Posts Tagged ‘Patrick O’Heffernan’

kin walkin

The best way to describe The Kin is wild men from Australia and the New York subway.  There is nothing like them:  two lead singers/guitarists who are brothers, a didgeridoo,  a drummer who doesn’t use sticks, and a habit of invading restaurants and airports to steal ears, fill them with music, and then return them. And along the way,  these three artists create  high energy,  high melody, high fun alt. rock that is completely unique.  They have worked with legendary  producers  Nic Hard and Tony Visconti and toured  down under with PINK playing  to arenas full of thousands of people.  They recently launched a grueling USA  tour, kicking it off at  the Bootleg Theater in los Angeles.  Isaac “Hijack” Koren and Mark “Shakerleg” Nicosia stopped by Music FridayLive! for a chat before  setting up for  their gig.

Patrick. Welcome guys. I  love your band.

 Shakerleg. Let’s be sure we understand who this band is.  There is a drummer who plays without sticks, that’s  me, and the other two guys  are hacks. Seriously, we have two lead  singers who are harmonizing like you wouldn’t believe.  I am a New Yorker, not from Australia – we  need to stop this Australia thing  now…let me out!  Let me out!

Patrick.  I  can see this interview is going to go downhill fast. So,  moving  right along, you were on a tour with PINK in Australia and now you are  starting a new  tour in the US.  What  gives – going  back to work so  soon?

Isaac.  We actually just got back from our tour in Australia – we toured with PINK  last year. This is the “Thick as Thieves”  tour which started  in Australia – we toured rural  Australia.  We  thought we were going to be in the Outback, but they’ve  got some pretty big cities there.  Now we are about to take on the US with this crazy New York City drummer.  It’s amazing — this guy on the drums with his hands.  He is actually hurting himself on stage playing music.

kin arrowqs  l300

Patrick. We are going to talk about  him. Isaac.  I understand your mom was a musician and played  with Colin Hay of Men at Work.

Isaac.  Yeah, we would come home from school and she would blasting all the greats and singing the top notes and “gassing it  up” as she would say.  We were always  listening to music through our parents and  this was  the sense of our thoughts while we were making rash musical decisions.

Patrick.  I know  you have told the story of meeting in the subway many times, so I won’t ask you to repeat it,  but I do want to know, Shakerleg, does it really hurt to play.

 Shakerleg.  Oh yes it does.  The whole point was  to make people in the subway in New York, where I was making a living, to just turn their head and throw some money at me. Obviously my drumming skills with sticks were not up to par, especially in  comparison to other New York drummers, I thought well, maybe  I can just hit these things with my hands and see what happens. I  had to injure myself in front of them to show them I was desperate and had nothing else, and it backfired – I started to like it.

Patrick.  Did you leave  blood on the drum skins?

Shakerleg.  Occasionally.  There is calcification of the bone under  the skin of my hands –  like a MMA fighter  or a martial artist who is  hitting wood all the time. At least I like to kid myself that that is what is happening and not think about the future lack of use of lack of use of these two hands. I have a feeling it  is coming.  I wake up in the morning with my hands so swollen  I can barely close them.  I have to hold my hand up because they are so swollen.  But  it  is too good –  I can’t stop it right now.  I am not going with sticks because  I am  so far beyond  that with this hand  drumming that I  would  be  trying to play catch up.  I  will break my hands  until people stop coming  to the show.

kin onstage

Patrick.  Isaac, did you have any reservations about hiring a drummer who didn’t use sticks?

Isaac.  We have played with many a drummer and we love them all, but there is just a chemistry  with him that we have never before.  There was no question – it was  can we all get along? . Shakerleg interjects:   and we finally do get along, this is the first time I have felt this comfortable.

Patrick. You worked with Tony Visconti, who produced for David Bowie T-Rex, among others.  How did that happen?

Isaac and Skakerleg.  That was through one of our managers at Innerscope. He asked  us who we wanted to work with and we listened to the rawness of T-Rex albums and Bowie’s melodic  bass lines and grooves.  We believe that what we do in the studio  has  to be raw and has the kinetic energy of a live show, as well as solidifies a groove  that you can put on anytime and dance to.  Tony did  that for Bowie and T-Rex and we figured he could do it for us.

Patrick. Did he?

Isaac. I am not sure we got there with him, but I am not sure we are there yet except for our live recordings.  We are in an interesting place – we pretty much know what songs we want to put on the album and we pretty much  have an idea of how  to get  that sound, but we are still questioning a bit.

Patrick. What was it like to open for PINK?

Shakerleg.  I can speak personally as being a NY street performer, thinking that this  is big as I am going to go  and then  standing in an arena in Australia looking at the rig set up for her flying around, it was overwhelming and…yeah.  Ten years in a subway stations and then I am in  an arena with PINK.

Isaac.  I have never seen anyone so  dedicated to her craft. She is inspiring and top of  the mountain. We met  her at a benefit concert at someone’s home  in LA and she saw us play and several months her  people called us and here we are. I still have the recording of us screaming in the background.  I should make it my ringtone.

