Category Archives: Interviews

Daniel Ellsworth and the Great Lakes Drop By For Rites of Spring


From left: drummer Joel Wren (he likes his personal space I guess), bassist Marshall Skinner, singer/keyboardist Daniel Ellsworth, yours truly, guitarist Timon Lance.

This year’s Rites of Spring was probably the best I’ve seen in my four years at Vanderbilt.  The Music Group did an excellent job of bringing in headliners–Chance the Rapper and Young the Giant–who could excite a wide swath of the student body (unlike NEEDTOBREATHE) and then put on a show to back up the hype (unlike 2 Chainz).  The lineup also ran impressively deep, featuring a resurgent T-Pain and a variety of up-and-comers such as The Lone Bellow and Matoma.  Best of all, there was a strong local presence on Saturday’s docket with Louisa Wendorff and Daniel Ellsworth and the Great Lakes.

I got the chance to sit down with DE+TGL in the WRVU studio before their set later in the day and we had a blast talking about things like eating donuts, crazy stories from the studio, and the concept behind their music video for “Phantoms.”  The band was also kind enough to play two songs in the studio for us as a little preview of their Rites show.  Here’s audio footage of the full interview…


…and here’s video of the band playing “Sun Goes Out” and “Phantoms” live on air, as well as some highlights from the interview (if you’re in a hurry)!

Be sure to follow The VU Backstage on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the Vanderbilt music scene!

Nate Banks’ New Single A Valentine’s Day Treat

Today belongs to the love songs.  And with his debut single “Some People,” Nate Banks has made his play to make his way onto your playlist.

Nate Banks, a Vanderbilt junior, released his debut single "Some People" today.

Nate Banks, a Vanderbilt junior, released his debut single “Some People” today.

The junior from Fairfax, VA has been involved in the Vanderbilt music scene since a brief stint with the Melodores as a freshman, but this is his first foray into the world of solo artistry.  And “Some People” makes a strong statement about his potential.  The song is driven by a playful, carefree ukulele riff that causes your mind and muscles to relax upon first hearing it.  Banks’ smooth, youthful voice beckons to you over the jaunty beat, entreating you to forget worldly troubles and stay by his side, where you’ll inevitably find the most comfort.  It’s the perfect message for a song being released on Valentine’s Day, particularly if you have a significant other in whose love you can lose your worries until you fall asleep.  And if you are celebrating Singles’ Awareness Day instead, perhaps “Some People” will remind you not to fret, and that as long as you have friends to keep you company, you too can find a way to release the worldly troubles that might be bothering you.  Check out the song on Nate’s website, or just listen via Spotify right here!

I had a chance to talk to Nate about the release of his single and his place within the Vanderbilt music scene.  Read on for the full interview:

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Emily Hackett Moving On Up

With as much attention as Nashville’s burgeoning indie rock scene gets on the local level, sometimes you can forget that this city was built on country music. So it can seem surprising when a young up-and-coming singer/songwriter catches your ear with an honest country sound and sincere lyricism. But Emily Hackett is no stranger to surprises.

“It was totally an accident that I ended up in Nashville,” says the Georgia-bred Belmont graduate. She discovered Music City on a typical college visit, and decided she wanted to devote her university years to songwriting and learning her way around the Nashville music landscape.

Emily Hackett has risen on the strength of her single, "Take My Hand (The Wedding Song)."

Emily Hackett has risen on the strength of her single, “Take My Hand (The Wedding Song).”

The decision has paid off, as Hackett has made some serious strides forward since her graduation in 2012. She won the 2014 Belk Southern Music Showcase in the country-pop genre, her single “Take My Hand (The Wedding Song)” has gained widespread popularity, and she recently played the legendary New York club The Bitter End, an experience she found particularly meaningful.

“My dad found a photo of Joni Mitchell playing there in the 1960s, and it was really cool feeling that company,” Hackett told me. Mitchell is one of her chief songwriting influences, as are many of the great acts of what she calls the “good-music generation”—the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, the Rolling Stones, etc. In fact, it wasn’t until she moved south from Cleveland that she discovered country music through her new friends. In time, these musical forbears manifested themselves in Hackett’s songwriting, which she describes as “front-porch lovin’, southern little bit of truckin’, tell it like it is.” Given the realism to be found in the lyrics of both country and the great singer-songwriters of the 1960s, it seems fitting that Hackett’s writing is driven towards truth-telling and firmly grounded in concrete, real-world stories. She also isn’t afraid to put herself down in her songs—in fact, doing so is an outlet not only for her own emotions, but also for those of her listeners.

“My songs are a little self-deprecating, but that’s what people connect with, because they have that in their heart but don’t want to say it,” she says. And so she expresses the feelings that her audience cannot or will not find the words to display.

