Category Archives: Interviews

POP! Goes The Interview: Wrabel

He's a "Tall" cool one.

He’s a “Tall” cool one.


You know him as the voice behind Afrojack‘s current chart hit, “Ten Feet Tall”, and perhaps you just saw him performing during Good Morning America’s Summer Concert Series. He’s a talented pianist and vocalist and an all-around nice guy; at least, according to his Twitter description he is, but I can definitely confirm that. His featured spot has propelled him into the national spotlight, but as far as a budding solo career, he’s ready, willing and Wrabel.

Born Stephen Wrabel, the performer who bills himself by just his last name currently records for Island Records (radio via Republic Records) and this past Tuesday, his EP titled Sideways became available. The four song effort features a solo cut of “Ten” as his voice smoothly glides along with the piano, absolutely worthy of some AC and Hot AC play. (Hope his label is taking notes!) The effortlessly beautiful “Sideways” starts on a calm stride before packing a pop punch, while the smooth “Give It Time” and wildly impressive “Into The Wild” make for a great listening experience in a mid-90’s piano pop meets modern-day production set. It’s certainly a nice introduction before his eventual full-length album is issued.

Between all his plane flights and performances this week, Wrabel graciously took a few moments out of his release week schedule to answer some questions about his new EP, songwriting, the charts and more for a PGTC interview. Enjoy!

PGTC: Thanks for taking the time to do this! How exciting is it to finally have an EP of music out there ready for people to listen to?
SW: absolutely! thank you. ah i can’t even express how glad i am to have some music out there. it’s a crazy feeling seeing my face next to some of my favorite artists on the “new releases” section of iTunes. i guess we picked a good week to release! haa. quite intimidating, but also just so crazy. hard to believe, really.

PGTC: I really enjoy “Into The Wild” and (EP title track) “Sideaways”, but there are some great melodies and fantastic vocal performances. It captures the best of both worlds, a straightforward piano-driven pop sound and a more experimental nature. What was it like crafting this batch of songs and is there one in particular that’s your favorite?
SW: well thanks! it was an…interesting process. the EP has been a long time coming for me. i’ve been writing and writing and really just searching for those moments of magic. i’ve found while writing that you sometimes encounter some sort of unexplainable…something…that comes out to play. you can’t force it and you have to just run like hell after it as it comes. i was given such an incredible opportunity to travel so much making the record — something that has impacted the sounds and emotions in a big, big way. you mentioned “into the wild” — a song i wrote with one of my favorite artists actually, dan black, and one of the best guys i know (and most talented…) drew pearson, in dan’s studio in paris. it came after a long day of work on another song that seemed to be stuck. “sideways” was a very special day with jim eliot and dan mcdougall, both of whom also co-wrote “give it time” with me. hmm. a favorite, i’m not sure i can say. it was important to me that every song selected for the EP (and the upcoming full length) be something special. i think i can say that? haa. i consider every song a sort of snapshot…maybe like a scene in a movie. something that is this one moment here and now. this is what i’m feeling. this is what i’m thinking. this is what i wish i could say, but just can’t seem to get out right. insert the BIGGEST thanks to all of my collaborators here. without them, there is nothing. did i ramble? i tend to ramble.

PGTC: The success of “Ten Feet Tall” has been amazing to watch, both in your solo version and with Afrojack’s remix. When you originally wrote the song a few years ago, did you expect it to connect with as many people as it has?
SW: short answer: no. long answer: nooooo. haa. “ten feet tall” has been a special one for me since about halfway through the day chris braide and i wrote it. i could just feel it. he could too. it’s so rare to feel that. but so, so fun. i came in that day and he was just playing the opening piano theme and i sat down, pressed record, and started singing. it was one of the only times i’ve come into a session with a title. i had “ten feet tall” all in my brain. what could it mean? how could we say it? what does it sound like? it was a little over two years later that nick (afrojack) heard it at the universal building. he told me later on something like “this is how i heard it” — referring to what is now his first US single from his new record. nick is so gifted. brilliant, really, at capturing the emotion of a song and just playing it up and up and up and up. that song is a permagrin for me now, and it’s been so rewarding to see people’s reactions to it. to see that many people dancing, smiling, singing along…it’s unreal. i’ve even gotten a few messages on facebook // twitter from people that are using “ten feet tall” in their weddings. i cry. i just cry. haa.

