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In addition to a new live album that’s currently in production and slated for release later this year, Goo Goo Dolls lead singer John Rzeznik revealed to me that the band is also currently writing new music.

“You got to keep it going,” he told me inside Hackensack Meridian Health Stage 17. “You’ve got to move a lot quicker these days.”

In some sense, that’s why the Goo’s most recent body of original work was last year’s “You Should Be Happy,” an extended play rather than a full-length album.

“I had a couple new songs that I really liked, and we found some other stuff that we didn’t release and I was like, ’Well, let’s just put it out,’” he explained. “Then we went out and toured again and we had a great time.

“I’m still debating, ‘Do I do an EP? Do I do an album?’ What do you think?”

That wasn’t a rhetorical question by the way; my response somewhat echoed Rzeznik’s reasoning behind the EP, noting that amount of content and timing would ultimately be the factors. That certainly seems to have influenced the undertaking of the live album, a project that will eventually be served as a double-vinyl filled with various performances over “a couple-hundred shows.”

“It goes from places that are a thousand people up to like, 15,000 people,” he said. “It’s kind of interesting how the songs change around a little bit.”

Speaking of live performances, Rzeznik’s main reason for stopping by was to promote Friday night’s “Concert For Dreams” at Beacon Theatre, benefiting the Garden of Dreams Foundation. O.A.R. front man Marc Roberge, who received the charity’s 2018 Hero Award, personally asked him to participate.

“They’re like monsters; they’re crazy-talented musicians,” Rzeznik noted of O.A.R. “Yunno, (Goo Goo Dolls are) just a bunch of guys that learned how to play guitar in a garage.”

But hey, there’s something to be said for a couple of kids from Western New York with big dreams (ed note: I’m from Niagara Falls, New York so yes, I’m biased). And it’s pretty cool that four GRAMMY nominations and 12 million albums sold later, Rzeznik still values the importance of paying it forward.

“It’s a good thing; anything for kids is worth doing,” he said of working with Garden of Dreams, which helps kids throughout the tri-state area overcome obstacles.

Brendon Urie announced Wednesday that Panic! At The Disco will drop a new album this summer; a piece of work that he started thinking about well over a year ago.

“I’m literally trying to jump right in to the next record cycle,” is what Urie told me backstage at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut the night he kicked off the “Death Of A Bachelor Tour” in February 2017. “I know that seems crazy, but I have a bunch of ideas that I’ve been working on for the last couple of months and I’m seriously pursuing recording them in the next month or two.”

It definitely seemed, dare I say pretty odd, that he’d already be talking about album six just as he was kicking off the tour for LP number five. But as Urie spoke more it became clear that he had a plan in place for the next twelve months.

“I want to see what else outside of music I can get in to,” he continued during our chat, which streamed live on Mohegan Sun’s Facebook page. “Theater really interests me and acting really interests me. I’ve done a couple auditions a few years ago and they didn’t go so hot, so I want to try to redeem myself a little bit.”

Urie went on to do just that, starring in a run on Broadway of the Tony Award-winning musical “Kinky Boots.” On Wednesday night, the singer found himself within walking distance from Al Hirschfeld Theater. Panic! At The Disco performed its new single “Say Amen (Saturday Night)” in 30 Rock’s Studio 6B for “The Tonight Show.” As for the album, it’s called “Pray For The Wicked,” and comes out June 22. A supporting tour runs throughout North America from July 11 through mid-August.

Perhaps then we can inquire about lucky number seven.

On Wednesday I headed to Radio City Music Hall, where rehearsals were underway for the upcoming Garden Of Dreams Talent Show, a free event on March 27. The annual show offers kids who are overcoming obstacles in the tri-state area the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform on the great stage at Radio City.

The participants also receive tutelage from a number of celebrity mentors, including Sports Illustrated model and dancer Damaris Lewis. She chatted with us during the rehearsal about working with the kids and on their curiosity as to who she knows and has worked with.

Lewis and her fellow mentors will be back at Radio City to support the kids on March 27; the event starts at 7 p.m. and is open to the public.

