Your musical inspirations?

I grew up listening to just about everything I could get my hands on. My
first interest was the rock stuff that was popular at the time (Jimi
Hendrix, The Who, Sly & the Family Stone, etc.), but I quickly discovered
jazz, which became a passion. Not long after that I got interested in the
European art music tradition and contemporary music. I was fortunate in that
the public high school I attended had an excellent music program and I
played in pretty much all the school ensembles. It got so I’d play
Shostakovich, Hindemith, Brahms, Duke Ellington, Thad Jones, Count Basie,
Sousa, etc. at school; then come home and play Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin,
Aerosmith, etc. with a rock band; jam on Mahavishnu Orchestra or Brand X
tunes with another group of friends and then go to a gig where we’d play
Cole Porter and Rogers and Hart. I learned from all of it and I’ve tried to
continue to have an open mind in listening.

Favorite CD's, songs, or musicians?

There are so many! Here’s a very partial list of musicians whom I find

Morton Feldman, Egberto Gismonti, Gyogy Ligeti, Sergei Babayan, Evan
Hirschelman, Thinking Plague, Meshuggah, Tarika Sammy, Srinivas,
Clastrier/Riessler/Rizzo, Alban Berg, Beethoven, Bill Evans, Paolo Angeli,
Little Feat, D. Scarlatti, Alexander Vynograd, Mafua, Sly & the Family
Stone, Harry Partch, Beethoven, Sylvain Luc, D’Gary, Stravinsky, Daniel
Feinsmith, Zakir Hussain, J. S. Bach, Keith Jarrett, Henry Kaiser, Ned
Rothenberg, Oregon, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Murray Perahia, Hariprasad Chaurasia,
James Brown, Joe Pass, Paul Galbraith, Charles Mingus, XTC, Ralph Towner &
Gary Peacock, Patrick Brayer, Nine Inch Nails, Bela Bartok, John Gorka, Elis
Regina, Chopin, Michael Hedges, Charlie Parker, Nat King Cole, Anton Webern,
Morphine, L. Subramanium, Mozart, Joni Mitchell, Ali Akbar Kahn, Nguyen Le,
Terry Riley, Oscar Peterson, Paul McCandless, Lenny Breau, Adriana
Calcanhotto, Shakti, Meat Beat Manifesto, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Beta
Foly, Trichy Sankaran, John Adams, Hermeto Pascoal…

Has music helped you thru a difficult time in your life?

Yes, definitely. In fact, music seems to help me through all the trying
times in life. Listening to the right music at the right time seems to sort
of re-align my consciousness in positive ways and help me find my way back
to the things that are important to me. The trick is to find the right

Michael Manring Biography

Hailed by many as the world’s leading solo bassist, Michael Manring has been pushing back the boundaries of what’s possible on the bass guitar for over two decades. While his technical skill and innovations always make an impression, it is his ability to communicate on a profound emotional level that most touches listeners. As editor Tom Darter wrote in Keyboard magazine after seeing one of Michael's solo concerts, "Forget his astounding technique and musicality; forget his absolute command of his instruments; forget how seamlessly the musical ideas and the performance of them were wedded together...The enlightenment came most from feeling (seeing, hearing) the joy Michael felt to be playing...his brand of transcendental chops and musical understanding...was all in the service of the final outcome, the joy of making music."

Building on the conceptions of his teacher, the late bass legend Jaco Pastorius, Michael has developed an entirely new approach to the instrument that includes unorthodox tunings, techniques and methodologies. He has honed his skills on hundreds of recordings as a session musician and thousands of concerts throughout the world. Always adventurous, Michael has worked with a surprisingly diverse collection of musicians from New Age keyboardist Suzanne Ciani to avant-improv guitar innovator Henry Kaiser to celebrated folk troubadour John Gorka to experimental post-metal rockers Tim Alexander (Primus) and Alex Skolnick (Testament) to electro-pop pioneer Thomas Dolby. His long-term collaboration and close friendship with the late acoustic guitar genius Michael Hedges led to a lengthy stint as house bassist for Windham Hill Records; a label for whom he also worked as a solo artist, releasing four recordings under his own name: Unusual Weather (1986), Toward the Center of the Night (1989), Drastic Measures (1991) and Thonk (1994). These, along with his 1998 release The Book of Flame on the Alchemy record label earned him an international reputation as "a master of the fretless bass without rival." (Guitar Club Magazine, Italy). He has garnered two gold records, Grammy and Bammie nominations, a Berklee School of Music Distinguished Alumni Award and numerous Bass Player Magazine Reader's Poll awards including 1994 Bassist of the Year. He was also the subject of a recent PBS TV documentary, The Artist's Profile: Michael Manring.

