Tag Archives: The Beatles

Jax Talks Rock ‘n Roll


AMERICAN IDOL XIV: Jax, 18. Hometown: East Brunswick, NJ. CR: Miichael Becker FOX © 2015 FOX Broadcasting Co.
AMERICAN IDOL XIV: Jax, 18. Hometown: East Brunswick, NJ. CR: Miichael Becker FOX © 2015 FOX Broadcasting Co.

Interview With American Idol’s Jax

I recently sat down with Jax, this year’s third place finisher in American Idol. She was extremely popular with the fans, has developed a penchant for delivering memorable edgy performances, and leads a dedicated group of committed fans, The Jax Pack.

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The Jax I got to know in our one-on-one conversation is the same compelling person you see on television.  She’s a happy soul, who boasts an effervescent personality; and she absolutely drips with charisma.  Jax has “IT.”  She’s a performer destined for great things and a young woman with a tremendously bright future.

Jax comes across as a truly nice, caring and fun entertainer, and was a engaging throughout.  It’s hard to capture charisma in an interview, but I can assure you that this talented young performer exudes a ton of it and is destined for great things.

Don’t forget to check out our fun 6 PAck interview with Jax published last week: RARA’s Six-Pack with Jax

Cretin: More often than not, I see you characterized as a pop singer but there’s definite classic rock ‘n roll influences. We’ve seen you sing Beatles tunes and more recently Janice Joplin; so who are the classic rock influences who have inspired you the most?
Jax: As far as modern rock influences, I’m really into Pink and Paramore as female artists, and I’m really into punk. The Pretty Reckless are really good.
Cretin: They’re great.
Jax: Yeah, seriously great.  As far as my roots go, I’d have to say it goes back to Janice, Alanis Morissette, Joan Jett and Pat Benatar. I actually saw her twice and she was awesome.
Cretin: And Pat still sounds amazing today.
Jax: She is amazing and so is her husband (Neil Giraldo). Also, I’m really into Simon and Garfunkel; I saw Art Garfunkel live and it was awesome; it was killer. He was basically just sharing poetry and I love that kind of thing.  He’s a lyrical influence and I think that Billy Joel is a lyrical influence. I really love everything, The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Elvis… I have pretty eclectic tastes. Pretty crazy, anything from show tunes to hard core punk.

Cretin: That’s a beautiful thing. It helps give you a broad spectrum of influences you can pull from.  As a result, I think you bring a different voice and different approach when you cover a song.  So, “Piece of My Heart” is an amazing song but hard to sing – yet you nailed it and made it your own. What was the thought process with selecting that song?
Jax: I grew up on Janice and it was an easy choice. It was an easy go-to because I was so comfortable with that. I’ve been singing that song since I was little, like at Stone Pony with a garage band when I was eleven. That song is so special to me. I feel like I have the ghost of Janice Joplin inside of me when I sing it. All the drunk men in the bars when I was too young to be playing in the bars were calling me Baby Janice growing up.

Cretin: You sang that song as part of a duet with Steven Tyler.  Can you tell us about the kind of mentoring relationship you have developed with him?
Jax: He was really incredible to me this season. I never expected to work with Steven Tyler, and I was fan-girling so much when I first met Steven in Nashville.  My body was frozen, but when the music came on and we started jamming, everything was forgotten and we were rocking out together.  He has such a good energy and an amazing spirit and he really brings out the best in people. It never felt like work with Steven, it felt like we were hanging out, which was awesome. He’s really just a great person. Everybody who has met him doesn’t have one bad thing to say about him.  He’s a rock star.

Cretin: My favorite performance of yours was Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang” and I’m a generation ahead of you and I’m almost too old to know Nancy Sinatra.  I love what you did with it, and your voice is amazing, but how did you end up playing that?
Jax: I was always brainstorming about what I’d play if I made it that far and that one was always at the top of my lists, and I had heard so many versions.  There’s a Cher version, and a Lady Gaga version which I have on vinyl. (this explains why I hadn’t heard any of the new versions). I was going to sing it more towards the Lady Gaga direction. That was the first week I worked with a mentor and we decided to break into some of the left of center stuff and take a risk on the show, and decided to do what everyone told us not to do and to push it so far left.  I think we pulled it off, but it was a super big risk.  I was so scared.

