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INTERVIEW: One Direction’s Niall Horan Finds Out First Hand How Popular Band is in U.S.

After a recent trip near our nation’s capital, the fellas from the UK boy-band One Direction found out just how big of a deal they are.


“When we met (Malia and Sasha Obama) at the ‘Kids Choice Awards,’ they said that if we can’t come to the White House, they would come to us,” singer Niall Horan revealed on “The Ralphie Radio Show.” “So they came down to the show.”

Before President Obama’s daughters took-in the concert from One Direction, the girls had a chance to hang out backstage with the guys at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, VA. Horan is “a massive” fan of the President.

“We just had a conversation about everything,” he said. “It went from food to rollercoasters to life to them having loads of security all the time.”

If there is one facet that the heart-throbs can relate to Malia and Sasha in, it’s the latter topic. Then again, after a recent tour stop in New York, perhaps Niall and his friends could use something similar to the Secret Service.

“Me and Liam [Payne] got mobbed,” Horan recalled. “When we’re on our days off, we just like to chill.”

Niall and Liam, accompanied by a security guard, thought it’d be a good idea to chill by walking the streets of midtown Manhattan. Unfortunately for the guys, the hoards of screaming tweens outside the band’s hotel also thought it was a good idea. Still, the trip wasn’t completely lost.

“My aunt lives in New York, so we had a barbeque,” said Horan. “We meant to go watch ‘The Dictator,’ in the cinema but we fell asleep.”

One Direction will get to see its own film Thursday – the quintet will watch the “Up All Night DVD” and offer live commentary for their fans on Twitter. The band is currently in the midst of a sold-out tour in the States. As if you need more evidence of how popular these guys are, One Direction has already announced dates for a summer 2013 tour in America.

INTERVIEW: Vinny Guadagnino on Getting Cast for ‘Jersey Shore,’ His New Book, and Season 6

Some credit “Jersey Shore” with reviving MTV, a network that was trying to find its place in pop culture after “The Real World” ratings dwindled, “The Hills” came to an end, and music videos became an online, on-demand commodity.

But, it almost didn’t happen. The original concept for “Jersey Shore” was actually intended for VH1.

“When I applied for it, there was actually a VH1 application,” revealed Seaside Heights star Vinny Guadagnino. The Staten Island-born partier sat down with me at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT before signing copies of his new book, Control The Crazy: My Plan To Stop Stressing, Avoid Drama, and Maintain Inner Cool. “It was asking for ‘orange’ people that have really spike-y hair and big muscles and stuff.”


Offended that the casting directors thought all people who partied on the Shore looked like this, Guadagnino applied, despite lacking the tan, hair, and muscles. Producers loved him and the reality TV star was a part of the first show pilot, entitled “Guidos.” Initially, the plan was to take the “Flavor of Love” or “Rock of Love” dating competition model and apply it to Seaside Heights. But fearing that there was already too many shows similar on television, Viacom executives changed the concept to a more “Real World”-like model. Vinny was left, but some younger women, such as Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi were brought in. Suddenly, the show was more MTV friendly.

“You need diversity in the cast,” explained Guadagnino. “You need a spectrum from light to tan (laughing). That’s why you pick me, because people want to identify with different types of people. So if you had all the same cast member, it wouldn’t really be an entertaining show, right?”

Probably not, and perhaps the series would not be gearing up for its sixth season. Filming in “the house” begins this summer.

“When I first started, I didn’t know what I was walking in to,” Vinny recalled. “Now at least I know who is going to be there. I know that ‘Snooki’ is pregnant and Mike [‘The Situation’ Sorrentino] was just going through something so, I just know as much as you do. I’m just going to go there and make the best of it.”

That “something” Guadagnino referred to is probably the reports that “The Situation” found himself in rehab, allegedly over addictions to alcohol and prescription pills. The abuse of drugs is one of many lessons Vinny touches on in his new book, as he tries to help others cope with anxiety issues.

“Whenever Mike does something bad, he always comes to me,” Guadagnino said. “He’s like, ‘Vin, I’m gonna do something.’ And I’m like, ‘Alright…’ because he knows that I’m going to give him “the look” afterwards.”

