start out with the intention of writing a provocative or hot topic play. I was separating from my partner of 7 years and I really just needed to laugh about something.
As much as I hate to admit it, I tend to draw a lot from personal experience; and my perspective and sense of humor are a bit taboo. More than anything, I just tried to approach the subject matter with as much truth and honesty as possible, and that in and of itself makes it funny and uncomfortable because most people don’t talk about this stuff casually.
Did you know you wanted to work with a woman director on this show or did it just happen? Talk about the experience of working with a mostly female cast and crew!
Serah Pope was one of the friends who joined me on the writing retreat in November. After the first official table read, she kind of claimed it. I had 4 other people offer to direct it right away but I felt it would be better to have a friend and another woman involved to maintain the playful tone of the script. I feel like men’s sexuality has a tendency to bulldoze female sexuality and this story, as uncomfortable as it is to tell, needed to be rooted in female perspective.
Do you think you’ll go back to writing albums or is another musical in the works? What’s next for Amanda Richards and Whiskey Dixie?
I produced my first full length album when I was 21 back in 2004. I thought that after I did one, I would get it out of my system and settle down into a “real job.” Seven albums, 2 EPS and a full-length musical later, I know that this is something I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life.
Music was always number one for me but it never felt complete. The making of this musical has allowed me full expression of my gifts as a writer, singer, actress, producer and artist. So far I have enjoyed every aspect of production l and I’m already thinking about writing the next one. I honestly feel as though I have finally found my true calling as a playwright and performer. I hope the audience feels the same way.
We're absolutely loving the track list which includes songs titled "The STD Song" and "Poor Personal Hygiene." Not only are they great songs musically but they are hilarious! Portland, don't miss out on your chance to see Amanda and the rest of the cast in Whiskey Dixie and The Big Wet Country at The Imago Theater from September 21st through October 13th. For more information about the musical or to buy tickets you click here.
Interview by: Ashley Kervabon-Stoyanov
Ashley Kervabon-Stoyanov is the founder and executive directress of #WomenCrush Music. When she’s not leading the #WCM team, she’s coaching artists on how to live their best lives via her business DIA Music Coaching and travelling the world with her hubby and chiweenie pup. She currently resides in NYC and you can follow her at @mrsbossladywcm.
“Music is my heart and my voice. I use it to connect, to process difficult emotions, and to heal myself and others. It's my anchor, and it taught me who I am at a very young age. It pulled me out of the darkest space I've ever seen. And it has been there, guiding me, my entire life. I write songs that repeat in a meditation, but grow and build from beginning to end--my goal is to lose myself in each one of them. I lose myself in the music in order to find myself in the world.“ - Dani Tanzella
It’s always a breath of fresh air to hear original music that doesn’t involve the same synth sounds as the top 40 charts; music with vocals full of emotion & stories, versus the usual pitch correction & one-liner hooks. It’s even more impressive when you learn that the artist behind the music is a one-woman band, and one with a hell of a story.
Portland artist Dani Tanzella is making a comeback in the local scene with the release of her debut single, “Heart Fall,” off of her upcoming EP “Time Space Love” (9/21). In this exclusive feature, she talks about the “chamber pop” genre, how she healed herself with music, and about what is next for her music career...
Tell us about the injury & journey to healing that led to the creation of your new sound that is featured on your new single “Heart Fall”.
(A little backstory--I am from AZ, and I was working as a musician and private teacher there until they cut music from the schools and I lost all my students. I went back to nursing school to support myself and my music career...this allowed me to move to PDX, where I planned to work for maybe 2 years, then go back to teaching and playing full time. I was a classical saxophonist--).
8 months after I arrived in Portland, I was seriously injured at work while moving a patient during an emergency (a pregnant mom--I work labor and delivery). I tore several muscles in my back and shoulder, several ribs popped out of place, and I have 2-3 bulging discs in my upper back. I had severe impairment and was unable to open and close my right hand, tie my shoes, wash my own hair--I lived all alone and had no family or close friends here yet. I was in excruciating pain, was devastated, as I could no longer play my instruments (saxophone and piano) at all, and was fighting the hospital for worker's comp which they denied me. I lost my case, went bankrupt from inability to work...I lost my car, and was close to losing my apartment. I fell into a deep depression which was exacerbated by medications that were given to me for my nerve pain and depression.
In a moment of desperation, I attempted suicide around Christmas of 2008. I woke up the next morning, and was terrified--wanting to live. I flew back home and stayed with a friend for a while before dusting myself off and heading back to Portland. I promised to work through my injuries and remake myself into a different kind of musician, since my days playing classical music were over.
I dragged my broken body all over town going to various types of appointments for my back (and mind): acupuncture, rolfing, massage, PT, chiropractors...I practiced picking things up with my right hand. Opening and closing drawers, cupboards, tightening bottle caps, etc. I tied my pinky and thumb together with string to form a grip. I worked tirelessly on my recovery. I still do. Eventually I started gaining back feeling and strength. I now have pretty decent motor skills in my hand although it's mostly numb, and excellent strength in my arm and shoulder. My back will never be the same, and will likely always cause me some level of pain--but it's manageable.
As soon as I started feeling a little better, I found a loop pedal that I had used to create some soundscapes and started working with it. I saw a few local musicians using the loop machine to create amazing sounds/layers/songs and knew this is what I needed to do. Eventually I could create lush, orchestrated parts for my songs--and ultimately that's how I heard them in my head! I generally write parts for rhythm section, string quartet, harps, bells/vibes, music box, and backing vocals. I imagine this as my tiny orchestra that lives in my keyboard--and I'm the conductor--placing the parts in loop channels, and cueing them up when there part is needed.
