Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Secret Brotherhood of Secret Brothers

Well, it's 8:30am. I haven't woken up this early in a while, except on Sunday.

Yesterday, the guys debuted their group number for the rest of the cast and crew. It was exciting, and it went really well. I think this section, being that it's something never done on the Tour before, could be a highlight. Then we basically went throught the entire set list in order.

It's funny because all season long, everyone involved with the show would talk about how great this bunch was....we genuinely like each other, we get along, we don't have a diva in the bunch (well, maybe every now and then, but for the most part no divas)...there just isn't a lot of drama in our group. We thought that surely past years were probably like that, too...that producers and crew were just being nice.

Then we got into rehearsals. Literally by the third day we were able to run the entire set from top to bottom. Our tour producer has been blown away...said usually it isn't till the second week that we can even get through the whole set. The video producer (for the little clips they show during the show) and I have gotten to be friends and he was saying that he's never had this much fun on an idol tour...that everyone is fun to work with, he hasn't gotten any divas, and, most of all, everyone is really funny. He thinking about putting together a 2 hour movie of outtakes from these videos.

Basically, the jist is this: we are having a ton of fun. Everyone is learning their stuff and the set is starting to gel incredibly well. I've heard that the first few shows every year are not too tight because everyone hasn't had a chance to run through stuff from top to bottom...we're running stuff from top to bottom 3 days into it. So, I think that the Sunrise, FL people are going to not only be the first to see the show, but they're going to get a good show, too.

Well, I'm off to a meeting about that big offer. Gonna investigate some more and see if it's truly worth putting off my record.

On that note, though, I should tell you guys that, for some odd reason, I've been writing a ton lately. I haven't had enough seperation to figure out if the songs are great yet, but the ideas are flowing. Now that I've got Pro Tools up and running, it's VERY NIIIICE! In betwen my songs, I run into the room where I have my studio set up and lay down demos for new songs. Yesterday, it was kind of cool - one of my frends was sitting at the piano in the hallway at the studio and was stuck on a chord progression he was working on (he's not really a piano player), so he asked me what I would do with it (he had like a 3 chord progression). We went into my studio room, laid down a drum loop and proceeded to put together a really good song. It will probably be on his record - we have to finish it, but I've written long enough to recognize a great idea.

Anyway, life is good.

And to the core group - I love you!


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Rehearsals II

So rehearsals have been doing great. As we speak, I'm sitting in one of my friend's room with another of our friends watching Saving Private Ryan. Giovanni Ribisi's character just got killed. Such a great movie. There's a moral dilemma over whether to kill the German who killed Ribisi's character. Hmmm. Good stuff.

So, rehearsals are great. We're starting to get all the music down, now we're all just working on memorizing lyrics. I was lucky to have gotten to do several songs that I knew pretty well, so the lyrics have come pretty easy. So, I've been able to take time to work on stuff.

I recently purchased Pro Tools to record demos on tour. I've used Logic in the past, so it was a tough choice to move over to Pro Tools, but it was a's the industry standard and everyone I work with uses it, so my demos needed to be on that platform. But I know very little about Pro Tools, so I've had to learn all the tricks to get stuff going. One of my friends has been a Pro Tools user for a while, so he's been helping me learn some stuff, but I bought a Pro Tools book and have watched the instructional DVD a couple of times. Basically, though, I've progressed enough to do the basics of recording.

So, today, we ran through the whole set, and it's a mighty fine set, by the way. In between the several songs that I get to be a part of, I set up Pro Tools in a little room and worked on several song ideas that I've had swimming around my head. It's great to be able to lay down ideas. I'm writing songs for several other contestants now, so that's kind of cool. I'll be juggling the tour with writing for me and writing for several other people. Who knows what songs will get used on poeple's albums, but I'm kind of honored to be able to write for other people.

Plus, I just got the biggest offer of my life a couple of days ago. Again, I can't go into details but it would includedoing somthing that will be a HUGE honor and it will be a great chance to raise my profile a little bit in the entertainment business. I don't know yet if I would take it because it would mean that I would have to put off my recording career for a little bit. So, it'll be a pretty tough choice. We'll see what happens. More on that later.

Anyway, the opening number is coming together quite well. It's crazy and stupid, but it get's the show started in a great, great way, and once again it is something never ever done on the AI tour, from what the tour producer says. So, that's pretty cool. It's one of the only group numbers that involves the whole group of 10. There are quite a few "group numbers" that involve a few of the contestants but this is one of the only ones that involves all 10.