In his solo concerts Michael weaves together numerous musical influences into a tapestry rich with expression, virtuosity, humor and meaning. As one writer put it, "Michael Manring can do more with a bass than even the most creative individual could imagine" (L. Pierce Carson, Napa Valley Register). His newest release Soliloquy, performed entirely solo without overdubs, is the best recorded example yet of that depth and diversity. Using a variety of bass guitars and the far-reaching, innovative approaches he is renowned for, Soliloquy takes the listener on a unique musical journey. With added Enhanced CD content including Michael’s extensive 24-page liner notes detailing the composing and recording process, photos and live performance videos, Soliloquy is a full multi-media experience. We hope you'll follow the advice of France's Musicien magazine: "Do not miss your next opportunity to discover the bassist with the most fresh and inventive playing today."


Your musical inspirations?

i am inspired by great music. genre does not matter as long as i can hear the heart within the song. i especially love the music of iconic personalities like elton john, the rolling stones, U2, van morrison, bob dylan, and joni mitchell. maybe this is because these artists are so uncontrived, so original and honest, and they have something important to say. that kind of passion is what i find deeply inspiring.

Favorite CD's, songs, or musicians?

james taylor, "sweet baby james", was one of my older brother's favorites and constantly hearing it made me a huge fan of all of his work. james is just classic - a smooth voice, great melodies, and songs that sound simple but took so much depth to write. U2, "the joshua tree", made me want to write songs. i love the cohesiveness of that record. as an english major, i have great respect for artists who tie things together, who explore double-meaning, and who understand the art of storytelling. bono is a master of all of this. fleetwood mac, "rumours" is a favorite, as is nirvana, "nevermind". i love to put on miles davis, "kind of blue" when having a nice dinner at home. and yet, my ipod has the carpenters (what a voice!), rick james (ok - one song, guess which one?), and barry manilow (makes me cry every time). i definitely love diversity :).

Has music helped you thru a difficult time in your life?

absolutely. it's probably saved my life a few times. without the ability to make music, to express my feelings that way, i think i would be insane. and certainly, i have found comfort many times in the words and music of my artistic heroes. one example i can think of is when i was completely depressed about feeling out of place as far as the "music industry" is concerned. i felt that there was no place for my music, no way to make a living doing what i loved. i went to a U2 concert around that time and was deeply affected. i was reenergized to stay true to myself, to continue fighting for what i believed in.

Your thoughts on the connection between music and healing

i think music is inherently healing. nirvana can be healing if you open your heart up to the pain that kurt felt. he is sharing that pain in his music, and though his outcomes can be sad and even tragic, there is a certain catharsis that happens when one releases all that anger. even if he didn't find relief, we can. and i think he would have liked that. music heals in many ways - sometimes through making you identify with it's sadness and thereby helping you face issues - and sometimes by lifting you up and sending you into joyful oblivion :).


"She has a way of writing songs for anyone who has ever been at the short end of the stick and turning it into a victory. Lyrically, her details are very poetic and brave. Most songwriters hide behind oblique imagery. Jen revels in baring her heart."

Jeff Trott, Producer, 'The Underdogs'

Known for her direct, honest lyrics, Texas-native Jen Foster is an award-winning singer, songwriter and guitarist who writes from the heart and performs from the soul. Her songs evoke concrete images we can all relate to, weaving everyday events into memorable melodies. Ultimately it's unwavering frankness and honesty which define Foster's songwriting. "My agenda is not to change people," she says. "I do want to affect them, though, and I think you have less of a chance of doing that when you preach to them. I like the subtle approach that's personal. I want to involve people, not isolate them."

This desire to make a personal connection is evident at Foster's live performances as well, which have become known for their spontaneity and visceral charge. "The best part of this for me is still playing live," she says, "interacting with an audience and feeling like you moved them, even for a minute."

After graduating from her small Catholic girls' school, Foster attended Whittier College in Los Angeles, but got her real education listening to the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles and performing in the clubs and coffee houses of Los Angeles.

On her sophomore CD 'The Underdogs,' Foster gives voice to universal themes with tales of heartbreak, escape and self-awareness. Working with acclaimed producer Jeff Trott (Sheryl Crow, Stevie Nicks,) Foster creates a cohesive landscape of personal struggle and internal drama. Singing of mistrust within relationships, she creates a palpable sense of being uncomfortable in one's own skin.

