photo by Glen Rose

How has music inspired you?

Good music, like art in general, inspires me by communicating in a way
that plain language cannot -- straight to the gut, straight to the
soul.  It makes it possible for a complete stranger to comfort me in my
darkest moments.  It makes it possible for me, in turn, to do the same
for people I will never meet.  Good music reassures me that none of us
is alone.

Itís not unusual to see someone leave her high tech job these days to seek out new adventures. But how many of them wind up performing on the Late Show with David Letterman less than six months later?

By the time San Francisco-based singer/songwriter/pianist Vienna Teng, 25, quit her full-time software engineering job at Cisco Systems in 2002, she had signed with independent label Virt Records and was preparing for her full-length CD release, Waking Hour. A few months later, she was featured on NPRís Weekend Edition, made her network television debut on the Letterman show, and was followed around by a camera crew from CNN for a prime-time profile. With her graceful melodies and evocative lyrics, Vienna has garnered critical acclaim and a rapidly growing legion of fans throughout the world. Her days are now filled with interviews and sold-out performances. Needless to say, it has been an abrupt shift from her cubicle days.

But in truth, the jump from code warrior to full-time musician had been a long time coming. Vienna began taking piano lessons at age 5, studying classical composers like Bach and Chopin. Far from being pressured into studying music, however, Vienna asked for piano lessons on her own. While she delved fully into classical works, leading her to even take on the name of Vienna after the Austrian city of composers, she was drawn more to the act of improvisation, and in expressing the ideas that were emerging in her own imagination. She wrote her first song at age 6, and had an albumís worth of instrumentals composed by age 16.

The evolution from hobby to full-time job happened gradually, as an appreciative audience began forming around the music she created while attending Stanford, where she graduated in 2000 with a degree in Computer Science. "I realized how much my songs could affect people - that they had some value. People wanted to hear them and wanted to make them a part of their lives." Her first "concerts" were impromptu events, consisting of curious students gathering around the dorm lounge piano as she played and sang. They started to recognize her songs - and to request them. Bootleg tapes and MP3s of rough recordings circulated around campus. People started asking when the CD was coming out, which led Vienna to record Waking Hour when she wasnít attending class or studying.

Vienna returns with her much-anticipated sophomore release, Warm Strangers, on February 24. The album is a diverse collection of lush, melodic songs, incorporating Vienna's classical background and folk sensibilities within a contemporary pop framework. The album was produced by David Henry (REM, Cowboy Junkies, Josh Rouse) and mixed by Roger Moutenot (Roseanne Cash, Guster, Joseph Arthur). Whereas Waking Hour, written during the high school and college years, was mostly autobiographical, Warm Strangers marks Vienna's bold leap into fiction. Orchestral and acoustic landscapes, using everything from string quartets to slide guitars, provide an inviting sonic backdrop for her short stories of love, death, struggle and hope. In describing Warm Strangers, Vienna notes, "We pass through each other's lives so briefly that it's easy to think of the people around us as mere objects, cold and removed. Writing songs is my way of breathing warmth into them. Attempting to tell their stories, however fictitious the results, reminds me of our common humanity."


* How has music inspired you?  

Music has inspired me completely as if seeing any great work of art, sunrise or sunset.  To me it is one of the greatest veins to drink from in our existance.

* Your musical inspirations?

To sing and play music with a great passion through evolution that not only helps keep me feeling connected, but to connect to and through people in this capacity for the rest of my life

* Has music helped you through a difficult or traumatic time in your life?

 When life seems all to overwhelming or chaotic, the one true friend that brings me to a place of "home" is my guitar...always there - ready to talk through me and to me.  It has been one of the deepest connections I have ever known.  It has helped me through all the stages of my life with no judgement offering a great template to create and express. 

* Any CDs/songs which are meaningful to you?

Blue by Joni Mitchell... OK Computer by Radiohead... Grace by Jeff Buckley...Little Queen by Heart... to name a few

* Discuss the creative or songwriting process --

Generally, the best songs I have written are when I have picked up my guitar and started to play or jam with it.  I know a song is brewing when all of a sudden I  feel a 'bell' as if time stops and I am getting inside with a connection to a riff, progression or groove that is coming through.  When I feel that connection I know that a song is starting to flow, I run and get my pad and tape recorder.  From there the melody and lyrics start to flow and once the  song is born I feel like I went flying for a couple of days.

* Discuss your feelings about the powerful or life-changing effects that music can have on a person --

Music transcends time and space for all of us... it is the one universal religion. 

An icon of the Boston scene, rocker and poet Jennifer Matthews enthralls with intimacy, nuance and vocal finesse. She is an avant-garde balladeer with a Lower East Side sensibility. She can rock like a folk punk PJ Harvey and downshift with the oblique nimble sensuality of Suzanne Vega. Her songs are missions from the frontlines of life, bell clear with unrelenting personal honesty. Matthews' bewitching charm and passionate songwriting brings a new meaning to the Eclectic Rock genre.

