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For day three of our broadcast with Westwood One Backstage at The 59th GRAMMYs we chatted with a bunch of current and former nominees while also speaking with a few friends-of-the-show. It was great to see Train’s Pat Monahan and Gavin DeGraw. I also interviewed Lukas Graham for the second time; the first time was at The GRAMMYs last year and now they’re up for three awards including Record and Song Of The Year, plus they’ll perform with Kelsea Ballerini. Noah Cyrus stopped by and compared me to her dad, LeAnn Rimes remembered her big GRAMMY wins from 20 years ago and Charli XCX explained how she chooses to collaborate with people before I brought up Selena Gomez to her.








This is my second-to-last “2 Slices & A Story” for season one and this episode is sentimental. I thought of the concept for this series on a random Saturday afternoon in the city over lunch with Marc Scibilia (ironically we were not eating pizza; he brought me to this great spot downtown called Cafe Habana). Marc and I were talking about each other’s respective careers and kind of going through an impromptu brainstorming session when I started hashing out the idea for something like this.

It was only a few weeks later when we filmed the first one with the great David Cook.

Of course if anyone knows pizza, it’s someone like Marc who like me, grew up in Western New York. So I’m glad that during his tour with Jon Mclaughlin he was able to swing by and tape this.

Friend-of-the-show Marc Scibilia stopped by to talk about the endless tour he’s on with some amazing tourmates, from Gavin DeGraw and Andy Grammer to Michael Franti and Jon McLaughlin. Scibilia also talked about working with Jacob Whitesides and preparing to record new music later this year.
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Andy Grammer needed to figure out how he was going to follow up 2014’s “Magazines or Novels,” his sophomore album which included his biggest hit to date, “Honey I’m Good.” So he decided to try out a new approach.

“Coming off the last two singles (also ‘Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)’) which were both pretty up-tempo, high energy… there was no higher to go,” Grammer explained on my radio show over the phone. “You can’t throw more of the kitchen sink in to a song.

“This one is my first single that I feel like lets the audience come to me a little bit. I’m really excited about it.”

“Fresh Eyes” serves as the first single from Grammer’s forthcoming third studio LP and sonically reflects his west coast home more than his east coast roots. The song is super laid back and Grammer’s voice doesn’t jump many octaves as he sings about a stranger that he is smitten for.

The track is certainly a departure from “Honey” but almost literally a product of it; Grammer’s gift to himself after the success of his second album was baby blue electric guitar.

“It’s my first (single) that I’ve done mostly on electric guitar,” he revealed. “I went in (a store) and picked up every guitar and amp for like, four hours and I left with this baby blue nucleus for my third album.”

If you’re checking out Grammer on tour this year, you’ll get a chance to see the axe in person. He plans on bringing the instrument out for his supporting gig with Train followed by his co-headlining jaunt with Gavin DeGraw. Of course, Train recently covered the “Led Zeppelin II” album, donating proceeds from sales to a charity that benefits kids fighting cancer. So if Grammer were to pick one act to offer the cover treatment to, who would it be?

“I think it would be dope to re-do an old Billy Joel album,” he replied, also noting that he doesn’t know the Piano Man (although his tour mate DeGraw has served as Joel’s opening act on a regular basis. “I guess I’d have to make the album first and then reach out.”

Besides his upcoming tours, Grammer will be spending the rest of the year working on his own project though. The “Keep Your Head Up” singer is bringing an extra tour bus on the road with him so he can continue to create the album. Grammer hopes that the LP drops after the first of the year.

“That’s what’s so fun about this game is that everything just keeps being new,” he said. “When you do one thing that works, like it’s done. Your brain has to come up with something different. That’s the whole artistic thing. It’s been completely fun and reinvigorating on this album to be doing something totally different.”

As Grammer tours the country and continues to work on his new album, he’ll also have the chance to find out if his fans feel the same way.

