It's My Life PBS Kids Go!

Recently in Music Reviews Category

Celeb Scoop: Bera
| No TrackBacks

As you probably guessed, here on the IML blog we're always on the lookout for new and interesting music artists that appeal to tweens. You know, performers who might be a little different from what "everyone else" is listening to, or have unusual stories behind their music, or just people who we think might be future stars (so we can say, "Hey, we interviewed them way back when!").

bera.jpgSo here's an extra-special one for you: 16-year--old Bera, who's combined his training as a classical musician with his love of jazz and soul, along with his multicultural roots, to create some beautiful tunes from the heart. And if you're wondering what's up with the white hair, that's his natural color (more on that later). His upcoming EP is called "Late Night Cruise Music."

IML: When did you first start playing music? Do you remember what really grabbed you about it, and how it made you feel?
Bera: I was born into music and started playing when I was just 1 year old. I couldn't walk or talk, but I turned on the radio and started listening. When I was four years old I started playing violin, and two years later I started on piano and drums, so I was always playing music.  Music has always been a big part of me, like my best friend. I never really decided to pursue music as a career; everything happened naturally.  It's the same today; I just do what I love. I never thought about making a song because it would be good for my career, I just followed my passion and thought that if one day it became a job or something I felt I had to do, then I would stop.
IML: You're a Paris native but you also spend time in the Republic of Georgia. How have the different places you've lived influenced your music?
Bera: The places I have lived have definitely influenced my music. First of all, Paris is like the capital of Europe -- with fashion and everything -- and Georgia is much closer to Asia, a very traditional and religious country. So culturally Paris and Georgia are very, very different, and so is their music. Georgian people are very melodic, using a lot of sounds and harmony, so that was my main influence when I first started playing. Then in Paris I had more classical training -- mostly piano and singing -- so that influenced my music and me personally, as well.
IML: Last summer you took part in the Camplified tour. What was that like?
Bera: It was beautiful, my first tour in the States!  I learned a lot about myself and my music, and I think the kids really liked the songs. It could sometimes be a tough crowd, but the kids had good hearts and didn't seem to look at me as a stranger -- it was almost like I became a member of their family for the day.  It was never a huge crowd, so I could always connect with the audience -- they were very receptive and we had a great time!
IML: What are some of the challenges you've had to face in life because as an albino (a person born with no pigmentation, or coloring, in their skin, hair, or eyes), you have different physical traits than most people?
Bera: Personally, I always liked the fact that I was different.  It's good marketing! Of course sometimes people say things like, "Oh, man -- you are so white," but then the girls come over and say, "Can I touch your hair?" Really, the girls always liked it, so it never bothered me!

To learn more about Bera, check out his website at

Celeb Scoop: The PreZcotts
| No TrackBacks

prezcotts_album.jpgIf you have siblings, then you know how fun it can be when you find something you can all do together (instead of, you know, wanting to kill each other). Maybe that's a sport or playing instruments, or putting on plays, or making videos. In the case of 17-year-old AnaLeyna and three of her sisters -- 15-year-old ChaLyn, 14-year-old RaNelle, and 12-year-old MaRiah --that's writing and singing songs about where they've been, what they believe in, and what message they want to share with others.

As The PreZcotts, these four young women have just released their first album, filled with catchy melodies, heartfelt lyrics, and gorgeous harmonies. When we heard it, we were struck by how real the sisters sound. No auto-tune or professionally-written-by-some-adult songs for these ladies! We talked to AnaLeyna about sisters, songwriting, and how music can help others connect through topics like grief and bullying.

IML: Tell us a little about the original songs that are on the album. It seems like each one has a story to it.

AnaLeyna: Oh, yeah...definitely! I think the ones with the biggest story would have to be "Strength" and "Free." "Strength" was one of the first songs I wrote after my father passed. It was for the funeral of a friend of mine, about three months after losing my dad. She was only nineteen, and her parents wanted us to sing a song that would help the people there to heal a little bit. And I didn't have a song like that yet, so I took all the emotions from when I lost my dad and I just poured them into this song. It brought people to tears, but it was like...people were feeling better after they heard it.

IML: Wow. It must have been very therapeutic for you to get all those feelings out into a song.

analeyna.jpgAnaLeyna: Oh, definitely. And it was even helpful for my sisters. We got together to celebrate his birthday a year after he passed, and we sang "Strength." And it was hard seeing his family there, and we all broke down. Because, when you listen to the words, it's exactly how you would feel if you got put in a situation of loss. We recently sang it at another funeral, and they just absolutely loved it and thanked us. And we said, "We see it as an honor to be able to support you guys, because we know what it feels like to lose somebody you love." So, it's been a really healing and emotionally supporting song.

IML: You mentioned another song called "Free." Tell us about that!

AnaLeyna: It's special to me that "Free" is on the album, because that's the only song that my dad actually heard. That was actually one of the first songs I wrote, when I was ten years old. It was his favorite song, and it was one of the last songs we sang to him before he passed, so it kinda has this little special tie-in. And then of course, you open up the CD and open up the poster, and you see the dedication to him. So even though he couldn't be involved here with us, he's involved. You see him there. I thought that was really special.

IML: You also have an anti-bullying anthem called "Stay True," which is a really awesome song.

AnaLeyna: I actually wrote that with RaNelle and MaRiah. They actually have experiences that are a lot more fresh. Just last year, RaNelle had to deal with a lot of girls bullying her, right before the summer. And our manager was like, "You guys need to write a song."  So they gave me all the words, like "He got a new hairdo, he got a new pair of shoes," stuff like that. I said, "This is great, let's try it." And it turns out to be this really cute song that speaks to kids about being yourself no matter what other people are saying. Because society really does have a huge influence on kids. "Everybody's wearing the new shoes. Oh, no! I have to go get them." It's you don't. You are perfect just the way you are! Don't let people tell you that you have to look different to fit in. Because you don't. It's really cool to see kids singing along with that song, and they realize what they're saying...and they love it. They're like, "Oh, yeah! You're just like me and I'm just like you. I like this."

IML: What is your songwriting process like?