In a recent review, Boston Globe Music Writer Steve Morse described her as "at times as individual as PJ Harvey and Kate Bush, at times as hippie-sensual as Neil Young and Joan Osborne, Matthews covers a lot of ground. She's an appealing chameleon."

Matthews studied vocal performance at the University of Colorado in Boulder and at Denver's School of Music. While in Colorado, she established herself as a solo artist, performing in local bars and coffeehouses. During this period she developed her unique vocal style and her songs gained recognition, leading to several awards from the Rocky Mountain Music Association. After a three-month tour in Japan, Korea and Hawaii, Matthews relocated to New York where she formed the five-piece band Beautiful Mud. After a highly acclaimed debut release and performing for several years in New York City clubs, the band separated.

Jennifer moved to Boston in 1998 to embark on a solo career. Her new energetic trio features drummer Bill Ricciardelli and fretless bass player Jordan Scannella, both graduates from the Berklee College of Music in Boston. This dynamic trio has cultivated a sophisticated blend of rock, funk and folk sound while still retaining the distinctive Jennifer Matthews style.

Built from her three previous releases (Treehouse,
Shot To The Wind, and Blue In Blue Out), her compilation album Best of 96-01 features three never released songs "Falling Star", "Heaven To Me", and "#45 Warren Street." The album is an eclectic collection of Matthews' musical and poetic emotions.

"Good music keeps your attention. Great music somehow manipulates emotions in you that you otherwise wouldn't be feeling at the moment. This is great music... If only some of our friends in the music biz would pull the band wagon over and delve into something with substance and integrity."
-- Dean Sternberg, Rhythm & News Magazine, New York

"Jennifer is an artist of great versatility with the ability to play any of her songs with great emotion... and musical beauty... Her talent as an artist is not to be ignored."
-- Michael Friedman, Skope Magazine, Boston

"Jennifer has incredible control of her voice as she wanes through octaves with impressive ability."
-- Douglas Sloan, Metronome

"Jennifer Matthews' voice, at once both breathy and forceful, serves as a siren centerpiece spinning out a captivating melody above and around the musical base like a master weaver."
-- B.F.B, Grandma Dynamite

"Jennifer Matthews just came back from a successful European solo tour. She has performed 10 one-woman shows in 2 weeks around Switzerland and has built up an important fan base, paving the way for her next tour..."
-- Northeast Performer

"Jennifer... rocked out to a packed house of local music lovers... She is an artist of great versatility with the ability to play any of her songs with great emotion. She played a two-hour set that the crowd did not seem to want to let her finish. Whether you hear her live or on the CD she never lacks that musical beauty. Jennifer has been spotlighted to let our loyal readers know that her talent as an artist is not to be ignored... for someone who we can't believe has not yet gone platinum..."
-- Skope Magazine, Boston

"Jennifer sings and plays acoustic guitar... and man is she good at it... guess I'm a fan."
-- L.A. Jo, Soundcheck


* How has music inspired you?

Music has filled my life in many ways. The earliest memories of music in my house growing up came from my parents love of music. My mother had a beautiful voice and would always sing to me and my brothers. My family roots are from South America so the songs I heard were beautiful ballads in Spanish. Another important shaping of my musical path was through my father. Even though he did not play any instrument, his love and knowledge of music was ever present. We would always listen to opera on the radio on weekends in addition to the dozens of records from Latin romantic music like Los Romeros with their flawless and rich vocals to Mahalia Jackson's unforgettable and soul shaking gospel inspired music. Once we were old enough to learn instruments, my parents made sure we had every opportunity to learn music. By the age of eight I started learning classical piano, by nine, classical flute. Since then I have never looked back! Music has been my voice without words but through melody. Music has been my spirit though the emotions it invokes. Music has been my voice through the lyrics that gel together my thoughts, observations and philosophy of life.

* Your musical inspirations?

There are really so many musical inspirations! Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Milton Nascimento, Seal, Annie Lenox, Annie Haslam and Renaissance, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, The Beatles, Chopin, Greig, Beethoven, Eva Ayllon, Susana Baca, Raul Garcia Zarate, Fela, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Odeon Pope Saxophone Choir, Sid Simmons, Los Kjarkas, Bjork, Carlos Vives, Natalie Merchant, Bob Marley, Ketama, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Angelique Kidjo, Oaxerai, Philly Gumbo...the list is always growing! However, musical inspiration comes from many other sources for me like the sound of rain falling and hitting the ground, the sound of children playing, the stillness of a quiet calm day...these are all sensations that feed my musical sensibility.

* Has music helped you through a difficult or traumatic time in your life?

