Thursday, November 17, 2016


Dia at the Venice Walk Streets


At the Venice Walk Streets

Nowita Place, Marco Place, Amoroso Place and Crescent Place in Venice Beach

“Each one of these things – whether you’re talking about a ring, a song, a project – is like a little jewel. They’re all these little jewels,” begins Daniella Birrittella. “I love the idea of looking back at my life and seeing a trail of little jewels.”

It’s impossible not to smile along with the grinning Daniella, aka Dia, as she speaks about the things she is most passionate about: her music and all of the other art projects that she has going on in her life. Her “little jewels” metaphor is an apt one, since she is not only a singer-songwriter and composer, she also designs a line of fine jewelry.

We meet up on a sunny afternoon near her home in Venice Beach to discuss all of these little jewels (including her debut EP, Tiny Ocean, released by Manimal Records in May), as well as her unique upbringing and training in classical singing. While she does visit the more trendy spots in Venice from time to time, Dia prefers the more low-key treasures the entire city has to offer.

Venice Walk Streets
“There’s this spaciousness to L.A. that allows for expression and privacy. I hike a lot, and clearly, I have an obsession with the ocean,” she offers, in reference to her EP title. “Growing up in Boston, I definitely feel the weight of darkness. I internalize it; it doesn’t roll off of me. So I love the light here, it’s good for the spirit. There is a part of me that’s perpetually heartbroken and drawn to the darkness, the weightiness of being in older cities like Paris or Rome. They have a perfume, a heaviness, that feels so alluring. But as far as a sustainable way of living and being, L.A. is good for me.”

One definitely feels the light and lightness of Los Angeles when visiting one of the pockets Dia enjoys most in her neighborhood, the Venice Walk Streets. Built in the early 1900s, Abbot Kinney initially designed the walk streets as part of his vision for making Venice, Calif. mirror the city of Venice, Italy.

As you walk down Nowita Place, Marco Place or Amoroso Place between Lincoln Boulevard and Shell Avenue or Crescent Place between Palms Boulevard and Superba Avenue, you realize why they appeal to Dia. Cars aren’t allowed on any of these narrow pathways, and they’re lined with gorgeous homes adorned with ornate gates, small community library boxes, handmade art pieces, colorful flower and vegetable beds and trees decorated with chandeliers.

Each yard has its own special story, as does Dia. As she mentioned, she is from Boston, but she isn’t your typical Bostonian.

“My parents moved there to run an ashram, so my particular situation was this little bubble inside of Boston,” she says, before going into the music she was surrounded by as a child. “In the ashram, there would be chanting at particular times of the day, and that was lots of sitar, harmonium, tabla, mridangam. That was the core thing that I heard. My parents weren’t particularly music aficionados; most of what we listened to otherwise was ‘80s pop on the radio. Then, I always loved oldies from the ’50s and ‘60s, and I still do. So when I was really young, those were the biggest things: bad ‘80s pop, really good oldies and chanting.”

Enveloped by that mixture of sounds, she also took ballet, tap and jazz dance classes since age 3 and would always put on shows for family and friends. One thing seemed certain: Young Dia was destined to be a performer.

“I was so over the top. I thought I was Madonna for sure,” she admits. “I remember walking home with my friend, singing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ for her. She made fun of me: ‘You sing it so seriously.’ ‘That’s because it’s how I feel it,’ I replied.”

As Dia moved into fifth grade, her inner diva became restrained when she began being intensely bullied at school.

“I so naturally wanted to express, share and create, but I got terrified and self conscious about doing that because of the experiences that I had,” she recalls. “I would go home and sing my heart out. I was taking voice lessons privately, but I never wanted to perform for anyone. I was terrified of putting myself out there. When I was in choir, I wanted to sing so badly, but I was hiding within that.”

The competition choir introduced Dia to what would become one of her great loves: classical music. Since there wasn’t much classical music being played in the Hindu ashram growing up, getting to sing “Messiah” and Mozart’s “Requiem” opened her mind to all the things she could really do with her voice.

After high school, Dia attended New York University as a journalism major. She decided to take a private voice lesson as an elective during her first semester, and this changed the course of her life.

“My teacher, John Kuhn, was an opera singer in Germany, and so were his parents. Our first lesson, he warmed me up and down the piano and said, ‘You could be an opera singer.’ That was a life-changing moment for me, a validation of something I already knew,” she tells. “I started going down this path at NYU of training to be an opera singer. A lot of my teachers, mentors and coaches were like, ‘You have it,’ which was a dream to hear, but I wasn’t grounded enough in myself. I didn’t have the security to fully do it.”

Dia continued to study opera as she obtained a double MFA (in classical voice and theater) at California Institute of the Arts and took part in several young artists programs. She knew she wanted to do something in music, but wasn’t quite sure exactly what. Then one Christmas around four years ago when she moved to Venice, her brother – who is a professional musician as well – asked her what she wanted, and she replied, “A ukulele.”

“I can be Type A or neurotic about this needing to happen or this needing to happen, but with the ukulele, I had no agenda. It was so natural,” she remembers. “I started by looking up charts to play Beatles or Turtles songs and was satisfied and stunned. I would play piano for learning the classical music – this Verdi or this Strauss thing. It was never to just chill and play. This whole little world I needed to create a song was right here, and that made me so happy.

She started playing in a ukulele duo, coming up with melodies that eventually morphed into song fragments. Once she had enough material to think about recording, she realized she needed some help.

“The person who ended up being the most instrumental for me is Tim Carr, who produced a lot of songs on the EP. When we got together to listen to what I had, he immediately sat at my piano, played along and harmonized with me or was on the guitar. I thought, ’He totally gets what this is,’” she exclaims. “We recorded an album’s worth of my songs but only released six on the EP. That year of working together, I learned so much about collaboration, arrangement and tones. I started to listen to music in a different way.”

When you listen to the EP’s title track, “Tiny Ocean,” you hear the many layers of Dia’s musical history. Classic folk and rock mixed with classical, and even some Hindu influences.

“We brought in a shruti box, which has a similar tone to a harmonium but doesn’t have a keyboard, for ‘Tiny Ocean.’ It has these little valves, and each valve is a different note, so you can create chords with it,” she explains. “The intro of the song almost sounds like a really distant ship or foghorn on the water in the morning. That was the shruti box.”

