Danny Baxley – Solo Artist Interview

Danny Baxley has released his latest EP “Love Sex Alcohol” on July 24. Today, Danny spoke with ETV about how music served as a means for escape, the themes of the EP, and advice for other musicians going through tough emotional times. Check out the title track here:

Growing up in Dallas, Danny always had an interest in music. At age 12, he picked up a guitar for the first time and three years later, found himself writing original songs. He was raised in a broken home filled with violence and abuse, and music served as a therapeutic release to get away from it all.

“I believe when I was young I sought after anything as a means for escape, unconsciously of course,” Danny said. “I couldn’t see it at the time because I was right in the middle of it, but my level of stress was slowly killing me internally. I felt lost, confused, scared, and always on edge without knowing of anyway to release the pent-up emotions and energy I had over the years under my family’s roof. Those feelings were what I first wrote about. Expressing my confusion and feeling distant from the outside world were major themes in my first endeavors with writing. Then, of course, the sappy love songs followed in high school from the various girls who I thought were ‘the one’ began to fill my early catalog.”

After college, Danny found himself turning away from music to do jobs that were unfulfilling, which eventually led to emotional and mental breakdown. Hitting rock bottom, Danny attempted suicide and was taken to a hospital.

“After my breakdown and suicide attempt, I landed in a hospital for quite some time,” Danny said. “The transition back to music was as organic as could be. It was as if I rediscovered my best friend whom I hadn’t seen it years and we hit it off like the old times and became inseparable again. Comically, when I began playing again after years of it being absent, I couldn’t remember even my own songs, let alone any covers with the exception of Weezer’s ‘Say It Ain’t So.’ So, I didn’t really have a choice but to fiddle around and put together new songs. I even wrote something while there, and performed it for all the other patients and staff at the hospital, my first time performing in years.”

After this experience, music returned to Danny and became a major part of his life again. He started writing songs with lyrics straight from the heart coming out. He was once again was on the path to living the life of a musician. When he got back into recording, he created and released his EP titled “Identity.”

“Love Sex Alcohol” is the follow up to “Identity” and it’s about self-expression. The EP was originally planned to be a full LP divided into the three portions of the EP title.

“Those themes are still present in the EP just not as prominent as they were,” Danny said. “‘Love Sex Alcohol’ can also be seen as ‘Good Mediocre Bad.’ I really wanted to express my feelings towards the greats in life, the tolerable, and the bad times, which have been constant themes in my life and I’m confident in most others as well.”

The EP was put together in Danny’s studio in his home. His arsenal of equipment included an iMac, two JBL monitors, Native Instruments Maschine, Maschine Jam, Komplete Kontrol Midi Keyboard, a Gibson Les Paul and an Orange MicroTerror amp all put together with Logic Pro X.

“Nearly every day I’m either working on something new, or attempting to complete a project I had already started on,” Danny said. “So, writing the music and lyrics didn’t pose any trouble for me. I read about Stephen King once that he spent X amount a time everyday writing, I’ve used the same strategy so new material is always being created in the Baxley household. When I’m not writing, I’m typically practicing.”

The resulting EP a collection of guitars and poetic lyrics with a darker side that explores different genres in new, creative ways. The EP features electronic glitch sounds and distorted vocals, and mixes heavy rock and dance together. Danny worked with the instruments he had and utilize them to create the songs he saw in his head.

“I didn’t want to fit into a singular box, nor did I want to follow the same model that’s been going on for years,” Danny said. “The EP is a work of trial and error. A journey in creating something new and that no one ever thought of doing before.”

Danny said he originally started as a singer-songwriter but couldn’t help wanting to do more with his sound. He wanted to keep pushing himself to make a new sound with endless possibilities without boundaries. This has led to “Love Sex Alcohol,” the culmination of creating his own sound that goes against common conventions to how most songwriters go about writing songs. The outcome will be appreciated by those looking for something that is experimental, unexpected, and coming from a place of healing.

As far as future the near future, Danny’s plans revolve around playing more shows and getting his name known.

“Playing live right and developing a presence onstage is my current goal,” Danny said. “I have a show booked at The Well in Brooklyn NY on the 30th of August that I’m excited for. I plan to release more music, build a bigger fanbase, and to ideally not piss off my wife for devoting so much time to the work involved in being a musician these days. I love her to death though, and she is very supportive.”

Danny has gone through a lot but his journey has led to him a position where he can use his experience to help others. He has this to say to others going through emotional times:

“You’ll hear ‘no’ a million times, get to use to it. Keep fighting through until you get the ‘yes’ you’re searching for.”

