Category Archives: CMJ 2013

CMJ WRAP UP: Gettin’ “Down” With Sheppard

Someone's herd the word on Sheppard.

Someone’s herd the word on Sheppard. (L to R: Myself, lead vocalist George Sheppard, drummer Dean Gordon.)

It was Saturday afternoon at half past four and I was strolling down Clinton Street on my way up to East Houston. My formal shoes were digging into the back of my feet; I should’ve worn sneakers. A stream of cars passed to the left. The sweet smells of street corner cafés were in the air. A few more paces and a couple of crossways until the stoplight to change street directions.

“Pop goes the charts!” a cheerful voice bellowed behind me. I froze, then turned around to George in the front seat of a black mini van, hair sticking up in clumps, cracking a smile as mother Linda and band mate Dean watched on. I laughed. “You kids!” “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,” he replied. “It’s alright, I like a good scare. Halloween’s coming up, you scare people.” The three nodded. I finished with a “You all better have good costumes this year,” which gave them a chuckle. Linda pulled out a phone to snap a photo of me and I grinned, giving a thumbs up as egged on by George. “Have a good one!” one of them called out. “You too!” I said and waved them a fond farewell. After one more round of waves, their car crossed onto the opposite of the street as I took off down to Washington Square, walking through the park and reminiscing.

Does this read like the start of a bad fan fiction piece to you? I’d think so too, but it happened, even that guidance by the Little River Band. (No dancing in the dark, it was still light out.) Point is, if you end up at a music conference and you see any band that you like three times, that’s dedication, and perhaps reasonable grounds to call yourself a fan girl or a stan or whatever their loyal base call themselves. What would that be here? A “Shep Brother” or “Shep Sister”? It has a ring to it. Humor aside, the Australian sextet Sheppard rocked it at CMJ Music Marathon over the last few days, and it really was an honor to see them live and get to know them a bit before they flew off to England. They were electric on stage and down to earth off stage. I certainly wasn’t going in with the intention of being won over; they already did that for me months ago, but there’s always something about putting the full package together that makes you feel satisfied. So, the dream became reality.

You may ask, how did you get interested in them in the first place? Well, I refer you back to this post I did in April. Being the chart surfer that I am, I came across that week’s edition of the Australian airplay chart and noticed that a song called “Let Me Down Easy” debuted on the entire 100-position survey at #39. That’s a big entrance for anyone, especially for an independent act. I was under the impression that the song was a cover, specifically because of this single which charted in 2002 from Chris Isaak of the same title. Well, surprise! This was no remake. It was an original, and I dug it from the first listen, and then wrote the profile in the hopes that something could come of it Stateside in 2013. The band shared it on their social media profiles and I thought maybe, just maybe, something was in the works.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened so far. However, in Australia, “Easy” ended up peaking at #12 on the airplay chart (currently #94 in its 27th week) and the Sheppard EP, certified Platinum for shipments of 70,000 copies, went as high as #18 on the Singles chart in a 15 week run. (ARIA rules state that a single only available on an EP rather than as a stand-alone release enables the whole EP to enter.) It was an admirable success, especially for a release that had been out since August of the prior year, and one that secured them a nomination at the ARIA Awards for Best Independent Release. Meanwhile, “Easy” spent three weeks at #10 on my chart and 20 weeks on, and is holding up pretty well in the data I’ve crunched so far for my year-end survey. Followup “Hold My Tongue” is faring even better, now at #5 on my most recent chart thanks to CMJ.

It’s weird to think that one comment a month ago on one of my chart posts from May by George Sheppard, father of three of the band’s siblings, led to my first solo trip to New York City and everything that happened this week with the band. First, it was an intimate acoustic performance at the Klimat Lounge on Wednesday, a big mixer for the management group behind Sheppard and a couple of other bands like The Griswolds, Chugg Music. Then, it was a Planetary Party at Pianos on Friday afternoon, and lastly, an Australian BBQ over at The Delancey on Saturday afternoon. There were a lot of Australian accents going around and very few American ones, and I wasn’t about to start faking something out of “Crocodile” Dundee. That being said, they were quite warm and friendly and liked to have a good time. (There were a few characters in the bunch.)

