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Pepsi & Billboard's Summer Beats, Plus Conversations with Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas and Cassidy and The Drowning Men's Exclusive

Posted: 07/30/2012 12:02 am

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Pepsi & Billboard's Summer Beats Concert Series Comes to Nashville

In the continuing Summer Beats Concert Series being presented by Pepsi and Billboard (last month featuring Katy Perry), July's event will be country music's hit act Gloriana whose performance will be streamed live so fans can virtually connect with the show. The trio will perform on Pepsi's enhanced Twitter profile page and at http://www.Pepsi.com, and fans will be able to influence the show during real-time.

Here are some related activities:

Ticket Giveaway Challenge: Those following Billboard and Pepsi on Twitter could win free tickets to the concert by competing to find the Summer Beats Street Team throughout Nashville.

"Twitterstakes": Beginning Monday, July 30th, there'll be a chance to participate in Twitter's sweepstakes to receive a signed copy of Gloriana's new album, A Thousand Miles Left Behind. Just tweet @pepsi or @billboard with the hashtag #NewGloriana.

Tweet Your Favorite Artist: Folks can tweet questions using #SummerBeats for a chance to have their favorite featured artist answer them during a special video unveiled on http://www.billboard.com on Tuesday, July 31.

It all begins Monday, July 30th, at 8PM CT / 9PM ET / 6PM PT, when performances and the live stream begin at http://www.pepsi.com or https://twitter.com/pepsi. Plus Billboard interviews can be found at http://www.billboard.com

Also, fans attending the concert in Nashville will enjoy performances by country acts Easton Corbin, Randy Houser, Jana Kramer and Jerrod Niemann. Also, adding to the interactive element, fans who submit questions to any of the event's featured artists using #SummerBeats might be lucky enough to have them answered during the exclusive post-show video. Highlights from the concert will be available on-demand after the show at http://www.Billboard.com and http://www.Pepsi.com.


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A Conversation With Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas

Mike Ragogna: Rob, hi, let's talk about North, your new Matchbox Twenty album. When you guys got together to make this album, what was the experience like versus how you approached your other albums?

Rob Thomas: We started out completely differently because we all worked together for the first time. Usually, I would just write everything and bring it in and the band would just arrange them. But over the time that I had been writing a solo record, the guys--Paul (Doucette) and Kyle (Cool)--had become really good writers. We wanted to see what we could do if we started off together. So, inherently, everything was different from the beginning. We started and we came up with like sixty song ideas and we had to move to this cabin in the middle of the woods in Nashville that had this studio attached to it. We just went there to try and sort through those sixty ideas to try and figure out which ones of those were songs and what kind of record it was that we wanted to make.

MR: You must have been surprised at the level of songwriting that was happening during that process, because you'd written alone until that point, right?

RT: Yeah. Even when I collaborate, to some degree, I kind of come in with the start of an idea and I'll work with another artist on that, or I'll bring them a song. I was really surprised to see what would happen with us when we'd sit down from zero and somebody just starts playing guitar. Because they're coming up with a chord progression or a rhythm that I wouldn't have come up with on my own, the melodies that come out from me would be completely different, or the melody that Paul comes up with sparks an idea in me and takes me in a different direction than I would've gone. I think it was a good time for us, after making the amount of records we've made together, and then not being together for so long, it was a good time to do something that would keep us on our toes, and I think this kind of did that.

MR: Why the title "North"?

RT: North, for us, is all about directional north. When you're lost, you find north, and that helps you find your way. When we were going through all of this stuff we were trying to figure out, we had sixty different ideas, and if you take them all apart, they could fit into three different albums. There were ten of these songs that could've been a really great acoustic/alt country kind of record, ten of these songs were really super-poppy, almost in Rihanna land, and ten of these songs were kind of like old alternative rock, traditional vibe. So that whole process was trying to figure out "Who are we right now?" That was kind of like trying to find our direction, so "North" is really appropriate.

MR: What happens to all of these songs that didn't get recorded?

