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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Off to the beach

Well guys, I'm headed to the beach for a few days of R&R with my best girlfriends (pictured above). We're making the trip in honor of bride-to-be Carie Cotter (far left), who will say "I do" to Travis Hart in December.

Good stories to come on Monday.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Paisley a good pick for CenturyTel

I'm a little hesitant to mention ticket sales considering the recent Hannah Montana fiasco, but CenturyTel has another major concert coming up and tickets will go on sale Saturday.

Country star Brad Paisley will stop by the Bossier City venue Nov. 1 with special guests Rodney Atkins and Taylor Swift. I'm not a country music listener, but this concert should be well received with local audiences. Paisley is one of the hottest artists in country music right now and Taylor Swift has been a fast riser this year.

The only Brad Paisley song I'm really familiar with says something about loving a woman but loving to fish more. Probably not the best way to earn female fans, Brad. But after making a comment about this to a Paisley fans, I was soon set straight about the fishing song. Actually, Paisley is quite the gifted guitarist, backed up by local legend James Burton. And while I'd dread being stuck with a man who'd rather go fishing, I can appreciate what my friend was saying.
CenturyTel sticks with what it knows: Country and children's concerts are sure to sell in this market. Now, I've accepted the fact that I'll never see the White Stripes at CTC, but I'd like to see a broader variety in shows.
Events like Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group added diversity to the arena's offerings last year and hopefully we'll see more of that in the future. Let's just hope we can get tickets.

Monday, September 17, 2007

High in the sky

I didn't tell many people when I signed up to go on a hot air balloon ride last Friday. I'm not one for adventure. So if anyone expressed hesitation about me taking the flight, I would have been more likely to chicken out.

Sunday when I was having my weekly lunch with the grandparents, I told them that I'd actually gone up in a hot air balloon and my grandmother's jaw nearly dropped.

"Oh I can just see you as a kid looking at that thing and saying, 'I'm not doing that.'"

Facing the fear was one of the best experiences of my life. Climbing into the balloon may have been one of the most difficult things to convince myself to do. But I managed to put one foot in front of the other, and I was air born before I could change my mind.

The sights were breathtaking, and I thought it only fair to share some of the beautiful pictures I took that morning.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Interviewing Pete Yorn

As you all know, I'm the music person here at The Times. I write about local artists trying to make it, touring artists passing through town and everything in between. Each week I talk to some pretty interesting people. Musicians can be an odd bunch. But very rarely do I get the chance to interview an artist whose music I love personally.

I talked to Martina McBride a few months ago. I admire her as a musician, and she was kind, warm and personable during our interview. But I don't rock out to Martina McBride when I'm in the car. My interview with Phil Collen, guitarist and vocalist for Def Leppard, also was interesting. When I brought up difficult topics, such as the death of his fellow band member, Collen's answers were sincere and heartfelt. I went to this concert, but Def Leppard still isn't one of my favorites.

Finally, after a year in this job, I got to talk to a musician I consider one of my favorites, Pete Yorn. It was hard not to seem like a super fan during the interview, although I did tell Yorn I liked his work.

The interview flowed. It was light and conversational because I'm more familiar with his music than most artists. It was like getting to sit down with a favorite musician and picking their brain. In 2006, Yorn released "Nightcrawler," the third album of his trilogy chronicling morning, day and night. Yorn said when he started the project in 2001 with "musicforthemorningafter" he had no idea it would develop that way.

Each album in the trilogy is a reflection of what music Yorn was into at the time. When working on "Nightcrawler," Yorn said he listened to a lot of David Bowie and Frank Sinatra, which you can actually hear on the album. He's a fascinating musician. Nothing Yorn records is by happenstance. He's thoughtful about they lyrics, music and order in which the tracks on his albums are composed.

So here are some excerpts from my interview with Yorn:

SN: "Nightcrawler" is the completion of your morning, day, night trilogy. Is there one of the three albums that is your favorite?

