MARK KINGSWOOD TALKS “LOSING MY RELIGION” AND TOUR PLANS 0 157

Inspired by the likes of Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Matt Monro among others, Mark Kingswood has already been championed by several critics and hailed “The British Buble.” As his career continues to go from strength to strength, he’s now released a new music video, which was shot at The Asylum, an historic church in London, for his latest single – a cover of the classic REM song “Losing My Religion.” To coincide with the release, Mark spoke to ThisIsTheLatest about song-writing inspiration, playing the Royal Albert Hall and his ultimate career objective.

TITL: Who exactly is Mark Kingswood?

Mark Kingswood: I guess I would describe myself as a singer/producer/songwriter who loves dramatic arrangements. I love the swing, big band genre because of their rich orchestral arrangements delivered by live musicians. My objective is to redefine the modern day crooner by attempting to add new songs to the genre rather than borrowing from the Great American Songbook. I aspire to present my music in a format which has a touch of the modern sound without compromising on the classic feel of the genre. I have an enormous respect for the history of music and its legendary artists from all genres

TITL: At what point in your life did you first truly realise you wanted to make music a career and prior to that, did you have any other ambitions?

MK: For me, I was lucky enough to have a chance at performing on stage to an audience of probably around 200 people in a children’s talent show when I was only 8 or 9 years old. After stepping down from the stage after I had won the show, I had the bug instantly. I became obsessed with singing and playing on my keyboard from that moment on, so I think both my parents and I knew I was going to pursue a life in the music world. Alongside singing and performing, I felt a real connection to recording studio life. At one point, working in audio production became more prominent than performing and I started to make a living. I never went to music production college but did I have the opportunity of working in some amazing studios with some great writers and producers where I really learned the craft and started building my own studio.

Subsequently, this led to a career where I was producing for other artists and working with major record labels. But the truth is, I was never truly happy. I missed the stage and I missed the excitement of performing live so I decided to really try and get myself back into performing and singing live and I’m so thankful that I did. My only ambition now is to keep doing what I’m doing.

TITL: You’ve been dubbed the “British Buble” due to your impressive range and pop-orchestra sound. Do you mind such a comparison, or would you much prefer to be championed as an artist in your own right?

MK: Not at all. What an honor it is to be mentioned in the same sentence as Michael Bublé. Because I grew up in the 90’s , Michael was my Sinatra . Frank Sinatra was such an influence on so many artists .You see, I was brought up listening to the Ratpack, Matt Monro, Andy Williams, Tony Bennett with my grandparents, but I never got to see them live. Michael was the one who made it relevant and so exciting to me. He was the first performer I saw with a real live big band right in front of me.

As far as being championed as an artist in my own right, I believe this is reflected in my songs. I have had a dream for a long time to create something which in someway gives back to this wonderful musical genre. I am so excited to create new original music that comes from the heart. Not only for the existing fans of this genre, But also for potential new fans who have yet to discover it in 2018.

TITL: Who or what most inspires/influences your song-writing and how easy/hard do you find the song-writing process? Can or does it depend on the subject matter?

MK: I’m the kind of guy who likes to write about life and all the emotions and hurdles that we usually all encounter at some point in our lives. I think everyone who writes has different way that work for them, but for me personally, I’m actually quite methodical when I write songs. I have a particular message I want to put out there. Musically, I like to really challenge myself by imagining what the finished album may include so that I can craft a nice musical journey. I love to write songs that might someday give someone that little extra comfort, reassurance or faith when they need it. I wrote the song “Strong” with this in mind. I wanted to send a message lyrically provoking the power positive thoughts to overcome your hurdles.

Music is such powerful tool so I try to reach as many people as I can lyrically. If some of the songs are personal to me, I try to find a way so others can relate to them. There’s nothing greater as a songwriter than to hear someone say that your song really helped them through something, or added something special to an exciting moment in their life. It’s truly a humbling feeling.

TITL: What is it about the song “Losing My Religion” that made you want to cover and shoot a video for it?

MK: I always loved the song. I think REM have written some beautiful songs, both rich and clever in meaning, But I really felt like I could bring “Losing My Religion” into my world by giving it some of my own flavour and orchestral influence. I shot a video for it because I wanted a beautiful visual to accompany it. Considering that I did not write the song, I wanted a simple performance video that would have a beautiful location so people could focus on the song and the arrangement.

