INTRODUCING POP-ROCK & SOCIAL CAUSE SUPERSTARS GIRL POW-R 0 163

Already championed by the likes of Tiger Beat and Cashbox Magazine, Girl Pow-R are a girl-band with a difference. Aged from 10 to 17, this hugely talented sextet sing, dance, write their own music and more importantly, share a very important message – or several – with the world through their lyrics, many of which are aimed at women and young girls around the world encouraging and reminding them, among other things,that it’s absolutely okay to be themselves. With their debut album due out later this year, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with the girls to discuss musical influences, upcoming performances and their big career ambitions.

TITL: Please introduce yourselves if you would.

Kalista: Hi! I’m Kalista Wilson, I’m a 14 year old singer from Toronto, Ontario! I think as we’re growing more, we’re realizing that life isn’t just about having fun all day and having a good old time. We’ve realized that there are pressures and issues that everyone goes through, but nobody really talks about. I would say “keep doing you”. People are always going to bring you down, but it’s your job to ignore the haters and to love yourself no matter what.

Ava: We are Girl Pow-R! Girl Pow-R is an all-girl pop rock group from ages 10 to 17 who are out to inspire all youth around the world to pursue anything that they are passionate about, and to never give up. Each girl in Girl Pow-R has a social cause such as: mental health awareness, youth homelessness, better education, and children’s hospitals. Girl Pow-R strives to be a role model, not just for girls, but all young people, and we want everyone to know that as long as you believe in yourself and your dreams, anything is possible.

TITL: How did you all come together and what would you say you each bring to the band?

Krisalyn: We came together through rounds of auditions. I would say all of the girls have great personalities and tons of talent that we each bring to the band, because we are all so different and unique!

Bella: We are a group of girls from different backgrounds. I would say many like studio recording. There’s the excitement of new material, and assigning solos, and performing as a team. We work well as a team, so we manage to take on the task at hand with speed and accuracy. Some of the girls are stage-oriented, loving the instant feedback and the gratification that comes from live performing.

TITL: What made you feel that Girl Pow-R was a fitting group name?

Milana: Girl Pow-R is a fitting group name because girls are at times taken advantage of and are not taken seriously.  It’s important for girls to know that they have the power and strength to achieve anything they put their minds towards.

Carina: I feel that Girl Pow-R is a fitting name for our band because we are a strong group of girls who want to empower not only girls, but youth all over the world. We want to inspire others through the lyrics in our songs, and through the messages in our social causes.

TITL: Which bands and artists are you each most inspired and influenced by and how do those influences impact the music you make?

Kalista: Our music is inspired by Taylor Swift, Spice Girls, Little Mix and many other girl bands and solo artists.

A: A band that inspires us that we look up to are the Spice Girls because they are also all about spreading girl power and making girls feel powerful, strong and confident with themselves.

TITL: It could be argued that over the years, the music industry has often largely favoured male groups and artists, however in the last few years, the likes of Little Mix have shown that female groups can and do have the impact and staying power of their male counterparts. How important and significant has seeing the likes of LM succeed on the scale that they have since forming been to you as you look to your own futures and how far you want to go?

Krisalyn: We one day hope to be like Little Mix, but we are still young. We work super hard so that one day we can be like them! Seeing their success makes us believe that anything is possible!

B: Girl Pow-R’s sound is uplifting, confident, captivating. Our job as a group is to inspire our generation to better themselves, become role models in their respective communities, and promote positivity through our music and social causes. And it’s important for girls and women to lead the way in this area. Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours shine any brighter. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make the change: Michael Jackson.

TITL: You were nominated in the Best New Group category at the Niagara Music Awards last year. How did it feel to be nominated and what do you feel your chances are in terms of winning this year?

C: It’s such a pleasure and an honor for us to have been nominated for Best New Group at the Niagara Music Awards. This was such a great opportunity and we were also super thankful that we got to perform two of our original songs during the awards ceremony. This was a great reminder to us that hard work will get you far! Hoping for another chance in 2019!

M: Being nominated for the Niagara Music Awards was such an honour and an amazing feeling as I also live in Niagara Falls, therefore representing my region was important to me.  I believe we were nominated because our song “Krisi” has a great message and many young people, girls and boys, can relate to the song. Also, the members of Girl Pow-R are so talented with singing, dancing and playing instruments, it made the judges and voters interested in our band and the potential we have to offer in the music industry.

