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It definitely came as no surprise to long-time fans of One Direction and long-time listeners of my radio show that Niall Horan is a “massive” fan of President Barack Obama. Horan revealed his admiration for the First Family during a chat on my show back in 2012; the aforementioned quote attributed to the singer became a popular Tumblr meme (only second to the GIF-able moment when Louis Tomlinson decided to crash our interview).


“I’m a big fan of their dad,” Horan told me as we talked about Malia and Sasha Obama, the President’s daughters, who at the time had recently just hung out with One Direction at a concert in Fairfax, Virginia. “They were sitting on the side of the stage, so I was waving at them.

“They’re just regular kids,” he continued. “They got to have a childhood and then they became ‘the President’s daughters.’”

Fans of Horan retweeted a clip of the interview that I had posted after the Irishman posted a message to Twitter about the Obama’s on Wednesday.

“Don’t get me started but I’m going to miss the obamas (sic),” he said online. “The nicest family on earth.”

Horan and his bandmates connected with Malia and Sasha at the Kids Choice Awards that year. The First Family said that if One Direction couldn’t make it to the White House, then the kids could go to one of their shows. So with Secret Service in tow, the daughters traveled out to the Patriot Center where they hung out with the guys backstage.

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

Which at least on some level, One Direction could relate to, although even Horan was taken aback by the Secret Service detail – which at the time struck me as one of the more surprising moments of our interview.


Sure some women grow up with the dream of one day becoming Miss America – but how many of them also envision the crown’s travel schedule, which involves a different state every 48 hours?

“I live in airports and in hotels out of my suitcase,” the current titleholder, Savvy Shields, told me on New Year’s Eve in Times Square. The two of us chatted for a few minutes on the third floor of the Good Morning America building after her TV appearance. “It’s been good. I don’t really remember much of it so that’s why I’m trying to journal and if I look at my social media then I remember everything I did.”

The journal idea was something Shields, who represented the state of Arkansas in last year’s competition, mentioned to me when we chatted the day after she won. Since that interview, the 21 year-old hasn’t sat still, but has experienced some cool moments including a trip to the American Music Awards where she joined Florida-Georgia Line on stage.

“(B.K. and Tyler) were fantastic,” she noted. “I mean, we’re southern people so we get along right away.”

With Shields’ personality, it’s hard to envision her not getting along with anyone, nor is it a stretch to think that she’s now getting recognized throughout these travels.

“I’ve gotten a lot of ‘Are you on TV?’” she said. “So it’s like, they know who I am, but it’s not until I have the crown on that they put two-and-two together.”

And contrary to popular belief, Shields isn’t always wearing the crown. Matter of fact, it wasn’t on her head at the AMAs; that and her new hair style that night which featured bangs lead yours truly to not recognize the titleholder, an occurance Shields did not let me forget during our interview. However she also joked that there is another time when people don’t realize she’s Miss America.

“If it’s an ‘airport day,’ they don’t really believe me,” Shields said. “So I mean it really depends!”

There are certainly more “airport days” on her docket, but also some once-in-a-lifetime destinations such as the Academy of Country Music Awards and the Billboard Music Awards, both of which take place this spring. “Miss America” is produced by Dick Clark Productions, which also handles all of the aforementioned award shows along with “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” another show that Shields participated in. The Arkansas-native didn’t seem to mind the December climate in New York too much.

“Maybe it’s everyone dancing that’s making it not as cold?” she wondering out loud. “I was expecting to be layered in like 7 parkas but I’m actually just down to one so we’re good to go.”

Hopefully for Shields that meant not having to pack or travel with as much; right after witnessing the ball drop she skipped the champagne toast and received an escort out of Times Square to grab a head start on the next part of her never-ending itinerary. Although I’m sure at this point, she couldn’t envision her night any other way.

As the band prepares for its upcoming tour that kicks off later this month, DNCE looks back on 2016 rather fondly.

“Getting a VMA for Best New Artist, that’s really special for us,” was one of the first things lead singer Joe Jonas told me he’ll remember about the year, besides of course releasing the quartet’s debut, self-titled album. “Touring with so many amazing artists and growing our fan base more and more, and we can’t wait just to be able to do it all over again hopefully.”

