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The conversation has been ongoing. Third Eye Blind’s Steven Jenkins talked about it in his 1998 hit, “Jumper.” The inspiration for the song was a friend of Jenkins’ who committed suicide by jumping off of a bridge. He was gay and a victim of bullying.

“The song is kind of a noir, because it’s really talking to somebody who is already dead,” the lead singer explained. “So this is kind of what you would say (to him).

“When I wrote it, there was this kind of darkness to it. But now when I sing it, it feels exalted, and you see the audience… they sing most of it, I kind of let them sing it… and you can see this release. So I find a lot of joy in that song now. Maybe that’s bouncing back and reflecting the times.”

Perhaps it is – fast forward to 2015 and indie-rock outfit Walk The Moon is releasing, “Different Colors,” a song about acceptance and unity, to radio.

“It feels really relevant to be playing it right now, and really cool,” guitarist Eli Maiman.

“It’s incredible,” lead singer Nick Petricca added. “We’re just all on the same team out here and it’s cool to feel a part of a movement.”

Maiman noted that the song started as a “rallying cry,” but feels more like a “victory march” when it’s played these days. Again, it’s a reflection of the times – the fact that the movement is deemed “cool” is a step in itself. When you add in the Supreme Court ruling and the light that Caitlyn Jenner is shining on the LGBT community, specifically for Trans people, it is easy to see why the momentum behind equality is stronger than ever.

But as Jenner reminded us Wednesday night at The ESPY Awards, there is plenty of work to still be done. She mentioned Sam Taub, a 15 year-old Transgender boy from Bloomfield, Mich. who committed suicide in April.

“Sam’s story haunts me in particular because his death came just a few days before ABC aired my interview with Diane Sawyer,” Jenner said to the audience. The former Olympian was honored by ESPN with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. “Every time something like this happens, people wonder, ‘Could it have been different, if spotlighting this issue with more attention could have changed the way things happen?’ We’ll never know.”

Jenner admitted that she contemplated taking her own life as well. Now she’s hoping that her actions can help others, if by nothing else, keeping the conversation alive.

Photo: instagram.com/espn

Photo: instagram.com/espn

The buzz continues to build, the schedule continues to fill up and the guys that comprise Walk The Moon continue to find themselves in an album cycle that admittedly they want to see stretch out for as long as possible. When you look at what has happened in 2015 to the group, you really can’t blame them.

“Shut Up and Dance” is in serious contention for “Song of the Summer.” The band’s next single from its sophomore album Talking Is Hard will be “Different Colors,” an anthem of different gravitas but near-equal jubilation. And the Cincinnati-quartet is playing all types of stages: as headliners, as supporters for The Rolling Stones and as performers on “Good Morning America” and at MLB’s Home Run Derby in their home city. At this point (or at least the day after their date in Detroit with Mick, Keith and the boys), lead singer Nick Petricca credited “caffeine and adrenaline” with fueling the band, but downplayed any changes of seismic proportions in the group.

“We’ve always kept ourselves working around the clock, so in a way not much has changed,” he told me on “Ralphie Tonight.” “I think we’re going to see the results (of the single’s success) the next time we tour.”

Walk The Moon has already noticed a change in the crowd at shows, especially when those opening notes of “Shut Up” hit the speakers. But their last headlining tour sold out before the song became inescapable.

That’s not to say the single’s success hasn’t brought about other change.
WTM
“I get a whole lot more texts now saying, ‘Hey, I heard “Shut Up and Dance” in X-Y-Z bizarre situation,” noted guitarist Eli Maiman. “So like – ‘I heard it at Cardinals Stadium in St. Louis, or I heard it in Victoria’s Secret this morning.’

“And I’m like, ‘Mom, why are you telling me this?’”

When the laughter subsided, WTM told me that they also want to collaborate with other artists they enjoy; Petricca said the band hasn’t “sold a song” to anyone yet but they have written with other musicians, and Maiman teased a possible Walk The Moon-feature for another singer could be released soon.