Patrick.  Was it terrifying being on a big arena  stage?

Shakerleg.  No, we felt alive.  This is what we came for.

Isaac  It is like a drug.  Once you do that, you are hooked.  Your biggest problem is that  in 2015 when the music business is so tough, you have to get back to the arena.

Patrick.  Thank you guys, have  a great tour and don’t wear yourself –  or your hands – out.

Isaac and Shakerleg.  Thank you and we will try.


Patrick O’Heffernan. Host, Music FridayLive!

The Kin.

available at

kin guitarist 2


trunnell happy polkadot

Mallory Trunnell knows  how to party and she threw an heck of one at the Hotel Café Sunday night to release her new album,  Words.  Dramatic in a puffy pink prom dress with a blue silk sash marvelously clashing with her red hair,  brilliant red  lipstick and plastic flower necklace, Mallory was dressed for the part…part music, part fun,  part party.  She started the party with a parade of singing a Capella girls, who wound their way through the audience to stand in front of the stage adding a backup of ooh-ohh –oho and bong, bong, bong” to “Mallory’s  opening number from the new album, “My Turn”.  It was smiles from there.

But despite the celebratory atmosphere, Mallory Trunnell is not a party girl; she is a busy girl, and has been from an early age.  She grew up in Delta Utah and began an acting career at the age of 4 and started writing songs at 9, pretty sizeable accomplishments for a child in a desert town of about 3500 people. She is now  in LA and is thriving in this city of 3 and half  million, at least 10,000 of whom are  aspiring musicians.  Currently on her plate is  promoting  the new album released at  Sunday nights party, The Twilight Music Girls band based on the Twilight book series, an earlier band called The crimson Calamity with Lauren Harding,  a “Walk Through Music” video to help support the Take the Walk charity,  the Hot Topic West Coast Tour  and other gigs including the House of Blues earlier this month.

She brings that busy energy to her performances.  She fills the room with energy as well as music.  Far more than a singer/songwriter, Trunnell is a force of nature on stage, directing the a Capella chorus, the two Bob Bop Girls backup (and sometimes foreground) singers, and her band or playing solo piano –  while all the time keeping us laughing, toe-tapping and occasionally singing along.


The a Capella chorus sauntered back into the audience as Trunnell began the title song from the album, “Words”, happily singing the not so happy words with a big smile:  I’ve been restless and feeling desperate/When I could barely breathe. This is Trunnell’s signature, happy, upbeat melodies with not so happy lyrics. Listen the words.

She continued the upbeat music/downbeat lyrics with “Happy”, starting with a devil-may-care Da da da da da da dum/Da da da da da doo doo doot n doo doo doot,n do yeah and follows it by asking the very sincere why does it hurt her to hate her lover  when it doesn’t hurt her lover to hate her – all  joyfully accented by the Bob Bop Girls whose ooo’s and bob, bop’s make you grin while you wonder at the lyrics.


She lowers the energy but ups the emotion with the querulous “Waiting”,  asking plaintively I am. You Are. Can We be?  and then really lowers it with “Tattooed”, a slowed-walked urgent conversation with a lover. She laments the Tattoos so deep /They sink to my bones….I scrub and scrub/and scrub and scrub and scrub…But your colors have tattooed me.  Her voice is urgent, her soul is stricken and she leaves us thinking how can this vivacious redhead with a silly grin in a 50’s prom dress with a guitar slung awkwardly across her chest make us feel so deeply that our stomachs tighten.

A consummate performer, Trunnell understands emotional breaks and emotional momentum – and when to do both.  She gives us the break by moving to the piano and shooing the band off the sage, lightening the atmosphere. Then, she announces it’s story time and  tells about the woman who set her on the path to music , her grandmother Ruby, the subject of the next song. The simple piano with her personal, talk-directly-to-you  singing made this a high point of the evening.  We laughed before; now we cried. Then we clapped when she gave a shout out to her mom, sitting at a table with friends enjoying her daughter’s talent and love.

But it was time to return to upbeat /downbeat as she stepped back to the microphone and brought the band onstage for “Quit You”, another  paean to an addictive bad-for-you relationship. No,no,no I cannot quit you ….Since you’ve been gone/There’s been a little too much room/ in my bed.  Most singer/songwriters mine their own  lives for material;  if Trunnell’s lyrics come from her life, her memoir will be delicious.

 Trunnell finished with a flourish, singing “Tomorrow’s Coming Fast”,  telling the very substantial Sunday night 7 pm early crowd  I’ve got paper/Got words to rhyme/I’ve got music.

Music is exactly what she has and when she shares it she makes people very, very happy.

Patrick O’Heffernan. Host, Music FridayLive!


Words by Mallory Trunnell

Available on iTunes and other online distributors



“Happy Kat”  is  not Kat McDowell’s nickname, but  after seeing her live at the Witzend Saturday night, that  is what I am going to call her because  that is what she does – make people happy. And Saturday night she made a packed house, standing room only cheering crowd very, very happy.  Not bad for his first major live performance in her adopted LA home.