TITL: Do you care much about accolades and nominations or are you more generally concerned about what your fans think on a wider, grander scale?

Kalista: I’d rather have a following that listens to all of our songs and watches all of our music videos, awards could then follow.

Krisalyn: Probably both because it’s amazing to be nominated for awards, but it’s also amazing having awesome fans to connect with and who love following our journey!

A: I think we care mostly about our fans, of course, because they are what brought us here, and they are who listen to our music and watch our videos. We want to continue to make music for them to enjoy, as well as to perform and entertain them.

TITL: All of your 2018 releases surpassed 191,000 plays and streams on the likes of YouTube and Spotify. To what extent have sites like that, and social media in general, impacted your career and do you believe you’d have the support and following you do without them?

Krisalyn: I feel like nowadays social media is a big help and it really gets our name out there! I myself pay most attention to my Instagram account, but as a band we are on many different social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Musical.ly, Twitter and YouTube. Anytime a fan messages me, I always respond back as soon as I can, and I appreciate all comments, as I know the other band members do as well. We all try to message and speak with our fans and meet them/take pictures, especially at live shows. We appreciate the support and it means a lot to us

B: In today’s age, social media and music streaming services are very important to help us spread our message. Girl Pow-R is unique in its presentation of popular music, along with a deep sense of responsibility to support social causes in society. The determination that our band members have to spread the word about empowering girls and women to better themselves, and being charitable, is exceptional. By doing so, the boys and men in society see what is important to us and how we can best work together to support each other and have common goals of peace, harmony, equality and humanity.

TITL: You were also named the Canadian Ambassadors for the 2018 Toronto Youth Day – what did and does that mean to you? How important is it that you can use your careers and the platform you have to benefit the wider community/world around you?

C: Youth Day 2018 was so much fun! We had an amazing time performing as Featured Artists and talking about each of our social causes as Canadian Ambassadors. It is very important to us that we can use our careers and songs as a platform with opportunities like Youth Day, to promote positive messages and give young audiences a good role model to look up to.  It is also super awesome that we can empower others while singing and dancing, which is what we do best!

M: Being named Canadian Ambassadors for the 2018 Toronto Youth Day was such a great honor. Singing and performing is something that I love doing, so being able to do all of that and being role models for the youth in our community, and the world, just makes it even better and more gratifying. Music is a universal language and knowing that we are affecting the youth all over the world makes me want to perform and share our music even more!

TITL: Are there any tour/performance plans coming up you can tell me about?

Kalista: We always have a lot on the go and shows to perform. Definitely check out our website for times and locations!

A: We have a huge, Toronto-area competition beginning on the 8th of February where we compete against bands from all over Ontario, in all genres, so stay tuned!

TITL: What do you have planned for the year ahead?

Krisalyn: Our first album is coming out this year! We’ve already released a bunch of songs, but 2019 should be filled with more performances, covers, and more originals!

B: We started our originals with two songs: “Krisi” and “Stronger Than Yesterday”. “Stronger Than Yesterday” has similarities to our first single “Krisi” in that it addresses challenges girls face in everyday life. Through our music we try to give direction and support to empower girls to better themselves. “Krisi” is about rising above bullying, whereas “Stronger Than Yesterday” is a personal journey to find the strength and confidence to overcome challenges, while recognizing it can be an arduous journey, but progress is made by being stronger than yesterday. We’re looking forward to launching our first album early this year with even more originals!

TITL: Finally then, despite being a fairly new band, it’s evident you’re very ambitious and determined to succeed, so with that in mind, where would you like to see yourselves 5 years from now and looking further ahead, whose career would you most like to emulate? At what point would you be able to look at each other and say: “We made it girls”?

M: In five years from now, I would love to see our band being known nationwide in Canada and, if dreams come true, I would love to have the career and impact that the Spice Girls had on young girls in the 90’s. They had the same message as we do today. Girls can achieve anything if we believe in the power to do it. I can’t wait for that feeling of gratification in knowing that we made it in the music business when, we get that blue checkmark on Instagram, when I need to wear sunglasses out in public, and selling out our concerts. Most of all it would be an even greater feeling to receive messages from our fans telling us how our songs changed their lives and gave them the ‘Girl Pow-R’ to succeed.

