Category Archives: Guitarist

Guitarist in the Spotlight: Agam Timor of the Barns Courtney Band

Agam Timor
Guitarist Agam Timor shot by Monika Wilczynska

While the frontman in a band usually gets most, if not all, of the media’s attention, the bands we love would not be what they are without the integral contributions of the rest of the members. When it comes to the guitar stylings and overall musical contributions of Israeli musician Agam Timor, his are ones that deserve exponential recognition.

You may know Timor as the lead guitarist for the Barns Courtney band, whom he’s been touring the globe with for the past year. Signed to Capitol Records, the band has skyrocketed to international acclaim in recent years with sold out shows and several of their singles topping the charts.

“After so many gigs together, almost every night, it creates a really warm environment, like a family,” says Timor.

Timor’s rhythmic fluidity, precision on the guitar, and mesmerizing stage presence have proven to be a powerful addition to the Barns Courtney band, just as they have for a long list of other bands over the years. While Timor’s talent has helped bring him into the spotlight, his success didn’t just happen overnight. It’s the result of years of dedication and an inexhaustible passion for what he does.

Growing up in Tel Aviv, Israel, Timor discovered his love for music at the budding age of 6. Quickly picking up the violin, piano and saxophone, his passion for music grew, but it was upon discovering his connection with guitar that he found his true love.

“Since I was 12 I never put the guitar down,” admits Timor. “I immediately fell in love with it.”

Most Israeli citizens living in Israel serve in the military at some point in their lives, and while Timor is no different, he served the country in a rather unique capacity. During his three year military service he was the guitarist and arranger for Israel’s military band.

Timor says, “I enjoyed the fact that although people from different places can be very different, love different things and going through different experiences in life before joining the army . They can still go through a similar experience while watching the show, at the end of the day, people want to feel something. They want to feel the energy and forget about the tough day they had on the base”

After completing his military service Timor was free to take his musicianship to new heights and it wasn’t long before he became a national sensation in Israel. He would go onto share stages with some of the country’s most idolized talents, including singer and actress Ruthi Navon, Momi Levi and Moran Mazor, who competed in Israel’s Eurovision Song Contest, Chen Aharoni, who appeared on The X Factor UK, The X Factor Israel and Kokhav Nolad (Israel’s version of American Idol), vocalist Meital De Razon, and many more. Timor would also go on to perform as the house guitarist on the hit series The X Factor Israel, in the hit musical “Mary Lou,” as well as on Sports Channel 5 Israel, where he played the morning show hosted by Slutzki and Dominguez. Timor actually played the morning show on more than one occasion, often being called in to  play a few songs each time with a new rising artist, and then chatting with the hosts on air about life and music.

Agam Timor
Agam Timor shot by Arielle Kassulke

“I assume that any musician that keeps practicing and listening to music eventually would play great. The difference between being a professional and an amateur is pretty much the attitude and the amount of dedication one has to the project, always aim higher and keep evolving your craft,” says Timor.

Though there is definitely substantial truth in the age old saying ‘practice makes perfect,’ few will make it quite as far as Timor has over the span of his short life no matter how much they practice. At age 26, he has already proven himself to be among the world’s top guitarists. With his virtuosic talent, it’s not surprising that Timor was accepted to the Berklee College of Music, one of the most competitive music schools out there. Not only was he accepted, but he was given a scholarship, a rare award that few receive, and in 2018 he went on to graduate Summa Cum Laude.

While Timor’s strength and versatility as a guitarist has led him to be tapped to play with a pretty long list of heavy hitters in the music industry, it’s not the spotlight that drives him to perform. Behind the scenes, he is a powerhouse when it comes to writing and arranging music, and he’s used his talents in that area to create music for other artists over the years. In 2014 he worked alongside legendary producer Luis Lahav on the album for artist Or Colenberg.

“For this project I recorded all the guitars and arranged the album with my colleagues Amit Shtriker and Tom Lahav. I will never forget this project and how much we felt involved in the recorded music,” recalls Timor. “The most incredible thing is to add your own personal taste to someone else’s music and watch it become something whole.”

Another project that Timor holds dear to his heart was when he recorded the album Beit-Aba with the artist Doron Raphaeli, the founder of the popular music group Tararam.

“We spent days in the studio working on this album, I especially remember the day when we recorded the guitar solo for ‘Aguim’ that it was so late at night and Doron fell asleep in the control room while the engineer and I finished recording the song.”

With a plethora of cultural influences and experience playing diverse genres such as pop, funk, r&b, blues-rock, gospel, middle-eastern, fusion and jazz, Timor brings the full-package to the table as both a guitarist and arranger.

“When I work with artists, I first try to understand their character and what I can add from my perspective that would complement their music. When I succeed in doing that I feel that’s when the artist is being satisfied the most. Add your flavor to the same field.”

Last year Timor made another huge mark in the Israeli music industry when he was tapped to compose the intro for Omer Adam’s show, which was the first concert to be performed at the Sammy Ofer Stadium and was a sold out success. Having competed on the series Kokhav Nolad, and releasing four hit albums over the last few years, Omer Adam is arguably one of Israel’s most famous contemporary artists.