Born in Japan, raised mostly in New Zealand, with many parts of both cultures inside her, Kat McDowell makes  music in both English and Japanese that make you sit up and take notice, or just let you happily tap your feet. She combines, pop, J-Pop, calypso, rock, Hawaiian and a positive musical attitude in a mixture that is like sunshine to listen to.  She built a successful career in Japan as a gaijun – a non-Japanese, even though she  is a native –  and that’s a serious challenge . But after many albums, singles, gigs, shows,  TV commercials and studio sessions, she was  a success there so now she is taking on the largest and most competitive music city in the world.  And from what I saw Saturday night,  she is taking it by storm.


Starting the 11 song set list with “Hopeful” , the lead song on the album she released Saturday, “Rise Above”,  she gets us moving right away with a lively western/pop  acoustic guitar  strum beat and the lyrics that  tell us that although it is  Just us against the world…we’ll rise above again…and we are hopeful. She picks us the energy with Diana with strong guitar riffs powdered with a fast-paced kick drum  that stays steady as she pushes even higher and faster, propelling one guest to get up and dance to the side of the stage – much to Kat’s  encouraging amusement.


After introducing  herself  and the band Peter Chalmers on guitar, Pablo Motta on drums

Masaki Kusumori on bass and telling us about the new album, “Rise Above” she downshifts the energy and smoothed out the beat out with “Where Are you love:’ from her You and Me album, a perfect  prelude to  her kicking back and starting a personal conversation with the audience, telling us about starting the piano at 6 years old  and wanting to learn more, but  being intimidated by a 4-year old boy prodigy in her class. However, when she moved to the piano,  kicked off her shoes, and demonstrated her prowess on the keys on two  songs, including the “Still Learning How to Start” accented by an electrifying guitar riff and “Lovely Day”, written with her brother.


Putting her shoes back on and flashing her 100-megawatt smile,  Kat returned to center stage, pulled  up a stool  and asked us if she minded her sitting down for a while.  We  didn’t and were  rewarded with the ukulele-led  “ Human” ,  3.11 from her Hope  in You album, and “Everywhere I go’  and  the island-hopping  “Goodbye” with Kat’s signature happy beats and not  so-happy lyrics blending into addictive  music.  Then she did something  I have never seen a singer do – she gave us her phone number – actually, she brought out a large banner with her number on it (310-846-8416)  and told  us  to text  it  for a free download.  Phones came out and the  sound of fingers  tapping filled the room (it worked – I got my  download).


Rolling down to the finish line, Kat held up a hand-designed towel  with her name on it and told us  they would available  with CD’s.  Then she balled up  the towel, threw into the audience – almost  as good as  a t-shirt  gun at the ball game. While the towel was being passed  around the back rows, she  kicked  off  “Final Win” telling us  You have never heard her roar and then really roared in “Break Free” from her You and Me album. But best of  all, she finished  with “A Little  Rain”,  charging it with the best energy of the  night, engaging the audience in call and response and even demonstrating her trilling skills.

The audience was  deliriously happy and clearly wanted now, and the Witzend widely gave her time for an encore even though the clock said it now Sunday morning. Kat McDowell had accomplished what she set out to do, release an album

m with a band and make people  happy. From now on, she is “Happy Kat” to me.

Patrick  O’Heffernan. Host Music  FridayLive!


Kat McDowell. Rise Above

album available on iTunes and Amazon

See my review of the album at


With her brilliant smile, athletic body  and mischievous eyes, the diminutive Maggie Szabo put on a show Friday night at LA’s premier showcase club this Friday that topped even her high-energy performance  record.  Nobody sat still as she rocked  through  11 songs – mostly new material including the new, soon-to-be-a-hit “Paralyze”,  along with favorites like “Sweetest  Heartache” and the solid pop-anthem, “Slow Fire”.

Having seen her live four times,  I  could tell that there has been both a creative burst and a lot of hard work in her career since I started following her about a year ago. New songs  blended smoothly with her audience’s established favorites, making the evening  seem like a  party  with old  friends;  there were no dissonant  notes, no “where is Maggie going?”, questions.  It  just all worked.  Even when she took to the old  upright piano in far stage left and shifted mood for “Touch the Ground” and “Take Your Time”,  she was  on  target both as a singer and as  a performer. Plus she gave a preview of some of  the new songs on an EP  she is now wrapping up a new EP, Truth.


It was the performer side of Maggie  that really seems  to have grown.  A consummate  relationship builder online, with tens of thousands of Facebook and twitter  followers, Maggie has always been able to transfer that likeability to her performances – a skill I marveled at last February  when I attended her album release  party on the same stage.  But this Friday night she brought a  new confidence and a new capacity to connect personally with individual  fans  – the way Bill  Clinton does  in a crowd.  She was singing to you, personally.

A Canadian-born,  Nashville-trained soul-pop singer with ferocious energy packed into a compact, constantly moving frame, Maggie  has moved from an online hit wonder to full-blown top writing, signing and touring performer.  In the short time she has been in LA, I have watched her tighten her song-writing, elevate her command of the stage, and pull her current band – Steven Shook, Sam Campbell, Frank Grande, Sonny Kennelly, Aaron Aiken, Chantel McCrary together into a well-oiled and joyfully focused machine.