Sure. Some music has come out of pain. One obvious example is romantic relationships coming to an end. Some songs express the pain of this process and ultimately the healing that comes through it. One song, "Woman Stand Strong" on my Aguafuego CD speaks of sexual abuse or domestic abuse of women. I had worked on a video production for a training video for Women Organized Against Rape as the sound person. The interviews with these women inspired great courage and sadness at the same time. Many of the women felt very impelled to tell their stories so that other women can learn and also gather courage to deal with their own situations of abuse and consequent guilt from these past relationships. "Woman Stand Strong" is my dedication to these women and also to producer Barbara Sheehan who first believed in my music and encouraged it from the start. I owe much gratitude to her.

Other songs reflect political and social injustices around the world. These realities I feel are global hardships and difficulties. It also places many things in perspective in terms of the global family. We are in this together. Many of my songs are stories or vignettes of real life. There are stories of union organizing, of rebellion against dictatorships, of Native American self-determination and autonomy, of the struggle to protect and preserve the natural elements that provide life on this planet. Several songs that reflect these thoughts on the Aguafuego CD are: Troubled Child, Voices of Protest, Guardians of the Land and No Me Olvides Justicia. 

However, it equally holds true that I have found my "voice- meaning thoughts, lyrics and musical voice" through the solid moments of joy and self recognition. This has really come shining through the lyrics and melodies of recent work. I believe that it is just as important to express the joy and the strength of your inner spirit no matter what the circumstances. Often the outside world attempts to judge, categorize or define a person contrary to who they are- it is through knowing your own self that one can truly be at peace with your own self expression. Express lessons learned from hardship and sadness yet at the same time balance it with the beauty of the person within!

* Any CDs/songs which are meaningful to you?

 Again, there are so many. This changes with moments of everyday life. From Carlos Vives there is a gorgeous song that speaks of being a universal person called "Agua" (que no debe beber)- from Bob Marley "Who The Cap Fit" and "Natural Mystic", and from Ketama "Pirata".

 * Discuss the creative or songwriting process --

Songwriting is a difficult process for me to describe as it is for many songwriters. Words and melodies come to me at different points of the day or night. It seems that whenever I am driving, ideas come out freely. I drive around with a notebook or a pad of paper to write down these ideas. Sometimes I have carried a portable tape recorder with me to get basic ideas in order to work with it later. At other times, I sit in front of a piano or pick up a guitar and spend hours playing notes and chords in a stream of consciousness style which usually leads to melodies and lyrics. I also usually have a tape recorder rolling in order to get those these musical ideas and stories recorded for later use. I have used a 4 track recorder in order to also lay the foundation of ideas for rhythm, melodies and lyrics. Sometimes I will establish the rhythmic feel on a drumset along with a bass line, create chord patterns on the guitar for the body of the song, and play the piano and sing to finalize the song with lyrics and melodies. I later play the saxophone to feel out parts for a horn section or a single horn. Many times I will sing acappella to first start an idea to evolve later with other musicians.

* Discuss your feelings about the powerful or life-changing effects that music can have on a person --

I think that music taps into our spirit, our being. It has the power to reveal our inner self in many ways through rhythm, melodies and lyrics. I feel that music has taught me much about humility and hard work. It takes alot of work, however wonderful process that may be, to really find a unique "voice" or self-expressiveness. Too often it has become the norm in the music industry to describe one's music in terms of someone else. I think this denies the very core of the singer, the songwriter, the musician. The power of music is that it is an affirming experience of each individual person. Don't be put in any category by anyone else. Let your own true self fill every aspect of your music. It is a humbling process in that the more you dig into your own world and into the world around you, the more you realize the great expansiveness of experiences and talent in the world. There are many artists who work out of a pure love of the's not for fame or for fortune. It's not for teaching anyone anything. It is the simple expression of a person. If someone connects with the thoughts or music then it is a beautiful thing to have accomplished in life. I hold this very close to my heart as an artist. Whenever someone has approached me and told me how my music moved them it is enough. I am an eternal student of life and I hope to share these experiences through music and lyrics with anyone listening in the years to come.
Read Biography


"Imagine this: the sphere of the more stable fixed stars and behind this the moving planets. When a moving planet passes by a constellation of fixed stars, not just one tone but a whole world of tone resounds. So the realm of the fixed star is a wonderful cosmic instrument and behind it are the gods of the planets who play upon the instrument of the zodiac." Rudolf Steiner

Music is the formative force of the universe. Everyone and everything is singing a tune, so the choice of song-writing as a vocation is a natural one for me. I write all my songs on a Martin 12-string. It is a whole band in one instrument; the harmonics that spin out from tracking a 12-string played at several different capo positions, give  guidance to the musicians who are invited in to contribute to the backing track after a song structure and lyrics have been written.

