When you are stopped in your tracks physically or mentally and forced to just settle, it may cause an internal war as so many emotions and thoughts become caged with no outlet. This is what many within society have had to wrestle with in the past months due to the global pandemic of COVID-19. With music being the far-reaching medicine for the masses, New York-based singer, songwriter, dancer Sophia Bella has teamed up with Graham Gilmore to create an expressive song that shows you are not alone!
“Riot” is an Alternative Pop track that opens like a black velvet-sealed letter and then explodes with magnetic synths and a bass-line that rides low. The lyrical premise is about how feeling caged, or trapped, can become nerve-wrecking and can either drive one to madness, or push one into action. The violins circle Bella’s ethereal vocals and adds an element of surprise. Bella’s powerful lead range marries well with subtle, phased-back somewhat eerie chorus instrumentation giving the track a boundless effect with a virtual pop-and-lock rhythm.
Cerebral in its interpretation, the official video fully illustrates the song and gives a deeper view into this disturbance. In the video, a bedroom personifies the mental state of the protagonist with Bella singing “my mind grows emptier while my room is full.” A dark setting with a light-colored wardrobe, colorful curtains, a messy bed, with Bella in night clothes wearing minimal makeup and bedhead, further explores this quiet chaos that is “Riot.”
Rarely does a message of being captive give such empowerment, but Bella shows the phoenix in her production by elongating her leads and including vocal pauses giving a sense of urgency with hope. Clearly, by the end of the track, one is left knowing she is going to get over this bump.
Writing a song with a sort of reckless yet cautious vibe gives such substance and clearly marks Sophia Bella as an artist to watch.
Sophia Bella is currently writing new material, so make sure to keep up with her so you do not miss anything coming from this rising star. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube.
Written by: Lakisha Deneen Skinner
Lakisha "KiKi" Skinner is a USA-based Indie Music journalist and freelance writer who has been crowned a "word-crafting artist" by her global following of Independent Music artists. She is a part of an Alt. Rock band and is the owner of Klef Notes entertainment business blog. Lakisha has been the editor for a Backstreet Boy and has written pieces for Dr. Jimmy Star. If she is not crafting words, you can find her buying another pair of shoes to place inside of her over-cluttered closet. You can read her work at www.KlefNotes.com and follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/The0riginalKiKi.
When I packed my stuff (read toilet paper, cold medicine, a suitcase, two guitars and food for a month) in my 2005 Honda Civic to go hunker down in a studio in Berry Hill, I had a strange gut feeling about how important this moment was. I took a picture of the car ready to explode and let the one pillow I took burst out of the back window on my East Nashville driveway.
I was on my way to do my COVID-19 lock-down in an independent studio where my friends and co-workers offered me to stay when I mentioned not trusting my roommates to take this issue seriously. And I had no way of making it back home to my family in France since the country was already shut down and the pandemic was reaching its peak. I didn’t need another proof that the Universe had my back in unexpected ways...but here it was: of all the places I could be stuck in the world during these strangest of times, it had to be a recording studio in Nashville.
The first night alone was intense. I could not wrap my head around what was happening. I wrote several songs in less than two hours. I was also playing around with a few covers. Bella Ciao. Live Forever. Elastic Heart. Original songs too. I totally allowed myself to be first degree with it all. And it hit me. I had to release music urgently. Because everything felt urgent. I know better than to release a song just because I’m excited about it. No plan, no PR and no touring equals failure every time no matter who you are. But in this case it was not about the song making it, it was not about any of those industry rules. I just knew what I knew.
Over the next two days I recorded my version of Sia’s Elastic Heart and started producing my first electro song as well (it had been brewing for a long time), which will be released on a bigger EP at a later date. This song will also have what I call an Acoustic Apocalypse take. Because it is the first song I wrote during my quarantine and the first version of it was just acoustic. The Acoustic Apocalypse collection will be made of spontaneous recordings that aim to capture the vibe of a lock-down: The absolute silence in a neighborhood where few people actually live. Where I don’t live. The recurring threats of tornadoes that continue to pop up on our phones and outside our windows. The pandemic that hit Nashville before we even had time to recover from the devastation of March 3rd. I only had time for one personal thing each day: checking on my family back home who happened to be in the two most infected regions of my home country. Then going back to work. As a music producer, songwriter and promoter, I had actually never been so busy in my life.
But I was and I still am counting my blessings. The lock-down continues as I write these words. But I am safe and able to work and make music. And all over town, many of us kept making music from day one no matter what. That, to me, is the very essence of Nashville. It’s got strong blood coursing through its veins that pumps to a metronome and flows with grace. And I get to be a small part of it all in a world where anxiety and uncertainty has fully taken over. I was and I am, somehow, still making music in Music City. That will make one hell of a story to tell one day. And I’ll have the picture to prove it.
