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For our second and final day inside Westwood One’s Backstage at the 2016 American Music Awards, we chatted with a bunch of stars, including a few performers for Sunday night’s AMAs. John Legend reminisced about his time as a church choir director in Scranton and revealed his Thanksgiving plans, The Chainsmokers talked about working in the studio with Coldplay’s Chris Martin and former “Glee” star Jane Lynch popped by to explain why she released a Christmas album. More photos, videos and audio interviews below.





Pizza for the weekend! Check out a brand new edition of “2 Slices & A Story” featuring Broadway star, actor extraordinaire, Glee alum and all-around great guy Darren Criss!

Darren Criss stopped by 95.5 to chat with Ralphie about the upcoming second annual Elsie Fest, taking place this Labor Day on Coney Island at the Ford Amphitheater. In addition to organizing the event, Criss will also perform at it. The former “Glee” star also chatted about his upcoming run on the “Hedwig And The Angry Inch” tour and what his plans are for the rest of the year.

Purchase your Elsie Fest tickets here.

Darren Criss knows this has never been done before, so he is well-aware that it may not work. But he’s betting on the passion of theatergoers and Broadway supporters to make his first ever “Elsie Fest” on Sunday a success.

“Basically what I’m trying to do here is sort of a Warped Tour of musical theater, cabaret tunes,” Criss explained to me in between rehearsals. “Just to kind of take everybody out of the concert hall, ditch the dinner jackets and the ties and kind of trade it for a t-shirt, jeans and a beer.”

For this reason, Criss chose outdoor venue JBL Live at Pier 97 as the inaugural setting. The lineup features the former “Glee” star along with Aaron Tveit (“Graceland,” “Catch Me If You Can”), Lea Salonga (“Mulan,” “Miss Saigon”), Laura Osnes (“Greece,” “Cinderella,”), Leslie Odom Jr. (“Hamilton”), Seth Rudetsky and StarKid.

In addition to the announced lineup, Criss teased that a number of surprise guests will be making appearances on stage. The festival is also running opposite Broadway Cares’ Broadway Flea Market (both events benefit the charity). Criss also invited Marie’s Crisis – the historic West Village piano bar – to run the beer garden on site.

The goal, reflecting the spirit of the theater community, is to create an event that everyone feels welcome at. But again, this has never been done before, and its creator is well-aware.

“Well, let’s hope so,” when I noted that there seems to be something at the festival for everyone. “We’re going to find out.”

Criss said at the beginning of our conversation that he was simply trying to keep his head screwed on to his body. In addition to creating and performing at a brand new festival, the actor is currently filming “American Horror Story: Hotel.”

“Not only do you get to be around Kathy Bates and Lady Gaga but it’s also, you walk on set and it’s this crazy looking set with all of these people in crazy looking outfits,” he explained. “You just can’t help but be swept up by the whole thing.”

Surely to fans’ delight, Criss does share scenes with Gaga.

“But not as many as I like,” he added with a laugh. Perhaps he had a hard time keeping his head screwed on after all.

Lea Michele released her new album Louder amidst a whirlwind press tour that included radio stations, “Kelly and Michael,” “Good Morning America,” and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”

“I’m so proud of him. I’m so happy for him,” Michele told “Ralphie Tonight” after taping with Fallon. “He’s like, the nicest guy!”

Michele joined Fallon once when he hosted “Late Night.”

“He sits and chats with you and just makes you feel so at home,” she said. “It was one of my favorite performances I think, but mainly because he’s so awesome.”

The “Glee” star chatted with “Ralphie Tonight” before her second of three album signings in the tri-state area. The promo tour continued on the west coast through the weekend.

“I just think that my background has been the best preparation and it’s given me such a solid ground,” Michele said of transitioning to a major label recording artist. “This is a really tough industry and it comes with a lot of pressure and stuff like that so I think coming from Broadway and then also going on to ‘Glee’; this has all be great preparation for this next phase of my life.”