The lead singer also mentioned that there’s a chance fans could hear some new material from the group later this year. At the moment the focus is on “Different Colors,” a song that started as a rallying cry but with recent news events such as the Supreme Court’s lifting of same-sex marriage bans, has turned in to more of a “victory march.” The single celebrates diversity and aims to unite.

“It feels really relevant to be playing it right now, and really cool,” said Maiman.

“It’s incredible,” Petricca added. “We’re just all on the same team out here and it’s cool to feel a part of a movement.”

That idea of community is something that the band can easily be reminded of every night, as they perform in front of thousands of face-painted fans whose sole objective is to have fun. No wonder they don’t want this to end.

As chronicled in the new documentary Amy, almost anyone who came in contact with the late Amy Winehouse experienced some type of very intense, dark time with her, especially later part of her 27 years alive. Yet it takes almost no effort for her first manager Nick Shymansky to recollect brighter moments he spent with the gifted singer.

“Because we were flown out by the label, we decided to make the most of it,” Shymansky, the nephew of Universal Music Group’s Lucian Grainge and current Senior A&R at Island Records was telling me on “Ralphie Tonight” during a story about how he and Winehouse were in New York City. They had a meeting with her label that didn’t go as planned; due to the lack of “heat” around the artist at that particular moment, label execs were pumping the breaks on releasing Winehouse’s first album Frank in the States.

“Amy just made her first bit of money. She wasn’t really famous but she was getting a lot of acclaim. We ended up going to Tower Records and she got a massive trolley. She was like a kid in a candy store.”

Winehouse went to town in the once-booming store (Shymansky believes they were at the former Upper West Side location), not taking in to account anything – whether it be the price of the records nor the tax and shipping cost to send them all back to the UK.

“I remember she bought all this music and we paid a huge fine for taking it back (overseas),” he recalled with a smile. “It was amazing seeing her just realize, ‘I can have whatever music I want. I’ve got money.’”
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Shymansky contributed over 12 hours of footage he taped to the piece, which was directed by Asif Kapadia. He, along with rapper Mos Def, producer Mark Ronson and many other friends and family of Winehouse’s, sat down with Kapadia for audio-only interviews that are woven throughout the two-hour-plus film. The singer’s former manager cooperated with the filmmaker in part to help show different sides to Winehouse’s personality and artistry; perhaps those neglected and/or ignored by the media that maligned her until she died of alcohol poisoning in July 2011.

But the film is honest and comes with its share of cringe-worthy moments: watching Winehouse stumble in front of tens-of-thousands on stage, the singer’s mother admitting that she missed early signs of bulimia and Winehouse’s father Mitch showing up to Sr. Lucia, where his daughter was supposed to be recovering on while avoiding the media… with a reality-show camera crew in tow.

“I think one of the most powerful things about this film is that you’re not really told what to think of people,” Shymansky explained. “Opinions aren’t flying. You can’t ignore there were certain decisions, certain things that were handled badly. But I think you come away from this film… it’s two hours and 10 minutes of you being close to the artist.”

From that proximity, it is hard not to see why after viewing Kapadia’s final cut, Winehouse’s father decided to disassociate the family from its release. In addition to the aforementioned incident on the island, Mr. Winehouse also plays an integral role in the creation of his daughter’s breakout hit, “Rehab.” Shymansky actually tried to admit Winehouse; the singer responded by deferring the decision of whether she should go or not to her father.

Despite working out a plan ahead of time with her manager, Mr. Winehouse told his daughter that she didn’t need rehab. Of course, you know this by simply listening to the song, which is almost a verbatim play-by-play of the entire situation.
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“Popular music, up-tempo music, hit music, whatever you want to call it… is very often, when you really look in to the context of what that song’s saying, it can be quite deep,” Shymansky noted, citing hits from Motown as an example. “For me, I can never listen to ‘Rehab.’ Although, I appreciate why a lot of people get it, dance to it, love it… but I knew what was behind it, and I always found it a bit of a ridicule in to my belief that Amy needed help.”

Shymansky could have easily forgotten about Winehouse altogether after his refusal to leave the company he worked for, 19 Entertainment, led to the singer switching managers prior to the release of Back To Black. But Shymansky still cares very much about the singer and her lasting legacy, knowing full well that his discovery of Winehouse helped cement his own credibility in the industry.