AnaLeyna: They all come differently for me, because it's really natural. I'll just be singing in the car, and I'll realize, "Hey, I like that!" I'll write it down, and then I'll go back to it later. But usually I start with music first. I'll play music on the piano, and if I like the tune I'll start to put words to it. Sometimes the words just come, because I hear them while I'm playing the music. I like writing the chorus first, like the hook, and then I go back to the verse and I think about what the verses should be about to fit the chorus. That's how every song has gone, except "Strength." With that I actually wrote the verses before the chorus.

IML: You wrote "Free" when you were 10, so you've been doing this a long time. Have your songs changed as you've gotten older?

AnaLeyna: Oh, definitely. I wrote "Free" when I was upset at my parents. Just really simple stuff, emotional stuff...I was very dramatic. Now I'm really good at taking any topic or emotion and writing a song about it. But when I was younger, I wasn't really good at that. It was only stuff that I actually had an emotion for that I could write about, and the writing would be very simple, and not very deep.

IML: So from there, how do you collaborate with your sisters?

prezcotts.jpgAnaLeyna: I usually write songs when everybody's gone, because that's when I'm most comfortable with changing things, and then I'll introduce my sisters to it. After I write a song, we all come together and we sing it, first the melody, and then we break off into harmony. If it doesn't work for them, like, "Oh, I can't hit that note," then I have to go back to the song and change stuff. So in every song, they play some part.

IML: One of the things we talk about a lot on It's My Life is sibling rivalry, and fighting with brothers and sisters. What kind of things do you guys fight about, and how do you resolve those fights?

AnaLeyna: The most common stuff that goes on is like, "That's my shirt! You didn't ask to wear my shirt!" Stuff like that. But I'm the oldest, and MaRiah's the youngest...she and I have completely different perspectives on life, so we're gonna react differently, we're gonna argue about stuff. But we know each other too well to not be able to put ourselves in the other person's shoes. And after you do that, you kinda get a better perspective. Even my younger sisters who are eight and six...I'll try to figure out what they're thinking, and then I realize they're feeling left out, so we've been able to fix that and make them feel like part of the crew!

IML: What would you like to see happen in the next year for the PreZcotts?    

AnaLeyna: Mostly for it to just get around! It would be so amazing to hear kids in Paris or London like, love our music, and knowing that people around the world are hearing what our messages are, that would just be a crazy big deal for us. I think the biggest deal is the fact that we have music in us and we want to share it with everybody. We're not trying to be selfish with it. I want to be able to have kids just begging for us to come sing for them...wanting to tell us all their stories so we can write songs about them. I like connecting with people and so do my sisters!

IML: Thanks for chatting with us, and good luck with everything!

AnaLeyna: Thank you!

You can learn more about the PreZcotts and check out their music on their website at We leave you with their very fun video of the song "Gossip"!

Meet our fave new band, Y i YELL
| No TrackBacks

Recently we were psyched to discover a new "teen" band that seems, well, a little different from the rest. First, there's the cool name: Y i YELL. Then, there's the two-brothers-and-the-girl-next-door thing. And then of course, and most importantly, you've got a great sound here; addictive pop songs with terrific vocals that feel current but also a little retro, in the coolest of ways.

Y i YELL is made up of 18-year-old Michael Lerios, his 13-year-old brother Demitri, and their 18-year-old friend and neighbor Gaby Symons. Read on!

Thumbnail image for YiYell.jpg
IML: Hi guys! So, how and when did each of you start playing music?

Michael: I come from a really musical family. My dad is in the music business. We've been around music all our lives and developed a huge passion for it. I started playing guitar when I was 13.

Gaby: I started singing and doing musical theatre at around age 5. When I got older, I started to take lessons. I remember feeling like it was such an escape for me and I loved it so much.

Demitri: I was 9 when I started playing. My dad just got a drum set and I started playing!

IML: Tell us about how the three of you came together and became a band.

Gaby: Michael and I are the same age. We met when we were 11 years old. I knew he played guitar and he knew I sang. We happen to live next door to each other...yes, I am the girl next door! One day he asked me to come over and play together and there was an instant musical connection, and we started to write songs. It was our afterschool activity for a while, then over the summer I heard Demitri play and I was like, he needs to be in our band! Once Demitri joined us, Y i Yell was really born.

IML: What do your neighbors and friends think about the band?

Demitri: Our neighbors think we're really loud! Seriously though, everyone's really supportive and it's great to have them be part of this whole experience.

Gaby: It's funny, when we first went on Disney XD I asked Demitri if he told his friends, and he was like, "No..." He didn't tell any of his friends! It's something we kept to ourselves so we could really let it grow.

IML: We're excited about your upcoming debut EP. What are the songs on it?

Michael: It'll have "Always the Weekend" and "Tap Your Feet." As far as what the songs are all about, we like to write songs that are based around our name. We also have a single "Y i YELL" and that's the idea for our band. Why do you yell? What makes you yell? Everything's moving so fast these days and it's hard to take a beat and step back and think about the answers to those questions.

Gaby: We want people to look at our name and think, "There must be more to this. That's cool, what is that?" That's our theme. And with every song we draw from that theme with messages our listeners can really relate to.

IML: It is a really great name. It stands out and makes people go "Hmmm, what's that all about?" So, tell us about the process of writing a song.

Demitri: If any of us have a song title or lyrics, we'll show each other and branch off of that. We all like to contribute to writing.

IML: What do you think makes a band work together successfully? How do you solve disagreements?

Michael: We do spend every single day together. But I would actually say I'm usually the mediator between Gaby and Demitri.

Demetri: He's lying...I am!

Michael: Since Demitri and I are brothers, we've been getting along better since he's gotten older. Since we all have such a great passion for music, when we get together to work it really isn't work for us. We just want to see what we can create and what we can do. Every time we go into a practice room or a studio, we push each other to be as good as we can. We all have a great friendship. Sometimes we'll go in to practice and we won't even practice because we'll be talking.

Gaby: We're always laughing. We'll start a song and really be working to get it done, and Demitri will do one thing to mock the lyrics as I'm singing, and I'll crack up! It's really become like the boys are my brothers.

IML: That shows in your videos; it looks like you're havig so much fun. You don't get that from every band, so that's very cool. What else do you think makes you different from other "teen" bands out there?

Michael: I think what makes us different is that we appeal to a broad spectrum. Gabi and I are a little older and Demitri is younger. We have so many different influences. We all bring so much to the table and it creates a certain sound, and it's something people haven't seen yet and we hope they love.

