Friday, April 11, 2014

Demi Lovato on the Cover of the Mbashe Butterfly Issue of 360 Magazine

Volume 15 of 360 Magazine is now available at Magzter and Blurb!

Known as the Mbashe Butterfly issue, it features Demi Lovato, U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Zendaya, Lorde, Enrique Iglesias, Britney Spears, Pharrell Williams, Gary W. Goldstein and much more.

I wrote the piece on Gary W. Goldstein, about whom I also write in this post on the blog.

Demi Lovato discusses her current Neon Lights Tour, the reasons why she founded the Lovato Treatment Scholarship, and what's next for the popular singer/songwriter.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"Give Me One Reason:" Interview with Nisha Nandez

Last month, Nisha Nandez released her first music video, "Give Me One Reason," an outstanding cover of Tracy Chapman's classic, featuring guitarist Jason Richard.

I had to find out more about Nisha, whom I'd met through Twitter.

I checked out her album on iTunes and visited her website, where I learned she'd overcome serious personal tragedies in pursuit of her singing career, and that she is a retired U. S. Army officer, who sang in the army band during the first Gulf War.

I was happy when Nisha found some time between her music and MBA coursework for an interview.

I started with:

I really like your cover of "Give Me One Reason." How did you select this song for your first music video?

I enjoyed recording it with Jason Richard and AJ Mancabelli. After I released it on iTunes, I saw how much my fans enjoyed the song, too, so I decided it would be fun to shoot a music video for it. I’d already had so many people asking when I was going to release a video.

"Give Me One Reason" just seemed perfect.

You say on your site music has always been a part of your life. Who are your musical influences?

Primarily, my family. I come from a long line of musicians and singers. My father was a pianist. My mother’s side includes phenomenal singers.

Other influences range from Mozart and Beethoven (I’ve played the flute since I was 9 years old.) to Evanescence, P!nk, Kelly Clarkson, Justin Timberlake and Destiny’s Child.

I just love music. All styles and genres. I listen to music more than I watch television. [Laughter.]

You've been quite frank about the tragedies you've dealt with. What advice would you give someone finding their artistic dreams roadblocked by their current circumstances?

People too often come up with excuses for why they can’t accomplish their dreams or even pursue them.

The only thing that can stop you is yourself.

I’m a firm believer that all things are possible. The only direction is forward, even when life takes you back a few steps.

I've learned to see each obstacle as a learning experience, another great lyric, a steppingstone toward making me a better person. There's nothing I can't achieve if I put my mind to it.

And I believe that is true for everyone, when you just believe in yourself and your dreams.

What's next for you?

I'm writing more songs and looking into some ventures outside of music. I finally complete my MBA this summer and will put that to use. I’m considering going for my doctorate. Not yet sure about that, though. [Laughter.] Graduate school has been quite challenging.

I'm working with some great people toward a record deal that works both for me and the label.

Mike, I want to thank the people I’ve been so blessed to have worked with over the past year and a half, and who have stopped at nothing to support me, listening to me whine, complain and sometimes cry.

There are so many people in my life who have been awesome.

The ones who gave up on me, I thank them, too, because they made me stronger!

I’m so grateful for how well my music career has been going. I hope to bring more music to the world in 2014.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival presents the short film, Miss Finknagle Succumbs to Chaos, directed by Amy Harrison and written by Kirk Shimano.

Watch it now, as the festival is making the short available online for a limited time.

You can read the festival's interview with the director, when you jump here.

Miss Finknagle Succumbs to Chaos was originally produced for the PlayGround Film Festival, whose trailer I worked on and discuss in this post on the blog.

Wonderfully inventive, the short won best picture at the PlayGround Film Festival.

I look forward to more projects by director Amy Harrison and writer Kirk Shimano.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Steve Grand's Record-Shattering Kickstarter Campaign Ends at $326,593

A little over a month ago, openly gay singer/songwriter Steve Grand launched a Kickstarter campaign to finance his first album, "All-American Boy."

