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Back in February, while talking about baseball, Train lead singer Pat Monahan told me he was done singing the National Anthem at sporting events because of how stressful it is.

You could imagine my surprise when I saw Monahan on national television belting out the anthem, a cappella, before Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been as nervous as that one, and I sang at the AFC Championship game two years ago in New England,” Monahan said after I played him the clip of us speaking earlier this year. “That was stressful, but nothing like Game 1 in Oakland.

The singer explained why the moment is filled with so much pressure.

“There’s a thing that happens, up until, ‘and the rockets’ red glare,’ all the way up until then, there’s a vast chance of you forgetting all of the words that would just disappear,” he said. “I don’t know why, but I’m so scared for that 48 seconds that it takes years off of my life.”

Monahan agreed to sing the anthem at the urging of his manager. With connections in the Bay Area along with Seattle and Western Pennsylvania, the front man has a number of rooting interests in sports, including the Golden State Warriors.

When I caught up with Pat, it was in a much-more relaxed setting. He and I chatted backstage before the band headlined Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. Our interview was for Mohegan Sun’s Facebook page and broadcasted live on it as we talked in Monahan’s dressing room.

“There are songs that we play every night that I had no idea that they would get the reaction that they’re getting,” the lead singer told me. “There’s a song called “Working Girl” and it goes pretty bananas out there every night.”

Monahan is mixing in the newest from the band’s “A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat” with the classics as well; one in the latter category is his favorite to perform every night.

“’Drops of Jupiter’ will always be the song that has heart for me,” he said in response to a fan question about his favorites on the set list. “Play That Song,” Train’s lead single from its latest LP, also received an honorable mention.

As far as other set list specifics, the band switches out two songs every night. They also pay tribute to Chris Cornell and Gregg Allman, neither of whom had passed away before the “Play That Song Tour” commenced.

The tour, which features support from Natasha Bedingfield and O.A.R., runs through mid-July before Train takes off for the “Fuji Rock Festival” in Niigata, Japan.

If there’s one thing you can expect when Halsey kicks off her “Hopeless Fountain Kingdom” tour later this year, it’s this: fire.

“I’ve always been very extra with the fire,” the Washington, New Jersey-native told me last month. “Any chance I have to bring fire on my stage, I’m going to do it.”

Matter-of-fact, Halsey revealed to me that during her Billboard Music Awards performance rehearsal, she kept practicing the song over-and-over in part due to the fire that was planned for the set. She certainly didn’t mind the rehearsing; she was once hit with her own fireworks during a Coachella performance (Halsey escaped unscathed).

But besides the obvious visual, there is also a meaning behind the use of fire that relates to the singer’s chart-topping album.

“My record, ‘Hopeless Fountain Kingdom,’ is kind of about an underworld,” Halsey, born Ashley Frangipane, explained. “It’s kind of about this parallel universe where love conquers all. It’s a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ story so bringing in the fire is a really, really cool way for me to kind of rope my audience in to my universe that I’ve tried to create.”

Fans across the country will have the opportunity to witness that universe on the singer’s first-ever arena tour, although Halsey is no stranger to big rooms. She headlined and sold-out Madison Square Garden in 2016; the show went on-sale three weeks after her debut LP “Badlands” came out.

“The whole world went, ‘What do you think you’re doing? You just put out your album. You can’t play MSG,’” she recalled of critics’ initial reaction to the news. “That venue has always been the pinnacle of music for me.

“I was playing a show at Webster Hall. I was playing to 1,500 people (the night tickets for The Garden were released). And I walked up-stage and I got the news that we were about to sell-out Madison Square Garden.”

Halsey said that as amazing as she thinks the arena dates will be, it will be hard to top playing MSG, which she described as, “one of the best experiences of my life.”

She’ll find out when the tour kicks off at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut on September 29… her birthday.

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.”

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!







As the great philosopher Michael Gary Scott once stated, “Ain’t no party, like a Scranton party.”

And with that, let me tell you about my whirlwind weekend in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

I’ve had the honor of hosting a radio show on WBHT-FM for almost 10 years now. It was my first gig out of high school. And it let my career to places I never could have imagined (especially starting in Scranton, Pennsylvania). And last weekend, a new era of the station launched with its rebrand as “97.1/95.7 BHT” – a new name to reflect the 95.7 WBHD simulcast that covers the northern part of the market.

Straight off an all-nighter, I hopped aboard an 8:30 am bus out of Port Authority that didn’t get in to downtown Wilkes Barre until noon. I grabbed a venti Starbucks, headed to my hotel and grabbed a quick mile run on a treadmill. A hair, makeup and wardrobe change later I was out the door to my next stop: the radio station. I had to meet some new staffers, see a few familiar faces and prep for my return to WBRE-TV’s “PA Live.”

For years I checked in to the NBC affiliate’s lifestyle show with “The Ralphie Report,” a weekly recap of entertainment stories I was covering. It had been a while since I was on the show but the crew welcomed me back with open arms. I talked about the upcoming rebrand and promoted the big party later in the evening at The Woodlands.

The party lasted well in to the night, but I had to keep the train on the rails: a busy Saturday awaited me. In the span of a day I made four different stops, including PNC Field where I threw out the first pitch for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders game.