'The Underdogs' follows 'Everybody's Girl', Jen Foster's debut CD, which was released to consistently favorable reviews in 2003. Critical praise ran from coast-to-coast for 'Everybody's Girl', with press comparing "rising star" Jen Foster to Sheryl Crow, Joan Osbourne, Bonnie Raitt and others. Reviewers described her no-frills approach and straightforward lyrics as "captivating," "impressive" and "consistently engaging". And, with 128 shows in 43 cities in 2004, she proved her live chops as well in cities large and small. Jen performed at South By Southwest, the Calliope Festival, BMI Showcase, AIDS Benefits, PrideFest events and on the Yellow Umbrella Tour. She headlined, opened for such diverse acts as Sophie B. Hawkins, K's Choice, Crash Test Dummies, Lisa Loeb, Allison Moorer, The Samples and more. Texan Even now, Foster continues to build her fan base the old-fashioned way…on the road. “It’s really the only way for a new artist to spread the word. I happen to love touring…so this has been great.”

In 2004, Mainstream and Alternative press from The Boston Globe to The Cleveland Scene helped establish Jen as an 'artist to watch'. From OUT Magazine to Nashville Rage, from HX to SHE Magazine, the impact of the GLBT community's support was evident as well. Foster's debut CD included "She," a same-sex love song which put her on the map as a finalist in the Pop division of the John Lennon songwriting contest and a First Prize recipient in the Great American Songwriting contest's Pop division, and no doubt played a part in her winning 'Best Debut Recording–Female' at the 2004 Outmusic Awards (her entire album was honored.) Also in 2004, her first single, "Used Black Cars," showed surprising strength at AAA Radio, debuting as the 3rd Most Added track in its first official week of release, trailing only Dave Matthews and Lyle Lovett.

Jen Foster is all about 'forward motion'. With February, 2006 release of 'The Underdogs', she intends to build on the successes of the past, reaching out to new fans song-by-song, show-by-show and day-by-day.

Song Notes for 'The Underdogs', written by Jen Foster:

(Appears on Preview EP)
"This is a very personal song, written when I was between relationships. I remember being distraught at the time, and I think it was because I realized there was no one in my life I could be completely honest with - or perhaps no one I was willing to be honest with. The girl in the song is struggling with the endless paranoia that her lover is leaving her, while also dealing with a dark secret from her youth that leads her from one lie to the next. In the end, the lover proves to be deserving of trust - and lets her know that he/she is simply going out for groceries...the song is really about the fear of abandonment spiraling into a sad state of paranoia."

TAKING BOB DYLAN (Appears on Preview EP)
"A classic break-up song...It hit me hard when she moved out, all the precious things that had meaning to us, slowly being taken from me, like pieces of my heart slowly being ripped away. But, WHAT exactly are the precious items that go when you break up with someone? They were easy to come up with: the pictures, the sweaters, the books, the records...for me, the music we shared was the most symbolic of the devastation I felt. There went Bob Dylan, along with my girl..."

THE UNDERDOGS (Appears on Preview EP)
"My anthem. From a young age, I observed that life is not fair. There's an 'us' and a 'them', and that bothered me...I wanted to make it fair, make it right. The misfits, the outcasts, called out to me...and I loved being near them because I felt they were special - they were on a higher plane. Ultimately, the journey is about finding ourselves, because there's an underdog in all of us. When we learn to nurture it, the space between "us" and "them" closes up...acceptance and tolerance are the goals. Hopefully the "popular" people will relate to this song as well, and I trust they will...They are no more the enemy than are the misfits. We are all the same deep down. As for me, I'm still trying to figure out where I fit in."

"A valentine to my artistic heroes. This started as another song, with another melody, and in the process of writing a verse, Kathy Scott (my writing partner on this track) said, "it wouldn't be David without Michelangelo," and I said, "WAIT! That's it! That's the chorus!" It was such a brilliant sentence - it was too good to be a verse, it had to be the central concept. The next day, I sat down and wrote the entire song...deeply inspired and excited by the idea that there is no art without the artist. The concept of artistic creativity is so extraordinary and at the same time, incredibly simple. The artists I praise in this song have given us endless gifts."

"This one just flowed out of me, as if it was being channeled. It was such a humbling creative moment, and I feel this may be the song I'm most proud of. I wanted to write a comforting song - the visual could be a soft blanket of clouds that you can float in...something that, for me, recalled the spirit of Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah"...something to convey a calm, spiritual peace in the face of this complicated life. I sing "at times this world can be so beautiful," but that includes the pain - the pain is beautiful, too, since it's all part of this symphony of life...yeah, bittersweet."