Cretin: Really a brave move, but I think it paid off.  So, have you been doing any writing?
Jax: It’s funny, I wrote my entire life before American Idol, but during the taping I wrote like one verse. I had this little Yamaha keyboard with me, but it is so hard to write during the show because of the emotional stress, so many highs and lows.  But when I left the show, I began to write again.

Cretin: How would you characterize this stuff that’s pouring out of your brain these days?
Jax: I think my writing after the show might have matured a little bit, in a sense relationship wise;  relationships in general, in how I feel, and how I trust and don’t trust. The entire experience, I felt like I grew 12 years being on the show. I still feel I have so much to tell and I met so many incredible people.  There’s so much to write about still.

Cretin: You love performing, and you’re about to head out on a 37 city tour which is really cool for us because the first seven nights are here in Florida (See full tour listing below). This will be a bit different than the Idol routine where you’re playing for the judges every night.  Are you anticipating anything new heading out on a more traditional tour? Different city, different crowd every night…
Jax: Yeah, because I’ve been in touch with people all over the country throughout this season on social media (and she is one of the best performers I have ever seen as far as social interactions with her fans). I’ve gotten really close with the Jax Pack, my fans. It’s all kinds of weirdness, and it’s beautiful and it’s awesome. And, I’m really excited to meet them in person finally.  I remember after performing with Steven the finality of being eliminated. In any other circumstance, I would have been shaking, almost peeing my pants that I was singing with Steven Tyler.  But after not having that pressure, there was not one nerve that I felt on stage. It felt more like a party.

Cretin: I also grew up in Jersey, so I’m curious to learn what effect, if any, has growing up in NJ had on your musical style?
Jax: Well, we have Bruce and Bon Jovi and there are so many amazing people who grew up in the New Jersey area, and especially in New York.  New York City is like the center of all art, and music and entertainment.  I grew up in New York originally and moved to New Jersey

Just then, she noticed that a fan was stalking the outside of her house.  She handled it with a laugh, ducked behind a curtain and we carried on.

Jax: I grew up with a bunch of different types of music because my parents always had me listening to the most amazing stuff.  They introduced me to The Beatles and to everyone. Growing up in New York, I spent a lot of time in the City and the studio and that influenced me musically in a big way. And I hope to be in Nashville or LA at some point to experience those musical cities.

I wrapped up the interview with a quick rapid response segment, which we ran as a teaser last week.  You can check that out here, just do us a favor and Like our page while you visit: RARA’s Six-Pack with Jax.

Cretin: I really appreciate your time. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you a little better and I look forward to seeing you perform live.
Jax: Thank you so much, it was really nice talking to you.

I have to be honest and share that I came into the interview impressed with Jax the singer, but knowing precious little about Jax the person.  I am walking away thoroughly impressed with this grounded and talented young lady.  She’s a good person with a keen sense of humor and a bright future ahead of her.

Rock On!

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American Idol Live Tour Dates
7/7/15 Clearwater, FL Ruth Eckerd Hall
7/8/15 Sarasota, FL Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
7/9/15 Melbourne, FL King Center for the Performing Arts
7/11/15 Orlando, FL Hard Rock Live
7/12/15 Ft. Myers, FL Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall
7/14/15 Fort Lauderdale, FL Parker Playhouse
7/15/15 Jacksonville, FL Florida Theater
7/17/15 Nashville, TN Ryman Auditorium
7/18/15 Louisville, KY The Kentucky Center – Whitney Hall
7/19/15 Durham, NC Durham Performing Arts Center
7/21/15 Richmond, VA Carpenter Theater
7/22/15 Morristown, NJ Mayo Performing Arts Center
7/24/15 Chautauqua, NY Chautauqua Institution Amphitheatre
7/25/15 Bethlehem, PA Sands Bethlehem Event Center
7/28/15 Worcester, MA The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts
7/29/15 Hampton Beach, NH Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom
7/30/15 Portland, ME Maine State Pier
8/1/15 Atlantic City, NJ Caesars Atlantic City – Circus Maximus
8/2/15 Red Bank, NJ Count Basie Theatre
8/3/15 Providence, RI Veterans Memorial Auditorium
8/5/15 New York, NY Beacon Theatre
8/7/15 Detroit, MI MotorCity Casino Hotel
8/8/15 Chicago, IL Chicago Theatre
8/9/15 Indianapolis, IN Murat Theatre
8/10/15 St. Louis, MO Peabody Opera House
8/12/15 Grand Prairie, TX Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie
8/13/15 Houston, TX Bayou Music Center
8/14/15 San Antonio, TX Majestic Theatre
8/16/15 Mesa, AZ Mesa Arts Center
8/18/15 San Diego, CA Humphrey’s
8/20/15 Los Angeles, CA Orpheum Theatre
8/21/15 Reno, NV Silver Legacy Resort and Casino
8/22/15 Santa Rosa, CA Wells Fargo Center For The Arts
8/23/15 San Francisco, CA Warfield Theater
8/25/15 Seattle, WA McCaw Hall
8/27/15 Saratoga, CA The Mountain Winery
8/28/15 Riverside, CA Fox Performing Arts Center

