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May 31st, 2012

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Maria Angeli: New Warrior of Music 2.0

September 29th, 2009

Every now and then we ask an interesting music industry professional to give us insight into their life and work. Maria Angeli is a singer-songwriter living and working between London, Rome, and Berlin.

Maria Angeli

Maria Angeli

My name is Maria Angeli, I’m a singer-songwriter and I started my musical journey when I first moved to London in 1994. I was going out to various clubs watching amazing live singers and thought I wanted to be performing like that. I also had my first proper London boyfriend who was, and still is, an amazing singer-songwriter/musician who inspired me. I first became aware of how important music is to me when I flew to Stockholm to record my first song. Even if the set up was very much on the cheap and cheerful side it felt right. I realized I loved what I was doing and it didn’t matter if I was working in an expensive studio or in someone’s studio flat, I just loved it.

Growing up I listened to many different genres; at the forefront there was 1980s and 1990s pop artists such as Madonna, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, the Bangles, and Aha. From a young age I was also into “quirkier” sounds such as Kate Bush, Eurythmics, Blondie, Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen, and Tracy Chapman. I have no recollection of the first record I bought but I do remember owning a Bruce Springsteen album when I was eleven and persistently playing Born in the USA.

I’ve had my own music pirated before. Deep inside I would prefer it for people to listen to my music even if they couldn’t afford to buy it. Eventually, music will probably be completely free to download.

Music has always been a very important thing in my family. I would love to play an instrument brilliantly, the piano or the guitar, but for now my voice is my instrument of choice. On my mother’s side classical music was the main sound in the house. My mother and my grandmother listened to classical music all the time. My father preferred the great Italian songwriters like Paolo Conte, De Gregori, De Andrè, Lucio Dalla to name a few.

Training is essential for a singer, even if you are the best performer in the world there will always come a time when you want to improve some areas of your delivery and only training can do that. My early musical influences as a singer were Kate Bush, Blondie, Billie Holiday and Annie Lennox. When I look at the musical landscape today, there are numerous artists who I find very talented including Zero7, Sia, Cassandra Wilson, King’s of Leon, Jill Scott, Mayra Andrade, Cat Power and I could go on for hours. Sometimes I find myself critical of what the younger generations are listening to when I hear new pop music, but I also think it’s what kids are into now so it would be difficult for me to relate to that. My parents probably felt the same about some of the music I used to listen to so it’s probably a cyclical, generational thing.

I am really touched by music and there have been many pieces that have moved me to tears, especially during moments of heightened emotions. I was in a jazz club in London once and saw a Leanne Caroll performing When Somebody Loves You and I was completely tearful within seconds. Another song that always gets me going is At Last by Etta James.

When I am working, I don’t really have typical days unless I’m writing or recording in the studio when I have more of a routine going on. Technology has definitely had a great impact on the way I work and I’m sure on most people who record and produce. I am able to put ideas down on my Mac as soon as I get them. I’m able add samples and have a demo song in a few hours. Another great thing is that I can record vocals at home and send them anywhere in the world if I need to. I’m definitely not a one person show, I love to write and work with different people who inspire me. I often work with a couple of musicians with whom I feel comfortable. Unfortunately not everyone gels when you are making music and different ideas can sometimes get in the way of a creative process.

As far as the current changes in the music industry, I strongly believe that piracy is a main catalyst but it has always been there in some form and will continue to exist in the future. I’ve had my own music pirated before. Deep inside I would prefer it for people to listen to my music even if they couldn’t afford to buy it. Live music will always stay the same; it’s one of the only aspects of music that can stay “real”. Eventually, music will probably be completely free to download. I think Interactive, 3D and hologram TV will play a big role in the future of entertainment.

Sometimes when I’m in the mood I really like listening to my music. Criticism from total strangers, can sometimes be more sincere, friends might glaze things over to avoid hurting your feelings. When I look at the music I have produced so far, I’ve never really been in a position where I had to make any musical compromises. Perhaps I may have recorded and performed a few dodgy songs along the way. I don’t frown upon artists who “sell out”. Everyone has to make a living and no one is entitled to judge why someone embarks through a different journey.

Looking to the future, I have a few musical ambitions. Top on my list is to finish the two albums I’m working on at the moment and hopefully tour with one of them. I would then like to master the jazz repertoire I’m working on and start performing more of that. Last but not least would be to learn to play the piano very well.

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Gemma Dempsey: New Warrior of Music 2.0

September 27th, 2009

Every now and then we ask an interesting music industry professional to give us insight into their life and work. Gemma Dempsey is a radio producer and music supervisor living in Los Angeles.