Nina Nesbitt stopped by the Artist Lounge at Hackensack Meridian Health Stage 17 to chat about her new single, “Somebody Special,” her upcoming international debut album and how she recently scored a free meal thanks in part to… Britney Spears.

Demi Lovato played to her hometown on Wednesday night, headlining the American Airlines Center in Dallas alongside DJ Khaled. After her performance, the singer tweeted about the experience.

“Just played my hometown in Dallas in the arena I watched so many concerts in growing up and I feel like crying,” she wrote to her 55 million-plus followers. “There were so many people, people were watching from BEHIND the stage!!! I can’t thank you guys enough for the love… truly grateful.”


Lovato has been cognizant of moments like these for years. When I chatted with her in the summer of 2013, the artist talked about how happy she was for her peers, especially Selena Gomez.

“I’ve known (Selena) since I was seven years old,” Lovato explained. “We went from being in the backseat of a car with her parents driving us to a radio show to listen to our favorite artists that were on the radio at the time to us having songs on the radio.”


And of course, performing those shows as well. Lovato’s reflection came on the eve of “International Women’s Day,” which the United Nations marks annually on March 8. According to the UN, the Day is marked, “to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.”

Through music, activism, advocacy and philanthropy, Lovato continues to set a positive example for not just her fan base, but women across the world. And on Wednesday night, her hometown witnessed that yet again.

Hailee Steinfeld performed Wednesday night on Long Island at a vigil for a 16 year-old that died last week in a terrible accident. Leah Kuczinski was a student at New Hyde Park Memorial High School and was a huge fan of Steinfeld’s; she even had tickets and meet-and-greet passes to see the artist later this year.

So as the school planned out Wednesday night’s vigil, Tiffany Salcedo decided to start an online campaign in an attempt to get Steinfeld to attend it. The Spanish teacher’s tweet went viral. Students at the school followed suit by taking to social media and flooding the Academy Award-nominated actress’ accounts with mentions, in addition to imploring for the help of others in the music industry.

Those gathered at the school’s football field didn’t suspect anything regarding Steinfeld when a guitar began to play during the vigil. It was the opening notes of “Starving,” Steinfeld’s hit that she collaborated on with Zedd and Grey. Hailee performed an acoustic version of the song before meeting with Salcedo and a few of Leah’s closest friends.

Coincidentally enough, Steinfeld told me last May that the origin of that song can be traced back to social media; a fan tweeted her and suggested she and Zedd collaborate on a song. The final result went three times platinum in the U.S., top 10 in five different countries and cracked the top 5 at pop radio.

But perhaps most importantly, it brought a smile and a few tears of joy to a grieving community on Wednesday evening in a gesture of class and kindness that surely no one will ever forget.

Rihanna turned 30 on Tuesday and to celebrate the superstar’s birthday, I threw it back on the radio show to one of the most embarrassing moments of my career. It was May 2008; my program was only airing in Scranton, Pennsylvania at the time. Good ‘ole Cousin Tony was in town visiting and we had a lot planned – a trip to New York on Saturday to see the Yankees and then a doubleheader on Sunday: PNC Field for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees game against the Pawtucket Red Sox and then up the road to The Pavilion At Montage Mountain for Kanye West’s “Glow In The Dark Tour” featuring N.E.R.D., Lupe Fiasco and Rihanna.

I was also scheduled to interview the “Pon De Replay” singer before she took the stage. Our record label rep, Nicki, brought me and my colleague Adam backstage for our chat. I had a five minute window.

The interview started on a great note; Rihanna was in a fantastic mood. But the worst thing possible happened after one question: the MiniDisc I was using died. I brought backup batteries and extra discs. After I replaced each I attempted to restart the interview. And by the fourth restart, sitting across from *Rihanna,* I made the call that we would just film and use the audio from Adam’s digital camera, which he thankfully brought.

There are a few things I’ll always remember about that experience: how kind Rihanna was, how patient Nicki was, using MiniDisc for the final time in my career and taking up so much time in the process that Rihanna couldn’t do another interview scheduled after mine. She went right from our photo-op to the stage, and slayed it.

The last noteworthy moment came as I walked out of Rihanna’s dressing room. We saw and snapped a photo with her boyfriend, who happened to be there… Chris Brown.