To stay up to date with all things relating to Danny Baxley, check him out on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, YouTube, iTunes, and his official site.

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Lola – Solo Artist Interview

St. Louis-native singer-songwriter Lola Toben has been releasing singles from her EP titled “Extended Play” once a month since May for everyone to enjoy. Today, Lola spoke with ETV about her earliest musical influences, the challenges with music she has had and what cities she would like to perform in the near future. Check out her song “Way to Your Heart” here:

Lola said she got into music at an early age and has a wide variety of musical influences that has inspired her writing style.

“I have loved music since I popped into this world,” Lola said. “My parents were both music lovers, so there was always music playing around the house. My earliest influences were Elton John, Billy Joel, Carole King, Joe Cocker and The Beatles. I would always sing along and make up dance routines. I feel like my writing style has a lot of that 70s vibe because of those early influences. I also adored Disney music, you know like Little Mermaid, Lion King, and Pocahontas.”

Lola’s latest project is an EP titled “Extended Play,” where she has been releasing a single at a time from it since May. She worked with Topher Mohr and Alex Elena, two Grammy-nominated producers in Los Angeles.

“They were fabulous,” Lola said. “The type of music is soul/pop/singer-songwriter. There are some retro vibes for sure. I think it is a great introduction to my music. The lyrical themes mostly revolve around love: looking for love, trying to hold onto love, forgiveness, breaking down walls in relationships, and overcoming obstacles.  My second single, ‘Feeling Fine,’ I wrote after graduating college. That one is more about transitioning into a new life, letting go of the past, and stepping out into the world as an individual.”

Lola said the most gratifying thing for her about music was performing and sharing music with people, saying that being on stage melts all her stress away.

“The hours of learning, preparing, and rehearsing become worth it when you get to move people and touch their souls,” Lola said. “I feel like music has a way of reaching the deeper side of people and connecting them in ways nothing else can.”

However, making music doesn’t come without its challenges. Lola said the hardest part about making music was keeping her head up in the face of other’s criticisms.

“Not EVERYONE is going to like your voice, your style, or your songs,” Lola said. “You can’t be making music to get approval. It has to be because you believe in it. Whenever I start doubting myself, I remember that it is not about ME, it’s about the music. I think I have a message to share: one that is healing and unifying.”

In addition to making music as a solo artist, Lola makes music with her husband Bryan Toben. They started their project Bryan and Lola in 2014 where they perform a combination of acoustic original music, classic rock, and modern covers. Lola said they have performed at many wineries, bars and private events in St. Louis and that their folk-rock is low-key.

In 2016, Lola pursued her career as a solo artist where Bryan works as manager, booking agent, guitarist, and backup singer for the project. Lola serves as front woman, songwriter, arranger, pianist and singer performing songs of original soul, pop and R&B. Depending on the venue, Lola will either perform as solo artist or with her husband depending on the venue.

As far as performing live, Lola has a show coming up at The Mint on Sept. 9 and plans to continue performing locally in Los Angeles. She also has plans to perhaps play shows along the west coast.

“I’d like to get up north and do some shows in San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland,” Lola said. “I also plan on doing another big St. Louis show sometime next year. We just put on a huge concert celebrating the release of my EP in St. Louis (my hometown) with a full 8-piece band. It was amazing!”

Lola will continue to make mark in L.A. as the intricate songwriter with a booming voice. She can only continue to rise and we look forward to hearing what’s next in store for her. Lola said she has written a lot of new songs since moving to L.A. and she wants to try them out in the studio. We can’t wait to hear them!

Stay up to date with Lola at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Soundcloud, iTunes and her official site.

Rachel Louise Taylor – Solo Artist Interview

Country singer-songwriter and guitarist Rachel Louise Taylor will release her full-length album “Sunflower” on Aug. 26. Today, Rachel spoke with ETV about her musical influences, the lyrical themes behind her upcoming album, and her plans to play more shows. Check out the track “I Got Mud” from the album here:

Rachel’s discovery and interest in music begins at a young age. At around age 7, Rachel would go on trips with her dad to see her uncle, who was a lead guitarist in a band in Wichita, Kansas, perform live. She remembers thinking about how cool it was to see her uncle perform, and soon after, Rachel asked her dad to get her into guitar lessons. She learned to play guitar in 2nd grade but it wasn’t until 4th grade that she started writing her own songs and soon after she began performing live.

Rachel’s influences early on include every girl’s favorite star, Taylor Swift, as well as a little bit from what her musical family listened to.

