R. City certainly aren’t strangers to smash songs. Chances are, you’ve got something that they’ve produced and written somewhere on your playlist right now. Among tracks for Usher, R. Kelly, Juicy J, Chris Brown, Ciara, Justin Bieber, and Future, they’ve blessed the world with multiplatinum, chart-dominating hits like Rihanna’s “Pour It Up,” Nicki Minaj’s “The Night Is Still Young,” and Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop,” to name just a few. However, that’s only one side of the St. Thomas-born brothers Theron and Timothy Thomas. They’ve got something to say their new single, “Locked Away” featuring Adam Levine – a taste of what’s to come from their forthcoming album to be released on Kemosabe/RCA records. Both singing and rapping, the boys have always wanted to put out their own music— “It’s the only thing I’ve wanted since I was nine-years-old,” affirms Theron. They had developed an incredible following in St. Thomas, becoming the Virgin Islands most popular and prominent group with countless sold out shows and multiple independent releases. Upon relocating stateside, they switched gears to focus on songwriting, while continually creating their own music. While working with Dr. Luke in Los Angeles, a mutual friend actually informed the iconic producer that the boys were artists in their own right. “It’s crazy the way it happened,” admits Timothy. “We always made music, but that side of what we do was dormant. We got the chance to focus on it for the first time in the U.S. with Luke.” “Luke came up to us and said, ‘Hey guys, let’s work on music for you!’” continues Theron. “We were shocked. We didn’t have a deal. We weren’t working on an album, and he just felt something and had to say it. He asked, ‘What would you sound like?’ As producers and songwriters, we’re providing a service. If I’m in a session, I’m giving Rihanna, Rihanna. I’m not giving her R. City. Whereas these are our songs. This is how we feel. This is what we want to say. This is what we represent.” Instead of attempting to assimilate with the flavor-of-the-month, they dove headfirst into fashioning a singular style of their own. Now, R.City embraces cinematic hip-hop storytelling, Caribbean flavor, and pop palatability, yielding something uplifting and undeniable in the process. “It’s our own genre,” asserts Theron. “We call it Caribbean hip-hop. There are elements of rap and the islands. This is the first time most people will really hear us, so we wanted to come out with something big.”
Ever since Becky G signed with Kemosabe, the Sony Music Entertainment record label founded by hitmaker Dr. Luke, her life has gone from zero to sixty. The 17-year-old singer, songwriter, and rapper who does chores – cleans the bathroom or watches her three younger siblings – is also a CoverGirl. In addition, Becky may be found in the studio with Dr. Luke recording a song for her upcoming debut album or shooting a music video with Jennifer Lopez, who appears in the autobiographical clip for Becky’s track “Becky From The Block.” “Honestly, it makes me feel good when I get to help out at home because that’s my sense of normality,” Becky says. “I get a little crazy in my head when I’m super-busy and meeting a whole bunch of new people. So it’s really nice to be around the people who have been there from the beginning, and to do things I was doing before all of this happened.” Becky’s sound (which she describes as “urban pop with a bit of Latin spice”) and relatable personality have connected with a steadily expanding audience of fans who call themselves “Beasters”. When Dr. Luke showed one of her early music videos to will.i.am, the multi-platinum producer and Black Eyed Peas frontman immediately wanted to work with her. The two came up with “Problem,” a remix of which features will.i.am. and is included on the soundtrack to the animated film Hotel Transylvania. The video for “Becky From The Block” (which was filmed in Becky’s Los Angeles hometown of Inglewood and features her rapping in front of the local landmark Randy’s Donuts) was praised by the Los Angeles Times: “As a pure celebration of home, heart and lifestyle, ‘Becky from the Block’ knocks it out of the park.” The clip has attracted more than 19 million views on YouTube while the video for her single “Play It Again,” in which she pays homage to her Mexican heritage cruising through Inglewood in an old-school whip with her girlfriends, has earned over 23 million views. Becky’s videos have a total of 291 million YouTube plays to date. Becky began writing her own songs and recording them on GarageBand at age 11. By 13, she had taught herself to play the guitar. Six months later Becky was introduced to Mike Mani and Jordan Omley, known as production duo The Jam, who have worked with Brandy, JoJo, The Saturdays and Leona Lewis among others. She showed them her lyrics and they began working on three tracks, “Otis,” “Lighters,” and “Novacane,” all of which show Becky’s vivid rhymes and emotions when she sings. “If people pay attention to the lyrics they will know who I am, which I think is really important. You want people to have a feel for what you’re about. Also, when I write, I like to tell a story, because what draws me in as a listener is wanting to know what’s going to happen or how the story ends.” In this case, however, Becky’s story is only just beginning. Her recent achievements include being selected as one of Cover Girl’s newest (and youngest faces), scoring a #1 single (Can’t Get Enough feat. Pitbull) on Latin Billboard Charts, winning “The Best New Artist” award on Radio Disney Music Awards, wrapping her first major support tour with Austin Mahone, and appearing on the cover of the April/May issue of Girls’ Life Magazine. Becky was named one of Time Magazines most influential teens of 2014 as well as one of Billboard Magazine’s 21 under 21 (2014) Music’s Hottest Young Stars. In addition, Becky’s smash hit single “Shower” has sold over 900,000 units and its music video has over 45 million views on YouTube. “Shower” was one of People Magazine’s “Top 10 Song of the Summer.” Becky performed “Shower” on The Today Show, Premios Juventud Awards, Despierta America, Radio Disney Awards and The Teen Choice Awards. She recently toured with Demi Lovato, Katy Perry and is currently on tour with Jason Derulo. Becky just released her new single “Can’t Stop Dancin’” which is available now. Becky is finishing her debut album for Kemosabe/RCA Records due out early 2015.
