Love and the complications surrounding it have long proven to be Joshua Radin's songwriting forte. Though he never intended to be a live performer, there was little choice when the first song he ever wrote, "Winter," was featured on an episode of "Scrubs." The resulting fervor around the song soon led to a record deal, and over the last decade, Radin has toured the world countless times, sold hundreds of thousands of records and topped the iTunes charts, earned raves from Rolling Stone to The Guardian, performed on "The Tonight Show," "Conan," and more, played Ellen DeGeneres' wedding at her personal request, and had his songs featured in more than 150 different films, commercials, and TV show
Singer-songwriters Deb Talan & Steve Tannen began writing together the night they met, and soon formed indie band The Weepies. On the strength of their simple yet insightful songwriting and distinctive harmonies, they quietly sold more than 1.5 million records with over 54 million streams on Spotify, 25+ million views on YouTube, and over 110k social media followers. They married and had three children, rarely touring but continuing to release their music; five records over seven years.
Just before Christmas 2013, when their youngest son was 17 months old, Deb Talan was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. She was in chemo by New Year's Eve.
In 2014, Deb beat cancer, and The Weepies recorded the best album of their career. Coming back from the edge sharpened their skills and focus. At 16 songs and almost an hour long, SIRENS shows a band at the height of its powers.
The couple was unable to travel while Deb was in treatment, so they worked at home, inviting guest musicians to record remotely wherever each musician happened to be, resulting in an unlikely superstar backing band. Players from across the spectrum jumped in, including: Pete Thomas and Steve Nieve (Elvis Costello), Gerry Leonard (David Bowie), Rami Jaffee (Foo Fighters), Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel), Oliver Kraus (Sia) and Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam), as well as veteran Weepies compatriots Frank Lenz, Eli Thomson, Jon Flaugher, Meg Toohey, and Whynot Jansveld, plus a horn section from New Orleans.
The prophetic "No Trouble" was written prior to learning Deb's diagnosis. "I don't need no trouble, but sometimes trouble needs me," sings Steve; Deb's vocals were recorded during her first weeks of chemo. The couple continued to write and record throughout treatment, with Deb providing several key vocals far into the year, including title track "Sirens," captured in one take on a day where Deb really only had one take in her; her vulnerability is tangible. "We just kept going," says Deb. "We also have 3 small children, and were homeschooling, and the effects of chemo blew whole days out of the water."
The band was able to use their limited studio time as an escape, leading to some of their most joyful tracks ever, including the genre-bending "Fancy Things" and the upbeat "Early Morning Riser," aided mightily by a fantastic rhythm section and horns. There's plenty of heart and comfort for long time Weepies fans too - the deceptively simple "My Little Love," the gorgeous "Brand New Pair of Wings" and the straight ahead poetry of "River From the Sky."
After The Weepies had officially finished the album, and Deb was in recovery, they continued to record remotely with their phenomenal backing musicians for fun, eventually adding a cover of Tom Petty's "Learning to Fly" and a version of Irish balladeer Mark Geary's "Volunteer" to the final album.
"No one song could capture that year," says Steve. "16 seems like a lot to release at once, but each song reflects a different angle of that long, suspended moment. They hang together like a bunch of photographs from a certain time. It was intense, but there was beauty and inspiration, too. Deb made it back. And we're still here."
Sometimes a song is more than just a song. Sometimes a song can be a mirror to the world, or to the hidden selves we are or want to be.
Lily Kershaw's debut album, Midnight In The Garden, explores emotional landscapes and heart clutching melodies that say the unsaid things we struggle to say ourselves. The album takes root in the titans of folk music…those classic songsmiths who weave tapestries of sound with fingerpicking and tales of often unspoken truths.
In song, Kershaw is an old soul, but in person, she's a kinetic 22 year-old, a "nearly life-long Los Angeleno," she says. She's ebullient and lively, quick with a joke and an infectious smile. Raised adjacent to the Hollywood machine, Kershaw offers an antidote to the long-mythologized Los Angeles glitz; she's authentic, and honest, self-effacing and, above all, she is herself. She may not tell you this, but she's conduit, a nexus of the experiences of the world around her. She feels the weight of the world, she says, but through song, she wears it as an emblem of who she is. Like the day-glow dreams of Los Angeles noir, she reveals the darkness that coexists with sunshine.
"It's all about death," she laughs, while describing her music. "I’d love to say most of my music isn't about death or heartbreak but, well, it is."
It comes as no surprise then, that in 2012, her single "As It Seems" provided the backdrop to the long-running CBS drama series, Criminal Minds. Her voice lilts and flows, as the guitar leans gently into minor keys, and she sings:
Well I knew what I didn't want to know,
and I saw where I didn't want to go,
So I took the path less travelled on,
And I’ll let my stories be whispered when I'm gone.
The song caught fire, broadcast around the world. "People wrote to me saying, 'This is the song I want to play at my funeral,' it was unsettling at first," she says, "but it felt good to know that my song connects with people."
Almost a year later, her song "Ashes Like Snow" appeared on the show with similar effect, wrapping audiences up in the meandering piano and her skyward arcing vocals. It was a song born from serendipity, nearly ten years in the making. "One day when I was at my parents house," she says "I found this poem that I had written right at the time of the September 11 attacks, when I was just a young kid. I took some of those words and added the perspective from where we are today, in the long aftermath of war and struggle, looking back."
Kershaw is a compulsive creator, she jots down melodies and lyrics as she's wandering through her days. She sings melodies into her phone while sitting in traffic or secretly hums a tune into a voice recorder while out at shows, capturing any inspiration that she can channel back into her music. Her debut layers lush instrumentation over the stark skeleton of her sketches, sauntering between swaying somberness and playful uplifting anthems. Like the subtle beauty of a black rose, Kershaw's music shores melancholy with a sense of hope and catharsis. And like she sings, her stories -- her songs -- are whispers or echoes, messages in bottles, cast out into the world.
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