Timor admits, “I got amazing comments about the musical intro to his show and how much it enhanced Omer’s character as an artist.”

Though playing in shows such as the celebrated Israeli musical “Mary Lou” have led Agam Timor to become a celebrity in Israel, and his role in the Barns Courtney Band has led him to play in front of hundreds of thousands of fans across the globe, what Timor enjoys most is the simple art of creating music.

Guiding his life and career by the famous quote, “Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life,” Timor is an inimitable pro at doing what he loves and doing it in a big way.

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Bassist Yasutaka Nomura talks Smokey Lenses’ new highly-anticipated album

Yastuaka Nomura is lucky enough to love what he does. There is no “back to work grind” that so many face on a Sunday night for him, or dull days filled with no real feeling of accomplishment. His job gives him joy, a sense of purpose, and adrenaline rushes. That is the life of a professional musician.

Having worked with several bands, such as Mammoth, Squanky Kong, and Voodoo Kungfu, Nomura has worked on a wide variety of genres for a professional musician. He enjoys this, not wanting to pigeon-hole himself into one specific type of music. The guitarist and bassist is recognized for his undeniable versatility and talent, which is why when the Indie Rock/Alternative band Smokey Lenses was looking for a bassist, he knew he had to be a part of it.

“I wanted to work with Smokey Lenses because I liked the songs, but also because the music they play is something I usually don’t get to play, even though I always liked listening to that kind of music and I always wanted to play it with a band with original material. I was very excited when they asked me to play in the band,” said Nomura. “I usually don’t get to play the kind of music that Smokes Lenses plays so I was inspired to do a completely different musical approach than I usually do in my other projects. I was definitely a new challenge for me.”

Initially, Nomura had heard the band was looking for a new bass player for their album recording through his friend Aliyar Kinik, the drummer of Nomura’s band Mammoth. The band’s drummer needed a substitute and Kinik was filling in. He mentioned to the band that he new a good bassist, and after hearing Nomura, they knew they had to have him.

“Recording the album was great. We recorded total of 12 songs and I’m happy with all of them. The songs were already great before arranging but I think the work of the band is making the songs sound even better. I can’t wait for the album to be released and to listen to it,” said Nomura.

When recording the album, they did all the basic tracks live at once, with everyone in the same room. This is not a common way of recording. Because of using this style, the tracks have a lot of energy and organic feeling, according to Nomura. Recording like this allows there to be more energy, with better dynamics and conversation between each band member, just like a live show.

“It was awesome. I barely knew the band members at first but we got along very quickly. Everyone in the band was very easy to work with and fun people. We always had a great time at the recording sessions. I cannot wait to work with them again,” said Nomura.

The album is expected to be released later this summer, which is highly-anticipated due to the release of the first single Candle Glow, which was released May of last year. The single received positive reviews and was featured by popular music blogs like Speak Into My Good Eye, That New Jam, and Revolution Tunes.

Candle Glow is definitely one of my favorite songs from this album. It has a nice catchy melody and lyrics. I’m really happy with the recording too,” said Nomura. “The success it has seen since being released is great. We started off the album recording with this song. It was the first time I could even play with the band since our schedule didn’t match before the first recording session, but I think we were already locked in at the first session.”

As a guitarist and bassist, Nomura typically plays progressive rock, metal, funk, R&B, jazz, and fusion. He says progressive rock and metal require a lot of technique, with the sense of odd meters and solid timing. Funk and R&B require a nice 16th note time feel and a good sense of call. Jazz and Fusion require great skill with improvisation, nice swing, 16th note feel, pocket and of course sophisticated technique. The music that Smokey Lenses plays is far different from these genres. It doesn’t require either an amazing technique or the skill of improvisation but a good time feel/pocket on mostly 8th note beat, importantly the skill to stay on the groove and not overplay, technically speaking. Many musicians so familiar with other genres would have found themselves overplaying and not staying on the groove, which would interfere with the vocal melody. This was not the case for Nomura. He even tried to sing on everything he played on bass. His adaptability was appreciated by the band, who may not have been able to make the album or see the success that they say with Candle Glow without Nomura.

“Yasutaka is very professional and easy to work with. The work process went smoothly and he produced exceptional results. Yasutaka is a professional musician, so he understands the importance of being excellent at his craft and has a dense knowledge of music theory. He is respectful, focused, observant and learns extremely quickly,” said Singer and Guitarist Adam Oberst.

With talent like this, there is no doubt Nomura will continue to come through our speakers for years to come. Listen to Nomura’s work and Smokey Lenses’ song Candle Glow here.

Check out Nomura’s YouTube, Instagram, and Soundcloud to hear more.

THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE OF MASTERY TRANSLATES GERMAN INTO CELTIC

Almost every aspiring musician has this dream; a huge band playing a show at a gigantic venue suddenly needs someone to fill in for a show, then they like you so well that they ask you to stay on the gig. It never happens, right? Wrong. Yes, it’s the stuff that dreams are made of but it does happen from time to time. The part that isn’t so highly glamorized is the crammed preparation and the nerves that can make one “lose their lunch” hoping that you’ll make it through that first gig without everything crashing down on top of you (to say nothing of those dreams in which you arrive to school only discovering you are only wearing underwear). The true music professional can only hope that his years of preparation have honed their instincts to a point where all will be fine. A great example of this is the tale of German guitarist Stefan Hillesheim. As a celebrated Blues, Rock, and Jazz guitarist in his homeland Stefan was enjoying a fulfilling life as a musician when he was asked to fill in for the internationally popular Celtic Dreams. The incredibly popular touring musical show Celtic Dreams features a unique mix of modern rock with traditional Scottish, Irish, and Celtic folk music, with an eclectic mix of dancers and other visual performers. Celtic Dreams regularly perform to sold-out audiences all over the world, and have been the subject of many press articles in Europe and abroad.

