Q&A with Halfway Producer Jonny Paterson on the Producer Life

Also published at my Huffington Post blog.

Jonny Paterson © Halfway Film LLC, 2015
Jonny Paterson © Halfway Film LLC, 2015

In chatting last week with Jonny Paterson, producer of Halfway, I found that he had so many interesting thoughts, I had to break up my post into several posts!

The first post addressed the movie itself. In this post, I chat with Jonny more about his own career and work. Still to come are Q&As with Ben Caird, writer/director of the film, and Quinton Aaron, star of Halfway.

Be sure to scroll to the end to find out where you can find Halfway online!

Thank you, Jonny, for being so generous with your time and thoughts!

Q: Can you give me a general overview of your background?

A: I studied at the University of Leeds to get a BA in English Literature and History (Joint Honors) and then went to Carnegie Mellon University to get a Master in Entertainment Industry Management. I worked at a talent agency called ICM briefly before moving on to Lionsgate Entertainment, then I got my job working for Paula Wagner. I assisted her for a year before setting up my own production company, JP International Productions in 2013. I also sit on the board of UK-based charity Football Aid where I have been a non-Executive director for the past five years. The charity was formed in 2001 and has a focus on raising funds to put towards finding a cure for Juvenile Type-1 diabetes. I myself am a Type-1 diabetic.

 Jonny and Quinton Aaron with local Montfort businesswoman Marva Becker © Halfway Film LLC, 2015
Jonny and Quinton Aaron with local Montfort businesswoman Marva Becker © Halfway Film LLC, 2015

Q: What first sparked your interest in films and the entertainment industry?

A: The truth is, coming from a wee country like Scotland, I never really thought having a career in “Hollywood” was realistically attainable. I’ve always been ambitious, but that career path still seemed a bit fantastical. However, as I was preparing to graduate during the recession in 2010, my job prospects were pretty bleak (as was the case for most graduates with liberal arts degrees at the time!). So I started looking further afield and came across a great program at Carnegie Mellon University, which would allow me to get a business degree at the same time as working in an internship capacity in Hollywood. The truth is, when I made it on to that program and subsequently moved to California after a year in Pittsburgh, I still didn’t know what my calling was going to be career-wise, but I was definitely excited to go on the ride and find out.

Q: What sparked your interest in being a producer?

A: Things started to take shape when I got a call from a friend of mine who was Paula Wagner’s assistant saying a position was opening up at her company and she’d like to put me forward for it. The opportunity to learn from someone like Paula was really huge for me, and her reputation as one of the top producers in the industry is renowned. I worked for Paula for a year and got to see what it really meant to be a producer, and a great producer at that. I started to learn that unlike the last couple of places I had worked, where every day kind of felt the same, the total opposite applied to working in production where every hour through up a new set of things to deal with. I loved that it kept me on my feet all the time, and decided thereafter that it was indeed my calling and have been 100% focused on making a success out of myself ever since.

Jonny Paterson © Halfway Film LLC, 2015
Jonny Paterson © Halfway Film LLC, 2015

Q: What does a producer do, more specifically than “everything”?

A: The reason that producers often give the answer “everything” is because it’s not actually that far from the truth! Or at the very least, they have a hand in every major decision that gets made from start to finish, so it always feels like “everything.” However, to put that in the context of Halfway and to offer some examples, my function on the project ranged from finding the source material and “optioning” it (basically getting the exclusive right to produce the material), to bringing Quinton on board as our star and as an executive producer, to drawing up the budget and raising the money, to working out the logistics of getting everyone from LA/Chicago/NYC/London to a small town called Montfort in Wisconsin (a nightmare task!), and then, during production, running the set and making sure everyone had what they needed to do their jobs properly, especially Ben, the [writer and] director, whose vision it was we were all ultimately trying to bring to fruition.

Now that we are in post-production, I have a whole slew of new job functions, but I think you get the point. Basically, I am the only producer on the film and thus I have to take on all the responsibility to make sure the boat sails as smoothly as possible.

Jonny with Halfway writer/director Ben Caird between scenes © Halfway Film LLC, 2015
Jonny with Halfway writer/director Ben Caird between scenes © Halfway Film LLC, 2015

Q: What do you love about producing? What do you not love as much?

