G. Love

I have been photographing G. Love for many years, but until yesterday, I never heard his story. And a good story it is. Should be reading material for anyone who is trying to “Make it” in the music industry. G is 41 years old, celebrating the release of his first album on its 20th anniversary. He started out playing on the streets pof Philadelphia for tips. He graduated to playing three sets every Friday night at a bar in Philly for $150 a night, 3 pitchers of beer (one for each set) and three sandwiches.

He was discovered at a music conference in Philly, and started releasing albums (15 of them to date)

G Love at the Charter One Pavillion on July 3, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.G Love G LoveBut his strength is his live performance. He tours all the time, playing anywhere anyone wants him to play. And he plays great!! His music is a combination of  hip hop and blues, the band is him on guitar and harmonica, a drummer and a stand up bass player. His attitude is to win over new fans every night and then keep them. Some people tell him after the show that they have seen him play 40 times, others are seeing him for the first time. He wants all of them to come back. He was asked during our interview how he deals with mistakes and his answer was that they try to turn a mistake into something cool!

So for anyone that wants to go from small clubs to large arenas, I say- check this guy out and be happy playing small and medium venues and continuing to do that for the next 20 years!

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Christina Perri

This week I spent a wonderful few hours with a singer named Christina Perri. She is touring behind her new album (her 2nd). She first became famous when one of her songs was sung by an American Idol contestant, before her first album came out.

Christina Perri at the House of Blues on April 9th, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Christina Perri at the House of Blues on April 9th, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.So, during the interview we conducted, she was asked how hard it was to come up with songs for her new album. (There is a saying in the music business that it takes an artist their whole life to write their first album, and then they have to write the next one in a year while they are touring to support the first one!) Her answer was: “I walked into the studio with 42 new songs- we recorded them all and picked the best 13!!” Tell that to the people who can’t write 12 songs for a new album.

Later in the interview, she was asked how she keeps getting better at putting on shows. Her answer: “I show up every day ready to work.”

Man, I wish everyone these days had that kind of attitude!

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My Acting Debut

About a month ago, my friend Jason    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jason_Narducy asked me to take some publicity pictures for his new project. He is a great guitar player, who tours with Bob Mould, among others. He came over, I set up a background, and took some cool photos of him. At the end, he asked me to take a few pictures of his elbows. HUH????

After I did, I asked him why he needed them. He replied that he was making a video describing himself as the rock star with the sexiest elbows in the world. Sounded pretty weird, and it got weirder when he asked me to be in the video!! So we went downstairs and he picked out some photos from my files of musical stars with their elbows exposed. I printed them out.

A few days later, I arrived at the location of the video shoot. Shortly after, John Stirratt from Wilco arrived, as we were both being filmed that day. We both filmed our parts, and I left, thinking that the thing was pretty weird, but fun.

A few weeks later, I got an email from Jason saying that the video was being run on the Jimmy Fallon show that night!!! Yikes!!1 Nationwide stardom. Since then, the video has gome pretty viral, and I receive about 5 emails a day from people that saw it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9l5Wzq2dEc

Weird way to become a little part of video history, but I will take anything I can get!!!

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Washington, DC.

Going into the subway in Chicago is like walking down a flight of stairs into a hole in the ground. And then there is Washington, DC!

I spent some time there (and in New York and Richmond, Va.) last week working on a book project. Took the DC Metro several times and I was in awe of the architecture in the subway stations of the Metro. Puts Chicago (and New York) to shame.

DC Metro_0003smallWhile in DC, we went to interview my friend Eric Hilton, one of the leaders of the band Thievery Corporation, who owns a bunch of restaurants in DC. We went to his restaurant “Marvin” named after Marvin Gaye. (He is a big fan of soul music.)

When I photographed him for the book, I positioned him in front of a huge portrait of Marvin Gaye painted on the wall. I kept on telling him to move his head so that I could catch the light.

Marvin_0025smallWhen we were done, he said something very interesting:

“I learned very early in my career to always do whatever the photographer tells me to do. They know what they are doing.”

YIKES!! Why can’t they all be like that.

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More interesting (to me) stuff

Saw a piece on the news last week about a college student in Italy who climbed up on a century’s old statue so that he could take a “selfie” picture. When he climbed up, he broke off the statue’s leg. The newscaster said it wasn’t a big deal, because the statue was a replica of the real one, and was only a couple of years old! Enough already with the camera phones. I was at a concert last weekend, and was walking down the aisle from the back to the stage and the whole audience was lit up with cell phone screens.

On another note, Kristen Bell has been campaigning for a NO KIDS POLICY FOR PAPARAZZI.

“I had a guy, just when I was leaving my interview before this, I was pulling into the garage, he was banging on the window and because I didn’t roll it down, he called me the C-word and he said, ‘I’m posting [at] your hotel,’ as a threat saying there’s going to be more people now following you all the time.”