Celtic Dreams tour manager was in a high pressure situation when the guitarist for the show was suddenly unable to perform. This extremely popular show relied on the professional execution of the complicated musical pieces to excite the audience and support the dancers and other performers. The guitarist was essential to every performance due to the fact that Celtic Dreams takes on a contemporary rock influence with their traditional music, making it more accessible to a wide age range of audience members. The fact that the music was quite complicated and required flawless execution of the many transitions from piece to piece further exasperated the situation. Celtic Dreams tour manager Oliver Stahl needed to find not just “a guitarist” but, “an amazing guitarist” who could read complex charts and play shows to huge audiences with basically no rehearsal. Luckily for Stahl, he was in Germany and was able to contact Stefan Hillesheim. Although not focused on traditional Irish music, Hillesheim was particularly enabled to take on the task of this music for Celtic Dreams as he reveals, “I started listening to Irish folk bands like the Dubliners, the Pogues and the Fureys when I was about eight years old. My Uncle is the lead Singer and Guitarist of the well-traveled Irish folk band Limerick. My Parents took me to his concerts from my early childhood on. When I started playing electric guitar in my early teens, I really got into Gary Moore and Rory Gallagher (both are Irish guitar legends). I love the way they combine traditional celtic music with Blues and Rock.” As an accomplished and lauded guitarist in Germany who also possessed an understanding of the inherent lilt of traditional Irish music, Stefan was an easy choice to fill in for Celtic Dreams. Oliver Stahl comments, “Stefan performed as a lead musician and guitarist on multiple occasions for Celtic Dreams. His knowledge of both modern rock styles and traditional Celtic folk music made him perfectly suited for us. I truly could not have asked for a more versatile musician. Stefan was with us for multiple performances, all of which were held in major venues in large cities. I must note how versatile a musician Stefan is and how this added to the success of each of these shows. His ability to jump between and blend styles on both acoustic and electric guitar (and occasionally bass) was astounding! It brought a fantastic energy to each of our performances. The shows that Stefan played in were performed to sold out audiences and I’m positive that his playing was a major factor in garnering these huge

audiences as well as the press and great reviews. Stefan played a lead role in ensuring the success of every show he performed and has been an essential player in boosting Celtic Dreams reputation and success as a whole. Stefan is known throughout Germany as an incredibly skilled and accomplished musician who has made a name for himself as both a session player and bandleader.”

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While Stahl was nervous until he found Hillesheim, Stefan’s uneasiness began at this time. You could almost say that Stahl “gifted” his concerns to Hillesheim. That’s not to say the guitarist wasn’t excited to play with Celtic Dreams…quite the opposite. Stefan was contacted three days prior to his first performance with the band and had to learn three hours of music; including medleys and complicated transitions. Daunting task ahead of him, as a true professional, Hillesheim understood that the production was depending on him to fit perfectly into an ensemble that was already running smoothly. In respect to the music, Stefan wanted to play authentically stating, “Every genre of music has its appropriate vocabulary. When you play Irish or Scottish music you have to stick with certain clichés because this kind of music has a long tradition. Even though there is room for interpretation and improvisation, it wouldn’t be authentic if certain elements were missing. For example, the typical triplet based rhythmic in Irish step/tap dance music is the foundation of this musical language and is a requirement. For traditional Celtic Folk tunes like ‘Scarborough Fair’ or ‘Star of the County Down’, I would definitely play an acoustic guitar because that is what people expect and want to hear. Modern Irish music like the Corrs or the Cranberries often features electric guitar so that would be my weapon of choice in that case. Overall it depends on the ‘Vibe’ of a song. I play the instrument that fits the song best and compliments the singers as much as possible rather than playing what I personally prefer, even if that sometimes means committing to a less ‘flashy’ or interesting guitar part.”

Hillesheim is more often seen performing in a Blues club (with popular German band BlueSide), at a large outdoor musical festival, or even at major concert venues (as he did recently with Liquid Blue at the Staples Center in Los Angeles) but all of these ensembles are the contemporary Blues or Rock bands with which he is more commonly known to perform. Having spent decades in groups of this type, Stefan is extremely familiar with them and points out one major difference that he had to adjust for in playing guitar with Celtic Dreams…dancers. He remarks, “Celtic Music has a lot of colors to it. Many of the tunes are quite danceable and have sort of a jumping, galloping character to them; others are almost hauntingly emotional, melancholic, and full of heartache. I had the advantage of playing behind a number of great vocalists before so I was familiar with that role but the Dancing/Step Dance groups added another component to the show and I found myself playing behind a line of dancers.” Stefan more than exceeded the hopes of Celtic Dreams producers and performers as proven by the fact that he was immediately asked to finish out the tour as their guitarist. Not content with expressing this “accent” in his guitar playing, Hillesheim has currently relocated to the US to pursue his career and further his exploration of the American musical style of the Blues. If Stefan’s history tells us anything, we can be certain that this internationally acclaimed guitarist will be recognized amongst the latest generation of Blues guitarists.