Stepping up to her trademark pink mic stand and microphone, dressed in formal short black dress with a bare  midriff that let the rhinestone in her belly button flash as she moved, Maggie was  confident and energized.  She kicked off the evening with a new song, “Tragedy”, telling  the song’s recipient of her attitude, Cuz I’d be the one who would make you feel/Like a million dollars every day of the week while letting us know she would make us feel  like a million dollars that night.


And she did,  introducing us to the new song, “Paralyze” and then  upshifting even more to her full-tilt dance cut,  “Slow Fire”.  The room bounced  and swayed as she told us Baby, we can burn all night-  and we were ready to do just that.  As she moved through the set list, including the two  songs with her at the piano and back to the band with “One Sided”,   her command of the performance and the audience expanded, like the lens on  a spotlight opening up to illuminate a growing circle.  When she gave the band a downbeat and launched into the pop-constructed “Sweetest Heartache” with  its ultimately singable hooks, people  in the back of the room couldn’t  restrain themselves and started dancing, clearing a tiny  space  in the standing crowd.

“Relapse” and “Forgive and forget”  kept  the energy up.  Maggie finished on the highest note  in reparatory, her  hit single “Tidal  Waves and Hurricanes”.  It was over too soon.

Early on in the performance Maggie told us that the Hotel  Café is her favorite venue in LA and she rocks it wonderfully. But  I would love to see her in a larger space, either solo or opening for a national  act where she could bring in her legions of fans and give them room to dance. Her pop  constructions can easily cross from iPod Playlists sand Pandora  downloads to into  room-filling anthem/dance music  A larger space as a solo or big tour warm up act would also give her the freedom to lengthen her songs from radio-ready 2 to 3 minutes to concert length, 5 – 7  minute cuts.  She has the energy and the material – “Slow Fire” and “Tidal Waves and Hurricanes”, for instance – and her current band  could easily kick it up even more with drum and guitar solos.  But  most importantly, Maggie has  the authority on stage to translate to a larger venue  and a growing audience. She deserves it and so do we.

~ Patrick O’Heffernan. Host, MusicFridayLive!


Maggie Szabo

Hotel Café, Hollywood CA


salmed6_photo-bryce prevatte

Salme Dahlstrom is a marvel  She not only writes, performs and produces dance music that is  irrepressible, but she licenses virtually everything she does to TV or movies, so you have  probably heard her music even  if you don’t know it.  Which means that chances are,  Salme  Dahlstrom is a part of the soundtrack of your life.

And that’s a good thing.  Her music can hum in the background while you go about your day with a little extra energy and bounce, or it can shimmer in the foreground as you notice it’s 4 am and you are still dancing.  Either way Salme’s tunes are is not only the best party music on the air today, they are also the creation of an experienced artist and as such they demand attention on that level as well as on the dance floor.  Salme is a woman so confident in her talent that she long ago transcended pop’s angst to produce music that is intelligent as well as hooky, sophisticated as well as accessible, and always fun to listen to.  And with the release of Pop Propaganda 2: Retro Funk Soul Junction, there is even more Salme to enjoy.

Pop Propaganda 2’s hooks and beats and courageous mixes are non-stop fun for  both your feet  and your  mind. Salme transcends pop and takes us to a new planet of  musical addiction.  Hooked is an understatement.


And there is much to enjoy on PP2, starting at the top with a love song with attitude, Love +Shine, carried with  signature 60’s rock guitar  riffs, steady,  sophisticated  drumming, efx guitars and her  precisely modulated and tuned voice, including a falsetto, which raises the ceiling of  whatever room you are in.  This is Salme at her most glorious:  trippy, precise, confident – even cocky  by her  own admission –  and a bit psychedelic.  You can parse the words, you can analyze the effects, you can  delve into  the inspiration, but one thing you can’t  do  is  sit still.

The next song is the single, “Pop Yr Heart  Out”, but  I am  going to leave that until  the end because of  a courageous experiment she does  with it on the album.  “Superfunky Babes”  a seemingly pure  dance number celebrating summer party time, was written to be the “ultimate summer song”  invoking visions of  rooftop  dancing in the sunshine.  But, as with all things Salme, there is more.  The genesis of the song is convoluted – the title came  first, then the verse melody with the line “Superfunky babes walking the street”, then the chorus,  a lyrical work-around. The result is a song about  women  dancing and walking sensually that is not sexual – a neat trick and one necessary to keep the song a celebration of summer and not a riff on  female  body parts. She pulls it off  with intelligence and fun.

“Bodies in Motion” follows and is exactly what it  claims. High energy funky drums,  tuned  lyrics , Cole Williamson backing vocals;  it  does what is says – keeps  your  body in motion  with pure fun funk. “Rocking the Spot”  upshifts the energy,  downshifts the funk and swirls  in  the 60’s.  Intricate drums, fast-paced lyrics,  a call and answer partying vibe colored with a 60’s na  a na na, nan  na come together expertly. The production is spot on, as is the production every song on the album, very layered, very high gloss,  very professional but  accessible.