TITL: Are there any other songs you’d love to cover in the future?

MK: There are some great songs I would love to cover both for my albums and my social accounts. On my albums, I like to try and choose songs that are not from the Great American Songbook because I want to challenge myself in trying to infuse my sound into a cover. With pop or rock songs, I feel I can really do something exciting and different. However, in a live environment, I do perform some of those great classic songs from the American Songbook and big band genre. I love paying my respect to those magnificent artists who have unknowingly inspired me and so many others with their amazing voices and big band sound.

TITL: With your career steadily on the up and up, do you have any performances or tour dates lined up? Which one venue in the world would you most like to play and why?

MK: I do! I have some tour dates across North America this year including one or two more stops in the US. I will also be heading back to perform a special show in the UK at some point this year. The venue I would love to play is the Royal Albert Hall in London. I think it’s just so rich in history and I’ve seen many great concerts there over the years that really inspired me. I also think as a venue, it has absolutely beautiful acoustics – it’s definitely a venue on the bucket list!

TITL: It could be argued that bands and artists today cannot thrive without being involved in some form of social media. With that in mind, what impact are you seeing the likes of Twitter and Facebook have on your career and do you think you’d have the support and following you do without such sites?

MK: It’s an evolving industry for sure and social media seems to play such a huge part in all of our lives nowadays that naturally, the progression of music, movies and sport are being integrated more and more to social platforms. I think the great thing about social media is that people can really watch your career grow and feel a part of it from humble beginnings. I have some lovely followers and subscribers who feel like an extended family for me . I have tried being creative with my Facebook and Instagram pages by creating platforms such as ‘Croon This Tune’ where I ask followers to suggest songs for me to give my own flavor to them. I then release them sporadically for them to hear. It’s incredible what people will ask sometimes; so much so that it helps me build future setlists for my concerts. I also started a series called ‘Music Life Marks’ where I present different singers and musicians to my audience by telling them stories or interesting facts about those artists that I love.

TITL: Finally then, are there any other plans or projects in the pipeline you can tell me about and, looking further ahead, what’s the ultimate objective for you as an artist?

MK: I am looking forward to touring this year and building my audience. I am going to do my utmost to please my passionate fans and also stick to my mission of trying to bring elements of this genre to a new audience for 2018 and 2019!

Header photo credit: Alex Paillon.

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BLISSBLISS SHARE THE VIDEO FOR NEW SINGLE “BULLETPROOF” 0 54

Blending their varied tastes and musical influences that range from rock and jazz to pop and R&B, BlissBliss have always made music that is truly unique to who they are, both personally and professionally, and showcase this through each and every one of their releases. Following on from previous single “I’m Coming Through”, which was released in September, the duo – Renee and Lang Bliss – have today unveiled the video for their latest track “Bulletproof”, and ThisIsTheLatest are delighted to premiere it to the world.

Asked about the track, taken from their EP 3, which was released last month, the pair said:

“We loved the way that Bulletproof turned out. It originally began with a very different concept but using the same title. But as we saw the theme of relationships developing on the EP, the thought of a couple who constantly fought, wanting love to make them Bulletproof, felt like a really great direction.”

Check out the video for “Bulletproof” below and for more information on BlissBliss, visit their website, give their page a like on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. Header photo credit: Jose Guzman Colon.

CHRIS STILLS TELLS ALL ABOUT HIS NEW ALBUM & THE IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA 0 28

Having just released his first album in 10 years titled ‘Don’t Be Afraid’, it’s safe to say the last few months of 2018 in particular have been pretty big for Chris Stills. With the collection already championed by the likes of Mojo among others, while playing a few shows here in the UK, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Chris to find out more about his artistic influences, the one venue he’d most like to play and how it felt to have his work featured in two Oscar winning films.

TITL: For those unfamiliar with you and your music, how would you sum yourself and your sound up in a few words?

Chris Stills: I grew up with the fundamentals. A folk, blues and rock foundation. Dylan, Stones, Beatles, Pink Floyd, CSN, Neil Young, The Police, U2, AC/DC, Motown… all of it. Depending on my mood and what I’m trying to achieve with a song, I reach to the music I love for inspiration. That also includes my contemporaries like Rufus Wainwright, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley etc…What you get is a nice mixed bag of songs… kind of like a mixed tape you’d make a friend.