We ended the work day at La Tolteca, a Mexican restaurant that satisfied my Cinco de Mayo (Seis?) guac and marg cravings.

Following a quick visit to Mohegan Sun Pocono, I retired back to my room. Thankfully Sunday was a bit chiller: brunch, a bus back to the city and a nice 5.6 mile run in Central Park as the sun set on yet another eventful weekend.

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I certainly didn’t need another confirmation, but that Michael Scott sure hit the nail on the head.

The day after performing on “The Tonight Show” and the day before her new album “Lost On You” came out, LP stopped by to chat with me about her late night talk show appearance, the new record and the path from artist to songwriter and back to artist.

She started her career by teaming up with Semi Precious Weapons lead singer Justin Tranter and writing big hits for Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and Hailee Steinfeld to name a few. But since deciding to keep the song “Issues” for herself and become an artist, Julia Michaels has gotten to experience a whole new side of the music industry.

On Monday morning, she had the chance to check another box off the list: live TV. Michaels’ first time in front of the camera without the safety net of a pre-tape came on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” She and Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz revealed nominations for the 2017 Billboard Music Awards.

“A little nerve-wracking, I’m not going to lie,” Michaels told me of the experience backstage at GMA’s Times Square studios. “I have really bad performance anxiety. Apparently I can’t even talk without getting nervous!”

Michaels was thankful to have Wentz there though, a seasoned-pro at these things, to help her along. Despite Tranter penning FOB’s “Centuries,” it was the first time the two artists had met.

“He’s really calm,” she noted. “Super nice guy!”

Speaking of the nominations, The Chainsmokers and Drake took home the most, ever. Both acts tied the single-show nod record at 22 apiece. Twenty One Pilots checked in next on the list with 17, followed by Rihanna’s 14.

As for the aforementioned Bieber, he grabbed 7 – an impressive number considering the “Purpose” album cycle is finished. Michaels contributed to that LP; most notably co-writing “Sorry.”

“It was awesome,” Michaels said of her experience working on the album. “Actually, one of my favorite songs that I’ve written is a song called ‘The Feeling.’

“I wrote that after a break-up and I was talking to one of my friends, and I was just hysterically crying. And he was like, ‘OK, were you actually in love with him or were you in love with the feeling of being in love with him?’”

Immediately, the light bulb went off for Michaels. The song was co-produced by Skrillex and features singer Halsey, who coincidentally also scored 7 BBMA nods.

As for Michaels’ solo project, the singer is still pretty happy she made the decision to release the super-personal song “Issues” with her own voice. Michaels recently released the music video for the single and tells me that while originally thinking it would be followed by an EP, she may now opt for a full-length album because of the amount of writing she has done.

And yes, she’ll be at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards, which air Sunday night, May 21 at 8 pm live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Last weekend I made the trek up to Uncasville, Connecticut where my friends at Mohegan Sun invited me to head backstage at Mohegan Sun Arena and interview the band Bastille. It was the first time the GRAMMY-nominated quartet played the venue; lead singer Dan Smith and company were fresh in to the North American leg of the “Wild, Wild World Tour” in support of the band’s sophomore effort “Wild World.”

Here are five takeaways from my chat with the group, which was initially broadcasted live on Mohegan Sun’s Facebook page, with a bonus fan-submitted question answered on Twitter.

1.) If Bastille could pick one artist to collaborate with at the moment, it would be Rihanna. “We’ve been asked this for years. We keep saying Rihanna and we haven’t heard a word from her,” drummer Chris “Woody” Wood joked.

2.) Smith confirmed that just as the band released a companion remix album for “Bad Blood”, Bastille will give the same treatment to “Wild World.” “It’s just a question of finding the time,” he elaborated.

3.) Bastille is currently writing it’s third album on the road; they have a designated “Writing Room” backstage. Although last Friday, “Woody” primarily used the space more to play FIFA on Xbox than craft Bastille’s next big hit.

4.) The album art for “Wild World” was not snapped from One World Trade Center, but rather “an undisclosed building, somewhere, maybe.” Smith wouldn’t elaborate but did mention that the cover’s creation is actually a focal point in the show’s production (and I won’t elaborate because I don’t want to spoil it for someone who may be reading this in another part of the U.S. before the concert).

5.) General consensus amongst the band led the members to designate guitarist Will Farquarson as the laziest member of the group, although Smith did mention that there are different genres of lazy. We wanted him to elaborate on this too, but perhaps he didn’t feel like exerting himself?

Watch the full interview and bonus clip below.

I joined The PIX11 Morning News on Tuesday with Scott Stanford, Sukanya Krishnan and Ojinika Obiekwe to talk about new music from Pitbull, Drake and Rick Ross along with potential songs of the summer. We also chatted about an album that will be released posthumously by Chuck Berry’s family. Then at the end, Scott compared my looks to an artist we play quite a bit on the show. Check out the full segment below.

I joined “Chasing News,” which airs weeknights on Fox in New York and Philadelphia as well as weeknights on My 9 in New Jersey to chat about my recent interview with Vinny Guadagnino. The fine folks in the newsroom there were most-interested in the part of our conversation where we dove in to the current political climate surrounding President Trump.

Semi-related: If you ever wondered what my living room looked like… voila!