“I grew up listening mainly to Shania Twain,” Rachel said. “I nearly had her entire album ‘Come On Over’ memorized, listening to it over and over. I did grow up on a farm, but my dad listened to more oldies music back then. I feel that between Shania and Taylor Swift, that was enough inspiration to help me develop and discover my genre.”

At age 12, Rachel played at a coffee shop in Topeka with her guitar teacher, who invited her onstage to play a song with him. Rachel said she got nervous and froze when she was supposed to sing and play guitar at the time, but she only played guitar. The brightness of the stage lights and the whole experience would normally discourage an up-and-coming singer-songwriter, but Rachel continued her path to becoming a professional musician.

“I think the coffee shop showed me the worst that can happen – not being able to sing, and be frozen,” Rachel said. “Due to that happening to me early, I was able to convince myself that I didn’t want that to happen again. I was able to experience it and grow from that. My advice is to never give up. If performing or being in front of stage is what you want to do, never let go of that hope. One obstacle can be overcome to make way for so many other opportunities, if one takes the effort to do so.”

Rachel continued to perform on stage and soon businesses and organizations took notice of what she was capable of. She performed at the Texaco Country Showdown 2012 and Topeka First Friday Artwalks and was getting know, but the biggest surprise was when Rachel’s song “I Got Mud” was played on the radio.

“The radio host had e-mailed me, so I was listening to the radio, filming my friend on skype, as she was filming me through skype,” Rachel said. “I believe the video is still on YouTube, but I actually cried happy tears. I will never forget that ‘aha’ moment.”

Rachel’s latest album “Sunflower” is the culmination of her journey so far but it’s only the beginning of a whole new chapter. The writing for the album took about a year and a half with some songs taking longer than others to write. Rachel has become confident with her writing style and took the time she needed to make sure the songs were as perfect as they could be before releasing them. The album was recorded and co-produced in Wellington, Kansas, at the Green Jean Studios.

One of the songs on the album, “In Your 85,” was featured on national and international country radio and topped the Ullplay music chart in the U.K. for three consecutive months. Check out it out here:

“My main lyrical theme is not to take life for granted,” Rachel said. “Whether or not it’s being in love, it is just as important to take in the current moment before it passes by, as well as looking for the future. I heard a quote somewhere that says, ‘If you dwell on the future, you will lose out on living in the present.’ I truly believe in this, and I intend to live that way.”

In addition to making her latest album, Rachel also keeps busy by teaching guitar lessons since 2015. She said it was a lot of fun and has allowed her to re-learn some of things she learned back when she herself was younger.

“I decided to teach guitar lessons because I wanted to give back to younger artists just starting out,” Rachel said. “I want to potentially stand as a role model for younger girls who have goals in life, to look up to and know that anything is possible, and they can do anything they set their minds to. I have also given them multiple performance opportunities joining me on stage, where they are in the spotlight and are able to showcase their new learned talents.”

With her album complete and coming out this month, Rachel looks ahead to the future. She plans to continue performing and broadening her touring destinations.

“My plan is definitely to play more shows!” Rachel said. “Although I am in college, I plan on being more busy next summer with festivals, etc. I also hope to broaden my 3-hour radius circle to be able to travel farther and open more performance opportunities not only for me, but to connect and be able to meet with my fans.”

To stay up to date with Rachel be sure to check her out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Soundcloud, iTunes, and her official site.

Sydney Lauren – Solo Artist Interview

Sydney Lauren has recently released a new EP titled “Left in Motion,” a five-track record that covers both happy and sad songs. Sydney spoke with ETV today about the making of her EP, the meaning behind her songs and her plans for touring. Check out the track “Haunt Me” here:

Sydney grew up in a town called Harrison outside a New York City, a place that no doubt left an impression on her.

“I was definitely influenced by New York, living so close to the city gave me opportunities that opened my eyes to different music, art and experiences,” Sydney said. “It has an energy to it that will always influence me, I love it!”

Sydney wrote all the songs on “Left in Motion” in about five months, with another five months to fully complete the recordings. Sydney’s lyrics and melody found a home with co-writer Tad Kubler from the band The Hold Steady, who wrote and produced the music. The result is a collection of pop tracks and introspective ballads that showcase Sydney’s distinct vocals and hard-hitting lyrics.

“I’m so happy to finally have the music out after sitting with it for so long, now people can hear what I was working so hard on!” Sydney said.

The making of the EP was both challenging and liberating, as creativity and concentration became the focus during the recording sessions.

“I like the creativity that is constantly happening during recording,” Sydney said. “You have all the tools to test out new ideas which is always really fun. I found the hardest part to be the final vocals. It can be hard to fully emote when you’re singing in a silent room by yourself. We weren’t going to stop until they were the best they could be!”