Phase one included a leading role in the Broadway smash, “Spring Awakening.” Duncan Sheik (“Barely Breathing) scored the musical, although the two did not link up on Michele’s latest project

“I don’t even know where he is!” she joked. “I think he’s in London actually, right now.”

Close – Germany when we caught up Sheik a day after the interview. He was then headed to London before returning to New York.

Michele lived in New Jersey and New York before moving to California and landing on “Glee.”

“It definitely helped me learn how to be in the recording studio, how to record songs,” she said of her time playing Rachel Berry at William McKinley High School. “Working on ‘Glee’ really helped me to understand what the studio life was like, and then recording this album.”

Singing in to a microphone that is directly in front of you as opposed to singing to the back of the house was the biggest difference for Michele between performing on Broadway and recording this album. The California-resident will wrap up season five of “Glee” and then tour across venues overseas. Michele then returns stateside to film the sixth and final season of the FOX TV show before she possibly tours in the States.

Neon Trees lead singer Tyler Glenn enjoyed the “Glee” cover of “Everybody Talks,” but it wasn’t his favorite.

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“I liked the ‘Animal’ version better,” Glenn admitted in an interview on “The Ralphie Show.” “But its fun… we’re never going to stop someone from covering our music.”

Guitarist Chris Allen disagreed – favoring the latest performance to the previous. Drummer Elaine Bradley is just happy that the band’s music is still featured on the hit TV show.

“We want to be gracious,” she explained. “It’s flattering that they covered it.”

Neon Trees will be able to play its own tracks live for fans next year, when the band supports Maroon 5 on tour.

“Adam (Levine) and (James Valentine) saw us play a couple years ago… one of the Christmas shows, in Buffalo,” recalled Glenn. “Adam made a comment that we really reached for it and we just didn’t like play live and were boring so I think he liked that.”

Owl City will also join the bands for 31 dates. The trek begins in mid-February and runs through early April.

Despite their meteoric success, the members of the band Fun. find themselves staying true to their roots in multiple ways.

The first is the tour the band is currently on. Fun. sold out most of the shows scheduled before June before “We Are Young” became a huge anthem. Especially in a touring market that is struggling to find both stars and success stories, the business-savvy decision might have been to move the dates to larger venues. You lose the intimacy of the small set-ups but you can sell more tickets and put more money on the books.

Keyboardist Andrew Dost told me Fun. wasn’t having any of it.

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“They’ve supported us for years, without the success of ‘We Are Young,’ Dost said of Fun.’s fan base during a recent call in to “The Ralphie Radio Show.” “This tour we figured, let’s not move these venues up. Let’s leave it where it is. Let’s go have a party with all the people that have been singing along for years, and then in the summer we’ll meet some new friends along the way.”

Truth be told, I’m sure Fun. is meeting plenty of new friends at the moment. Dost called in to pre-tape our conversation last week – amidst a sound check with radio station winners, two meet-and-greets, seven phone interviews, and the second of a two night, sold out stand of shows at the legendary 9:30 Club in Washington D.C.

Essentially this is the result of “We Are Young” appearing on “Glee,” in a Super Bowl commercial, and being spun on radio stations from Los Angeles to the Empire State. But for Dost, the beauty of the new-found stardom is the opportunity to use the band’s platform for a greater good. Fun. is an advocate for equal rights and treatment of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender community. All three of the band members, including lead singer Nate Ruess and guitarist Jack Antonoff, are straight. But inspired by Lady GaGa, Fun. feels compelled to speak out against what it feels are injustices to the LGBT community.

“Any rights that are denied to anyone, should offend everybody,” Dost said, the interview taped before but airing after North Carolina’s vote to ban same-sex marriages. “[Lady GaGa] is not only an amazing artist, but she uses the fact that people are listening to her to say important things that need to be said.”

Fun. hopes that this new addition to its fan base will continue to listen, as the band just wrapped filming the music video for “Some Nights,” the title track and second single from its sophomore LP.

