Category Archives: interviews


Lives 1-7, expended

REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin: “When we play live, it’s a riot”

(The Guide, 3/12) The upside to being a band that’s persevered for more than three decades is that you can play anywhere from Mexico City to Savannah and draw a lively crowd.

The downside is that styles and trends change quickly, and your fans tend to best remember your early days. REO Speedwagon lead singer Kevin Cronin, for instance, is often asked to sign copies of the band’s 1979 album “Nine Lives,” the cover of which features the group clad in tight black spandex and leather, with tail-wearing vixens hanging on them and a black panther on a chain in the foreground.

“At the time it was considered cool,” Cronin said with a chuckle in a phone interview last week. “It definitely wasn’t who I was, that’s for sure.”

REO Speedwagon, Edwin McCain

When: 8 p.m. March 13

Where: Johnny Mercer Theatre, 301 W. Oglethorpe Ave., Savannah.

Tickets: $45-$55

Information: 912-651-6566, Continue reading

Interview: Keller Williams freeks out

Keller Williams 2.0: The singer has become a ‘Once a Week Freek’

(From The Guide, 3/5/10) Keller Williams’ last local show was his 2008 New Year’s Eve gig at the Shoreline Ballroom on Hilton Head Island. The musician — known as a one-man jam band for his ability to play and loop different instruments — put together a three-pronged show that featured a regular set, an all-request set and a bonus set of “grunge-grass,” his name for bluegrass versions of ’90s hits from Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots and the like.

And even though Williams is of the genus of musicians who treats every show like a unique moment meant to be shared by tapers, you won’t find the Hilton Head appearance in the vast pantheon of his music online.

“I was thinking about releasing it, but got talked out of it due to all the licensing issues that have happened to Pearl Jam and Nirvana,” he said. “They keep that stuff pretty close to the chest. But I might sneak it in in my ‘Once a Week Freek.’ ”

Keller Williams

When: 9 p.m. March 6

Where: Live Wire Music Hall, 307 W. River St., Savannah

Tickets: $20 in advance, $23 at the door

Information: 912-233-1192, Continue reading

Clip: Men in the mirror

From The Guide, 12/24

NYE: This is it — the ‘ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute’

It must be busy being the world’s No. 1 Michael Jackson tribute band. There’s the flying from Singapore to Hawaii to South Carolina, the raging demand for classic MJ tunes that can now only be filled by apt cover artists and concert-footage films and the pressure of having to carry on the legacy of a pop-culture icon whose death sent shockwaves of grief through huge segments of the population.

We’re guessing here, of course. Because we got stood up for an interview with Who’s Bad, playing the Shoreline Ballroom on New Year’s Eve.

So that means we never got to ask founder Vamsi Tadepalli, a Durham, N.C., native and jazz instructor who has written music for the University of North Carolina marching band, how he gathered musicians from around the state to re-create the giant sound of the King of Pop. Or how he found not one but two singers who could pass as MJ, not just physically but also sonically, including lead singer Joseph Bell. Bell’s voice, which has the soft, high-pitched timbre of Michael’s, even helped nab the singer a small role in the TV movie “The Jacksons: An American Dream,” and he worked with a choreographer from the “This Is It” tour to perfect his moves.

And we didn’t get to ask about the attention to detail and intense choreography that has to go into re-creating one of the most lavish stage shows of all time, including the replica “Thriller” jacket, the wispy white shirt of “Black or White” and, of course, the hat and glove.

For diehard Michael Jackson fans, it sounds like the attention to detail of Who’s Bad may be as close as they come to seeing the man in the mirror.

Web clip: Martha and me, BFFs for life

from Brokelyn 10/25, in which I spent five hours stalking Martha Stewart under the Brooklyn Bridge:

Martha! Martha! Martha!


Martha with her niece Sophie Herbert, and her French bulldog Francesca. Photos by Mark S. Bernal.

Martha Stewart was all up in the Brooklyn Flea in DUMBO on this gorgeous Sunday, tasting some goodies and generally causing a big commotion with her camera crew, entourage and French bulldogs in tow. But what brought the queen of home craftiness into the county of Kings?

Turns out she’s doing a whole hour on Brooklyn, which may also include her stops at Marlowe and SonsMarlowe and Daughters, a rooftop garden and some of the different food factories. Her posse said the show (doubly titled Martha: The Martha Stewart Show) is supposed to air Nov. 10, though it’s subject to change. “We love Brooklyn,” she gushed to us (only because we stalked her all afternoon) after sampling the wares from a handful of vendors. So which ones will make the TV cut—and what else did she have to say?

READ IT. It’s a good thing.

Interview: Blue October’s seasons of change (or not?)

UPDATE: Yikes. So just a few days after talking with Justin Furstenfeld about how positive he was feeling these days and how excited he was to bring his message to people on this tour, Blue October cancelled the tour because Furstenfeld has been hospitalized to deal with mental health issues. Here’s the release from the band’s web site:


(New York, NY – October 22, 2009) The Pick Up The Phone Tour 2009 has been canceled due to the hospitalization of Justin Furstenfeld, lead singer of the tour’s headlining band Blue October. Furstenfeld, who was also the spokesperson for Pick Up The Phone Tour 2009, is being treated for suffering from an extreme mental anxiety attack. His doctors have ordered that the tour—which was committed to reducing the stigma associated with mental health, depression, and suicide—be canceled to allow for his recovery.

