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Since 2010, Niall Horan has been on quite the rollercoaster. The Irish-born singer first came to fame on “The X-Factor” across the pond, where Simon Cowell hatched the bright idea to pair him and four other contestants together. What followed was a phenomenon: five chart-topping albums, sold-out stadium tours and millions upon millions of screaming fans.

But now Horan is signed to a different record label, releasing music as a solo artist and moving at a speed that must feel more comfortable.

“Yeah, it’s great,” when asked Horan about the pace of his new project with Capitol Records. “I kind of just made a decision that I would do everything at my own pace and I said it to my manager and to my label and they were completely supportive of it.”

Horan essentially told them that he would work on the album and he would notify them when it was finished. Update: it’s pretty much done.

“I’ll probably release it in the fall or something,” he said. “I just have to do a little bit of production stuff and it’s all kind of recorded and stuff like that.”

The Irishman doesn’t have a title yet but he has released two songs from the LP, “This Town” and “Slow Hands.” When I asked about the song selection, it sounded like the former wasn’t really intended to be a proper first single.

“I just wanted to let people know I was still doing music to be honest and it just kind of happened,” Horan explained of releasing “This Town.” “It took a life of its own.”

There was definitely a more methodical approach behind “Slow Hands.”

“I wanted to kind of beef things up a little bit and show I was a little bit more diverse,” Horan noted. “The whole album wasn’t going to be all finger-picking stuff.”

Horan started writing for the project in “March or April of last year.” The singer hopped in-and-out of the studio between days off before “This Town” started climbing the charts and the project’s timeline sped up – something Horan credits to those aforementioned fans, who have stuck with him throughout the entire ride.

I love tradition and routine but it was time for a break from both this past weekend: for the first time in recent memory, I took Memorial Day weekend off.

I remember spending Memorial Day weekend in 2010 at a Yankees game and I can’t recall how I spent the holiday in 2011. But I do remember 2012 because Syracuse was in the NCAA Lacrosse Final Four and I drove to Camden, New Jersey where I interviewed Niall Horan of then a burgeoning pop outfit called One Direction.

In 2013 I attended a wedding but on Memorial Day Monday and every subsequent one until this year, I would host my show in New York at its normal time.

And this year wasn’t a complete departure from work: I woke up early Friday morning and drove down the Shore for 95.5’s Pepsi Summer Kick-Off, chatting with Andy Grammer before driving back and doing my show Friday night.

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On Saturday I slept in, grabbed the new Jordan 11’s and met a friend for a drink in midtown. Then my buddy Danny visited for the weekend – we bar-hopped in the hood before hitting the East Village and calling it a late night/early morning.

Then Sunday it was up to the Bronx to watch the Yankees beat the A’s and witness Aaron Judge’s first career grand slam. We followed that up with a celebratory drink at Stan’s and then a trip to hang in Yonkers with John Foxx for dinner and drinks.

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The bad news for Monday is that I had to set an alarm for 8 am. The good news was that Danny and I were up early because we were driving to Baltimore to see the Yankees and Orioles face off at Camden Yards. The weather was dreary until we reached the DMV area. First pitch was 75 and sunny. The Yanks lost (although Judge hit another homer; he leads the league) but we linked up with friends old and new in the stadium, across the street at Pickles and across town around the Inner Harbor.

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By the way – the people of Baltimore are fantastic. We ate dinner with our buddy Rob at the Oyster House Sunday night. The lobster gnocchi and lobster mac and cheese were out of this world. Everything was super-fresh.

We wrapped up the night with a trip to Horseshoe Casino where I left with a few extra dollars in my pocket and retired to the Hilton by Camden. It was an early-ish night because I had a 10 am train back to New York on Tuesday morning.

And of course, it should come as little surprise that I missed it by about 10 minutes because I accidentally typed in “Penn Street” in to Google Maps as opposed to “Baltimore Penn Station.” But the good news was that 20 minutes later, an Acela departed and dropped me off at New York Penn just before 1.

The timing was perfect: I arrived at the studio with just enough time to interview an old friend… Niall Horan.

Andy Grammer is reading the room. Summertime is here. To some, our nation and the world are in a… let’s just say “precarious” place. And if there is one thing people are seeking, it’s love.

“My mom was an incredible lady and she taught me to basically just give love in every interaction that I had,” the artist recalled of his mother, Kathryn, while talking about his forthcoming single. “I think that with the climate that we’re in right now of the world, maybe sometimes this message would be a little too sweet but I think right now, it actually lands perfectly.”

