The Kaje talks Cheryl Cole to Ingrid Michaelson

Ingrid Michaelson is so much more than the songwriter behind Cheryl Cole’s “Parachute”, yet in the UK she is far from a household name. The New York based singer/songwriter is currently on the world’s leading independent artists and though her heartbreaking 2009 release “Everybody” received a modicum of attention in the post Cheryl Cole single release period, Michaelson is probably best known to UK audiences who have searched for the wealth of songs she has had featured in the background of everything from “Grey’s Anatomy” to “Scrubs”. However, that should all be about to change as Michaelson prepares for the UK release of her fifth studio album “Human Again”. With the irrepressible “Blood Brothers” heading up the release, The Kaje though it was time to finally close the Cheryl Cole chapter…

While you are a celebrated artist in your own right, you are best known on these shores for writing Cheryl Cole’s “Parachute”. How do you feel about it?

I love it. The whole Cheryl Cole thing was amazing for me.  I didn’t really know who she was. We don’t really know who she is  in the States but she is gigantic here. So I came here on the heels of that to say ‘hey, I am the one who wrote it.’ I was able to play a few shows, and did a few radio appearances and played my own version of “Parachute”. I love it.

I think it is so interesting to hear somebody else sing the words that you wrote. I am not used to it as I’ve only written for one other person, one other song and it was a co-write too. This song was written with a friend of mine, then somebody else took it and sung it. Cheryl Cole didn’t write any of it. But it was so cool, and the video was really good to. I was just really flattered and excited. I love seeing people do it.

It was an opportunity that came up, but I have been meaning to do it again and do more of it. It is just that life gets in the way. I think the older I get and the more I want to stay at home and not travel, then I might try get into the writing for other people thing a little more. I think as I get older I don’t want to be touring nine months out of the year. I love touring and I love performing, I think I will always tour, but I will just lessen the amount. But that will leave more time for me to write for other people. I am looking a long way down the line.

Cheryl Cole aside, you are one of the most successful independent musicians in the world currently. What is the secret to your success?

Timing. I had my song on a commercial in the States just as I started getting placements on television shows, so people started buying my record and the radio started playing it, all without a label. It was only then that labels came around and asked if I wanted to sign with them, but I just didn’t want to as I didn’t really need to. But it was just the timing followed by a lot of hard work which meant I was able to get my foot in the door and get this profile so quickly. Because we never signed to a traditional record label, we had this strength and control. I feel very fortunate that I got found on MySpace when it was not inundated with artists. It was just the right time, as it was also the beginning of commercial placements, I had this perfect storm happen. We just made the right decisions, so now that  I am established and successful, I do not need to cower to a major label. I work in tandem with a smaller label, which allows me to maintain control of it all. It is amazing.

I would never  say that is the only way to go. If you are an artist and a major label comes up to you and are willing to put $500,000 behind you for a record and video and you have nothing, then do it. I am very fortunate but it is not a formula to get where I am. I do not even really know how I got where I am.

I think you should just go with your gut and do what you love. Don’t expect anything but be ready for everything. If you go into music and want to be a  rich, famous rock star then the chances are it will not happen. It is a very hard thing to succeed in. I play for 2000 seat theatres in the States and I play for 500 when I come here, or Budapest and play for 3 people. It is an ongoing struggle to find success, or what you gauge as success. I think of everything as tiny successes and focus on doing what I do because I love it and not to be Lady Gaga. That is probably not going to happen.

With each release your commercial success has increased. Do you think you have managed to channel new fans with each release?

I think so. I think I just keep slowly building on what I have already built. My bandmates and I put on a really great show. In the States it is really fun, there are six of us and it is  big rock show. My live show is really important to my records and my career. I think it drives a lot of my record sales. Always being present, particularly online, being very close with my fans and personal. I try to maintain this connection with them.  You can’t just go into hiding for a few years, then come back and expect everything to be the same. It is a constant thing. It is work. it is being honest with your fans, being grateful and thankful and giving them what they want to hear.

I don’t think I did that particularly with this last record, they wanted to know where my ukulele was, or complained that it was too loud or with too much production, bur hopefully I will make some new fans to replace those other ones. The ones who say ‘well at least I have her other records!’ I mean, come on! Anybody who is afraid to travel with an artist  isn’t really a true fan anyway.

You are heading up the UK release with the single “Blood Brothers”. How did you settle on this track?

I just love the song. I feel like it has a universal feeling to it. It is the idea that we are all in this together, that we are all one unit. There are three songs on the record that we thought were potentials for singles; “Ghost”, “Blood Brothers” and “Black And Blue”. We have done “Ghost” and “Blood Brothers” already in the States and it just seemed like the right fit to start here with “Blood Brothers”. It is just universal, upbeat and catchy but not too catchy or poppy.