"Someone comes along and breaks you all apart, and then leaves you missing a piece you can't survive without. Relationships change us forever. We're never the same -- we morph every time we love and lose someone. The falsetto in my voice is an intentional representation of the highs and lows of this ride. There's an eerie, urgent feeling...dark and dramatic, because the emotion in loss is inherently over the top."

"This was written at a time when I felt bombarded by people's opinions about how I should present myself as an artist - and as a human being, really. We're 'on' so much of the time, and it struck me that the times resting between those moments are usually the most honest and beautiful. I also thought about my happiest moments, at home in my pajamas, and with that, it turned into a love song. If there's any song that captures how I truly feel inside, it's 'Poses'. And I love what Jeff brought to the table on this song -- he really stripped it to its essence."

SATURN (Appears on Preview EP)
"Developed from a progression of four chords, 'Saturn' is based on the concept of escape. I was inspired by the rush you feel when you hear "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman, and then ultimately it evolved into a song about two lovers trying to get away from the difficulties of this world...This is one of my favorite songs to perform live."

"I wrote this around the "hook" piano line. I don't play piano very often, but whenever I sit down at one, that little progression is what I play. My lack of expertise on the piano resulted in a starkness of melody, and that became a big part of what makes the song haunting. I debated about how this song could be perceived as completely hopeless and depressing, as I usually have a light at the end of the tunnel in my songs. But the hopelessness is valid and should have its own voice. We all feel it at some point. It is what it is, and I didn't want to give this track a Hollywood ending."

"High School. The glory and the unrecognized ironies of youth, and then the dreamers turned into lawyers, the freaks turned into artists, and on and on. We all start off with such promise - and sometimes, we lose our way (sometimes, we find it!) Either way, at one point, in that moment, there was no stopping our ambitions..."

SUN IN SEATTLE (Appears on Preview EP)
"If music was something you could paint, this would be my watercolor. This song tears me up. It's a sad portrait of a person hanging on to a dead relationship. Her lover is gone, and yet she is still holding out hope. She's already struggling to hold on to her sanity, and this blind, defiant hope is driving her over the edge. The vocal melody just poured out of me, once I locked into the line "and I thought you might come home this summer...""


Has music helped you thru a difficult time in your life?

my favorite thing about what I do is that I get to step outside of my life
and watch it. So everything, no matter how great, no matter how awful or
average, carries the seeds of a story, a song. And everything becomes easier
to live with. So many times I have quietly said to my self I will write a
song about YOU or THIS.  And, strange as it seems, I also step further
inside of things. When you really listen to what people say, casually, on a
bus , in a cab, overheard sentences, angry voices next door, children
playing A whole world opens itself up before your eyes.
Music is my secret key to life.

* Your thoughts on the connection between music and healing--

my brother Bernie is a pianist and a music therapist he works with autistic
and schizophrenic children and he plays free jazz. He has often told me
miraculous stories of recovery. Like the child that started to play a
drum. the child that had never made any attempt to say a word. I believed
what he said, in a way, but I really felt what he was talking about when I
got diagnosed with cancer and took chemotherapy for a year.
The drugs made me feel awful. There was no comfortable place in my body.
Evertthing hurt, I was nauseous all the time. Except for when I played
At first I worried I would collapse on stage, fall into the drum set, break
my guitar, chip a tooth on the mike. But as soon as the groove got going
I felt fine. It lasted for about 30 minutes after we stopped playing. Just
enough time to get home.

* Favorite CD's, songs, or musicians

miles davis, stevie wonder, angie stone, umu sangare, aretha franklin,
joe zawinul, mike stern, bb king, jimi hendrix, stevie ray vaughn, the
beatles, bob marley john mclaughlin, sting, yussu n'dour, barber, ravel,
feldman, villa lobos..


Acclaimed singer/songwriter/guitarist Leni Stern has released a
Limited-Edition, four-song EP, "10,000 Butterflies". The EP showcases
Stern's uncanny ability to evoke extraordinary images from ordinary
circumstances -- the lunatic ranting of a woman on the street seeps into
Stern¹s consciousness; a wet snowstorm in Munich vexes her en route to a
Volker Kriegel concert; a Martial Arts challenge reveals her inner strength;
migrating Monarch butterflies set thoughts of terror attacks in motion.