The bonus track, “Barcelona  Babe”  comes at us from a seeming  other world, as Salme’s pure, feminine voice beckons us with hey, hey, hey there.  When we come she seduces us with sound effects and a three-layered  drum beat heavy on the lower end kick and toms. Lots of fun, both for her,  as she played with her new Nexus 2 for  the effects, and for us tapping our feet and whirling under the flashing lights.


The heart of the album to me was  “Pop Ur  Heart Out”, done four different ways.  Taking up almost half the album with the same song done in different styles is a risk than  only the supremely confident Salme could or would  take.  But  even riskier was  how  she did it.  She sent  the initial single to three other artists: the San Francisco-based glitchhop  duo Spekr Freks; the wildly prolific music producer DJ Phunkae; and Eugeny Lobanovsky, the dubstep  artist known as Quadrat Beat. What she got back – and put on her album – are  three very different, and very  entertaining versions of “Pop Ur  Heart Out” ranging from the glitch hip hop style of SpekFreks, to a very sexy rendition by DJ Funkae, to a totally unique and wonderful sped up dance take by Quadrat Beat.  An act of courage on her part that paid off in great dividends for her fans.

But that is what you get with Salme – courage, talent, excitement, energy and everything done to  the highest standards possible. She is pure  New York.  Pop Propaganda 2 radiates the city’s  diversity and energy; you can hear the rooftop  parties, the basement raves, the living streets  of New York in every song. It’s no  wonder;  Salme is quintessential  New York energy and work ethic; he plays every instrument, writes and sings every lyric and produces every song herself,  pouring her essence and her ethic  into each line and note  and riff.  Taken individually, each song on Pop Propaganda2  can stand alone as either a  rock-‘till-you drop  dance  number, or a joyfully listenable social commentary.  Taken together, they combine into what should be at very least the dance album of the year.

By Patrick O’Heffernan, host Music Friday Live!


Pop Propaganda 2:  Retro,  Funk, Soul Junction

Salme Dahlstrom

Available on iTunes, Amazon, CD  Baby, The Store


salmed1_photo-bryce prevatte


Jack Kovacs_

Hollywood. You come to a live show to get something extra you don’t get by listening to an album. Jack Kovacs gave that something extra to us Saturday night at the Hotel Café, he gave us himself, in words, music and conversation. Billed as an EP release party, Kovac’s appearance Saturday night was less of a party and more of a gathering of friends as he debuted his new EP, “The State Line”. The crowd was tight and intimate at the storied venue, relishing his music and his just darn plain friendliness. In a world in which many performers are uncomfortable talking and seem at times to hide behind their music, Kovacs was not only comfortable conversing but in his wheelhouse. He obviously loves people and we loved him.

Kovacs and his six person band took us on a melodic and introspective look into the mind of a young songwriter just beginning to discover his power. He has learned to inhabit the in-between spaces that separate public musical expression from internal contemplation. The result on an EP is poetic, dreamy, otherworldly; the result on stage is all of that, but also happy and energetic and very real. He took us into dreams and nightmares and made it all sparkle.

Kovacs filled us in on the backstory behind almost every song , but even when he didn’t, when he sings and we know we have been there in the place his lyrics describe. Whether it is the strange and spooky “The Empty House” or the soft and sweet “Jenny”, Kovacs connected with us and reminded us of our own dreams and thoughts and memories. Carried by soft, precisely picked and strummed guitar, he brought back some people’s past and foretold other’s future, all the while keeping the conversation going, musically and otherwise.

He opened up slowly with the mesmerizing title song “The StateLine”, taking a full 5 minutes to transport us on a Colorado road trip, signaling that this night was going to be an emotional as well as musical experience. Then brought us back to reality with a conversation about a girl he proposed to, “Jenny”, and then sang us into a sunny day with her (he was coy about whether or not she said yes). He shifted into a more mysterious vein with “Something Strange”, and then got even more mysterious – calling it “the Halloween part of the show” – with “The Empty House “sung ominously, harmonizing with his female accompanist. For fans who have seen the disturbing video, hearing it live brings back those images and makes you shudder a bit. This must be a band favorite because they seemed to grow with energy and presence when the song started and the show moved to a higher energy level afterward.

album cover

He upped the tempo and brought us back to something close to reality with “Mariana Trench” and then encased us in total musical beauty – and a delicately picked banjo – with “Voice that Only Sings”. All this after regaling us with a story about his grandfather’s jacket which he was wearing, strange cults and a pocket-sized Rosetta stone.

Sensing that his audience was thoroughly with him and did not want a break, he moved through “Carolina”, and “Human Nature” with his trademark mesmerizing harmony and intriguing lyrics. By the time he announced he had one more song, we were all quite happy and did not want it to end, but the finale, “Song of the Summer”, was perfect. Starting gently, the music built up; the drumbeat amplified, the base throbbed and the bands voices crescendoed as they sang We are looking for a chance to be young/And listening for a brand new song to be sung/We will be ready for this moment for the rest of our lives. The audience was clapping and tapping and cheering and wanting more. And a few of us thought, he’s right, as we looked back and forward over our lives.
Patrick O’Heffernan, Host, Music FridayLive!