RT: Well, some of them we'll wind up using for overseas and iTunes bonus disks with extra tracks on them. Some of them will wait around, though. Maybe that alt country/acoustic record is the next thing that we have, and we have some great songs for that. And some of them, after a year of touring, we'll go back and listen to them and say, "You know, they weren't as good as we thought they were," and we'll throw them out and start all over.

MR: In "Put Your Hands Up," it seems like you're standing up for your right to express yourself, on the dance floor of all places, but really, in any place. It's sort of symbolic in a lot of ways. It's a very empowering song.

RT: For me, because this was one that I wrote, it was actually an experiment in positivity, trying not to be cynical in any way or having a dark side to it, but unapologetically writing a song about a person who's had a really hard time and needs to go to a club on a Saturday night and dance. I remember sitting there and writing the line, "Leave your heart out on the dance floor," and just staring at the page going, "Really? Am I going to write this? I'm going to do this, aren't I. I'm going to write a song that has 'leave your heart out on the dance floor' right in the middle of it." I wanted to do a track that sounded kind of danceable, but didn't sound like a "track"; we wanted it to sound like a band playing something; almost more akin to seventies disco than it is to dance music today.

MR: That's what I was going to say, this doesn't really sound like Skrillex or Deadmau5.

RT: We're a band...we love pop music and we wanted to do something that we thought was kind of dance-y and pop, but we wanted it to come from us.

MR: "She's so Mean" is the single.

RT: Yeah, that's the single. I actually just saw the first edit for the video about an hour ago.

MR: One of the catchier lines is, "She's a 'hardcore, candy store, give me some more' girl."

RT: The whole idea of the song is, you want something and you know it's bad for you, but you want it anyway. That could be true with drugs or alcohol or women or a man.

MR: Yeah, the emphasis isn't on the mean-ness, it's about what's tempting you. It's the bad thing being flaunted.

RT: Yeah. In this particular situation, the thing we were using to represent it just happened to be kind of a mean girl. Everyone I know has been in that relationship, and every girl I know has been in that relationship with kind of a mean guy who, for some reason, didn't leave when they should. I'm sure that's something my therapist could tell me about.

MR: (laughs) In one of the most powerful songs on the album, "Overjoyed," it sounds like you're trying to uplift someone, but like an anthem, it's message uplifts everyone.

RT: "Overjoyed" is one of two or three band favorites. I think it's actually going to be our second single. We're really excited about that one. We think it's a pretty song. It makes us feel warm and fuzzy and that's always good to have one on there.

MR: "Our Song" also is an interesting concept.

RT: To me, there was something really fun about the idea of, in real time, "If we don't have anything at all, we'll have this thing that I'm writing right now. This could be our thing. I'll make it up as we go along." The thing can be arbitrary, as long as you find something the two of you can share. It's almost like you create this thing, like you're little kids and your mom is mad at you so you make an ashtray, like, "No, mom, I have this!" This song is like my gift.

MR: This is your ashtray.

RT: This song is my badly carved clay ashtray.

MR: (laughs) Okay, with "Parade," I think the concept is that nobody wants the parade to pass them by.

RT: If you kind of equate life in general to being a little kid in a small town watching the parade go, and you want to stay there for as long as you can, you don't want to miss anything at all and then you equate that to the way life is; you don't want that to pass you by. You want to go out there and see as much as you can and not miss anything.

MR: You've had great opportunities come your way because of the success of the band and also with your solo projects to basically do whatever you want and, like we were just saying, not let the parade pass you by. Are there a few things that you need to get to yet?

RT: Yeah. Professionally, there's always something. I think most musicians I know only feel as talented as whatever they just did. We'll make this record and for a few months, we'll feel supremely talented, and then we'll feel like hacks and we'll have to go and make another record to make us feel better. Your main goal in this is always to have a career in this business--and not just a career, but a long-term career. Even success, like a great level of success, is kind of a key that gets you in the door and gives you the opportunity to take the ride to have this lifelong career. But then everything you do, every step along the way, is kind of opening another door. So if you have a record that's received well and people enjoy it and you go out and have a nice tour, you think, "Okay, yeah, I get to make another record." You get to see what the next step of your career is. You're trying not to think too far ahead because the best records are the ones where you start writing and when you're done, you look back and you listen to it and you say, "That's who I am, that's where I am right now," as opposed to going, "Well, I'm going to make this pop record" or "I'm going to make this concept record." For us, it's a lot more fun to kind of find ourselves throughout the process.