Do you still recall what inspired “Blood Brothers”?

I was recording my record in the city. Out of all the songs on the record, there are thirteen, only the first one “Fire” did I come to my producer with a ready-made  song. Everything else I wrote the year I recorded, which was pretty amazing and something I had never done before. With “Blood Brothers”, I was in the studio one day and someone came over and shoulder checked me, I got this surge of  New York anger. I just thought, we are all in a rush, we are all going somewhere, can we not co-exist in a kind way. It was just “listen dude, don’t be an arsehole. Just say excuse me.” I feel like, in major cities especially, we are just in this cellphone world, without any grace or kindness.

The Dylan Steinberg & Shervin Lainez video is brilliant. Are the artists you portray your own inspirations?

Not necessarily. I wanted to pick iconic musicians, so that people would know who they were right away. I wanted to do Judy Garland, as I love Judy Garland, but no one is going to know that it was her. I wanted to do Elvis but it didn’t look right. It was very dependent on me being able to pull off the looks. I didn’t want people to think I was wearing a costume either. I really wanted to transform. That is why I picked who I picked.

It is kind of an obvious concept, in that it goes along with the song. We are all the same thing, just painted differently. I had the idea for the video for a very long time, not necessarily with the icons, but more a shape shifting face in real time. You get to see the make-up coming on and off. Then when I wrote the song, I thought it would be perfect for “Blood Brothers”. Then  I took it further and wanted to do it iconic. I wanted to then take it further to iconic musicians.

With your career already soaring in the States, would you say your aims with the record differ on the differ continents?

I think it is the same at the core, it is to get people to hear about you and fall in love with your music. You want them to buy your records, come see your show and become a fan. You try your best with the song, the video and provide a package and just hope people will like it. There are definitely English people in the video, we have Bowie and Amy Winehouse, so it just felt like the right fit. It is just trying to get a little splash and next time we come back we can take it a stage bigger.

“Blood Brothers” is out now.

Photographs and Interview by Jeremy Williams

The Kaje talks London Irish Village to Eddi Reader

Eddi Reader has come a  long way since she started her career singing jingles for radio adverts. Known globally for her work as part of Fairground Attraction, whose 1988 “Perfect” is still one of the biggest radio hits to date, and her groundbreaking, critically acclaimed solo releases-which includes the unforgettable recordings of Robert Burns’ poetry-Reader is set to be one of the highlight’s of Under The Bridge’s  London Irish Village this summer. With a new album and tour in the pipeline, The Kaje caught up with Eddi Reader to see what she has planned for her summer…

As The Olympics hit London, so does the Irish Village – how do you see the two complimenting each other?

As the city is full of visitors, it is a great opportunity for them to hear some of the talent from this country.

Musicians are in a constant battle to be at the top of their game, do you see this as a fair Olympic analogy? 

No. I am of the school of thought that competition is for athletics NOT for musicians.  Sure, hearing some musicians play and reach for something different can inspire other musicians to do the same – but music is more eclectic than sport. One person running, jumping, swimming better than another equally prepared person is not the same as two musicians on the same instrument – we are completely peerless and as individual as fingerprints.

If you were performing in the Olympics as opposed to the Irish Village, which event would you compete in? Why?

I would like to think I would have been a great runner. But there’s the other difference between sport and music.  Sports men and women age quickly whereas musicians change and play until they are dead!

If there were one Olympian you could have up on stage for a collaboration-who would it be?

Not a good question for me as I ain’t a sporty person but I loved Muhammad Ali so if he’s an Olympian I’ll pick him.

How much attention will you be paying to the Olympics?

I’ll hook in occasionally – I loved the women’s curling competition I happened upon one night on TV in the early hours and have remembered the excitement of these women from my local town Kilmarnock and Cumnock taking on the world.  Very memorable.  So I hope to see something like that happening where the small town people let their dreams take them to the top!

Do you have any intentions of nodding your head to the Olympics during your set? If so, how?

I don’t have any curling songs if that’s what you mean.

What else can we expect from your show?

Songs and songs and stories

Ireland has a long-running history of musical dominance, what makes Ireland so musical?

Sunsets in the west.

The Irish Village celebrates Irish musicians-do you think it is easy to bag musical output by nationality?

No, culturally people have ancient stories and song which identify them. Who we all are is a culmination of our ancestors and they can be heard through our songs and stories.

Who, would you say, was the biggest Irish inspiration musically for you?

Ruby  Murray, my mother sounded just like her, with a love of melody and romantic song.

The Irish Village aside-what are you most excited for in 2012?