A: As I intimated in a previous answer, there is a lot of energy to be mined from doing a job that is constantly evolving and presenting different working parameters on a daily basis. I love waking up in the morning with but a few things on my schedule, yet knowing that by 9 a.m. I’m going to have a backlog of things I need to get done before the day’s end. In a practical sense, in pre-production on Halfway I was very much learning on the job and taking things in my stride, but I can say fundamentally that no two days in a row were the same. Certainly there were successes and failures that overlapped with each other, but I was very much taking the bull by the horns and making things happen without having a blueprint as to how to achieve my goals. I was informed when getting in to production that “no two films are the same,” which is to say that each time I work on a film I will inevitably come up against challenges that will be fresh and unique to anything I’ve done before. I’m really energised by that, and it forces me to focus more and work harder each and every day.

Over the past two years, the other thing that has been a pillar of my success thus far has been my desire and ability to find new talents. On Halfway that would be Ben Caird, on my next project that is someone else and so on and so forth, and that’s incredibly exciting and something I love about producing.

As to what I don’t love so much, at the risk of contradicting myself, there is an uncertainty about where your next project or pay check is coming from that at a certain point isn’t going to be healthy for me. The film industry is notoriously slow moving and there is a great saying that those in my position will understand only too well, and that is that we are always “running so that we can walk.” That is to say, we have short bursts (a week here, a week there) which provide fireworks and incredible jolts of energy for a project that you’re involved with that is truly the most adrenalin-infused, exciting thing in the world. However, you get through that week and then things slow down and the realisation is that, yes, last week was awesome, but this week we need to stop and think, and then get on with the paperwork etc., and then eventually, weeks or months down the line, all the awesomeness of that one week will finally bear some fruits. Running to walk!

Jonny and crew on set © Halfway Film LLC, 2015
Jonny and crew on set © Halfway Film LLC, 2015

Q: What are your short- and long-term career goals?

A: Short term: Successfully guide Halfway through the remainder of the post-production process and towards a premier later this year/start of next year. Thereafter I have two projects in particular that I am focused on and would like to make, one, titled The Scavengers, that I’ll be making in Ireland, and the second is one I can’t divulge too much about at this stage, but would be a step up for me in terms of scope and commercial potential.

Long term: To build a company that affords a sustainable lifestyle for me and my family. That probably looks like one to two movies per year for the foreseeable future, and as I mentioned previously, I don’t have particularly strict designs on scope or genre of film. I’d like to continue to make movies that I’m passionate about, whether they cost $1 million or $100 million. A nice blend of the two would be nice.

Jonny and crew on set © Halfway Film LLC, 2015
Jonny and crew on set © Halfway Film LLC, 2015

Q: With software and modern technology, people making movies on their iPhones, for example, the world of film is opening up to almost everyone. Do you think that’s a good thing or bad thing, and why?

A: A good thing. Ever since Thomas Edison was credited with giving birth to the motion picture industry in the late nineteenth century, it has constantly been faced with challenges that generally fit in to one of three categories: creative, economical, or technological. From the invention of “talkies” in the 1920s with The Jazz Singer to the birth of using colour in films, invention of television, the multinational conglomerate takeover of film studios that still exists today with companies like Time Warner and News Corp ruling the roost over Warner Bros and Fox respectively, the birth and subsequent demise of DVDs — the list goes on. The important thing to know is that the film industry isn’t going anywhere, it is simply evolving in a manner that fits in line with an historical precedent.

I believe that in general it is a good thing that the process of content creation has become so easily accessible. I guarantee we will find an Academy Award-winning writer or director that started out making a short film that someone shot on their GoPro and that got 100,000,000 hits on YouTube (that number isn’t exaggerated!). The downside to this current evolution is that we’re yet to find a truly effective filter for finding the diamonds within the rough. There are a lot of cat videos that garner massive viewership, but that’s not necessarily something that translates in to a great proof-of-concept idea for a feature film.

Last week: Halfway: the movie

Coming next week: Q&A with Halfway writer/director Ben Caird.

Coming in two weeks: Q&A with Halfway star Quinton Aaron.

Find Halfway on Facebook and Twitter.

© Halfway Film LLC, 2015
© Halfway Film LLC, 2015

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Gothard Sisters’ New CD Inspired by “Love of Simple, Timeless, and Transcendent Things”

Also published at my Huffington Post blog.

