Exclusive: Arjan Interviews Mandy Moore

Following her 2006 critically-acclaimed album "Wild Hope," Mandy Moore returns with her highly anticipated new album "Amanda Leigh" on May 26, 2009. I recently caught up with the singer to chat about the making of exciting new record. We also discussed a few of other things including being a role model, marriage and the importance music education in schools. She's such a pleasure to interview, always humble and sincere.

"Amanda Leigh" (which is Moore’s given name) was recorded at engineer Ducky Carlisle’s basement studio in his home outside of Boston and features a collection of vintage equipment utilized throughout the album.

The resulting collaboration between Carlisle and Moore is a collection of personal reflections and insights about life and love as evidenced in songs such as “Nothing Everything,” “Song About Home,” and “Love to Love Me Back” – the latter also written with Inara George of The Bird and the Bee.

The two also dared to experiment during the recording process, as exemplified in the rather tongue-in-cheek, “I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week” – originally a very alt-country sounding demo that quickly took on a new life with the addition of the clavinet, while “Everblue,” co-written with Lori McKenna, simarily transformed with the inclusion of the Farfisa and Wurlitzer.

March 26, 2009 in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (1)

Arjan Interviews Lady GaGa

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The first time I met Lady GaGa was in her dressing room at the MTV TRL studios on Times Square back in May. I was briefly introduced to the singer by her PR handler while she was getting ready for her performance on the MTV Logo NewNowNext Awards. I nominated the singer for the MTV Logo Brink of Fame Award, which led to MTV's invite to perform the show's big finale.

Since then, Lady GaGa has been traveling nearly non-stop to promote her debut single "Just Dance," which has become a bonafide smash hit around the world. But Lady GaGa has a whole lot more she wants to unleast on the world. In our interview last week, we talked about her inspirations, the importance of her "performance art" and her music. I tried to include as many of your questions as possible. Thanks so much for sending me all questions.

Arjan: Hi there Lady GaGa. How are you?

Lady Gaga: Doing well. I'm getting ready for my next performance with New Kids On The Block tonight.

You might remember me. Back in May, I nominated you for the MTV Brink of Fame Award, which  led to your performance on the show. 

Ooooh, you’re ArjanWrites.com! love you Arjan. I know exactly who you are!

Thank you so much. Good to talk again. I decided to take a few questions from readers to satisfy their inquiring minds about the GaGa phenomenon. The first question is about the origins of the House of GaGa. Can you tell us more about your creative troupe?

The House of Gaga is my creative team. They’re all really young people in their twenties. Friends of mine, fashion people, sculptors, engineers - we all come from different creative backgrounds. Some are just singers. We all work together to design the show, and design all my work.

Your recent hits were all produced by Redone. How did this partnership come about and do you think you'll work with him again in the future?

I met him through my management at the time. I’m not with the same manager anymore, but at the time we shared the same management, and I met him that way. I did "Just Dance,” "Poker Face," "Money Honey," "Boys, Boys, Boys" and "Paper Gangsta" with him. I worked with a lot of other amazing producers as well. But absolutely, Redone and I will work together again. We have such an incredible creative bond.

A lot of fans have been asking about the unreleased track "Retrophysical."

I did that song last year, but I didn’t think it was my best work, and I decided not to release it. Perhaps it will be a b-sde one day.

If you go back to the songs that you wrote for this album, do you have a favorite? Is “Just Dance” a special song to you, or do you have other songs that you feel that define you as an artist?

I think that “Paparazzi” really defines me as an artist in a lot of ways. It’s a real pop record but still kind of twisted too. And it  has a really intelligent pop art message behind it. That’s one of my favorite songs on the record. I’m really proud of that song.

You have transformed your artist persona quite a bit over the last 12 months. You were pictured in W Magazine last year in which you were a brunette and now you have become a blond electro goddess. What inspired this new look?

 I’ve just been growing. I think everybody grows, just as people over the years, and I grow as an artist. I grow every three weeks! I’m constantly changing. I’m inspired. Especially now. I’m traveling the world. I’m in a different city every night.  I am constantly pushing the envelope to be more and more creative and different and original. And create this beautiful, graphic, important imagery.

Was the choreography inspired by Stefani's Harajuku Girls?