When Gamal Lewis was in the tenth grade, hip-hop producer Salaam Remi gave him the nickname that has stuck with him to this day. Then an aspiring rapper, Lewis worked under Remi for a few years. “Salaam liked my vibe and took me under his wing,” he explains. “One day, I was sitting with him while he was getting a haircut and he looked at me and said, ‘Yo, if I was a little chubby kid like you, I’d call myself LunchMoney.’ And he and everyone he worked with started calling me that and it just stuck. It resonated with me because I’m kind of a big kid at heart.” In person, Lunch is a mountain of a guy who radiates not so much a child-like vibe, but a genuine sincerity and positivity that is hard to resist. That uplifting spirit comes through both lyrically and sonically in the music Lunch has created with his primary collaborators, songwriter Jacob Kasher (AKA JKash) and producer Ricky Reed (Wallpaper), for veteran hitmaker Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe Records. Songs like first single “Bills,” “Mama,” and “Love Me Back” are toe-tapping, feel-good tunes that recall the Philly soul of Gamble and Huff and the Southern gospel of Stax, while still entirely making sense within the world of contemporary urban pop. Lunch writes with touching honesty about real-life things like paying his bills, his supportive mama, and the trials of loving a girl who doesn’t love him back with a complete lack of artifice. The Miami native comes by his love for soul and hip-hop authentically. Lunch was raised in a musical family of Jamaican descent and grew up listening to reggae and Motown, as well as to James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Prince, and The O’Jays. His father Roger and his uncle Ian were founding members of the legendary reggae band Inner Circle, who scored a Top 10 hit with “Bad Boys” when it became the theme song to the TV show Cops. Lunch’s older brother Abebe runs Miami’s Circle House Studios, a popular recording hub for both local hip-hop artists like Pitbull, Trick Daddy, and Flo Rida as well destination studio for national acts. Lunch was a teenager when his brother took over running Circle House from Roger and Ian, and would hang out there on weekends. “Everyone knew me as ‘Abebe’s little brother who could rap,’” Lunch recalls. “Every time I’d come around, his friends, who were all producers, would be like, ‘Abebe, tell your brother to rap.’ So I started writing raps and handing them over.” Lunch caught the bug for performing himself at age 13 when he and his friend wrote a song that became a neighborhood hit. “It was called ‘Living in America,’” he says. “It was around 9/11 and we were like, ‘We’ll do a song for America!’ We had American flag bandanas, it was the worst, but looking back, it was mad funny. And all the kids in our neighborhood loved it and we became kind of like local celebrities. I thought, ‘Wow, I can do this. I can be cool. All the girls like me. The girls like rapping.” Eventually Lunch’s talent led him to write for Meek Mill (“Off The Corner,” featuring Rick Ross), Ace Hood (“We Don’t”), and P. Diddy (“Big Homie,” featuring Rick Ross). He also put out a few singles and a mixtape that were local hits in Miami before a mutual friend introduced him to JKash, who had just signed on with Dr. Luke’s Prescription Songs. “Kash was like, ‘You should come to Los Angeles and do other stuff,’” Lunch recalls. The two collaborated on Juicy J’s“Scholarship” before Lunch made the move to L.A. last year and joined JKash at Prescription Songs as a writer. He soon found himself writing for Nicki Minaj (The Pinkprint’s “Trini Dem Girls,” which Lunch is also featured on), as well as for Fifth Harmony (the gold-certified “Bo$$”) and Jessie J (“Burnin’ Up” featuring 2 Chainz) with Ricky Reed. The night of the Jessie J session, Lunch, JKash, and Reed, still fired up, wrote “Bills” and hit on Lunch’s unique “soul/rap fusion” sound (as he puts it) in the process. Impressed by “Bills” and Lunch’s facility for undeniable pop melodies, Dr. Luke and his team at Kemosabe Records offered him a recording contract. Now Lunch is looking forward to launching his career as an artist. “I know what I want to say now,” he explains. “I know who I am, in a weird little way, and I want to write about honest things with real emotion. My dad was so good at what he did and it gave me a taste for wanting to do great things and making good music. I want people to remember me for doing dope shit.”