As Vinny found himself needing help, he went to an on-set therapist, who he refers to in the book as “Dr. B.” But not even a professional could prevent the anxiety from getting the best of Guadagnino, and he reveals in the book that it was his personal struggle that led him to temporarily leave the show during season five.

“When it was happening to me, they really didn’t know what to do,” said Vinny, before revealing that his cast-mates offered him amongst other things, strippers, to help him out. Guadagnino appreciated the sentiment but declined. “Anything that ever happens to you can be looked at as a positive thing because the reason why I know all this stuff and I have a book and that I’m very knowledgeable in spirituality is because I’ve gone through it.”

As he said earlier in the interview when referring to himself, Guadagnino truly is the “Dalai Lama” of the house on “Jersey Shore.” If nothing else, he certainly adds to the cast a diversity that he credits with the show’s success.

INTERVIEW: Fun. Keyboardist Andrew Dost Talks ‘Glee,’ GaGa, and LGBT Issues

Despite their meteoric success, the members of the band Fun. find themselves staying true to their roots in multiple ways.

The first is the tour the band is currently on. Fun. sold out most of the shows scheduled before June before “We Are Young” became a huge anthem. Especially in a touring market that is struggling to find both stars and success stories, the business-savvy decision might have been to move the dates to larger venues. You lose the intimacy of the small set-ups but you can sell more tickets and put more money on the books.

Keyboardist Andrew Dost told me Fun. wasn’t having any of it.


“They’ve supported us for years, without the success of ‘We Are Young,’ Dost said of Fun.’s fan base during a recent call in to “The Ralphie Radio Show.” “This tour we figured, let’s not move these venues up. Let’s leave it where it is. Let’s go have a party with all the people that have been singing along for years, and then in the summer we’ll meet some new friends along the way.”

Truth be told, I’m sure Fun. is meeting plenty of new friends at the moment. Dost called in to pre-tape our conversation last week – amidst a sound check with radio station winners, two meet-and-greets, seven phone interviews, and the second of a two night, sold out stand of shows at the legendary 9:30 Club in Washington D.C.

Essentially this is the result of “We Are Young” appearing on “Glee,” in a Super Bowl commercial, and being spun on radio stations from Los Angeles to the Empire State. But for Dost, the beauty of the new-found stardom is the opportunity to use the band’s platform for a greater good. Fun. is an advocate for equal rights and treatment of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender community. All three of the band members, including lead singer Nate Ruess and guitarist Jack Antonoff, are straight. But inspired by Lady GaGa, Fun. feels compelled to speak out against what it feels are injustices to the LGBT community.

“Any rights that are denied to anyone, should offend everybody,” Dost said, the interview taped before but airing after North Carolina’s vote to ban same-sex marriages. “[Lady GaGa] is not only an amazing artist, but she uses the fact that people are listening to her to say important things that need to be said.”

Fun. hopes that this new addition to its fan base will continue to listen, as the band just wrapped filming the music video for “Some Nights,” the title track and second single from its sophomore LP.

INTERVIEW: Donnie Wahlberg Says New Teen Pop Movement ‘Validates’ What NKOTB Did 25 Years Ago

Before One Direction and The Wanted, before N’Sync, the Backstreet Boys, and 98 Degrees, there was New Kids on the Block. The music between the aforementioned acts spans three decades, and New Kids singer Donnie Wahlberg is happy the genre has exhibited staying power.

“In some ways, [One Direction and The Wanted] validate us,” the NKOTB star told me via telephone. “And I think our reunion has validated us in many ways as well. The fans that grew up with us came back.”


Wahlberg speaks proudly on not just his group’s return, but also the new generation of fans that have new music to grow up with.

“I think there’s a place in society for all different types of music,” he explained. “I’m glad that the young bands are coming out now and doing well because I think it validates what we did 25 years ago.”

Generations will collide August 17 and 18 in Hershey, PA, when New Kids on the Block, the Backstreet Boys, The Wanted, Kelly Clarkson, LL Cool J, and more converge on Hersheypark Stadium for the inaugural “Summer Mixtape Fest.” While Wahlberg seemed happy to speak about the state of pop music, he channeled personal experiences when commenting on the groups specifically.