The LP, which dropped November 18, came out over a year after DNCE’s initial EP. According to Jonas, the prolonged success of “Cake By The Ocean” was one of the reasons for its delay.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he admitted. This was the first time that I had chatted with the group since the album’s unveiling. “Yeah the album’s out, and what a great way to kind of cap the year off with being in Times Square and celebrating with all of these amazing people that are kind of bearing the cold.”

I sat down with Jonas and his bandmates Jack Lawless, Cole Whittle and JinJoo Lee in their hotel suite before the group performed “Cake” and “Body Moves” on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” It was Jonas’ third time performing the event; in 2007 and 2009 he did so with his brothers Nick and Kevin. Lawless, who played drums for The Jonas Brothers, joined those times as well. But for Whittle and Lee, joining a million people to ring in the New Year was a new experience.

“We’re all wearing adult diapers underneath actually, just to keep things legit,” Whittle cracked when I inquired how they were staying warm. He eventually told me that because of how much the band moves around on stage, they wouldn’t have an issue with the temperature outside.

“It’s amazing how many people are waiting all day for this awesome event,” Lee said of her first New Years in Times Square. “I can’t wait to celebrate with all of those people.”

DNCE, which played the Orange Bowl Halftime Show in Florida the night before New Year’s Eve, now heads west for their headlining tour that starts January 17 in San Diego.

“We think the world needs more love,” Jonas responded when I asked if the band had a New Year’s Resolution. “And hopefully we can bring some joy and happiness to people.”

Imagine standing in the middle of Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Now picture that you’re live on the radio. And add in the fact that you have no producer, no intern, no assistant… no one. Well, no one to help you; there are obviously plenty of (read: a million) people surrounding you.

Welcome to my New Year’s Eve broadcast in Times Square on 95.5 PLJ. This was the third straight year that I had the honor of hosting the show and the second consecutive broadcast where we partnered with Dick Clark Productions so that I had space inside ABC’s Good Morning America studio. Thanks to our friends at Times Square Alliance, I had full-run of the “Center of the Universe” as well; I spent my evening literally running between the third floor of the GMA studio (without using the elevator mind you) and the crowd with stops in between to interview DNCE, Miss America, Gavin DeGraw and a few revelers.

But even as I managed to book, edit, produce and host the show, there were some difficulties simply out of my control. No my in-ear monitors didn’t go out, rather our entire wireless broadcast system went down. So as the clock struck midnight and the 11,800 pound crystal ball completed its descent, I dialed in to the studio to ring in 2017 over the phone.

When you’re live in a setting like Times Square for New Year’s, these are issues that you actually can prepare for; you simply create backup plans for everything because anything can go wrong. Over the 7 hours I spent in the Theater District I dealt with a broken audio recorder, a late interview and faulty internet connections on top of everything else you would normally expect: heightened security, large crowds and the weather.

Although the temperature hovered around a balmy 40 so that wasn’t awful, but I digress.

It’s stressful but in the moment, a lot of fun. At any moment I’m in a hotel suite with Joe Jonas, editing audio on my laptop, talking with a couple from the Philippines who is visiting the city for their first time or simply pausing to take it all in. Because despite all of the difficulties that I encounter with the show, I still couldn’t imagine spending my New Year’s Eve any other way.



Louis Tomlinson is the latest One Direction bandmate to release music during the 1D-hiatus, but the single has resonated on a different level with the ever-passionate One Direction fandom.

The 24 year-old teamed up with DJ/producer Steve Aoki for the song, “Just Hold On.” Tomlinson offered an emotional performance of the track on “The X-Factor” in the UK following the death of his mother Johannah Deakin, who passed after a battle with Leukemia on December 7. The appearance was booked prior to her passing.

Photo: instagram.com/louist91/

Photo: instagram.com/louist91/

Now, similar to what “Directioners” attempted with the songs “No Control” and “Home,” fans are mobilizing online and lobbying radio stations to spin the single. The difference is that in addition to raising chart positions, the group is hoping to raise awareness for a handful of charities near to both Tomlinson and Aoki’s hearts.

“It just seems like a tribute,” said Lexi Preddie, one of the fans in the U.S. behind the movement. She is managing the Twitter account “@ProjectJHoldOn” which is keeping others informed on the latest news and figures regarding the track. “The things that (Tomlinson) sings in the song, it sounds like things (his mom) had said to the fans.