“I’ve got four faces,” Elliphant declares. “One of them is the crazy club girl. Then, there’s my hip-hop side. I can also get all R&B on you. A lot of the time, I just feel like a hippie.” All four of those “faces” peek through the Swedish pop maverick’s second EP, One More [Kemosabe Records/Record Company TEN]. It’s a musical patchwork that’s as warm as it is wild. After the success of her first stateside EP, Look Like You Love It, Elliphant holed up in Los Angeles for the majority of 2014, locking herself in the studio and writing countless songs. During the process, the girl legally known as Ellinor Olovsdotter experienced something of a revelation. “I want to be an artist that reflects reality in everything—good and bad,” she admits. “Life is always changing, and I want to be a reflection of what life is. You never have to choose black and white; you can stay in the grey zone. While you’re there, be experimental as long as you’re true to who you are. Music isn’t meant to be solid. It’s fluid. The music is a little more naked now. It really shows who I am.” Teaming up with Grammy Award-winning producer Joel Little [Lorde, Broods], her approach yielded the intoxicating, yet intricate title track “One More” featuring MØ. As soon as she unveiled the single, it became the “#1 Most Tweeted Song on Twitter”, while its clever and cinematic music video racked up over 500,000 views in less than month. A snappy beat kicks off this ride as the vibe veers between rap cadence and electro pop sheen. At the center of it all, Elliphant offers an unbridled and unfiltered vignette into her life. The song’s infectious exterior belies its dark underbelly. “It’s about my girls at home,” she continues. “We have this pretty intense crew in Sweden of six or seven girls. It’s a bittersweet group. We all come from the same part of Stockholm. We all have single mothers with problems. When we go out drinking or partying, we talk about fucked up things. It’s friendship; but it’s also loneliness. Usually, only one of us has money, but we drink together and let it all out.” On the other end of the spectrum, she examines love for the first time on the shimmering, yet sassy “Never Been In Love”. Once again, it’s balanced by her ability to assume multiple perspectives and view life from numerous angles. “I was alone in L.A. for a month,” she recalls. “I got so inspired by the idea of falling in love. I never wrote about love before. Now, I’m writing about it because I want to start exposing my system to the idea of being with someone. It’s a break from the fear and bullshit of what goes on in this world. If you open the doors to the mystery of this planet, you can experience so much.” That vulnerability somewhat explains her own musical boundlessness – leading to collaborations with everybody from Skrillex to Bunji Garlin and Diplo. As she made waves overseas in 2012, well-known producer Dr. Luke also fell under her spell, signing her in collaboration with Record Company TEN to his own Kemosabe Records in the United States. 2014 saw her hit the road supporting Charli XCX on a nationwide tour that packed houses nightly, exposing her to a whole new audience along the way. Plus, Elliphant has won over top tastemakers including Pitchfork, FADER, and many more. Ultimately though, Elliphant wants everybody to enjoy One More with her. She smiles, “It’s music for any occasion. There are happy moments. There’s energy. There’s darkness. I hope it can be your soundtrack.”
Jordan Meredith and Louis Johnson of The Saint Johns have the ingredient every special duo needs: chemistry. Theirs is the kind of relationship where neither finishes a sentence because the other already gets it in just a few words. It’s the kind of relationship that starts at a friend’s Taco Tuesday party in St. Augustine, Florida, in 2008. And it’s a relationship everyone assumes is romantic. But this meet-cute has an unusual ending – it doesn’t end in marriage, but a beautiful partnership nevertheless that has yielded The Saint Johns’ debut album Dead of Night. “I met Jordan at a party and she happened to have a guitar,” Johnson said. “All of our friends were either hooking up or drunk or sleeping and we just stayed up playing shitty covers of Jack Johnson songs until our ears were bleeding. We were definitely impressed by each other.” Not long after, Meredith landed a gig at a local bar and invited Johnson to help fill a few long sets. Seven years later as they prepare to release their major-label debut, Meredith and Johnson believe they’ve put in their 10,000 hours and have arrived at something pretty special. “I think we’ve always understood that we create music together that we would never be able to create on our own,” Meredith said. “We have this sort of weird yin-and-yang thing. ”They moved to New York to make it big – “We ended up just being broke.” Johnson said – but nevertheless used the time to write and play together every day. They moved to Nashville to regroup and The Saint Johns – named for the river that flows through the heart of their native Florida – began to truly come into focus. They played shows anywhere and everywhere relentlessly – “some good, some bad, some empty” – and released a well-received EP, Open Water, that got the duo immediate support from the critics and the industry and helped land its first television appearance, “Late Show with David Letterman.” That EP captured the sweet Americana soul of the band’s early sound. Recorded with a full band, Dead of Night is something more – more mature, more confident, more ambitious. The album, which comes out in early 2016 on Kemosabe Records, producer Dr. Luke’s partnership with Sony Music, began with demo recordings Johnson made. The two took them to David Kahne, a Grammy Award-winning producer and record label executive who’s worked with Paul McCartney, Stevie Nicks, The Strokes, Lana Del Rey, Fishbone and many others. “His process is just insane,” Johnson said. “David knows what he wants all the time. So he overhauled a lot of what we had and it all ended up with the same feel, but elevated.” “So much bigger,” Meredith echoed. “I guess I was always afraid to put big kick drums in there and really have the groove be at he forefront.” Johnson continued. “But David is so good at making sure the grooves are right, that they push through and punch you in the face. That’s something he brought to the record so beautifully that I don’t think we would ever have gotten there on our own.” A group of songs began to stand out in the studio. The deeply personal “Shadowplay” will be the first song to radio, an unofficial release that captures the duo’s close harmony and exposed feelings in a way that reminds you of Low’s measured sense