MR: And your sound has been evolving since your debut album, Yourself, or Someone Like You.

RT: If you listen back to "3 AM" and "Push" and then you move forward to the next record with songs like "Bent" or "Disease" and "Unwell" or solo stuff that I did, it all comes from me, so there's this common thread that runs through it, but they all sound kind of like different records. They all came from the same producer as well so I think it's all about just listening to your inner voice of where you are right now as opposed to saying "Well I made this record and this record was really successful, so how do I make this record again to continue the success?" You're not guaranteed anything no matter what you do, so you might as well go out and try and do something different from what you did before.

MR: Rob, what advice do you have for new artists?

RT: I think that's it. If you're going to start now, the first thing is, in this celebrity-obsessed world that we're orbiting around right now, you have to do it because you love to do it. You have to do it because you're going to do it whether you're successful or not. If everything doesn't work out, you can't see yourself doing anything else and not because you want to become famous. If you want to become famous, go do something else. Go cut off your b*lls on YouTube or something. You'll be a million hits in a minute. But you have to do it because you love music and because music really means something to you. From that point on, consider it your first record every time you do something. I get into this process when I'm starting to write where I don't buy new music. I listen back to all the old stuff that I loved or I listen to nothing at all. I just try and hear the songs that are in my head as opposed to trying to chase down whatever's popular. For us, we want to make sure we fit in, we'd like our songs to be heard on the radio, but we don't want to sound like anything that's on the radio. We want to be there making our own noise, and that's kind of hard to do if you're playing Follow the Leader every time you're writing a song.

MR: And you seem to have done that with each new album.

RT: I think there's been an evolution. We are a pop rock band; that's who we are, that's what we do. I've been fortunate enough to write with Willie Nelson and Big Boi from Outkast and Mary J. Blige and Seal and Marc Anthony, and I've had the opportunity to step outside the pop rock world into the country world and into the Latin world and all this. I think that's helped out my ideas. When we come together, I'm still a pop rock artist and we're still a pop rock band, it's just about trying to widen out that area and what that actually means. That gets me from "3 AM" to "Lonely No More." They're completely different, but they both make sense to me in my world.

MR: How do you feel about having sold like 30 million records worldwide?

RT: The way the music business changed since our first album, no one could see into the future and see where we were headed. I think the first record selling like 13 or 14 or whatever it was million really kind of bought us the opportunity to continue doing this and to build up. We stayed on the road for three years and went from clubs to arenas and got to build up a good live following. We didn't realize how valuable that was going to be to us. I remember going through all of the Creeds and the Limp Bizkits and all of these bands that were the biggest things on the face of the Earth, they were on the cover of every magazine and they seemed like they had the world in the palm of their hands and then they just kind of seemed to not be there anymore. For us, I think we'd rather have a medium level of success and be there consistently than to be a supernova that just kind of burns out somewhere. We realized that there's no amount of any previous success that guarantees any amount of future success. The only thing that you do is you start over every time and say, "This is our first record." It has to excite us. We don't worry about what anybody else is thinking. It just has to be something that we think we like and then we put it out and we cross our fingers and we go through a lot of TV shows.

MR: And get People's Choice awards.

RT: Yeah, exactly. That's what we hope for.