IML: Websites like YouTube are great for helping people discover new music, but it also seems like everyone wants to record a song and become an overnight star like Rebecca Black. Actually, "Always the Weekend" is a great response to that song. What's your take on all that?

Michael: It is very true that nowadays you can buy a laptop and record a record on it, basically. What we do is all out of our house. We write and record and produce our music all in our house.

Gaby: It's cool to be able to create in your space and be able to do so much with the resources around you. There's so much talent out there -- for instance, Greyson Chance is an amazing writer.

IML: What's been your favorite part of this experience so far?

Michael: The coolest thing for me is that this went from Gaby and I getting together and writing because we love music, and turning it into something we do every day now. I never thought it would become something like this.

Gaby: I agree. We're sitting here right now, and we're honored to just be talking to you! We feel really blessed to be doing what we love and have more coming in the future.

Demitri: Spending time with Michael and Gaby, and getting to know them even better. It's great to be even close to what we are.

IML: Good luck with everything...It's been really great chatting with you guys!

Michael, Gaby, and Demitri (in unison, truly!): Thank you!

You can learn more about Y i Yell on their website at In the meantime, check out their totally let's-watch-it-again video for the single "Always The Weekend":

Meet teen singer-songwriter Michaela Wallace
| No TrackBacks

If you're an aspiring pop star, it seems there's a new recipe for getting at least 15 minutes of fame (and if you're lucky, a whole hour or maybe even a real career): Shoot a video of yourself performing a cover of a megastar's current hit song. Put in on YouTube. Mix, stir, and wait for the megastar to Tweet about your video and then invite you to perform at a concert. Instant sensation!

michaela_wallace.jpgOr, you can do what Michaela Wallace, a 14-year-old from Monett, MO, has done: Write your own songs, and write them about things that come from your own life -- things that other tweens and teens can relate to. Put them online so a music professional can discover you and work with you to record a four-song EP. THEN go ahead and become a YouTube splash!

Last fall, the video for the first single from this EP, "Justin Bieber's Girlfriend," exploded online and life hasn't been the same for Michaela. We think she may stick around for a while, and we were glad to get the chance to chat with her at this early stage of a potentially long career. 

IML: It's been a few crazy months for you! You're probably sick of talking about "Justin Bieber's Girlfriend," so we'll start by asking you about the other songs on the EP.

There are two other songs on the EP that I wrote. One is called "Boys Boys Boys" and the other is called "Don't Make a Sound". "Boys" is about you know...boys...and how I'm only 14 and I don't really need to get serious with a boy, but they are a part of my life. "Don't Make A Sound" is about a guy I liked, but he had a girlfriend, so I couldn't tell him that I liked him, and he never knew.

IML: Ugh, that's tragic! These sound like situations that other tweens and teens can connect with. Did writing these songs allow you to work through your feelings about those situations?

Michaela: Definitely. Writing a song about something allows you to let out your emotions about it.

IML: How old were you when you first started playing music?

Michaela: I started singing when I was maybe 3 years old, just singing in church and to TV shows and things like that. I started piano lessons when I was about 8 years old. I started playing guitar when I was 9 or 10. That was when I really knew that I wanted to get serious about music.

IML: What was it about guitar that really clicked for you?

Michaela: I just liked the sound of it, it felt right. And it feels cool!

IML: The video for "Justin Bieber's Girlfriend" looks like it was very fun to shoot. Tell us about that experience!

Michaela: It was really exciting to shoot the video. I'd never done anything like that before. I got to try on a bunch of clothes to figure out what I was going to wear, that was a lot of fun. I got to get my makeup and hair done. The scenes with the cutouts were the most fun because we did that in public where there were people around and it was funny to see their weird stares!

IML: What are your thoughts on YouTube as a way for young artists to get themselves heard? Do you think some people have unrealistic expectations if they put up a video?

Michaela: I mean, anything is possible. There are a lot of people in the world. It's not like you're going to put up a video and you're instantly going to be famous. You have a one in a million chance. But because anything is possible...why not try?

IML: Who are your musical influences? Whose career would you like to have?

Michaela: Taylor Swift is my idol. She is in charge of what she does. When she's on her tour, she runs everything and it's her way. She isn't like a robot, people aren't telling her exactly what to do and how to do it. She just has really incredible fans and she's living the dream life.

IML: How do you feel about the possibility of becoming famous? Having a real music career. Does it scare you? Do you feel like you'll lose the chance to have a normal teenage experience?

Michaela: It kind of scares me. I don't want to get so caught up in it that I never get to see my friends or family. But it's just really something that I want to happen. It's a big dream of mine. If it were to happen, I would definitely make sure that I stayed myself and that I always get to see my family as much as possible, to have as normal a life as possible while it's all happening.

IML: Would you like young listeners to experience when they hear your music?

Michaela: I just want them to know that it's okay to be yourself and to express how you feel. Anything is possible and if you follow your dreams, they just might come true!

IML: That certainly seems to be happening for you! Thanks so much for giving us the chance to get to know you better, and good luck!

Michaela: Thank you!

You can learn more about Michaela at and check out the notorious video here below!

Celeb Scoop: Plug In Stereo
| No TrackBacks

Plug In Stereo.jpgYou might notice his hair first, but it's the music that will make you remember Plug In Stereo, a.k.a. 18-year-old Portland native Trevor Dahl. If it's possible for an album to walk that teeny-tiny line between the fun and sweetness of young "pop" and the make-you-really-think-and-feel-stuff soul of "independent," Plug In Stereo's new "Nothing to Something" manages to do it. And you know we're always on the lookout for tweens and teens who are going for their dreams, doing what they love on their own terms and actually having success with it. So we really enjoyed chatting with Trevor about his music and the path he's taken so far.

IML: Congrats on the album! We're really loving it over here. Are any of the songs on it particularly special to you?

Trevor: One song called "What Goes Around" is about people in high school who were negative and doubting me and what I was doing. That one means a lot to me. Another song called "Thursday" is about my best friend's mom, who committed suicide. That was really rough, and I wrote it from his perspective. She was like a second mom to me and that song comes from a really personal place, for sure. Even though these sound like depressing experiences, I tried to make the songs about positive things.