“She almost felt like a mother-figure to us, because she just was always spreading positivity.”

Now the fandom is spreading the word on the song, hoping in the process to shine a light on Eden Dora Trust, Believe In Magic, Leukemia Awareness/Bloodwise and The Aoki Foundation.

On Tuesday, Johannah’s husband Dan took to her Twitter account to send one final message to the fans.

“She wanted to thank you all, and to let you know that you have been amazing right from the start,” he relayed. “You changed Louis’ life, but also her life. Your support now is as strong if not stronger than ever.”

It is impossible to look back on pop music in 2016 and not talk about The Chainsmokers. Alex Pall and Drew Taggart created two of the year’s biggest hits: the infectious “Don’t Let Me Down” that features 18 year-old Daya and “Closer,” an inescapable duet that Halsey assists on. “Don’t Let Me Down” was the most spun track on pop radio this year and using that particular metric, also the song of the summer. “Closer” spent 12 weeks atop both the Billboard Hot 100 and pop radio airplay charts. Combined with “Roses,” a song that they enlisted an artist named Rozes to sing, the duo sold 10 million singles in the U.S. alone.

Those songs helped The Chainsmokers score an American Music Award in 2016 and three GRAMMY nominations for the award show this February, including Best New Artist.

But as improbable as the DJs success may be (even Pall and Taggart admit they wouldn’t have settled on “The Chainsmokers” had they realized their staying power), what is crazier is that the group’s first two singles are all-but-forgotten about: the novelty track’s “#SELFIE” and “Kanye.”

“’Closer’ wasn’t their first hit,” is the response I received from Jake Miller, a friend of Pall and Taggart’s, recently when I brought up how impressed I was that they were able to shift from tongue-in-cheek records to the highly-coveted lane of radio-friendly pop music. I reminded him that “#SELFIE” was guys’ first single.

“It’s funny you say that because I don’t even think of them for that song,” Miller continued – a sentiment that many probably share and that certainly speaks to how massive the subsequent singles have been. “I honestly completely forgot they did that song.”

For The Chainsmokers, that might be a good thing. Nonetheless, the guys still don’t seem to be taking themselves too seriously.

“We go in with like, low expectations… very low expectations,” Taggart told me before the artists performed “Closer” and won “Favorite Electronic/Dance Music Artist” at the AMAs. “But regardless to be a part of the pop community now and have our work recognized is awesome.”

And the DJs aren’t slowing down anytime soon. Pall and Taggart just dropped a music video for “Setting Fires” off of their EP “Collage.” The duo is also back in the studio creating new music.

“I think the stuff we’re working on now we’re most excited about,” Pall said. “I don’t know if that’s because it’s newest, but it just feels different and exciting. We’re pumped about it.”

The Chainsmokers recently posted on Snapchat a clip of them in the studio with Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin, an experience that Taggart characterized as “crazy” because the guys grew up listening to his band.

“I think a lot of the music that’s already been out from us is heavily-inspired by Coldplay, especially the emotion that Coldplay has; that melancholy, bitter-sweet emotion that they get in all their songs,” he explained.

Taggart explained that his first goal was to “be cool” and attempt to catch a vibe with the lead singer. Neither man would reveal if they were working on a Chainsmokers project or something for Coldplay’s future (the band recently revealed that an EP was on the way after 2017), but Pall promised that whatever they’re working on, it’s “dope.”

Given the duo’s track record, I’ll take their word for it.

It is no secret that “Hamilton” is still Broadway’s hottest, most-impossible ticket even without its original cast. And Travis Clark, lead singer of We The Kings, makes no secret of his successful ploy that ended up landing him far beyond the original intent of simply watching the show live.

“I was like, ‘Hey if we cover this song, maybe like somebody would hear it and then we could get tickets,’” Clark explained to me recently. The song he took aim at was “The Story Of Tonight,” a reoccurring theme in the production. “So I cover the song. I literally play it for about two days in my studio. Our version is much different than Manuel-Miranda’s.”

After all, “Hamilton” fuses Broadway musicals with hip-hop and a history lesson. We The Kings is a pop-rock band. But Clark’s version found an audience online.