Dia continues to hone her songwriting skills, and recently rekindled her love of classical singing and music by collaborating with other composers to score 12 of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus.
“I was really specific about which composers I asked to participate, those I knew his work would resonate with. He writes about love, transcendence, spirituality, nature, sexuality, death, and expresses them in a way that captures their gravity but with a perspective or awareness that doesn’t feel heavy. He’s writing about Orpheus and Eurydice, but it’s everything. His writing’s so complete,” she gushes. “I read Letters to a Young Poet in my early 20s, and the idea that you don’t choose to be an artist was so meaningful to me. I have a jewelry line too, and a friend once asked, ‘Don’t want to just focus on the jewelry?’ An old boyfriend introduced me to someone as ‘a jewelry designer.’ I didn’t say anything at the time, but inside, I was like, ‘Fuck you, that’s not what I am.’ It just illustrates the idea in Rilke’s book of you don’t get to choose. If you don’t have that feeling, you really can’t relate to it in that way, and that’s fine.”

As far as her jewelry line, which she has been creating pieces for since graduating from NYU, Dia is in the process of completely rebranding her site to relaunch soon.

“Jewelry is a different outlet for me, but I try and infuse what I feel through music and performing into the jewelry. I only do fine jewelry because it’s fascinating to me. This bangle [points to the bracelet on her wrist] I made years ago with my grandmother’s gold. I don’t take this off ever,” she says. “To make fine things that become a part of people’s bodies and stories that they pass down – that’s an honor.”

While jewelry is definitely a creative outlet that Dia keeps exploring, music is really at the forefront for her right now. After writing her first chamber piece for Sonnet to Orpheus, she started a chamber quintet. She is also collaborating with other artists on two contemporary performance projects.

“One is a male actor and singer, and it’s based on the Portuguese word saudade and fado music,” she shares. “The other artist I’m collaborating with is a dancer. We’re working on this project with music and dance about moms not really being able to be moms.”

In addition to these collaborative performance pieces, Dia is working on a covers EP to come out early next year and several original songs that she hopes to record in the spring.

“The covers are all early ‘60s and some ‘50s songs. It’s sexy and dark; they’re remnants of what you remember of an old song. Of course I know these songs really well, but when we were recording some of them, I didn’t want to reference their tempo or anything, just how the memory of each song felt to me,” she explains. “With the newer stuff I’m working on, I feel like I have a better understanding of how to write songs. They have a 1940s cowgirl feel but with chamber elements – still Dia. We’ll see how things come together. I’m excited about new things.”

Tiny Ocean is currently available. Dia performs Nov. 19 at Late Sunday Afternoon in Venice. For more information, visit

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

David Stücken

David and the Curse frontman David Stücken

My Los Angeles with


Honesty – of intention and in conveying real truth that’s not contaminated by ulterior motives – is something that you unfortunately don’t come across too often in Los Angeles. You also don’t encounter many people who are from Los Angeles originally. Singer-songwriter, musician and producer David Stücken is actually the epitome of both a native Angeleno and raw, tell-it-to-your-face honesty.

David has been writing and performing since age 12 in bands such as the Breakdowns and the Strangers, playing on bills with legends like Social Distortion, TSOL and the Buzzcocks. Presently, he is at the helm of his first solo endeavor, David and the Curse, and it is on their upcoming debut album, An Epitaph for Love, where that honesty really comes across in songs like “Diamond Ring,” “Matters of Flesh” and “Queen of the Blues.” So when I ask him to compose an epitaph honoring David and the Curse’s musical sound, consisting of only three words, it’s no surprise when he replies, “Honest Rock ’n’ Roll.”

As he amps up for a Nov. 18 show at El Cid and the early 2017 release of An Epitaph for Love, David took some time to share the special places that make up his Los Angeles with Jigsaw.

My favorite track on the album is “Figueroa Street,” and the girl in “She Loves the Night” is quite recognizable to me when I think back on nights on the Sunset Strip. From Downtown and Venice Beach to Silver Lake and the Sunset Strip, do you have a favorite L.A. neighborhood?
I love downtown Los Angeles. Even though I've lived in L.A. my whole life, it is still always so cool to stand in the middle of all the skyscrapers in the middle of the night and just look up. 
The Sunset Strip has changed drastically over the years, but one of my earliest memories is driving up La Cienega to go to a concert on the Sunset Strip. I remember thinking to myself, "this is where I wanna be. These clubs are where I wanna work.” 
Every neighborhood in Los Angeles is constantly evolving. When I wrote “Figueroa Street” I literally lived two blocks off of it. I've lived in every city in L.A. County, and they all have their ups and downs.
What’s your favorite venue to play shows at? 
The House of Blues Sunset Strip RIP. I always loved playing shows at the HOB. The staff was always really awesome and treated every band with respect. That stage and room had a lot of mojo and history to it. Played there many times over the years. Can't really think of one show that stands out because every single time I set foot on that stage it was magical. 
Where did you see the first concert that really made an impact on you? 
I'd say that when I saw Jerry Lee Lewis when I was 4 years old it made an immense impact on me. It was at Knott's Berry Farm in OC. I was four, and there was a couple dancing in front of me who were probably 18 or 19, and the girl was really attractive. I remember hating that I was a kid. It was time to grow up fast and get into rock ’n’ roll.

What’s your favorite record shop? Was there an album or song from a certain artist that made you realize, ‘hey, this is what I want to do’?
Funny how this question ties right into the last answer I gave haha. Well, these days record shops are few and far between compared to how it used to be. I love Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard. it's like a treasure hunt every time I go there. 
There is a small independent record store in Orange County called Vinyl Solution that has always supported me and sold my records even in the days when we would bring our CDs and shirts in to sell on consignment. 
I like the mom-and-pop shops, but look ... They're talking about putting high-rise Legoland condos where Amoeba is, so it isn't just the mom-and-pop shops struggling. 
As far as a song that made me realize that this is what I wanted to do ... probably a Bowie or a Stones song I heard as a young lad. As an angst ridden teenager, Social Distortion’s "Another State of Mind.” 