of drama. Meredith and Johnson wrote the song with friend Jake Etheridge, a Nashville singer-songwriter with a large following in Europe. “I had a lyric and a melody started and the boys were kind of making fun of me because it was so emotional,” Meredith said. “But the further we got into it and the more the song developed, I realized how therapeutic the song was for me. Shadowplay talks about pulling a loved one out of darkness, out of depression. I think it was what I needed to hear at that time in my life.” The track was the first overwhelmingly successful co-write outside the core duo and encouraged them to do many more. “We tried to add Jake to our band, but he’s basically a pop star in Holland, so that’s never going to happen,” Meredith said. So they turned to Vince Schumerman for assistance on first single “Lost the Feeling” – a song, like most of their co-writes, that was written in the band’s dining room. The running-through-the-night vibe of the song is the duo’s nod to Fleetwood Mac and their shared love for Rumors. “It’s a grooving song about heartbreak,” Meredith said. “We have a hard time not writing depressing songs. It was nice to have someone to pull us out of our dark corner. Although, lyrically the song is still depressing.” Another dining-room diamond is “Dead of Night,” the album’s title track, written with Meredith’s husband, JT Daly. It’s a ‘90s rocker with telecaster in your face: “It sounds happy until you listen to the lyrics and find out that it’s a desperate plea from one person to another,” Johnson said. “I think the theme we found running through the album is the really beautiful juxtaposition between dark and light, so that title just seemed so fitting for the album,” Meredith said. “The song itself can speak for the entire album in a way. It’s a special song.” –Marissa Moss
The year 2006 was owned by Three 6 Mafia, when the Memphis, TN group reinvented the rap wheel by winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song (“Hard Out Here For a Pimp” from Hustle & Flow). The trio already had a healthy collection of hits under their belts, as tracks like “Sippin On Some Sizzurp,” “Stay Fly,” “Poppin’ My Collar,” and “Slob On My Nob” were carefully crafted proverbial club bangers. 2000’s When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1 and 2005’s Most Known Unknown were Certified Platinum, adding yet another notch in Three 6 Mafia’s successful belt. But what happens after that? Sure, the mainstream radar is piqued, but how do you keep the world’s attention? For front man producer/rapper Juicy J, it was taking things back to square one. J spent the years that followed creating a street team, shooting videos, and releasing mixtapes (along with the album Last 2 Walk) all in the name of the collective Three 6 buzz. What he found though was a burgeoning solo career that transformed him from one part of a colossal whole to a standalone superstar. As Juicy J delivers his debut solo album [Stay Trippy], he takes his knowledge of the game and of music to next level trippiness. “I’m a producer, I never considered myself a rapper,” admits Juicy J born Jordan Michael Houston. “So I always kept my ear to the street and always tried to find out what was the next big thing, what was hot.” When the North Memphis native released his debut solo mixtape project, 2009’s Chronicles Of the Juice Man, he kept the talent localized, with features including former Three 6 Mafia member Crunchy Black and J’s older brother Project Pat. The tape was Certified Gold, but that wasn’t enough for the Juice Man. He continued to release mixtapes year after year, dropping a whopping three mixtapes in 2011 (including the critically acclaimed Blue Dream & Lean). Consistently checking for new talent, J would meet newer Rap acts on Twitter and forge relationships. It was there that Juicy J met Wiz Khalifa and the result of that friendship was a coveted spot in Wiz’s Taylor Gang (and 1/3 owner of Taylor Gang Records). While Wiz built a solid foundation out of his Taylor Gang army, Juicy J is building one of his own. Welcome to the “Trippy Movement.” The Trippy Movement originated out of Juicy J’s decision to keep his music real to himself. “Everything changed once we got the Academy Award. A lot of money kicked in,” J recalls. “[Three 6 Mafia] went through a transition where the label was trying to tell us how to make the music, and they wanted the music to go in this kind of a way, in a Pop way and all this extra stuff. You go through those transitions when you’ve been in the game a long time. You just grow.” For Juicy J, though, the choice was to swim the mainstream to the tune of the music he wanted to make. As for the origin of the word trippy? “A lot of people connect the Trippy Movement with drugs, but it can be however you feel,” he says. “I mean, I always say being trippy, you do what you want when you want. So it’s whatever you feel, what makes you happy. Kind of like being rebellious. It’s being like, ‘Fuck everything else, I’m going to just do me!’” His self-funded movement proved to be fruitful in more ways than one. From selling “We Trippy Mane” t-shirts on his website (thejuicyj.com) to cups and other merchandise, Juicy J found an extra entrepreneurial income he never planned on making. As he maintains that Stay Trippy mantra, Juicy J embarks on his debut solo project, aptly titled Stay Trippy (Sony/Columbia). “It’s pretty much like my last mixtape, Blue Dream & Lean. Me being ratchet,” Juicy J promises. The project is more focused, as Juicy J is in total control, and being given what he likes to consider the freedom to do whatever he wants creatively. His forward thinking production-cap remains on as J crafts a project that still appeals to Three 6 Mafia members, but speaks to Hip-Hop’s next generation as well. The flagship single “Bandz A Maker Her Dance” has already made its roundsrecently gaining Platinum certification, originating on Juicy J’s Twitter page. “I put ‘Bandz A Make Her Dance’ out myself on Twitter and it popped on the Billboard charts and it was climbing the Billboard charts,” he explains. Other bangers include the contagious “Bounce It,” where Juicy is flanked by Trey Songz and Wale, as they ride over the ricocheting beat. The Weeknd checks in on the woozy “One Of Those Nights,” along with a cameo from the late Pimp C on the Traptastic “Smokin’ Rollin.” Justin Timberlake appears on the splashy “The Woods,” as he provides an intoxicating hook while Juicy woos a new object of his affection. “Justin’s from Memphis; I’ve been knowing him for a while,” he says of his relation to Timberlake. The track was produced by Timbaland. “When I was in the studio with Timbaland, he played the track to me with the vocals and the instrumental,” Juicy recalls. “He was like, ‘Yo, man. What do you think about this?’ I was like, ‘That’s dope!’ He was like, ‘You can use it for your album.’ I was like, ‘Wow! Thanks!’ So, Timbaland kind of surprised me with that. That was like a Christmas present. I didn’t even expect to get that song, but it’s one of my favorite songs on the album.” There is a perfect balance of veteran collaborations and some new school flavor, as A$AP Rocky brings his Harlem flair to “Scholarship” while Juicy J’s big brother Project Pat arrives on the Southern fried “No Heart No Love.” It’s a well-rounded party. “I’m doing everything that I want to do. This is me,” Juicy J explains. “This is Juicy J individually as a person. This is me, all me. So that’s what I’m giving. I’m giving the fans me, this is me personally.”Juicy J’s two-decade run in Hip-Hop has brought him to this very moment. While bridging the gap between old and new fans under one trippy umbrella, Juicy J has cracked a code most veteran rappers struggle to decipher. Making uncompromised music that anyone can relate to is this producer/rapper/businessman’s forte. It might be hard out here for a pimp, but Juicy J makes it look easy. Running Sony Music is part of his five-year plan. With ambition like his, it’s bound to happen. “Why not stack millions on top of millions?” Juicy J says of his foolproof formula. “That’s when you get the billions.”
Christian Burghardt possesses all the qualities a fan of an acoustic-based pop artist could want: a rich, soulful voice with loads of texture; heartfelt, deeply personal lyrics; bright, nimble guitar playing, and a relatable, amiable presence to deliver it all. Veteran writer-producer Dr. Luke saw this clearly when he signed Burghardt to his Sony Music imprint Kemosabe Records in partnership with RCA Records. Now the Portland, Oregon, native is releasing his debut single, “Safe Place To Land,” an uplifting, anthemic song about letting someone know you’ll always be there for them. It was inspired by things falling apart in my former relationship when my music career began to happen and I was traveling a lot,” Burghardt says. “Safe Place To Land’ was basically my desperate attempt to say ‘I’m always going to be the guy you can depend on when things go wrong.’ I really wanted to be the rock in her life, that’s where the emotion in the song stems from.” The remainder of the songs on Burghardt’s debut EP SAFE PLACE TO LAND, which is available now, burn with similar intensity, bolstered by the music’s urgent, driving sonics. “When She Cries” is about the helplessness a man experiences when the woman he loves is distraught, while “Only I Could Know” details the feeling of losing someone and watching them fall in love with someone else. “Spark” and “Autopilot” speak more to Burghardt’s journey as an artist. “’Spark’ is about setting a goal and appreciating the climb and hard work it takes to get where you’re going,” he says. “And ‘Autopilot’ is about going through the motions and not doing what you really want to do with your life. For me, it’s about the moment when I decided that I was going to do music 100 percent. I thought, ‘If I want to do this, I have to go for it all out.’ It drives the entire song.” Burghardt has always been drawn to singing. “My mom’s side of the family is Korean and it’s a tradition at family get-togethers for my grandmother to call out to any of the kids, ‘You, karaoke now,’” he says. “She’d want performances from all the kids, who were all brought up playing an instrument. I played saxophone for a while, but after I quit, I didn’t have an instrument. My grandmother would say, “’Christian, you don’t have an instrument. You sing,’” and she’d make me do karaoke in front of the whole family. That was my first experience singing for people.” When Burghardt was in eighth grade, he took up guitar, teaching himself to play (first song he learned: Green Day’s “Time of Your Life”) and practicing for hours. Writing his own songs came naturally from there. After Burghardt played an original song with a friend at his high school graduation, another student’s father thought he had talent and offered to manage him. His parents, however, wanted him to go to college. Burghardt enrolled at Oregon State University where he pursued pre-med and played football. After sustaining a serious leg injury during practice, and without the right insurance to pay for it, he ended up spending a lot of time in his dorm room. “That’s when the guitar really came back to me,” he says. “It was a good way for me to vent the frustration I was feeling. I got really serious about music and recording demos.” For the next several years, Burghardt wrote like crazy, teaching himself how to produce his own tracks on Pro Tools and eventually recording 60-70 songs. He put together a band and played shows all around Portland. By this time, he had transferred to Portland State University so he could be closer to venues in the city and was still playing football. Then he injured his other leg, and “all the hopes I had for shopping my demos around went down the drain,” he says. “I could barely stand or move without being in pain, and I couldn’t drive or even take a bus anywhere.” Not long after Burghardt recovered, he received a call from Camus Celli (who also discovered Gavin DeGraw) who had discovered his music through a mutual contact. “I was on the verge of quitting,” he says. “I didn’t really see any hope in it. I felt like I needed to get a degree and a stable job instead of working part time and spreading myself thin.” Christian was invited to fly down to L.A. to showcase for Dr Luke. The next day, Burghardt was offered a joint recording deal with RCA Records and Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe Records. “It was so many years of work and goal-setting for myself finally coming to fruition,” he says. “It was unbelievable.” Burghardt has been working on new music ever since, meeting up with songwriters and producers in Los Angeles, New York, and Nashville, including Gregg Wattenberg (Train, Phillip Phillips), Derek Fuhrmann (Phillip Phillips, O.A.R.), and up-and-comer Josh Grant. “I was constantly looking over Gregg’s shoulder watching everything in the studio, because production is a big part of what I do and I wanted to learn as much as I can,” says Burghardt, who produced the track “Only I Could Know” himself. He’s also hitting the road for a summer tour with Gavin DeGraw and Matt Nathanson. “I’m excited for all of it,” he says. “Releasing music and going out and performing it for people – that’s what I’ve been waiting for. I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie and I can’t wait to see what happens.”