Lioness record came out, and I always felt very strange about that record coming out because it wasn’t a record that Amy said, ‘This is my body of work. I’ve finished it. I’ve done it,” he responded when I inquired about the possibility of any unreleased demos seeing the light of day. Keep in mind who Shymansky’s uncle is and what label he now works for, and this is an obvious example of the former point regarding his interest in the singer’s legacy. “Amy took her music very seriously…I hope that if music does emerge, it’s not put out there.”

The “Boys Of Zummer” Tour starring Fall Out Boy, Wiz Khalifa and Hoodie Allen took over The Pavilion at Montage Mountain in Scranton, Pa. on Saturday. I was in attendance at the show, and here is what I noticed from my perspective.

– I attended the meet-and-greets for both Fall Out Boy and Wiz Khalifa, hopping between lines because both were off to a bit of a late start (I believe sound check ran late, thus pushing everything back). I just wanted to say a quick hello to the fellas of FOB; my presence was actually necessary at the Wiz meeting because his label required the radio station to have a representative on hand snapping photos.

– Although I don’t frequent them as much as I used to, I have attended my fair share of meet-and-greets. Fall Out Boy and Wiz Khalifa do a great job of making time to actually converse with each fan. It’s always nice to see artists that still don’t take such things as people wanting to meet them for granted.
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– Wiz was about a dressed down as you would expect when he strolled in to the tent we waited in backstage: flip flops, track pants and a green hoodie pulled up. His demeanor was pretty laid back, even when my camera stuttered before taking the first photo of our winners (thankfully I figured out the issue quickly. The photos are up now at 97bht.com).

– Fall Out Boy’s team runs its meet-and-greet a bit different. First, everybody is lined up just outside the venue’s entrance. A person from the band’s camp checks everyone in on a list one-by-one. Then we’re all lined up again, in the venue. From there, we proceeded to the VIP deck. A security guard stands by to hold any bags or phones; none were permitted as FOB has a staff photographer handle all photos. The shots are then uploaded to a website for download. They also offer props for the picture – sunglasses, boas, etc. Very photo booth-like.

– Of course, the guys from FOB are familiar faces now, especially lead singer Patrick Stump and bassist Pete Wentz. All or part of the band has been on “Ralphie Tonight” four times in the past nine months. We exchanged quick salutations and I told them how excited I was to hear the newer stuff live.
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– I also had a chance to chop it up backstage with DJ Bonics, a radio personality who is also Khalifa’s tour DJ. He was telling me how well the tour has gone for Wiz. Some still don’t understand how the two-acts can co-exist on the same bill. After seeing the Pittsburgh-emcee’s set, which included all of Wiz’s hits from “Black and Yellow” to “Young, Wild and Free” and of course “See You Again,” it became much easier to understand. The crowd was engaged from start to finish, and if they didn’t initially show up to see Khalifa, they more-than-likely left the venue a fan.

– And Fall Out Boy gets better every time I see them live; the last prior to this being on the 2013 “Save Rock and Roll” arena tour. It’s a seamless string of hit-after-hit with some fan favorites sprinkled in. As expected, a highlight of the evening was the band playing “Fourth of July,” a track from “American Beauty/American Psycho,” on of course July 4th.

I’ve ran in Central Park for almost three years now. I love running; it’s one of the few things I do that improves every aspect of my life: physical, professional, psychological.

Despite my frequent runs not just in the park, but around the famed Reservoir, I’ve never seen a celebrity. That changed on Friday, when I ran in to not just any public figure, but the lead singer of my all-time favorite band.

Of course, I almost didn’t go for a run Friday afternoon. About two weeks ago I hurt my knees, again. The initial injury occurred in 2011. I suffered “dashboard knee” and ended up in rehab for a few weeks and on the sidelines for almost 10 months. Plainly, it sucked. I’ve spent the time since building strength in the knees and the muscles that surround them, and things were pretty solid until my latest mishap; I lost my footing while stepping around an open door to get in a cab and both knees smacked against the sidewalk. It was as painful as it sounds.

