Category Archives: Feature Story

Checking in with BEHRINGER Artist Blake Lewis

Blake Lewis wears many hats in the music industry. He is a singer, songwriter, beatboxer, multi-instrumentalist, and Blake Lewis Photoproducer. While he is most well-known as the season six first runner-up on American Idol, his career was already in full swing before taking the Idol stage. He has also kept busy in the years since his stint on Idol, doing what he loves best – making music. Blake is currently finishing up his third studio album, Portrait of a Chameleon.

Most recently, you may have seen him on the big screen. Blake, along with his new single “Your Touch,” are featured in the new advertising campaign for Internet Explorer 10. The ad is currently running during the pre-movie show in movie theaters across the country.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Blake about all of his exciting new projects.

How did the Internet Explorer commercial come about?

I had been producing commercial music for my friend Keith Rivers, who is a director in Seattle, and he asked me to do a piece for them a long time ago. This time around I was working on my album, doing a beatbox sample library, and he got inspired to write a treatment of me doing some beatbox on a touch screen and it went from there. I was working on my song “Your Touch” and thought it would be perfect for that commercial.

It must be exciting to see it on the big screen.

I’m so happy it’s out here. It’s already been getting a great response in the U.K. and Germany.

Tell us a little bit about your new album. This one is self-produced?

I have a co-producer and an engineer, and we’ve done it all ourselves. It’s almost done, I’m only a couple of weeks away. I’m doing a west coast radio promo tour with my label Republic Records.

What kind of musical direction are you taking with the album?

Well, I like to describe this album as a future-pop, electro album. It incorporates a lot of my ’90s influences – all the influences from my adolescence are coming out on this album. There is an R&B influence coming out that I never knew I had. I grew up with Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Prince, but in the ’90s I wasn’t really into a lot of R&B. I was into more house music, rock and pop. But now it’s just been pouring out of me. My rock side is also coming out on this record and it’s definitely heavy with electronic music. I’ve been playing a lot of piano lately and this album is filled with Rhodes piano, with beatboxing as more of an auxiliary percussive instrument. My beatboxing doesn’t always sound like a human voice, it sounds more like samples of drums. I’m doing a lot of programmed beatboxing as well as a live mixture on every song. I have one song that is like 80% human mouth, which is pretty fun. I get to show off a little of my R&B side and a little of my reggae side, which I’ve always loved. I’m really excited about it. I have some glitch hop on there. This one is more of a songwriter-electronic-pop record.

So you’re recording most of this album at your home studio?

Yeah, I’ll be recording mainly here. Some recording is done at other studios. My album is called Portrait of a Chameleon because my music is ever-changing. Just like this album – it’s cohesive, but it’s still multi-genre pop.

How does doing this album compare with you previous albums?

Well, the first album, Audio Day Dream, was too many cooks in the kitchen. I got to work with great producers, and I had a record label telling me what to do, but it took a lot of the creativity out of the creative process. So with this project, I’m writing all of my music, and I only have a couple of friends I like to write and collaborate with. We’re very fortunate to have gotten my single out through Republic, and they’ve been great. We’re just starting our relationship right now.

So this album gives you the creative control you were missing on your first two albums?

The process was a lot different back when I did my first two albums. The first one was different. I was with RCA, and right when I got signed, and my album came out, pretty much everyone got fired on that record label. I was pretty much shelved as an artist – well not shelved, my album came out, but no promo was being done. That was that, it was kind of a sad time. So, I got off of my ass and started writing more music immediately. It took two years to get with Tommy Boy. My album Heartbreak on Vinyl was really about heartbreak. I was losing myself in the music, which kept me off heartbreak, but I was still writing about it. You can only do so much. This album is definitely more of an uplifting anthem album. Not so much about love, there are a couple of love songs on there, but it’s more about loving yourself, and life – getting out of the darkness and into the light.

I hear you are planning a concert series for Stageit.com?