Photo by Gabriel Bienczycki, Zebra Visual
Photo by Gabriel Bienczycki, Zebra Visual

The Gothard Sisters, three sisters who are “multi-instrumentalist Celtic-influenced folk musicians, songwriters, and performers from the Pacific Northwest, USA,” have a new CD out this week, Mountain Rose (released Tuesday, June 23, 2015). I asked Greta Gothard, the oldest of the three sisters (Willow is second and Solana is youngest), to chat with me briefly about the album and their musical life.

Q: Tell me about the new CD. What were your inspirations, is there a theme, and is there a story behind the cover art?

A: The new album is called Mountain Rose. It comes from a line in one of the lyrics, as well as the name of a waltz on the album, but to me the mountain rose is symbolic of our musical sound — the classical rose becoming a rugged little mountain rose — one who survives the elements and ends up with a grittier, more folky, earthy sound.

The album wasn’t intended to have a theme, but it did! There is a theme of hope, simplicity, patience (what does that mean again? They haven’t texted me back for 30 MINUTES!) and community. There is also this kind of subplot of little wild animals running through the album — there is a tune set called “Cat in a Bush,” which is lovingly dedicated to the neighborhood cat that keeps squashing our lavender bushes, as well as “The Bandit,” that Willow wrote about a raccoon. So that’s where the cover artwork came from — Rosalind the Raccoon, wearing a skirt made out of Nootka rose petals and dancing and playing the fiddle. It’s all very authentic, really; we have always come up with stories about little characters.

From the album’s dedication: “Mountain Rose was inspired by the love of simple, timeless, and transcendent things — patience, courage, community, the beauty and adventure of nature, and most of all the feeling of comfort in being with those you love as the sun sets on summer nights.”
From the album’s dedication: “Mountain Rose was inspired by the love of simple, timeless, and transcendent things — patience, courage, community, the beauty and adventure of nature, and most of all the feeling of comfort in being with those you love as the sun sets on summer nights.”

The album artwork was done by Molly Hashimoto, who is a local Seattle artist who is quite well known, and who teaches art at the North Cascades Institute and the Burke Museum, as well as many other places. The cover art is a wood cut block that was hand-carved and tinted by Molly just for the album and we are just so honored that she wanted to help create the art for this project!

Mountain Rose is our third album of original material as well as new arrangements of traditional Celtic and folk songs. In my opinion, it is our most traditional, yet also the most contemporary album that we have done so far. There are definitely older traditional songs on the album — “Auld Lang Syne” is one of my favorites, and we tried to put a new spin on the song, to do something that hasn’t been tried before. It ended up turning into an almost folk-rock finish from a traditional ballad. Doing something new with this classic material is really fun — we love doing that. There are also original songs on the album. Solana came up with the idea of writing a song about Grace O’Malley, but instead of telling the usual story about the infamous pirate queen and her adventures, this is a song about Grace when she was only nine years old. It’s based on a true story — when she was a little girl she used to sail with her father on his voyages, and once they were attacked by pirates and she saved her father and his crew during the fight. She was a girl with gumption!

There are also love songs — “I Courted A Sailor” is about a woman waiting for her fiancé to come home from an ocean voyage, and “The Boatman’s Call” is about a chance encounter that turns into a simple love story. And of course we always have to have a waltz on the album, so this time it is “Mountain Rose Waltz,” which is a lovely country dance. So many fun songs on this album!

Photo by Gabriel Bienczycki, Zebra Visual
Photo by Gabriel Bienczycki, Zebra Visual

Q: You guys have a really full tour schedule. About how many shows do you do a year?

A: Yes the tour schedule is really full this summer! I think last year we did about ninety shows total, but were away from home a lot longer than that. Someone did the math and found out that we spent a third of the year away from home.

Q: How many years have you been performing?

A: We’ve been performing together for almost ten years now — officially. But we always did little performances together when we were kids so it has probably actually been a lot longer than that!

Q: What do you love most about being musicians? Least?

A: Music is a universal language. It is what feelings sound like. It is cultural heritage and tradition easily shared in a current way. So I love being able to speak and communicate in that language — to literally be able to sit down with musicians from anywhere in the world and find something that you can play together and enjoy each others’ company without even having to speak.

What I like least about being a musician? Having to travel on airplanes with musical instruments and fear for their lives!

Q: I’ve seen evidence of how much you all work. Have you ever figured out about how many hours a day your work on average? 

A: That’s a great question! Our work takes many different forms. There are hours of online work — maintaining websites and social media, booking concerts and advertising concerts — then there are hours spent discussing new ideas and writing new music, which can either happen in a very short period of time (all in one day) or be something that you pick away at for months before it finally clicks. Then of course, there’s practicing each of our instruments and rehearsing things together as well!

