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Phillip Phillips told an old tale for his new tune: the time-tested fable of turning lemons into lemonade; overcoming adversity.

It has been a minute (read: a few years) since we’ve heard from the “American Idol” winner and that isn’t a coincidence; Phillips was embroiled in a legal battle with former management, 19 Entertainment, claiming his contract wasn’t fair and thus he should be allowed to exit it. The dispute is now settled and the Georgia-born artist is moving on with plans to release a third album through Interscope Records.

“I’m a pretty patient and relaxed guy,” Phillips told me recently in an interview on Stage 17 when I brought up the lawsuit. “It takes a lot to get me angry.”

Phillips joked that under normal circumstance, the only thing that might irritate him is food that doesn’t taste good. And while the tussle in court might have left a bad taste in his mouth, the singer didn’t let that stop him from channeling that emotion in to his new single, “Miles.”

“Yunno, you gotta stand up for what you believe,” Phillips said regarding his inspiration behind writing the track. “You might feel like you’re stuck in something but there’s always hope and a little light at the end of the tunnel of it.”

The normally-jovial and light-hearted Phillips was sure to punctuate the statement with perhaps a phrase that he should use to title his next LP.

“Life is good!”

The new Miss America may still be growing accustomed to her crown and sash, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t already plotting out her life post-reign.

“From there I’m going to go to law school, so I’m going to use the scholarship dollars I earned through Miss America – which is actually over $45,000 prior to winning (Miss America),” Cara Mund told me as we stood atop the Empire State Building. “So I’ll be out of student debt, I’ll be able to go to law school and hopefully run for office one day.”

However before that, Mund faces a whirlwind year that will push her to every corner of the U.S. as a motivational speaker, ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network and public figure; her deal as the new Miss America includes a six-figure salary and an appearance contract with dick clark productions, which produced the competition telecast in addition to “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” the “American Music Awards” and the “Billboard Music Awards.”

“I think each Miss America makes the year her own,” Mund responded when I asked if she had a chance to receive any tips or guidance from previous crown-holders on what’s in store. “And so while they can give me tips, they’re going to help me figure it out along my way too.”

Mund is the first contestant from her state to crack the Top 5, let alone win it all. The Bismark, North Dakota native graduated from Brown University in Rhode Island and interned for Sen. John Hoeven in Washington D.C. The new Miss America’s resume also includes four summers of training courses with the Radio City Rockettes.

“It was right at Radio City Music Hall and it was (The Rockettes’) summer intensive,” Mund explained. “So I did it for four years, I was getting ready to audition. Didn’t work out because I was too short but I ended up going to Brown instead so it was a good tradeoff.”

She was also able to use some of the skills learned with The Rockettes on the Miss America stage, so suffice to say, everything happened for a reason.

When I think back to the Miss America red carpet earlier this month at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, a number of moments and interactions immediately come to mind…

– This was my third consecutive year covering arrivals and the carpet was in a new location within the hall; a floor I didn’t even know existed let alone had visited!

– The obligatory red carpet photo.

– Chatting with Normani Kordei of Fifth Harmony, which was a complete surprise. She was the last person I spoke with there and was in attendance because she is good friends with Miss Texas, Margana Wood. Kordei was once a Miss Teen Texas in the Miss America Organization.


– Sage Steele, one of the co-hosts, was there on the first NFL Sunday of the season. The next morning she was scheduled to co-host SportsCenter AM. Seemed like quite the feat.


– Her co-host for the program was the venerable Chris Harrison, who doesn’t seem to mind people bugging him about “Bachelor” drama and gossip.


– Sam Haskell is Chairman and CEO of the Miss America Organization. I remembered after Savvy Shields won last year; in the subsequent press conference he mentioned how happy MAO was with the pick. This year, I was sure to ask Haskell how exactly he is able to get to know every contestant ahead of time.


– Speaking of Savvy – what’s next for the outgoing Miss America?


– Country music superstar Thomas Rhett was one of the celebrity judges tasked with picking her replacement.