This guest post was contributed by Pauline Andres. Pauline Andres is a Nashville based producer and singer-songwriter. She’s released two and a half (it’s complicated) LP’s and is currently working on a new EP for 2020 and an LP to be released in 2021, depending on the speed of the apocalypse and when musicians can get back together. Her work was praised and featured in Paste Magazine, PopDose, KEXP, added on several official Spotify playlists as well as radio shows in several countries. She writes, produces and promotes for indie musicians mainly based out of Nashville and Los Angeles. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook. More info paulineandresofficial.com
Happy Friday, #WCM Community! This week we had the chance to speak with LA-Based podcast producer, singer/songwriter, Lauren LoGrasso! Her single “Rise” was released today (listen here) on all platforms. In a time when we need music the most - “Rise” definitely was our dose of inspiration today. Learn more about Lauren, her musical journey and the advice she’s giving to get through this quarantine, in this week’s #FeatureFriday interview!
Who is Lauren LoGrasso? What first sparked your musical journey?
I am a multi-passionate creative, hailing from the great state of Michigan and residing in Los Angeles, California. I am passionate about creativity, self-development, mental health, women’s empowerment, kindness, empathy and creating a world with more self-actualized, loving individuals. Professionally, I specialize in writing and performing music, executive producing and hosting podcasts, public speaking and media and creativity coaching.
My musical journey started when I was just a babe. I have loved music since I could talk! I used to belt the songs Annie: The Musical, through the house and I have been singing and doing musicals since I was about three or four, and taking voice lessons since I was fourteen. I studied theatre in college and thought that my big break would come from the stages of broadway. Despite the fact that I was always singing, I spent the first 23 years of my life with all of my songs lying dormant in me, waiting to emerge.
At that point I picked up a guitar and after many failed attempts at trying to learn the instrument, was suddenly able to play...Months later, I started writing music as I fell asleep at night--in that state when you’re in between sleep and awake. I decided to listen to that message from the Universe, and when I did, the music started pouring out of me. Within less than a year of writing my first song, I had played the House of Blues on Sunset and soon after that, I played The Viper Room and The Hard Rock Cafe. That’s how my journey began!
What inspired you to write a track like “Rise”?
Rise was the result of a toxic situation I was in. It was mentally abusive and every time I told the truth I would be made to feel crazy - classic gaslighting. The worst part was for people looking into the relationship, it appeared everything was perfect. The only thing that kept me going during that period was that deep down, I knew the truth--that I would make it out and was smart, resilient, talented and strong, despite the fact that I was being told otherwise. The truth always comes out in the end. Eventually I did leave that situation and found my voice again. This song is a reflection of that journey and how I overcame.
Overall, it is really a song of the underdog claiming their power; rebuilding their confidence and life after a loss and recognizing that the strength within them could never be taken away by any person or circumstance--you are strong enough to rise out of any adversity.
Many artists have decided to pause releases because of COVID-19 - are you being forced to change your release plans because of everything going on in the world?
I contemplated releasing the song at a different time, but the truth is, I think we need art and entertainment more than ever. If you have something that is ready and can be delivered to the public and could be a helpful coping tool, it’s our job, as artists, to set that work free.
On top of that, I weirdly think this song was always meant to come out right now. It can’t be a coincidence that my song about rising despite an ever-present/evil opponent is coming out while we are facing one of the greatest adversities of our lifetime. I truly think it is a powerful anthem for the times we’re in right now and a call to remember our innate resilience as a species- human beings are survivors and on top, risers!
“Rise” has a very strong message of empowerment - is this setting the tone for what the EP will be like? What can we expect from the full EP and when is it set to release?
Yes! My first single, “Road to Glory” was very much in the same vein as Rise - it’s about the long, painful and joyful climb to become the person and creative you long to be. It’s a song of strength, hope and perseverance. The remaining songs on the album tackle themes of mental health, angsty optimism, self-acceptance, setting boundaries, heartbreak, self-love, empowerment and resilience. I cannot wait to share the EP with you this summer 2020!
You’re very accomplished in the podcasting world - how did you start there? How is it different than being an artist?
My journey to podcasting is kind of long, so I’ll answer the second question first: I think podcasting is a brilliant thing for any musician to get into because it’s all audio storytelling. Chances are if you’re good at one medium, you’ll be good at the other. I think that’s why I was able to quickly adapt and become one of the industry’s top producers without a ton of prior experience - if you have a good ear, voice and a gut for what’s interesting, you can go far! AND we always need more female producers and hosts. Go for it, girl!