Grammer immediately followed that assessment with a description of the song’s tempo.

“It’s not too heavy,” he clarified. “It’s ‘up.’ It’s a fun summer thing.”

“Give Love” is the title and that thing will be released June 9. It’s far from the first piece of work that Grammer’s mother has inspired. In 2013, the “Honey I’m Good” singer started the KathyGramm campaign to raise awareness for women who were victims of gender-based violence, a cause that was near to his mom’s heart. And besides the new track, Grammer will have a little more love and to love in his life soon: this past March he and wife Aijia announced that they are expecting their first child.

As for the single, Grammer will celebrate its release on June 10 with a headlining performance at the Belmont Stakes.

“It makes you feel good,” he said of the song. “And we need more of that, for sure.”

Hailee Steinfeld has been no stranger to pop radio over the past few months between collaborating with Zedd and Grey on “Starving” along with her feature on Machine Gun Kelly’s “At My Best.” The 20 year-old is back with her own single, “Most Girls” and maybe some more music to come.

“Maybe,” she slyly replied when I asked if the song was a first single from a forthcoming project. “I’m working on music, which I’m very excited about, and I can’t wait to put more out. It’s going to be a good summer.”

Steinfeld, who I caught up with backstage at the Billboard Music Awards last month, was just as excited for singer/songwriter Julia Michaels. The actress’ first single “Love Myself” was co-written by Michaels, who now has her own breakout debut hit with “Issues.”

“She is genuinely one of my favorite people in the world,” Steinfeld gushed. “We met and five minutes in to our time together it felt like we had known each other for years. She’s so incredibly talented and deserves nothing but the best.”

Whether it’s Michaels, Zedd (who retweeted a fan suggestion that he produce a song with Steinfeld before the two even got in to the studio together) or MGK, the singer keeps a relatively simple rule in place for deciding who she’ll work with on music.

“I love collaborating, especially with friends, because that never really feels like work.”

Bad news if you’re expecting a new DNCE album: don’t.

“For us, we focus on songs right now,” lead singer Joe Jonas told me backstage at the Billboard Music Awards. “We’re always writing so, if something just kind of comes together and it’s an album (then) so be it, we’re going to release it.

“We’re not really trying to lock us down to like, ‘Here’s a release date for a record.’ We got a song? Let’s just put it out.”

Jonas and company dropped an EP with the breakout hit “Cake By The Ocean” before releasing a full length album a year later. The quartet is back with its first single since: the Nicki Minaj-featured “Kissing Strangers.”

“We’re huge fans of her’s,” bassist Cole Whittle said. “We thought about it and she hadn’t really done anything in the rock-and-roll world with like a raw band and we approached her. She was in to it.”

Whittle noted the “aesthetic marriage” between the two acts and how both thought it was a good idea. For Minaj, the only time she really came as close to a “rock band” vibe was her feature on the track “Knockout” from Lil Wayne’s “Rebirth” album. While the song did not fare too well on the charts, it did sell over a half-million copies in less than a year.

Meanwhile, DNCE probably wouldn’t mind replicating the success of “Cake,” which earned platinum-certification in a number of countries including over 3 million served in the U.S. The band will play a smattering of shows this summer before joining Bruno Mars on the Latin America leg of his “24K Magic World Tour.”

The diverse career of Amber Tamblyn’s became even more varied with the release of “Paint It Black,” a movie based on the Janet Fitch novel. Originally the 34 year-old actress was set to star in the film – instead she decided to make her directorial debut with it.

“I initially read the book in 2006. I was in my early 20’s,” Tamblyn explained to me of what led to her decision to move behind the camera. “It would have been very different to have the character, who is very naïve and gets put in a really bad position with this woman who’s much older than her, who sort of takes advantage of her and almost puts her under a spell… it would tell a different story if you had someone in her early 30’s doing that, if it was happening to them as opposed to someone in their early 20’s.”

So Tamblyn found Alia Shawkat to plays Josie, a hard partier whose boyfriend commits suicide. The movie follows Josie struggling to not only cope with the loss of her lover but also the wrath of the boyfriend’s mother, played by Janet McTeer.

“I really wanted the film to be less about someone taking their life, less about suicide and more about what happens after the fact,” the director explained. “(The boyfriend) is really not in the film very much on purpose because I wanted to make a movie that was sort of devoid of answers.”