Paul McCartney Amazes as he Kicks Off US Tour

Paul McCartney Out There Concert Review

Paul McCartney kicked off his U.S. Tour at the Amway Center last night, and the show was spectacular. He made his first visit to Orlando in thirty years a memorable one; a show that was amazing in every sense of the word.

  • 165 minutes of amazing hits.
  • 38 songs.
  • 25 Beatles songs.
  • A dozen priceless stories.
  • At least 5 Beatles songs never before played by McCartney in the US.
  • 2 encores.
  • 1 amazing genre defining show.

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I’ve been attending rock shows for many years, and have probably seen a thousand rock artists perform live.  I was too young to catch The Beatles and somehow never caught Sir Paul. Saturday night in Orlando, I realized what I’ve been missing all these years. Simply put, it is just one of those shows that needs to be in any rock and roll animal’s concert-going portfolio.

“Oh my, that man is 70 years-old”

Uncharted charisma, boundless energy, superb musical talent, a liberal sharing of his immense library of timeless hits and a voice that is still one for the ages; it’s a sure-fire recipe for success.

This is a show and a tour that any rock fan of any age needs to attend.  At seventy, there likely won’t be many more chances. And, regardless of the age, he puts on a performance absolutely better that almost any artist on the road today.

As an honest confession, I started the show as a reporter, but less than an hour into the spectacle, I had changed my perspective to “Screw it, I am going to just sit back (or stand up), enjoy this evening and soak it all in.” And damn sure, that’s exactly what I did.

Now, before I get into the details, here’s a spoiler alert: If you are going to see the show soon and want to be surprised, now might be a good time to stop reading.  The setlist is provided here if you’d like to check it out.

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Paul McCartney at Amway Center
Paul McCartney at Amway Center in Orlando

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Show Recap:

It didn’t take long to get the sold out Amway Center crowd on their feet. McCartney and his band mates took the stage to a rousing welcome and kicked into a smashing version of “Eight Days A Week,” a song Paul has rarely played, and not once since 1965! Not quite Beatlemania, but the crowd was instantly at near-fever pitch. He followed that with a powerful version of his Wings hit “Junior’s Farm” and the electricity never left the show.

The stage set-up was fitting for a rock show of this magnitude. Their was a large video screen behind the stage, flanked by two smaller ones for fans to the sides of the stage. However, the coolest video feature was a stage floor that was fully animated, adding an extra level of interactive entertainment to the experience.  The lighting was fantastic and the pyrotechnics excellent.

Throughout the evening McCartney showcased his broad musical talent. At various times, we saw him play an assortment of guitars, bass guitar, ukulele, piano and keyboards. Although the show is all about McCartney, he has again surrounded himself with a superbly talented band. Guitarist Rusty Anderson and the versatile Brian Ray traded off nice leads all night, while keyboard player Paul Wickens and Drummer Abe Laboriel were excellent, as well.  Most of the players have been touring with McCartney for years and they were extremely tight on stage.