My Thanksgiving tradition: Waking up early, walking a few blocks to Central Park West, chatting with some friends who are performing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and snapping a few photos and videos the floats.
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A big thanks to Macy’s along with Rachel Platten, Pat Monahan, Brendon Urie, Questlove, Shawn Mendes, Prince Royce, Trey Songz and Spongebob Squarepants.

In an interview taped prior to the release of Train’s seventh studio album “Bulletproof Picasso,” Pat Monahan and Jimmy Stafford sat down in the MLB Fan Cave for MLB.com to chat with me about the band’s new music and love for San Francisco and its Giants.


The audio portion of this interview aired on “Ralphie Tonight” following the Giants’ series win over the Nationals to advance to the NLCS. To watch the interview and Train’s MLB Fan Cave Concert, click here.

Gavin DeGraw does not take the job of naming his albums lightly.

“It’s funny because when you go through and you try to figure out what to name an album… I was going through going ‘Maybe I’ll go through and I’ll pick a song title to name the album after yunno?’” said DeGraw of the initial thought process behind Make A Move. “You start seeing how one song title might be misinterpreted as an album title; how it could go all wrong.”

The “Chariot” singer mentioned the song “Leading Man,” and how he felt it was a cool song title but would’ve sounded “totally douche-y” as the name of the LP.

“I thought Make A Move was a good choice,” DeGraw said of his eventual selection. “It was the type of thing that couldn’t necessarily be misinterpreted too poorly.”

The release marks the artist’s fifth studio album and first since 2011’s Sweeter, which spawned the hit “Not Over You.” The lead single “Best I Ever Had” certainly sets the tone for a different sound of DeGraw’s.

“This is definitely a step towards another direction,” DeGraw admitted. “There are songs on this album that I think are reflective of Chariot, but at the same time there are other songs on this album that really do feel almost as if it’s a completely different artist, which is something I’m really proud of.”

But outside of the studio, the singer is still pretty easy-going and down for a good laugh. He revealed that Michael Franti was joking about his “soccer skills” on “The Ralphie Show” because DeGraw is the type of guy “who kind of likes to walk in to the group when people are kicking a ball around and grab it and just punt it as far as I can.”

The move itself could have been left open to misinterpretation but both DeGraw and Franti seemed to enjoy chatting about it, and meeting each other for the first time while supporting Train on the road.

Michael Franti is known to his fan base for his philanthropy and philosophy as much as his music. Franti might be the last artist that you would think to hear shout out Jay Z and Beyonce in a song. But, the San Francisco singer does just that on the track “I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like).” The gesture took at least one fan by surprise.

“(The fan) was coming at it from this political angle,” recalled Franti during an interview that aired Monday night on “The Ralphie Show.” “I was like, ‘Should I shout out like (Vladimir) Putin and (Bashar al-) Assad?’”

Franti does not believe that name-checking the presidents of Russia and Syria would have been more appropriate. Rather, the singer attempted to use the situation to dispel a misnomer about him and his music.

“I write songs about every aspect of life,” he explained. “Politics is one of them. I care about what’s happening in the world as much as I always have. Not every day, do I wake up in the morning and turn on CNN or whatever and follow the 24 hour news cycle. I get up like everybody else. I make breakfast for my son and I get him to school and I pick him up afterwards. I want to make music that goes for people’s 24 hour life cycle, not just the 24 hour news cycle.”

Without directly addressing it, Franti perhaps also fully explained the title of his band’s latest LP, All People. The group released the album in July and promoted it while touring with Train and Gavin DeGraw. Franti has a massive amount of respect for Pat Monahan and his band, who the “Say Hey” singer first met over 15 years ago back in San Francisco. The trek was Franti’s first encounter with DeGraw.

“Gavin is an awesome guy; horrible soccer player, he’s the worst soccer player, but he’s an incredible guy,” joked Franti. “He’s pretty athletic, it’s just soccer is not one of his things.”