Here is the long and winding road that led to my start in podcasting: In High School, I used to listen to a show called The Mitch Albom Show. Mitch is an iconic author, sports journalist and Detroit broadcaster. I used to listen to him and think, "Wow, I'd really love to do that someday!" Down the road (after I'd already been in radio for a while) I had the opportunity to be a recurring guest co-host on his show, which was a very cool moment...Anyway, I digress...After high school, I went to Michigan State and starting DJing MSU’s radio station, The Impact 89FM, under the name "DJ Loseph"- which was VERY cool. When I moved to LA, I was pursuing acting, but I was super depressed, so I would listen to SiriusXM’s Cosmo Radio. There was a show on there called Cocktails with Patrick, and the host was from Detroit.
He would talk about Detroit topics a lot, and I would drive down the 5 and pretend like I was back home on I-94 (A great little Detroit highway). It was during that time that my love for radio was reignited and I started saying out loud, “I want to work at SiriusXM.” A few months later, I got a hosting gig at AfterBuzz TV. That opportunity led to me meeting its founders Maria Menounos and Keven Undergaro. They took me under their wing and mentored me and introduced me to the VP of Female Programming, Serena Kodilla, who was the creator of all of the shows I loved on Cosmo Radio.
It was like meeting my radio Jesus. Serena created a position for me to work on Maria’s show as an Associate Producer. Within less than a year, I worked my way up to the main producer, as well as being on air with Maria. That opportunity led me to my current job as Executive Producer of Female Programming at Cadence13, where I work/ have worked on chart-topping shows such as Unlocking Us with Brené Brown (#1 show on Apple Podcasts for almost 3 weeks), Girlboss Radio, The Goop Podcast, Lauren Conrad: Asking for a Friend (Hit #1 on Apple Podcasts during premiere), Yoga Girl: Conversations from the Heart, Meaningful Conversations with Maria Shriver and Jen Gotch is Okay...Sometimes.
To bring it full circle, my dream with radio and podcasting, has always been to host my own show. So once I realized I had literally every skill I needed to make my own dreams come true, I decided to finally put my faith in myself and independently host and executive produce my own podcast, Unleash Your Inner Creative with Lauren LoGrasso. Since the show premiered it has been on Apple Podcasts New and Noteworthy 37 times, has a solid 5 star rating, is frequently on the top charts in Arts, is one of Anchor.FM’s featured podcasts, and most importantly, I love the show and the creative listeners with all my heart!
Who are some of your biggest influences? Who’s on your dream co-write list?
So many influences! I always have to give props to Billy Joel, as he was the first artist that really made me fall in love with music. I used to study his lyrics when I was in high school. His words made me feel so seen. I don’t know what his direct impact has been on my music, but I always think of him as a sort of spiritual musical mentor.
As far as a direct impact, I have really studied Fiona Apple, Ani Difranco, Sara Bareilles, Motown Music as a whole, Lady Gaga, Aretha Franklin, Mike Posner, Ingrid Michaelson, India.Arie, Robyn...I think the commonality between all of them is that they are powerful singer/songwriters, with unique points of view, who write to an intelligent and emotionally-astute listener and sing with unbridled passion. I aspire to do what they have done, through my own lens.
My friend, Liz Fohl, who I write with, is also an artist and has greatly impacted my sound and my musical courage. More recently I’ve been inspired by Billie Eilsh, Bishop Briggs and Lizzo--I think they are all carving out really cool, unique spaces in music by being true to themselves and not adhering to past trends or what it “should” sound like.
Dream co-write list would be all of the above. I would especially LOVE to write with Lady Gaga and I would really, really love to interview her. Maybe we could do a writing session and then do an interview for Unleash Your Inner Creative over a glass of wine. Just two Italian gals, making music and gabbing- the dream!
What advice can you give to people who want to be more creative with their extra time during quarantine?
I think the best advice I could offer is to really give yourself grace and honor wherever you’re at. If you are in the mood to create- don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Just because you’ve always done something a certain way, doesn’t mean you have to or even should continue to do it that way…I think a lot of old models will no longer work in this new world, so this could be an opportunity to not only create new material, but an entirely new way of working and creating.
Back to honoring how you feel in the moment...If you write a lot of deep, sad songs, but you feel like writing a silly, weird song, amazing! Sing it and have fun - don’t judge what’s coming out. If you’re having fun interpreting other people’s work, great. If all you can muster at the moment is coloring in a coloring book or doing a puzzle, that’s fab and still goes in the direction of creative life. And also, If it’s doing nothing at all that feels right, that’s okay- don’t beat yourself up--being in a personal fight club won’t help you emotionally or creatively, down-the-line.