PGTC: A number of outlets have picked up on “Ten”. I myself saw a clip of the video riding in a taxi in New York City a few weeks back. However, the journey of this song got a major boost in February when it was featured in Bud Light’s Super Bowl ad. What did you think when you first heard about the plan and how was it for you actually seeing it come to life?
SW: i think my first words to my manager were something like, “HOLY SH*T. WAIT WHEN IS THE SUPER BOWL?” … i just didn’t know. i don’t do football, really. ok let’s move on. i couldn’t believe it. the super bowl? THE SUPER BOWL? it’s just crazy. that’s just what it is. and re: the new york cab bit — i plan on hiring taxis until i find one with it playing. hehe. i mean c’mon. that is nuts. “ten feet tall” in a taxi??

PGTC: I imagine that since “Ten” is ranking on several airplay surveys here, along with international lists, that you’re checking some of them out. How avid of a chart watcher are you with both your own releases and songs that you’ve written for others?
SW: i’m guilty of a stopped-at-a-red-light-check-the-charts kind of thing for sure. i try to stay off of them for the most part, but have definitely started paying more attention now that “ten feet tall” has been charting. when i saw that the “now: 50” album — featuring “ten feet tall” — came out at no.1 on billboard, i was sure to grab a few issues of that week’s billboard and mail them to my family…maybe kept one for my coffee table…

PGTC: Since the World Cup is still going on, are you partial to any sport in particular or is music still your favorite workout?
SW: let’s go with the latter… i had some friends over to watch a world cup game and ended up leaving to go to a bookstore about twenty minutes in. playing the piano can burn around 171 calories an hour. that’s about all the sport i need.

PGTC: Final question – everybody’s waiting on whatever could be the next “surprise album” to be released. Who do you think could do it next and would you ever entertain the idea?
SW: why not beyoncé again? she nailed it the first time. it was such a fun feeling to wake up to a new beyoncé album // whole set of videos. i’d like to have that feeling again someday. if you guys see her, let her know. green light. hmm i’m not sure i would // not sure i wouldn’t. i’m pretty up for whatever — any way to get music out there and keep things interesting.

Thanks again to the music man himself for some great answers and be sure to check out the new tunes and his ongoing adventures by clicking the links below.

Download the Sideways EP at these digital retailers: AmazonMP3, iTunes

Follow Wrabel on social media: Facebook, InstagramTwitter

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POP! Goes The Interview: Sam York

Put a York in it.

Put a York in it. (Your playlist, that is.)

He’s got no label, no radio airplay and not a single song on iTunes in any territory, but he’s reining in the powers of social media to get him on his way. Not only does British singer-songwriter Sam York have a growing base on Facebook and SoundCloud, but he also has a lot of heart. You can feel it in his voice and in his lyrics. Maybe that’s why I got interested in York’s music, particularly a song called “The Script”, and the next stage directions are calling for his breakthrough in 2014.

A few of the singer’s compositions have been up for a few months, but in the past few weeks, York’s fan page has been appearing on my recommended pages list via my news feed. Normally, I would’ve just passed over a post like that; you never really know what you’re getting with those sorts of things. However, there was something promising about his look and that he was a singer-songwriter, and so, off I was to check out his material. Needless to say, I’m a fan of his already. I recently playlisted “The Script” in the In The Mix portion of my weekly top 40. He was gracious enough to give me some of his time to ask a few questions about his roots in music, his new project and his opinion on Irish trio The Script. After all, he does know a few things about scripts. Check it out below:

PGTC: Tell me about growing up musically. Did you come from a musical family? When did you go into music and what acts influenced you?
York: My parents are big music fans, so it was playing constantly: Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Carole King, Eurythmics, The Police and Miles Davis had a huge impact on me. I think I knew by the age of 6 that I wanted to be a musician. Music is a strange, mysterious disease; if you catch it, it becomes fatally consuming. Everything else fades into the background. I obsessed over Stevie Wonder, Keith Jarrett, Donny Hathaway, D’Angelo, as well as Debussy and Messiaen. I spent the next 10 years playing guitar and piano constantly. I studied music at university and was lucky enough to be taught by some seminal British jazz musicians: Mike Walker and Jason Rebello. Their artistry and accomplishment was inspiring and, although I no longer play much jazz, their examples have been instrumental in informing my work. Now, I’m hugely influenced by the musicians I come across in daily life. There are so many unknown geniuses who are creating the most beautiful music behind the scenes in the music industry.

PGTC: Why was now the right time for this new project?
York: I’ve been writing songs for about 10 years, and for about 9 1/2 of those years every song I have written has been uniformly terrible. Something happened recently and the pieces fell into place. I found I could write the kind of songs that I’ve tried to for years and that I’m happy to play to others. I hate the concept of talent; I really think it’s a pernicious notion. It encourages people to give up on their passion, because they believe that they don’t have a talent for it. I don’t think I have any talent for writing or singing, I’m just passionate about them both. Bill Evans used to say he “wasn’t a natural”, and yet, he became one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.

PGTC: “The Script” and “Ballerina” deal with a relationship with a female and a reunion with her, though there’s some closure given what you detail preceding the latter. Why did you feel it was important to write about it? Was it cathartic? Do you think there will be any sort of follow-up?
York: Yeah, it was cathartic, but it was also about truth telling. I think that’s an amazing thing with a song: you can say things that are too difficult to say in conversation. With “Ballerina”, for example, I never found a way to tell this girl how I saw her while we were together. Our daily lives were happy and functional, but I could feel a deep unacknowledged turmoil. A song is a unique space in which you can articulate the undercurrents in a situation. I don’t know if there will be a follow-up, but that’s the thing I love about this current project. I’m releasing songs immediately, almost as soon as they’re written, before they’ve been carefully manicured in a recording studio. I don’t know if I will ever hear from her again, and if I do, I don’t know what will happen!

PGTC: Since you’ve been writing and singing about scripts lately, just curious, do you have a favorite song by the band The Script?
York: Haha! “For The First Time” is a great song. Production is excellent, as is the lyrical concept: it has so much truth in it.

PGTC: 2014 is just around the corner. What’s ahead for you in the new year?
York: 2014 is all about live! I’m currently planning concerts early in the year. I’m veeeery particular about playing live and I want to make sure the audience gets a great experience. I’ll release the details soon. Oh… and I’ll be writing more songs!

Thanks again to Sam York for his great responses and, of course, his wonderful music. Visit the link below to check out everything he’s put up thus far and stay tuned to his official website see what kind of new features are forthcoming in this exciting project.

“The Script”:

Visit Sam York‘s SoundCloud page for a free download of “The Script”, his demos and more.

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POP! Goes The Interview: Kevin Rudolf

"Don't Give Up" on him.

“Don’t Give Up” on him.

In 2008, a then 25-year-old Kevin Rudolf landed all over the airwaves with the hit “Let It Rock”, featuring rapper Lil Wayne. It went to #5 on the Hot 100 and garnered download sales of over 4 million copies in the U.S. alone. Though he had been in the industry for several years prior as a session musician, most notably on Timbaland‘s 2007 album Shock Value, “Rock” gave Rudolf his first taste of success as a solo act. Through collaborations with acts like Birdman and Jay Sean (“I Made It”) and Flo Rida (“You Make The Rain Fall”), he built up his name in the industry and on both the sales and airplay charts. He’s accumulated five top 50 entries on CHR radio to date. He was also behind hits for Cobra Starship, Lifehouse and Selena Gomez & The Scene, and the guy keeps on working at it as he should.