A deep love of nature fused with a joy in reading highly imaginative esoteric works (Rudolf Steiner being a prime favourite) make for a dynamic substance from which to draw the components of a beautiful song. The mental and emotional make up I have this lifetime allows me to access the musical hunting ground out there in the "sea of songs" with relative ease. Sure I'm pretty short on common sense and would probably have burnt the house down by now if my partner was not as vigilant as he is, but hey, no-one's perfect!

By choosing song-writing as my craft, I know what it is to live in a somewhat financially precarious way but the flip side of this slate is that I have engaged in many different occupations to finance my music and the experience gained from each one has the wonderful knack of spinning back to me at auspicious moments. Thus placing me at a point of knowing when making a key decision.

The physical sensation of singing with a well exercised voice always holds a sense of joy and fulfilment and the satisfaction of singing a new song through when I have nailed down the final lyric is one of the best feelings of all time.

Who are the songwriters I most admire? Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Donovan, Salif Keita, Neil Young, Coldplay, Alanis Morissette...

Susan Raven is a powerful performer and a skilled songsmith, a 21st century troubadour with a rich and wide-ranging voice. She brings to the music of the new millennium her debut album, 'Glittering Cities'. This is a collection of beautiful songs, each recorded with a well crafted backing track that sonically enhances the impulse behind her lyric. The arrangements range from multi-layered synth programs over dance grooves through to a pure acoustic and orchestral approach. The album's lyrics often reflect the artist's interest in all things mystical and esoteric, and this theme is firmly grounded in strong vocal performances, contemporary rhythms and inspired playing from the musicians involved. Her songs cover such subjects as the quality of thought being the most powerful instrument for the shaping of our future, the echoes we feel from our many and varied incarnations on Earth and, above all, the bliss and the sorrow felt by each and every one of us on our journey to experience the Divinity within and the Oneness of all Life.

Susan's art as a songwriter, coupled with the musicianship and vision of the players, some of whom hail from countries like Israel, Cameroon, South Africa and Ireland, make this global album a must for all music-lovers. Many people up and down the country have been moved by her lyric and melody during live performances. "Glittering Cities" can be previewed from this site

"Majestic songcraft bolstered by a strong vocal performance from Susan Raven; the scope of the music is reminiscent of Peter Gabrielís ambitious catalog - a beautiful album."

The second album is being recorded at the moment and is due for release in the late summer.

Susan Raven website:


* Has music helped you through a difficult or traumatic time in your life?

Over the past two and a half decades, music and my life have been inseparable partners. Music is married with every experience Iíve loved, every experience Iíve hated and every experience in between. I canít live without music. Iíve tried. I even tried really hard once or twice. Actually, I get really frustrated from time to time because I can get utterly sick of music .

There is always a tune in my head. Sometimes its a good one. Not always. To manage this problem I keep a decent cache of Flamenco and Indian Classical and Acoustic Instrumental and Western Classical and Brazilian and Jazz / Fushion and such around to help manage my folk-song-soaked psyche.

Some have said music is the soundtrack to our lives. My life is more like a movie written for a really weird symphony. Its not always amazing, but occasionally, its the most damn beautiful thing youíve ever heard.

Singer/Songwriter Crosby Loggins was born in Los Angeles, California on December 15, 1980. The eldest of five children, Crosby grew up in a very creative and physically active family in Santa Barbara, California.  Crosby began playing the piano at the age of seven and started writing his own music at eight.  By thirteen Crosby had given up the piano, seduced by the popularity of the guitar.   He proved a natural on the guitar and immediately began writing his own material.  Shortly thereafter he began singing for the first time which further expanded his musical expression. 

Influenced by everyone from the Beatles to Rage Against the Machine, Crosby is generally more concerned with an act's overall musical legitimacy, rather than the specific content of their material.  Says Crosby, "It's not about chocolate or vanilla, just the quality of the ice cream."  Crosby goes on to list acts ranging from Stevie Wonder, to Sting, to NOFX, to Patty Griffin as having directly inspired his own work.

Crosby has had the opportunity to collaborate with talented young musicians including Jesse Siebenberg,  son of Supertramp drummer Bob Siebenberg,  and Jonathan and Nathan McEuen, sons of John McEuen from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  Crosby has also written and performed with his father,  recording artist Kenny Loggins.

In addition to his solo performances, Crosby has appeared with Tom Ball and Kenny Sultan, Jennifer Stills, Jonathan McEuen, Mike Campbell of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers,  and Dishwalla.  Most recently he opened Kenny Loggins' acoustic tour in the southeast,  performing solo acoustic for crowds of 1,500 to 2,000 people.

In addition to continued recording and performance projects in the Santa Barbara and Los Angeles areas,  Crosby is attending LAMA (Los Angeles Music Academy) until Spring of 2004. 

Bio written by: Debbie Stephens
with Crosby Loggins

Next Page

©Voices and Visions