MR: (laughs)

Tracks:
1. Parade
2. She's So Mean
3. Overjoyed
4. Put Your Hands Up
5. Our Song
6. I Will
7. English Town
8. How Long
9. Radio
10. The Way
11. Like Sugar
12. Sleeping at the Wheel

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne


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THE DROWNING MEN VIDEO EXCLUSIVE "LOST IN A LULLABY"

About The Drowning Men's new video, "Lost In A Lullaby" (directed by Ryan Renteria), "We built the set over the course of 36 some odd hours in Oceanside, CA," says guitarist/vocalist James Smith. "Our drummer Rory's a carpenter. He and the director Ryan took the reins on the build out of the set. We budgeted it out and did it for pennies on the dollar. To cut corners, we did what every band should do--we begged, borrowed, and stole. All of the tools and components that we used on 'the machine' or on the set, in one way or another, were borrowed from friends that are fellow carpenters or mechanics. We searched through antique collections of our friends and families, and we definitely 'borrowed' a few pieces from some neighbors."

Adds vocalist, keyboardist, guitarist and mandolinist Nato Bardeen, "We just want to give the listener an outlet or an escape route, just like we had, and continue to have with the music we listen to. Growing up listening to music, using music to escape, using music to expand and imagine, we know how important it is to allow the listener to paint the scenery in their own minds of what a song is about. If people can use our music the way we've used music, then we're going to feel like we've done the right thing."

The Drowning Men "Lost In A Lullaby"

iTunes link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/all-of-the-unknown/id536772339

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A Conversation With Cassidy (aka Boheme)

Mike Ragogna: Cassidy, how the heck are you?

Cassidy/Boheme: Very well, Mike. Thanks.

MR: Great. So, you started out in Antigone Rising, an all-female group that was a critical darling. Can you tell us a bit about your transition from that group into your solo career?

C/B: Well, I was in Antigone Rising for about eight years; I was in Los Angeles and they were in New York, and we got together. We had a lot of success, and it was a lot of fun. I mean, we were a rock band and we got to tour with The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith. Then, probably around 2007, the head of our label got fired, and from then on, it felt like the momentum kind of slowed down. From then on, it became very difficult to maneuver and get anything done because there were a lot of changes going on. It makes it really difficult because you can't really do a lot until your label says it's okay once you've signed to a label; you lose that freedom to just make an album and go on tour. After feeling like we were chasing our tails for a little while, I was starting to be less inspired by the dynamic in the band and dealing with the label. I just decided to go, but I didn't really start a new project right away. I was playing shows and releasing some songs. It wasn't until 2009 or 2010 that I started writing and recording again. I was always known as Cassidy in Antigone. I never used my last name because it's a crazy Italian name that no one could ever remember. So when I went to start recording, I realized that there was a rapper who spelled his name the exact same way, and he had a lot of success in the previous years. It was pretty confusing because there was one point when I was hired for a gig, and I got really excited about it because I was getting flown to Vegas and getting paid a boatload of money. I had no idea what it was. We were already into negotiations on the contract before we realized that they wanted the rapper, not me. (laughs) It probably would have been pretty bad if I had shown up. (laughs) I realized that I would probably have to step away from the name Cassidy for this to work, and that's how Boheme emerged. That name encompasses the music and my lifestyle. I think I identify with Bohemian ethos, so it just sort of seemed like the right fit.

MR: Let's talk about your latest album, Follow The Freedom, that was released back in February.

C/B: You know, I released this album independently, so it was expected that it would take a minute for people to hear about it. I'm just excited because it's starting to show up on people's radar now. I'm just excited that people are starting to take some time and recognize it.

MR: And Steve Perry makes a guest appearance on one of the tracks.

C/B: The Steve Perry moment was actually pretty unexpected. He just happened to be hanging around the studio, heard some of our music, and loved it. He said he wanted to meet me, so we met and he wound up staying throughout most of the mixing process. Then eventually, he literally asked if he could sing on the record. (laughs) That was one of those "pinch me" moments in life. He also wrote the backing vocals on "Follow The Freedom" at the very end and we sang those together. I actually released that particular version for free, and you can get it on my Facebook page. I just felt like I shouldn't charge for it. It's such a cool thing, why not give it away?

MR: Wow. Let's talk a little bit more about some of the songs on this album. "Even The Mistakes" is kind of profound--even with its crunchy dance beat. (laughs) Can you tell us a little bit about what motivated you to write a song like that?