IML: What's your songwriting process like?

Trevor: It's different every time. Sometimes I'll just write a poem in the car, then create a guitar line and put the lyrics and melody to it. Or I'll have my guitar and create that part first, then come up with a melody and lyrics, trying to make the lyrics fit with the guitar parts.

IML: How old were you when you first picked up the guitar?

Trevor: I picked it up in 6th grade, when I was about 12 years old. My dad played guitar, as well as my uncle and a few cousins. My family has always been musical so it always interested me. I started playing and never stopped! My brother played too, and he'd play music with his friends with this little PA system in our garage. None of my friends played so I'd always be trying to play with them, but they'd be like, you can't come out here! So instead I'd sit in my room and record my own stuff, and that's probably what got me where I am.

IML: How did music help you during the trials and tribulations of middle school and high school?

Trevor: Whenever I'd go through things emotionally -- if I was mad, or I really liked some girl -- it always helped me to sit in my room and write about stuff, and record it.

IML: It seems like it's so much easier for young musicians to just join a band and have that group dynamic. What made you decide to be a solo artist instead?

Trevor: It happened kind of by accident. I was in this band with my friends and one day, when we were all on a break because people were away on vacation, I borrowed my friend's microphone and recorded a few songs. I just did it for fun and those ended up being my first two songs for Plug In Stereo. I didn't have lyrics in the beginning, I just posted them and people liked them. I got a few fans, so then I decided to start singing because I'd never really done any singing before that.

IML: Who are your musical influences and inspirations?

Trevor: In the beginning when I first started, my music was a lot more "poppy." Now I'm a lot more into John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Jason Reed, Bob Marley. A lot of singer-songwriter stuff.

IML: What would you like tween listeners to take away from this album?

Trevor: I would just say, listen to the lyrics because they might help you deal with the subjects the songs are about. Every song has a different message, but you also have to take your own message from it. You have your own ideas, and the songs will mean different things to different people.

IML: Are you worried about being pigeonholed as a "teen" artist?

Trevor: Definitely. In the beginning, my songs went in that direction. Now, I really don't want them to. Hopefully fans will get older as I do and vibe with it.

IML: Thanks, Trevor! We have a feeling you'll be around for a while.

Trevor: Thank you!

You can check out Plug In Stereo's music for yourself at We also love his video for the single "Oh Darling":

Celeb Scoop: Tom Jordan
| No TrackBacks

Sometimes we look around and realize there's one young music artist (or group) who's everywhere at once. It happened with Miley Cyrus and then with the Jonas Brothers. Right now of course it's Mr. Bieber. It's moments like this where it's fun to turn away from the hysteria and check out something fresh.

tomjordan1.jpgYou don't get much fresher than 17-year-old Tom Jordan. This Australian teen has been performing since he was 9 and writing songs since he was 11, and last year released his self-titled debut album. There's something about Tom's music that puts him above trends and hype. Here's what this very sweet guy, who describes himself as an "organic singer-songwriter," had to say to IML.

IML: How old were you when you first picked up the guitar? What sparked you to do it?

Tom: My parents bought me this little guitar when I was about 3 years old. I had no idea what I was doing with it though. I still have that guitar actually, it has tape all around it to hold it together! But I got my first real guitar and guitar lesson when I was 9 because I loved AC/DC and wanted to be like Angus Young, the guitarist.

IML: What do you think performing music at such a young age added to your life growing up?

Tom: It definitely gave me confidence. I think talking to people after I played and stuff led me to having better people skills than a lot of my friends when I was younger. Also, for me to have the opportunities I've had already is so amazing and I've had to learn to be mature and humble about it all.

IML: Of all the songs you've written, what are your favorites, and what are they about? Have you ever written a very personal song that wasn't received the way you'd hoped it would?

Tom: I can't really say I have "favorite" songs of mine because I'm proud of every song I write, but sure, I like some more than others...I've gone through a process while writing for my upcoming album that I've written so many songs but some of them are better than others. As far as personal songs go, I like to be able to relate to every song I write, and yeah, some songs haven't gone down the way I'd planned...I remember I wrote a song for a girl and showed it to some friends and they loved it and said I should play it for her, so I played it for her one-on-one in a music room at school once. We kind of had an on-and-off thing for a while and I wrote her this song because I started to really like her...So I built up the courage and played it for her with high hopes, and at the end of the song she goes, "Awww" and gives me a hug, and that was it. She never spoke of it again! Ha ha ha.

IML: Ouch! Well, at least you went for it. When you're writing a song and get stuck, how do you work through it?

Tom: I hate forcing songs because to me it seems unnatural. If I can't finish a song, I tend to leave it and keep it in the back of my head for ideas.

tomjordan2.jpgIML: You've also done some acting. Was that a natural transition for you?

Tom: Acting was really intimidating. Being on the set of Disney's "As The Bell Rings" was one of the most overwhelming experiences I can remember. I have never done any acting classes and I was surrounded by these professional young actors, but as time went on we all became good friends and that made it all heaps easier.

IML: Who are your role models and musical influences?

Tom: John Mayer for sure, he's the man. I've loved his music since his first album and yeah, I have every single one of his songs on iTunes, haha. Jason Mraz is another musician I love. I listen to so much music though so I have a really broad range of influences, like The Killers, Adele, Amos Lee, John Legend and others.

IML: Whose career out there would you want to have...or not have? Have you learned anything from watching other young artists end up becoming about something other than the music?

Tom: I would honestly love to be Justin Bieber for one day just to see what his day-to-day life is like! And yeah, with some younger artists they become more of an "image" than a musical artist. I would hate if that happened to me. I always want to keep my music honest and organic and hopefully people can relate and enjoy it!

IML: We're sure they will! Good luck and thanks for chatting with us!

Tom: Thanks...and you're welcome!

We love Tom's song "Someone Somewhere"...check out the video here. You can also learn more about Tom and watch his hilarious "TomCast" webisodes at his website at, or follow him on Twitter at @tjordan93.

Michael and Marisa debut their music video for "The Same"
| No TrackBacks

Last summer, we met the tween bro/sis musical duo Michael and Marisa, who had recently recorded a song called "The Same." It's a song about bullying...or rather, standing by and watching bullying happen to someone else, and realizing you and that person are not all that different. Now the talented sibs have just released their music video for "The Same" and we think it's sort of great.