Thus “Paint It Black” focuses on two women who are trying to fill in the blanks of the boy’s death. In the process, the audience is brought in to a plot that can twist, turn or flash back to an earlier time at any second.

The movie received generally positive reviews, especially for a first-time director.

“I hope so. I love directing,” Tamblyn responded when I asked if this was the start of a new career. “I certainly know the type of voice that I have and the type of movie that I like which are films that err on the side of a little more arch.”

Tamblyn was 12 years old when she had her first brush with a storyline: her breakout role as Emily Quartermaine on the ABC soap opera, “General Hospital.” In hindsight, Tamblyn feels that starting out in daytime television was instrumental in her development as an actress.

“People will always ask me, ‘How do I get in to acting?’ or ‘How do I get my kid in to acting?’ she said. “I’m always like, ‘Don’t do it! It’s awful; terrible business!’ But, I do suggest over getting acting classes, over getting most types of jobs – get on a soap opera.

“You shoot 70 pages of dialogue if you’re on an hour-long, a day. That’s crazy. Nobody does that. It’s like doing a one-act play, every single day.”

Speaking of which, Tamblyn is still in an off-Broadway show, the comedy “Can You Forgive Her? at Union Square’s Vineyard Theater. It runs through June 11. “Paint It Black” is in theaters now.

On Sunday I covered my fifth consecutive Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas. I also acted as the on-stage warm-up act, hyping and prompting the crowd before the show and during commercial breaks, for my fourth year. Here are some news and notes from my perspective both on the Magenta Carpet and backstage.

– Any artist that actually stopped and did media on the carpet should get some type of award. The temperatures outside T-Mobile Arena were near triple digits. It was so hot outside that inside they actually blasted the air conditioning during rehearsals. Perhaps it was a nice way to test how cold the venue can become ahead of it receiving an NHL franchise?

– I brought a change of dress shirts to account for the weather. Almost everything I wore in both outfits came from my favorite designer, John Varvatos. The tuxedo pants were H&M and my flower and pocket square were both from TheTieBar.com.

– I’d hate to say I called it but… I called it. Celine Dion stole the show at the BBMAs. I had chills listening to 18,000 inside T-Mobile Arena sing-a-long to “My heart Will Go On.” Celine is beloved as an icon, her voice is still impeccable, the movie is adored and the song as of late has gained new life as a meme of sorts. It was one my second-favorite moment from Sunday night.

– Great running in to Dan Kanter backstage. I first met Dan in 2009 inside The Mall at Steamtown in Scranton; at the time he was playing guitar for this new artist… maybe you’ve heard of him… Justin Bieber? Kanter is Bieber’s musical director and assumed similar duties for Julia Michaels’ performance of “Issues” – which I was a big fan of.

– That Rachel Platten “La La Land” adlib was just that – it was not in the teleprompter. I got a kick out of it.

– Something I really loved about this year’s show is that the stars really seemed to be enjoying themselves. You had Young Money – Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Drake – front and center both literally and figuratively for the entire show. Instead of acting too cool for the room they decided to simply join in on the party. With Drake setting the new single-night record for awards, they had plenty to celebrate.

– One of my favorite backstage moments came when BK and Tyler from Florida Georgia Line walked off stage after accepting the BBMA for “Top Country Song.” The duo embraced, let out a Ric Flair-like “Woo!” and said to each other, “Man that never gets old!” Nice to see a genuine moment of gratitude between the two.

– Another cool backstage interaction involved Diddy, who was about to pay tribute to The Notorious B.I.G. and reveal the trailer for the new Bad Boy movie “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop.” The Chainsmokers were walking off the stage after accepting another award and Puff gave them a standing O before chatting with Alex and Drew for a few minutes. That’d be a fun collaboration right?

– Give credit to Vanessa Hudgens for holding her own on national TV and to Ludacris for once again making the whole hosting gig appear way easier than it actually is.

– Some other familiar faces that said hello backstage: Chris Daughtry, Miss America Savvy Shields, Mark Cuban and Hailee Steinfeld.

– I mentioned my second-favorite moment but not the one that tops the list. That honor belongs to my Mom. She was in the crowd cheering on her son while putting the video camera on her new-er iPhone to good use. I am thankful I was able to share the night with her.

It was a crazy six hours that saw nominees, presenters and performers all stop by our broadcast area as everyone prepared for the 2017 Billboard Music Awards. We chatted with everyone from the show’s co-host Ludacris, performers Jason Derulo, Halsey and Julia Michaels plus presenters Lindsey Stirling, Chris Daughtry and Hailee Steinfeld. Check out more below!