He asked for $81,000.

Last night, the campaign ended at $326,593 - more than quadruple what Steve had requested, making it the third most-funded music project in Kickstarter's history, as well as Kickstarter's most-funded music project by a musician never affiliated with a record label.

Steve writes on his campaign page that he will use the additional funds to promote the album.

A few hours before the campaign ended, he posted this emotional video to thank his supporters:

Later, he created this message for his supporters:

"Back to California" is the first song and music video from the new album.

I look forward to purchasing Steve's first album due out later this spring.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


I cannot wait for X-Men: Days of Future Past to hit theaters everywhere on May 23, 2014.

Bryan Singer again directs.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Robbie Rogers in Flaunt Magazine

On March 13, 2014, out soccer player Robbie Rogers posted this lovely video on his Facebook page.

It is a behind-the-scenes look at his spread in Flaunt magazine.

When you have a moment, please check out his organization BEYOND "it", which stands "against all forms of human discrimination" to better the world we live in.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Are You Okay? by Dum Dum Girls

Yesterday, Dum Dum Girls released their short film, Are You Okay?, which is written by Bret Easton Ellis (Less Than Zero, American Psycho, The Canyons), directed by Brewer and produced by Braxton Pope (The Source Family, The Canyons).

If you are a fan of this blog, you know I really like The Canyons, a collaboration between Ellis, Pope and director Paul Schrader (American Gigolo, Raging Bull).

Are You Okay? is no doubt the next installment in Ellis' interconnected stories.

Monday, March 3, 2014

"Parallel Minds:" Interview with Bright Smoke

I enjoy so much the work of British singer and artist Bright Smoke, I wanted to know more about her as an artist and a person.

So, I was thrilled when she recently found time in her busy schedule to chat with me.

I started:

You and I met last year on Twitter, when we were both tweeting our support for fundraisers benefiting the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which uses music therapy to help young adults in need and works to prevent drug and alcohol abuse among young people.

Yes, we did! Twitter is a great resource for connectivity.

There are so many aspects of the Amy Winehouse Foundation besides its work with drug and alcohol charities.

They donate to homeless and eating disorder charities, and to a charity that helps vulnerable women who have recently left prison to help them from returning to a life of crime.

They even donate to a charity that helps disadvantaged people with mental illnesses escape the city and learn how to grow, produce and market their own crops. They pick up valuable qualifications along the way.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, actually. It’s a very special charity.

I totally agree.

I discovered the Foundation through my love of Amy's voice and music. I'm still devastated she's no longer here making great music.

This is how I discovered the Foundation also. It still breaks my heart that I never got to meet her or see her perform live.

Amy Winehouse by Bright Smoke

You have been quite candid in interviews about your own struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. Is this another reason you're drawn to the Foundation?

Well. Due to my own experiences with these, I naturally connected to Amy’s lifestyle and understood the battles she faced in regards to addiction.

I followed her music almost right from the start; and when she died, it really shook me to my core. I suddenly realized I needed to make drastic steps towards recovery so I could truly devote myself to my music and art.

I support the Foundation because I believe it is doing something extremely important in making people more aware of the struggles Amy dealt with. It is breaking down that taboo against discussing addiction. It’s something we really do need to talk about. There’s no shame in any aspect of addiction.

You can read online my full story in my "open letter."

When you and I first connected through Twitter, I was intrigued by your name, Bright Smoke. The obvious question is: what does it mean? Were you inspired by Romeo's attempt to describe love in "Romeo and Juliet?"

It is directly related to "Romeo and Juliet."

One of my closest friends, Kat Basquill, actually came up with the name for me. We were knocking around ideas, when she suddenly came out with "Bright Smoke" from Romeo's line, "feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire."

I instantly thought, “That’s the one!”

The first time I watched your music video, "Parallel Minds," I was an instant fanboy. I must admit I was blown away by your voice and your song.

Thank you, Mike!

Thank you for making lovely art.