“Mental health diseases are unpredictable,” says Furstenfeld. “And on the eve of this tour in support of a cause that means the world to me, I am in need of time to heal from a setback in my own personal life, which is severe enough for me to seek hospitalization. I hope that my action to seek the strength and safety of treatment will inspire others that are suffering to do the same.”

In other news, Mike Ness is considering cancelling Social Distortion’s appearance on Hilton Head to deal with grief after discovering the pool hall he loved as a kid is now a 7-11.

(The Guide 10/27)  The most unexpected place that Justin Furstenfeld, lead singer of the Houston alt-rock band Blue October, ever heard his hit song “Hate Me” was on the radio while driving through the vast barrenness of rural Kansas.

Furstenfeld was on his way to Nebraska when someone called a local Top 40 radio station and requested the song — even though it had been two years since the 2006 single had its reign near the top of the charts.

The caller said he had hurt his girlfriend and was ashamed of himself, and he wanted to send the song — Furstenfeld’s brutal vocal exorcism of his demons — out to his girlfriend before going into rehab.
“And man, I had to pull the car over,” Furstenfeld said last week. “It really touched me, it really opened my eyes.”

Blue October

When: 9 p.m. Oct. 24

Where: Shoreline Ballroom, Ocean Center, 40 Folly Field Road, Hilton Head Island

Tickets: $10.61

Information: 843-842-0358,

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Interview: An Horse riding to a indie success

(The Guide, 10/1) An Horse rose from the obscurity of an Australian record store basement stage to the “Late Show with David Letterman” in a little under two years, which is a head-slapping, needle-scratching-across-the-record fast time frame, even in today’s speedy, blog-amped music scene.

This is how things seem to work for the Australian duo. Just a few months after Kate Cooper and Damon set up a PA in the store and started practicing, they were invited to join Canadian indie-pop twins Tegan and Sara for a major U.S. tour. That led to an opening slot on an Australian tour for Death Cab for Cutie, another U.S. tour with Appleseed Cast and their current tour with Silversun Pickups, which will bring them through Hilton Head Island on Wednesday.

Silversun Pickups, Cage the Elephant, An Horse

When: 8 p.m. Oct. 7

Where: Shoreline Ballroom, 40 Folly Field Road, Ocean Center, Hilton Head Island

Tickets: $25 in advance, $28 at the door

Information: 843-842-0358,

Continue reading

Band of Brothers: N.C.’s Avett Brothers poised for a major breakout

The Guide (9/11)

North Carolina's The Avett Brothers

Bob Crawford feels bad for the warring siblings of rock ‘n’ roll. The Gallaghers, Robinsons and Davies of the world that turned Oasis, the Black Crowes and the Kinks into as much a public forum for family drama as a conduit for collaborative music.

The Avett Brothers, the North Carolina trio whose brotherly frontmen are helping elevate the band from small folk-ish mountain music hit to cross-genre popular sensation, have no such troubles.

“They get along amazingly well,” Crawford, the band’s bassist, said in a phone interview.

“I can remember one or two instance in eight years where they would go behind closed doors and work it out. They don’t fight any more than any of us will get into an argument or disagreement. The conflicts we have with each other are always mundane, never serious.”

That dynamic is one of the things that holds the band’s music together and reflects the harmony of eastern North Carolina where the brothers grew up — brothers who, by the way, first launched a neo-punk band before returning to the bluegrass roots of the region.

Now, after more than eight years together, and with five full-length albums and a handful of independent EPs under their banjo straps, the band is perched on the edge of a national explosion with the release of their first major-label album later this month. “I and Love and You” unites the band with legendary producer Rick Rubin, who has smoothed out their sound into an amalgam of catchy styles and smart, energetic piano with eclectic harmonies that could attract a broad swath of new fans.

Critical descriptions of the band’s sound run a creative gamut from grunge-folk to roots-punk, but the band has avoided self-categorization.

“We just do what we do, and that’s just because it’s us,” Crawford said. “It’s not, ‘Let’s play that rocking slam-grass music that we do.’ We’ve never set out to create a sound in a certain way. Now we’ve got access to more tools, so the song is written, and we decide what instrument will best represent the sound.”

That free-ranging sound already has helped the band draw a following from the indie rock world, earning them praise on indie music bible Pitchfork and making them feel equally welcome at festivals from the indie-heavy SXSW in Austin to the hippie-friendly fields of Bonnaroo. Their songs can be personal and probing, looking at the nature of lost loves and false friends on one song, but them jumping to a wild guitar rhythm or Beatles-like pop harmonies on another.

“It’s got to have something to do with what the music is. It truly is a hybrid of several things and, first and foremost, there is an honest American quality to it,” Crawford said. “For some reason, it touches people somewhere, and all kinds of different people.”

The new album (out Sept. 29) creates a mega-alliance of the innovative sounds of the Avetts’ pianos and kick drums with the studio prowess of Rubin and the distribution arm of Sony Music, something Crawford said could help bring the band in front of new audiences.

And even though the title track of the new album is a love letter to Brooklyn and the big city life that Crawford said these country boys once were so afraid of, shows in the South, like the upcoming appearance at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center, are where the band feels most at home, Crawford said.

“I think it’s fever pitch,” he said of the crowds. “It seems like the South really is home. There are places that treat us like home around the country, but it can be really, really intense to play a show in North Carolina or South Carolina.”

The Avett Brothers

When: 8 p.m. Sept. 17

Where: North Charleston Performing Arts Center, 5001 Coliseum Drive, North Charleston.

Tickets: $26

Information: 843-529-5050;