Sometimes it can be hard to tell what time is “work” and what time is “time off,” so we try to be organized with our time as much as creative people can be. Usually we’ll be working through an entire normal workday, breakfast ’til dinnertime, and a lot of the time we work through the weekends as well. But one of the perks of the job is that we can also just decide to take an entire week or two off whenever we want. We try to keep it balanced!

Q: What are your short and long-term goals?

A: Short term goals would be to send Mountain Rose out into the world and to keep writing new music and songs. Mountain Rose is actually one of the first albums we’ve put out that has original lyrics on it, and we’ve gotten a  positive response so far, so we’re really excited about that idea! We’re hoping to write more songs and pick up ideas for good stories while on the road this summer.

As for long-term goals, we’re hoping to always do creative things together, no matter what they are! We love making and writing music together, and mostly hope to bring a little joy in some way to other people’s lives.

Find out more about The Gothard Sisters at their website, on Facebook, and on Twitter!


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At the Heart of It: Colleen Raney on Music and Connection

Also published at my Huffington Post blog

Ask almost any artist, and he or she will tell you the expression of art is about far more than the art form itself. Painting goes beyond canvas and oils. Dancing is not just about choreography. Acting is more than memorizing and repeating lines. And for Colleen Raney, Irish singer, singing and music transcend sounds and lyrics and tunes, to serve a much greater purpose: connection.

“Live interaction with people, telling of stories, exchange of information, the ability to learn from the solidarity of shared experience as reflected in music,” these are what Colleen values about music, about art. “We have been conditioned by so much of our day-to-day life to fear any sort of emotional connection or investment, to avoid vulnerability, to surpass our own humanity. This struggle is where art lives.”

Photography by Della Chen
Photography by Della Chen

Though Colleen didn’t initially set out to be a musician, in the crisp vision of hindsight, her path seems inevitable.

Colleen, who now lives in Portland, Oregon, grew up in Seattle, where she spent her childhood Irish dancing and singing in church and school choirs. In Colleen’s family, music was simply a part of everyday family life. “Something to love. Something to feel connected to. Just a thing we did,” she says, “but never because it was our job. [My brother] Mark is a doctor, for example, and my sisters are teachers, and accountants, and real estate agents. I was in school studying engineering first and then moved over to theatre. I finished an MFA in acting in 2001 and still was just playing with Mark and with [the musical group] Magical Strings because it was a fun thing to do and not because it was my job. I taught high school for three years and moved to New York where I quickly found work as an actor and traveled and toured for a few years.”

Coastal Celtic Festival, 2010
Coastal Celtic Festival, 2010

Even with moving into theatre, music still didn’t take its hold on Colleen for a few more years. Colleen studied voice in high school, college, grad school, and then professionally in New York, but it wasn’t until the late 2000s that she picked up the guitar and bodhrán and started playing them again.

“I moved home from New York to deal with a family issue, and wasn’t really sure what I was going to do — stay or go back — when I ran into (musician) Hanz Araki at a party. We decided to make an album then (2008) and recorded Linnet, my first of four albums, that autumn. That’s when Irish music became a career in addition to a personal interest.”

In Dublin, 2013
In Dublin, 2013 / Photography by Orla McGann

What inspires Colleen these days? “At the moment, the thing that is most inspiring, musically and otherwise, is authenticity. By that I don’t mean pedigree, or immersion, or legitimacy. I mean the sense that you get from a person, piece of music, painting, meal, conversation, that there is something present there that is real, and gritty, and substantial. The quiet center of things is where I find most of my interest and inspiration. I seek the heart of matters, of people, of songs, of melodies.”

To Colleen, music and art offer a way for us to move beyond the masks and walls we all live with, even if only for a short time, and truly connect. “The veil that comes down when a show starts is fear. I don’t mean stage fright (that doesn’t ever go away). I mean the fear of vulnerability that many of us put on every morning as we begin our day. It gets checked at the door when people come in because we all agree to suspend reality for a tiny bit and live in a world where saying exactly how you feel about something or expressing a big emotion or thought doesn’t create awkward responses and emotional distance.”