Making a new record.

Eddi Reader plays the London Irish Village on 10th August. More details can be found at http://www.underthebridge.co.uk/news/the-london-irish-village-2012/
Interview by Jeremy Williams

The Kaje talks Bristol to Seasfire

Having produced everyone from Acker Bilk through to Roni Size-it could be said that Bristol has more than little musical history. However, there is a new four-piece on the scene, who could be set to redefine the Bristol music one again. With Bristol best known at current for its part in the Trip Hop explosion, it could be said that the four lads – Josh, Joe, Dave, James – known collectively as SEASFIRE have nodded their head to Bristol’s musical past while adding a touch or two of their own along the way. To find out more about who they are, what they do and where they are headed, The Kaje caught up quickly with Josh…

How did you get together?

Well the other three started writing together about a year ago, and then I joined up soon after once they had their first few songs and wanted to try them live. We’ve all known each other for a while since college and used to swap mixtapes and beat ideas. The band was formed around that relationship. We were all interested to see what we could come up with when we put our heads together.

Who brings what ingredient to the table?

The basis for a track normally comes from Joe, then it gets built by suggestions and what is essentially trial and error. Beats, guitar lines, vocal melodies, sub bass – basically the rule is if you’ve got an idea in your head, speak up. The same goes for lyrics, although Josh obviously has to be comfortable with what he’s singing so he controls that side.

What were your joint ambitions when you decided to form SEASFIRE?

I don’t necessarily think there were any great ambitions, apart from the natural development of our music. It started more as an opportunity to write music with different people and explore various sounds, although we of course wanted those sounds to be appreciated by other people.

How are these altering now that you are achieving positive feedback?

Well that’s the thing, as time goes on the ambitions we have for our sound grow. Our tracks are getting bigger and more epic. But the same core ideas are still there. I suppose an ambition now would be to eventually make an album we were all proud of. Something that reflected our situation and lives when it was written.

For those who have not heard you as yet, how would you describe yourselves sonically?

I always struggle with this one! People hear our sound as low-fi and haunting, but of course there are moments where light breaks through the darkness. We are an electronic band at heart, but we want there to be moments that make your skin crawl.

What have been the best and worst comparisons you have received to date?

It’s a long list – Radiohead, Jamie Woon, James Blake, The Weeknd, Burial. I’ll take all of those. A “dubstep Coldplay” was probably the weirdest. The worst – Scritti Politti – I still don’t get that.

How do these compare to your influences?

There are crossovers for sure, but our influences are wide-ranging. Sonically, we love sad songs, strange beats and emotive melodies. Thematically, stories of alienation, despair and longing – a deep understanding that things can improve.

You hail from Bristol, are artists like Massive Attack and Portishead big influences?

I’d say Massive Attack more than Portishead, but they all have a kind of dark alienation to their beats and lyrics, but with an overriding sense of belonging. It is something we can relate to and we certainly aspire to.

Your latest single is “Heartbeat” – can you tell us a little more about the song?

The song morphed out of an older, more upbeat song into what it is now. It tells what sounds like a straightforward story, but there is a deeper subtext that may be apparent to some people. It has two meanings.

Why did you choose it as the single?

Because I think it progresses from “Falling”, which was our first song, and adds more layers. That sense of space and depth is retained.

The video is a visual feast – how important is image to the band?

It is kind of important. I suppose people need to identify with us. There’s something beautiful about black and white images – they can make things look surreal. The video was inspired by Woodkid’s ‘Iron’ video more than anything, although we couldn’t do anything to that scale – maybe one day. But at least we burnt a piano.

You are also garnering praise on the live circuit – how does your sound change from recorded to live?

All the venues we play are set up for guitar bands, and having live drums means everything becomes rockier, but maybe it grooves more. We try to maintain an electronic vibe though, through samples and use of dynamic.

What one stage would you most like to conquer?

One gig at a time…

Interview by Jeremy Williams

The Kaje talks Olympics to Loick Essien

Loick Essien first burst into the UK charts alongside his good pal Chipmunk on the track “Beast”, and has since worked with everyone from the N Dubz to Bashy and Tanya Lacey. With his debut album currently awaiting release, Essien is enjoying the opportunity to gain exposure for his Usher-esque vocal abilities as part of the travelling line up for the Olympic Relay concerts in association with Coca Cola. With Essien relishing every moment in the spotlight, The Kaje jumped at the chance to have a chat with the “How We Roll” vocalist ahead of his Birmingham performance…

How have you got involved with the Olympics?

Do you know what? It was put forward to me and it was something that I could not turn down. I was surprised that I was even one of the artists to be looked at as a part of it, as it is such a big thing. I am just really proud to be part of it.