Amidst her musical pastiche of pop, soul, dance, and R&B, Sophia Black tells stories. “I write in pictures,” she affirms. “When people listen to my music, I hope it turns on a tiny TV screen in their heads where they can actually see what I’m talking about. The visuals are so important.” As far as stories go, the 19-year-old Los Angeles native’s personal history is equally intriguing. Half-Japanese mixed with Native American, Latin, Scottish, and Irish roots, she was born to parents already entrenched in the music world—dad produces, engineers, and mixes with credits for the likes of Prince and Joni Mitchell, while mom works as a film composer and string arranger in Japan and the United States. She can fluently speak in Japanese, French, and English and cut her first demo at the age of 13, confidently drawing from a holy trinity of influences: Björk, Kraftwerk, and Stevie Wonder. Sony Music Japan signed her to a development deal, and a CD landed in the hands of powerhouse producer and Kemosabe Records founder Dr. Luke when he was visiting Japan on a promo tour. “He actually listened to it because he was jetlagged,” laughs Sophia. “I’m glad he was!” Luke reached out via YouTube and offered her a deal. She spent the next four years diligently writing songs, contributing “Everything Breaks” to The Smurfs 2: Music from and Inspired By in 2014. On a whim, Luke encouraged her to upload a demo of the song “KISSING” to Soundcloud. With no promotion, it racked up 5,000 listens in one day. To date, it exceeds 100,000. Now, “KISSING” formally introduces her self-titled debut EP for Kemosabe Records/RCA Records. The five-song collection weaves together a fascinating narrative through a patchwork of heavenly vocals, vivid lyrics, and lush soundscapes that marry hazy synths and unorthodox R&B beats. At the center, she relays a confessional yet relatable tale of love found, lost, and gained again, beginning with “KISSING” and concluding on “Anchor.” “I just wrote what was on my heart and my mind,” she says. “I followed the story as it was happening in my life. ‘KISSING’ is the honeymoon stage of a relationship where you feel like you’re floating. Problems begin, and you end up on a break for ‘OVR AGAIN.’ It ends with ‘Anchor,’ which brings everything back around and says, ‘No matter what happens, I’ll always be there. I’ll be your anchor.’ There’s a happy ending.” In between, “Vibration” slips back and forth between a slick, sultry synth, orchestral flutter, a second verse in French, and elegantly entrancing refrain. Produced by KoOol Kojak [Flo Rida, Nicki Minaj, Ke$ha] and co-written by Sophia, KoOol Kojak, and Aaron Joseph, the single premiered via i-D Magazine and instantly welcomed everyone deeper into her world. At the center of the EP, “Mizu” [the Japanese word for “Water”] stands out as one of her most ponderous and poetic compositions. “The relationship becomes like water,” she goes on. “You’re trying to hold on to it but it slips through the cracks like when you try to hold water.”Sophia’s a story worth following for a long time to come. “I’m so honest in my music,” she concludes. “I hope that can make someone feel better. Music can alter emotions. Consciously or subconsciously, I hope the pictures I paint make everybody feel good.”
LIL BIBBY MAKES HIS TRIUMPHANT RETURN WITH HIS NEW SINGLE, “AWW MAN” FEATURING FUTURE. THE METRO BOOMIN (DRAKE, NICKI MINAJ, TRAVI$ SCOTT) PRODUCED TRACK IS SURE TO BECOME THE TURN-UP SONG OF THE FALL WITH ITS TRAP HEAVY BEAT. THE SINGLE WILL BE FEATURED ON BIBBY’S HIGHLY ANTICIPATED MIXTAPE, FREE CRACK 3, WHICH WILL BE RELEASED AT THE END OF THE YEAR. THE CHICAGO NATIVE HAS SPENT MOST OF 2015, RECORDING THE PROJECT AS WELL AS HIS FORTHCOMING DEBUT ALBUM. THE WINDY CITY RAPPER BURST ONTO THE SCENE IN THE FALL OF 2013 WITH THE RELEASE OF HIGHLY PRAISED MIXTAPES, FREE CRACK & FREE CRACK 2, WHICH HELPED HIM EARN A SPOT ON XXL’S 2014 FRESHMAN LIST.