Photography by Della Chen
Photography by Della Chen

Connecting without those barriers is vulnerable, but yet, says Colleen, “We want to experience it, either from a performer’s perspective, or from an audience experience. We want to be moved, to be changed, to emerge somehow subtly, but significantly different. We want to feel something. We want to feel like feeling something is okay. And we place our trust and our hope and expectation on the artist to provide that opportunity for us — the place where we get to not feel lost for a little while because someone has this under control. That is a deep responsibility and an incredible honor.”

“I think we all feel a little lost. Not everybody all the time, but everybody feels lost at one point or another in their lives. Some folks more often than others. We see these brightly packaged options for when we feel lost. Midlife crisis. Fancy vacation. Career change. Dramatic appearance change. Entire industries exist because we come face to face with our fragility at some point in our lives. Because feeling lost is hard. It’s made up of feeling vulnerable and scared and alone and we doubt and we feel foolish and we don’t know where to turn.”

Photography by Della Chen
Photography by Della Chen

As for her chosen genre, Colleen believes there’s something about folk music that has a lasting appeal to people, a staying power, a core truth and appeal that survive trends and time. “Folk music traditions carry these stories, lessons, emotions, reflections, fantasies, and possible solutions in them as well. Generations of people have experienced a thing enough to preserve a song from some time in the 14th century — that can be pretty reassuring in a lot of ways.”

The folk arts — music, gardening, canning, knitting, old time gatherings, swing dance communities, etc. — are popular, she believes, because, “I think it’s the way back to self…. It makes us feel a little less lost and a little more connected to a history of things that got us here in the first place.”

Photography by Kimi Kolba
Photography by Kimi Kolba

What does Colleen want from her career, from life? “To be a part of something that has value, integrity, elegance, depth, and respect. If I am to be recognized at all, I’d like it to be as a contributor rather than a maverick. Why does a person perform rather than just stay home and play the music for the love of the music? The answer isn’t that I think I have any particular value over anyone else. It’s maybe that my contribution is as a conduit. For the history, for the legacy, for the simple and inherent beauty of traditional song. When I perform, these days, the thing that feels joyful is similar to the feeling a person gets when he or she opens up a very old book. Touching something far bigger, that has been here for a lot longer than I have. The gossamer thread that binds one generation to another. To know that these words and these notes were sung a hundred years ago by someone else sitting on a different continent for different reasons. It’s like having Alice’s looking glass in a lot of ways.”

Colleen is currently touring the Pacific Northwest with appearances in the Northeast and California through the summer and autumn. For booking information contact info@littlesearecords.com.

Find Colleen at her website, and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Photography by Jilly Lancaster
Photography by Jilly Lancaster

 


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Damian McGinty Knocks It Out of the Park with Stunning Performance of National Anthem

Also posted at my Huffington Post blog.

He may be from Northern Ireland, but Damian McGinty (Glee, Celtic Thunder) knocked it out of the park (pun intended) the first time he performed the U.S. national anthem, before an audience of 30,000!

Photo credit: Damian McGinty
Photo credit: Damian McGinty

Damian sang the anthem at the May 19 Kansas City Royals vs. Cincinnati Reds game, showcasing his beautiful, rich voice and great range.

After hearing Damian’s stunning performance, fans were imploring their own local teams to bring the singer to perform the national anthem at games in their own cities. NFL, MLB, MLS (especially teams in my own city — Seahawks, Mariners, Sounders), are you listening?

Damian can be found at his website, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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Meet Kendall Custer: New on the Pop Scene With a Gracefully Bold Sound

Also posted at my Huffington Post Blog.

Kendall Custer’s first single, “Not Gonna Fall,” and the accompanying music video were released May 22.

The fact is, every moment we’re in is the product of all the moments we’ve lived. That’s just how it works.

Still, some moments, some days, are bigger than others. Some moments, some days, poignantly, magically distill a lifetime of experiences and hopes, of hard work and big dreams.

For Kendall Custer, May 22 — 5/22 — is one of those days.

This is the day of her first release of “anything, ever!,” specifically her new single and music video, “Not Gonna Fall,” from her upcoming album, 522.

“It’s exciting because I have been the decision-maker in every step, and the timing feels absolutely right. I’ve learned to trust timing,” says Kendall.

The 22-year-old artist moved to LA about three years ago from a small town in Texas. “If you watched the Friday Night Lights series, I grew up in a town just like Dillon,” she says.