– And Miss North Dakota’s contingent erupted when Cara Mund was crowned Miss America 2018 inside Boardwalk Hall.

For my third consecutive year, before traveling to Atlantic City for the Miss America competition, I chatted with some of the contestants and celebrity judges. The participants from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island called in along with Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri and first-time judge/country music superstar Thomas Rhett.

So Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff and Right Said Fred founding member Fred Fairbrass walk in to a bar. No, this isn’t the set-up for a cheesy joke; rather a foreshadowing of what’s to come the next time all three are in the same city.

Sure the aforementioned artists are an unlikely trio; about as unlikely as the idea of Swift interpolating “I’m Too Sexy” in to the first single from her highly anticipated seventh sixth studio album “Reputation.” And yet the similarities between the 1992 chart-topping hit and “Look What You Made Me Do” were immediately noticed on the internet, well before it was revealed that Fred along with brother Richard and Rob Manzoli received co-writing credits on the track.

The deal was brokered through Right Said Fred’s publishing company Spirit Music Group, whom the band has been with “for ages.” The relationship is so strong that Fairbrass blindly allowed SMG to negotiate with Swift’s team before he even knew of Taylor’s involvement. Eventually he figured out who made the inquiry and was able to hear the final result.

“Well what we like is that the song is pretty cynical,” Fairbrass explained to me via telephone from across the pond. “The original idea of ‘Sexy’…the lyrics are made to be cynical. We were making fun of the hedonism of the late 80’s and early 90’s when we lived in New York. So (Taylor) sort of channeling that cynicism… we’re very pleased that she spotted it.”

In addition to heaping praise upon the song and the artist, Fairbrass also noted that working with Taylor’s team has been a delight.

“PR have been great,” he noted. “And Taylor and Jack have sent us a thank you note and some flowers which was very sweet, and they want to hook up and party and celebrate at some point which would be nice.”

Right Said Fred recently released a mash-up of the two songs; the group is slated to drop a new single in late October.

It’s astonishing to look back at the events and people that Webster Hall has hosted over the years, from both a variety and historical standpoint. Politicians, unions, musicians, celebrities, students, ravers and pretty much anyone who wanted to be someone or been seen with someone filed in to the venerable East Village venue for decades.

But of course, especially in the ever-changing borough of Manhattan, all good things must come to an end. Brooklyn Sports Entertainment purchased the concert venue back in April and following Thursday night’s performance from Flushing emcee Action Bronson, it’ll close for renovations. The new Spectrum Hall, outfitted for sports and concerts exclusively, is expected to be finished in about two years.

For me, it’s easy to reflect on Webster Hall because I only have two distinct memories from the venue. The first came on November 23, a little over a month following my move to the city. I caught a performance from Long Island’s own Hoodie Allen (thanks Hoodie for the guest list hook-up). I’ll never forget running up to the balcony (VIP status, you know) and grabbing a Brooklyn Lager on draft just as Hoodie took the stage. The sold-out crowd exploded, singing along to every word from his debut EP “All American.”


The second took place a little less than a year later. I strolled down to the East Village with a camera man from 95.5 on September 30 to interview a then up-and-coming artist by the stage name of Lorde. Born Ella Yelich-O’Connor, the 16 year-old had just released her critically-acclaimed and soon-to-be GRAMMY Award winning debut album “Pure Heroine.” She was also about to headline three sold-out shows at Webster Hall, which is where her and I chatted before sound-check.


A couple things stand-out from that experience: for starters, we set-up for the interview on the aforementioned balcony which was still disheveled from the previous night. I didn’t really mind though, save the tampon wrapper that was on the ledge and in our camera shot. If my memory serves me correctly, my friend Nikki who at the time worked for Republic Records handled its disposal (thanks again Nikki!). As for the empty plastic cups, those were purposely left there because… Webster Hall.