“Somebody sent it to (Manuel-Miranda’s) publicist team,” the front man continued. “And he responded to us and said, ‘Hey, that track is dope. If you’re ever in the city, let me know.’”

That interaction motivated Clark to release the cover as a single. He and his bandmates then traveled to Manhattan, caught the show and linked up afterwards with the cast. But the singer’s relationship to the Tony Award-winning musical didn’t end there. Manuel-Miranda went as far as to tweet a link to the iTunes release of We The Kings’ re-work.
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“That was unexpected a little bit,” Clark revealed. “We just wanted his good graces for us to put the song out.”

The singer, noting that We The Kings doesn’t make any money from the sales because it’s not the band’s song, didn’t want to proceed if the Broadway star wasn’t cool with it. Manuel-Miranda went a step further, not only offering the green light but then voluntarily promoting the work as well.

Like many others, Clark gushed about the performance, calling “the absolute best one, by so far” that he’s witnessed. The artist could also relate to the cast members on a professional level.

“I love touring, I love being on the road,” he said. “They play multiple shows a day. That’s tough, man. It’s tough on your voice. There’s so much that I looked up to them and admired them for.”

We The Kings certainly know a thing or two about touring; the band has become a stalwart and the de-facto elder-statesmen on the Vans Warped Tour. Clark and company played the annual festival for their 6th year this past summer.

“We know, like (when younger bands) are like, ‘Hey should we go to catering now?’ We’re like, ‘No, you want to wait an hour.’

“We’re giving people advice, because it’s like their first Warped Tours.”

It’s almost as if Clark is paying back a debt of gratitude he owes to the festival. You might even say it’s quite Hamiltonian of him.

A few weeks ago John Legend held an album listening party for his forthcoming LP “Darkness and Light” at the Samsung 837 event space in New York City’s Meatpacking District. After playing a handful of unreleased cuts, the singer talked about the influence his gospel music background had on this new album.

And of course, if you’re familiar with Legend’s story, you know that Northeastern Pennsylvania played a role in that background. The “All Of Me” artist was the choir director at Bethel AME Church in Scranton while attending the University of Pennsylvania. When I brought this up to Legend recently in Los Angeles, he smiled and reminisced about his time in NEPA.

“A lot of it was just driving back-and-forth (between Philadelphia and Scranton) and then being tired and having to study and I was in an a capella group at school too so I was doing a lot of stuff at school,” he recalled. “And then every weekend I would come up to Scranton and I have a lot of fond memories. I have a lot of great friends that I made during that time that I stay in touch with.
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“It was a great time in my life; and even when I moved to New York, I would still drive over to Scranton every once in a while and play at the church. I love the folks in Scranton and Bethel AME Church.”

Legend didn’t say if anyone in Scranton has already heard his fifth studio album, but he did reveal that he’s played it for a few people.

“Well the reception has been amazing so far,” he replied when I inquired about how the new music has been received. “A lot of my friends that have listened to it think it’s my best album yet. I think it is too, but I always think that after every album so I won’t even let myself be the judge. I’ll just let the fans be the judge, but I’m really proud of it and I can’t wait for everybody to hear it.”

“Love Me Now” is the album’s first single; Legend performed it for the first time on a major award show at the American Music Awards. The song is inspired by his relationship with wife Chrissy Teigen. The couple’s very public marriage, along with his newborn daughter Luna, both serve as subject matters on the LP.

“Darkness and Light” features cameos from Chance The Rapper, Alabama Shakes lead singer Brittany Howard and R&B crooner Miguel. Legend enlisted Blake Mills, who worked on Alabama Shakes’ last LP, to produce “Darkness.” The album is in stores now.

For my fifth consecutive year, I made the long (a couple blocks) trek to the Upper West Side and covered the start of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, taking in the sights and talking with some of the parade’s performers and special guests. Hear from Fitz & The Tantrums, Laurie Hernandez, Daya, Jacob Whitesides, Aloe Blacc, Ben Rector, Brett Eldredge and more!

What do Dennis Quaid, Lewis Black and Billy Bob Thornton have in common? Not sure, other than they are all in this video! I spoke with the three when I covered two red carpets in one night recently – the premieres for Quaid’s season two of the Crackle series “The Art Of More” and Thornton’s “Bad Santa 2” movie.