The reference for my dance style is Claude Vanheye. He was a performance artist and singer in the 70's who worked with David Bowie. And I’ve always been inspired by the way that he used this sort of android, androgynous, mannequin-like dancers.  have a clear concept in my mind. I could sit down with you and go through magazine clippings and film and videos that reference every single detail of my show.Those things are part of learning and studying art, and being someone that really – I live and breathe for my work. Those ideas all came together to create the vision of my show. I’m so proud of it. It’s my baby.

People are really connecting to it. They are really inspired by what you do.

I appreciate that you say that Arjan, because what I love so much about this project, is that there is no fans in the world like Lady GaGa fans. My fanbase are people from different backgrounds, different sexual orientations, different music tastes, they’re all dressed up like they’re going to see Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The L.A. Times asked Christina Aguilera about the visual resemblance between you and her that some have hinted at.  Aguilera responded that she wasn't sure if you were a man or woman. What do you make of all that?

I’m not offended by it. But I love my gay fans so much because they always run to my rescue and are so sweet to defend me. But truthfully, I’m not offended by it. I talk endlessly in my interviews about David Bowie and Grace Jones, and how much they both have inspired my work and my fashion. And they’re both extremely androgynous and have a lot of enigmatic imagery. Stuff that is provocative and crosses sexual boundaries. So, for me, it’s a creative decision with my fashion to be androgynous and scary, so I wasn’t really offended by it, as much as everyone thought I would be.

So with all this traveling around the world, you’re in another plane, and you’re going to another country, what are you listening to, how are you relaxing and being able to do all of this?

I’m really into an artist right now named Patrick Wolf. I think you would really love him, really fantastic, amazing, from the UK. I listen to him. I meditate. I have this amazing meditation that I do. I just stay focused, I design clothing on the road, that keeps me sane, on the road, design the show. Every time you see me on tour I’m doing something different, and that’s because on each your I’m designing the next tour.

That’s wonderful. Is there-- What is the craziest thing a fan has done for you so far? I mean you must have run into really fanatic fans. What are some of the amazing things that they’ve done? Or sent you or gave you?

One of my fans got a tattoo of me on this arm. I gotta run Arjan, I love you. Give a shout out to all your readers for me, they’re my dear friends.

Thanks, Lady Gaga.

November 30, 2008 in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (4)

Arjan Interviews Honey Ryder

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Lindsay O'Mahoney and Martyn Shone of emerging British pop duo Honey Ryder recently released their much-anticipated debut album "Rising Up." It is a compelling piece of melodic pop and rock that they produced in collaboration with the guys from Goldust, Brad Gilderman, (Madonna, Outkast) and Bob Kraushaar (Pet Shop Boys, Robbie Williams). Not too shabby indeed.

Currently on tour with Will Young, the band took some time in their busy schedule to talk with Arjan about their new album and more. (And they took a lovely picture as well. Whoa! Thanks for that!)

Hi there! Great to talk to you. When I first heard your new single "Fly Away," I was immediately captured by the gorgeous vocal harmonies of the song. Does that song represent your sound well?
First of all - thank you for the compliment! And secondly, yes, it does represent the Honey Ryder sound as we have harmonies on every song on "Rising Up," which we like to replicate in our live performance. Our songs are melody driven and seem to lend themselves to 3 part harmonies.

How did Honey Ryder come about? This seems to be such a trivial question, but since you're new on the scene can you give a us a quick recap of how you met?
I first met Martyn in a recording studio when some work friends of mine from MTV asked me to record some vocals for them. Martyn had just become their new lead guitarist and we instantly clicked. Since then we have been in various different bands together playing the London circuit but none of them worked out. I then bumped into Martyn in a pub after he'd just ran the London marathon and after several pints we decided to go it alone and become a singer-songwriting duo, thus forming Honey Ryder.  (We weren't thinking straight at the time....!)

Honey Ryder is of course the very first Bond girl who appeared in Dr. No. Are you both big 007 fans? Who is your favorite Bond actor?
In one word - YES.....and we both happen to like Daniel Craig the best.....although our reasons for that are slightly different. Martyn likes his hard as nails persona plus he went to the same school as Martyn in the Wirral - and I.....well I just think he's FIT!!