Within a few weeks of when Kendall moved to LA, Tracie Verlinde at BMI set her up on a “co-write” with her now-producer, Shevy Smith. “[Our rapport] was instant,” says Kendall. “It just worked creatively. She is my favorite writer. We started writing together a few times a week until we got some songs we felt good about. Once it was time to start production we were both pretty weary about venturing out because we felt so good about what we were making. So, we decided Shevy would try producing.”

Shevy Smith, Kendall Custer
Shevy Smith, Kendall Custer / © Kristina Wunsch: Instagram / website

“‘Not Gonna Fall’ was the first song we put into production,” Kendall continues. “It became exactly the sound I wanted. At this point we knew each other so well and she had become family, that there was kind of no way it wouldn’t be my dream sound. We wrote every song, recorded everything and spent many nights sitting on her kitchen counter dreaming up the future. For the past three years we hibernated in [Topanga] Canyon developing the sound.”

Shevy felt the connection, as well. “Kendall and I definitely resonate deeply and run the same speed in the same direction most times. It is fantastic to create tunes with our minds being so aligned. The process is easy, even when it’s laborious. We both have a lot of fight in us to want to make something great, and are willing to be bold in trying to find sounds and phrases that have sonic and emotional weight. Plus, we just chill as buds together a lot, too. She’s the best hang and an honest, solid human being. She’s the genuine article.”

Liana Liberato, Kendall Custer
Liana Liberato, Kendall Custer / © Kristina Wunsch: Instagram / website

Liana Liberato, actress (The Best of Me, If I Stay) and one of Kendall’s best friends, directed the music video. “Liana has somehow made her way into a lyric in basically all of my songs,” says Kendall.

“Creatively, we had the idea of what we wanted to do for the music video done a year ago. We actually tried to make it happen then, but it was clear the timing wasn’t right. It was like the harder I worked to make it happen, the further the project felt away. I ended up calling it off. Then earlier this year I was in New York for some meetings, and was sitting in the meetings and knew I needed to try again. The second I realized that, everything fell into place.”

The intense support and excitement Kendall’s friends feel in being a part of this moment with her is palpable. Liana vividly recalls the moment Kendall first shared her music with their tight-knit group of friends. “For a solid six months Kendall would always disappear to Topanga Canyon to work with [Shevy] on some of her music,” says Liana.

The making of a music video
The making of a music video / © Kristina Wunsch: Instagram / website

“There was a specific night where a small group of friends were hanging out at my house and Kendall asked if she could play us the track she and Shevy had been working on,” Liana continues. “I plugged her phone into my speakers and out comes ‘Not Gonna Fall’…. I just looked over at her and said, ‘I will do anything to be a part of this journey with you. I’ll do craft service at the video shoot if that’s what you need.’ It was that night she asked me to direct her first music video. That was about two years ago.

“I wanted to help Kendall achieve a dream.”

The video concept was inspired by the relationship of one of Kendall’s friends. “She was seeing this guy who, after a few months, starting disappearing. Due to miscommunication, she thought the relationship was over — only to find out later that he had traveled to the Costa Rica and graffiti-ed a stencil of her and her dad on a wall there. He now takes that stencil everywhere he travels and spray-paints it on walls all over the world.”

Ryan Good, Kendall Custer, Liana Liberato, Hannah Marks
Ryan Good, Kendall Custer, Liana Liberato, Hannah Marks / © Kristina Wunsch: Instagram / website

The video represents miscommunication in relationships, says Kendall. “Both my character and [Ryan Good, the male lead]’s character in the video are stuck in the fear of falling for one another. Both of the characters have their walls up. The difference is, Ryan’s character is painting over these ‘walls’ with her.”

Says Liana, “The entire video was in the hands of myself, Kendall, our producer Julia Hodges, and our Director of Photography Casey Stolberg. We all met up twice a week, every week, for about two months developing the project. It was very easy to make the video because of this. We all had a clear vision and could trust each other to execute it properly. Because of all the prep before, everything Kendall and I wanted in the video actually made it in the final cut.”

Liana Liberato, Julia Hodges, Kendall Custer, Hannah Marks
Liana Liberato, Julia Hodges, Kendall Custer, Hannah Marks / © Kristina Wunsch: Instagram / website

The title of the album, 522, is inspired Kendall’s grandmother. “She instilled the qualities from the verse in Galatians 5:22 in my family and me,” says Kendall. (“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.“) “There was never one moment when I decided the album would be called 522. In the studio we kinda just started calling it that, and then over time it became the title. With ‘Not Gonna Fall’ being released on 5/22 (May 22nd), it became a cool double-promo thing.”

