Wow. I’ve not been so busy as I was over the last few months in a LONG time. Since I last wrote, XELLE hired our fabulous choreographer, Mila Jam, found a costume designer (Bobby Goodrich) for our tour costumes and got those made, conceived, rehearsed and debuted our first full tour show, and played in New Paltz, NY, Albany, NY, Philadelphia, PA, New York, NY, Milwaukee, WI, and Chicago, IL.
Touring is the most fun thing in the world, in my opinion. Nothing is better than having someone pay to fly you out and put you up somewhere so you can get paid to do a show in front of hundreds or thousands of people who then come up to you afterward and take pictures and want your autograph. I wish we could be on tour every day and I can’t wait till we are!
The first stop on the tour was Albany, NY, where we opened for C&C Music Factory, which was awesome. It was great to see their music performed live and to meet the man who actually rapped on the recordings of songs like “Gonna Make You Sweat.” He was just a regular guy from Brooklyn and totally sassy and nice. My mind is always blown by meeting early 90’s celebs. Love it. The next day, we performed in New Paltz, New York, at Hudson Valley Pride, and then again that night at Truman’s, a huge club. It was so good to get some of the new songs on their feet in front of an audience, and we and the new music were both very well received.
Next, it was off to Milwaukee Pridefest, where we played to a crowd of over 2000 on Friday night…
XELLE at the PUMP! Dance Pavillion at Milwaukee Pride 6.10.11. Photo: Abeni Garrett
…and then for a crowd of over 6,000 on Saturday night, when we opened for Salt n Pepa!
XELLE on the Miller Lite Mainstage 6.11.11 at Milwaukee Pridefest
Two weeks later, we were off to Chicago to play in front of this many:
The crowd was huge at Chicago Pride!
But before we could do that, Mya (yes, THE Mya!) OPENED FOR US and then we met her!
XELLE with Mya at Chicago Pride 6.25.11
Then we performed our full show…
The beginning of the XELLE show at Chicago Pride
Then, since we’re basing the theme of our show on royalty, we knighted one of our fans, who turned out to be one of our twitter followers!
XELLE knights a special fan at the Chicago Pride show
After the show, a huge crowd of fans rushed over to the merch table to meet us, buy merch, take photos and get their merch autographed. It was so awesome to meet everyone and see what a great reaction we got in Chicago.
Now, it’s back to the grind, with continued dance rehearsals, revisions to the show, booking as many promotional and full show dates as possible in as many places as we can, and beginning to dominate the tri-state area so we can start expanding from there. There’s a ton of work to do, and I’m excited to do it!
I just had to answer all these questions for a possible blog feature and I had a lot of fun doing it, so I thought y’all might be interested in checking it out:
What is your first musical memory? My first musical memory is starting to watch MTV as a six-year-old back in 1989 and continuing to watch it through the early 90’s. Seeing videos like “Rock the Cradle of Love” by Billy Idol, “Epic” by Faith No More, “November Rain” by Guns and Roses and “Straight Up” by Paula Abdul had a huge effect on me. Now, music from that time period makes me happier than any other music. I’m so glad that some of the club music from that time STILL gets played in the club whenever I go out, 20 years later. “Show Me Love” by Robin S., the best song of all time in my opinion (which is NOT the same song as “Show Me Love” by Robyn from 1997), will apparently never die as long as there are clubs in New York City. Thank God for that!