What was the inspiration behind "Heart Fall?”
"Heart Fall" is a song I wrote for nurses, for mothers, and for people who find themselves lost in the pace of life. It's a reminder to check in with yourself, acknowledge yourself, and take time for yourself. When we take a moment and breathe deeply into our tense and overworked bodies, our hearts relax--fall open--and love a little more freely.
Can you tell us more about the “chamber pop” genre you mention in your bio?
Chamber pop is the closest genre I could find that fit my music. I feel a genre is important for describing music (so as not to sound like a pretentious ass by saying my music fits in no genre!) Chamber pop is defined as "music with an emphasis on melody, texture, use of strings/horns/piano/harmonies, and other elements drawn from orchestral music and lounge pop of the 60's". This felt like a good fit. A nice blend of classical musician and singer- songwriter.
Do you feel chamber pop could be or is on the rise in the age of Spotify?
I don’t know if it’s on the rise, but it certainly seems to be a niche. I think there has been a sub culture of this kind of music for a long time--oftentimes showing up in movie soundtracks (Sufjan Stevens, Devotchka). And I think there is definitely a group of listeners who enjoy the challenge and depth of chamber music within accessible and meaningful pop songs.
That being said, what are your career goals as a musician?
I want to make my living completely through music; teaching, performing, and writing. I would like to continue to teach, and maybe have a few more steady students. I want to perform a lot more, in venues that fit my style--like wineries/upscale bars/etc. Venues that have daytime or early evening slots, and a friendly crowd already built in since my audience tends to be age 30+ (Edgefield tasting room, hood river/newberg). Along with some tours on the west coast. As far as writing goes, I want to write for film--or at least get my songs into films).
You’re a huge supporter of the #WomenCrush Music community in Portland and have been very active supporting other artists. Can you tell us about your own little community you’ve developed through teaching?
I have been teaching since I was 16 years old (with a 5-7 year break when I was injured). Currently, I have a private music lesson studio in my North Portland home... My students are ages 3-70, some with special needs--and I teach general music, piano, voice, flute, saxophone, and theory, I also work with students on self-confidence and songwriting. I absolutely adore teaching privately, and love getting to know each student and their own learning style. Music is a gift that we all have available to us, and it brings such joy. Music can help a person process deep emotions, or escape stress for a moment--it can help someone cope, grow, create, and connect. Passing that gift on to as many people as possible is one of my life purposes.
Dani will be releasing her EP Time Space Love on 9/21, with a release show on 9/23 from 3PM-6PM at Kruger's Wine Bar on Sauvie's Island. FREE. ALL AGES. Support & follow her by connecting with her on social media @danitanzellamusic.
Written by: Ashley Kervabon-Stoyanov & Hannah DiMo
The industry of pop music can perhaps be best represented as an iceberg. To the casual listener, the spectacle of it all is the whole show. Larger than life personas, bubbly music, and the single star at the center of it all. It’s a blissful, sparkling, simply fun lifestyle. But beneath the surface, there’s much more to be found.
London-born songwriter Vicky Warwick has long lived as part of the vast underground of the pop industry iceberg. As a session musician and bassist for English production team Xenomania, Warwick has garnered years of experience behind the scenes in the industry.
As a 12 year old kid in the UK, Warwick, desperate to play the drums, eventually found her niche with the bass guitar. She’s been playing ever since and, after practicing and dedicating herself to the art, was told by a music teacher that a career in the field should be highly considered. Warwick took this advice to heart, and went to music college at the age of 18. Two years into her studies, Xenomania reached out and offered her a paying job as a session musician. She was only 20 years old.
“It was such an insane grounding in the music industry,” Warwick says. “It was crazy to have a salary job and also music industry job experience. They were trying to be like the modern Motown era, big country house in England, with lots of different rooms with a writer and beat maker in every room basically. It was wild.
“At that point, I was just there as a bass player, but it was a great insight into how life might be as a writer.”
Though life as a session musician struck well with Warwick and gave her a front row seat into the inner workings of the industry, the craving for her own artistic ventures was insatiable. In addition to putting down bass for artists in the studio, Warwick also found her place as a touring musician. In 2015, she hopped on a US tour with pop sensation Charli XCX. While traveling from city to city with Charli and her bandmates, any free time found was dedicated to writing her own music. At the time though, plans for her originals were unclear.
“It takes so much time to do your own music,” Warwick says. “And that’s what I found especially touring with Charli. At that time, I was spending all of my free time writing music whenever I could. I was just kind of writing music, but didn’t know what it was for necessarily. But eventually it seemed to make sense that I should do something.”
With plenty of originals and a thirst for more, Warwick uprooted herself from London and made the move to Brooklyn, NYC. After so many years working in the UK, the difference between the industry workings there and in the US were plentiful.
“In Europe, London is the center of everything,” Warwick says. “To where in America, it’s kind of split between New York, Nashville, and LA. And there’s kind of different music going on in each city.”
Luckily for her, the scene in New York proved to be the perfect fit for her musical endeavors: “New York is so creative. I feel constantly inspired here. Everybody is going for their wildest ideas. People aren’t afraid to express themselves at all. They’re very confident and forward. There’s such a great creative community living here in Brooklyn.”
With a creative community behind her and a fresh spark of inspiration, Warwick took the next step into solidifying her legacy with a solo career in the pop field. Hence, AINSLIE was born.
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