If/when you do have a product that you are proud of and would like to share, don’t hesitate to put it out into the world. You might make someone’s day, help their life or even inspire them to release their own project! I think one of the benefits of right now is that the pressures that used to be associated with launches are off the table - it’s kind of an exciting time to put something out and just see what happens, sans the traditional pressure/judgement.
What’s next for Lauren LoGrasso?
I am really hoping to come up with a creative concept for the “Rise” video that I can make right out of my own home! I am going to continue producing my podcast, Unleash Your Inner Creative, working steadily on the podcasts I produce and, of course, working steadily to get my full EP out this summer! I can’t wait to share all of the amazing music with you! My goal is to build out my personal brand and audience and find a way to bring everything I do under one creative roof.
Oh and right now I am also really delving into my side hustle of creativity and media coaching. If you’re interested in a session, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mention #WomenCrush Music for 20% off your first session! Offer good now through June 30th 2020! Enjoy “Rise” and thanks to Ashley and #WomenCrush Music for featuring me and for all that you do!
Have you found yourself watching more TV during COVID-19? Listening to more music? Finding ways to tap into your creativity? More than 6.6 million Americans have applied for unemployment in the last couple of weeks — included in that statistic are many self-employed artists who we are now more than ever relying on to entertain or inspire us. While we are leaning on them to comfort or motivation, they need us, their followers, their community to truly support them.
When I started #WomenCrush Music, a non-profit dedicated to creating opportunities for rising women-identifying songwriters through community, it was a monthly meetup/jam session. I started with the simple intention of making friends and cultivating community—it’s turned into a women’s empowerment movement in a still male-dominated industry.
Over the last 2 and a half years, we’ve hosted over 200 showcases, educational workshops and networking events across 16 North American cities and created a community of over 5K who want to see more rising women songwriters topping the charts and headlining at their favorite festivals.
How We Pivoted During the Pandemic
Prior to COVID-19, we provided our community of artists with the opportunity to play at our ongoing showcases to be seen and heard by more people, connect with collaborators and meet others in the industry. With social distancing now in place, and all in-person connections off the table, we’ve had to very quickly shift our efforts into finding other ways to support our artists and show other people how to support them as well.
In surveying our community, we’ve found that more than 50% of them have had up to 20 gigs cancelled, losing anywhere between $200 to $1000 per gig. Spotify payouts are $0.00318 per stream, iTunes sales are about 60 cents per song — constantly playing shows is the only realistic way many up and coming artists have to be able to make a living wage — along with often having a part-time or even full-time job to cover recording costs, equipment, etc.
How to Support the Artists You Care About
During this time of crisis and uncertainty, tapping into as well as giving back to our community is essential to getting through this and moving forward. Here are a few ways we can support artists from a distance:
Starting on Friday, April 17th, #WomenCrush Music will be collaborating with Quilt to bring you conversations with rising women songwriters to talk about how COVID-19 is affecting the industry & how you can support. Join us for music, community, and inspiration by downloading the free app and RSVPing to our series starting with iamchelseaiam on 4/17 and Paulina Vo on 4/24.
*This article was originally written for Quilt's blog on Medium by #WCM Founder, Ashley Kervabon-Stoyanov to launch the partnership. We could not be more excited & hope you'll tune into the series on their platform!
#FeatureFriday - Listen to Kate Gratson's New Anthem For Personal Growth, "The Girl You Knew" (EXCLUSIVE RELEASE)
Disguised as a love song for someone else, Kate Gratson’s newly released single, “The Girl You Knew”, pulls on all our heartstrings while revealing a wave of emotions fueled by self-reflection. Influenced by the modern works of artists such as Laura Mvula, James Blake, and Snoh Aalegra, Kate finds inspiration in their ability to weave production elements of electronic, jazz, and R&B - all which can be heard in this new release and her previous single “On To You”.
As her soulfully emotive voice keeps the listeners engaged, the relatable lyrics and catchy hook make this an incredibly addictive tune - with a meaning that may resonate with a lot of us.
“‘The Girl You Knew’ was the closest I’ve come to finding my voice. I’ve been searching for a sound that feels uniquely personal, but it wasn’t until I wrote “The Girl You Knew” that I knew what that sounded like.” - Kate Gratson
In a time when there is such uncertainty and crisis in the world, Kate Gratson’s journey of how she came to find her voice is an inspiration, and “The Girl You Knew” is our new anthem for personal growth.
Listen to “The Girl You Knew”:
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