The guy's number is being worked on all day tomorrow. We've got to work on what exactly we're doing, but as I said before, it's something that has never been done on the tour, so a couple of firsts this time out.

Finally, me and the two friends I'm hanging out with tonight are working on a new number that will possibly be added to the show. If it works out, it could be pure genius. In a very, very funny way. I think it could be really, really cool.

Anyway, more about the tour, etc. in a little bit.

Thanks for hanging out and sticking around, through all the stuff the last couple of days.

Peace and love.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Dan Band, Part Deux

Last night a group of us went to see the Dan Band at the Avalon. There were six of us, plus one of the back ground singers from the show, who is also joining us on tour as a background vocalist. This is my second time seeing the band, and for the second time they were incredible.

For those of you unfamiliar, the Dan Band is a comedy band based out of L.A. There is a full band (drums, bass, guitar, keys) then the lead singer and 2 background singers/dancers. Dan is a normal looking guy who wears a mechanic's outfit, while his two background guys wear nerdy glasses, suits and ties. The band then performs all female covers, adding in dancemoves, hand motions and added lyrics. All for the funny.

The genius of the band is that the band proper is incredibly tight, the background vocalists are incredible and Dan, the lead singer has an incredible voice. And the 3 singers are actual really great dancers with inventive, funny choreography. It really is one of those things you have to experience at least once.

Anyway, it was a great night for all. One of the other contestants and I were very tired, so we went back to the hotel while the rest of the group went to a club for a few hours. I was a little miffed because my friends got to hang out with Paula and they met David Hasselhoff (gosh, I still want to make him cry). But, then I remembered that to sing you must have sleep and yesterday all day at rehearsals, I had a terrible headache, so the extra sleep was well-worth my while.

So, things are going great. Thanks for asking.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Rehearsals have started

I flew Tuesday to L.A. to start rehearsals for the tour.

La-La land is as beautiful as ever...I really love L.A....not sure I'd ever want to live here simply beacause I hate traffic and it takes so freaking long to get anywhere. The hotel we're staying at is nice, and for the first time, we each get our individual rooms, or suites in this case. We've all had fun hanging out and being back together. It really is cool to see how well everyone on the tour gets along with one another. We just really enjoy being's rare you get 10 singers who are as talented as this group is and not have egos raging...but even the people who made it the furthest are just as normal as when we started all this 9 months ago.

I gave a couple of teasers before, but let me give you more to whet your appetite. Then you can discuss what you think the teasers mean.

The show opener is something that has never been done on the idol tour. I can't give details quite yet, but I'll put it this way, we are getting it started in a really hip, cool way...literally nothing like it has ever been done on the tour.

The guys are doing a group number doing another thing that has never been done on tour before.

So, discuss those two.

The way the tour works this year is a little different than past years. More on that later, but the solo sets are being done in a different way than before. I think it'll be much hipper the way we're doing it this year. There's also not a lot of group numbers, which I've heard there were several of in past years.

Rehearsals are going well. Everyone is pumped up and excited because forr the next three months 4-5 nights a week, we get to be with the fans.

It's going to be great.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

What I Did On Summer Vacation

Well, I'm sitting in the Cancun airport typing on my MacBook Pro (best purchase I ever made outside of Sarah's engagement ring), getting ready to fly back to Charlotte. My wife is sitting beside me looking as beautiful as ever, with a dark tan she's quite proud of. We got to spend a lot of time in the sun relaxing, so it's been great.

We got here Friday a week ago. We landed in Cancun airport, got our luggage and then our rental car and we were off. One problem. Sarah, who was taking care of all of the traveling details, had forgotten to ask for directions to the house. She had gotten some basic clues from emails wih the owners of the house we stayed in (like what resorts the house was in between) but we had no idea how to get to the house. We had emailed the owners, but (we found out later) they were at a golf tournament for the day and missed our calls and emails. Just as it was starting to get dark, we decided to try down this little street beside one of the resorts and we lucked out! It was the right one. We went to the property manager's house, got the keys, and literally as darkness settled we got into the house. It would have sucked to try and find the place in the dark, so we were quite happy.