Although Rudolf originally brought a sound that mixed rock and R&B elements, that has evolved over the years. In 2012, he released the light and poppy “Don’t Give Up”, and though it wasn’t an overwhelming success, it did show another side to him. Now, he returns with the single “Here’s To Us”, co-written by Rudolf and Larry Nacht, a song reminiscent of offerings by the Plain White T’s (“1, 2, 3, 4”) and The Lumineers (“Ho Hey”). It may be familiar musically, but at the core of it, the song is a genuine reminder to live for the good times even in the worst of them. It’s an anthem for the underdog and the misunderstood. So far, radio seems to like both the message and the single: in the past three weeks, “Us” has accumulated adds at 18 CHR stations and currently sits in the top 100 at the format. I talked the him via email about his latest project and this fine change in direction — but don’t call it mellow yellow (as I did not so quite rightly.) Read on below:

PGTC: “Here’s To Us” takes you in a new direction musically, which is a lot mellower than some of your past material. What inspired the change?
KR: Things change; if you stand still, you die. Besides, what’s mellow about it? I mean, anything you play on an acoustic guitar’s gonna sound “mellower.” Or folkier. Or whatever. Nirvana sounded softer when they played acoustically, but it still kicked ass. It’s the words, the feelings, the whole idea – and if anything, it comes out more when you strip it down a little. That’s where the real power is. When you really listen, I’d actually say this rocks harder than anything I’ve ever done.

PGTC: Since you’re in the process of putting together a third album, is “Us” indicative the sound of it or is it more of a mix of genres?
KR: I let the marketing people figure out the genre. The sound is really dictated by whatever gets the idea across better, and that’s not really up to me either. I mean, I could craft a good song, but, to get the magic, you gotta just leave yourself open to it. I’m not thinking, “Is it hip hop? Is it rock?” etc. I’m thinking, “Is it true to me?” Whatever I gotta do to get at that truth, I’ll do.

PGTC: Most people know you as a singer, but you also produce, write and play the guitar. Which one of these do you like to do best?
KR: Wait, I do all those things? Then, I gotta get paid more, man. No, I don’t think of it that way. They all go hand in hand. If I’m playing a riff on guitar, I’m already producing it, ’cause I’m thinking about how I’m going to make this sound like what’s in my head, you know? So, yeah, I’m kind of a one-man band when I’m writing, playing and producing, but I don’t really separate it into different jobs like that. It all kind of happens simultaneously.

PGTC: This summer now marks 5 years since “Let It Rock” first made the airplay charts, which is amazing, but a lot has changed in the industry since it was released. Would you change anything about your career if you could go back and fix it?
KR: A lot’s changed and nothing’s changed. It’s still about doing a good song and getting it listened to. It’s still about trying to reach a lot of people with your message. There’s just a lot more ways to do that now, and that’s cool. “Rock” was massive, which is why we’re talking about it. Luckily, there were quite a few other hits that I either wrote or produced, plus a few more of my own. So, that paid the bills and I’m able to do what I want on this album. I wouldn’t change anything. I’m quite happy where things are.

PGTC: Alright, last question, since everybody seems to be fixated on it at the moment. Weigh in: the duel of the divas. Katy Perry’s “Roar” vs. Lady Gaga’s “Applause”. Which one are you liking better?
KR: Well, Gaga was just starting when I had “Rock” blowing up. She actually went and bought it at the time. So, I kind of owe her.

So, he might live for the “Applause”, but he also lives to entertain, as he’s doing on his new single. Thanks to Mr. Rudolf for his sense of humor and for willing to do this! You can watch the video for “Here’s To Us” and download it below. Plus, keep looking for more interviews and music news right here on PGTC!

Music Video:

Download “Here’s To Us” on these digital retailers:
Buy “Here’s To Us” on iTunes. / Buy “Here’s To Us” on AmazonMP3.

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