Says Marisa about the song: "It's important that, as kids ourselves, we stand up and defend our friends.  We have the greatest power, and the biggest responsibility, to come together as a group and let bullies know it's not okay to treat others this way. We have the strength to make a positive change to make the world a better place."

Read our interview with Michael and Marisa, and check out the new video:

You can learn more about these guys and their music at Go MIchael and Marisa! (And BTW, we love the beret.)

"RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles"
| No TrackBacks

When it comes to favorite musical artists, IML readers are an eclectic bunch. You've filled the YSI boards with messages about everyone from recent pop sensations Justin Bieber and Ke$ha to older, edgier bands like Nirvana, Green Day, and Foo Fighters. But many of you share one band in common: The Beatles.

In the early 1960s, the British quartet of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr revolutionized pop and rock music, songwriting, and the entire concept of fame and celebrity. Even after the group split up in 1970, their music and legacy lived on, influencing nearly all musicians who came after them.

Today, it seems as if the Beatles are just as big as they ever were. "The Beatles Rock Band" video game is a smash-hit best seller with kids and grown-ups alike. Beatles films like "A Hard Day's Night" and "Yellow Submarine" remain incredibly popular, and Beatles t-shirts, posters, and lunch boxes can be found in thousands of shops all over the world. And just this week, Apple's announcement that Beatles music will finally be available on iTunes caused a sensation among fans hungry for MP3s of all their favorite Fab Four songs.

Sadly, the Beatles will never again play together, as only two (Paul and Ringo) remain with us. But the desire among fans of all ages to see Beatles music performed live has led to a worldwide industry of sound-alike or "tribute" bands who can offer audiences the next best thing to a real Beatles concert.

RAIN Ed Sullivan 1 photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.jpgAt the top of the heap of these groups is RAIN, who recently began a run on Broadway and will continue with a tour across North America through the spring of 2011. More than just a concert, "RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles" is a multimedia message of love for Beatles fans, covering the Liverpool group's entire career together and incorporating film clips, projection effects, and a swirling, dazzling light show that makes the most of the amazing songs. IML recently saw the show, and here's what we liked:

All Ages: Some shows appeal to a select audience or specific age group, but RAIN is for everyone. The theater was filled with older folks (likely original Beatles fans), young kids, and everybody in between.

RAIN Shea 1 Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.jpgAttention to Detail: The costumes, the wigs, the instruments, the singing...there's nothing about this show that isn't spot-on and utterly convincing. The four actor/musicians portraying the Beatles take their jobs seriously and do an incredible job of making the audience believe  they might just be watching the real thing. They even shot remakes of classic Beatles news clips that play during the breaks! Of course, for all their professionalism, the guys also seem to be having a great time with their roles.

Not just the Hits: The audience was thrilled to sing along with all the big Beatles number-one hits, but there were some unexpected song choices too. We particularly liked the acoustic set which featured quieter, more contemplative songs like the sweet,  melodic "Mother Nature's Son."

A Happy Audience: If the surest way to judge a show is by audience reaction, then RAIN is a huge success. Kids and adults spent much of the show clapping, dancing, cheering, and screaming, seemingly swept up in old-style "Beatlemania." IML admits it: we got caught up in the spirit too, and shouted the lyrics to many of our favorite songs.

We were happy for the chance to chat with Steve Landes, who plays the role of John Lennon in RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles."

IML: We really enjoyed the show! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. What part of the show is the most fun to perform? What aspect is the most challenging?

Steve: As a Beatles fan, it's fun to recreate some of the actual moments of their career,  that we do, like the Ed Sullivan show and the Shea Stadium concert. I've watched the videos of those shows a million times, and now I get to put myself in those moments, in a sense, so that's fun!

I think the biggest challenge of sounding like The Beatles is getting the vocals just right. Each Beatle was a really good singer, especially Paul and John, so to replicate as accurately as possible their vocals from the recordings, exactly the same way every night, is quite a challenge. But it's something we've worked very hard at over the years, and we came into this as professional musicians and classically tRAINed vocalists, so I think we've got a pretty good handle on it!

Steve Landes solo Army jacket Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.jpgIML:  Is it hard to get into, and then back out of, the John persona?

Steve: Again, I've been doing this for so long (I joined RAIN in 1998), so it's kind of easy now, and it's not like we're 'method' actors or anything like that -- we don't believe we're The Beatles or anything! You won't see us out and about pretending to be them 24/7!! As far as getting his character down, though, it's a matter of learning all I can about him -- his life story, why he did the things he did, thought the things he thought, and learning how to bring that to life onstage. Of course, there are the physical traits, too -- the body language, his way of moving, performing, etc., that help turn me into him onstage!

IML: How did you become a part of the RAIN band and show?

Steve: I was in the touring version of the Broadway show "Beatlemania" years ago, so I kind of knew these guys (they were a part of the "Beatlemania" show before I got in). So, years later, when they needed someone new to portray John, I was one of the people they called to try out. And we all just kinda "clicked" musically and personality-wise.

IML: Have you had any favorite moments interacting with fans?

Steve: I always love to meet fellow Beatles fans -- hardcore Beatle-geeks like myself! Sometimes people will want to call me John or whatever, which I don't mind, but for the most part, people are understanding and just love the music, and are happy that they get to come and hear this great music performed live, so it's nice to chat with them about that sorta stuff after the show.

IML: What kinds of things were you interested in when you were in middle school and high school? Did you always love music?

Steve: I always loved music, and I always loved The Beatles. I was born after The Beatles' time, so I'm what they call a 'second-generation' Beatles fan. I learned about them from my parents, and my older sisters. So they've always been a part of my life. By the time I was in middle and high school, I was playing music and singing in a local Top 40 band, playing the songs that were popular at the time, but we also played some Beatles songs too. I was also into other things in school, of course -- acting, cars, girls! The usual, I guess, but music was always what I wanted to do with my life.

IML: When you take off the costumes and make-up and wigs, do you still resemble John Lennon? Do people come up to you in the street and say, "Hey, you look like a Beatle!"?