Early in the autumn of 2014, Paper Route’s JT Daly, Chad Howat, and Nick Aranda moved into a cabin deep in the hills of Middle Tennessee, set up amakeshift studio, and spent a month dreaming up material for their third albumand first for Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe Records. Just as they did for the making ofThe Peace Of Wild Things (a 2012 release created in a creaky plantation housecalled Joy Mansion), the Nashville-based trio purposely chose a remote andramshackle space that promised retreat from the rest of the world. “We like towork within the limitations that come with being far away from everything,” saysDaly, Paper Route’s singer and main lyricist. “It keeps us uncomfortable in a way that ends up being really inspiring.”Called the North House, Paper Route’s temporary home brought contact solely with non-human life forms: bats whizzing past their heads during band meetings,snakes slithering into the house in the middle of the night, a tarantula-sized spider creeping into their piano — only to be coaxed out by Howat’s 1930s-horror-flick-inspired improv on the keys (“We felt like we were living in a parable,”says Aranda, “where all these crazy crawling things would suddenly appear out of nowhere, often in twos”). But in a band that thrives equally on intense collaboration and solo experimentalism — a dynamic that’s shaped their lavishly textured, beat-heavy alt-rock for more than a decade — those isolated quarters provided a perfect breeding ground for Paper Route’s ever-evolving creativity. “Living in the North House, there was an intimacy that isn’t possible in real life,”says Howat. “I could be working on a song and hear something through the walls, and that would give me a whole new idea about what I’m doing. We were able to hunker down and just completely immerse ourselves in this shared experience.”As a result, Paper Route carved out a vital new sound that closely reflects their purity of intention. “Making this album, we really chased the feeling we all had back when we were just beginning to discover the wonder of music,” says Daly.“That feeling I can still remember from taping ‘Champagne Supernova’ on my boombox when it debuted on the radio — that’s what we wanted to get into these songs.”Charged with the raw energy that Paper Route has revealed in touring the world with bands like Imagine Dragons and Passion Pit, the as-yet-untitled album achieves that feeling in part by making guitars central to its intricately crafted arrangements. On “Balconies,” for instance, a blistering guitar solo cuts through the song’s airy atmospherics, building a brilliant tension against shimmering synth and Daly’s soulful vocals. “On the last record, the guitar was kind of the cherry on top — an afterthought. For this one we wanted to go somewhere new, but also channel the spirit of the guitarists we loved as teenagers,” says Howat,who names George Harrison’s solo efforts and Blur’s Graham Coxon as key inspirations. For help in sharpening that guitar-centric sound, Paper Route made use of the production and mixing skills Howat has honed in his work with artists like Paramore and Brooke Waggoner, and also enlisted the expertise of DarrellThorp (an engineer who’s previously worked with Beck, Radiohead, Air and Paul McCartney. Paper Route first conjured up their melody-driven take on electronic-leaning alt-rock back in 2004, when Howat began using music as a means of battling insomnia. “When I couldn’t sleep I’d make tracks on my laptop, and after a while I showed those tracks to JT and asked if he wanted to start a project together, says Howat. An old friend from college and former bandmate, Daly was then working as a painter and graphic designer (an ongoing endeavor that includes creating artwork for Paper Route as well as artists like Sufjan Stevens and Wilco Building off their powerful chemistry, Daly and Howat put out their first two EPs in2006: a self-titled release and the three-song Thrill of Hope, whose closing track“The Music” later appeared in 500 Days of Summer. Over the next few years, Paper Route split their time between touring with arena-filling acts like Paramore and sharing smaller stages with the likes of Thurston Moore and Mark Kozelek (their fellow performers at SXSW 2008’s Lou Reed tribute show). Releasing their full-length debut Absence in 2009, the band continued to straddle the pop and indie worlds, heading out on the road with Imagine Dragons in 2013 and embarking on their own headlining tour in 2014.When it came time for the follow-up to The Peace Of Wild Things, Paper Route shook up their process with an experiment they named Band Camp. “We’d just come off the road and we were exhausted but starving to create again, so we made up a series of exercises to try to kickstart everything,” says Daly. For one week, Paper Route invited various musician-friends into their Nashville studio to try out those exercises (example: “Play the heaviest song you can, as quietly as possible”). While the band ended up scrapping most of the material born from Band Camp, they found themselves re-energized and refreshed by the time they headed to the North House. And though the album marks Daly and Howat’s first time writing with Aranda, the longtime touring guitarist gelled instantly with his new full-time bandmates. “The three of us being in the same space, where there’s this wide-open soundboard and anyone can sing a melody as soon as it comes to them — it created something fully collaborative and just felt really great,” Aranda says.One factor that fostered that collaboration: Paper Route’s unified vision of tapping into a deep-seated need for connection and transformation. “We love the idea of being a voice someone else might cling to, the same way we did when we found those bands that changed our lives, who made us want to lock ourselves in our rooms and play their records over and over,” says Howat. At the same time, Paper Route aspire to protect and preserve what Daly refers to as “the sacredness of the musical language. “With music, you can make people feel like they’re having a better day than they are, you can make them remember that they’re in love or not in love, you can make them mourn or make them celebrate,” he says. “It’s a very powerful thing, and I’m pretty positive that we’ve served that sacredness with much honesty.”