We’ll refrain from the puns we could drop about Gavin not being able to “Follow Thru” on the field or noting that we “Don’t Wanna Be” stuck on his team. Instead, note that Franti and Spearhead will tour up until the holidays, and are also enlisting the help of Monahan and others for a new foundation called, “Do It For The Love.” Franti and his partner Sara started the organization to help send people with advanced stages of life threatening illnesses, kids with disabilities, and wounded veterans to see some of their favorite artists live. More info is available here.

The band Train takes its “Mermaids of Alcatraz” tour to Dallas this weekend. Pat Monahan was looking forward to hanging out with two old friends: Columbia Records EVP Lee Leipsner and radio host Kidd Kraddick.

But the beloved host of “Kidd Kraddick In The Morning” died over the weekend at the age of 53. Monahan, along with his band mates Scott Underwood and Jimmy Stafford, were saddened by the news.

“Kidd has been a big supporter of Train for our whole career,” Monahan noted in an interview which aired Monday evening on “The Ralphie Show.” “He’s been in this business a lot longer than we have.”

The timing of Kraddick’s passing hurt Monahan even more.

“Any loss is sad, but to know you were moments away from seeing an old friend, and now you can’t,” the lead singer said. “Our hearts go out to his family.”

Leipsner told All Access that the band will pay tribute to Kraddick on Saturday at the Gexa Energy Pavilion. Train is currently playing outdoor venues with The Script and Gavin DeGraw in tow. Also sharing the stage with the San Francisco-based artists is country singer/songwriter Ashley Monroe. The songstress is featured on the next single from California 37, “Bruises.”

“We asked (Ashley) two years ago to sing ‘Bruises’ with us,” Monahan revealed. “We didn’t know if (95.5 PLJ) and stations like that around the United States would embrace a country artist.”

So far, so good. The “Hey, Soul Sister,” singer is pleasantly surprised.

“It’s our favorite song on the record,” he said. “The fact that people are responding to it the way that they are… it’s a great ending to this album cycle.”

With that, Monahan also breaks the news that this fourth single from the LP will likely be the last. Train’s proper tour ends in mid-August. The band will play a handful of fairs and festivals through September 1, and then gear up for the “Sail Across The Sun Cruise” next February.

A band is only going as far as its lead singer can take it. In the case of Train, that explains the seemingly non-stop run that the trio has been on since 2009. Front man Pat Monahan is one of the most durable singers in the business; known for performing two acoustic showcases and a full band live set in a day’s work. But as Monahan found out last week, he is still human.

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“I had to get on this steroid,” revealed Monahan of medical treatment he received after he essentially burned out during a stretch of holiday show performances. “I’ve never had to do before. I’ve heard about other singers doing it but, I just was incapable of singing.”

Not wanting to cancel on Train’s fans, the physical ailment didn’t stop Monahan from trying. But once the singer lost his voice mid-show in Tennessee, he knew that it was time to seek help.

“I’m in the league of, the more I use (my voice), the better it gets,” he explained. “It’s more like practice than it is singing incorrectly.”

Monahan has used his voice quite a bit as of recent, and not just for performing in arenas. In addition to a hectic year-end schedule that included a guest spot during the Miss Universe Competition, a music video shoot for “Mermaid” and a collaboration with the “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition,” Train recently stopped by Sandy-ravaged Sea Bright, NJ. The band performed for storm victims at the local fire hall to raise awareness and funds for the recovery efforts. Footage of the show will be broadcasted Christmas Day on VH1.

“Before what happened in Connecticut, (Sandy) was the one, profound heartbreaking event in my life,” Monahan said. “Sea Bright was closed down. You couldn’t even get in. There were places that were on the beach that are now behind buildings. There’s not one business that works currently. Many people don’t have homes. Everything is bad there.”

It seems the benefit show affected Monahan positively, as he hinted at possibly lending a helping hand (or voice) to Newtown, Conn. in 2013.

“My pursuit is not to make more and more money,” Monahan said. “It’s to make a difference in somebody’s life.”

Monahan continued, citing the letters he received from people who were moved by “Hey, Soul Sister.”

“I don’t know how to write about these events and make people feel better, but man I have to do something,” he said. “I certainly would like it to be better for people.”