YORN: I love them all for different reasons. Looking back, there's really something about that first record that is very much like your first love. It was a magical time, and I have a soft spot for that and those songs. But I loved a lot of elements about the other records as well.

SN: You've said that "Nightcrawler" wasn't so much an album about the night, but for a later period in your life. How has your life changed since "musicforthemorningafter" debuted?

YORN: I've grown up a little bit, which is inevitable. It's a good thing. You kind of have a different view about how things play out. With all the traveling and relationships you have, you take that with you in forms of songwriting and the person you become. I feel I've evolved a lot in many ways as a person since then. I want to take that into the next piece of work that I do.

SN: You worked with several artists on this album like Dave Grohl and Natalie Maines. What would you say they contributed to "Nightcrawler?"

YORN: I always loved to hear Natalie sing. I love her voice so much. It's a real treat to be able to sing a song with her. She brought a beauty to that record that's very different and you haven't seen before on my other records. Dave brought the rock. I reached out to him and he came into the studio and just nailed it. He gave the album that punch that it needed.

SN: I hear you write each song completely before moving on to another song. How do you end up tying all those songs together to complete an album?

YORN: Sometimes I purposefully won't finish a song. I just let it simmer because there is a magic in the studio that you can't really predict. Uncertainty is to be celebrated. The magic that happens in the studio is part of the process that I really love.

SN: "Nightcrawler" starts off pretty soft and bare and builds as the album goes on. Why did you choose to start the album that way?

YORN: I'd worked up in my mind at that time that I wanted the album to start that way. "Vampyre" is one of my favorite songs, and it's not your typical upbeat way to start a record. But it just had a real atmosphere to it and sounded dark and creaky. It was a cinematic way to open the album.

SN: You recently wrapped an acoustic tour. What was that like for you as a performer?

YORN: It was a good challenge for me. I get nervous and it's hard not having a band out there to protect me. It was hard to make myself get out there after not performing publicly for a while. I forced myself to do it and it will do me good in the long run. The tour took some it's toll on me, and I wore myself out in the end. But I became a better performer and I'm more comfortable from all that.

SN: These albums are all tied together and have consumed your attention since 2001. What's next for you and does it feel like a clean slate?

YORN: The records are tied together so much in my life that I felt like a big change was coming and has come in a lot of ways. I've been forced to grow up and I feel like the next record is sort of a rebirth, a clean slate and an opportunity to move into the next phase of my life and my career.

Yorn will perform tonight at the Riverdome at Horseshoe Casino and Hotel at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Riverdome is giving city what it wants to hear

Since kicking off its summer concert series, Horseshoe hasn't stopped offering our area good entertainment. They've brought in a little something for everyone: Better Than Ezra, Blues Traveler, Beach Boys, Buddy Guy, Sister Hazel and Cowboy Mouth. Upcoming concerts include Pete Yorn, Lucinda Williams, Wynonna, Los Lonely Boys, Greg Allman and the Black Crowes.

The CenturyTel Center is supposed to be the premier entertainment venue in these parts, but the summer has been slow and the concerts have been kid focused. Horseshoe's Riverdome has continually updated its schedule to give the CenturyTel some stiff competition. Although it's a smaller venue, the concerts are more along the lines of what young people in this area want to see and hear.

Pete Yorn has been one of my favorite performers for years, but I never thought I would get to see him in Shreveport. In the past, there hasn't been a venue that would risk bringing in the artist because he doesn't get radio play here, and locals are less familiar with his music. But Horseshoe is taking that risk and in return our area is getting quality entertainment. If they keep it up, hopefully we can stop driving to Dallas, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Little Rock to hear the bands we love.
More on Pete Yorn tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Could it get any worse for Britney?

Weekly shots and a daily supply of allergy meds couldn't keep the ragweed from making me ill once again this year. I was out of the office yesterday to get a shot and some rest and today I'm back although somewhat lightheaded still. So, I apologize for a few days without words.