Kendall says there’s no set “theme” to her album: “I just write to write — but you can’t hide who you are and what you’re going through if you’re being honest in your work. So, there is this underlying theme of me growing and up and trying to do the right thing in situations. Each song, I go through this inner battle on if I’m being a good person by doing the right thing, being honest to who I am and the way I was raised.”

522 will be released on Forte Poesy this September. “Not Gonna Fall” can be purchased on iTunes.

Find Kendall at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

© Kristina Wunsch: Instagram / website
© Kristina Wunsch: Instagram / website

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Sephira release “Eternity,” dedicated to the late Larry Hagman

The duo’s new EP will be released April 9; available for pre-order now.

After completing 2012, with a star-turn as “Bond Girls” performing at the pre-premiere bash of the Bond movie, Skyfall, the string-driven vocal sensation Sephira have announced the release of their brand new EP, Eternity.  Dedicated to the late Larry Hagman, star of hit TV series Dallas, Eternity is a nod to the friendship they shared with the star, and his unwavering belief in their music that has been invaluable in their rise to stardom.

Sephira ETERNITY

Known to U.S. audiences from their many appearances on PBS, Sephira, the creation of siblings Joyce and Ruth O’Leary, have broken away from their classical influences and have become known for their self-described “fiery fusion of dueling violins and ethereal vocals.”  Their sensational live show has taken Sephira across the globe, performing both public and exclusive private events for elite audiences, most recently a performance in Monte Carlo for Prince Albert of Monaco.

Eternity, a five track EP, includes signature Sephira tracks “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen and “Misirlou” from Pulp Fiction. The opening track is a cutting edge re-working of “Danse Macabre” by Saints-Saens. Both “Palladio” by Karl Jenkins and “Danse Macabre” give the listener a glimpse into the powerful visuals of the new Sephira show. The limited-edition hard copy EP also has an original bonus track, “Miracle,” guaranteed to touch the hearts of millions all over the world. “The recording of Eternity has been such a journey for us, both personally and musically. I feel like we managed to capture the heart and soul of it in the music,” said Ruth. “We have also included a couple of Larry’s favorite tracks on the EP, one in particular that brings back amazing memories for us; one he made a special request for us to perform at his 80th birthday party,” said Joyce.

Sephira’s past performances include TV appearances with Michael Bublé, Andrea Bocelli, Kanye West and Enya, testament to their belief in throwing caution to the wind and disregarding musical boundaries. The personal strength and dynamic presence of Sephira are clear indicators of musicians who have fully arrived and are here to stay.

Eternity is available for digital download at iTunes on April 9, currently available for pre-order.  Eternity Limited Edition physical copy will be released on May 27, and is now available to pre-order from http://sephirastore.weebly.com.

Find Sephira online at www.sephira.ie, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Reverbnation.

Another Pam Stucky

I love the show “Fringe” (and can’t believe there are only a few episodes left!). One of the things I love about it is its exploration of the ideas of alternate realities and parallel universes – ideas that fascinate me.

For example, in my reality, my universe, there’s me, Pam Stucky. Since it’s my reality, I’m at the center of this universe (don’t worry, you’re at the center of yours, too). And of course, my world is filled with a cast of supporting characters. In my reality, this cast includes my late grandpa, Phillip Stucky, and my wonderful nephew, Dean, who shares my sister’s husband’s last name (as does my sister) but of course to me is a Stucky as much as he is his own last name.

As you may know if you’ve been following me, I’ve been working quite hard the last three years to get my name and my books out there. To help me track my success, I’ve generated Google Alerts on my name, “Pam Stucky,” so that anytime I get press – say, Oprah mentions me, or Ellen DeGeneres, or anyone else – I’ll get an alert and I can see what’s being said.

Not too long ago, I got just such an alert. I started reading the story and a chill crept through me. Some of the names were right, but the story was all wrong.

There was Pam Stucky, and there was a Phillip, and a Dean. But in this story, Pam Stucky was married to Dean Stucky, and together they had a son Phillip. Phillip’s age is measured in the number of years his father, Dean, has been gone. (Phillip even has a July birthday, like my grandpa and like so many in my family.) When Phillip was just a baby, Dean was killed by a drunk driver. And this other Pam Stucky has gone on to create a program, “The Gift,” aimed to help young drivers understand the dangers of drinking and driving.