As a live act, I can’t say enough about how good they were at all three venues. Lead singer George Sheppard (the son) is a ball of energy, and the six of them together bring the fun. Several songs to be included on their forthcoming studio album were highlights in all three shows, including the anthemic “Geronimo”, with an emphatic sing-along chorus of a “Say! Geronimo!” chant and “Bombs away!” as singers George and Amy Sheppard traded off harmonies and leads. I don’t know what the studio cut sounds like, but that screamed single material to me based off how involved the crowd seemed. Also, the faces drummer Dean Gordon was giving us were (a) like he was in pure ecstasy and (b) adorable. Also topping my list was stomper “Halfway To Hell”, in which the band went full-out tribal in last 45 seconds of the song, banging away to a thrilled crowd. They have an image: lots of flourescent colors and printed shirts, and how could I neglect to mention that they have shakers shaped like pineapples? Plus, their fan base continues to grow. When I initially did my article, the band’s Facebook page had a little under 2,500 likes that were generally from Australia; that total is now at over 13,000 and on a more global scale. I’m really, really proud of them for what they’ve accomplished in such a short time.

It’s hard to return back to normalcy after a week like that, but I’m certainly hoping that this isn’t the end for myself and the band. A part of me is always going to remember that sudden “Pop goes the charts!” creep up from a few car lengths behind and think back to a great time and how cool it was to be recognized like that. It meant a lot to me in the moment and now and gave me a reignited reason for what I do. They’ve done particularly well for themselves in their homeland and I wouldn’t be writing about and praising the six so much if I didn’t think there was a place for these guys in the U.S. music market. There is very much a spot waiting for them. As for how they’ll get there, well, I do have something in mind for how it can be done, a plan that would at least give the group a fair shot here. That, however, is something only to be discussed between myself and their management. You have to keep some things a secret, right? Amy, Dean, Emma, George, Jay and Michael, it was a pleasure to meet you, mates, and thank you to Andrew Stone for coordinating the events, though I didn’t get a chance to say hello. Come back soon; you’re welcome here any time.

Purchase Sheppard‘s music on U.S. iTunes: Sheppard EP or a digital single of “Hold My Tongue”.

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CMJ PREVIEW: Ten Acts On My List To See

Start spreading the news… yes, if you haven’t heard already, I’ll be attending my first CMJ Music Marathon this year in New York City. I’m very excited for the conference and can’t wait to see (and maybe even meet) some emerging artists and bands as well as some Adam’s Top 40 favorites. There’s a few of them in the mix! In the meantime, take a look at these ten acts I definitely want to check out before the week is over.

NOTE: A full list of panels and showcases is available on the CMJ website. Please be aware some times may change and that not all events have been updated, so be sure to check back for more updates.

On the Holiday Road to stardom.

Vacation, all we ever wanted.

BASIC VACATION

I wrote about this trio last week in anticipation for their performance at CMJ. Chris Greatti, Jon Paul and Mike Montalbano are signed to a relatively new label, Atom Factory Music, which will be working in conjunction with Capitol’s radio department to break their single, “I Believe”, at Alternative radio into early next year. A likely pop crossover should follow.

Performing at: Bowery Ballroom (Wednesday night)

Who's that girl.

Who’s that girl.

BETTY WHO

Remember this viral marriage proposal of a few weeks ago? Who’s pop anthem “Somebody Loves You” was featured in it, and 10 million views later, Who is the most recent signee of RCA Records, who rereleased her EP The Movement and put her on a small radio tour recently. The 22-year-old looks forward to releasing a full-length album next year under her new label.

Performing at: Pianos (Wednesday night) and Westway (Friday night)

The Birch is back.

The Birch is back.