This weekend I spent in Baton Rouge and more importantly in Death Valley watching LSU demolish Virginia Tech. It was a perfect game with the perfect company, Michael Roberts and Jarrod Brown.
I returned Sunday afternoon, just in time to crash on the couch for MTV's Video Music Awards. It was the usual, unpredictable MTV generation antics. But even more interesting, it was the night Britney Spears tried to make her big comeback. If you've read any entertainment sites this week, or watched the performance for yourself, you understand why I say tried.

There are a few simple suggestions and thoughts I have on the topic:
  1. Usually a comeback takes some reinvention. For instance, when Christina Aguilera came out of her dirty, X-tina phase she won disgruntled fans over again with a more elegant, polished, softer look. Although, I'm happy Britney has proven she actually DOES know how to put on panties, the performance gave fans nothing more than the same old thing.

  2. If you stage a comeback using the same tired, familiar approach it has to be hands-down better than the first time you did it. Britney has made us gasp by dancing with a python around her neck. She's seduced us in nothing more than a nude-colored, rhinestone clad skin suit. She's even french kissed Madonna. The comeback performance only proved one thing: Britney's not what she used to be.

  3. If she really wanted to impress us maybe she should sing her songs instead of just mouthing them. Oh, it also helps when you know the words.

  4. Maybe Britney could earn more fans back by getting her personal life together and being a good mom to her two boys. I think that would be her greatest comeback of all.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Let's get physical

I've decided its time to incorporate some good habits into my life.

I tried this once before. At the beginning of the year, I forced myself into becoming a morning person. I woke up by 6:30 each morning, and I was cruising into the office by 8 a.m. each day. Two months later, I was back to the old me that sleeps in a little later. The person who walks directly to the coffee pot upon my feet hitting the floor. And the person who catches most of "Good Morning America" before leaving the house each day.

Yesterday, I started working out with a personal trainer. I've been in an on-again/off-again relationship with fitness for the past few years. A former boyfriend bought me the entire Yoga Booty Ballet DVD series, which I used a couple of times and got bored. I used to run at LSU Shreveport every night after work and that got boring in a week -- even with an iPod.

I'm hoping it will be difficult to get bored with someone there to encourage me and even more importantly, someone to call me if I don't show up.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Fans say Michael W. Smith lives out his message of faith

Last week I was working on a story to advance the Michael W. Smith concert at Summer Grove this Saturday. Several of the radio stations and the promoter were extremely helpful in putting me in touch with some of Smith's biggest fans locally.

After my story had been written and turned in I received this e-mail from Tim Sanderford, of West Monroe. I didn't get to include Sanderford in my story, but I thought his words were touching. Thanks to Mr. Sanderford for sharing this story.

A couple of years ago, a group of friends and I were having a late night meal at a restaurant in Layfayette. We'd put in a busy day traveling from school to school presenting a program to the students about the positive influence they could have on their classmates. I say we, I mainly tagged along, holding a boom microphone for interviews after the programs.

My new friend Craig began to share a story with us. It was 1999, and as a teenager he had just survived one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history. His sister Rachel had been the first one killed that April day, and Craig had seen two of his friends gunned down right beside him in the school library.

Still in shock from this unbelievable tragedy, Craig's family went home and tried their best to comfort each other. He remembers a numbness, not knowing how to deal with what he had just experienced. Then there was a knock at the door. Craig went to the door, hoping it wasn't another news reporter. The family had been inundated with calls and requests for interviews.

He opened the door and a man stuck out his hand. "I'm Michael W. Smith" he said, "And I'm here to help". These days, a lot of people know the name Craig Scott. He is one of the "Rachel's Challenge" speakers who crisscross this country spreading the message that one person can make a positive difference in the lives of many.

But that day in April 1999, he was just a teenager who needed help. Michael W. Smith didn't pick up a phone and call, and give someone a chance to tell him he wasn't needed. He got on a plane and went in person to where he knew the need was. I'll never forget this story. I'm sure Craig has told it a thousand times by now. I don't think he gets tired of it, either.