Who are your major musical influences?

That song I actually wrote about wanting to move to New York one day, despite the fact I’ve never been! I’m quite drawn to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which seems to have a thriving art and music scene.

I listen to a very wide variety of music. From T-Rex, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin right through to Nas and Damian Marley, Toots And The Maytals, The Everly Brothers and classical music.

Jimi Hendrix by Bright Smoke

I would say my songs, as they stand with just myself and a guitar, are mainly reminiscent of the 60’s and 70’s folk movement. And of singers like Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, and Melanie Safka, who I grew up listening to and just adore!

When did you start singing?

I think I started the moment I learned my voice was capable of being used in such a way.

I started writing songs at an extremely young age.

I’ve kept every piece of paper with every lyric I ever wrote. My spelling and handwriting are ridiculous on some of them! Maybe one day I’ll have an exhibition with them all.

I can definitely imagine them as a montage on a gallery wall.

In your music video, you play the guitar. Do you play any other instruments?

My first instrument was actually the flute, which my dad also plays.

I had lessons at my regular infant school from about 7 years old.

I was brought up going to folk festivals, so I quickly picked up how to play penny whistles. And, then, the Irish drum called the bodhran.

I got my first guitar when I was 12, as it seemed a natural progression to accompany my songs.

I never had a single guitar lesson. To this day, I still use my own codes for bar chords, as technically I don’t have a clue what I am playing. [Laughter.]

About two months ago, I started learning the cello.

I love the cello, especially J. S. Bach's unaccompanied cello suites.

I am really enjoying it. It’s tricky learning an instrument in a completely different key, though.

I read sheet music and what I think is a B is actually a D on the cello. Very confusing!

I'm definitely impressed. I'll never show anyone how badly I play the air guitar.

I saw on Twitter your paintings debut May 5, 2014 at The Strand Gallery in London, with an exhibition running through May 11.

Yes, this is my debut into the art world. It’s something I still can’t believe is finally going to happen!

It's awesome.

How do you think your music informs your art?

Marc Bolan by Bright Smoke

I see a very strong connection between my music and art.

I mainly paint musicians. I listen to their music whilst painting them. I find this has a strong effect on the color palette and techniques I use.

Music of course is an art form itself, so the connection between the two is organic.

What's next for you?

There are so many answers to this.

I have one of those forever-scheming, impulsively creative minds, but I have narrowed it down to starting rehearsals and demoing my songs as a full band.

Then I'll be on a bohemian/musician/hunter-gatherer spree over the festival season to see if I can round up a rabble of free spirits perfect for the band for the long term.

I obviously have the exhibition to look forward to. The launch night [May 5] is also my 26th birthday and marks two years of sobriety.

Congratulations on both!

I've also just rebooked my charity skydive on May 21 for the Amy Winehouse Foundation.

Busy month!

My main goal is to keep up this level of creativity and keep pushing my music and art out there, in the hopes of building a solid fan base, so I can tour all the time, meet amazing people and connect with them through my music.

For a couple of dates on their UK tour, I recently joined the band Will And The People as their support act. I watched a show just before the tour ended and thought to myself: If I can get that many people from each city to come and watch me play and have an awesome night, well, that's my definition of success!

Connect with Bright Smoke on Twitter. She is participating in the Skydiving for the Amy Winehouse Foundation fundraising event - Yes, Bright Smoke will be skydiving! - on May 21, 2014. Please donate what you can here.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Robbie Rogers on the April, 2014 Cover of Attitude Magazine

If you're a fan of this blog, you know I adore Robbie Rogers, the first openly gay player in Major League Soccer.

He's on the April, 2014 cover of Attitude magazine.

In that issue, he discusses his brief retirement from soccer in February, 2013, when he also came out.

He returned to the sport three months later, signing with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Among other topics, he discusses in the article the mental hardship he experienced while in the closet.

When you have a moment, please check out his organization BEYOND "it", which stands "against all forms of human discrimination" to better the world we live in.