Is there a shop where you like to go geek out on really expensive guitars and amps at?
I've got to give props to my old homie Bob at a little shop in Redondo Beach called Rhythm and Notes. I buy a lot of my old guitars from him. He's known me since I started playing music because I grew up in the South Bay. 
In Las Vegas I have a friend named Jesse Amoroso who owns a shop called Cowtown Guitars. I've bought some stuff from him, too. He has great vintage amps and guitars. Very solid eBay salesman, too. 

Do you have a favorite tattoo artist in the city?
Currently I have a great working relationship with an artist named Abraham Mendoza (Ruester) who works out of a shop on Melrose in Hollywood called Under the Gun Tattoo. He specializes in black-and-grey portraits. We're actually working on a tattoo to signify the record that is of an old burlesque dancer named Zorita the Snake Charmer. 

From hats and leather jackets to cool shirts, you have great style on stage. Do you have some favorite clothes shops? Also, do you have a specific barber you go to for haircuts/shaves?
Well, thank you very much! My favorite vintage shops are actually in Long Beach on 4th Street in a section they call “Retro Row" because it has about 10 vintage shops in a row, all filled with hats and leather jackets. I get my haircut there at a shop owned by my friend Billy Burks of the band the Humpers. It's called Salon POP and Barber Shop

If you were taking a girl who isn’t originally from L.A. on a first date, where would you take her?
I'd take her out to the beach and then to downtown L.A. to see the spectrum of landscape. 

Do you have a favorite bar and coffee shop? What are your usual drinks there? 
Honestly, I don't really buy into the whole craft coffee and beer fad. I think the best coffee is what you personally like, and even though it's not hip, I'm a Starbucks guy hahahaha. 
As far as bars, the best ones are the packed ones if we are playing a small bar show. The Maui Sugar Mill in Tarzana is an awesome little gem that hosts great music and treats musicians with respect. They've had Dave Grohl and Slash do secret shows there because it's such a cool, old-skool place. 

How about a favorite restaurant and dish that you always order there? 
I try to eat healthier these days, so I usually eat a lot of sushi or poke. I try to stay away from red meat, but when I was a kid, the Apple Pan on Pico was my all-time favorite place. Hickoryburger with cheese, please!!! Haha

As a songwriter, do you have a place you go to for inspiration or to get your creative juices flowing?
Yes, I go to the boxing gym and focus, and then I go to a secluded beach and clear my head. 

As a native Angeleno, what do you love about Los Angeles? 
I love the diversity of Los Angeles. I love all of the different neighborhoods: from the beaches to the Downtown skyline to the San Fernando Valley. If you're not from here the landscape can be daunting, but to me, it's awesome that I can go wherever I want and always know someplace to have some fun at. The band members of the Curse are scattered between Long Beach, Hollywood, Studio City and Canoga Park, so we're all over the L.A. area. 

An Epitaph for Love will be available in early 2017. David and the Curse perform Nov. 18 at El Cid. For more information, visit

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


Garrett Wolfe, Chris Cain, Thomas Robles, Hugo "Juice" Sanchez, Kameron Hollis and DeAngelo "Deezy" Sherman of GClub


At Public School 213
612 Flower St., Los Angeles (Downtown) 213-622-4500

“What is great about us is that we all come from different backgrounds and listen to all types of music. So when we come together, it’s a little confused, but the confusion brings something right,” says GClub rapper/vocalist Chris Cain. “There’s beauty in the chaos.”

It’s not easy to meld the influences of individual members into a cohesive band sound, especially when there are seven distinct voices to be a heard, which is the case with Inland Empire’s GClub (short for Gentlemen’s Club). 

“If each of our members were to form his own separate band, he would be the musical director of that band. We have a lot of leaders, but they’re leaders who can also follow,” Chris continues. “We just have to listen to each other. The fact is, we’re fighting for a purpose, so we will fight against each other a little bit, but we always come to our senses.”

I meet up with the entire crew except for vocalist Hunter Mora to find out more about what makes GClub tick on a hot afternoon at popular gastropub Public School 213. Downtown has special meaning for the band since their first official show in Los Angeles proper was at Mrs. Fish.

All of the decor at PS 213 is modeled after items you would find in a classroom, from chalk-written specials on blackboards and wood “desk” chairs to a row of books and globe atop a Midcentury Modern sideboard. Their menus are made to look like black-and-white composition books and Scantron forms, while their napkins resemble notebook paper. 

PS 213 is a fitting location for our interview since the musicians of GClub – Chris, bassist Hugo “Juice” Sanchez, keyboardist DeAngelo “Deezy” Sherman, trumpeter Thomas Robles, guitarist Garrett Wolfe and drummer Kameron Hollis – are really a regular group of guys at heart who love to put one another on blast, eat, drink and laugh together.

Just take the following exchange about how the band came together in late 2014 for example.

Chris: At the time, I was in another band, and we performed for KIIS FM Breakout Star [moans and whispers from both sides of me: ‘Oh, here we go!’]. Deezy and Kam performed with another artist, and they got beat out by my band. I already knew about Deezy because the producer that I was working with had a friendly rivalry with him. I saw Kam drumming and thought, ‘This dude is good.’ Then [to Kam] I saw you at RCC, do you remember that?
Kam: No.
Chris: ’You played at Breakout Star. We beat you out, so of course you remember me!’ That’s what I said to him [laughs]. I got his number because I was doing my own solo music and would call him to get musicians.
Kam: He called me to rescue him. 
Chris: It wasn’t a rescue! I would give him my music, and he just blessed it, took it to another level. 

“Hunter and Wolf approached me to join their band. Then I brought in Kam, who brought in Deezy and Juice,” Chris continues. “We perform like a supergroup because we took the best that I had and what they had. Then Thomas came in and became the cherry on top that makes us more special. Playing with a live band makes you feel like there’s an army behind you, like nothing can stop you.”

Even though they all grew up around the Inland Empire, each member has a unique background story. Thomas even more so, since GClub was formed before he joined.

“I chose the trumpet because I like being on the front line as a performer. My mother had a ballet folklórico dance group growing up, and my sister and I were her star dancers. Because I love that Latin flair, I want to bring the Latin culture’s vibration to pop music,” he shares. “I’ve been playing trumpet since fifth grade. I was definitely a band kid all the way through school, but I dropped it right after high school. When I was 21 or 22, an old friend hit me up to get a small group together to open up for Gentlemen’s Club. I was already their biggest fan, so when Chris and Hunter saw me playing trumpet with the other group and asked if I would play on a song, I said yes and went to a couple of rehearsals. I remember taking pictures, my hands were shaking. It was a big deal to me.” 