The other unforgettable part of that day was Lorde pulling a 180 during the interview regarding comments she had previously made about her label-mate and now-BFF, Taylor Swift. In hindsight, it wouldn’t be the first-time she’d have to walk-back a statement about Swift but nonetheless, Lorde found herself in the headlines due to an interview with Metro, a publication back in her native New Zealand.

“Taylor Swift is so flawless, and so unattainable, and I don’t think it’s breeding anything good in young girls. ‘I’m never going to be like Taylor Swift, why can’t I be as pretty as Lorde?’ That’s f–king bulls–t,” she said at the time.

The following Monday in Manhattan, the artist sang a different tune when I asked about who she believes is setting a good example for teenage girls.

“Taylor Swift is a really good role model, and I think what she’s saying is pretty cool,” Lorde replied. “Yeah, I think (her lyrics are) empowering. I think it’s cool.”

Lorde also addressed the situation, albeit non-directly, via her Tumblr that day. However that video of the “Royals” singer talking about Swift eventually went somewhat viral, gaining almost a half-million views to-date. It’s one of 95.5 PLJ’s most-viewed YouTube clips ever, empty plastic cups and all.

I recently had the chance to sit down with Epic Records artist Tom Walker. His EP “Blessings” is out now. We chatted about his music, covering Imagine Dragons and his hometown of Manchester during our conversation inside New York City’s Stage 17.

A little over six years passed in between my last two interviews with the band All Time Low. During that stretch, I did run-in to the guys a couple of times. During a 2014 trip to Baltimore, the band’s hometown, for Derek Jeter’s last game at Camden Yards I ended up at the same bar as lead singer Alex Gaskarth. Talk about a small world: Gaskarth played a DJ set at that same venue the previous night. I was there the next day, Sunday, because it also served as Baltimore’s designated Buffalo Bills Backers Bar.

The place is owned by Alex’s bandmate Jack Barakat.

Then this past February while in Los Angeles for The GRAMMYs, I saw singer Cassadee Pope and her boyfriend, ATL drummer Rian Dawson outside of Microsoft Theater. They were chatting with friends and I was filming vignettes with Westwood One, so I just stopped briefly to say hello.

Of course, what I didn’t see was the engagement ring on Pope’s hand. Dawson popped the question that day. However a few weeks ago, the pending nuptials were reportedly called off.

Many things besides relationship statuses can change in six years. During the span in between our sit-downs, the Baltimore quartet added four studio albums to their discography and changed record labels twice. They switched up the band’s sound as well, although Gaskarth insists that the new sound has nothing to do with All Time Low’s new home at Fueled By Ramen.

“I think the change in direction of music was something that was already happening within the band,” the front man explained. “We knew we wanted to try some new things and go in some different directions on the album.”

With All Time Low’s previous deal at Hopeless Records up, the guys felt that signing with Fueled By Ramen made the most sense.

“Fueled By is rad, they always have been,” Gaskarth continued. “I love their roster now and I love what they do.

“I think the biggest part of us switching (to FBR) was that we sort of had the idea in mind that we kind of wanted to try some new things with our music, and (FBR) was all about it.”

Fueled By Ramen most notably housed Fall Out Boy and still counts Panic! At The Disco, Paramore, Twenty One Pilots and Young The Giant as a part of its roster.

“Fall Out Boy served as inspiration for us when we were younger,” Gaskarth noted. “Panic!, we kind of came up around the same time; obviously different trajectory and different path but (Brendon Urie) has been at it just as long as we have and works just as hard, if not harder than we do.”

For the three aforementioned groups, it is kind of fun to pause-and-reflect on both their longevity and evolution: FOB still headlines arenas, Panic! was nominated for a GRAMMY last year and All Time Low is charting a single at Adult Contemporary radio. Of course there have also been other acts that have come and gone not just from the label, but the scene; something ATL is cognizant of.

“Yunno, we’ve seen a lot of our friends’ bands and other bands fade out, and it’s amazing to sort of be in the other category of still being able to do it.”

And if All Time Low continues in that category for six more years, the band can celebrate a 20th anniversary.