Back in 2016, I was chatting with David Cook during our broadcast backstage at The 58th GRAMMY Awards. That previous November I saw David headline Gramercy Theater, and hung out backstage with him and the legendary Steven Van Zandt after the show. Just a few months after, we were talking about the performance and Cook described to me why of his top 10 shows, at least half of the list is comprised of New York City dates.

“There’s just no pretense,” he explained. “If you’re bad, they’re going to let you know. And if you hit it, they’re going to let you know. I love that honesty.”

Later in the conversation, we were talking about Cook’s pending return to “American Idol,” the show that catapulted him to stardom. While he was in LA that week, Cook was taping a segment for the competition, which was in its final season on Fox. He mentioned running in to another “Idol” alum, Constantine Maroulis. So off the cuff, I asked Cook if he’d ever consider Broadway.

“They are some of the most grandiose productions, they’re amazing,” the singer said of the shows he attended. “If the opportunity came up and it was the right role, hell yeah I’d do it, for sure.”

About two years later, the opportunity came up and the role was right. Billboard broke the story on Thursday that Cook will make his Broadway debut in “Kinky Boots.” He’ll play the role of Charlie Price, the son of the factory owner who takes over his father’s business.

Cook’s run commences April 3 and goes through May 5. His new EP, “Chromance,” is out today (Friday).

Pete Holmes is out to showcase a trait of the comedy world that few outsiders ever experience: compassion.

“I think we’re seeing a little bit of the true side of comedians which is that we are, under whatever gruff exterior there is, pretty sweet people,” Holmes told me in an interview for DISH Network’s DISH Studio to promote season two of his HBO series, “Crashing,” which he co-created and stars in. Holmes quickly added, “That’s not everybody. I’m not crazy. Every group has different types.”

But through this show, which is loosely based around Holmes’ real life, he aims to demonstrate how “this unlikely community shows love in unlikely ways.”

“In my experience, people are rooting for their friends, they band together and they care about each other,” he continued. “And, if that’s not your experience and you’re watching this, maybe get new friends. I mean, that’s not bad advice.”

And ironically enough, while Holmes advises against surrounding yourself with less toxic people, the person most prevalent in his life on-camera for the first two seasons is comedian Artie Lange.

“You might have an idea of Artie, like ‘He probably just cares about himself,’ and ‘He’s just a comedian and they just care about money or success.’

“I have experienced many times in my life, with Sarah (Silverman) in real life, with Artie on the show, is that these people can open up to you. And I love sharing that secret.”

Season two of “Crashing” is currently on HBO, with new episodes airing every Sunday night.

When you ask Vance Joy about the celebrities he encountered while touring with the world’s biggest pop star, the first people he brings up are Taylor Swift’s backup dancers. Then Joy will mention the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team and eventually you’ll get a funny anecdote about telling his friend’s father that he once met Julia Roberts.

That is Joy in a nutshell. He’s a tall, good-looking guy with an Australian accent that can sing and play guitar; he can effortlessly command any room he’s in. The artist has a successful album with a big hit already under his belt and he played stadiums across the country with the aforementioned Swift. Yet none of it has seemed to affect Joy much. The singer, nee James Keogh, is still a kind and unassuming person who will even on occasion (and by accident) introduce himself by his birth name.

Joy is blessed with many talents, one being the ability focus on what matters and not take the rest of it too seriously.

“The most important thing is just songwriting and dedicating a lot of time and focus to the craft,” Joy responded when I asked what he learned from his first album that he’s bringing in to “Nation Of Two,” due out February 23. “It can be hard and it can be frustrating but you have to keep pushing and the songs will eventually come.”

There are four songs out ahead of the LP, including the lead single “Lay It On Me,” which he performed acoustic for us at Hackensack Meridian Health Stage 17. Joy noted that the tracks were chosen because of how they represent his body of work, with special attention given to tempo.

“I’m proud of all of the songs, but those are probably the most upbeat,” he explained. “Those are the ones I wanted to show first, and then some of the slower songs I think will sink in to people over time.”

His fans will have a chance to hear them live as well, as shortly after our chat Joy announced a massive world tour, with dates in North America kicking off April 13.