"10,000 Butterflies", a preview of a full album due to be released in early
2006, showcases Stern's evolution as a songwriter and guitarist.  Recorded
on vintage analog equipment at Matt Wells' Studio in New York, the songs
possess a rich, dense quality (eerily absent on much of today's all-digital
music.) Stern's rock and blues guitar solos permeate the tracks, providing a
soulful, assertive backdrop to her fascinating lyrics. The songs feature
Stern's current working band: James Genus, bass (SNL, Michael Brecker,
Alice Coltrane,) Keith Carlock, drums (Sting, Steely Dan,) and Etienne
Stadwijk, keyboards (Richard Bona, Nona Hendrix, Morley Kamen).

The EP follows Stern's breakthrough CD, "When Evening Falls". National,
 regional, jazz and rock writers alike weighed in on the 2004 album and rewarded
 it with the best reviews of Stern's 19-year music career. THE WASHINGTON
 POST described it as "Inspired" and infused "With a Surprising Array of Colors,
Textures and Rhythms". "Graceful," praised the BOSTON PHOENIX.
JAZZTIMES called it "Exotic and Solemnly Beautiful." "Joni
 Mitchell-Meets-Marianne Faithfull,  buzzed THE ALBANY TIMES UNION.

This limited-edition EP will be available on lenistern.com, at cdbaby.com
and via iTunes. Each EP jacket features original, 'home-made' artwork, in
the spirit of Sun Ra. Stern comments, "We decided to do the 'one of a kind'
packaging because it's more fun for us, and because Sun Ra was told by
extraterrestrials to do this sort of thing. So, who knows, maybe the aliens
know something we don't!" (Sun Ra claimed to have been born on Saturn, and
to have brought down the concepts for his music from the heavens. His most
famous song is titled "Space is the Place.")

Leni Stern will appear on a Guitar Panel at the Rockrgrl Conference in
Seattle, November 10th and 11th. Stern, an accomplished Blues and Jazz
guitarist, was chosen as Gibson's Female Guitarist of the Year five
consecutive times. She was included, among such Stratocaster icons as Eric
Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, in Tom Wheeler's The Stratocaster Chronicles, a
coffee-table book released by Fender.

Additional EP Song Commentary, written by Leni Stern:

BEAUTY QUEEN: "So-called 'Crazy' people have always fascinated me. And all
too often I feel that 'normal, sane' people are neither. Who's to say that
the world we see is the only one there is? Early on I found out that these
people can be very smart, brilliant sometimes -- although, stillŠ.
something's not quite right. Many times, lost in thought, I've walked to a
street corner in NYC, only to have the local ranting lunatic read my mind
out loud."

10,000 BUTTERFLIES: "On '10,000 Butterflies' I use a loop and an
African-inspired, clean sound. The background vocals (arranged by Joe
Smith,) are inspired by South African vocal groups like Ladysmith Black
Mambazo. The soloist is Audrey Martell, a NY soul and rock singer. Every day
I watch the news, and every day someone tells us we could experience a
terror attack somewhere, somehow. The alarm goes from red to yellow to
orange and back, and I don't worry anymore. It's all too obvious that we're
supposed to feel scared and let our government do whatever it wants. Our
security has become a license to suspend our freedom. Sad but true.
But when I heard that 10,000 butterflies had left California, all on the
same day, and flown to Mexico, I felt alarmed. The Monarch butterflies
migrate every year, but somehow I felt this was a sign. Why did they leave
that day over any other? Did they sense an earthquake coming, a chemical
attack, a suitcase bomb in downtown L.A.? Well, maybe all this talk of
impending doom has gotten to me after all."

WATCH OVER ME: "On this song (also a vocal arrangement by Joe Smith,) we
were inspired by the classic Motown style of background vocals. The whole
production was driven by the sound of those early records. It features the
natural sound of all the instruments, without much reverb or fancy
processing. A very intimate way of presenting music. The goal is to give the
listener the feeling of sitting in a small club, right close up to the
stage. Many years ago, I went to see Volker Kriegel play at a jazz club in
Munich. It was winter; the streets were covered in heavy wet snow. The
temperature had gone up just enough to turn the snow into rain. The drummer
was late, stuck somewhere in traffic, and the band was pacing in front of
the stage. Finally, Joe Nay arrived, and Volker started playing. At first
pretty tense and angry, but soon lost in the music. I stood close to the
stage to watch his hands and learn a trick or two when I saw him turn to the
drums and flash the brightest of smiles. It was at that moment that I
decided to become a musician. I had suddenly become very aware of the
strength of music, the wordless magic of rhythm and melody that transcended
snow and anger. I watched them speak - drums and guitar- and I remember
feeling relieved -- I had finally figured out what to do with myself. Volker
died last year. And this spring I played a concert in Frankfurt near the
guitar shop where I used to take guitar lessons so many years ago. Late at
night, after the concert, I sat down and started writing this song."