What was the first concert you ever went to? It was probably some boring crap at Carnegie Hall, since that was right in my neighborhood, but the first real concert I ever got excited about going to was Jamiroquai at the Theater at Madison Square Garden with Busta Rhymes opening, in 1997, when I was 14, right after “Virtual Insanity” had just blown up in America. Jason Kay, the lead singer and songwriter of Jamiroquai, was an excellent showman, and I think he’s definitely written some of the best groovy/funky songs I’ve ever heard. Busta Rhymes was riding the success of “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” at the time, and he was adorable. It was nice to see Busta putting effort into his show then, because when he came and did a show at Harvard, where I went to college, 8 years later, he half-assed it worse than an amateur and I was really disappointed. The best concert I ever went to was the Spice Girls farewell tour, and if you don’t like that, you can kiss my @$$. 🙂
What or whom do you go to for musical inspiration? There is some really incredible, soul-stirring electro-pop coming out these days, and most of it comes from my favorite artist, the UK’s Frankmusik. He is a total genius. There are also some amazing remixes of stuff like his floating around out there, including one of his song “Confusion Girl” remixed by Russ Chimes. That is the best, most beautiful electronic song I’ve ever heard. The use of strings in that song is just heavenly. Then of course I always draw inspiration from early 90’s club pop, like stuff from Black Box, C&C Music Factory, Robin S., etc, because they were the masters of perfectly danceable pop that makes you happy, and I just think that sound needs to come back in a big way. I’m always happy when someone tells me my songs remind them of early 90’s club music. That is the highest compliment I can get.
Without using the words “alternative,” “pop,” or “rock,” describe your sound. Early 90’s club music-inspired electro dance amazingness.
Stones or Beatles? Neither. Sorry! I like synthesizers. I respect and am in awe of both groups, it’s just that I don’t really listen to anything they’ve put out.
What’s your dream collaboration? Frankmusik, Robin S, Britney Spears.
Do you find the song or does the song find you? Mostly, the idea for the song and the melody pop into my head as a response to me thinking about something in my life that usually has to do with love, relationships and dealing with emotionally retarded boys.
How do you discover new music? I check Frankmusik’s twitter over and over to see if he’s put out anything new. Also, I listen to terrestrial radio (sorry!), internet radio (everybody happy now?) and occasionally check the odd blog about electro/dance music.
So there you have it. Whaddaya think? Leave a comment below. 🙂
Two weeks ago, I was feeling the if-I-don’t-get-out-of-New-York-soon-I’m-going-to-go-crazy itch, so I booked a trip to go see friends in San Francisco. Then I realized that while I was there, I should check out some venues and see how plausible/worthwhile it might be to try to do a show out there at some point. I left this past Saturday and returned this morning, and the time on the west coast just FLEW by, it was so much fun!
I didn’t get to spend as much time in the actual city of San Francisco as I wanted, but I did learn the following things:
1. San Francisco is GREAT.
2. The Castro neighborhood is chock full of not only gay guys and gay couples, but SO MANY two-dad families with adopted kids! So awesome!!! I can’t believe there are places where gay couples aren’t allowed to adopt (or get married, for that matter!) because it was such a huge reminder that adoptive, loving families are so important and helpful to society and we should encourage it as much as possible. Can’t wait till gay marriage and gay adoption are legal everywhere. I want to live in a world where I see gay couples with adopted kids everywhere, not just in one neighborhood of one city in one country. If you didn’t know, I am HUGE on adoption. Don’t plan on ever being a parent myself, but I think it’s such a crime that people keep having biological kids instead of adopting them, when there are already SO many kids in the world who need parents. If gay couples who would make loving parents want to adopt kids, LET THEM. EVERYONE benefits from children having loving, stable homes and being well provided for.
3. Napa is an odd place where there are literally ONLY rich people and there’s no dirt or shabbiness anywhere. What kind of a city is that? 😛
4. You can get good food in small towns in California. You just can’t get good food in small towns anywhere else.
5. California is too big and spread out. Be more like San Francisco, rest of California!
6. I am still completely obsessed with my friends’ two Italian Greyhounds. CUTEST DOGS EVER. And they’re adopted!
7. I need an iPhone. I need an iPhone, I NEED AN iPHONE! I am still printing out google maps and drawing diagrams and writing notes to myself and taking it all with me when I go to uncharted territory. And wanting to take pictures and not having a camera. And thinking of songs while walking around and not being able to write down lyrics or record voice memos. And wanting to blog and email on the go and not being able to. I feel like the smart phone having community has left the rest of us behind, and life is now lived with the expectation that you will be able to do anything on the go, because you have a smart phone, don’t you? Well, I don’t. So I need to get one. And I will, soon.