“People act like animals and that’s just not OK with me. It’s absurd and we’ve gotten to a point where we’ve just lost a humanity,” she explained, asserting that celebrity kids should not be subjected to this kind of behavior.”

“Right now, I feel like children need to be left out of it. It’s too much to rope them in, they’re babies, they don’t understand. You cannot be stalking 6-year-olds,” Bell said. “To me, it’s consent. If a parent consents, that’s like signing a permission slip. Because I signed up to be an actress, I also signed up to be a parent and I take my role as a mother very seriously and you do not have permission to photograph my daughter. So, if someone gives you permission, that’s fine. If a celebrity sets something up, I’m not here to come down on them, but it really should be up to the parent.”

Her campaign is based on the premise that magazines should not use these kind of pictures, thus rendering them worthless. Great idea, but in practice, magazine editors will say- People want to see celebrity’s kids, so we will show them. So the world is a crazier place because of “The people’s right to know.”

Sad that if you are famous, you have to lock your kids in the house to keep them from being shown in magazines!

 

 

 

 

 

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Random Stuff

The March Issue of Vanity Fair is the annual Hollywood issue. Many Annie Leibovitz pictures, nicely done.

Also included is a series of portraits by Chuck Close. Here are the instructions that he sent each of the subjects:

  1. Arrive alone or with one close friend or associate.
  2. Be available for three hours
  3. Be responsible for your own look- no styling or hair or makeup.
  4. You will be supplied with coffee and deli sandwiches- nothing fancy will be served.

I like the first and fourth points- it is a photo shoot not a social gathering. Not so sure about number two- it is the same setup, with a 20×24 polaroid camera, so it shouldn’t take three hours

Number three is a problem for me. The men (Dustin Hoffman, Stephen Spielberg, Harrison Ford all look ruggedly handsome and at ease.

The women, among them Oprah Winfrey, Bette Midler and Julia Roberts, all look uncomfortable and ill at ease. I know from personal experience that Oprah puts on makeup to go to the drugstore! So why put these women through such a harrowing experience? Is Mr. Close trying to show his superiority over them? Is he saying “if you don’t like it you don’t have to be in Vanity Fair”? Seems a little overbearing to me.

In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, there is an article about a New York state based punk band called Perfect Pussy. It describes their show as such:

When the sign outside your local club reads Perfect Pussy:900PM, do not show up at 9:16!

“If you can’t do everything you need to do in 15 minutes, you are probably overthinking it,” says singer Meredith Graves.

So…… later in the magazine, there is a review of the bands new CD. Here is a quote from the review: Say Yes to Love is a heart punch of an album- 8 songs, 23 minutes

Guess they needed more than 15 minutes to say what they wanted to say!!

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Newspapers are dead!!!

Nothing like 12 hours in a car to discuss the world of newspapers! On Friday, my friend Dave Hoekstra, the best newspaper writer in Chicago lost his job at the Chicago Sun Times after 32 years at the paper. Shortly after that fateful moment, I picked him up at his house and we proceeded to drive to St. Louis to continue work on a project we are working on. Six hours each way gave us a lot of time to talk about the state of newspapers in this country (and to play some great basketball trivia, thanks to Google on his phone).

I have been watching the demise of the Sun Times (my paper of choice) for quite some time. Last year the paper fired their entire photography staff in an obvious attempt to not have to pay benefits for all those guys. The publisher explained that photography has gone the way of the horse and buggy, and started setting up classes for his reporters to learn how to take pictures with their iPhones!

A short time before that, the paper eliminated their Sunday Arts section, replacing it with a section called Splash, filled with celebrity gossip, and helmed by Susanna Negovin, who in my opinion has spent years honing her craft and perfecting the art of being the second worst writer in the history of the printed word.

First place still resides in the capable hands of Michael Sneed, who used to be a journalist (she covered The Jim Jones mass suicide and never lets people forget that) and now copies and pastes press releases into her column in the Sun Times, in between reporting on which celebrities are eating in which restaurants.

So there was no place left for Dave, who excelled in finding interesting people and out of the way places to write (beautifully) about.

A great voice for the common man has been silenced (hopefully not for long).

Riding in the car with him was sad (and sometimes hilarious) as he kept checking his Facebook page for the tributes that kept on pouring in. My favorite was from our mutual friend John Soss, who wrote:

Dave. I’ve been doing some thinking. If each of your 1200 Facebook friends bought you 1 sandwich (or if it’s early in the day, a Denver omelet or some oatmeal), and if we coordinated it properly – so that everyone didn’t buy you a sandwich all on the same day – you could last more than a year without having to buy any food! You can sign me up, and it’s safe to say you can depend on Tony Fitzpatrick Mary Houlihan Kate FitzGerald Monica Eng Ric Addy Lloyd Sachs Marc Alghini Tom Marker to name a few.