HAVE FAITH IN ME: "I keep trying to write about faith, boy I don't
know...it's been such a misused concept. So New-Age and phony...I like to
look at things much more realistically. Still I am fascinated by the things
we don't see....just feel.  And I know that the real story is never on the
surface. We are a lot like puppets and puppet masters. What we believe is
more defining than what we plan and do. I got the idea for "Have Faith in
Me" when I was preparing for my Brown Belt test (Note - Stern holds three
belts in the Southern Shaolin discipline of Hung-Ga,) I could tell that my
Martial Arts teacher was very concerned. I don't blame him. I don't look or
act like a fighter. In a real fight that's probably a good thing, but it's
hard when no one believes in you. Still, I never worry about getting hurt. I
worry about hitting someone too hard, or hitting the wrong guy. I don't
look¹ very much like any of the things I do. When people think of a burning
electric guitar, they don't usually have a blond white girl in mind..."


* Your musical inspirations? 

I am drawn to strong melodies and honest, poetic lyrics. If an artist's work feels authentic to me, then I generally can appreciate it, whatever the genre.

* Has music helped you thru a difficult time in your life?

Definitely. For the last few years, I have had chronic lyme disease, very severe chronic fatigue immune dysfunction and heavy metal toxicity. I have been pretty disabled by the illness and have not been able to sing anymore or go to clubs, or do most simple things that people take for granted. There have been many times when I have grabbed my guitar and while lying on the couch, written songs to help me cope with the overwhelming fatigue. I sing in whispers or sometimes at half voice. On the best days, I am able to do that, and it becomes like a meditation for me. I do laugh at myself, because I hear myself writing the same song over and over in different ways. The theme seems to be, this is SO hard, but I must not give up. I must keep on keeping on.

Music takes many forms. There are times when I must be silent and still. I am learning more about that place where music resides, the place beyond notes. It is a circle that contains our every longing and hope, dream and disappointment. My music has always been my life. Now I am going through this fire and this process that is teaching me how to make my LIFE my music.

I have also started to take photos and sell them on my site. I have found that photography, like music, is about observation. It is taking the time to notice.

* Your thoughts on the connection between music and healing--

I hope and pray for the day when I can be active again, and heal. It is hard to believe that just a few years ago I was touring with my band, performing at radio festivals and doing concerts across the country. I will be honest. I am going through unfamiliar territory right now. My music feels meaningless to me. This is the first time in my life I have ever felt this way, and I don't like it. Maybe I am just too tired for music right now. Even saying that, just last week, I found out that a song I recently wrote is being used for a breast cancer charity event. It will be given out to each woman that comes as well as to other cancer patients in the hospital. I am honored. To me, this is what matters. It is about helping others, which is far more important that being the "It" girl of the moment.

The song is called "My Prayer." I am grateful for the opportunity to use this song to touch other people and hopefully help them heal. As I help others heal, I heal myself. We are all connected.

When people are facing a chronic illness and going through the ups and downs of medical treatments and so much uncertainty as well as pain, music can be a great comfort. So can prayer. I just wonder how all of this is changing me, and who I am becoming. Sometimes we cannot imagine where the process is leading us, as we are tested and molded and shaped. We only feel the pain of being melted down, but like a jewel, we will be made into something beautiful.

It's a rarity in pop music that debut albums are as provocative, literate, lyrical and sexy as Jo Davidson's Kiss Me There. Usually an artist requires at least a couple of work-in-progress outings to find her voice and approach. But this New York-based singer-pianist-songsmith breaks into the winner's circle with an auspicious premiere that is, at turns, alluring, feisty and poignant.

"All the songs are true stories," says Davidson, who wrote the 13 tunes, played all the keyboard and most of the guitar parts, co-produced and engineered "Kiss Me There" with Greg Ladanyi (who has worked with the likes of Fleetwood Mac and Don Henley.) "It's my journey, and every song is a personal story."

From her personal anthem, "Fragile Tough Girl," the catchy pop tune that opens the album to her tragic balladic tale of hypocrisy and youthful naiveté in "Rose-colored Glasses," Davidson unflinchingly plumbs a depth of emotion and understanding that reveals her commitment to a high standard of music-making. "Being an artist is the only way to make sense of the chaos," she says, "I have to write."