Yeah. As soon as I get everything set up. Right now I’m focusing on getting this album together and getting my music prepared. When it’s ready I will have people over to my house to jam, and we’ll do the shows. They’ve approached me a couple times and I would love to do it. I have so many friends that are such amazing musicians. In my home I have a cool set up – a white piano, that I’ve had since I was 11, and a white drum set on a purple rug. Now that I have the mixer and speakers from BEHRINGER, I’m almost all set up.

Who would it be your dream to work with?

Oh, man there’s a million people. I love collaborating with people. Even being a beatboxer and jamming with people. There’s a million MC’s I would like to give a beat to. I’m inspired everyday by different musicians, and singers, and songwriters – Sting, Jill Scott, Harry Connick Jr. I’m down to jam and collaborate with any type of genre. There’s so many different cool producers that I’d love to do something with, and tons of British artists that I’d like to do vocals for. Andy Allo is this new girl Prince is working with and she is awesome. Not many people know about her yet. There’s several beatboxers across the world that I’d love to jam out with. I’m an only child so I like sharing, and jamming with people, because I never had that when I was growing up.

What is the most memorable highlight of your career?

Oh man, there are o many moments and moving pictures are in my head. Before Idol, I had some amazing moments. I got to open for Jurassic 5 in the Tacoma Dome, with a rap group called Unexpected Arrival from Seattle. I got to beatbox with Del the Funky Homosapien from Hieroglyphics at the Showbox, it was just me and him. It seemed like an eternity on stage with him. He just kept going and I kept beatboxing. I was 21 or 22 and it was a huge moment. I got to battle Qbert in front of 2000 people back when I was 21, and that was a huge moment for me. In 2004 I was on one of the first beatbox compilations, Human Element. I played a lot of places in Seattle and I grew up as a musician. It’s an amazing town to be playing music in.

What were some of the most memorable moments from your time on American Idol?

That whole entire year was amazing. There were little triumphs every week. It was really fun. Beatboxing with Doug E. Fresh in the finale was huge. I got to meet Bono, and I talked to Quincy Jones for an hour and a half one night. There were all these amazing moments, and then after that, there was making the album and going on tour. I got to play to a million people on New Year’s Eve in Times Square. The list goes on. I’ve got moments and moments and moments that I forever will cherish and tell my grandkids about someday.

 

Blake uses a XENYX QX2442USB mixer and B212D-WH speakers.

Keep up with Blake at his official website.

 

Meet Talia Denis: The 12-Year-Old with an X32

Talia Denis X32 Photo Small

Photo credit: Lawrence Basso

One of my favorite things about attending the NAMM show each year is getting to meet all the musicians who stop by our booth. Some are seasoned professionals who’ve been around for years, some are up and coming, and some are just getting their feet wet in the industry.

This year one of my biggest surprises was meeting 12 year-old singer/songwriter Talia Denis. Despite her young age, Talia is already making an impact in the music world.

And guess what?

She bought her very own X32 Digital Mixer using the money she has earned through her performances.

Talia took some time out of her increasingly busy schedule to chat with us about her music and her X32.

How long have you been performing and how did you get started?

My first unofficial performance was when I was 4 years old. I was at one of my father’s company holiday parties and the band they had hired for entertainment took a break. I asked my father if I could go up and sing a song. I don’t think he thought I was actually going to do it, so he said yes. I walked up, grabbed the microphone and sang the song “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan. I have been performed my own music with my band since I was 10 years old.

Almost every night night I watched some kind of music performance, from James Taylor to Iron Maiden to David Gilmore to Beyonce. I was always watching and listening to music. That is what first motivated me to become a musician and a performer. I have been surrounded by music for my entire life.

What is your songwriting process – do you come up with lyrics first or music, do you write with someone?

I write alone and with an amazing writer, musician, producer and engineer named Brian Mansell. He is in Los Angeles and I am in upstate New York, so we communicate online via audio and video chatting. Sometimes I fly out to the West Coast or he comes here. Typically I write music first, and then the name, an idea or a feeling will come to mind. I write lyrics as the idea grows in my mind.

Who inspires you as a songwriter and musician?