The other cool thing I did while visiting San Francisco is meet my German fan Andre and his girlfriend Babsi for the first time. They happened to be visiting SF while I was, so we decided to meet up. Andre and I met on Twitter and he’s been a great fan ever since, but we’d only ever interacted on the internet, so it was really fun and crazy to meet him in person. We chatted for about an hour, then I had to run and catch dinner with my best friend before getting back on a plane to cross the country in FIVE HOURS which still totally blows my mind.
I did check out a couple venues while I was there, and I was really glad I did, because you get a very different impression from visiting a venue in person than you do from reading its website. Yeesh. I’m trying to figure out what the best way to have a good, well-attended show in San Francisco might be. I do expect to visit again soon since it was so cool and there’s SO much I didn’t get to see or do while I was there, so maybe I’ll try to hit some open mics, or figure out if the gay bars ever hold events where I should perform, or just try to build up enough blog buzz that a show there would be well attended by people who know my music. The latter is the ultimate goal. Artists like Girl Talk and Jonathan Coulton were able to do shows around the country after building internet buzz, so hopefully I can do the same. But that means I gotta get movin’ on those bloggers!
Today, after about a YEAR of having my music in three music libraries/licensing companies, I finally received the letter I’ve always been waiting for: one that said a song of mine had been licensed in someone’s project and I got paid for it!!! I’ve finally popped my licensing cherry and hopefully this will be one of many licensing successes to come. Since I’ve been so busy finding my sound, writing a ton and putting together my CD, I haven’t had a chance to get into really pushing my songs for licensing opportunities (which bring in exposure and money!) just yet, but I’m so glad that something was finally used and paid for, and it is always great to receive unexpected checks in the mail.
The statement wasn’t that detailed and just said that the instrumental for “Chocolate Cake” was used in someone’s “video,” but I really want to track down the person who used it to see the song in action–that would be so cool! I also want to send them a thank you note, haha! I can’t wait to get my new music in the licensing world and see how it does, since it’s so different from the first stuff I put out.
In other news, I’ve got to put the pedal to the metal and get a new song done and ready to release because Reverb Nation is doing another sponsored song promotional campaign and if I get selected, I’ll be in the running to win 500 bucks through getting people to vote for me online, and luckily my friends, family and fans have always been wonderful about voting for me in online competitions, so I really hope I can get enough support to win. $500 would cover a significant portion of the costs to record more material, or it could go towards a PR campaign, which I so desperately need to help kickstart things to the next level.
The longer I do this, the more I realize there really is at least a small part time living to be made at it, through finding paid performances, doing sponsored song programs, singing on other people’s demos, and licensing music, in addition to selling music and merch, and if you’re willing to put a lot of time and effort into it, it can be a significant income. You do have to spend the time hustling, but that time spent will bring in money one way or another. That is a really nice thing to know.
So now I just need to finish recording vocals for my album, make the album art, compile the demo, get hard copies of the demo and the album, rehearse for the show in December, prep for my third show at Spence, and start hitting the blogs hard for publicity etc. The exciting part is about to begin!!