Born in Ohio, Davidson started playing the piano by ear when she was four and began classical music lessons in the first grade. At age 11, she took to writing her own songs. "There was a talent show when I was in the sixth grade," she recalls. "The piano teacher said that we should all pick a song to play. I asked if I could write mine."

As a youngster, Davidson explored the creative possibilities of a song. She notes, "I listened to the radio a lot when I was growing up and that influenced the way I structure songs." As she got older, Davidson continued to pursue her songwriting talent, entering and placing in such composition competitions as the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and the Billboard National Song Contest. She also moved to Los Angeles in the early '90s, where she set out to make inroads in the music community. After some unsavory experiences with management and publishing companies, Davidson decided to embark in an independent career direction. She built her own studio, established her own indie record label and publishing company, "Fragile Tough Girl Records", and began in earnest to document her songs.

With an independent spirit, Davidson recorded a earlier, rough version of the "Kiss Me There" album to sell at concerts and on her website to increase her fanbase. Her song, "Mental Pollution," attained further exposure when it was featured in the NBC made-for-TV movie, Friends to the End, starring Shannon Doherty, who sang the tune -a performance that periodically appears on the VH-1 cable music channel.

Signing with EAR (Edel America Records) in May 2000, Davidson returned to the studio to tweak her album tracks. She re-cut, re-mastered, and re-sequenced tracks including the above mentioned rock-edged-rant, "Mental Pollution." She describes it as her "song of isolation and angst. I have a temper tantrum on the bridge of the song and it feels good to get it out," she laughs ("..the world could drown from the truth that’s in my tears.") Underneath it, I’m searching for my true voice and the courage to speak out."

She enlisted David Campbell (whose credits include Alanis Morrisette and Goo Goo Dolls) to work up string arrangements for a few other numbers like the two moving ballads "Tonite" and "Secrets"; Davidson also wrote two new tracks: "Windows," her rocking ode to loving the edginess of New York City, and the title song, "Kiss Me There," a simple yet beautifully crafted song about finding comfort and connecting with a lover in a deep, intimate way.

The personal release of writing serves as stimulating therapy for Davidson. "Writing is how I process everything," states Jo. "In my writing I am vulnerable and honest. A lot of my songs have very spiritual and religious types of influences," she explains. With "All The World’s Religions" she tackles her personal conflict, searching for relief from her guilt ("There’s darkness and then there’s light / The two always seem to fight / Living in my soul without paying rent"), while "Rose Colored Glasses" reeks with the tragedy of childhood pain revisited ("With rules by which even God wouldn’t abide, you set down the iron fist / I fell in lust and the punishment stung like fresh blood on a suicidal wrist").

On a lighter note, "Shampoo Boy" is a playful mid-tempo song based tongue-in-cheek about a friend who asked her if she will remember him when she becomes "big and famous." "It is a quirky song about wanting someone to wait on you. Your love slave," she laughs. "But underneath it all, ‘Are you attracted to the image of me or are you attracted to the real me?’ "

The album is book-ended by "Fragile Tough Girl", which was recently featured on an episode of The WB’s Felicity, and the piano-lullaby called "Alone in My Room." Davidson explains that she most definitely is the "fragile tough girl" of the song -tough but vulnerable. As for "Alone in My Room," "I think it is all part of a journey. I would like to say I have conclusions, but maybe the point is that there aren’t any. In the end, we all need comfort. ("The world is screaming and you're craving lullabies....")

In the spirit of the true singer-songwriter, Davidson opens a window on who she is as a person on her album, "Kiss Me There." She says, "Want to know more about me? Just listen closely to the songs." Are they too revealing? "That's the way I write. I'll save the fiction for other songwriters." As for her future, she brings it up in her song "Tonite," which underscores the theme of keeping the faith in the face of adversity. "I know it sounds so cliché, but I believe in the dream. I won't give up even if everything falls apart, as she expresses, "…to all things their season, to all things their time, I believe in the sun even when it doesn’t shine."


Image © 1999 Sound On Sound

My earliest musical inspirations began with The Carpenters, followed by The Eagles and much later Take 6.

I have always been fascinated by vocal harmonies of all genres, but these were the three that I grew up listening to constantly.

The Carpenters had such a unique blend and their perfect tuning together with their silvery vocal tones, won me over on first listening.