For the fourth consecutive year I teamed up with The John Lennon Songwriting Contest, a year-long international event open to both amateurs and professionals, to announce the winner of the $20,000 Song Of The Year. Winners receive cash in addition to prizes from Yamaha, Audio Technica and others.

This year, the grand prize winning song came from the country category: “Alcoholiday,” a track penned by Andrew Peebles, Brett Sheroky and New Jersey native Joe Fox.

Check out the announcement, the $20,000 Song Of The Year and the full press release below.

Via JLSC.com: Joe Fox, Andrew Peebles and Brett Sheroky were announced as the winners of the coveted John Lennon Songwriting Contest ‘Song of the Year’ for their original song “Alcoholiday.” The announcement was made on 95.5 PLJ in New York with radio host Ralphie Aversa.

As ‘Song of the Year’ winners, songwriters Andrew Peebles, Brett Sheroky & Joe Fox won $20,000 in cash in addition to prizes from Audio-Technica, Yamaha, Other World Computing (OWC), Genelec, Disc Makers, Digital Media Academy, Neutrik and more. They have also received other prizing throughout 2016 after winning both the Lennon Awards and the Grand Prize packages in the Country category. The song was selected to win the top prize by the John Lennon Songwriting Contest’s Executive Committee of Judges, consisting of legendary and contemporary superstars such as Fergie, Prince Royce, George Clinton, Matthew Koma, American Authors, Switchfoot, Bootsy Collins & more.

A total of over $300,000 in cash awards and prizes will be distributed this year by the year-round John Lennon Songwriting Contest, which is open to both amateur and professional songwriters. Visit JLSC.COM for more information about the contest and to enter for your chance to become the next ‘Song of the Year’ winner. Entry fees from the contest help support the non-profit John Lennon Educational Tour Bus.

We all have different ways of getting over ex-lovers and coping with failed relationships. For Julia Michaels, her method involved releasing a debut cohesive body of work, the self-dubbed “mini-album” called “Nervous System.”

“I’m fully transparent. This whole (mini-album) is literally my life,” Michaels explained to me. “There were so many things that I couldn’t say to him and there are a lot of things that I don’t confront with myself that I put on this mini-album.”

Over the course of our sit-down interview Michaels noted that each track on “Nervous System” represents something that actually took place in the relationship. All of the songs were written about the same boyfriend referenced in the hit single “Issues.” The mini-album was penned over a two-month stretch after Michaels released the first track.

Perhaps the two most heart-wrenching songs are “Just Do It” and “Don’t Wanna Think.” The former describes a moment when Michaels knew her ex-boyfriend wanted to dump her but was worried he would break her heart. The latter is the only track on the mini-album that Michaels wrote alone; she is also the lone-producer on it as well. The ballad was originally titled, “Drinking Song”; Michaels composed it on a piano while drinking tequila.

“I wrote it about a fight I was having and it was just one of those songs that I had written in about 20 minutes because everything had just kind of flowed out of me,” she revealed. “Like I said, I don’t confront things and I suppress a lot of things and so sometimes when I listen down to something I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s how I feel.’”

Michaels clearly has no problem telling the world about her personal life, and the world doesn’t seem to mind; she turned-in a fantastic performance of “Issues” at the Billboard Music Awards in May and is up for “Best New Artist” later this month on the MTV Video Music Awards. Although she is currently focusing on her own music (Michaels told me that for the moment she hasn’t worked on any other songs with Selena Gomez), she still likes being able to tell other people’s stories as well.

“I love being that person that people can talk to and helping them get their stories out, because sometimes artists really want to say what they have to say but they don’t know how to articulate it in a way that fully makes sense,” Michaels said. “So I love helping them put puzzle pieces together and figuring all of that out together.”

In some aspects, Michaels provides therapy as much as collaboration. By using her debut mini-album to release an ex-boyfriend from her life, go ahead and add “self-therapy” to Michaels’ resume as well.