On WBRE’s “PA Live!” for this week’s “The Ralphie Report,” I played Paul Rodriguez’s comments on Kim Kardashian, talked about the recent indie-rock surge on “Glee,” and talked about an Entertainment Weekly interview with J.C. Chasez where he shot down an N’Sync reunion… again. It’s gonna be May!

Within the past seven months, Young the Giant has performed at the MTV “Video Music Awards” and had a song featured on the hit TV show, “Glee.” You could debate that the California-based indie rock band is becoming “mainstream.” It seems the band could care less what label others try to associate with its music, so long as people listen and enjoy it.

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“We don’t intend on being mainstream, we don’t intend on being super indie, we’re just us,” lead singer Sameer Gadhia told me on “The Ralphie Radio Show.” “We don’t discriminate; we’re very open with the application of the music.”

With “Cough Syrup” covered during a scene on “Glee” where a character almost commits suicide, Young the Giant found out that there are issues far greater than “mainstream” that the band’s music can help address.

“We were a little bit confused at first that [‘Glee’] would choose one of our songs,” admitted drummer François Comtois. “Then we received the treatment and saw that it was dealing with a subject that, not necessarily like close to home, but something super important for us.”

Comtois noted that the band is big on education, and cited bullying as something that can take its toll on the psyche of kids trying to learn and develop.

“It made it a lot easier for us to say yes at that point,” he continued. “We saw [the treatment] and it was just kind of like, ‘Oh of course.’ There’s no hesitation in a situation like that.”

Despite the fact that the band is still gaining new fans off its self-titled debut, Comtois said the band is already working on new material. Young the Giant is debuting three new songs each night of its current tour, which runs through the end of April. The group began working on the tracks during a three-month break prior to this current stretch of dates, and has other songs besides the three that are in various stages of completion.

Jennifer Lopez returned to the stage and Regis Philbin continued his goodbyes from the screen in what turned out to be a memorable weekend in celebration of Mohegan Sun’s 15th anniversary.

The Uncasville, CT resort hosted a tribute dinner to the TV icon Friday night. Philbin admitted to me that his pending departure from “Live!” is starting to dawn on him. But don’t worry, he didn’t become too serious about it.

“I feel like crying,” joked Philbin to me after the dinner. “I’m going back to my room and I’m going to cry, right now!”

Of course, no celebrity celebration is complete without a cake from Buddy Valastro. “The Cake Boss” presented Philbin on stage with a cake designed as a television. Valastro told me he baked the piece back in New Jersey.

“To bring (the cake) to Mohegan Sun is no problem,” Valastro explained. “We’ve delivered cakes out to Vegas, or L.A. That’s tough.”

The TLC star also brought a cake for the resort’s birthday. While appearances by the “Cake Boss,” Bobby Flay, Philbin, and cast members of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” were all big hits, it was Jennifer Lopez’s Saturday night performance inside Mohegan Sun Arena that proved to be the highlight of the weekend.

“She inspires me,” admitted “Glee” star Lea Michele, who caught the performance. “I look at her and I go, ‘I wanna do that. I wanna be like that.’”

It is that star power that put JLO at the top of the list for performers that Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum wanted to headline the weekend. The Chairman of the Mohegan Tribe Council told me that it wasn’t too uncommon for the resort to house an artist for a week, like Lopez, to accommodate for rehearsals, meals, and other needs.

“She’s the hottest thing out there right now, in more ways than one,” said Bozsum. “Between ‘American Idol’ and her new album and all the stuff she’s doing, I think she’s the number one artist in the country.”

Many other celebrities stopped by Mohegan Sun to take in Lopez’s performance, including New Kids on the Block singer Donnie Wahlberg, married couple Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minnillo, and Jaime Pressly. After the show, both Minnillo and Pressly offered rousing reviews of JLO’s show.

“It was awesome, it was incredible,” said Pressly. “Very entertaining.”