“My opinion or my advice to them is really inconsequential,” Wahlberg stated, before offering his reasoning. “Yunno, the same way when I was 19 and they interviewed everyone from The Monkeys to Donny Osmond to one of The Beatles to whomever to give advice or to ask what they thought of us. When I was 19, I didn’t care what any of those guys thought about me.”

At 42 years old, it is easy for Wahlberg to reminisce on the path his group helped blaze given New Kids’ past success. The trip down memory lane becomes a little sweeter though when you factor in the group’s current run, which has lasted since 2008 and brought the band to new destinations that none of them thought were possible.

“It’s a really humbling experience; it’s been an amazing journey,” Wahlberg, who will turn 43 on the first day of the festival, said. “[The reunion] sort of turned a 19-20 year-old sort of college age experience that I look back on fondly in to a very mature and different experience now.”

The experience continues to play out, as New Kids will tour across five continents in 2012.

INTERVIEW: Ivy League Grad Hoodie Allen Not Surprised By Fan Support of ‘All American’

You’ve heard of the white kid going to college and doing well for himself in the hip-hop and R&B game before. But, have you heard of the Ivy League graduate who worked at Google before quitting, dropping mixtapes, and independently rapping his way to the number one album on iTunes?

Didn’t think so. Meet Hoodie Allen, born Steven Markowitz in Long Island, NY.

That EP, All American, vaulted to the top of the iTunes charts mere hours after Allen released it. The University of Pennsylvania alumnus told me via telephone that his fans’ support never ceases to surprise him.


“It’s been really cool to control the creative process, and put out what I like, and be my own A&R,” Allen said. “It’s just nice to see the follow-through, and everyone really loves the album. That’s been the most rewarding part of it.”

Allen already declined multiple major record label deals, and showcasing his capacity to move units with no “commercial machine” backing him only has the industry salivating over him even more. But for the emcee, his focus is solely on a sold-out tour that has him traveling the country. Not on label execs, not on his bank account… no, not even on the growing number of Facebook requests he’s receiving. He notices though.

“You know, I’ve started getting a lot of friend requests from girls I went to Penn with, who were too cool for me then, but now they want to be my friend,” Allen joked. “I guess I’m doing something right.”

All Allen had to do was look at album charts and ticket sales to know that he has figured out how to launch a successful music career. Although, I’m sure he doesn’t mind the Facebook inbox reminders either.

INTERVIEW: The Ting Tings Choose Its Own Path to ‘Sounds From Nowheresville’

The Ting Tings are managed by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. Jay is an artist who has managed to stay true to himself while maintaining relevancy. Jules de Martino and Katie White hope to do the same, and that alone could explain the four-year gap between the duo’s breakout debut We Started Nothing and its latest release, Sounds From Nowheresville.


“We have to tour this record for two years because of the time we took and probably the awkwardness that we behaved like almost to get it done,” White told me during my sit down with the English band. “We feel like we have something to say, which is [important] to us.”

The singer said she would have hated the alternative: to release an album that the band simply couldn’t or wouldn’t want to speak about.

“We wouldn’t have been able to tour,” she said. “We wouldn’t have been able to do interviews.”

Surely that thought crossed de Martino and White’s mind a few years ago. After a recording session in Berlin that yielded countless songs, the group played its record label 10 final tracks. Columbia executives were excited beyond belief; the duo was far from satisfied.

“We weren’t not feeling them because [Columbia] loved them,” White clarified of the songs. “We just felt like we had more to do really.”

A single from that session, “Hands,” would eventually make its way on to radio. The Calvin Harris-mixed track serves as the bridge between what was The Ting Tings’ first album, what could’ve been its sophomore LP, and what is Sounds From Nowheresville.

“We totally respect dance music and what it does,” de Martino noted. “What we didn’t want to do is just jump on a bandwagon of fads and trends.”

So the group took its rhythm-based, multi-instrumental act to Spain and wound up recording its second album amidst isolation.

“We started to realize we wanted to make a record that represented music how we listened to it,” de Martino explained. “We felt that this record we made represented a playlist of lots of different genres of music.”