Reading this story, with my name all over it, was a bizarre experience. It was both about me and not about me at the same time. I knew it wasn’t my life and yet I couldn’t help feeling connected to this other Pam, this other Phillip, and this other Dean, this tragedy that my life has somehow avoided. The story haunted me, and still haunts me whenever I get another alert about this other Pam Stucky from an alternate reality. A reality that, on any given night with any given drunk driver, could be anyone’s. Yours, mine.

I have worked hard to get my name out there, and I know that on occasion when someone searches for information about this other Pam Stucky, her story may get lost among all the references to me and my books. I wanted to write about her here in hopes of helping people who are looking for her, to find her.

The name “Pam Stucky” is a good name. To me it feels like a name of strength, courage, resilience, action, giving and caring. Perseverance. When I read that other Pam’s story, I can’t help but feel proud to share it.

Pam and Dean Stucky

Edited to add: a few searches today lead me to believe someone was trying to find that Pam Stucky, but I’m not sure they made it to this page. Therefore I want to add some keywords that might help people who are looking for her to find her here: MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Virginia, University of Virginia, Florida.

Don’t move! There’s something on your head!

I saw the headline today that Queen Elizabeth II had become a great-grandmother. And I thought to myself, “Is one of the grandkids married?? When did that happen??”

So I searched and quickly found that Peter Phillips, who I think must be Anne’s son (I used to know all this), married a woman named Autumn Kelly, back in 2008.

And then I saw the hats.

Now, granted, no one is ever going to accuse me of being a fashion model. And I fully believe people should wear whatever the hell they want to wear, and if people like me think they look like fools, then that’s our problem, not the problem of the people wearing the bold attire.

But still.

This is Autumn, mother of Lizzie’s first great-grandchild.

Regardless of … er, taste, wearing that would bug the s*** out of me. I’d be swatting at it all day, trying to get it off my face.

I thought that was bad enough. But then I saw this:

Continue reading Don’t move! There’s something on your head!

What I’d like to tell you …

Earlier today, someone I know expressed a wish that she could tell some people what she really thinks about them. My first thought was, “I hear you, sister!! Grrr! If I could just tell some people ….” Because I’ve been there. We’ve all been there, right? Wishing we could just speak our minds?

But because I’ve made a conscious choice to try to switch negative thoughts to positive, it then occurred to me: Chances are, most of us don’t tell people what we think of them, negative OR positive. Why is it that we (myself included) wish for the chance to tell people what idiots they are, but we rarely take advantage of the chance we have – at any time – to tell people how great they are?

The other day, feeling particularly warm about the world, I sent a message to someone in which I said “It makes me happy knowing you exist.” That person wrote back that my message was perfectly timed, and had brightened that person’s day. I felt mighty smug and pleased with myself for a minute. Then I thought, is there EVER a bad time to hear from someone that you matter to them, that they’re glad you’re in the world? I suppose in the case of romantic entanglements there could be bad times. But with general family, friends, people we care about, is there ever a bad time to say or hear “You make a positive difference in my life”? I don’t think there really is.

So today, I’ve committed to telling five people I care about, what they mean to me.

I’ll start here. To anyone and everyone who reads my blog, thank you. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to achieve my dreams, but I suspect this blog is somehow a part of it; a part I’m still figuring out. Thank you for being a part of my dream, for being interested (to whatever extent) in what I have to say, for believing in me and for wishing me well.

I think I have one regular blog follower, who I suspect has me on RSS feed (which I think is possible to do even though I don’t really have a clue how it works). That is Sarah Twilley. Sarah also has a dream: to be a singer. Actually – that’s not true; Sarah IS a singer, and a very good one. Sarah’s dream, I believe, is to make a living at it. I invite you to check her out: http://www.myspace.com/sarahtwilleymusic. Thank you, Sarah, for your loyalty! And I hope your dreams come true too.

If any of you feel compelled today to let people in your life know what they mean to you, please do. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture; just sincere. Report back here afterward. I’d love to hear how you felt, and how the people you told received your thoughts.

Because while we may often wish we could just say what we think about the people in our lives who frustrate us, the fact is, what we focus on increases. Take that energy and turn it to the positive. Far too rarely do we tell people that we love them, appreciate them, cherish them. Sometimes we miss out on the chance before it’s too late. Increase the positive in your life today by sharing your love. I guarantee it’ll make you feel good.

Have a fantastic Friday, everyone!