You worked on your album with Brad Gilderman. How did that collaboration come about and what did he add to your sound?
Our producers from Goldust had already worked with him on various projects and felt that Brad as well as British mixer Bob Kraushaar, were the best mixers for the job. In our opinion, they have given the album a polished, bright, uplifting feel.

Your music reminds me of some of the pop-oriented country music from Nashville. It must be those catchy harmonies! What are some of the artists or genres that inspire you?
Fleetwood Mac have had a big influence on both of us. Martyn has been a big fan of rock music since he was a kid ranging from Pearl Jam and Guns n Roses to Radiohead and Oasis. I was brought up on a mixture of genres ranging from the Beatles and Motown to Alanis Morrisette, Sheryl Crow, Carole King and country artists like Dolly Parton.....which may explain a few things!

What is it like to perform for Will Young's fans? Do you have a lot of gays at your feet now? (ArjanWrites.com has many gay readers - you can speak freely!)
We're having a ball! I have to say they are a very warm, respectful and welcoming crowd and seem to be from all walks of life. I'm not sure how many gay people we have at our feet but Martyn has size 12 feet so there's plenty of room for them to hop on!!

Where do you hope to be in five years from now professionally?
In a recording studio on our 4th album!

November 25, 2008 in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (0)

Video: Arjan Interviews Darren Hayes about New DVD, Prop 8, Kanye West and Much More

Darren Hayes just can't still and give himself a break. Such a busy bee. Even though he hasn't been recording any new music lately (sorry peeps) or playing any shows, the singer has been releasing and promoting some other very exciting new things.

He invited me to send him some questions about his DVD release and I figured this concerned his concert DVD that was released a few months ago. It is a perfect stocking stuffer, so with the holidays around the corner great timing to talk about it again.

But who knew that he is releasing a whole new DVD in the next couple of months? A very, very special one actually. Directed by his partner Richard Cullen (who's such a sweetheart in person),  This Delicate FILM We've Made is a compilation of high-end animations and "glorious" surround-sound remixes from songs off "This Delicate Thing We've Made" that will be in stores in February 2009. However, a limited edition super dooper version is available in December. Hayes explains it all in this very special video interview I did with him.

On a more serious note, Darren also talks extensively about the Prop 8 mess in California. Everybody should have a look and see how Hayes makes sense of the situation by just going back to the basics. "Prop 8 was a huge blow to me personally, but also to the world in terms of civil rights. I'm not angry as much as determined (. . . ) I truly think that as a culture we will be embarrassed in twenty years time that we actually tried to legislate discrimination," he says.

I told him I'm active with GLAAD as I believe accurate and fair portrayal of gays and lesbians in the media can make a huge difference in people's perceptions and thinking. Darren encourages people to read  M.L. King's writings, because "passive resistance is the way to go" to accomplish change.

He ends the video with some very nice word about Kanye West.

Thanks for doing this video,  Mr. Hayes. You're brill, kind and witty as always. See you soon London!

November 21, 2008 in Arjan, Darren Hayes, Interviews | Permalink | Comments (2)

Video: Seven Questions for Jack Savoretti

Jack Savoretti is one of the most promising new talents to hit the music scene this year. Combining English charm with a melancholic Italian vibrato, Savoretti's serves up an acoustic blend of pop and folk on his debut album "Between The Minds." In many ways, his heartfelt tunes and storytelling is reminiscent of '70s singer/songwriters like Crosby, Stills & Nash and Simon & Garfunkel.

I recently caught up with Savoretti when he was in New York to perform at the CMJ Music Conference. We met up for a cup of coffee to talk about his new album at a West Village Starbucks. While chatting, we figured it was a good idea to get a few fun questions on video that I posted above.

Savoreti, who is half-English and half-Italian (and likes to call himself a "transatlantic mutt"), is currently signed to the De Angelis Records. The label was founded by Anne Barrett who previously managed Natalie Imbruglia. So far the success of Savoretti has happened quite organically. After touring with Corinne Bailey Ray, his music has been featured on CW's One Tree Hill and in the movie The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants 2. He is currently touring with Gavin DeGraw in Europe.

AOL Music will be featuring Jack's "Between The Minds" as their Video of the Week on Wednesday, November 12.

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November 10, 2008 in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (1)