Most days, we just lounged around the house. The house is about 4000 square feet and is about 50 yards from the beach, and it was sunny every day except 1, so we would hang out at the house and just tan and relax. Every day, we would head into Playa del Carmen, the closest town (Cancun was about 30 minutes north of where we stayed) and got dinner at a nice restaurant, but for the most part we just stayed at home. Playa has a Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and several large Americanized stores, so a couple of meals we bought food, brought it home and I cooked. It was nice.

My favorite day was on Tuesday. We went to a water park of sorts called Xel-ha. Basically, it's a natural water park, right on the ocean. There's an inlet with coral reefs throughout, a river that empties out in the ocean, a place to swim with the dolpins, assorted restaurants and tons of stuff to do. The day pass that we got was all inclusive, so we got all our meals, free drinks, snorkel equipment, towels and lockers. We pretty much snorkeled the entire day except for lunch. It was great.

There were certain places where the fish were fed, so it was fun to swim there as hundreds of fish surrounded you waiting for food. We swam all the way out to where the inlet turns into the ocean and there were some huge Grouper fish that were bigger than Sarah...they were being fed, so they were swimming past us, brushing against us, getting was awesome.

After lunch, we went up to the top of the river and snokeled down the river, stopping a couple of times to jump off 20-30 foot cliffs (that was fun). Then I talked Sarah into giving up her life vest so that we could dive down into the water. That was when the real fun began. The last 3 hours, we just spent out in the water, around the reefs and rocks in the inlet, diving down to find all kinds of fish and coral and cool stuff on the bottom (the deepest the inlet gets is about 25 feet, as far as I could tell).

So, that was a great day.

Overall it was a very refreshing vacation. There were things (like my iPod) that had been bothering me for a while that I got to take care of, finally. There was music that I had been wanting to listen to in depth for a while that I finally got to buy and listen to. From a creative standpoint, I was nearing empty...I was just tired and needed a break. Now, with batteries recharged, I'm all pumped up to write more new stuff that will hopefully make the record.

I'm excited.

I have said this before several times, but thanks once again for all your support. This blog has changed a couple of times, but I think it's changed for the better. I have decided to refrain from using names of fellow contestants, unless I receive specific permission from them. I may use general terms when talking about friends, but I think it will be best to refrain from names on the blog. Also, I will focus mainly on music stuff and personal stuff here. I may write about the tour, but I will try to focus on stuff that happened personally. There are a lot of people out there that feel the need to tear apart every word I write hear and attempt to use it against me. I could care less about them, but I would hate for their stupidity to ever get back to my friends and for my friends to question even for a second that what those people are accusing me of is true. So, from here on out, I will do things in a way to avoid questions. And eventually the tour will be over and life will go on and the people on here will be the fans, not the "haters".

I love you all and say it again: thank so much for your support and love.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Maroon 5 - It Won't Be Soon Before Long

I got the new Maroon 5 a little earlier than it's American release as a gift from a friend of mine who had received it from the band themselves. I got the Japanese extended version of the album, which I understand has 3 extra tracks on the record, so please forgive me if I speak about songs that are not on the American release.

On to the review:

I can still remember where I was the first time I heard "Harder to Breathe" back in late 2003. I was pulling out of my guitar player's driveway and had just turned on the car and radio was blasting B93.7, our local Greenville Hits station. As the song coursed through my car's crappy speakers, I knew that this band or artist, whatever it was, was something different. The song was funky and rocking, and I wanted to hear it again. As the song finished, the DJ said it was a band called Maroon 5 and I remember thinking that was kind of a weird name, but the next day, I went out and bought the album.

"Songs About Jane" was a good record but a little incomplete, in my opinion. It had hits and a couple of great songs outside of the hits, but there was a bunch of filler. Where that record failed, this album makes up for in spades.

It's rare that every track on a record is worthy of a listen, but this album comes through on that level. Starting off with the funky Michael Jackson/Quincy Jones infused "If I Never See Your Face Again" the band lets you know that it is at its funky best and really never lets up till the closing notes of "Losing My Mind".

I don't know that there has been a catchier hook in recent memory than the chorus of "Makes Me Wonder". The verses are weaker, but the payoff on the chorus is well worth the wait. The song also includes one of the best pre-choruses I can remember with the lines: "I still don't have a reason/And you don't have the time/And it really makes me wonder if I ever gave a ____ about you" - the melody leading to the chorus is great, plus it adds a release from the tension created by the opening/verse chord progession. I won't say it's a perfect song, because the verses are a little weak, but there aren't a lot of songs in the last 5 years that got me like this one did, with the exception of maybe "This Love" from the band's debut.