What is your take on the Olympics? Is it something you have always been interested in?

The Olympics is something that comes every four years, so it is a big deal every time it comes  anyway. It is such a big deal as everyone is at home watching it. I always try to catch the running, to try catch Usain Bolt as he is always breaking records. Just to be a part of it, especially the first time the Olympics is bringing music to it, is amazing.

What is the connection between musicians and Olympians?

I think music brings people together and sports does the same, so it is only right to combine the two. I think they should do it with football too as it also brings people together. Music is something everyone can relate to. Everyone likes music, so it is abit of a no brainer.

If you had to take part in an Olympic event, which would it be?

I’d like to run and do the torch. I would love to be torchbearer, it is a big deal. When I held it, it felt like I had the power.

The Gold Medal is the ultimate accolade for the Olympian, what is your personal Gold Medal?

Mainly for more people to hear my music, for people to hear my album. I want people to make sure they get the mixtape on the 26th July, the Hyde Park day. It is just a collection of songs for people to hear me.

Interview and Photograph by Jeremy Williams

The Kaje talks global goals to San Cisco

While in the 60s the Brits invaded the world with their musical prowess, only to be superceded by the States for the remainder of the century, the Teens looks set to be dominated by a superlative invasion by the Antipodeans. While it could be argued that ex-Soapstars Kylie, Jason and Dannii dominated in the late 80s, the early Teens has been kickstarted by Gotye, Kimbra, The Jezabels and Angus and Julia Stone.. However, we would like to introduce you to Fremantle popstrels San Cisco, who we personally feel could eclipse everyone before them… Reminiscent of The Clik Clik, San Cisco have a fun bite that is sure to linger…

For those who don’t know you, tell us a little bit more about how it all came together?

I was playing shows solo around our home town of Fremantle and I decided that it was becoming a bit boring so I start playing some songs with my high school friend Josh. I then won a song writing award that gave me two days of recording time. At the same time I had been doing some jamming with Scarlett who was a family friend of mine. The recording of our first song which was ‘Rocket Ship’ was what bought the three of us together back in 2008 or whatever it was. Then we decided to play some live shows under the name of King George – this is when Josh and my very good friend Nick came on the scene to play bass. After a while of playing folky stuff we decided it was time for a change, so we had a bit of a make-over an decided to call ourself San Cisco!

How did you settle on the name San Cisco?

We liked the name San Cisco because it was like a blank canvas, in that it didn’t mean anything and perhaps we could make our own meaning to it or create our own genre of music. The name actually means nothing.

How would you describe your sound?

Indie-pop-surf-rock-gangster-punk-folk

Who would you say has been your biggest collective influence?

The Beatles

The last year has been amazing for you in Australia, how would you sum it up?

A series of fortunate events and a lot of support to make the most of those fortunate events.

How much has the success on home turf altered your ambitions?

Quite a bit, as when I first started playing music I just did it for fun and never thought it would be more than a little hobby. I thought that I would finish school and just go to uni, but it turns out the band is way to full on for uni or a job, so I guess our ambition now is to make a living out of music for as long as we can.

The video for “Awkward” has been a runaway success on YouTube-what was the thought process behind the video?

We just wanted a simple video for a simple song.

The single is the lead off new EP “Awkward” – can you tell us about the record…

‘Awkward’ is our second San Cisco ep and I feel that it projects the sound we are going for a lot better than our first (Golden Revolver). The second single, ‘Rocket Ship’ is an old song that I wrote before the band formed and was actually the first song we recorded together. It has been re-recorded since then of course and moved down a semitone to allow for my voice dropping haha!

Which song serves as the best introduction to your sound?

Oh that’s too hard to say! Probably some of our newer songs that have not been released yet.

“Awkward” contains an Arctic Monkeys cover-how did you settle on the song?

I have always loved that song and the Arctic Monkeys. We were never really planing on doing a cover, but one afternoon we were left with nothing to do so we thought we would give it a crack.

What other songs are you keen to get your teeth into?

‘Roses’ by Outkast. It’s a great song!

What is the key to a good cover?

No idea! Personally I think a good cover is when the artist or the band gives the song their own twist, but this is hard to do without completely butchering the song. It’s not about making it better or exactly the same, you want to make it a little diffrent from the original. For example, ‘Going To Acapulco’ by Jim James from the Bob Dylan movie is a great cover.

You are now embarking on global domination – what are your hopes outside Australia?

To play lots of shows, learn lots of things and make lots of friends.

If there is one market you could crack-which would it be? Why?

The fresh produce market because we like our veggies!

What is your one goal by the end of 2012?

Release an album that we are all very proud of.

Interview by Jeremy Williams

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