 

STEFAN HILLESHEIM: CONTINUING THE LINEAGE OF THE BLUES TRIO

Jimi Hendrix. Eric Clapton. Stevie Ray Vaughn. These names are so iconic that even those who are not avid music fans know exactly who they are and why they are so famous. These three musicians have a great deal in common even though their lives and careers span different eras. All are iconic guitarists who have easily identifiable signature sounds. All of these men were heavily influenced by the blues. Equally significant, all of them had noted careers as sidemen before stepping up to front their own bands. It’s a scary move to leave a successful situation because you feel you want a vehicle to express your true artistic voice. Stefan Hillesheim agrees with this. Hillesheim had a thriving career in his native Germany, being recognized as one of “The” guitarists in Germany and Europe. As a member of BlueSide (the highly lauded German Blues band) and touring guitarist for Celtic Dreams, he was playing to sold out shows in Clubs and concert venues. The difference between an artist who uses music to achieve their goal of living a comfortable life and one who uses their abilities to vehemently pursue their art is vast; Stefan is the later. Although he founded the Stefan Hillesheim Band while still playing in other groups in Germany, the experience planted a seed that would ultimately lead him to pursue his own brand of Blues Rock (something he also shares with the previously mentioned iconic guitarists/artists) in the US, the place Stefan and others recognize as the birthplace of this genre.

A quick google or YouTube search of Stefan Hillesheim will allow you to access a multitude of videos in various group setting of this guitarist performing; one hears the deep,soulful, and melodic playing of this guitarist. There is always a nod to the greats of the Blues, whether it be Albert King or someone more rock influenced like Hendrix. Like the playing of the guitarists who came before him, Stefan is always conscious of adding his own subtle twist to the music. It’s important to Blues artists to say something we can all relate to and recognize, without repeating someone else’s statement verbatim. When Stefan decided to make the move from sideman to fronting his own band, it wasn’t out of conceit or any ego motivated factor…rather, it was out of humility. He explains, “Part of the decision to start my own band was curiosity. I just wanted to know what it’s like to be the lead singer and guitarist of a band playing my music. As a Band Member, you definitely have to make sure the singers sound good, your lead parts don’t interfere with the vocal melody, and your playing compliments the vocalist. Being the lead singer and guitarist gives you more creative freedom but at the same time you’re in charge of all the cues and have to maintain a very clean body language so that your rhythm section can pick up on it and understand what you’re trying to communicate.” Both seeking to further his musical voice and gaining empathy for the vocalists whom he has worked with are attributes that have made Stefan a desirable commodity in the music world. It might have been easier for Stefan if he stuck to playing with the groups he was already associated with but holding back his own artistic growth was more difficult to accept than winning over new fans. The Stefan Hillesheim Band had to win over fans on their own, which is not always an easy task. Stefan relates, “I think that our fans in Germany are very loyal and into hand-made music but they always want to hear the same songs and are sometimes hard to convince of new ideas and styles. I think that in the US there is a bigger and faster paced market for music.  Fans here are used to a bigger variety of live bands and they are more responsive to new material.”

Any great power trio requires a rhythm section that possesses an almost telepathic connection. Stefan chose drummer Alex Sauerlaender and bassist Mathias Wendels due to their exemplary playing and reputation in the European Blues/Rock scene but, equally as important…the fact that these two have played together for two decades. Hillesheim required a rhythm section that could essentially move as one entity, always able to serpentine with the twist and turns he would make as a vocalist/guitarist. Sauerlaender (who has been involved with a number of highly respected German rock and blues bands, including; Lucifire, BlueSide, Catastrophe Ballet,  Jet Set, and over a dozen others) remarks, “All the success that the Stefan Hillesheim Band experienced can be set upon Stefan’s shoulders. The band would never have existed if not for his drive and talents as a musician. He was truly the face of the band, and his skill as a frontman built the band into its highly esteemed reputation in the German music industry. The show that we performed at the famed Excalibur venue in the city of Koblenz, performing to a cheering, sold-out crowd, was indicative of the excitement and acceptance of the band’s fans. It was truly exciting to be part of a group which created such a feeling from fans.” One of the most memorable gigs for Hillesheim was the last one he played in Germany before relocating to the US. A true artist never rests and is always in pursuit of cultivating their sound and “voice.” Stefan had always known that he needed to move closer to the birthplace of the Blues in order to gain a deeper understanding of its essence. As he had done before, Hillesheim left a clamoring following and profitable career to start over again in America. He had a memorable send-off from musicians and fans alike. He recalls, “I would say one of our most memorable gigs was my last gig in Germany before I moved to California (2 years ago). It was sort of a going away party/concert and we played 2 long sets with a number of special guests and surprises. The audience was very responsive and totally into the music from our first song on. We played multiple encores. It’s hard to leave family and friends. I’ve started the trio all over again with players here in the US.  It is definitely challenging to move out here and see if people like your music. So far my experiences have been really positive and I can totally see myself playing more solo and trio gigs with my own band.”