Garrett grew up listening to rock, Queen and AC/DC, with his dad in Orange County. He started as a drummer in elementary school, playing in the school band, marching band and jazz band all the way through high school. During freshman year, he picked up a guitar for the first time.

Deezy, Juice, Hunter, Kam, Thomas, Chris and Garrett

“Like every good story, a girl came into my life. I was a quiet, shy kid madly in love with this cheerleader. She came up to me and asked if I could teach her to play the guitar. I said, ‘Yeah!’ I learned to play a song on my brother’s guitar and showed her, but it all blew up in my face. Hopefully she’ll come back to me any day now,” he jokes. “I eventually met Hunter while we were both music majors at Cal Poly Pomona and had a language arts class together. He saw me doing some Music Theory homework, and we started talking. One day we jammed, and then we became close friends. We had a band where we played Maroon 5-type of music. Hunter got me into the whole R&B, pop-rock scene, and Chris got me into the hip-hop scene a little, so it was a new experience.”

Freshman year in high school also holds significance for Chris.

“I’m Puerto Rican, so my mom would always have on salsa music or R&B, Mariah Carey. When I was a freshman in high school, my brother’s friend told me, ‘You have a voice for music, you should use it.’ He wrote a whole verse for me to practice and see how I did. I rehearsed and rehearsed and finally got it down. I was so excited, I kept calling him and he wasn’t home (This was when house phones were all we had.), so I wrote my own verse, and when he called me back I spit my rap to him, and he said, ‘Wow, that’s better than what I wrote.’ That’s when I started doing my own lyrics,” recalls Chris. “I was writing straight hip hop about gun shots. One line went, ‘I got the 45 on my hip, call me a senior citizen.’ I thought I was the most gangsta person, then I woke up one day thinking, ‘I’ve never seen a gun in my life. What do I know about? Women.’ I started writing about relationships, going more into hip-hop pop and R&B, loving choruses and hooks that made people remember stuff.”

Meanwhile Deezy, Kameron and Juice were planting their musical roots in church.

“Gospel and a lot of old R&B is where this derived from for me. My mom really loved Luther Vandross; it was kind of uncomfortable at times,” laughs Deezy. “Then I branched off and started listening to everything from rock to pop. That NSYNC and Backstreet Boys era was fun. My grandmother played the piano and taught me, but I was more interested in the drums. My grandmother passed, and I still played drums until my church needed somebody to play keys ASAP. I stepped in and started playing. So let Kam know if he tries something silly, I can take over on drums!”

“I would love to see that,” replies Kam.

“Similar to Deezy, my foundation is a lot of gospel since my father is a pastor and my grandfather was a reverend. I sang and played drums at my grandfather’s church, and those were the building blocks to where I’m at now. It’s funny, my parents thought I was going to be a keyboard player because my uncle was before he passed. They used to sit me right next to him on the piano bench, and I would just stare. But drums were always it. Around the time I was conceived, my parents toured and sang in a community gospel choir. In rehearsal I would be kicking my mom in the womb to the beat. As a child I would always be at home in the kitchen, creating my own drum sets with pots, pans and bowls,” recalls Kam. “Growing up, my dad had crates of 45s and albums he played on his old Technics sound system. We’d wake up Saturday morning and clean the house listening to the Chi-Lites, the O’Jays, the Temptations, the Supremes or the Delfonics.” 

Juice, on the other hand, grew up only listening to Christian music.

“I didn’t know Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder or anything! I actually sang before I played bass. The only reason I picked it up is because my brother was playing drums and said I should be the bass player at church. I wanted to be cool like my brother who was playing at all the church camps and services, so I said yes, and then it just got more serious over time. It wasn’t until I started driving, like my first day ever driving, that I had a gig without my brother, and this is when I started to take music seriously,” he recalls. “I remember meeting Kam at one of the last gigs I did with my brother. I never thought we would be friends after that gig because Kam was mean.”

“He still is,” chimes in Deezy with a grin.

“Kam had a solo [mimics drum noises]. I say to my brother, ‘Yo, that dude’s tight,’ and he says, ‘Yeah, he’s good,’  you know how you are when you know someone’s better than you,” Hugo laughs. “After that I was always connected to Kam. We would play and were building a relationship.”

By now there are several conversations happening around the table as drinks (Just About Bottomless Mimosas for almost everyone and a Honcho Hefe from Mother Earth Brewing Co. for Garrett) and an array of dishes arrive. There are Crispy Naked Wings, Bacon Cheddar Tots, hand-tossed pizzas and a creamy Chorizo Mac & Cheese topped with crushed sea salt & vinegar potato chips.  

PS 213 is the ideal atmosphere to watch a ball game or play some shuffleboard with friends while enjoying craft beer and great food. As we dig into our food, I ask the guys if they can remember a moment when they realized music was it.

“I mainly lived with my mom, who was very overprotective, so I didn’t go to many shows except church shows. The first show I ever went to was in ninth grade, a Green Day concert. After that I just knew music was it for me,” remembers Garrett. “I loved their stage presence and the loud, obnoxious guitars; it just clicked for me. That was where I fell in love with the whole idea of a live rock concert, and I still love Green Day.”

Chris, however, went to plenty of shows. 
PS 213 menus and napkin

“I still go to a lot of concerts. I like Microsoft Theater and Club Nokia because of how small they are and sound bounces so well. Sound doesn’t travel well at Staples Center. It’s built for sports, not live performances,’ he tells. “Some of the best have been Bruno Mars and Marc Anthony.”

“Not Tori Kelly?” Garrett teases, knowing that Chris is obsessed with her.

“I don’t remember her shows because I’m on the ground fainting. No, seriously, her too,” Chris replies. “When you follow an artist’s journey and they succeed, you succeed in a sense. When she made it I was like, ‘Dang, I was around the whole time because I was following her before she even had 1,000 followers, and now it’s millions. I’m her No. 1 fan.” 

Juice had his moment at one of his own church performances.  