One listen of the EP will evoke a multitude of emotions for any listener. “Haunt Me” is a song about leaving the past behind and not letting it linger on to haunt the present. The universal appeal is enough to hook new listeners, but it’s the deep meaning that goes beyond the surface that will keep them coming back for more. Sydney spills her heart out on this track and although she can write a happy song, she said the sad ones come out much stronger.

“I always like to make sure there is a big message or lesson learned in a song,” Sydney said. “It should make a point!”

A song on the EP that is more on the political side is “Save Us,” inspired by the 2016 Orlando shooting. See the video here:

The lyrics are in reaction to the terror that many felt after the incident occurred and how love and compassion will always outweigh hate. Her lyric “One shot to the masses / Builds stronger passion” demonstrates the real-life response of how people came together to comfort those in pain. The depth in Sydney’s lyrical approach is her greatest talent and we look forward to what’s in store for her next release. In the foreseeable future, Sydney plans on touring to share her songs to a greater audience around the world.

“I am hoping touring will occur in the next 12 months!” Sydney said. “I love performing and want to share these songs with people every day!”

To stay up to date with all things Sydney Lauren, be sure to check her out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud and her official site.

AJ Steel – Solo Artist Interview

Melbourne singer-songwriter AJ Steel is an upcoming talent from down under who is turning heads with his catchy tunes and pop rock style. Today, AJ spoke with ETV about his early influences, the making behind his latest single, and his writing style. Check out his single “Love You When It’s Bad” here:

Some of AJ’s influences growing up were Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, and classical music, even going so far as falling asleep while listening to the 1812 Overture back in the day after a morning in the waves. So, it’s no surprise that he would enjoy the likes of “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys. He’s also a fan of The Beatles, U2, and Bob Dylan, all artists who are known for their memorable and deep lyrics. Although he is a skilled performer today, he stated that he didn’t start getting into music as early as most musicians do.

“I was probably a bit of a late starter when it comes to music,” AJ said. “I used to play the piano by ear when I was about 10 or 11, then I got side-tracked into surfing. I lived on the coast and it was a real beach town.  Everyone seemed to surf there. So, I didn’t get serious about it until I was about 16.”

Since then, he has established himself as a prolific songwriter. His songs have been added to satellite radio with more than 3 million listeners, have been used in independent films out of Los Angeles, and have received national airplay on commercial radio in Australia along with numerous internet radio stations worldwide.

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Photo via https://www.ajsteelmusic.com

AJ’s music is a mix of the alternative rock sound mixed with the endearing qualities of a good pop song. “Love You When It’s Bad” is an introspective track tinged with hope hanging on each note of the piano ballad. The song soars high in the second half with a full band sound and lyrical inspiration about how much people are prepared to go through to chase after the one they love.

“The song probably took about four months to do,” AJ said. “I’d work on it then have to put it away and then come back to it. I just couldn’t nail down the story for that one. I kind of knew what I wanted to say but it took some time to reveal itself. Some of them come quickly and some of them just take time. There’s not much you can do about it, you just have to keep working on it if you believe the idea has integrity. The recording and production process took some time as well. I tried all sorts of instrumentation and arrangements until I found an arrangement that worked.”

Indeed, it worked, and the story does present itself naturally as the song develops. Like many songs, parts of the production were easy to work on while other parts were either challenging or difficult. One challenge was making a song that covered new ground while also retaining elements of what made his previous work stand out.

“I don’t like to go over what feels like old ground, but sometimes you have to if you want to bring a song to life,” AJ said. “Sometimes you just fight it, you shouldn’t, but sometimes you just do.”

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Photo via https://www.ajsteelmusic.com

His latest song is just one of many songs he has done before. As a solo artist, AJ has released an EP and four singles, and from his previous band, he has released an EP and an album. To create his songs, he mostly creates them in his studio but is open to collaborating more.

“Music is more fun when there’s other people in the process, but so far I’ve kind of locked myself away,” AJ said. “After going solo, I really wanted to find my sound, what I wanted to say as an artist and that took a lot of time to dig right down and find the real artist I wanted to be. So, I had to lock myself away to do that.”

Overall, AJ Steel is a name to lookout for. He is currently working on two brand new singles, with one of them due out this month and another in the writing stage. As time keeps ticking, AJ will keep writing, recording and releasing new songs that will touch the hearts of many. His next big hit is just around the corner, and we hope you’re there when it arrives.

To find out more about AJ Steel, be sure to check him out on Soundcloud, YouTube, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and his official site.