DIANE BIRCH

I was a fan of Birch’s 2009 single “Nothing But A Miracle” and enjoyed the song’s parent album, Bible Belt. You might also remember her song “Valentino”, which was promoted in conjunction with the 2010 film Valentine’s Day. Fusing jazz and soul music, her album was a critical success, and she returns with Speak A Little Louder, her second release for S Curve Records.

Performing at: Gramercy Theater (Wednesday night)

Caught in the "Sun".

They’re Hall the rage around here.

GENTLEMEN HALL

I covered these Boston boys back in January as they released “Sail Into The Sun”. You may recognize it as the song featured in a Target campaign this past Spring and it picked up some airplay at Alternative radio. A handful of their songs have been considered for my chart, but “Sun” was the first to hit the top 40. Their bright pop sound is awesome and translates well live.

Performing at: The Studio at Webster Hall (Friday night)

"High Hopes" for a solid performance.

“High Hopes” for a solid performance.

KODALINE

Out of Dublin, Ireland, this four-man band was first known as 21 Demands before changing their name. Although they’ve done particularly well in their native country with singles like “High Hopes” and achieved some additional success in Europe, they have yet to find a following in the United States. Perhaps this will change after a few showcases in the next week or so.

Performing at: Bowery Ballroom (Wednesday night) and Santos Party House (Thursday night)

Yes, yes, yes.

Yes, yes, yes.

NONONO

Time to whistle while you work your first single, am I right? The two man, one woman group from Sweden is getting pumped for a U.S. performance, which is sure to include their current single on the Alternative chart, “Pumpin’ Blood”. It stands in the top 30 at the moment. Their label, Warner Bros. Records, is also prepping a pop crossover for the song later this month.

Performing at: Mercury Lounge (Tuesday night)

Orbiting the musical planets.

Orbiting the musical planets.

SATELLITE

This quartet is yet another PGTC Profile act with their post coming in July; it was just a few weeks before the radio servicing of their single “Say The Words”, which just missed the top 30 on the AAA survey last month. It’s now declining in spins, but still in the top 50. Featuring band member Mitch Allan, formerly of the rock band SR-71, I’m really liking their sound so far.

Performing at: Arlene’s Grocery and Rockwood Music Hall – Stage 1 (Saturday night)

Everybody's flocking to them.

An “Easy” decision to make.

SHEPPARD

These guys are the reason I found out about CMJ in the first place. They first got my attention back in late April, then I took a few listens to their self-titled EP and I’ve been loving them since. The sextet has charted two consecutive top ten singles on my top 40: “Let Me Down Easy” (#10) and now “Hold My Tongue” (#8 and climbing). I can’t wait to finally see them live!

Performing at: The Studio at Webster Hall (Tuesday night)Pianos (Friday afternoon), Sullivan Hall (Friday night) and The Delancey (Saturday afternoon)

"Heart" of the chart.

In the “Heart” of the city.

THE GRISWOLDS

I guess I have a thing for those Australian acts, don’t I? I did a small bit on these guys when “Heart Of A Lion” went to Alternative radio back in August, although it never actually did any damage. They recently uploaded a video for their second single, “Mississippi”, which originates from the same EP as “Lion”. Sorry, there’s no colored powder party in this one.

Performing at: Pianos (Tuesday night), Pianos (Wednesday night), Santos Party House (Thursday night) and The Delancey (Saturday afternoon)

Traveling across the "Miles".

Traveling across the “Miles”.

VANESSA CARLTON

You know her well for hits like “A Thousand Miles” and “Ordinary Day”, the latter going to #1 on my chart in the fall of 2002. An album, Be Not Nobody, was certified Platinum that year. Carlton’s major label career declined quickly after her debut era, but she’s been releasing independently for several years now. Now, she takes to stage to play the hits and more.

Performing at: Highline Ballroom (Tuesday night)

Who else will make my schedule? A little Sisqo belting out “Thong Song” on Thursday night? Maybe the pop sounds of Sweden’s Like Swimming on Friday? I’ll be sure to recap all my adventures here on POP! Goes The Charts as the week goes on. See you in New York City!

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