“We did a service in Rialto and they announced us as ‘This is so and so band,’ and I was like, ‘Sick we have a name!’ From then on, I just knew it. In high school I would miss so much school to play a service or gig, so music was pretty legit. Once I got out of high school it was full time, and it’s taken care of me,” he says. “When I first started playing, being next to my older brother was my biggest thing. He still plays, but he’s married and has four kids. He just wasn’t hungry for it, while I lived and breathed it. Learning how to play it was me on bass, him on drums and our sister on piano. We would always play one song, ‘Lord You Are Good,’ all the time since we knew we had it down. It wasn’t until I started playing in church with Kim and his friend that I really learned how to play gospel. There was a man named Darien who was really strict, and he helped me musically and structurally, the way that I look at music now. Every time I have a gig with him, I know I have to have everything tight because he don’t play.” 

Deezy has had similar experiences of hard work leading to great rewards when it comes to playing gospel music.

“In the gospel world you really have to know your music because there’s no hiding in gospel. More than anything, it taught me to study and make sure I know exactly what I’m playing because if you don’t, it will show, especially when you get around other musicians who are A1. I had a situation playing for one music director where I geo a call last minute from Kam saying Juice dropped out at the last minute and that I had to play key bass – what?! It turns out that the MD is a stickler, and as soon as we start to play at rehearsal the next day, I can see on his face that it’s a disaster. I just had to go home and practice until 4 a.m. It paid off because the next rehearsal I was ready,” he shares. “[Playing in a church group] teaches you to understand the music that you’re playing. With gospel, there are so many changes and modulations. I wouldn’t say that it gives me an advantage over other musicians, but it kind of does because it forced me to get better from practicing and studying my music. Of course, when you’re in front of a bunch of people constantly on Sundays, you get comfortable.” 

Kam agrees about there being certain advantages to having come up in the church scene.

“The good thing about the church scene is that big gospel artists come through small churches and perform. It’s different from when your idol is Beyoncé, she’s not coming through your local theaters. With gospel, it’s different, so coming up in the church, I saw a lot of major gospel artists. Outside the walls of the church, I focus on everybody that’s doing it major, especially when it comes to live performance because these last few years I’ve come to understand that my niche is doing arrangements for live sets,” informs Kam. “My philosophy has always been: When it comes to live performance, you have to do something that adds excitement because if you sound just like the record, you’re wasting people’s time and money. They could just stay home and play your CD. I try to understand the elements that it takes to create and perform a really good live show. At anybody’s concert I’m focusing on the different arrangements that they have of songs and the moments where they connect with the audience. From Beyoncé, Stevie Wonder and my favorite band, Mint Condition, to Snarky Puppy, Usher and Michael Jackson, I pay attention to small things to see how we can incorporate that into our music.”

When it comes to GClub’s creative process when writing songs, Chris and Hunter are the main songwriters, but everyone contributes something. 

“My main focus is songwriting since I don’t play instruments. It usually starts with Wolfe [Garrett] or Hunter playing guitar, and we’ll kind of murmur some lyrics then come to the guys to add their flair,” explains Chris. “Then we have times when we’re arguing about how the bass should sound and create a whole track together. Those are the most frustrating ones, but they end up great. You have to take the good with the bad. I think people don’t move forward because they see the bad situation and try to pull away from it, and we say, ‘Let’s get through it!’ That’s why we’re pretty good.” 

“I come to rehearsals with some crazy ideas that sometimes work and sometimes don’t. That’s the great thing about being in a band: You can collaborate, take an idea that didn’t work one way but Juice may have something to put on top of it so it works. Or if Chris has an idea that isn’t completely finished, we add to it. It’s that collaborative effort that makes everything click,” adds Kam.

“When I came to GClub, I already had my sound and was fully involved in music. I saw they had the same commitment,” says Hugo. “Chris is super passionate, and sometimes we bump heads because we think so much alike.” 

“When we argue, we argue, and then it’s over,” Chris interjects.

“It’s literally all about the music,” chimes in Deezy.

“There are so many people in this band that when there are four different arguments going on, it’s impossible to throw in another one. Nothing would ever get solved,” says Garrett.

“Wolfe is not a conflict person, and that’s fine because we need that. Sometimes I look at my conflicts and think, ‘I should be more like Wolfe,’ but I’m sure he looks at some things I do and wants to do them like I do, too,” concludes Chris. “It’s good to have that balance because he’ll calm us down, and we’ll fire him up. In the end, we all want the best for the band.”

Check out GClub's video for a cover of Kanye West's "Heard 'Em Say" at YouTubeFor more information, visit

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Jenny Jarnagin

Singer-songwriter and pianist Jenny Jarnagin at Lala's Argentine Grill in Studio City

Jenny Jarnagin 

At Lala’s Argentine Grill
11935 Ventura Blvd., Studio City 

“Los Angeles is amazing. You can get any type of food you want, and the restaurants are so good,” begins Jenny Jarnagin. ”A friend who grew up in Argentina brought me here for the first time, and it was a special day. Every time I’m back in L.A. I come here to sit on the patio, watch people, ponder life – the songs I wrote, the business I did, the people I met – and just take a breath. This is the only place that has become a tradition, and it’s always the last day that I’m in L.A. that I sit here to reflect and take in L.A. one more time.”

The Phoenix-based singer-songwriter and pianist and I are at a restaurant that has become her L.A. haunt, Lala’s Argentine Grill in Studio City. It’s too hot to be out on the patio today, so we sit at the bar. Since it’s lunch time, the place is packed, and we are still able to do a fair amount of people watching as we talk about all of the exciting things happening in her life: a new EP, Heart Percent, releasing Sept. 9, a show at Old Towne Pub in Pasadena Sept. 30 and shopping L.A. studios for her next project.

“I was trying to sleep in this morning, but there were helicopters right above the house that were loud and hovering for a long time. I just learned what was going on: Chris Brown is a neighbor, and there was a situation with a woman and police. Isn’t that crazy,” she exclaims. 

Jenny realizes that even with all the crazy there is plenty of good about the city, too.

“The last time I was here at Lala’s, though, there was a stranger that bought another stranger’s meal, which was really cool,” she smiles. “I’ve come here before and just had a glass of wine, but it’s still morning for me today, so I’m starting with coffee.”  

Lack of sleep is nothing new for Jenny since the single mother of two is constantly balancing her home life and music career. She travels to Los Angeles at least once a month to meet with her management team, Mike’s Artist Management/Funzalo Records, and co-write songs with other artists.