C/B: One of the things that I'm getting really excited about is the fact that people are learning that there are a lot of messages in these songs. The whole album, as well as the album title, are very much about starting over after a tragic, devastating, or life-changing event. It's about picking up the pieces of your life, and realizing that there are no mistakes and that we learn from everything that happens to us; it makes us better. Everything really is how you see it, there is no good or bad. It's just how you perceive a particular thing. "Even The Mistakes," is truly based off of a conversation that I had with somebody who didn't use those exact words, but some of the words in the songs are his exact words. It's about the idea that you're going to grow and move on if you stop being stuck in the pain, loss, and devastation of life. You learn from it and you grow. You'll find that even if you're willing to take those big leaps again, sometimes you'll end a little to the left and sometimes a little to the right, but nothing can keep you from your destination. Somebody told me once to try walking up Sixth Ave and walk in a straight line. It's not possible. You'll always have to go right or left because there's all kind of things coming at you. But if your ultimate destination is the Empire State Building, you're going to get there. That's basically what that song is about.

MR: Speaking in those same terms, you have "Thank You For Breaking My Heart."

C/B: Yeah. Like I said, if you go through the album, you can definitely see that there's a theme. It's almost like I'm telling a story from the very beginning of the album. It could be anyone's story, it doesn't have to be mine. I'm basically telling a story about being bewildered and disenchanted with the things that have happened in my life, which happen to be the same things that happen in everyone's lives. In fact, I'm sure much worse things have happened in a lot of people's lives. Then at the very end, the intention is to put a period at the very end of that thought. "Thank You For Breaking My Heart" is basically a song saying that I'm grateful for everything that happened, though I probably wouldn't want to do it again. I kind of meant it to say, "You win, I'm grateful."

MR: Okay, on a lighter note, let's shift to "Everything Is Sunshine." Is everything sunshine?

C/B: Everything IS sunshine. (laughs) There's actually a funny story behind that song. I actually wrote that song from the darkest, most bleak place ever. This was the second song that was written for this album, and it couldn't have been written at a more sad and dark time for me. But it turned out to be this happy and optimistic song, which was the complete opposite of what I was feeling at the time. I think it was then that I realized that all of the answers that I needed would be in the songs, if only I was brave enough to write them.

MR: That's beautiful. Though, apparently, there was a "Blind Spot." Ahem.

C/B: (laughs) I find that there's often a blind spot. I was having some trouble being honest with myself and the part that I played in everything that had happened in my life. On some level, I think I was trying to take some sort of responsibility. I think we all try to do that in most situations. But we also like to, sort of, rewrite history in our own minds to cope with whatever is going on, so I definitely had a blind spot that was clouding my vision.

MR: How do you, as an artist, move past blind spots emotionally while trying to stay honest creatively?

C/B: That's a good question. I think I realized a lot of things through the writing of the songs. And I also think, a lot of times, that I am writing these songs to sing to someone else. I don't realize that I'm singing to myself. It's like they say, when you point at someone, there are three fingers pointing right back at you. I think it's the same thing in our relationships. Oftentimes, the things that are bothering you about other people are the very same things that are bothering you about yourself. All of the things that I was pointing to others to change were the things that I needed to change. I don't even know when I was writing "Blind Spot" if I knew that I was singing to myself. I think I thought that I was singing to someone who I thought hurt me. But if you really want to learn something about yourself, write a letter to someone who has hurt you about everything that you can't stand about them. Then go back and read the letter like you're saying it to yourself. You've also got to stay in those close relationships with people--family, friends, lovers, spouses. It's important to keep connections with people because I really think they'll mirror back to you the things that you do. I mean, you have to be real about staying in healthy relationships with the people around you, but just don't isolate yourself, especially when you're hurt. When you're an artist, its really easy to do that. When I'm upset, I can just completely isolate myself from everyone for months and not really know that I'm doing it. I think it's really important, though, that I've kept a lot of my relationships and let people feel safe to be honest with me. You also have to be willing to listen to what they have to say, because I think that's how you grow. When you aren't willing to listen to people, I think that's where you get into trouble.