The original plan was to sit down here in Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport and write a piece about last night’s Billboard Music Awards, reflecting on the fact that I covered the show for my fifth consecutive year and spent my fourth year as the on-stage warm-up act.

But I can’t stop thinking about the victims of this explosion in Manchester outside of an Ariana Grande concert that has now left 22 dead and dozens more injured.

Part of my full-time job involves facilitating on-air contests for concert tickets. I think the best part of giving away seats to shows is when the winner is genuinely a huge fan of the artist performing. In some instances, we aren’t just giving away two tickets – we’re affording people the chance to witness someone or something that they may never see in person again. Tickets, along with the associated costs (fees, transportation, parking, merchandise, food) can get expensive. So it’s very possible that people who were attending Ariana’s show last night were seeing her for the first and/or only time. Maybe they received the tickets as a birthday or Christmas gift. The kids might have been saving part-time paychecks to attend. Perhaps the parents were scraping by around the holidays just to put a smile on their kid’s face. Or maybe they got lucky, called at the right time and won them on a radio station.

I don’t care how many I get to attend or send others to: it’s not lost on me that these can be once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

And the night should have reflected that, from the pandemonium of Ariana taking the stage to thousands of people singing along in unison to every lyric. Concerts can provide a sense of community. Everyone in that venue could have been anywhere else but they chose to spend their time and perhaps their hard-earned cash for a common cause: to escape the world’s troubles and have fun for a few hours.

Then a senseless act of violence changed all of that. Now 19 are dead, dozens more are injured and the world is once again shocked, saddened and rendered speechless.

I’m mourning for the families who lost loved ones and praying that those injured heal quickly and fully. I’m also thinking of Ariana and her team (who are all safe and OK) along with the countless other staff members that it takes to make something like an arena concert take place.

But most of all, I wish I didn’t have to write this. I wish that Ariana was simply continuing on with her European tour after an uneventful yet successful show in Manchester. I wish that evil didn’t rear its ugly head period, let alone at a concert attended by innocent children.

I will say though, one part of my original plan will certainly stay intact: I’m reflecting on last night with an immense amount of gratitude. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and those, nor our lifetime, should ever be taken for granted.

Since leaving Niagara Falls, New York for Syracuse University in 2003, I haven’t spent Mother’s Day with my Mom often. The 2007 SU commencement was on that Sunday in May and I can remember at least one other time when my Mom visited me but otherwise, I’ve been away from the family. It was mostly a byproduct of the job; the only holiday you’re really guaranteed to have off in radio is Christmas. The fact that pretty much my entire family, sister included, are still back in Niagara Falls also factors in to it.

But on the flip side, it makes a Mother’s Day spent with Rachele that much more special because I certainly don’t take it for granted. And so you can imagine my joy that this year, as the Yankees readied to retire Derek Jeter’s number on May 14, my Mom floated the idea of coming to the city for it. While my Mom isn’t a huge baseball fan, she does root for the Yankees and likes getting to at least a game a year in the Bronx.

She, like many of us, also loves Derek. When we visited New York for my first time in 1998, my Mom was the one who overheard a worker at Niketown talking about Jeter. Minutes later I was standing in front of the shortstop and shortly thereafter, thanks to my Mom, this photo was taken.

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And so my Mom and sister Raquela flew down Saturday morning in to a rainy Manhattan where they shopped, napped and then met me for dinner at Dafni’s on 42nd. They love staying in Times Square (I’ve stopped fighting it) and have eaten at this Greek restaurant before; after our meal, I would sign up for a return visit.

That night, the two of them walked up a few blocks to see Josh Groban in “The Great Comet” (Rachele gave it high marks). The next day, we grabbed a nice early Italian dinner at Pomodoro Rosso on the Upper West Side. This quaint red-and-white tablecloth restaurant served generous portions for a moderate price. We left with full stomachs and walked to the C train so we could transfer to the D at 125 and end up at 161st and River.

Once we got inside the ballpark and made it to our seats, I ran back downstairs to spend too much money on hats, shirts, pins and programs marking Jeter’s (second) Day at Yankee Stadium. I made it back to our Jim Beam Suite seats in time for the start of the ceremony, which in typical Yankee fashion was a fantastic stroll down memory lane.

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Ironically the most forgettable part of the trip was the game itself; the Astros jumped out to an early 8-0 lead after the first few innings. But the score didn’t matter; my Mom enjoyed herself so to me, it was a winning weekend.