C: With hard work and dedication, I believe that we can emulate a career like the Spice Girls or Little Mix. Within the next 5 years, I see us touring internationally and spreading our messages through music to those all around the world. When we have touched the lives of young people, and positively impacted kids all over the world, then we can say that we’ve made it. We are not driven by fame or success, but by how we influence youth.

Check out Girl Pow-R’s new single “Never Let Go” below and for more information on the band, visit their website, give their page a like on Facebook or follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

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DOREEN TAYLOR TELLS ALL ABOUT HER OFF-BROADWAY SHOW “SINCERELY, OSCAR” & LOOKS TOWARDS A VERY BRIGHT FUTURE 0 161

Doreen Taylor is no stranger to dreaming big. With two music and performance related degrees under her belt, an array of theatre production credits to her name and a successful career as a solo artist, she’s ambitious and not afraid of people knowing it. After her production “Sincerely, Oscar”, which she created and produced herself, had a successful run in Philadelphia last year, the show has now moved to New York and is currently undertaking a 14 week run at Theatre Row, Off-Broadway. In between shows, Doreen kindly took the time to chat to ThisIsTheLatest about the creative process behind the show, her memories of opening night and where Sincerely, Oscar might go in the future.

TITL: First of all, for those unfamiliar with you and your background, can you just give a little insight into your music and performing career? 

Doreen Taylor: I’ve been performing for many years now, and having earned myself degrees in both opera and voice performance, I consider myself very fortunate to have been a part of some fantastic theatre productions including Robert Ward’s The Crucible, in which I played Abigail Williams, and Christine in Phantom Of The Opera. In terms of my music, I released my first album Magic back in 2012 while my latest album Happily Ever After has received great reviews and is to hopefully become an Off-Broadway musical in the next couple of years.

TITL: You’ve been pretty busy lately with your off Broadway show, Sincerely, Oscar, after a successful run in Philadelphia last year. How does it feel to know you’re working on the same streets and around the same venues as some of the biggest and most popular musicals and shows in the world? 

DT: It is pretty surreal. One of the very first musicals I starred in when I was just a kid was “42nd Street” and now here I am all these years later starring in my very first show I have written in an iconic theater on 42nd STREET! It is pretty amazing how life can just come around full circle and give affirmations that I have been on the right path all along. I guess the most amazing part is that the shows that we are honoring by the great Oscar Hammerstein all opened on Broadway within one mile of where we are performing “Sincerely, Oscar” now. That is a pretty humbling feeling!

TITL: You created and produced the show yourself – what is it about this particular show that made you want to bring it to life in the way that you have?

DT: It’s weird… I was busy working on my mainstream Adult Contemporary music career writing, producing and performing my own music and this opportunity came out of nowhere at a music video premiere that I was hosting. I was lucky enough to meet the grandson of Oscar Hammerstein and his lovely family at this event and we instantly hit it off. I felt a strong calling to use my talents to bring recognition to Oscar and help honor this iconic Broadway legend. I created the previous iteration of the show and debuted it in Philadelphia and we did so well that I wanted to bring it to the heart of Broadway. I worked for over a year and a half developing “Sincerely, Oscar” and am so proud at the finished product. It is truly like my child and I feel as though I have nurtured and loved it every step of the way.

TITL: Did you have any prior creative/production experience prior to this or was this project something you felt so passionately about you just had to give it a first time try? 

DT: I always have had a hand in producing my solo mainstream concerts that we have toured around the US, and even some of my music videos, but this is the first time I have written and produced something of this colossal size and importance on the theatrical stage. I feel so lucky that I have been given such a great opportunity right out of the gate!

TITL: Can you talk me through the creative process for the show? Where did your first ideas come from and how did you expand them over time to the point you realised you could make your thoughts and ideas a reality? 

DT: I think the most incredible achievement in the creative process of this show was the way we created the role of “Oscar Hammerstein” himself. Early on, I got it stuck in my mind that I wanted to do something unique and totally “out of the box” for his character. I had just visited Las Vegas and caught a Michael Jackson tribute show at Mandalay Bay where they had created Michael as a hologram and he interacted with the other performers. It blew me away and never quite left me. I wanted to be the very first to bring this technology to the NY stage and I never really let go of that idea – even when others said I was crazy! And now, here we are, being the very first production ON or OFF Broadway that has used this 3d holographic technology in a theatrical production. It is really quite stunning and impressive and I am so honored to be the one to pave the way for this new technology. Sure, there has been some blow back from purist critics who don’t believe in bringing this kind of technology to the theatrical stage- but I have news from them—like it or not, it’s coming and “Sincerely, Oscar” is living proof of it. You can’t stop progress.