He can depend on me for a sandwich, too!!

My favorite comment from Dave was:

This is great. It’s like I died but I can still see all the comments from my friends and reply to them!”

https://www.facebook.com/dave.hoekstra.94?fref=ts

Also see this:

http://www.robertfeder.com/2014/03/07/dave-hoekstra-ends-great-sun-times-run/

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Kacey Musgraves

I photographed a great new country singer this week. Her name is Kacey Musgraves, and she was the opening act on a three act bill headlined by Lady Antebellum. Because of her Grammy win for Country Music song of the year, she should have been second on the bill! During her 9 song set, she had the audience singing along, and reacting way more than any opening act I have recently seen.

Kasey Musgraves at the Allstate Arena on February 26, 2014 in Rosemont, Illinois. Kasey Musgraves at the Allstate Arena on February 26, 2014 in Rosemont, Illinois. She is a great showman, including having her band wear suits that lit up during the last song of the set.

Kasey Musgraves at the Allstate Arena on February 26, 2014 in Rosemont, Illinois.As good as she is on stage, she is even nicer offstage, (and very musically literate) citing John Prine as an influence for his literate writing skills. All in all a great night with a great new singer.

And, I got to leave early and didn’t have to listen to Lady Antebellum!!!

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20 Feet From Stardom

I just watched a great movie this week. It is called “20 Feet From Stardom.” The film details the currant lives of some of the greatest backup singers the music business has ever known. The film centers on several people; Lisa Fischer, Merry Clayton and Darlene Love.

Lisa has been the #1 backup singer for the Rolling Stones since 1989. I first met her on the Steel Wheels tour, and we became friends. (I proposed marriage to he almost every day- she always just laughed). Several years later, she won a Grammy for best Female Soul performance. She started out as a backup singer for Luther Vandross and went on to work with the Stones, Sting and many others.

The Rolling Stones on the Voodoo Lounge Tour in 1994Merry Clayton is best known as the female voice on the Rolling Stones song “Gimme Shelter.” She got the call to sing one night and rushed to the studio in her pajamas and her hair in curlers and blew the band away with her voice and intensity.

I recently photographed Darlene Love at the City of Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, and it was worth standing in freezing cold for an hour to hear her sing one song! Her story is amazing. From Phil Spector recording  her band “The Blossoms” doing “She’s a Rebel” and then having it released under the name “The Crystals” and having them perform it on tour, although it wasn’t recorded by them.

She performs “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on the Letterman show every year at Christmas. She remembers, while trying to support her family, hearing that song on the radio, when she was cleaning a bathroom at some rich people’s house.

Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Daley Plaza on November 26, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.There are many other singers interviewed in the film, including:

Cindy Mizelle             Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen

Mabel John                Original Raylette

The Waters Family    Jacksons, Whitney Houston, Thriller.

Claudia Lennear        Ikette, Rolling Stones

Judith Hill                   Michael Jackson, The Voice

It is interesting how many singers have crossed paths with the Rolling Stones. I remember Cindy from the 1989 tour, and from seeing her backstage at a Boys to Men show.

Claudia Lennear (the inspiration for “Brown Sugar”) is an amazing story. One of the greatest singers on the planet, she is now a Spanish Teacher at a high school in New Jersey.

Next time someone tells me about a “great” singer recording today, I am going to suggest that they watch this film, to see what a real singer sounds like!!!

 

 

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Winter Olympics

I wish the Olympics were on 52 weeks a year!! Best stories (and backstories) on television. I just finished putting in about 30 hours on the couch watching skaters and skiers jump around on TV this week. ONE MORE WEEK TO GO!!

There are some great human interest stories, along with the athletic stories that go with them. My favorites:

Alex Bilodeau, the Canadian freestyle mogul skier, who raced in honor of his older brother Frederic, who has cerebral palsy. He won the gold medal for the second Olympics in a row, with his brother cheering him on from the bottom of the hill. He has translated this success into a charity in Canada which raises money for medical research.

Noelle Pikus-Pace, the mother of two from Utah, who throws herself face first down an icy mountain at 90 miles an hour on what looks like a lunch tray with runners (called a skeleton). She retired with a fourth place finish at the last Olympics, but came out of retirement only under the condition that she could bring her family along for the journey. She won a silver medal and went charging into the stands to hug her family as the crowd went crazy

Then there is Katie Uhlaender, the daughter of former major league baseball player Ted Uhlaender. Her father died before the last Olympics, and she finished 11th. This year, after running her father’s farm in Kansas, she raced in the skeleton competition and finished 4th, losing a medal by 4/100th of a second! Hopefully she will be back in 4 years to get a medal.

These stories are great for many reasons, but especially because for the most part, these people are spending four years of their lives to perfect a skill that they probably can’t make any money from when they are done. They do it for the love of the game.

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