But the playlist isn’t exactly on shuffle: there is cohesiveness to Sounds From Nowheresville. During the interview de Martino mentioned The Killers’ Hot Fuss and the rollercoaster of emotions and stories the album takes its listener on from start to finish. That idea is certainly mirrored in Sounds: the ride begins slowly with Silence, and seems to hit full steam by track three, the catchy in-your-face single “Give It Up.” Energy peaks two songs later in the defiant “Guggenheim.” From there, the tempo slows gradually to a near halting stop on the final track, “In Your Life.” Coincidentally enough, the group wrote that song in Berlin, and recorded it in one take.

“I really wanted to make [Katie’s singing ability] prominent on this album,” de Martino said. “So to contain it we felt well why not a nice way to end is rather than end on a big track, why don’t we just let the album live there in this space, so people can sort of reflect on it, and talk about it.”

The plan worked with me, as I asked the question de Martino hoped for: Why did you end the album on such a soft note? Thankfully for de Martino and White, neither will mind having that conversation for years to come.

INTERVIEW: Alex Solowitz Says 2Ge+her’s Comeback Continues with Teaser Show

As reunited boy bands like New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys continue to tour the globe, other boy bands like 98 Degrees contemplate a reunion, and new boy bands like The Wanted and One Direction find success in the States, there is yet another group that is still plotting its comeback.

“We’re in the process of getting [the reunion] green-lit by MTV,” Alex Solowitz revealed to me on “The Ralphie Radio Show.” Alex played Mickey Parke in the faux-boy band 2Ge+her. Yes, the reunion you heard about last November still has a very real chance of happening. “We have all the original songwriters… everybody is on board. All the producers that we had are on board.”


It seems as if the last piece in the puzzle is the network. Solowitz said MTV likes the idea, and is just waiting to see how much more interest the guys can generate.

“I think there’s a good place for us at MTV,” Solowitz said. “We can have some pregnant teenagers, if they want. We can get some ‘Jersey Shore’ dudes too.”

Nice to see that Solowitz hasn’t lost his sense of humor or that edge that his character Mickey displayed over 10 years ago with 2Gether. Noah Bastian, Evan Farmer, and Kevin Farley are also on tap for the reunion. Michael Cuccione passed away after a battle with cancer in 2001. He died just eight days after his 16th birthday. Solowitz said in a previous interview that a portion of the proceeds from the group’s return would benefit Cuccione’s foundation. And one of those performances is right around the corner.

“We’re doing a little teaser show May 4 at the Jon Lovitz [Comedy Club],” Solowitz said. “Evan can’t make it because he’s having a baby, he’s got a new born coming.”

Who would’ve thought that you plus me would end up equaling a baby?

INTERVIEW: ‘X-Factor’ Finalist Chris Rene Nears Finish of L.A. Reid-Assisted Album

How hands-on is Antonio “L.A.” Reid with the artists on Epic Records? In the case of “The X-Factor” finalist Chris Rene, very.

“It’s track by track,” Rene said of the Chairman and CEO of the label’s involvement with his forthcoming album. “It’s like, I’m not going to make a track that I’m not happy with or that I don’t think represents me fully. He wants the same thing.”


From a technical standpoint, the formula worked because Rene is only a track away from the LP’s completion. The singer believes the album does represent him as a whole, for both better and worse.

“It’s not just all going to be one thing,” Rene said of the song content. “It’s going to be a mixture of all kinds of different things… the highs and the lows.”

Rene has experienced both during his career, which started as a young teen. His path took a detour when he became a trash collector in his hometown of Santa Cruz, California. Then, he battled a drug addiction that landed him in rehab. But just 10 weeks after exiting the program, Rene found himself auditioning for a show that would yield his big break.

“It’s been a trip,” Rene said succinctly. “Going on to ‘The X-Factor,’ coming off, signing with Epic… it’s crazy, it’s a whole another life.”

The singer isn’t trying to exit stage right from the lifestyle anytime soon either – his track “Young Homie” is gaining traction and available on iTunes now, and his almost-finished album should drop before the end of the year.

By the way, Rene plans on keeping his personal lifestyle intact as well. His one-year sobriety anniversary is April 20.

INTERVIEW: It Keeps Getting Busier, and Better, for Hot Chelle Rae

Hot Chelle Rae seems pleasantly surprised at how well the band’s career continues to progress.