MR: Do you think that's because we're all essentially sensitive people?

C/B: Absolutely. I think we're all very sensitive people.

MR: Which, of course, brings us to the song "Sensitive People." Is that where you were going with that song?

C/B: That's absolutely what I'm saying. I don't know that I actually understood that I was saying that we're all just afraid of each other. Everybody is on edge and on their guard, and we're all not so unique or different in that aspect. When all of that hit me finally--either through self-discovery or council--I realized that I had never thought about the fact that we're all afraid of each other. When you put that in perspective, I think it's easier to be a lot more loving towards the people around you. We make people into these giant beings in our heads, but we don't realize that others are doing the same thing to us. When you can suddenly get your head around all of that, your guard comes down. I think that's what that song is about.

MR: Nice. Cassidy, you've also just come off a residency at The Mint in LA. How did that go?

C/B: I played every Tuesday night in the month of June. It was so much fun and we got to play with Garfunkel & Oates, who is this incredible female duo who write comedy songs, Jerrod Neimann, and every week we played with a band called Midnight Mirage. They're an up-and-coming band, but they've got really big management and are stirring up a lot of interest. It was a lot of fun. Los Angeles is no joke. Every night, there's someone coming through who's serious business, so you really have to show up every week and bring you're A game.

MR: What would you say is the major difference between Cassidy in Antigone Rising and Cassidy from this new Boheme project?

C/B: Well, there are a few differences. The first is that I'm doing everything, like writing the checks, booking the flights, scheduling the rehearsals, writing the songs, producing the album. I do it all. So, in that way, I would say I've taken a much more active role in my own destiny. Don't get me wrong, I loved doing Antigone Rising, and I was a big part of what you saw on stage creatively. But we didn't have a lot to do with the things on the business end. I buried my head in the sand for a while about that kind of stuff and I regretted doing it. So, this time around, my hands are in everything. Second, I would say that the music is probably a little more pop, but the live shows are still rocking and fun. This time around, the show is more on my shoulders because in A.R., there were a lot of strong personalities and front women in the band. It's very different in that way.

MR: Do you ever take your dog Lucy on the road with you?

C/B: Oh, my Lucy! I miss her so much! I don't have her with me right now, but sometimes I take her. It's tough sometimes because she spends those hours when I'm at the venue on stage alone. When we toured with Rob Thomas, he actually had his dog and his wife with him on the bus. That's the dream -- to be the little traveling family and always have her with me. I miss her so much, it's unbearable.

MR: Cassidy, do you have any advice to offer new artists?

C/B: Oh, God. Go to college. (laughs) I'm just kidding. No, I'm not. (laughs) My advice is, "To thine own self be true." Also, if at some point something doesn't feel right, run. Don't stay in a situation because you think if you leave it will hurt your career. Your own sanity, health, and happiness must always come first. If your music is being, in any way, impeded by the people around you or by the circumstances that you find yourself in, you're better off being on your own. That's my best advice.

MR: Is there anything coming up in the near future that we should look out for?

C/B: Well, Boheme recently hit 1.5 million views on the "Blind Spot" video on YouTube, so that's exciting. We're growing rapidly on all of the social media websites including the Boheme artist page on Facebook and @iamboheme on Twitter. We're also doing the Jimmy Lloyd Songwriter Showcase in August. I'm probably going to start recording more songs in the near future as well, and I'm thinking probably another album by the New Year.

MR: Cassidy, best of luck with all that you have going on, and thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to chat with us.

C/B: Thank you so much for having me, Mike.

Tracks:
1. Follow the Freedom
2. Even the Mistakes
3. Everything Sunshine
4. Blind Spot
5. Done Done Done
6. Undertow
7. Pot of Gold
8. Girl Like That
9. Sensitive People
10. Thank You for Breaking My Heart

Transcribed by Evan Martin

 

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