Everyone can relate to the difficulty of venturing away from the familiar and into the unknown. Few can relate to moving to a completely new country that speaks a different language. Only a fraction of those can relate to doing so in pursuit of an artistic vision. Stefan Hillesheim is comfortable with sacrifice for his art, it’s a compulsion for him. Let those with ears hear.

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Guitarist Teddy Fan Talks Music and Touring

Teddy Fan is a multitalented musician who’s been playing the guitar since he was twelve years old. Since graduating from the Musicians Institute, he’s toured with hit artists all around the U.S., assisted and taught both teachers and students at his Alma matter, as well as pulled from his creative mind to begin writing his own, original songs and music.

Presently, Fan is alternately touring throughout the country with two rising artists, YouTube persona Jason Chen and the hit country-pop musician Christine Huff.

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Guitarist Teddy Fan

Just this week, I had the opportunity to catch and sit down with Chen during a rare, free moment of his time to get the latest information regarding his career, all outlined in our exclusive interview below.

Where are you from originally and where are you currently located?
TF:
I’m from Hong Kong. I’m currently living in Los Angeles, California.

What prompted you to get involved with music early on in your life? What made you want to pursue a career in it?
TF: To me, music is my dream. When I was a kid, I always watched all kinds of rock performance videos. I wished that one day I could play on stage, too. I guess I made my decision when I was 13 years old. I knew it was the only thing I want to do.

Who inspired you early on? Are their any musicians that you look up to?
TF: After I came to US, I met a lot of great teacher who gave me so many opportunities. Two in particular, Katsuya and Adrian are both my mentors and teachers. They’ve helped me a lot.

After you graduated from the Musician Institute, the school hired you as a Teaching Assistant (TA). What did your job as a TA entail? What were you responsible for as far as assisting students and teachers went?
TF: As a TA, my job is to provide a professional session of guitar playing for the entire class. For example, when drum students are in a performance class, they will need a bass player and guitar player to play with, and that’s where I come in. All of the TAs are well trained for each style of music as well as reading sign charts, so any of us can fill in to any class at any time.

Is TA-ing, or just teaching in general, still something you do from time to time?
TF: Other then school stuff, I also do a lot of session work like recording, band events, and songwriting and arranging jobs. I have a few artists who always ask me to okay music for them, and I also do a lot of recording for Katsuya. I’m in an event band, which plays at weddings, company events and different kinds of festivals.

In addition to collaborating with professors and students, you’ve also collaborated with sever other independent artists as well as groups. Who are some of the well-known musicians that you’ve worked with?
TF: The most well known musician that I have worked with is Jason Chen. Jason is a famous YouTube singer with over 1,300,000 followers.

You’ve toured with both Jason Chen and Christine Huff separately as their guitarist. What’s life like on tour?
TF: It’s like my dream come true. I never thought I’d be doing it this early on in my career. I’m getting paid to play music and travel around the U.S., how amazing is that!? It’s a lot of fun to travel and meet with fans. Thought, it is also really tiring to travel by plane or car for sometimes 7-8 hours a day, everyday.

How has being able to tour and introduce new audiences to your music impacted your career as a guitarist?
TF: It’s had such a big impact on my life. It feels like my career is finally growing to a new level. I have more followers and fans, and more people are listening to my music. I feel like being a successful musician is no longer just a dream, I’m actively doing it and it’s been a long journey already!

Do you ever get nervous before performing in front of a large, live audience? If so, how do you combat that feeling?
TF: After all kinds of past performances and experience, I don’t get nervous on stage anymore. I feel more excitement and energy! Of course, the first time I go on a big stage, I feel so nervous and crazy. At that time, I always keep telling myself that I can do it and to just enjoy the stage.

With Jason, the two of you perform both cover songs as well as some of his originals, and with Christine, it’s mostly country-pop. Is there a specific genre of music, or even a few songs, that you enjoy playing the most?
TF: I was born with a love of rock music. I like to play rock songs with a guitar solo! For Christine, I like to play “Country Breakup Song” because it is a rock country song and it has a long guitar solo at the end. For Jason, we both really enjoy playing “Umbrella” by Rihanna. We love this song and it is a song that everyone can sing together, so we like to perform it for our audiences.

When it comes to music, you’re multitalented. Not only do you play guitar, but you also dabble with singing, songwriting and song arranging. How often do you write and play your own music?
TF: I try to write everyday. I have my schedule made up for each day of the week, and I try to keep doing everything at least once a day. That helps me keep myself on track and to prevent lazy days. Practicing my original songs is a part of my schedule. I always prepare before gigs happen. So I always practice my own music.

For those who don’t know, what goes into the process of arranging a song
TF: Arranging a song just like putting clothes on a person. First, you finish a melody with the basic chord. Then, you need to think about what else you need in order to make the song sound beautiful. Usually, the drums, guitar, bass and keyboard are the basic elements of a song. However, nowadays, we also put a lot of electric sounds in songs, too. It all depends on the song and your personal taste of music. To sum up, arranging just like trying to pick the right clothes for a person, and trying to make him or her look great in doing so.