Steve: I guess some people might think so a bit, but I don't see it -- I always see me. The main focus of our show has always been replicating the music live, as authentically as possible, and the look-alike factor is secondary, so I'm sure there are probably people out there in the world who might look more like John Lennon, but it's all about being a top-grade singer and musician, and having the ability to recreate his character and music in our show.

IML: What do you do when you're not a part of RAIN? Do you play in other groups?

Steve: We travel all the time, so there's no time for me to have another group. But I write my own music, record it, and then put it up online, so that's a great way to share my own music and still be on the road with RAIN. I live in California , so there's lots to do when I'm not on the road -- movies, the beach, Disneyland ! There's just never enough time to do everything.

IML: If all four Beatles were still with us, do you think there would have been a reunion by now?

Steve: A lot of people don't realize that The Beatles were planning to reunite at the time of John's death. Their business manager Neil Aspinall had been working on an official documentary, which at the time he called "The Long And Winding Road." They have stated that the four of them planned to reunite for the project, so that they could sit together for a series of interviews for it. The project did finally get made, in the '90s, as "The Beatles: Anthology," and the three remaining Beatles Paul, George, and Ringo did the interviews that John would have been a part of.

IML: What contemporary bands or musicians do you like?

Steve: Oh, I like a little bit of everything. I still listen to The Beatles, of course, but I like the bands that they've influenced in one way or another. I like Green Day, who are big Beatles fans. I like John Mayer, Kings Of Leon, Taylor Swift, Neil Finn, Cee Lo. A bit of every style, I think, as long as it's good!

IML: Any advice for young people who want to be musicians or stage performers?

Steve: Never give up! Keep practicing -- it's the only way to get better. But don't lose sight of the outside world. As an artist, you have to connect with the world around you, or you've got nothing to inspire you. Learn from everything and everyone, good or bad. It's just as important to learn what not to do, as well as what to do, in art, in life.

IML: Thanks, Steve! Good luck with the tour!

RAIN are: Joey Curatolo (Paul), Joe Bithorn (George), Ralph Castelli (Ringo), and Steve Landes (John). For more on "RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles," visit

Celeb Scoop: Jackson Harris
| No TrackBacks

One of our favorite things about music fandom is when you find an artist who's in the early stages of his or her career, on the verge of having a huge hit or becoming a familiar face. It's like you're right there with that person as their dreams come true and hard work pays off. And of course, it's fun to be the first of your friends to "discover" the next big thing. That's why we're always on the lookout for up-and-comers who want to share their music and experiences with we can watch them grow into stars and say to ourselves, "We knew them when!"

jacksonharris1.jpgRecently we stumbled upon 22-year-old Jackson Harris, whose four-song debut EP "Long Story Short" releases on iTunes today. When we heard Jackson's music, which combines heartfelt lyrics with catchy, danceable pop melodies and a sweet yet mature and emotion-packed singing voice, we knew Jackson's star is headed for dizzying heights. We were even more psyched to talk to him and find that he's a smart, insightful, passionate guy who has a great outlook on where he's been and where he's going, along with some valuable advice for IML'ers.

IML: Tell us about the songs on the album. They all seem very personal!

Jackson: Yeah, each one spun off from a real moment in my life, especially the "Long Story Short" single. That came out of necessity, because I would be hanging out with my friends and going to parties, and people would ask me what I'm doing and where I'm going to school. When you're not on the same route as everybody else, you have to explain yourself a lot: "Well, I'm in music and this and that...long story short, I'm following my dreams." When I put that in the context of a song, I wanted to explain to listeners why I'm here and why I want to make music. It's a tough road and it's not always easy and not everyone makes it, but it's about passion. With the song "I Don't Speak Silence," I was on the subway and this one man was asking for directions in Spanish and I didn't speak Spanish; I was also having a problem in communication with my current relationship. When I put those two together, I thought of silence as a language. We've all been there where maybe your girlfriend or boyfriend will indicate that there's something wrong or they're feeling a certain way, but if they're not talking, there's nothing you can do. That was a tough one to write. Another song on there, "Someone Tell Brittany," was about my first real love. She kind of broke my heart but in this song, I'm letting her know that it really hurt, but thanking her because in some way it started all this music that poured out of me. And telling her that I'm okay and I hope she's happy wherever she is. I try to do a little bit of what Taylor Swift does, making each song count and attribute it to an actual memory.

IML: What is your songwriting process like, once you get these inspirations?

Jackson: I wish I could have a little more control over the process, and I think a lot of songwriters would. It happens in a lot of different ways. Sometimes I'll think of a specific melody and keep singing it in my head, and I'll write down the lyrics I want to put to it. Then I'll sit at the piano or pick up the guitar and see what sound I'm trying to go for. Once I figure out the idea for the song and what the story's going to be, I try to figure out the mood. Then I bring it to my producer and with him I figure out the music that I hear in my head. It's a really great collaboration. He's from the dance world originally, so that's a good element to have in there and we end up writing songs that people can enjoy and move to.

IML: If somebody's just listening to your songs for the first time, what do you want them to know about you as an artist?

Jackson: As cliche as it sounds, I want listeners to know that I'm still seeing myself as this kid from New York City who liked music. Even now, after I've been able to meet some great artists or be in the presence of people who work with those people I admire, I'm still just a fan. Music is something I love to do, but in some ways I'm a comic book geek about it. I love knowing who the band members are and what instruments they use. It's so much fun to me and I want listeners to hear that in the songs. And that I try to be honest and not sugar coat my lyrics, and that I don't try to be something that I'm not. I want listeners to be interested in getting to know me through my music, not just because I sing a certain phrase over and over again and they've heard it on the radio 100 times.

IML: You grew up in the Manhattan prep school environment, and you never quite fit in or got on the "track" many kids from that world feel they need to stay on. Can you tell us about those experiences?

Jackson: I think because of movies and TV and stuff, people in my prep school were trying to live up to a stereotype of how they should act or what they should be wearing. Fortunately, I caught on very quickly with a group of friends who loved me regardless of whether or not I fit in. Other things became more important to me. I wasn't so concerned about whether or not I was going to be a lawyer or a doctor or something like that. I was more interested in fields of music and acting and the arts. Even in New York City where there are so many opportunities, there's a mentality where people would say, "No you can't do this because you're from here." So all the "Gossip Girl" type expectations, sometimes they're there but you can still find cool people and I was lucky enough to meet them and grow up with a great crowd.