Gemma Dempsey

Gemma Dempsey

My name is Gemma Dempsey and I am a radio producer and music supervisor based in Los Angeles. I graduated in book publishing and never really aspired to become famous or to work in show business. I got involved with the music and film business because I was in the right place at the right time. I was invited to a party in London where I made the right connections that got me into music supervision. The first feature film that I worked on was The Last Emperor, which received an Oscar for music. I got to know David Byrne and Ryuichi Sakamoto working on that film, and eventually came across Chris Douridas who hired me at KCRW.

Music was always a part of my life. We’re Irish so it’s in our blood. When I was growing up, my mother loved The Andrew Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald and Judy Garland; my elder sisters listened to The Beatles, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Judy Sill, Leonard Cohen and Cliff Richard. We all enjoyed music but none of us played an instrument. I have been blessed with long fingers and would have liked to play the piano. My first record was Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder. These days I listen to Youssou N’dour, Sia, Jonelle Monae, Beck, Fanfarlo, Faithless, Radiohead, Bon Iver, Grace Jones, Tunng, Freshly Ground, Ludovico Einaudi. Right now I have The Raconteurs playing on my iPod.

“The record companies were extremely late and lazy to wake up and smell the downloads which happened as they sat on their fat asses reaping in millions by forcing music fans to buy overpriced CD versions of their beloved vinyl.”

When music is powerful enough it can have an amazing impact on me. I remember being extremely touched by La Wally by Alfredo Catalani in the film Diva. I also loved the use of Tuvan throat singers in the soundtrack of that film. The music and the opera singer made me float, it was pure and transcendent.

In my day to day routine as a radio producer and a music supervisor, technology has revolutionized the way I work. The quick and efficient delivery of music as mp3 files, the ease of access to instrumental only versions, and identifying who owns the music are some positive aspects of technology. I-Tunes and Pro Tools allow you to come up with playlists to play for the director and to try different things against pictures. And the internet makes it easy to work with artists from all over the world.

A typical day for me at work entails checking emails, coordinating screenings, guests and hosts. But sometimes it can get really crazy when your guest or host gets delayed. Sometimes double bookings happen and you have to redo everything, and other times your editor loses the taped show shortly before it is due to air.

The changes occurring in the music industry today are making way for more creative avenues for artists and cutting the waste from the music companies. The power is vested with the individual these days and not the fat cat record executives. But on the flip side as well this has meant that there are fewer filters for talent and little A&R nurturing new artists. The record companies were extremely late and lazy to wake up and smell the downloads which happened as they sat on their fat asses reaping in  millions by forcing music fans to buy overpriced CD versions of their beloved vinyl. I think file sharing is an expression of the music lover’s world so we just have to live with it and find more creative ways to pay for music. If it’s that good people will want to pay for it.

If I look into the future of the music industry, I predict that that there will be more music festivals as performing live can never be replaced digitally. More online radio stations like Pandora delivering what they think you like into your digital music inbox. Our televisions, DVDs, radios and computers will be fully integrated with only one remote! But I think we’ll see a reaction against being chained to our computers to see films and listen to music and maybe a return to real, person-to-person socializing as opposed to internet social networking.

Sometimes I wonder what proportion of today’s music will be around in twenty or thirty years in the way we listen to tracks of the 60′s/70′s/80′s or even 90′s today. But while I am skeptical of today’s music lasting power, it doesn’t prevent me from embracing new tunes.

My biggest achievements to date where the soundtracks of Leaving Las Vegas and The Last Emperor. I still love listening to both of them. My future goals are to once again work with directors who know and appreciate their music. I would like to present and produce my own eclectic music show with a film twist.

I was at home in Los Angeles when I heard of Michael Jackson’s death. I didn’t believe it. It was sad that he screwed up his life so badly and that this overshadowed his musical talent. Michael Jackson was a one off. I think he was a deeply damaged individual but I don’t believe he interfered with children. I think he was failed by his managers who should have prevented him making dumb decisions such as having kids stay in his bed or allowing him all those aliases so he could become a junky.

My pet peeves are people spitting in the street or people not picking up their dog’s crap. Mind you I’m a dog owner myself and stray dogs are my Achilles heel. I also don’t like disrespect of the elderly. I wind down and relax lying in a hammock and listening to the Caribbean sea. My hidden talents are photography and I make a mean Tiramisu. I am addicted to travel and would love to visit Kerala in India. My favorite city of all time is Bologna, and my least favorite is Kidderminster.

If I were stranded on a desert island, the one person in the world I would most have with me is my new love, Allen Jones. I would take with me a wind up radio, a guitar, and Egyptian Magic Lotion.