“Take My Hand,” though, is certainly not as vulnerable as Hackett’s typical material. Written for the wedding of one of Hackett’s friends, this emotionally raw track is filled with the pure bliss of finding one’s life partner, and with the joyful optimism that permeates the walk down the aisle. Making it accessible to all listeners is the fact that it is a duet between Hackett and Will Anderson, the lead singer for Parachute and one of Hackett’s good friends.

“He’s helping not only in terms of gaining fans because of who he is,” says Hackett, “but he’s also in the pop world, which I’ll write in but don’t necessarily see myself as an artist in.” Anderson’s presence may be helping the song gain a foothold of popularity, but the song is well written in its own right and speaks extraordinarily well to the sense of adventure newlyweds feel on the altar. Its heavy use at weddings has inspired Hackett to put together a music video comprised of snippets of wedding videos sent in by fans.

What’s next for Hackett, then? “The rest of this year is going to be hibernation and a lot of writing,” she quips. Following this extended period, out of which she hopes to create enough material for a full-length album, she looks forward to kicking off a tour, with potential destinations including American universities and a month-long stint in Ireland, where she feels at home with the energetic folk vibe expressed in the local music. Whatever the following months bring for Emily Hackett, though, they’re sure to be full of surprises.

Vinyl Thief: A VU Backstage Special

I got a chance to sit down with Vinyl Thief on Wednesday, November 5th in the WRVU studio.

I got a chance to sit down with Vinyl Thief on Wednesday, November 5th in the WRVU studio.

As you know if you’re a fan of WRVU, I am not the only provider of quality in-studio interviews and performances.  We have a wonderful events coordinator whose job it is to contact bands and convince them to spend some time in our little studio in the basement of Sarratt, verbally gamboling with one of our DJs and hopefully playing some songs.  Although I usually don’t volunteer for these opportunities–keeping The VU Backstage running is a lot of work in its own right–occasionally I’ll see a band on the schedule that I really dig, and I’ll clear out my schedule to make time for a special interview.  And for Vinyl Thief, a rising local indie synth-pop-rock foursome, I was willing to make the time.

Vinyl Thief is cut from the cloth of New Nashville–there’s no country to be found in any of their songs.  They make liberal use of electronic sounds, and singer Grayson Proctor’s silky tenor soars above the atmospheric tsunami of the music.  Their album Fathoms has garnered them praise in the blogging community, and a few months ago they shared the stage with Walk the Moon and Self at Lightning 100’s Blocktoberfest.  Suffice it to say this young band is on its way up.

As you can see, we made the most out of the WRVU studio's space.

As you can see, we made the most out of the WRVU studio’s space.

The interview itself was a blast; I was elated to learn afterwards that Vinyl Thief had as much fun as I did.  And the music is obviously fantastic.  You’ll get to hear the band make use of a melodica (basically a mouth organ with a hookah-like hose) and iPad drum effects, creative methods of adapting to the limited space of the broadcast studio.  Check out the full interview and performance below, and be sure to follow The VU Backstage on Facebook and Twitter!



Kid Freud: A Rising Vandy Band

Kid Freud, formed five months ago, is poised for a successful 2014-2015 campaign.

Kid Freud, formed five months ago, is poised for a successful 2014-2015 campaign.

It’s rare that you find a prodigious band coming out of Vanderbilt.  Vampire Weekend met at Columbia and Tom Schulz met his Boston bandmates at MIT, but here the music scene centers around singer-songwriters—Belmont produces the bands, they say.

With Kid Freud, though, Vanderbilt may have these rock titans’ future equals on its hands.

Despite forming only four months ago, the three-piece outfit is taking its place at the head of the burgeoning music community on West End, regularly packing venues like The End and fresh off earning the opportunity to open Rites of Spring after winning the festival’s Battle of the Bands.

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Rap for a Reason: A Conversation with Shadower

Shadower is a Nashville-based rapper who released his single "Bully Me" last Tuesday.  All proceeds from the single will go to charity.

Shadower is a Nashville-based hip-hop artist who released his single “Bully Me” last Tuesday. All proceeds from the single will go to charity.

It’s safe to say that regardless of whether or not you think Kendrick Lamar got robbed at the Grammys, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis accounted for a significant shift in the scope of issues dealt with in mainstream rap music.  Into a culture dominated by the elegant hedonism of Kanye West and Jay-Z was infused a dose of reality–“fifty dollars for a t-shirt” (or, as famously offered by Yeezy, $120) is beyond the fiscal considerations of most Americans and shouldn’t be a standard to which ordinary folks are held.  The challenges that The Heist issued to the industry’s status quo opened up lines of dialogue that had been confined to the independent outskirts for much of the past decade, particularly regarding the materialistic, misogynistic, and heteronormative culture that has dominated mainstream rap.

In this rapidly changing paradigm, any social issue can be captured and crystallized into a song with the potential to move millions of affected listeners and inspire the unaffected to take corrective action.  With his new single “Bully Me,” Nashville hip-hop artist Shadower attempts to take the serious issue of childhood and adolescent bullying and preach empathy as the cure.

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