“It’s everything that we thought it would be, but it’s also surprising at the same time,” lead singer Ryan Follese told me backstage over the weekend. Hot Chelle Rae was on one of its many sold out stops for the “Beautiful Freaks” tour. “To be able to have this job and have it take us to the places we’re going, it’s incredible.”


Case in point: the band recently wrapped a tour through Australia and New Zealand supporting fellow Nashville musician Taylor Swift. Follese said the band and Swift simply had one of “those moments.”

“We were on this boat with Taylor, and we were all just sitting there, trolling about in Sydney Harbor,” the front man recalled. “I was actually standing next to Taylor, and I was like, ‘This job is amazing.’”

Swift concurred.

“As big as she is, she knows too,” Follese said. “The fans are unreal. This whole thing is just incredible.”

Guitarist Nash Overstreet used similar adjectives to describe the tour itself.

“They’re very, very polite and welcoming,” Overstreet noted of the band’s New Zealand fans. “They’re stoked that you’re in their country, they’re stoked that you’re playing.”

But the fans overseas didn’t just make HCR feel welcome by acting as tour guides during the day, or using “please” and “thank you” when asking for photos.

“They knew every word to every song, not just the singles,” Overstreet said. “It gives us a validation of songs we wrote that haven’t been on the radio yet, and to see them fall in love with those is really cool.”

Hot Chelle Rae has charted two tracks from Whatever on pop radio, and a third could be on the way with “Honestly,” a break-up anthem with a music video that features “Pretty Little Liars” star Ashley Benson.

“I think somebody from a show like that is always a really cool edge to add to the video,” Follese said of Benson’s role as his eventual ex-girlfriend. “We reached out to her and she was down to do it.”

Of course, it wasn’t that simple. The actress was getting ready to shoot a movie, and HCR was on tour. All parties involved found one 24 hour window to film. The final piece took 17 hours. Benson left after for her movie; Hot Chelle Rae flew to Australia the next day.

In the end, the guys found a way to make it work. You can’t be surprised at that.

INTERVIEW: Sirah Talks ‘Cult'; Explains How She Recorded Vocals for Skrillex’s ‘Bangarang’

West coast emcee Sirah semi-jokes that she was dropping rhymes “before it was cool to rap as a small white girl.”

“Now it’s like the ‘in’ thing,” Sirah noted. “I definitely feel like I can hold it down for myself since I’ve been doing it when it wasn’t so widely appreciated.”


But now that it is, Sirah hopes that she can parlay her talents in to a major label deal, of course without sacrificing her artistic integrity in the process.

“I’ve been meeting with people, doing things; but it’s all talk until its real,” she said. “I don’t need anybody to do anything for me.”

The rapper has done fairly well – touring for the past seven years and supporting acts such as Wu-Tang Clan, KRS-One, and Dilated Peoples in the process. But recently Sirah has found new fame with her feature on the Skrillex track “Bangarang.”

“Skrillex has been one of my best friends for probably like, six years,” she said. “We’ve had a few songs together.”

It seems their work comes together spontaneously. The first time they collaborated, Sirah was writing her own music in a downtown Los Angeles artist loft that Skrillex also lived in. The producer simply asked the emcee if she could rap lyrics of the song she was working on in to his laptop. That yielded the track “Weekends!!!”

Then, while Skrillex was on tour, he called Sirah about another track.

“He was like, ‘Hey can you record 16 bars and send it to me,’” she recalled. “I was like, ‘Do you want me to go to me studio?’ He was like, ‘No, no, no. Do it right now.’”

So Sirah grabbed her laptop and recorded the vocals that would be used for “Bangarang.” She did this while sitting in her bed.

“You can actually hear the birds chirping in the background,” Sirah said. “It’s somewhat mortifying to me.”

Still, not only does the rapper consider the dubstep DJ a close friend, but she also places him in an elite group professionally.

“There’s only three people I really like recording or doing things with because I trust what will come out of it,” she revealed. “He definitely put some effects and did some stuff, and some compression [to my voice].”

It probably explains while she feels it’s “unfortunate” that people can find some of her past, more pop-friendly stuff on YouTube. It might also shed light on why despite the years of recording and touring, Cult is her first official mixtape. But timing is everything. Thankfully for Sirah, mixtapes are the new album, and we hear it’s pretty cool to rap as a small, white female these days.

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