"Little of Your Time", "Wake Up Call", "Can't Stop", "Kiwi", "Untill You're Over Me", and "Infatuation" show the band at it's funky best. I'm not a huge fan of funk, but Maroon 5's walking the thin line between funk and pop is reminiscent of 80's Michael Jackson, in that it's successful in melding the two while making it palatable to the mass audience. My favorite of the funky tracks (outside of "Makes Me Wonder") is "Wake Up Call". The song is basically the story of Adam Levine's (lead singer) character walking in to find his lover with another man, and how the character reacts to said developments. Not the brightest of songs, but if I'm guessing it will be a huge hit...strangely enough, the darkest song lyrically is one of the catchiest musically.

The band does stray away from the upbeat funk long enough to let loose several songs that are bound to be in 13 year old's mix tapes for years to come. "Won't Go Home Without You" is this album's answer to "She Will Be Loved"; "Nothing Last Forever" hashes out the chorus used on the Kanye West hit "Heard 'em Say" to make a song that I have a feeling will be a hit; "Goodnight, Goodnight" enters territory I haven't heard from this band before, starting off sounding like a Three Doors Down and moving into Coldplay-esque territory.

Some of my favorite songs on the album are songs that are clearly homages to the band's influences. "Not Falling Down" starts off sounding like a modern take on Sting and the Police, giving it a modern twist on the chorus. "Better That We Break" is an obvious homage to the Beatles, with it's "Hey Jude" rhythmic structure and chord change. "Back At Your Door", with it's 6/8 piano ballad feel and lush string arrangement feels like a 60's jazz-infused pop that Dusty Springfield or Smokey Robinson would have felt comfortable singing.

All in all, this record is an incredible record. I don't know that it will have as huge a hits ("This Love" is a tough act to follow), but in my opinion the record has more hits on it. Every song on this record is enjoyable on some level.

The album gets 4.8 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Evolution of Robin Thicke

- Growing pains? I think not.

When I first made it to Hollywood, I became friends with someone who did pretty well in the competition. As with most friendships I've started with fellow musicians, it started off with a conversation about what our influences were. The first artist my friend gave me was Robin Thicke. I had heard the name but couldn't quite place it. So, in between Hollywood and top 24, I went to Best Buy and bought The Evolution of Robin Thicke, which my friend said was the better of Robin's two albums.

Now, I should start off by saying that jazzy r&b is usually not my thing. But going back to when I first started to discover music, BoyzIIMen, Shai, R. Kelly, Silk, Keith Sweat, etc. were my first love (along with a lot of rap). I know, you wouldn't know it now, but I actually learned to sing with r&b singers first. I would sing as loud as I could along with my mix tapes of r&b hits of the early 90's while delivering papers when I was 15, copying riffs, learning how to hear harmonies, etc. But by the time I got out of college, I had discovered rock & roll, and r&b kind of fell to the wayside (rap had fallen to the wayside when I was still in high school).

Anyway, all that to say - I'm not a huge fan of modern r&b. But this record is a great, great record. Robin is well-known in the pop/r&b world, writing songs for who's who of modern pop/r&b. But as an artist, he shines. Robin's silky falsetto is shown off throughout the entire CD, and his jazzy pop way of writing modern r&b is an interesting take on a genre. I didn't enjoy some of the collabarations on the album (with Pharell, Lil' Wayne, etc.), as they strayed more to the urban/hip hop vibe, but overall the album is a really fine record.

Lyrically it's sexy without being over the top or explicit. Robin's voice naturally lends itself to a sexy vibe, but there's more here than innuendo. Listen to what he's saying and he's talking wistfully about real love. Sometimes, he comes across as a little arrogant in his love (from the hit "Lost Without U": Lost without you/Can't help myself/How does it feel/ to know that I love you, baby), but overall he comes across with an earnestness that doesn't come out a lot in the genre.

A few of the songs seem to run together once you've listened to the album a few times, as the under-production of most of the songs (acoustic, rhythm progamming, bass, vocals) makes some of the songs indiscernable from each other. But there are some gems here. "Lost Without You" is a bona fide hit, "Angel" is a great song, and "2 the Sky" is a favorite. There are some misses, too, but for a second album, it's a great record.