After about two weeks of going easy, taking the occasional Advil and icing my knees, I felt I was ready to test the waters. I went through my normal stretch routine, grabbed my Bluetooth earbuds and iPod Nano and headed out in to the concrete jungle. I decided that I would lightly jog my normal three-mile route, which takes me in to the park and around the shorter Bridle Path that circles the Reservoir.

About six minutes in, my run was going about as well as expected when I made it on to the path. I always travel on the path counter-clockwise; technically that’s the way you’re supposed to run or walk but if you’ve been you know that maybe half of the people actually pay attention. Anyways, I don’t think I was circling the Reservoir more than five minutes when two people, one who I definitely recognized, were walking in the opposite direction.
CM1
The guy was wearing a white shirt and a black hat somewhat pulled down low. I recognized his face immediately though. I just jogged by Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin.

At this point I have a quick decision to make: do I keep going in the opposite direction or go over to him just to tell him what a big fan I am? First, I look to see if a lot of people are around. I want to respect the man’s space and do not want to cause a scene. But our stretch of the path is rather desolate. It is as this moment I decide that if I don’t approach him, I’ll be second-guessing myself for a while. So, I remove one of my earbuds, pull a U-turn and head in Martin’s direction.

Again, my plan is to be inconspicuous and not make a big scene. So I gently run up behind Martin and the person he’s with, and then duck to Chris’s right side.

“Hey, don’t want to get all crazy on ya – just here…”

“OH MY GOD! HOLY SH–!”

Well, I was a bit too inconspicuous and scared the bejesus out of the person he was with.

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry. Chris – just want to say I’m a huge fan! Sorry, bye!”

Martin, realizing I meant no harm and posed no threat, immediately thanked me for my support and high-fived me. Yes, high-fived me. I think he was trying to smooth over what had become an unnecessarily-awkward situation, because he thanked me for being a fan of the band’s about three more times in the 10 seconds that passed before we parted ways.

And as his friend did their best to get their bearings back, a security guard (who came out of nowhere!) was hot on my tail.

I waved goodbye and completed my normal three-mile route, albeit a little quicker than I had initially planned to thanks to an added dose of adrenaline.

I’m already getting asked this question a lot so let me answer it now: I think I know who he was with but I’m not speculating or confirming any names. I was going for a run, he was enjoying a Friday afternoon in the park. We can leave it at that.

When I got home – three thoughts surrounding the chance encounter prevailed: I really hope no paparazzi caught that, boy do I have a great story to one day start off a Chris Martin interview with and most importantly, I wish I would’ve acted a little cooler (although for the record, I never really lost my cool per se, but whatever).

However above all else, the running itself was a success as thankfully my knees are not sore at all.

Demi Lovato’s fans are calling the release of her latest single “Cool For The Summer,” “a new era” for the singer. Lovato concurs.

“It’s definitely sexier, it’s more mature and it’s fun,” she said of the new track. “That’s the thing about my music that I feel that sometimes I lack is, the fun element of it because I get so deep with my story and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.

“It’s just like, ‘f— this!’ I just want to have fun with my music. I want to talk about things… sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll – let’s do it.”
Demi1
Yep, it’s a new era alright. By her own account, Lovato’s trials and tribulations are well documented. She’s dealt with an eating disorder, substance abuse and a stint in rehab. Through her autobiography and music that was subsequently released, Lovato has addressed all of this with a strong front, inspiring other young girls that they too can overcome their obstacles.

The current state of Lovato may be perhaps the greatest evidence of that achievement. The singer exudes confidence and is as busy as ever: a joint record label venture with Nick Jonas, a skincare line, hair extensions, a new iPhone game and music are all on her plate at the moment.

“I have never been more confident in my music, in myself and just ready to go,” she confirmed. “I’ve never wanted it this bad my whole life and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make this album the biggest album I’ve ever released.”

Lovato’s fifth studio LP has no street date as of yet. While she elaborated on the direction of her art, she admitted that she has “no idea of what the track listing is going to look like yet,” although did confirm that she plans to record a collaboration for the project with rapper Iggy Azalea.