McCartney dug deep into his robust catalog for a few other Beatles songs he had never played before in the United States.  We heard the American debuts for “Your Mother Should Know,” a rollicking version of “All Together Now” and a cool take on John Lennon’s masterful “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” He pulled out “Lovely Rita” during the first encore set and also played his seldom heard classic “Another Day.” Lots of unexpected treats for the fans from Florida.

During the bluesy Wings rocker “Let Me Roll It” we heard the now familiar tribute to fellow lefty Jimi Hendrix, and a nice long snippet of “Foxy Lady,” where McCartney nailed Jimi’s solo.  He again shared a nice story about how Hendrix opened his 1967 tour with a version of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” just two days after the album was released. It’s a story, like a few others this night, that we’ve heard before. But, Paul, a master story-teller is like that beloved uncle sharing the same old stories and still bringing a smile to your face every time. We heard some new tales, too, including a few humorous stories from his recent Brazilian tour and the virally famous grasshopper incident. As McCartney said, “just Google McCartney Grasshoppers” to see it.

An hour into the show, McCartney grabbed an acoustic guitar and moved to a small platform in front of the main stage, while the band took a short break.  As he played the Civil Rights-era anthem “Blackbird,”, the stage elevated about twenty feet. Before descending, he also offered up a poignant version of his John Lennon tribute “Here Today.”  There were some minor sound issues on the latter, but still a highlight moment.

He pulled out the ukulele for a cool re-imagined version of “Something,” sharing a story about jamming on duel ukuleles at George Harrison’s place. He then shared Frank Sinatra’s timeless quote that “Something” is “the greatest McCartney/Lennon song ever written!”  Great compliment, but as Paul noted,”George wrote it.”

Towards the end of the main set, we heard a few popular Wings’ songs. “Hi, Hi, Hi” was a fun surprise and another one not often played by McCartney, and was followed up by a killer version of “Band on the Run.” From there it was “Back in the USSR,” an electrifying “Let It Be” and the explosive “Live and Let ie.”  He closed the set with an extended sing-along version of “Hey Jude.”

Over the course of the two encores, he offered up eight more Beatles classics, including “Day Tripper,” “Get Back,” a tender solo version of “Yesterday” and a heavy, powerful rendition of “Helter Skelter,” where the video boards and stage were fantastically animated.

As we neared the three hour mark, it was the familiar closing medley of “Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End,” the fantastic culmination of “Abbey Road” and a fitting end to a magnificent night in Orlando.

Rock On!


Eric James of The Last Royals Visits RARA’s Farm

Featuring infectious melodies and riveting vocals, The Last Royal’s are riding high on the recent success of their addictive alt-rock hit “Crystal Vases” from their self-titled EP.  They’re currently in the studio putting the finishing touches on their eagerly anticipated debut album, tentatively titled Twistification.  Along with Mason Ingram, Eric James make up this dynamic new band. James, the lead singer and the creative power behind the songs on the EP, took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to chat with us.

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Cretin: I first heard you guys on Sirius XM’s AltNation, when they played “Crystal Vases.” How did you guys get that break? Were you targeting AltNation?

Eric James: We had signed with, Ooh La La Records, and their radio promoter was targeting college and FM specialty radio.  Regan, who’s a great DJ as well as the program director at AltNation heard the song and actually tracked me down personally through Facebook. He loved the music and just simply wanted to work it because he liked it. They just started playing it; it caught on and they got good feedback from listeners and that’s where we’re at.

Cretin: The characters in your songs seem real, and you can feel a real connection to them. Is there anything autobiographical in the lyrics?

Eric James: It’s all real; from living around Manhattan for the last four years. Crystal Vases specifically I had in mind an Upper East Side type of woman. Nothing in any of the songs was directly from a friend or acquaintance, but it’s all real characters.  I’m sure you kind find a match somewhere in this city of 4 million if you looked hard enough.  I love to weave story telling with my own sentiments in that Dylan style where he’s singing about the Jack of Hearts and all these characters and you’re wondering if he actually encountered these people.

Cretin: You mention Dylan and in other interviews you reference other acts from the 50’s to the present. It sounds like your musical background is pretty diverse, any piece of that background that has most influenced you?