TITL: Were there ever any days or times that you questioned or doubted what you were doing, or were you 100% committed to?

DT: Every. Single. Day. It would be weird if I didn’t occasionally doubt my creative choices- especially when you have to deal with ridiculous opinions from people who are afraid of the technology or of the advancement. But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have changed anything and I am so proud at what has been created. I sometimes sit back while I am performing in the show and absorb the incredible audience response and feel a huge sense of pride that I am here and I am able to live out this incredible dream!

TITL: How did you bring the production’s cast/crew together? Were/are they friends of yours or did you put out a casting call? When did you know you’d found the right people for each part of the show? 

DT: A little of column A, a little of column B. In the case of my gifted director, Dugg McDonough, we had worked together years ago in several productions at Temple University as well as Des Moines Metro Opera Company. I immediately thought of him when I was creating this show and asked him to return to collaborate on this project. As for the rest of the cast and crew, most were hired from referrals and casting. One of the hardest parts of creating any new production is finding the right people to work on it. I can honestly say that in all my years of performing professionally, I have never worked on a show where I truly like and respect every person that is there. This is the first time I can say that. We have become like a family and we all look out and protect each other. It is a really wonderful thing.

TITL: What can you recall of the infamous opening night? Were you nervous or just buzzing and raring to go? 

DT: It went by SO fast! I can say that I am a little nervous before every show I do. That never really goes away and I am actually glad that those butterflies are there. I never get complacent or “phone in” a performance. Every show is like opening night to me. The party was a blast and we really had one amazing night celebrating this great success together!

TITL: Given that Broadway is typically considered to be more of a man’s world, how proud does it make you feel to know you’re proving yourself to be just as good as your male counterparts when it comes to putting on a successful production? 

DT: To be honest, I still feel there is a lack of support and respect for women creators/producers in this industry. While it is admittedly a lot better, there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done. I am really honored to be a strong woman voice out there creating good, commercial theater in an otherwise male dominated industry. It is so sad that in this #metoo era we don’t embrace more female voices attempting to create on the theatrical stage but I think there are more of us out there that will brave the storm and keep pushing the boundaries, regardless if we are always embraced or not while we do it! However, that being said- women need to start supporting women colleagues in theater more. Sad to say that some of the harshest critical voices out there are from other women. That has always baffled me. Trying to blow out the candle of another does not make theirs burn any brighter.

TITL: What advice would you give to anyone out there who has an idea that they’d love to see brought to life on a stage such as one on or off Broadway? What traits might you say they need in order to keep pursuing that idea/dream until it becomes reality?

DT: I would say that dreams can come true and I am living proof of that. However, set your sights with reasonable goals. Start small. Test the waters. People don’t usually wake up one morning and decide to have a show open on Broadway next week. It takes a long time of work, dedication, financial support and most of all- thick skin, to navigate this industry. There will be enormous sacrifices that will need to be made and there will be a lot more tears than laughs at times. But after all that is said and done, there is no greater joy than to see your creation brought to life by fabulously talented people each and every day and I truly feel blessed to have this opportunity.

TITL: Finally then, now that Sincerely, Oscar is proving to be a hit, have you thought about any other productions you might like to work on, or is all your time and energy focused on this for the time being? 

DT: Right now I am focusing on this limited engagement run at Theatre Row in NYC, but I would be lying if I said I am not looking to the future for what is next. I believe we have even bigger and better things in store for “Sincerely, Oscar” coming in the near future. Maybe it will be a national tour, maybe an international tour, or maybe a residency in Vegas? There has been a lot of buzz as to where this should go next… and right now the sky is the limit! I am just excited to see where this remarkable journey will go!

For more information on Sincerely, Oscar visit the official website. You can also keep up to date with Doreen via doreentaylormusic.com, or by following her on Twitter and liking her page on Facebook. Her latest album Happily Ever After is available now. Header photo credit: James Jackson.