“Lately I’ve also been shopping studios for my next project. There’s strong potential for my next album being recorded out here with a notable producer, so I’m super excited,” she shares. “Sometimes I play shows here, too. I just did one at Genghis Cohen, and I’ll be back with my whole band Sept. 30 to play the Old Towne Pub in Pasadena. It’s the first time I’ll have my full band out, so I’m sure it will be fun. It feels so good pulling into L.A. and getting here, but it also feels good to go [laughs]. I keep busy at home, too, constantly sending out vocal demos and staying in communication with people here.”

Driving out to Los Angeles from Phoenix is time alone that the busy working mom savors.

“Sometimes it’s nice to be able to have some solitude – just music and my own thoughts. I love to listen to all kinds of stuff, my background is pretty eclectic. I grew up playing piano by ear and was a church pianist by the time I was 7, so I love gospel, blues and pop music. I also studied classical, so I appreciate that, too. I have a really vast range of music that I enjoy, it really depends on the mood,” she tells. “Since I love to write pop music, I listen to a lot of Top 40. You can sing along and listen to what they do, how they write it, the beats they use and how they phrase things. A lot of people say pop music will dumb you down, but there actually is an art and a craft to writing a great pop song.”  

As she sips her coffee and nibbles some bread with Lala’s addictive chimichurri dipping sauce, I notice a portrait on the wall that features a redhead who bears a bit of a resemblance to Jenny. We giggle as I snap a photo of her next to that painting and in front of massive wall art depicting a couple in the midst of a passionate Argentinian tango.

Two Argentinian transplants, Horacio Weschler Ferrari and Mario Balul, opened Lala’s original location on famed Melrose Avenue in 1996 and quickly gained a reputation for a great dining atmosphere and succulent grilled meats.

“Everything is really good here – the meat!” Jenny offers as we peruse Lala’s menu that is full of traditional Argentinian favorites like a chorizo sandwich, a fruity glass of sangria, Flan con Dulce de Leche and their famous grilled chicken entrées. Today she opts for the Griega salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, red onion, black olives, red and green bell peppers, feta cheese and house dressing), while I decide to try two spinach, cheese and onion empanadas. 

We place our orders, and Jenny tells me a bit more about her childhood. She was born in Oklahoma, but her family immigrated to British Columbia, where they still reside. Although Jenny referred to playing piano by ear as she grew up, she neglected to reveal that she was only 3 years old when she started to play.

“My mom always wanted a child who played piano, so she prayed and prayed for one. My sister is the oldest and is very stubborn: She went through six piano teachers in a year and quit. I have two older brothers, but they didn’t take to it, and I’m the caboose,” she says. “We happened to have a big player piano that the previous owner had left in the home, and I just started playing it. I think it’s a blessing [she laughs]. Musicians, we’re a strange type, so that’s what my mom got with me. I was the kid in the basement spending hours at the piano because I loved it. I started with nursery rhymes and church songs – whatever I would hear I would play.”

Jenny started formal piano lessons at age 5, but the habit of learning songs by ear was a hard one to break for the mischievous youngster who fooled her teacher into believing she could read notes for two years. When she was finally caught, she says going back and learning everything by sight reading was “torture.”  

Although none of her immediate family members were musically inclined, her mother provided constant support. She sent Jenny to study at the Conservatory of Music in Victoria every summer and took her to see every musical performance possible. 

“We lived in a small town in British Columbia, but my mom would take me to almost every act that came through town: the symphony, rock ’n’ roll, backwoods hippie bands. Whatever was in town, she would take me. Isn’t that awesome,” Jenny gushes. “I had an eclectic group of friends who were more artsy, so in junior high when most people were listening to Pearl Jam or Green Day, I was discovering Simon & Garfunkel, Deep Purple and a lot of progressive rock bands. I always thought I should have lived in the ‘60s and ‘70s because that’s my favorite genre of music. You’ll hear a lot of stuff in my music, and what’s confusing to people is the back catalog because I’ve done 10 albums before this EP, and they’re all different in style. That was one of the hard things: trying to find my voice and identify what Jenny Jarnagin sounds like. It’s been a journey to try and find my stride, but I think I’m there.”

Once she became a teenager, she was so good on piano that people would ask her to teach their children.

“Teaching is something that I’ve always done and enjoy while I’m doing it. The income is nice, but it’s not my first passion. It is rewarding in its way, to see kids develop those skills, become better and get so excited at their small successes. I’ve had students for eight, nine, 10 years go to high school then college, and it’s cool being part of their lives, watching them go out into the world,” she admits. “For a while when I was studying music, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, so I just kept going to school.” 

Jenny majored in piano performance at Texas A&M University, and spent a “life-changing” summer at the Conservatory of Music in St. Petersburg Russia. After graduation, on the way back to British Columbia, she dropped by her parents’ winter home in Phoenix, and ended up never leaving Arizona.

“I stopped to see my mom, but within a week I had a job at a girls prep school because they needed a pianist for their music program. I stayed a little longer, then I met my ex. I feel like my whole life I’ve been trying to get back to Canada, but it just never happened, and now I’m pretty content with where I am. I realize that I can’t necessarily do what I’m doing if I was up in Canada since my dad is a farmer, and my family lives off the Alaska Highway in British Columbia where it’s beautiful but isolated,” she confesses. “Here in L.A., you’re in the thick of it. I love the music scene in Phoenix, but it’s small. There are great musicians, bands and more music venues opening up, but I know someone who has been playing the same wine bar for 30 years, and that’s what made me make the jump to L.A. If I have the opportunity, I’m going to take the chance, spread my seeds here and watch them grow.”

She has continued to push herself academically, obtaining a master’s in Music Education at Northern Arizona University, as well as musically.

“I’ve always known that I was meant to do music in some way or another. It wasn’t until I started writing pop music six years ago that I knew I hit what I was supposed to do. All the natural talent, the love for pop music and the training came together and made sense to me. I always knew I could write, but it wasn’t until then that I ended up diving in,” she recalls. “I didn’t sing until I started writing pop. Six years ago I wrote my first piano instrumental album, and I told the producer I was working with in Phoenix at the time, ‘I have these pop songs, but maybe you can find a singer to hire.’ I played the songs and sang them for him, and he said, ‘Nobody sounds like you. I think you’re the singer.’ That’s when I started singing, and I love it. It fits and feels good to sing. At shows with my full band, I’m out from behind keys a lot of times. At first it was strange but liberating because at some of the high-energy shows, I feel trapped behind the keys when I really want to connect with the audience, move and speak to them.”