IML: You never felt like anybody gave you a hard time for doing your own thing?

Jackson: I think I was a little bit misunderstood in the sense that they didn't get why I wouldn't want to adhere to all the fads. I think they were more puzzled by what was going on because I kept a lot of my music to myself. It would appear to them that maybe I wasn't being a good student or didn't want to go the parties, but what I was really doing was writing or singing or trying to go to concerts. It was kind of this secret music life I was living.

IML: When did you know that you wanted to pursue music as an actual career?

Jackson: It was two very different moments. The first was what that first applause feels like. I was in sixth grade, I had to sing Frank Sinatra in the school play. I didn't know what I was singing about, but I got up there in the fedora and the whole suit, and I forgot all the words! So they restarted the tape, and I just smiled, because I had nothing to compare it to so I wasn't really that nervous, and I sang it through. When I heard that first applause...I got the shakes, I'd never felt anything like that before! Fast forward to 11th grade, I'd started this band and we had done some gigs through NYC, and when they all started figuring out what they wanted to do for college, I said to myself, Well, this is the point in my life when I get to make a decision as to how I want things to turn out, and if I go for it young. If everything goes badly, I'll use some form of this education in music to my benefit. If I can't make it in singing, I'll be a songwriter or a backup musician or a producer. I knew, someway or another I couldn't NOT have music in my life.

IML: Good point: You don't have to become a pop star to have music be your career. There's such a range of things you can do to make a living and do what you love.

Jackson: One of my favorite musicians is John Mayer and I would watch him religiously and follow anything he would say. He said something once that really struck a chord with me, which was, "You define your own success." You have to say to yourself, I'm happy if I can sell a thousand records, or if I can go down the street and buy my own record, or simply buy myself a meal! There are people who sell a million records and aren't happy because they want to sell 2 million. And then you're just making tracks, you're not making songs that mean something to you. I'd rather have it mean something to one person than just be background music in an elevator to a million people!

IML: That's a great philosophy. Has your family been supportive of you during all this time?

jacksonharris2.jpgJackson: Yes, that's one thing I'm so lucky and blessed to have had! A mom and sister and family who really supported me and took an interest in what I was doing. There are families who just give you the okay and then there are families who really want to come hear you sing and be a part of it, and my mom has always loved music. They've done a great job of saying things like, "Maybe that wasn't the greatest song but we love you, keep going, we want to hear what you're playing." They never told me to shush, which was tough for my mom with me singing in the car! She's still there every day checking my YouTube channel and I'm so happy that I get to make her proud, and show her that even in high school when teachers were saying, "What is your son doing, he's not paying attention in class?" I can say, this is what I was doing! I was thinking of all these songs!

IML: What would your advice be for someone who doesn't have that kind of support?

Jackson: If your parents aren't that supportive, you should find some friends in school with similar interests or find some clubs or teachers that do drama, sculpture, singing, whatever. Try to go out there and find that support, because it's not going to come to you if you don't go out there and grab it for yourself. I was lucky enough that my grandmother got to hear one of my songs before she passed away recently. When I was 7 years old, she had told me, "Don't let anyone tell you no." Now I realize that she was saying, "Don't let anyone tell you that you're not good enough to do something."

IML: Why do you think it's important for young people to participate in the arts, even if they don't plan to pursue a career in those areas? Why do the arts matter?

Jackson: I think in the same way we participate in certain academic activities we don't pursue as a career. I studied biology and algebra, read philosophy books and all that. I didn't want to be a philosopher or a scientist or mathematician, but it introduced me to stories and brilliant people and amazing discoveries. While these classes are important because they teach you about other people, the arts teach you about yourself. When you learn about yourself, that gives you a better sense of the world and how to treat people, and art and music in general is universal. Two people who don't speak the same language can enjoy the same song or the same piece of artwork.

IML: Thanks, Jackson, for introducing us to your music and sharing your outlook on life and art. Good luck with the album!

Jackson: Thank you!

You can learn more about Jackson and sample his music on his website at, where he also answers questions from fans.

Michael and Marisa
| No TrackBacks

Walking down street crop IMG_5006 compressed.jpgMeet Marisa, who's 13, and her brother Michael, 12. They live with their parents in Boston and are just your average tweens, involved with school and friends and hobbies.

Well, average except for one kinda big thing: together these sibs are a musical duo who perform live for huge audiences and are about to release their second album, an EP titled "It's Like That." Michael and Marisa (he plays guitar, she plays drums, they both sing and co-write most of their songs) have been busy opening for artists such as David Archuleta, Mitchel Musso, and Drake Bell, and are on the road to really bright music careers.

Recently, in the wake of the Phoebe Prince incident and other similar stories, the pair co-wrote a song called "The Same" that tackles the issue of bullying. We thought it was pretty cool that this bro and sis have come so far in such a short time doing something they love, and were happy to get a chance to chat with them recently.

IML: Nice to meet you guys! How has your summer been so far?

Marisa: We've been performing a lot. We went on the Bamboozle tour and we've been doing the Camplified tour, so that's a lot of fun, and a bunch of shows in between.

IML: You've been busy for sure! So tell us how each of you started performing music.

Michael: I was like born loving music. Our parents actually owned a toy business and I never wanted any toys unless they made musical sounds! I just wanted CDs and stuff. And instead of DVDs, our computer could only make VCDs. I made those with a bunch of videos I did to dances to songs when I was 4. I wanted to pick up the guitar because all of the music artists I was into played guitar, like Avril Lavigne and Shakira. So I picked it up when I was 6. Marisa was playing the violin and hated it and quit, and then she picked up the drums. And then after a few months of me performing solo, she joined in.

IML: When did you actually realize, "Hey, we could do this together?"

Marisa: A lot of times, I would be practicing drums and he would be practicing guitar. We have a setup in our basement where both instruments are next to each other, so we would usually practice together...Then we just started trying songs and stuff. Michael would play a song and I would play along to it to practice. We just loved playing together, and we kept doing it!

IML: That's how great bands start. What do each of you like best about the instrument you play?

Marisa: I like to hit things! Also, I'm a perfectionist and I like to have everything on time, so I can be consistent and keep the beat going. But whenever I want, I can fill in something to spice it up. It's not like I'm stuck in a certain chord structure like piano or guitar. I can add whatever I want, whenever I want, and it won't change the song.