LX MASON TALKS “DRINK ME GOODBYE” AND FUTURE ASPIRATIONS 0 88

Having earned considerable attention and a strong following on the back of his debut single “I Don’t”, which to date has been streamed more than 35,000 times on Spotify alone, the latest song by Florida born artist Jon Davis, AKA LX Mason, addresses the desperate attempts so many people make to forget long-term relationships. With plans for an EP in the pipeline, LX Mason chatted to ThisIsTheLatest about song-writing inspiration, his thoughts on social media and his long term artistic goals.

TITL: What makes LX Mason different from all the other acts out there? What’s your unique selling point?

LX Mason: I think I’m unique in the sense that I’m an African American pop artist who isn’t doing R’n’B or rap, but I don’t think that defines me. I think we’re all just out here trying to make what’s true to us. So my unique selling point is, I’m me. Get to know me a little.

TITL: Is there a particular story behind your new single “Drink Me Goodbye”?

LXM: Of course! My songs are a way of coping with things that happen in my world, so you can always count on there being some type of story. I had a falling out with a really close friend of mine years back, and it wrecked me for a little bit until I bounced back. However, I saw from a distance how that person was trying so hard to forget me and I’d say that was the part that hurt the most. We eventually mended things but if we’re being honest, a lot happened during that time and it hasn’t been the same. 

TITL: How did you come up with the concept for the video and is being creative in that way something you enjoy? 

LXM: I LOVE directing. For some reason I always have. And since I was a little kid, I’ve always loved music videos. I bounced some ideas off of my mates, and my co-director Jason Denison. We wanted to portray a story of the depths that someone has to go to in order to forget someone and actually recreate these happy memories but without the other person being there. 

TITL: In terms of your lyrics and general song-writing from who or from where do you find most of your inspiration?

LXM: Real life situations inspire me. There are some pop artists whose writing I definitely appreciate – Julia Michaels, Lauv, Lennon Stella to name a few – but I try not to let that influence my writing because I want to be as authentic to the story, and the emotion, as possible. 

TITL: How easy or hard do you find the song-writing process? Can it depend on the subject you’re wanting to write about or your frame of mind at the time? 

LXM: Yeah definitely depends on what song I’m writing. And if my head isn’t in the right place for it, I have to really push past everything that I’m feeling to get a song out. 

TITL: Is there an EP or album in the works?

LXM: I’m working towards an EP! But definitely a couple more singles out first. 

TITL: Do you have any performance or tour plans you can tell me about?

LXM: At the moment, it’s all about the writing and recording. But things could definitely change, and I’m always keen to perform.

TITL: If you could put together your dream show with four bands or artists, living or dead, who would you choose and where would you play? 

LXM: WHOA. Uhm. I would completely disregard genre and just have a really selfish line-up of people I love. 

TITL: Given that your debut single has already achieved in excess of 35,000 streams, what are your thoughts on social media? Are you someone who believes it to be a powerful and necessary tool in your business, and society in general, or can there be/are there downsides to being so “online” all the time? 

LXM: There’s no question that the abuse of social media has had an effect on mental health. We’ve seen it, and Instagram/Facebook has done a little bit of work to improve it for the user, but I don’t think it’s there just yet. I think there is an aspect of it where it is effective for business, and societally it does increase your world a bit – I’ve met some wonderful people through social media. But if -or when – it crashes, it wouldn’t bother me. Half the time whenever I post something I think about my caption for half a second, post it, and throw my phone across the room because I don’t care. 

TITL: What does the rest of the year have in store for you? 

LXM: More music! Releasing some more of my own, as well as writing for other people’s projects and potentially featuring on some tracks as well. 

TITL: Finally then, given how “full” the music industry is now with both new and established talent, how do you plan to make yourself stay current in the years ahead? What are your long-term aspirations as an artist and where do you see the music industry going/ being in terms of its shape and longevity, as time goes on?

LXM: I think, more importantly, I want to stay true to myself. If that’s current, then great. What’s “current” changes so frequently that if I were to base my artistic identity in that, I wouldn’t know who I am anymore. My long term aspirations is to get where I want to go making the music I want to make whenever I want to make it. I think for the music industry, there’s more of an inclination towards independence and honesty in music that can bring people the music they want to connect to. 

Check out the video for “Drink Me Goodbye” below and for more information on LX Mason, visit his website, give his page a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.