When it comes to writing lyrics for her songs, Jenny finds it’s best to step away from her keyboard.

“If I’m sitting at a piano, a few words might come out with a rhythm and then I’ll get a melody going, but usually I have to really hone in and focus on the lyrics because they’re harder for me. Once I get the melody in my head, I go away from the piano and work on lyrics,” she says. “What I do a lot in Phoenix is go to a coffee shop and work on lyrics because I’m removed and can really think about what a song should say.”

Our lunch arrives, and Jenny divulges a little secret as we enjoy the crisp salad and delicious empanadas.

“When I’m here in L.A., I’m mostly working, making the most of the time, but the other day I was supposed to write with somebody and I was tired and felt zero inspiration, which is not like me. So I called the co-writer to ask if she would mind taking the day off. I went to the beach! It was awesome, and now my batteries are recharged.”

Thankful for little moments of ‘me time,’ Jenny has a lot on her plate since the Heart Percent EP releases this Friday. The title is such a unique phrase, so I ask her where it comes from.

“I recorded a bunch of songs and chose five to go on the EP. There was one song that was going to be on it in the beginning but ended up not making it, called ‘Own It.’ The song talks about buying into a relationship: Are you 100 percent in? How much of your heart are you going to give? How much do you care? The heart percent was an idea that bubbled out.”

One track that did make the cut is Jenny’s current single, “It’s Not Right,” and the song has strong meaning to her.

“My sister is 10 years older than me, and not only did my mom pray for a kid that played piano, my sister prayed for a baby sister. So we’re really close, and sometimes I use her ideas in songwriting. One day she had an argument with her boyfriend at the time where he had turned everything around on her, and she ended up apologizing. She said to me, ‘I didn’t really do anything wrong, and it’s not right to not be me. I just want to get back to being me.’ It’s interesting when you’re in a situation that changes you into something you’re not, and you wake up one day and realize you’ve become something you don’t want to be,” Jenny says. “I think a lot of people can identify with that. I know that I’ve been through circumstances even being an artist, feeling the pressures of society like, ‘You can’t do that. You’re a mom, why would you think you’re a pop artist?’ When you take a risk, people can put you down, so the song pinpoints the pressures that you feel being different, doing your thing, and how people will try to keep you so you’re more like them.” 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my lunch date with Jenny Jarnagin, it’s that this hard-working artist has no fear when it comes to pushing herself or boundaries that others may try to force upon her.

“It’s my hope that my music can motivate people, speak to them or make them feel like somebody understands them. I want my music to bless people’s lives and mean something to them. It goes both ways, when someone really likes a song that I wrote, it feels so good. It’s give and receive,” she concludes. “I would love to do a tour across Europe playing shows. It’s amazing how many doors music has already opened up for me – the places I’ve gone, experiences I’ve had and people that I get to meet. It’s such a cool way to experience life through that lens.”

The Heart Percent EP is available Sept. 9. Jenny Jarnagin performs Sept. 30 at Old Towne Pub in Pasadena. For more information, visit

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Kenny Davin Fine

"Physician-Musician on a Mission" Kenny Davin Fine at Will Rogers Memorial Park

Kenny Davin Fine

At Will Rogers Memorial Park
9650 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills

“I believe that there’s a creative revolution going on, and in the future, it’s not going to be rare that a doctor is a musician. People are going to say, ‘What instrument do you play? Because I want to go to a doctor who plays trombone because I play trombone.’ This is a paradigm that will catch on and be more acceptable,” expresses singer-songwriter, musician and medical doctor Kenny Davin Fine

With Brian May of Queen attaining a PhD in astrophysics, Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin a zoology PhD and Dexter Holland of the Offspring studying molecular biology as just a few examples, it is indeed becoming more common for musical artists to also be scientists. Kenny, who refers to himself as a “Physician-Musician on a Mission,” entered medical school at age 17 but at the same time harbored a passion for music and singing, and he has spent over a decade traveling across the country, dedicated to utilizing both his creative and academic fields of specialty for the greater good.

“I consider myself a missionary of goodness. I do what I do to help and heal people, represent God and inspire people to a better life, whatever that means to them. Going on the road to the people makes more sense than being in an office and having people come to me,” he says. “I understand it it probably has some deep metaphysical purpose: Spiritually inclined people often travel because they’re seeking, climbing mountains, trying to go higher and be helpful. I used to think you had to go to a Third World country to be a missionary, but there are plenty of people to mission to right here.”

While Kenny’s home base is technically Dallas, Texas, he crisscrosses the United States in an RV to lead health seminars and perform shows with his band, the Tennessee Texans, and lands in Southern California at least twice a year. He meets me on a sunny day at one of his usual haunts whenever he is recording music in Los Angeles, Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills. We talk about his two career paths, his latest album, Brand New Road, that released last month and, since we’re in a park dedicated to him, Will Rogers. 

“I’m from Missouri, which is next to Oklahoma, Will Rogers’ home state. I guess he was named the first ‘Honorary Mayor’ of Beverly Hills,” informs Kenny. “My uncle, who is a doctor too, lives in the Palos Verdes area, and my first trip out here was when I was 16, driving his car with my brother from St. Louis. My dad didn’t like to drive long distances and we didn’t have enough money to fly, so we only went to places you could drive to in four or five hours. When my brother and I drove out to California along Route 66 [aka Will Rogers Highway], the first mountain I ever saw was in Albuquerque. I’ve been coming out here to work on my music since I started recording in 2002 and make at least one trip a year out here.”

Like Kenny, Rogers spent time traveling the states on lecture tours. His memorial park in Beverly Hills has become a frequent place for this wandering troubadour to visit ever since he started recording with producer Michael Lloyd (Dirty Dancing soundtrack, Leif Garrett, the Osmonds) at his nearby studio.