"Vancouver Sleep Clinic as a name in itself conjures up imagery of long cold winters, of isolation and remoteness and the sometimes self-imposed reclusiveness in all of us as the days get shorter and we move into the bitter months ahead. After months of assembling lyrics and instrumentation from various maths books, notes, whiteboards and bedroom walls, humbly working with scattered cheap microphones, an old laptop and an outdated keyboard - Vancouver Sleep Clinic’s debut EP was born. Soaring falsetto vocals built upon progressive synthetic instrumentation come together to create an ambient vessel for emotional connection. Bearing messages of sorrow, humility and hope above all else - songs are written from the heart alone. Together, let’s create something beautiful."
It takes a lot of confidence for any aspiring performer to go on national television and sing their heart out in front of millions of people. It takes even more guts togo on national television and sing two of the most iconic, hard–to–nail ballads in the pop music canon, but that’s exactly what Zara Larsson did as a contestant on Sweden’s Got Talent in 2008. She was 10 years old. It never occurred to her todo anything less. An angelic–faced, blue–eyed blonde, Larsson won the show handily with her self–assured renditions of Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All” and Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” decimating her competition with a killer combo of talent, charm, and fresh–faced beauty. Now 17, Larsson still radiates boldness, not to mention a powerhouse voice, which will certainly help as she launches her career in the U.S. with her debut single “Uncover” for TEN / Epic / Kemosabe. Larsson is already a bonafide superstar in Scandinavia, where she has released two EPs, Introducing andAllow Me To Reintroduce Myself, and an album, 1, on the Swedish label TenRecords (also home to Icona Pop and Erik Hassle). “Uncover,” which Larsson first posted on YouTube, was her breakthrough hit, topping the charts in Sweden and Norway and earning 6x–Platinum certification (as did Introducing). Her follow–up singles, “She’s Not Me Pt 1 & 2” and “Bad Boys,” also garnered success onthe Scandinavian charts, as did 2014’s Top 10 hits “Carry You Home” and“Rooftop.” Many of those tracks have been collected on Larsson’s six–song Uncover EP, an R&B–flavored pop confection filled with relatable lyrics, catchy hooks, and melodies designed to show off Larsson’s impressive vocal range. Larsson says she chose them for her U.S. debut because “they were the ones that we knew people liked the best and that I liked the best.” Taken together, the songs sketchout the many sides of love, whether it’s hidden (“Uncover”), jealous (“She’s NotMe”), supportive (“Carry You Home”), heartbreaking (“Never Gonna Die”), wistful(“Rooftop”), or downright joyful (“Wanna Be Your Baby”). “The songs are about love because love is pretty much the key to everything,” Larsson says. “’Uncover’ is about two people who want to be together, but can’t let anyone know. As soon as they’re alone, they can finally ‘uncover,’” Larsson says. “I don’t think of it as a cute love song, it’s more about people who can’t be seen together because society tells them it isn’t okay, like people in same–sex relationships.” Such thoughtful declarations are not unusual from Larsson, who grew up in the socially progressive Swedish capital of Stockholm. She may have favored big–voiced mainstream songbirds like Whitney and Celine growing up, but now her music taste leans toward R&B and hip–hop and she cites Beyoncé, Eminem, and Nicki Minaj as favorites. Her father, an officer in the Swedish Navy, loved AC/DC, Metallica, The Sex Pistols, and Queen and he passed on his love for the latter’s theatrical swagger to his daughter. Larsson can’t remember a time when she wasn’t singing. “We had no furniture in front of the table because that was my stage,” she recalls. “I had this special area marked out where I could dance and sing. My younger sister and I would put on shows for my parents and their guests.”In 2008, she decided to try out for Sweden’s Got Talent, encouraged by thesecond–place finish of a friend of hers the previous year. Of her winning performance, Larsson says that she barely remembers her time on stage.“Watching myself that young is very weird, but I’m very proud of what I did.” The win led to her signing with independent music company TEN Music Group in 2012, followed by posting a video for “Uncover” to YouTube in 2013. “I thought maybe I’d get 20,000 hits, maybe 100,000.” The official version has now racked up over nine million views. Larsson’s success in Scandinavia has led to other significant moments in her burgeoning career, including supporting Cher Lloyd on the British singer’s 2013 North American “I Wish” Tour (“The American audiences didn’t know my name, I didn’t have any songs out, and still people were screaming and shouting, it was so crazy,” she says), and performing “Uncover” at the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo backed by an orchestra and choir. In April 2013, Larsson was signed by L.A. Reid to Epic Records and Dr. Luke to his Kemosabe Records label. With guidance from two of the music industry’s biggest players, Larsson is looking forward to releasing her music in America, which she calls “the center of the entertainment universe. People in Sweden are obsessed with America.” Establishing herself in the U.S. will also give her the opportunity to do what she loves best: perform live for as many people as possible. “My dream is to stand in front of 60,000 people in an arena and know that everyone came because they wanted to make memories with me,” she says. “That’s a beautiful thing. The more successful you are, the more people are going to come and be a part of the music."