In your opinion, what are some of the most important qualities a musician can possess?
TF: To me, it’s being hardworking and humble. Also, as a musician, you have to keep learning, as always something to be learned. Keeping open mind to all styles of music is additionally important. To me, it’s important to branch out and not just learn what I like.

How do you tie these characteristics into your own practice?
TF: I always try to find some new music to listen and practice, which refreshes my mind and keeps practicing fun. Of course, I also have some basic technique practices that continued to do everyday. Also, I don’t give up and I trust the process.

Outside of playing the guitar and writing music, what else takes up your time? What are some of your personal hobbies and interests?
TF: I like go to the gym and work on my body. I am also a gamer; I like playing Xbox when I have free time. One hobby that I need stop doing so much is basketball. Since I’m guitarist, I need avoid anything that may hurt my hands, so I give up a lot of basketball time, which makes me sad because I love basketball!

What are some of your future goals specifically pertaining to your career in music
TF: 
Becoming a Singer-Songwriter is my final goal. I hope to one day be able to make a living by performing my own music, and spend every day in a studio and writing new songs. Of course, I want my own studio and team too!

When and where can fans see you perform live in the future?
TF: Christine Huff and I have a show coming up on August 27, 2016 at Bar Lubitsch. For more information please keep an eye on my Facebook page.

 

For more information on Teddy Fan and his upcoming shows, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/tszhim.fan.79
https://soundcloud.com/teddyfan

From Malaysia to New York, guitarist Stewart Sellan is one to watch

Stewart Sellan is from a small town called Telok Panglima Garang located in a city called Kuala Langat within Malaysia. At 8 years old, he realized his passion for music in a church with his parents. At that time, making a career in music was a dream. Now, Sellan that dream is a reality. He lives in New York City. He is a founding member of the successful band. He is an award-winning musician. That passion for music that was realized at a young age changed his life.

Sellan is the lead guitarist of the band Beat The System. He has no formal training in any musical background, but his determination caused him to take lessons from friends in church, and use his spare time to watch videos. His perseverance paid off. His band recently won Song of The Year in Asian Voice Independent Music Awards for the single ‘Shine’.

“My interest in music grew even stronger during my college years when I found out that there are courses available for music. After being exposed to bands like Metallica, Nirvana, Megadeth, Iron Maiden I knew that I can make a career in music as well,” he said. “But due to limited opportunities in Malaysia I had to pursue my education in engineering while doing music as a hobby. During my job as an engineer I always looked out for opportunities to pursue my career in music as it was my passion to make a living as a full time musician.”

Sellan did not want to be stuck in the 9-5 job routine that he was in. He wanted to be on a stage, travel the world, and live his passion.

“My initial instrument that I chose was drums,” he described. “I played drums for 5 years in church. During that time there was an absence of bass guitarist in the church so I decided to learn how to play the bass guitar. I went to seek lessons from my music pastor and he gave me a piece of advice that I should learn to play the electric guitar first, because it will help me to learn both the electric guitar and the bass guitar simultaneously. I took his advice and learned the basics under him. As years went by I discovered the sound of distortion and overdrive, and I fell in love with it instantaneously. Since then, electric guitar has my main instrument that I wanted to focus on.”

Sellan took the lessons he learned and became involved in a Youth Alive band in hs church called JC Radix for 4 years. He was also involved in the Worship Team as a Music Director for 3 years, and eventually was performing on stage. He still remembers his first solo musical performance, which was at his uncle’s wedding in a rock club in Malaysia.

“It was a terrifying experience performing in a different crowd besides my home church. In that performance I did play some wrong notes a couple of times. I did experience stage fright, but now I have managed to overcome it,” he recalled.

Besides electric guitar, Sellan can play the acoustic guitar, bass guitar and drums on an amateur level. His innate talent is recognized by all that work with him.

“Stewart has the ability to create guitar riffs that supports the melody of the songs and this creates a very powerful composition,” said Ahmad Mokhtaza, head of A&R of Warner Music Malaysia.

“Other than the fact that he is a very gifted guitarist, there’s just something about Stewart’s choice of chords and notes in the music he creates that is magical. It’s a good blend of modern sound and catchy melody that do not take away the attention from the vocalist,” said Hermond Cheng, the General Manager of Sony Music Malaysia.

Sellan also says that Marc McClusky, who is known for his work with Weezer, Everclear and many more, helped guide him during guitar recording process on tone setting and recording techniques in order to get a good guitar tone. He was also given the opportunity to meet with Mark Tremonti of Creed and Alter Bridge and learn from him. Being given these opportunities are part of why he decided to make the move from Malaysia to New York City.

“In Malaysia most event organizers would prefer a solo artist rather than a band in order for them to save cost on backline equipment and minimize production crews. This has slowly showed decline in bands being able to make a living in music,” he described. “Music in the United States is solely judged on the quality of the songs, and an artist’s talent and opportunities are given for those deserving without prejudice which is opposite in Malaysia.”

The move has turned out well for Sellan. He is recognized as a talented guitar player on an international level, and has many plans for the future.

“I would love to have a signature series guitar under my name,” he said. “But I want to continue writing chart topping songs.”