“I first Michael when I started promoting in Nashville. We tracked our first album together [2014’s Son of the Heart] at the Village in West L.A. and did the vocals and mixing at his studio. Then we tracked and did the whole production for Brand New Road at Michael’s studio,” recalls Kenny. “In L.A., I never drive in rush hour, so if we finished at 6 p.m., I would park here in the shade, walk my dogs around and hang out in the park. I got to know most of the area, where to find Whole Foods, and a friend works at Amoeba Music, so I visit her a lot. I can only take the energy of the Hollywood scene for 24 to 36 hours, then I go out to Venice Beach to take a break, and parking an RV there is pretty commonplace. Another thing that sends me to Venice is when I’m recording vocals and I’m in the city for too many days in a row, I start to get an element in my voice that’s undesirable from the pollution. I go to Venice or drive up to Oxnard for a few days just to get near the ocean and clear out the crud.”

Since he was a football and baseball player in high school, Kenny has always worked out and lifted weights. He remembers wanting to visit Muscle Beach in Venice when he came here as a young man.

“I wanted to go to Muscle Beach to show off! Now I do pull ups and dips anywhere I can find a tree branch, pull up bar or children’s playground,” he laughs. “My favorite thing about Los Angeles is going to farmers’ markets. I have an organic food business, the Organic Alternative, and have been eating a raw food diet for over 20 years.” 

When he’s not perusing a farmers’ market, in the studio with Michael Lloyd or decompressing on a beach, Kenny is at his uncle’s home in the Palos Verdes Mountains where he likes to walk in the hills. He also likes to hike off of Mulholland Drive or in the San Gabriel Mountains.

His uncle has actually been a bit of an influence on Kenny.

Kenny at Michael Lloyd's studio
“He is an esteemed surgeon but used to be an actor and singer. he used to be the lead in his college musicals, and is a very charismatic, intelligent guy. If he’s in a room, his presence is well known, and I’m more subtle,” he reveals. “It’s more of an ironic parallel since we were both cantors (as were his father, brother and my father’s grandfather). He did leave me with some incentive to sing in synagogues, and that’s where I started singing publicly. I think of Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye, the top voices in the world and how they started in churches and relate to that. Had I not done that in a synagogue, in a way that I could tell how my voice could uplift people, connect me with God and be something special, I probably wouldn’t have pursued it so strongly in the world. There’s an element to that as your core seed. My guess is that they [Franklin, Gaye] would never stop identifying as a gospel, spiritual singer.” 

Kenny is the only musician in his immediate family, and although he took piano and violin lesson as a youngster, he didn’t get into music until middle school or seek out an instrument on his own until his late teens.

“I’m Jewish, and if you’ve ever heard the cliche about Jewish mothers and their son the doctor, we were groomed to be these professionals from a young age and get good grades. In about sixth grade, I found music and read books on the history of rock and artists of my day, as well as the past. At the end of high school is when I started to aspire to sing. I teamed up with another football player and baseball player, and we did a tryout for a talent show [performing ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’]. We didn’t get the gig because I was shy and embarrassed, looking at the floor, even though I could sing well,” he confesses. “When I went to med school, something told me that I need to be playing an instrument. I walk to this music store two miles from my dorm freshman year to buy an instrument and came home with a harmonica. I started playing guitar the year after med school on a very serendipitous day when I was getting some tires changed at a Good Year that was next to a used guitar store.”

He took a few lessons that came with the purchase of his guitar but mainly learned chords on his own and various tunes from songbooks. After watching a rerun of the old “Ed Sullivan Show,” Kenny wrote his first piece, a love song. 

A fan of Neil Young and Bob Dylan, Kenny prides himself on also being a harmonica-guitar player. He also calls his Tennessee Texans his Crazy Horse.

“Neil Young’s an all-out electric guitar rocker and also an acoustic, folk and harmonica player – and that’s how I see myself. If I’m solo then it’s going to be harmonica and acoustic guitar, but I like to rock it out and play with my band just as much. The Tennessee Texans are my Crazy Horse or like Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band. I identify with Seger’s singing style, songwriting, attitude. He was also a little older than the norm when he hit with the Live Bullet album,” he says. “I named the band that because the guys come from Memphis, Nashville and Dallas, so Texas and Tennessee. One of my friends who lives in Tennessee noted that when Texas was fighting the Mexican army at the Alamo, men from Tennessee, including Davy Crockett, volunteered to go down to help save the Alamo, which they didn’t, but there is this connection between Tennessee and Texas. My band’s name doesn’t have any deep connection to that, but I like the idea. In my song ‘The Ballad of the Tennessee Texans’ – which came out of a soundcheck in Nashville one night – I knocked off a little bit of a line from a song called ’T for Texas’ that goes ‘Give me a T for Texas, give me a T for Tennessee.’ In my song, it’s ‘Give me a big fat T for Texas, from Tennessee we get around,’ so I guess there has always been this T for Texas, T for Tennessee connection.”

After relaxing for a bit on a bench next to the water fountain/turtle pond at Will Rogers Memorial Park, we decide to head over to visit Michael Lloyd at his studio. Kenny notes the beautiful blue sky and trees, telling me that “in Beverly Hills, each block was meant to have its own type of tree. One block has pine trees, another block as palm trees and so on.”

Lloyd is working on a project for the Beach Boys’ Mike Love when we step into his studio, but graciously takes some time to show me around his board and system. Kenny grabs his guitar and debuts a brand new song, “All the Girls I Meet Are Librarians,” for us. As his clear, strong voice fills the studio, a few statements he made to me in the park flow back into my head.

“Singers sing for the same reason birds sing, because they were made by God to sing and it’s their purpose. If somebody’s a singer they have to sing. If they don’t professionally, they sing in the shower or while walking. I do it because I’m inclined, programmed to and always willing to do what I’m inclined to do as somebody created by God. But I have chosen to continue to seek both of roads of music and science, whereas many people leave one behind. I was a medical professor, but I could tell things were starting to change in my life. I got divorced, and things were turning upside down. It was no longer acceptable that I just sing in my living room, I have to sing for other people. It’s all about creativity,” he concludes. “I’m reading an interesting book by Amit Goswami, a physicist who is now a creativity scientist, called Quantum Creativity, and this is really what I am. Common physics is about the multitude of possibilities, how to allow so many possibilities to exist, and I know how to do that. If somebody says, ‘Anything is possible,’ then you know they are thinking in a quantum way: unlimited, sky’s the limit.”

Brand New Road is currently available. For more information, visit