There are many – Sarah McLachlan, Peter Gabriel, and Hayley Williams from the band Paramore inspire me as a singer. To be honest, Brian, my songwriting partner, has been my biggest inspiration as a musician and songwriter. He has done so much for me. He can play pretty much any instrument and he comes up with the coolest arrangements. Other than Brian, I have to say that Sara Bareilles, RUSH and MuteMath – that band is just totally amazing – have really inspired me. I have also gotten to know some amazing world class musicians such as bass players Tony Levin and Michael Visceglia, and drummers Jerry Marotta and Sterling Campbell. You can learn a lot from people who have been professional musicians for so long and have achieved so much.

What drew you to the X32?

First, I want to say that I know I am only 12 years old, and because I am so young, people often don’t realize that I earn money from performing. A lot of people don’t know that I study both live and studio sound. I actually research and buy a lot of my own gear. I travel with my own PA system and light show that I purchased over time with the money I have earned from touring and selling merchandise.

I have a sound engineer who usually does sound for me, but for one particular show I had to use a different guy. At that time, we were using a different digital board that I used to own. The new sound guy told me that the X32 was just about to come out. My father and I did a bunch of research on it, and once we saw what the X32 could do, we sold the other mixer and bought one right away. That turned out to be a great move.

How do you use the X32?

I mainly use the X32 for mixing and recording live shows.

What do you like about the X32?

There are so many things to love about the X32. There are 32 Channels of MIDAS preamps with motorized faders, and a good number of effects generators with really nice reverbs, delays, and other effects. I used to have three extra outboard effects units that I would run with my previous mixer, but I have sold those. Everything I need is in the X32. You can run all of the effects and other settings from the nice big screen, which is much better. A lot of times I play with other bands and the scene memory and recall is great. The motorized faders make recalling a scene from a sound check very fast and easy. We record every show when I am touring, and it is easy for my sound guy to do a virtual soundcheck with tracks recorded from the last show. This makes our actual sound check much shorter.

What is the highlight of your music career so far?

Talia Denis Small

Photo credit: Lawrence Basso

Well there are a few. First, I LOVED headlining my own tour last year. Playing shows in a different town every night is really exciting and fun. I performed with Rusted Root at the last show of my 2012 Summer tour. I have been able to meet some really amazing people in my short career. The B-52s have been very nice to me. They have invited me to their shows and allowed me to watch sound checks. Peter Gabriel’s band, especially Tony Levin, have been very good to me. It was amazing to have drummer Sterling Campbell, drummer Jerry Marotta, bass player Michael Visceglia, and guitarist Zak Soulam play on my first record. I am lucky to have a pretty long list of highlights for someone my age. I think the big highlight this year will be the release of my new record. I have worked very hard on these songs and I think people are going to be surprised with the new music I am making.

Keep up with Talia at her official website.

Living Colour Takes the X32 on Tour

Iconic rock band Living Colour is currently celebrating the 25th anniversary of their double-platinum debut album, Vivid, with a world tour.

On the road with them is an X32 digital mixer. The mixer is being used for their stage monitor mix, in-ear mix, recording, and even their front-of-house mixer – when the mixer they had been using broke down.

Check out this video with bassist Dave Wimbush discussing the band’s experience with the X32, and how they all became X32 converts!

ThomasGuitarStageFull

BEHRINGER Artist Thomas Starks Reflects on the Past Year

2011 has been a good year for BEHRINGER Artist Thomas Starks. Here is what he had to say:

2011 has been a banner year for me in many ways. I was able to attend NAMM 2011 with Behringer and we were profiled in ASCAP. I was also given the opportunity to utilize BEHRINGER’s awe inspiring UltraAcoustic ACX 1800 in several live and in studio applications. All the while, still writing my way into 2012 with an upcoming 3rd LP to be released in March. I look forward to the future with Behringer and am so very grateful for this memorable year of music, memories, and trail blazin! — Thomas Starks December 2011

Check out Thomas’ video interview from earlier this year!