 

DIVERSITY IS A GUITARIST’S BEST FRIEND

 

Indian born guitarist Nipun Nair is a music purist…when it comes to being a great musician but not about the genre he is playing. Consider his latest work on Anthony Cruz’s premier major release “Cosas Del Destino”. Cruz is riding the wave of Latin pop artists whose ever increasing fan base is steadily taking over major radio and popular concert tours (Nair’s guitar work can be heard on the first single “Me Vuelas La Cabeza” currently in major rotation in New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, and many other markets). The songs are catchy and the musicianship is top grade. All of Nipun’s influences combine in a way that lifts the songs and supports the vocals. It’s no wonder that Tushar Menon (music journalist for Prog Magazine, Rolling Stone, and other music publications) referred to Nair’s playing as, “that elusive combination of technical and enjoyable. There is much in his music to satisfy seasoned musicians as well as excite non-musicians.”  Top level music production and great recorded performances, combined with Cruz’s matinee good looks are a steady move towards a Hollywood ending; seemingly a world away from Nipun’s early success in India with his band Public Issue. Public Issue garners its identity from the world of rock and funk. Bordering on soulful and even progressive rock at times, the band started out as undergrad friends who wanted to play as a hobby. The group was as surprised as anyone when they immediately started winning competitions and fans, playing to crowds of 5,000 or more. Tours and television performances on music channels like VHI and Channel [v] followed. Press fast forward just a short amount of time and Nipun has travelled to the U.S. and, within days he was contacted to perform in a band, one of whose vocalists happens to be Anthony Cruz. Not only did Anthony take notice of Nair’s abilities, but the creative team behind him did so as well. This team includes Deborah Corday, Randy Phillips, and Rafael Esparza Ruiz (cumulatively they have worked with; Toni Braxton, Rod Stewart, Ricky Martin, Santana, Justin Timberlake, Prince, and many others). Their recognition of the guitarist’s talent and their desire to have him involved is quite an achievement in itself. The weight of the moment is not lost to Nipun who tells, “I was in disbelief at how I was able to come so far so soon. It felt like the moment I stepped into the country things started to happen. Now Anthony’s music is playing on all the Latin radio stations in the country; the songs for which I recorded guitars. The feeling is overwhelming and incredible.” Anthony Cruz 2

Some of the most successful artists in today’s music market are those who are the most diverse. Modern artists use their association with well known products and services (Apple, Kia, etc.) to jump start a new career or give new life to former glory years. Placement is as valid an avenue for artists as radio, possibly even more so due to the ubiquitous nature of music in our society. Many advertising agencies recognize this and employ contemporary artists as composers to create a sound canvas; artists like Nipun Nair. Nipun has enjoyed a successful career as a music composer with Rubecon Creative Solutions in India. Nair has created numerous scores for Rubecon’s campaigns which aired on major television networks (Zee TV, Star Plus, Channel V, etc) and in large cinemas like SPI Cinemas. Massive audiences were exposed to his work. Rubecon’s Alexander Zachariah confirms, “Not only did Nipun prove to be crucial to the success of the productions we did for our clients, but he also proved to be an integral part of the success of our agency.” Nipun has put these skills to use here in the U.S. working with Barbara Cohen to compose music for Dunkin Donuts and Hewlett Packard. Award-winning composer Luis Guerra is the founder of Terremoto Productions Inc., an audio production company that has compositions in feature films like Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Tina Fey), Fallen Angel (CBS), and countless commercial campaigns for companies such as Honda, Samsung, and others. Guerra hopes to make use of Nair’s abilities creating music for projects with Mountain Dew, Disney Channel, and building the Terremoto Music Library.

Dreaming pic

For 2015’s Dreaming is a Private Thing, Nair was given a multitude of challenges. Filmmakers Alan Sardana and AJ Smith needed a score which would resemble and reinforce their film’s topic of corporal and electronic existence. They needed a modern sound with a sense of humanity. The film is based on the story by legendary science fiction writer Isaac Asimov and has a cast of three characters; Eli Lee (played by Leo Lee [Swordfish, The Replacement Killers, Contact]) the world’s last filmmaker and Sam’s creator, Sam (Dan Mousseau) the android/camera, and Samantha (Susie Park [Spider-Man 2, Miracle on 34th Street, The Chaos Factor]) the lead actress in Eli and Sam’s films. Due to the small size of the film’s cast, the score needed to become the fourth member of the ensemble, enabling the audience to further connect with the characters. Nipun’s score achieved this as well as complementing the characters. At times the music is dreamy and digital and yet, intermittently introduces overtly analog and “human” traits. Vacillating between man and machine was a goal the score achieved…all within three days! Nair reveals, “Short on time for submission to festivals, he [AJ Smith] would send me scene after scene and I was writing and recording as quick as possible. I’d watch the scene and compose something to capture the feel of it…but I didn’t have time to think about it. I was going on instinct and first impressions. It was exciting but a little crazy as well. I was happy that AJ and Alan were excited about the score. Dreaming…went on to be screened at the Toronto Short Film Festival as well as a win [for Best Production Design] at the Ryerson University Film Festival in Canada.” RED Bean Can