The State Line, Jack Kovacs


kat ukelele

The thing about Kat McDowell is that she is just plain fun to listen to. And remarkably, she is fun to listen to in two languages, English and Japanese.  And that’s not an easy thing to accomplish, given the difference between the two languages. But  Kat McDowell does it so well that in any language her music can make you sit up and take notice, or just let you happily tap your feet. Either way, she is a musical force on a fast track.


Born in Japan, raised mostly in New Zealand, with many parts of both cultures inside her, she combines pop, J-Pop, calypso, rock and a positive musical attitude in a mixture that is like sunshine to listen to.  She built a successful career in Japan and now is in the USA, Los Angeles to be geographically exact, enjoying its surf (she is avid surfer), its plethora of recording assets and a world  class population of collaborating artists.  The first fruits of that relocation, the album Rise Above,  is due out in two weeks  and it is a winner from the first note.

kate singing up

Rise Above is a substantial work;  10 songs, one in Japanese and English, the others in English, each one  distinctive,  but still well within the upbeat universe that Kat constructs even from the most somber of contests.  The album’s breakout single, “Human” is  her musical follow up to a very nasty argument that moves from Just one of those days when I don’t want to get out of bed to  Surely we can be human. Framed with a ukulele, light guitar  strum and drum brushes, it makes you smile and tap your feet as you think about – why can’t we all just get along and be human.  You know you are in Kat’s World and you love it.

“Still Learning How To Start” picks up the pace with heavier guitars and a  solid pop beat, but it is still Kat McDowell Sunshine,  even as she sings of  promises made  under the stars at night.. The chorus Here we are, you still have my heart” and here we are and we’re still learning how to start  is a first class earworm hook, tailor-made for top  40 radio and a crush of fans singing and  waving their arms and cellphones at a concert (I’ll be there).

“Lovely Day” is exactly what you want to wake up to…bright shiny pop notes and lyrics that tell you no matter how bad you feel, it is  a beautiful day.  There’s always some kind of crises, she reminds us and tells us to put a smile back on our face and be the change we want in our life. And she says she will help you carry on – and she does. Not profound, but it works and is especially welcome in a rock universe with so much music that makes you want to stay in bed.

My favorite song on the Album is “Goodbye”, which introduces a more Caribbean feel, and is little  more serious, although Kat’s trademark cheery voice and the upbeat arrangement is well within sunshine land.  You’ve had to say goodbye so many times, You can’t remember why you even bother sings the woman who played at 1000 gigs on three continents and is now living in her third country. This is not about her, but it is very intriguing…makes you wonder  while you tap your feet.

The remaining 6 songs on the album are all musically addictive and emotionally thoughtful as they venture into shadows as well as sunshine. Standouts include  “Walkaway”, a quiet poetic story performed with a guitar and no happy ending as she walks away from a relationship, “Dianna”  moved along with an EDM-style beat and syncopated keyboards and electric guitar in a classically–assembled pop arrangement with a twist, and the pop ballad  “Final Win”  with a 80’s rock feel in which she reminds you that you have never heard my roar (we will). And finally, the Japanese version of  “Still Learning How to Start” which shows how she elevates her voice to a higher key and enunciates the Japanese lyrics a little faster  than the English.

This is an album you can put on in the background as you go about your day,  or on your earbuds with your eyes closed while you lie on the beach and think about life, hers and yours.  It is a perfect introduction for Kat McDowell into the US market and should carve out a space for  her that she can build on, and she certainly will. Above all, Rise Above  is pure musical sunshine.

Patrick O’Heffernan, Host Music FridayLive! radio


kat guitar trees large


Los Angeles. Ben Jaimen is very, very good  and his US debut EP, Through the Universe, demonstrates that in spades. A native of Germany with family in Israel and Argentina, Jaimen moves easily among those and other countries, picking up musical influences while retaining a certain humble cosmopolitan air. Music training in Israel and London, summers teaching to disabled barrio children in Cordoba, recording in Germany and LA, he has seen and given a lot. He has sung to a million people at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany, written and recorded hundreds of songs, and played gigs from Berlin to Tel Aviv.

A pop rocker who writes and performs with the precision of a seasoned professional, he  knows how to hold a crowd  or  lay down  popular tracks. Most important, he is also determined  to live and sing with integrity and to be his own man. With  Through the Universe he is very much his  own man; he has produced a musical E-ticket ride and trust me, you will love every twist and bump.

Ben Jaimen,  Sylvester 2011

The Ep launches with “Satellites”,  a dance-paced, sophisticated earworm carefully constructed to engage the listener at a visceral as well as a lyrical level. With whirling keyboard notes, racing but modulated drums, perfectly integrated bass and caffeinated guitar riffs, it gets under your skin and into your muscles.  You can feel yourself twirling with the lovers,  leaving this crazy world behind and spinning through this universe tonight.  But  even in a pop dance number, Jaimen and the song’s co-writer Davy Nathan slip in a message, “We won’t  let this world define us”.  And it doesn’t ,  we realize that as we sing oh-ohohoh with him.