I think that Robin will soon be known simply as an artist instead of Alan Thicke's son.

The CD gets 3.8 out of 5 stars.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Going through my iPod

I'm on vacation, getting a tan quickly (well, a burn, too), and one of the projects I have while I am here is to go through my 30 gig iPod and get rid of any music that I don't really care about. I just have not had time to do it lately because of being so busy, and this is a long job: I've been working for 3 days now and I'm only down to the G's. But it's been fun.

I started off by going through and deleting songs that for some reason I have doubles of. There are certain artists who I have their entire catalog on my iPod, so many times Greatest Hits collections will have songs that I have from the real albums. So, unless the greatest hits collection includes a new version or a new mix of the song, I have been deleting the greatest hits version. For instance, I have U2 and the Beatles full I simply deleted songs that were the exact same versions.

After that, I basically have been going through every single song and making sure I love the song and will listen to it at some point. Now, some stuff I'm keeping isn't necessarily stuff that I really like, but stuff that I want to have as a reference. Since I plan on moving into more songwriting for other people and producing other people there is stuff that I will produce and write that wouln't necessarily be something that I would perform myself. For instance, I'm writing songs for a friend who is a country artist right now. I would never sing country, it's not really my thing, but there are so many great country songs, so I have country stuff on my iPod to learn more about the genre and how to write songs for that genre. I have some pop stuff on the off-chance that I would someday write for and produce a pop act. But if it's stuff I could care less about, I just delete it from my iPod.

I have a 30 gig iPod and as of yesterday it was completely full. I have about 10 CDs that I bought recently that I plan on loading on, but I was out of room. So, the carnage had to happen to make room for new music coming in. I may have to move up to an 80 gig iPod, but for now I'll make do.

Oh, one thing that is making it easy to get rid of some stuff is the fact that I have on my iPod ever single song ever performed on American Idol. When I first made it to Hollywood, I went to and found what every single semi-finalist and finalist had performed on the show and put the original version of the song on my iPod. Obviously, a lot of that crap is stuff I would never have on my iPod, so that's kind of's like 600 songs...obviously not all of those will go, but a good majority of them.

So, that's what I'm up to on my vacation.

Well, there's a lot more than that, but the rest of it is really none of your business.

I'm smiling right now.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Last Night & Tonight

Last night, Sarah and I got to attend something called the Well Done Awards. Our friends Denny & Lisa Bellessi, who run an incredible organization called the Kingdom Assignment, held an awards show for people who are doing great things for the Kingdom of God.

Bebe Winans and Katherine McPhee performed. Holy crap, they were great. I'd never heard Katherine sing live, and honestly it was one of the best live voices I've heard in a long time. I give that girl credit...she deserved to win 2nd place last year. And she is honestly one of the nicest people you'll meet. Very down to earth and open about things she's going through. Her boyfriend Nick is really great, also. And Bebe Winans was incredible. Wow...he's a gospel legend for a reason.

The awards show included a performance by a dance troupe called the Groovaloos. Their dance routine included a story of one of the dancers being shot and how he recovered to be able to dance again. It was very, very moving. Obviously, being a big boy, I've not done a lot of dance, but working with our choreographer at AI gave me a greater appreciation for dancers, and these guys were incredible. They mixed Hip-hop and freestyle with was really really incredible.

Afterwards, we met a couple of members of the Christian band Kutless. We went to eat with them as well as my friend Josh Griffin who is the youth pastor of Saddleback church. We had a great meal at TGIF. The service wasn't great, but I chalked it up to the fact they had given us 2 wait-people and they apparently always thought the other was taking care of us. No biggie.

We headed home and got some sleep.

Today, Sarah and I spent some time at Fashion Island. That was really fun. We headed back home and got some rest, then went to dinner at Gina's in Laguna Beach, a great Italian restaurant. I got pizza and Sarah got manicotti. Then we headed back to the beach house.

Denny and Leesa had a meet and greet for Sarah and I with people who were at the Well Done Awards. A bunch of people came over and we just hung around and talked. It was great to meet a bunch of interesting people.

We had a great time.

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we leave for our beachy place. I'm looking forward to rest and relaxation. It's going to be a great respite before the tour. I'm looking forward to the tour, but 59 shows in like 85 days is going to be tiring. This is going to be nice.

Peace and love