Tag Archives: the vu backstage

Julia Seales – “Taylor the Latte Boy”

The finals grind has us real busy at The VU Backstage–we don’t get paid enough for this–but we finally have video footage for you of Julia Seales’ performance!  Check out this awesome video by Tony of Julia playing “Taylor the Latte Boy,” originally by Kristin Chenowith.

 

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

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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!

Vanderbilt Needs To Embrace Music City

*Note: This piece originally appeared in the Vanderbilt Hustler on April 15, 2015.  It has been republished here so that all my work can be found in one place.

I was thrilled to see The Hustler put the spotlight on our student musicians in its feature “Making it in Music City.” As the former head of RVU Records and a WRVU DJ who has interviewed Vanderbilt’s musicians for the past three years, I know most of the people they highlighted and can’t think of any more deserving stories to be shared with the student body. From Two Friends’ meteoric rise in the EDM world to Nate Banks’ promising solo career and everyone in between, this campus is bursting with musical talent.

But you may not have known this if The Hustler hadn’t taken interest. Whether it’s our school’s self-centered culture of studying toward financial success, Blair’s focus on classical music or the presence of Belmont just down the street, some factor suppresses the vibrancy and visibility of a homegrown Vanderbilt popular music scene. And it’s a shame, because over my WRVU career I’ve met several talented artists whose musical aspirations have been limited by academic pressure and a lack of avenues to exposure.

To be fair, opportunities for aspiring musicians and music businesspeople have increased noticeably since I arrived here in 2011. The Business Careers in Entertainment Club provides wonderful connections and opportunities for interested students. Both RVU Records and Studio CRB allow musicians to record on the cheap, with the former offering audio engineering training as well. McGill Coffeehouse open mics are always jovial and at times feature spellbinding performances. Even VSG’s first-year CommonDores Leadership Council pleasantly surprised me by hosting an open mic in February, although in its naivete it alienated the performers from our campus culture by calling the event “Belmont.”

Nevertheless, despite these growing on-campus opportunities and mainstays such as Deanna Walker’s songwriting class, Vanderbilt students who hope to make it in the music industry must pursue their dreams on their own. The university’s alumni network and recruiting profile, so strong in areas like consulting and finance and engineering, are negligible in the business that gives this city its nickname. Many students drawn here by Nashville’s appeal find themselves trapped in the Vandy Bubble, unsupported by a campus culture that rewards individual drive and academic success above all.  Even as the Melodores have become national darlings and a cappella as a whole has flourished here, that growth has yet to translate into real investment in a college music scene by the Vanderbilt administration or student body. Instead of fostering a robust pipeline into Music City that would differentiate us from other top-20 schools and beautify our campus culture, our general reaction to musical ambition ranges from lukewarm appreciation to total apathy.

I’m aware that my reaction to this issue is probably stronger than most other students’, that my disappointment is likely not shared by everyone reading this and that most of you probably don’t have the time or desire to rectify the situation.  That’s why all I ask of you, the general student body, is to keep your ears open to the amazing musical talent we have here and try to attend at least one Vanderbilt student artist’s performance before you graduate. Unlike most of us, these classmates of ours will rely exclusively on peer support to make their living, so even liking their Facebook pages or sharing their songs online means more than you can imagine — and it takes almost no effort on your part.

To those of you who are moved by the paucity of a Vanderbilt music scene and want to do something about it, I have a couple of suggestions that would immediately increase visibility of and institutional support for popular musicians on campus.  The first of these is a campaign to build resources at the Career Center or Blair for those students who want to make or deal in music for a living. I’ve met Vanderbilt alumni in the industry, and I am astounded that the university hasn’t built them into a network to help its aspiring songwriters, artists and music business people. In a world where interpersonal connections dwarf academic success in importance, such a network would be a tremendous boon in helping students land that coveted internship at Sony Music or meet the producer who will turn their rough demo into a smash hit.

The second is to increase the number of musical opportunities on campus. Putting a few drum kits on Commons would be a great way to encourage first-years to form bands. In terms of performances, I don’t think it’s out of the question for VPB, Music Group and the BCEC to pool their resources to found a monthly Songwriters’ Night on campus, featuring some combination of professional and amateur musicians.  Certainly within the realm of possibility would be a weekly open mic at the Pub. A veteran Vanderbilt audio engineer once told me that John Mayer played there in the early 2000s (sadly I could not confirm it). Even if that isn’t true, how cool would it be if something like it happened in the future?

We can build a thriving music scene on this campus. The interest is there, as is the talent. All that’s missing is the cultural and institutional shift. If effective steps are taken to make it happen, Vanderbilt will have made it in Music City.

Lena Stone on The VU Backstage

I can still remember the first post I ever wrote for this website.  An audio recording of a novice interviewer and his talented guest, with a sentence describing the recording.  Simple, to the point, but also unimaginative.

Lena Stone came back with a new name and amazing music.  I think I've gotten better at interviewing, too.

Lena Stone came back with a new name and amazing music. I think I’ve gotten better at interviewing, too.

Two and a half years later, that same guest returned with a different name and a vastly improved song catalog.  And the hour she spent on the air, and the website where the recording of that hour will reside forever, seem like a completely different endeavor.  Lena Stone’s music and personality shone through the microphone and left me gaping in wonder at the strides she has taken.  I hope The VU Backstage’s progress has matched her growth.

Harry Chapin once sang, “All my life’s a circle.”  Never has that phrase felt truer to me than it did this past Sunday.  I’ll be handing off the reins of The VU Backstage to my successor, Jack Sentell, before the month is over.  It was only fitting for me to bring my stewardship of the Vanderbilt music scene’s voice to a close with Lena.  You can check out the full recording of the show below.

Be sure to follow The VU Backstage on Facebook and Twitter!

 

Alex Nicole on The VU Backstage

Alex Nicole and her guitarist Michael Meadows made for a dynamic interview last night.

Alex Nicole and her guitarist Michael Meadows made for a dynamic interview last night.

Callie McFee ought to be listed as the casting director of The VU Backstage.

Once again, Callie bailed us out after an eleventh-hour cancellation, and we ended up with Alex Nicole in the studio last night.  And Alex wowed us with her superb songwriting, beautiful voice, and positively bubbly demeanor.  If you met Alex on the street, you’d be best friends with her within two minutes–and then, after listening to her music, you’d be her new biggest fan.

Our conversation spanned everything from Breaking Bad to deep-dish pizza to Alex’s love for telling stories.  You can check out the full interview and performance below.

Be sure to follow The VU Backstage on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated on the Vanderbilt (and Belmont) music scenes!