The pace downshifts a bit and the message gets more explicit in “Not A Man For Sale”.  Musically reminiscent of Michael Jackson, Jaimen makes it clear who he is in this song, clearly meant to introduce him to the LA and US music industry.  Carefully constructed complex rhythms showcase his superb songwriting chops and command of global musical styles.  Jaimen uses African xylophones, clap drums, bass and guitars to weave an addictive musical message, driven home with an emphatic chorus that stays with you.

As we settle into his very good but recognizable pop rock groove, he goes off the grid and takes us into another musical universe with “Tokyo”.  A 51-second intro in the form of a urgent conversation in Japanese tells us that we aren’t in pop rock Kansas anymore. The lyrics (and the title) tell us that we are in Tokyo and it is a city of dreams and dangers, “There are shadows running on the streets/Everywhere I go they follow me/Am I dreaming or am I awake/Locked up in a place  I can’t escape.  The lyrical dream/nightmare is moved along by an burning, almost painful swirling keyboard that sets the beat,  punctuated with a muted snare and distant clap drum, like we are in a bright, cold overwhelming city with unseen forces bearing down us.  And, as ever in Jaimen songs, the ethical line slips in: I  see the man with the evil eyes/Telling me that he can make me fly/High and high, to the sky/To come around, the price is too high.


We deserve a break after “Tokyo” and Jaimen gives it to us with “Die For You”, and easy pop story of love with mostly predictable rises and hooks.  It moves us in a dance-energy beat with a piano giving direction and drums and keyboards filling in while Jaimen’s flexible and , in this case, highly-pitch voice lets us know he would die for the girl in the small town he is skipping through. No drama, no memos, no mysteries – but a very clear message: I can do radio-ready pop with the best of them.

But being Jaimen, he can’t stay there for long, he takes us back  into darker territory with “The Devil With Dice”, a witchy woman song that evokes pop jazz more than pop rock.  Propelled by a simple snare drum rim-hit beat supported by kick  drum and bass over-rhythms,  Jaimen moves this story with a complex score. That complexity supports a conventional verse and very singable chorus for a radio-ready tune that we should be hearing on FM across the country before long.

Through the Universe closes with “Piece of Me” a  pop-blues ballad in the vein of Piano Man, with Jaimen’s lower register Billy Joel voice beguiling us in the verse, If this is love/Why does it burn?/If this is heaven/Then why does it hurt? . But being his own man, he  is not satisfied  to stay there in a vocal comfort zone. He moves his voice up an octave  for the chorus to color the lines in heartbreak pain,  almost but not quite losing the note.  While we absorb this, he nails us to the wall with a blues back-up singer bridge and a soul-piercing finish worthy of  any blues band out there.

Ben Jaimen has all the puzzle pieces for stardom: welcoming good looks, gracious humility, prodigious talent, superb craftsmanship.  Through The Universe  proves he can put them all together with creativity and a unique personal style when he  has the time and does the work, which he clearly did.  It is an E-Ticket ride for the listener and a neon-bright billboard for the industry.  There is a new talent in town and he is flying through our universe at light speed.


Patrick O’Heffernan, Host Music FridayLive! radio

Through The Universe, Ben Jaimen

Available  on iTunes



Ben Jaimen,  Sylvester 2011

Ben Jaimen slides into the back both seat of an out of the way table at the Sofitel Hotel In Beverly Hills.  He has just finished a 4-song set introducing his debut EP, Through the Universe, to a US audience.  Jaimen is big in Europe, especially in his native Germany where he has sung before a million people at the Brandenburg Gate.  But tonight he was entertaining a modest crowd, shrunk slightly because of the closure of one of LA’s most important freeways. Nevertheless, with luminaries like Marla Maples and the German Deputy Counsel General sampling sliders and Jaimen song-named drinks, it was a good beginning for this handsome, humble and very, very talented 27-year old..

Ben Jaimen with German Deputy Counsel General

Ben Jaimen with German Deputy Counsel General

Jaimen was  sporting a fashionable 5 o’clock shadow, red pants, a peace symbol t-shirt and a heavy studded leather jacket, despite a warm evening approaching 70 degrees as he settled in and opened a bottle of water.  But he didn’t stay settled for long, as a constant stream of pretty girls, well-wishers, and new fans dropped by, still tingling from singing oh-ohoh-oh with him on his European hit, “Satellite”.  But between autographs, hugs with fans, and hellos from other artists he talked seriously about his entry in the US market, his music and where he is in his life.

Patrick. Ben, you have written a recorded dozens of songs.  You came into the studio with over 40 songs ready to go, but you chose not to do the usual 12 -15 song album, but a sampler EP with only 6 songs.  Why?

Jaimen. This is really just an introduction to show the American audience who I am, and frankly, hopefully, to leave them a little hungry for more.  And because this is my debut and you only get one first time, every song had to be special.