The Eagles are the epitome of what I love about male vocal harmonies. Their slick and edgy vocals are enhanced by the fact that they are all leads vocalists as well as the most accomplished musicians. Their songs have stood the test of time, and I believe that they are even better performers today than back in their hey day.

In my opinion, Take 6 tops the vocal spectrum as far as blend, tuning, arrangement and performance is concerned. I don't think there has ever been better in that genre.


Given the list of artists British singer Miriam Stockley has worked with - a list that includes such names as Tina Turner, Elton John, George Michael, Freddie Mercury, Chaka Khan, David Bowie, Seal and Adiemus - you may be surprised that you haven't heard her name before. But that is soon to change. One of the most distinctive voices in music, Miriam has probably sung on more hit records and with more success than most artists achieve in a lifetime. What is also surprising is that it has taken so long for Miriam to capitalise on her undisputed vocal talent by recording a solo album. But now Miriam is ready to go it alone and will release her self-titled debut album on Virgin on 31 May 1999.

"Sonically, she's got ears like a bat" says vocal recording engineer Rod Houison. "She rolls out six part haromonies effortlessly. From a technical point of view she's in a class of her own." Not bad for a totally untrained singer who sings from the heart, but being technically superb is only one side of Miriam. She also has a tremendously emotional delivery that can often send tingles down your spine.

The album entitled simply Miriam combines a variety of styles and influences from the African influenced "Forever My Heart," "Ruwenzori," "Uku'lele" and "Nocturne" to the Celtic themes of "Song Of The Seahorse" and "Homeland." But then there are the ballads like "Empty Space," "Arcadia" and "Perfect Day." The album also features an inspired interpretation of Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street."

Miriam worked with five different composers, and several different orchestrators all of whom she feels have influenced the album to certain degrees, which results in an album with such great balance and depth that it is almost impossible to categorise. "The writing has my stamp on it, but it was great to have all these other people involved" she says. "I have always written from a contemporary standpoint, rather than a classical one, and I wanted this album to have a contemporary edge that would appeal to a wider audience."

Originally from Johannesburg, Miriam began singing at the age of 11, when she formed a duo with her sister Avryl. Shortly afterwards she was asked to record a jingle for a local building society, which began her session career. "From then on I was constantly in and out of studios recording jingles for various radio and television commercials, which I loved. However, half way through my A levels I found the combination of singing and school work too much to cope with, so I gave up school and concentrated on singing instead." It was during this period that Miriam developed her unique vocal skills of multilayering vocal harmonies.

Having reached the pinnacle of her career in South Africa, Miriam set her sights on Europe. She began travelling to Paris to work with French composer Francis Lai and finally packed her bags and based herself in London at the age of 18.

"In the early days I did a lot of work as a backing singer but I also demoed songs for various song writers and joined the occasional band for a few gigs. It was a good way of building contacts because I was in at the start with a lot of people who were obviously going places."

Throughout the 80s and 90s Miriam was in great demand and her voice can be heard on numerous hits by a diverse range of artists. She sang on several British television cult comedy shows such as Spitting Image and Steve Coogan's Alan Partridge. Her solo voice has also graced feature film and TV soundtracks including Rob Roy, Great Expectations, Mike Figgis' One Night Stand and the successful Beatrix Potter series Peter Rabbit and Friends. She also appeared live in a variety of concerts including the 1997 Prince's Trust concert, the Wham! Final Concert and the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at London's Wembly Stadium where she provided backing vocals for Elton John, Annie Lennox, David Bowie and Seal. Miriam was also featured on the 1998 Diana Princess of Wales Tribute Concert at Althorpe England on which she sang "Arcadia" and "Song Of The Seahorse" from the new album

Miriam's extensive studio work that brought her to the attention of former Soft Machine members Karl Jenkins and Mike Ratledge who were busy writing music for advertising. Jenkins had heard about Miriam's unique vocal style and invited her to work with him on a piece of music for a Delta Airlines commercial. This was the beginning of the highly successful Adiemus project, and Jenkins' compositions featuring Miriam's vocals were recorded in 1995 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and released as Songs Of Sanctuary by Adiemus. The album was an international success and, together with the follow-ups Cantata Mundi and Dances of Time has so far sold in excess of two million copies worldwide.

"Only You," a hit Miriam performed with the group Praise, charted number two in the UK and resulted in her debut Top Of The Pops appearance. Miriam always had her heart set on recording her own solo album. After completing the third Adiemus album she felt the time was right to expand her musical audience.

Miriam's first solo album on Virgin is a work of the finest quality and promises to be one of the surprises of 1999.

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