TITL: With so many other bands and artists around, what makes you stand out? If you had to sell yourself to a music fan, what would you tell them? 

CS: I write songs, then I work hard to record, mix and master them. I play them in various venues large and small with different formations. I’ll sell you at the show. And maybe over dinner.

TITL: To what extent have your musical influences changed over the course of your life and how do and have those influences impact the music you’ve made and make now?

CS: Music has a funny way of influencing you at different times for different reasons. I hate to admit it, but I’ve only recently discovered the Harry Nilsson record Pussy Cats which is at this very moment affecting me profoundly.

TITL: Which one band or artist might you say you sound most similar to? 

CS: Only the best ones.

TITL: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to music and song-writing? 

CS: It’s a funny thing that one… you don’t wanna look too high otherwise you get cold feet and wanna give up because your heroes can make you feel like you just pale in comparison. I think my biggest inspiration is making the time, then actually taking it, and not taking myself too seriously. Things tend to get better and better as you go.

TITL: Your new album has been praised by the likes of Mojo and Classic Rock among others, but do you actually care much about what critics think or are you more concerned with the thoughts of your fans? 

CS: It’s always nice to get a nod here and there but if I was here for it I might as well be selling yogurt. My favorite place to know whether people are into what I’m doing is on stage. It’s immediate and clear. No filters.

TITL: The album features co-writes/collaborations with Ryan Adams and Zac Rae of Death Cab For Cutie. How did those collaborations come about and what did each bring to the writing/creative process for the album?

CS: I met Ryan when we were just kids. We were guys in the 3rd room at the time of The Rolling Stones who were working on Bridges to Babylon. We were just a couple of kids back then but really became close when he and Ethan Johns asked me to come play on Gold. At some point later Ryan had built his studio, PaxAm and invited me to come be creative there. With him… without him. He was ever so supportive. He ended up helping me finish Criminal Mind.

Zac Rea is force of nature in his own right. If you want that X-Factor in your music he will deliver every time. He’s one of my favorite people to work with and like Ryan and really everyone else really helped me make this record.

TITL: If you had to pick your favourite song on the album, which would it be and why? 

CS: They all hold a very special place. I guess some of the more fun sessions were the ones that were recorded with the most folks playing at the same time. “Lonely Nights”, “Don’t be Afraid”… those were some exciting times in the studio.

TITL: Your music has been included in several films, including I, Tonya and American Hustle as well as in the US version of the hit show Shameless, in which you also appeared. What impact did having that happen have on your career in terms of audience/fan base interaction and interest? 

CS: Well, it doesn’t hurt to be a part of Academy Award winning film. Or working with David O’Russell, Mark Batson, John Wells or Sue Jacobs. I mean, they’re the best in their fields. If anything it’s a good confidence booster, isn’t it?

TITL: As a modern day artist, and given how long you’ve been in and around the industry, how are you finding social media’s impact on your career? Would you agree it’s a vital tool in today’s world or do you think we as a general society have become far too reliant on it?

CS: I think social media has leveled the playing field. Sadly it also seems to have sucked all the life out of any mystery in this world. But you really have to have lived when that still existed to know what I’m talking about. Is social media vital? Yes. It’s running everything and everyone into a big opaque blobby data mine.

TITL: You’ve got a final number of 2018 shows coming up. For anyone who hasn’t seen you before, what can people expect from your performances?

CS: For me, my shows are like a release… all the energy that goes into it… the work, the travel, the road, the life… it all culminates on stage.

TITL: If you could play one venue that you haven’t yet, which would it be and why? 

CS: I have always dreamed of playing the Royal Albert Hall. Do I really need to ex.plain that one?

TITL: Finally then, now that 2018 is almost over, have you started planning for 2019 yet? What can fans expect to see and hear from you in the near future? 

CS: Plan nothing. Be careless. Enjoy yourselves. And somewhere in 2019, another Chris Stills record will come rumbling in.

To keep up to date with Chris Stills, visit his website, give his page a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter and Instagram. His album ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ is available now. Photo credit: Dove Shore.