In addition to composing for film, Nair has been a part of creating music for live theater for years. As any actor can tell you, the two are similar but very different animals at the same time. For many years, Nipun worked with The Little Theater and its founder (award winning director and playwright) Aysha Rau. The theater, which focuses on fostering the creativity of underprivileged children, has received worldwide acclaim for productions like The R.E.D.Bean Can which has toured internationally. The R.E.D. Bean Can was selected out of sixty productions from all over the world to be performed at the 22nd International Children and Young Adults Theater Festival in IRAN. This production was Nair’s most recent compositional offering to The Little Theater. Founder Aysha Rau comments on his work, “I am floored by Nipun’s ingenuity as a composer. He brings a sense of freshness to his work that galvanizes the theater time and time again through his original compositions. It is because of his talent and dedication that our productions have been immensely successful and garnered significant press coverage.” Nair has composed the music for countless productions at The Little Theater; one of the most popular is the annual Christmas Pantomime which has attracted sponsors including; Coca Cola, Ford, and Citibank, to name just a few.

Nipun has also used his skill as a composer in live theater to benefit the Theater of Will in southern California. This non-profit arts and education company is supported by LADWP and performs musicals about water conservation. Award winning author/playwright/actor/director and president of Theater of Will, Willard Simms, confirms, “As his diverse array of achievements clearly indicates, Nipun Nair is among the most elite composers and performing musicians working in the field today.” The success did not come as an easy happenstance for the India born composer. Nair emphasizes, “The Water Wizard shows and the concert series posed specific challenges as a musician. You are trying to educate kids through music in a way that is fresh, stimulating and entertaining…but in a not too obviously educational way. The key is great lyrics and catchy melodies. Having a charismatic stage presence really helps when you are performing for an audience of hundreds.” It seems that Nipun will soon be performing for crowds of thousands (or more) again alongside Anthony Cruz; that charisma on stage will come in quite handy.Nipun solo 3

Guitarist Jonas Blomqvist Impresses Fans of Every Genre

Superfix
Jonas Blomqvist, guitarist for Bhavana Reddy, Superfix, & Second Nature

Sweden, home of some of the most talented classical musicians such as Wilhelm Stenhammar has also birthed many of the most recognizable names in heavy metal, electronic and pop today, including The Knife, The Cardigans, In Flames, Peter Bjorn and John, The Hives, José González, Fever Ray and others.

Among these talented musicians is Jonas Blomqvist, the highly skilled guitarist from the bands Everwhere, Superfix, Bhavana Reddy, Rachelle and The Rising, Suns of Defiance and the recently established rock group Second Nature, which is slated to release their self-titled debut album later this year.

A true prodigy, Jonas found his talents at an early age, mastering the trombone, piano and drums at age 9. With a classical pianist for a father, music seems to be encoded in Jonas’s DNA. He recalls, “My parents played music for me while I was still in my mother’s belly by putting headphones on it.”

Upon discovering his innate talents on guitar at 14, the now highly sought after musician found the instrument that would later become his fated tool for expression.

”I have been playing guitar for 14 years now and during this time have been most influenced by the music of Guthrie Govan, John Petrucci, Paul Gilbert and Marty Friedman,” says Blomqvist. “ I have played a variety of instruments and can use all of these experiences on the guitar and with the people I play with.”

For someone as well-versed in music as he is, it is not surprising that his skill in the art form extend beyond his ability to simply play instruments with precision, for he is an accomplished songwriter as well.

His creative expertise in the realm of songwriting is proven by the recent success as the co-writer of renowned artist Bhavana Reddy’s hit single “Smells Like Rain,” which made it to the top 1% (out of 19,000) in the International Songwriting Competition last year.

After being raised in Stockholm, Sweden in the late 1980’s and 90’s Jonas left for the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA. The melting pot of cultural influences present in the Los Angeles music industry is now his home and incubator for a multitude of new projects and collaborations.

Some of Blomqvist’s most recent success has been with supercharged alternative rock band Superfix, led by KoRn’s Kalen Chase. This past year the group released their debut album “Never Change.”

Jonas’s aptitude for playing heaving hitting fast-paced guitar riffs is recognized throughout the album. Last year Superfix released the music video for their hit song “Invasion,” which you can check out below. Jonas carries the song with an impressive and mesmerizing riff that is impossible to miss.

This musician brings the same head banging high-energy to the video that he is known for on stage. Acclaimed for his mesmerizing stage presence, and his ability to play virtually any style of music, Jonas has also been tapped to lend his talents to an impressive range of bands and solo artists including Elaine DaSilva, Flymore, Sarah Edan, Ayin Aleph, Urvah Kahn, Only on Tuesdays and many more. He was even asked to perform on the CBS Studios lot with the CBS Band in Studio City, California in 2013.

As of February 2015 Jonas is ‘fresh off the boat’ from a 10 date tour in India with world-renowned Indian singer and Kuchipudi dancer Bhavana Reddy. Together they started the year busily promoting Bhavana’s debut album “Tangled in Emotions,” which you can check out at: http://iamreddy.bandcamp.com/

The diversity that this young musician has shown puts him in league with the greats. Keep your eyes and ears open for Jonas’ next release through his personal commercial rock project ‘Second Nature’.