Michael: Well, I'm more of a creative and laid-back kind of person, and the guitar...I'm very flexible in my moods, and with guitar you can pretty much play any type of thing on it. It's really a "me" type of instrument.

IML: Where do you get your ideas for songs?

Marisa: A lot of our songs are about doing things to make the world a better place. "I Bet I Could" is about helping the environment, and "The Same" is about stopping bullying. We really like to write something about making a difference. We'd rather not just do nonsense singing about anything, but rather, something that could change the world.

IML: Do you keep a journal and write down lyrics? Or do you come up with the melody first?

Marisa: Sometimes, a hook will be in your head and you'll be like, "This is really catchy, maybe I can add lyrics to this." And sometimes a topic will hit you in the middle of nowhere. When we wrote "The Same", there was a lot of attention on bullying nationwide after the Phoebe Prince incident. So we thought we should write a song about bullying, and we started with lyrics on that one and added music after.

IML: You mentioned Shakira and Avril Lavigne. Who else influences you?

Michael: The Beatles have been a huge influence on us because our parents always played them around the house. It grew on us since we were little and we've always loved them.

Marisa: I've always loved No Doubt with Gwen Stefani, and AC/DC. We like Lily Allen, too. We once got to sing on stage with her, actually!

Michael: I'm a big fan of Paramore and Lady Gaga. And Drake Bell.

Compressed M and M  close up sofa IMG_4657.jpgIML: That's a good variety! You're close together in age and you spend a lot of time together. How are you different, personality-wise?

Marisa: We actually have a song called "Me With You" about our different personalities. As Michael said, he's laid back while I'm a sort of Type A and a perfectionist. If you were to tell us to draw a picture of something, we'd just draw the complete opposite thing! We have completely opposite personalities, but we get along so well because of it.

IML: How can it help you to be so different?

Michael: Here's an example. I'm very good with the computer. The school actually calls me the Tech Man! Marisa had a Keynote project to do and she's was worried about her effects not working, so I helped her. And if I have a research paper, she helps me get organized.

IML: Do you have normal sibling rivalry?

Marisa: Not really! It's actually kind of funny. We get along really well. I don't know if it's because we're so close in age, but we're best friends and we hang out together all the time. Sure, little tiny things pop up but we never have big fights.

IML: What do your friends and classmates think of your music and your career?

Marisa: School is pretty much just normal for us. We're regular kids who also have this music career going along with it. We're really busy, but otherwise our friends treat us like anyone else. Maybe if we perform at a talent show it gets crazy. Or when they come to see us at shows, they're like, "Oh my God!" They support us a lot, it's really nice.

IML: What kinds of reactions have you gotten from audiences?

Marisa: It's so funny to see all the different audiences we get. We've played at nightclubs and kid-friendly places too, and kids and the grownups both like our music. We play rock music you'd hear on the radio as well as our originals. The older and the younger enjoy the music and it's really great.

Michael: We just came off the Bamboozle tour, and that was a lot of people in their 20's and 30's. They really liked our music. Then you compare that to when we opened for David Archuleta...that audience had the same reaction. It was so cool to see.

IML: What's been your favorite performing experience so far?

Marisa: I remember our first show when we played in Hollywood at the Whiskey a Go Go and the Roxy Nightlucb. We were little, like 8 and 9. It was our first "far away from home" big show on a big stage at a nightclub. We were really excited and I just remember the moment thinking, "This is incredible!'

Michael: I really liked opening for Drake Bell because I've always loved his music and acting since I was very little. Every morning before school I set my alarm to blast Drake Bell and wake the whole house up! When I finally got to meet him, it was actually at the Whiskey A Go Go sound check and I played one of his songs and he said he thought we were really good. So he invited us to open for him and it was so fun. He's such a nice person.

IML: Who else have you meet that was really exciting for you?

Marisa: David Archuleta is really nice. We met Lady Gaga, the Jonas Brothers. Avril Lavigne a couple of times. Fergie and the Black Eyes Peas. Gwen Stefani and No Doubt.

IML: So basically, you're meeting all of your idols!

Marisa: Yeah, it's amazing! And we found out that they're just regular people. Sometimes with celebrities, you think of them as aliens or in a different world, and it's so cool to find out they're just like you, they're normal and you can just have a conversation with them.

IML: You were talking earlier about your song "The Same," which is about bullying. Do you think it can really make a difference?

Marisa: I'm really happy that we've been doing interviews about this song and the message, because it's so powerful to have kids tell other kids not to bully. As much as grown-ups say, "You shouldn't bully, you should always be nice," it's kind of like kids hear that all the time all day long. Only kids can really prevent it. So to hear one of your peers tell you to cut it out seems to make a bigger impact. It's not like your parents telling you to clean your room, just another thing parents say. To get that message from a peer is so much more powerful and we think we can really make a difference with this song.

IML: What do other young people think of the song?

Marisa: A lot of people will come up to us after shows and tell us they really like that song, because it's so relatable. It talks about being in school, in the cafeteria, and that one person who's left out. It's from the point of view of a bystander and it talks about how you should stand up to a bully and help out that kid who's being picked on. A lot of kids tell us they really appreciate that message.

IML: Have either of you ever dealt with bullying in your own lives?

Marisa: Fortunately we haven't been bullied ourselves, but we have seen other kids at our school get bullied. One kid was constantly being harassed and stood up for him and told the principal. And it stopped! Like I said, sometimes bullies will listen to another kid telling them to cut it out, rather than a grown up telling them that would feel like a lecture.

IML: Did anyone give you a hard time about standing up for that kid?

Marisa: No, fortunately. Me and a bunch of other girls started being nice to the kid who was being bullied, and it started catching on. Everyone just stopped picking on him. Even if one person hears that song and stands up for someone, it just takes that one person to completely change everything.

IML: Thank you Michael and Marisa! We can't wait to hear more from you guys!

Michael: Thanks!

Marisa: Thank you!

When "The Same" is release on iTunes, Michael and Marisa have decided that 20% of the proceeds from sales will get donated to an organization called Kids Against Bullying. You can hear some of this song, and others, on the pair's website at

And we love this music video for their song "Mr. Know It All" -- check it out!