Patrick.  So what is special about these 6 songs, special in  the context not only of the EP, but in the context of your life and where you are now.

Jaimen.  I love explaining and interpreting different cultures because I have lived in many cultures. One thing that is common to all cultures is celebrating life, and that is what the EP does – it is about joy and celebration of life.  I also celebrate life because of family and that is there too.  Family is always a reason to celebrate and I have family spread all over the world. So it all comes together.

Patrick. Why did you study music in Israel instead of one of the music capitals like London or New York, or LA or Nashville?

Jaimen.  We have family and a second home in Israel,  so there was a great family connection there.  I actually went to learn the language and ended up learning music as well.

Patrick.  Has the music in the different cultures you have lived in influence your music today.

Jaimen.  Yes,  although it is subtle, it is there.  My music is what it is because of the many kinds of music I have heard and learned from in different countries.

Patrick.  Is your music a kind of world music in some way?

Jaimen.  Well it is all about me and I am a citizen of the world, so yes.  The songs are all personal. I actually wrote one song on top of a mountain in Argentina.


Patrick. You have a strong element of social action in your life.  Can you tell us about it?

Jaimen.  I understand that I have opportunities not everyone has and I want to give back to society.  This is important.  One way I give back is teaching music to poor children – some of whom are disabled – in Argentina.  I also work  with a charitable project in Germany.  I will always give back.

Patrick. Do the children teach you anything?

Jaimen.  Oh yes, they teach me to listen, how important it is to listen. And to be grateful.

Patrick.  What are you hoping from this US tour?

Jaimen. (laughing) A lot of new fans!  And I hope to get a USA label and an American manager.

 Patrick. Thank you.  Looking forward to continuing this conversation on the radio

Jaimen.  Me too.  Thank you!

Patrick O’Heffernan, Host Music FridayLive! radio



Ben Jaimen can’t escape his fans, even though he is just being introduced to the US. A tall, olive-skinned 27-year old with a fashionable five o’clock shadow and a brilliant welcoming smile, you would not know he just b\blew away the crowd at his CD release party with perfect pitch pop rock.

A native of Germany with family in Israel and Argentina, Jaimen moves easily among those and other countries, picking up musical influences while retaining a certain humble cosmopolitan air. Music training in Israel, college in London, summers teaching music to disabled barrio children in Cordoba, he has seen and given a lot for such a young man and it shows in his eyes and his smile So it not surprising that a conversation with Jaimen is punctuated by pretty girls asking for his autograph and hoping for hugs (they got them) and couples who just want to stop by an out of the way corner table say “hi”, bask in his reflected glow and add to it with their accolades.

They are all still buzzing with his music, delivered faultlessly from a small but well-equipped stage set up at the Sofitel Beverly Center Hotel’s intimate outside venue.  After a video of his new single, “Satellites”, showcasing his good looks and solid, high energy songwriting, Jaimen hopped onstage, flanked by the  band.  He flashed  a brilliant but self-conscious smile and launched into a four-song set that showed us why he is so popular in Europe.  The set also showed why he will be popular in the US and – most importantly – why he can be a huge star worldwide  if he takes the next step in his  maturation.


In short, Ben Jaimen is very good.  The question is, can he become great?

The four songs he played for us, all from the debut EP, Through the Universe, were masterpieces of  technical pop perfection.  The single “Satellites”, and the EP songs “Not a Man for Sale” , and “Die For You” all had his stamp on them.  Each song was exact – the guitar riffs were exactly the right length and exactly where they should be.  The drumming was exactly on beat, moving the song along in an enjoyable but predictable trajectory.  The songs flowed exactly through setup, bridge, chorus, hooks and end (with a little deviation for “Tokyo”).

Jaimen’s stage presence was also exact – exactly rehearsed and formulated, with hand and arm gestures practiced until their timing and photogeneric quality was perfect.  In short. Jaimen has reached the point in his career where he has complete control over his craft and his technique.  He can assemble and deliver a song or a performance precisely to the blueprint.  Not surprising for a man who has sung to a million people at the Brandenburg Gate, written hundreds of songs, and is working with voice coach Ilana Martin (Sean Combs, Patti LaBelle, D’Angelo, Stevie Wonder, Donna Summer) and pianist  Davy Nathan (Christina Aguilera, Toni Braxton, Sean Kingston, Jason Derulo, Eric Benet and The X-Factor).

As Jaimen joins the fray in the huge and hugely competitive US music market – especially in LA where he is now based – he needs to move beyond German engineering into a creative space where he just does, with practice and artifice and exactitude. He needs to incorporate some of the out of control, controlled energy of a  Xander Demos or Bombay Bicycle Club,  take some San Francisco acid and Silicon Valley risk, ride some LA surf and groove to some New Orleans blues and let his huge warm heart come out through his talent. He is very, very good.  Now he needs to let that all go and become great.


Patrick O’Heffernan, Host Music FridayLive! radio

Through the Universe by Ben Jaimen

available on iTunes and Amazon