Eric James: Everybody kind of grows up listening to what their parents listened to. My dad was a Beatles guy through and through. The musical pop elements were implanted in my brain as a young kid through the Beatles.  Lyrically speaking I feel it was Dylan who always explored the most territory.  He had that way of challenging people with hard concepts through whimsical lyrics (pauses) and also through whimsical melodies. Ultimately I feel that’s what my favorite bands do. It’s sort of the beauty of rock music. You can sing a very depressing line or very hard concept and put it with a beautiful major melody and somehow that juxtaposition is a beautiful thing.

Cretin: The way your band does that reminds me a bit of the Smiths from back in the 80’s.

Eric James: They were great at that.

Cretin: More recently, Foster The People’s “Pumped up Kicks” is kind of like that: a whimsical song with dark lyrics.

Eric James: I listened to that song for months before I realized what he was saying, and then I read the lyrics and couldn’t believe what I was reading.

Cretin: On the EP, all of the songs are very different.  Do you have a personal favorite, or any one style that you really enjoyed more than the other?

Eric James: I love the remix of Backseat, the Crayon mix. It’s real off the cuff.  It reminds me of the fact that one of the great qualities of being a musician is that you get to recreate these songs night after night. I have a bad habit of altering songs as we go along and the band learns them. Some of the label people don’t like that I keep doing that, but I can’t seem to stop.  The fact that made the EP was a big win for me.

Cretin: Are we going to hear any of these songs on the forthcoming album?

Eric James: We’ve re-cut “Come Take My Hand” and nobody has heard it yet as it’s still being mixed and we remixed “Backseat” in a whole new way. “Crystal Vases” will remain the same, as it seems to be working. And we’ll also have seven or eight new tracks. Almost everything is done, still working vocals and synths, but we’re getting there.

Cretin: Will we see this album before the end of the year?

Eric James: We’ll be done and in our hands in a few months, and then it’s up to the record company. It depends; the sooner the better for me.

Cretin: What’s the attraction to playing those older analog keyboards?

Eric James: It’s that those instruments are so volatile. We literally don’t know what it’s going to sound like day to day, because the circuits are constantly changing with the weather. It creates an excitement, a sense of newness. It’s a living art, and if we don’t capture the sound this hour it could change, or be a sound that does not inspire us.

Cretin: Being from Philly, have you ever heard the Hooters?

Eric James: I know Eric Bazillian a little bit. We were going to collaborate on something, but it never worked out.  I wrote a song with their keyboard player and I know the band, but I don’t know the music real well.

Cretin: They were famous for using a melodica.

Eric James: Yeah, that’s great stuff. We use an old thrift store air organ that’s out of tune. It’s actually what we used on the Backseat Lovers remix. It’s a 1970’s toy air organ that cost me about $20.

Cretin: OK, let’s wrap this up with some quick questions.  Do you smoke two packs a day?

Eric James:  (laughs) Absolutely not, I do not smoke.

Cretin: Favorite place in NYC to see live music?

Eric James: Rockwood Music Hall. It’s always free and for that reason you see a lot of musicians every night.

Cretin: You have a teepee as your EP Cover Art, as you were shooting for the TP-EP theme, did you ever consider a roll of toilet paper instead?

Eric James: (laughs) No, our hope would be that some crazy fan a few years from now would make a version like that.

Cretin: You guys have some great covers on your website: EMF, OMD and Prince. Is there one cover form a different artist that you really enjoy?

Eric James: I have some friends in a band called Lovedrug– they were doing a kick start campaign to raise some money to record a full-length. Someone who donated money asked them to cover a song from Willy Wonka a song called “Pure Imagination.” It was amazing, and I love the idea of throwing the wackiest song possible at a band and seeing what they can do with it. I was inspired. (It is cool and different. Check it out: Pure Imagination)

Cretin: When your album comes out you hit it big and you’re doing the festival circuit next year, who are you ready to share the stage with?

Eric James: We’ve talked about Arcade Fire sort of being the top of the game right now. Why not shoot for the top?

Cretin: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Eric James: I just want people to know that I’m thrilled that the music is getting out there and we feel very blessed to be staying alive and doing this music. We hope to become great songwriters someday and keep it coming.

To hear or purchase Last Royals music visit one of the following websites:

Check out my recent interview with Lovedrug’s Michael Shepard