And that in itself should tell you that regardless of how it appears, the final set will look much different from anything Lovato has released before.




January and February were a bit of a blur for me. I started off the year with a live broadcast in Times Square for the ball drop. From there, it was off to Jamaica, Florida and Los Angeles to cover my third consecutive GRAMMY Awards.

The following weekend – we’re at Valentine’s Day now – I found myself back in New York City for NBA All-Star Weekend. Festivities were split between the Barclays Center (All-Star Saturday including the Slam Dunk Contest and 3-Point Shootout) and Madison Square Garden (Sunday’s All-Star Game). But of course, this is the Big Apple, so parties and events were taking pace throughout the five boroughs.

Our All-Star Saturday started in Times Square, where I covered a charity event that Dwyane Wade was holding in conjunction with the Sandals Foundation – the charity arm of the famed Sandals Resorts. After a quick trip back to my apartment uptown for a workout, shower and dinner – I hopped on the train and made the trek down to Brooklyn. Spike Lee was holding an event at an art gallery not far from Barclays Center, and I was invited to cover its red carpet.
Misty
From a content perspective, the soiree was a brick. But from a cultural and educational scope, it was a slam dunk. I met many personalities, including Spike (who I had just interviewed at The GRAMMYs and actually recognized me; surreal moment) along with some of the stars of his film “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.”

I also took a different approach to this red carpet: I decided that I would agree to interview anyone that the publicist asked me to speak with. I normally don’t do this but I decided that while I might not recognize the name of every person there, because it was a Spike event the people would all be at least interesting. And they were, tenfold.

Fast forward to last week – I sign on Twitter and see that Misty Copeland is trending. The ballerina became was named the American Ballet Theater’s principal dancer: the first female African American to hold this title in the organization’s 75 year history. The name sounded so familiar to me.

Because thankfully, I agreed to interview her at Spike’s event. She couldn’t have more graceful in speaking with me; some random radio DJ that has never even been to a ballet. I was able to connect the dots by a quick Google search. As soon as I saw that “Misty Copeland Under Armour” was a suggested term, I knew I had my woman, as I was able to recall us chatting about her cheering on fellow UA Athlete Steph Curry during All-Star Saturday.

Congrats “#PrincipalMisty,” and check out the audio below.

If you thought that Demi Lovato and Iggy Azalea were unlikely to be best friends, then you thought wrong. The two artists met briefly in mid-October, and now Lovato will stand with Azalea as a bridesmaid for her upcoming nuptials to NBA star Nick Young.

On October 10, Lovato posted a photo with Azalea on Twitter along with the text, “Being a super fan at @Vevo’s #VCSFF w @IGGYAZALEA… Next time our butts will take a picture with each other.”

“It was like, quick in passing,” Lovato told me a few weeks later of the encounter before adding, “but she was cool, and I want to do a collaboration for sure.”

When I brought this up last week to the “Really Don’t Care” singer and asked how less than a year later she was “suddenly” a bridesmaid, Lovato started laughing.

“(Azalea’s) so cool and down-to-earth,” she gushed. “I don’t like hanging out with people that are ‘Hollywood.’ Yunno what I mean? You don’t see me hanging around too many people that are ‘scene-y’ or ‘Hollywood’ or whatever.

“She’s just real as f—. The first time we hung out, we went to Target and got gingerbread houses to make and we made gingerbread houses. That’s how chill she is.”

If nothing else, the stars’ admiration for the department store is one that’s documented. Lovato is a brand ambassador for a beauty line sold at Target, and her last album included a store-exclusive bonus track. As for Azalea, she hit up Target (at her request) on the first date with fiancé Nick Young. The couple returned to the store to celebrate their one-year anniversary.

Photo: twitter.com/ddlovato

Photo: twitter.com/ddlovato




Hear the full interview with Demi Lovato on “Ralphie Tonight” Wednesday July 1.