This past week was a busy one with two big shows. The first, at R Bar, was my first show with my live band in four months, so it was great to get everyone back together and rock the house. Problem was, the house was pretty small. I was glad to have a few new faces there, and everyone enjoyed the show, but the problem is, when your show is late on a weeknight with a $10 cover charge and your friends are either broke and available or have some money because they’re working past 10pm on a weeknight, that doesn’t make for a big audience. That will be my last weeknight, high-cover-charge gig for the forseeable future. I wish these small venues and bookers would be more flexible about door charges because they really hurt draws for small bands/artists just starting out. Thank god there are some venues that will do shows with no cover where you can pass a tip jar so the musicians still get paid. That makes more sense to me since the venue makes more money off the bar than anything else, and more people in the venue means more money for the bar! Oh well, at least some venue owners understand that. The other option we have is to do gigs at house parties and other spaces where we can control the audience’s experience. So, to that end, our next show will be Saturday, December 19th at a friend’s loft in SoHo, which means no door charge, prime timeslot, free drinks, food, relaxed atmosphere, and good times. Plus we’ll be playing with the amazing Comandante Zero, an excellent electro-funk band out of Brooklyn who are friends of mine, so there’ll be not one but two awesome shows in one spot! I’m really looking forward to that show. If it’s still hard to get a good crowd at a free show on a weekend night with six weeks advance notice, then, to be honest, I’m not really sure what I need to do, haha.
The show on Saturday in Central Park had a much better draw because it was Central Park on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, with a mammoth sound system. I had so much fun! I’ve always wanted to perform at the Bandshell and indeed it was a great time. I had a guest spot between house music DJ’s as part of Art for Progress’ Sunset Jam in Central Park, and sang “Anything You Want,” “Dance Dance Dance,” and “Everybody’s Crazy in New York.” Now, if you frequent the Bandshell area of the park, you know the regular crazy people who are always there, and they were there in full force! There’s the guy with the green ‘fro wearing brightly colored women’s clothes with a poodle and a parrot that he dyes crazy colors who skips around as people frantically take his photograph, and then there’s the old guy who either leaps and spins in circles continuously for about ten minutes at a time and never gets tired, or he stands in one spot and shakes his chest up and down as if he were an old, male, crazy Shakira in sweatpants. It’s a sight to see. I go to that area of Central Park all the time and I’ve seen those guys a lot, so it was pretty surreal to have them dancing to my music as I performed it. And it went absolutely perfectly with “Everybody’s Crazy in New York,” LOLOLOLOL. I wrote that song because it’s true, and they’re the perfect evidence of it!
The show was also great because a lot of little kids were there who really liked my music, and it always makes me happy when kids like my music. One little girl came right up to the stage and watched my set and would wave back to me and smile when I waved to her. Then later, she was like “I really liked your songs,” and SANG “Everybody’s Crazy in New York” BACK TO ME! SO CUTE AND AMAZING! Then this tween boy asked me for a hug and to have a dance-off, and this group of tween girls really liked my stuff as well. And another tween girl came up to me and was like “Did you go to Spence?” I swear, I cannot go anywhere or do anything outside without a Spence girl coming up to me! They’re everywhere! And I’d never know it if I weren’t always doing weird things outside! One lady asked if I’d come sing at her Christmas party. Not Christmas songs, my music. Everybody’s crazy in New York…
One thing that drives me crazy is that no matter how much people like your music and want to take your info to look you up online after a show, people are SO hesitant to sign up for the mailing list, which everyone in the indie music world says is the one thing you HAVE to get people to do. I totally get it because even when I’ve gotten on people’s email lists, I often don’t have time or desire to read the emails, I’ve never bought their music, and I’ve never been to their shows, and I often don’t get on the email list in the first place because of all that. But it’s just hard to have people say they love your music or your show and then decline to ever hear about your shows in the future. You just have to hope they’ll remember to look you up later, which is where getting a song stuck in their heads comes in. But that’s why it’s ALL about getting publicity. If I were getting publicity and people were seeing my name over and over again, they’d start looking me up and having a context in which to think of me. When I hear of something once, I forget about it, but if I keep hearing about it, eventually I check it out. So I’m excited to start pushing for publicity once the album’s done so I can see if it helps the way I hope/think it will.
See you at that show on December 19th!
Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/jccassis
All photos by Berette Macaulay except the fourth, ninth and tenth, which are by Kenny Bae. Thank you Berette and Kenny and Art for Progress!