The band Heffron Drive is returning to State Fair Meadowlands in New Jersey for a second-straight year. Last time around, there wasn’t a whole lot of new music from the Kendall Schmidt-fronted group. He and Dustin Belt have made up for that since – releasing Happy Mistakes along with the acoustic-driven Happy Mistakes Unplugged. Schmidt will play the latter in its entirety this Tuesday (6/30); he will not partake in any fried Oreos on the midway.

“I can’t do it man,” Schmidt said from his Los Angeles home on Thursday. The former Big Time Rush member called in to “Ralphie Tonight” while the birds were still chirping out west (we could hear them). He said he might do regular cookies but “that’s probably the only desert I’ll go for, because the fried Oreos, I just… I can’t. It makes my stomach hurt.”

The lead singer plans to take in some of the sights at the fair though, although he also pumped the breaks on the “spin-y rides,” again drawing from personal experience.

“Throughout the years I’ve been blessed to go to like, so many theme parks and play shows of all sorts,” he explained. “I’ve had the VIP access where you just jump to the front of the rollercoaster right away at pretty much all of them, and I’ve ridden myself out a couple times.”

While he seems to have a storied past in the amusement park/fairgrounds department, the history is much more shallow when it comes to performing this acoustic record live. Matter-of-fact, Schmidt said he’s only played it through completely one other time – at its release concert in L.A.

“Fortunately everything we were doing on the ‘Unplugged’ album had been written already,” Schimdt said of the task in converting songs not originally recorded with guitars to an acoustic LP. “Really the process of it was just reconstructing everything but I’ve done songs of all sorts.”

An example of this can be found on the new Hilary Duff album. Breathe In. Breathe Out. features a duet with the singers called “Night Like This.” Schmidt estimates that he has called Duff a friend for about 15 years.

“I think (the song) was based on a night that either Hilary had or wanted to have,” he said. “When I was recording the song with her, she told me all about the feeling of it and there was even a time when I was singing a line and she was like, ‘Yunno imagine standing there with me, like you’re saying this to me.’

“The song ended up really coming together. I’m so proud of it.”

Something else Schmidt is proud of: the success had by MKTO – a group that is signed to the record label formerly inhabited by Big Time Rush. The guy that manages MKTO used to produce BTR’s tours.

“I’m always kept up to date with everything that they’re doing,” Schmidt said, although he noted he has not had a chance yet to check their new single “Bad Girls.”

Before we hung up, Schmidt also said that his BTR-mates are all “excellent,” although Logan Henderson “is a bit of a mystery-man, so I can’t fill you in too much,” on him.

Hey, we all have a friend like that – just like I’m sure we all know someone that won’t go near a fried Oreo.

While this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, count Kevin Jonas as one of the many happy with the accomplishments of his younger brother Nick.

“Nick’s doing an amazing job. He’s working his ass off and having so much fun,” the oldest JoBro told me last week on the red carpet at the Garden of Dreams Talent Show inside Radio City Music Hall. “I think the music speaks for itself. Yunno, having two top 10 hits is huge, and it’s a feat all in its own.”
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The youngest of the three musicians scored success on the pop chart with “Jealous” and “Chains.” Perhaps also not surprising: it doesn’t seem Nick is stopping there.

“I’ve heard there’s more music coming as well,” revealed Kevin. “So, I’m excited for him.”

Count Kevin strictly as a cheerleader though, and not as an older brother who tries to play mentor.

“Nick’s doing his thing. Each one of us is kind of doing our own thing,” he responded when I asked him about mentoring his younger bro. I posed the question because the event we were at centers on mentorship: the Garden of Dreams Foundation partners kids facing obstacles with celebrities throughout entertainment to receive guidance leading up to the event at Radio City.

Kevin did note that as the Jonas Brothers grew up, they had a few big names and experiences to lean on themselves.

“We got to meet a lot of amazing people as we got to travel and do different things,” Jonas noted, immediately mentioning the 51st GRAMMYs performance that the boys shared with Stevie Wonder. “Talking to Paul McCartney and being able to share our stories and him actually wanting to hear what we had to say and to tell us about his life… it’s just, things like that I’ll never forget.”

A video posted by 95.5 PLJ (@955plj) on