Saturday, January 31, 2015

Indie Ville TV #25 The Marvelous Marcus Figueroa Guitarist/Bassist

Written by Lillian Rhine         

I was able to chat with Marcus Figueroa, the guitarist/bassist who travels many genres,

today. Let’s take a look at what he had to say...

1. What made you decide to pursue music? Who were your inspirations?

The feeling of learning my first song on my first guitar was what really made me pursue music. I bought an old

crappy acoustic guitar at the flea market for $40 when I was 17. The first riff I learned was the intro to "One" by

Metallica. I was so proud that it urged me to learn more, and more. That then led the way to teaching myself how to play more complex songs, and creating originals. My biggest inspirations at that time were Linkin Park, Metallica, Korn, Chili Peppers, and other bands in that spectrum.

2. So you have RITMO which is the production side and Marcus Figueroa who plays amazing guitar and instrumentals. How do you separate the two?

Being in touch with multiple genres in the music world, I learned a lot of artists and producers have some kind of alias they go by. I came up with "Ritmo" (which means rhythm in Spanish) due to the fact that when i first started playing guitar, I only considered myself a rhythm guitarist. When i was running my small production business, one of my clients jokingly said "I have my first official Ritmo Production"! Then and there i instantly decided to use the name Ritmo for my production name. (It sounds pretty catchy too) When it comes to playing the instruments i love, I go with my regular name Marcus Figueroa. I feel when i play guitar, bass, or piano its a natural event. There's nothing as raw or natural than someone sitting down with the instrument they love and letting their god given talent take control. So when it comes to natural talent, I go by Marcus Figueroa.

3. What are the goals that you want to achieve in this independent world?

The goals i want to achieve in the indie world, is to become a reputable studio musician with no boundaries, and to simply continue to make music that the people love, and can relate to. Overall, I want to be able to grab people emotionally with my music. All my music comes from a deep emotional side of me. I want to be able to have people listen to my music, and instantly feel an emotional connection, no matter it be good or bad.

4. You have recently moved from Sacramento to Nashville recently. Why the sudden change?

I've lived in Sacramento for over 10 years. I've been in and out of various bands, and projects in the area, but unfortunately as hard as I tried to make a solid band, or group, it never seemed to work out. Dedicated band mates are extremely scarce and hard to come by because they're already involved in over 2 or 3 bands/groups. I was given the gracious opportunity by my now manager Lilly Mac, to move to Nashville, and help me pursue my career to the next level. I'm extremely happy, and thankful to be here, and i cant wait to show this music city what i'm capable of.

5. What is the best part about being a musician? What is the best part about being a producer? What is the worst?

The best part of being a musician for me is the creative process, and the pure excitement when I come up with a new riff, that leads to a new track. Once i come up with that first melody, I get in my zone, and everything falls into place smoothly. The best part of being a producer is being in control of my own tracks, and constantly learning new techniques to help improve my process and sound. Its always a learning experience being a producer. I still have a lot to learn, so i always keep my eyes and ears open to see what i can use to my advantage.

6. Do you think you'll stay independent throughout your career?

I would like to stay independent throughout my career. Mainstream media on all levels is extremely manipulative. I've worked too hard and come so far to be controlled and taken control of. Music needs its freedom. That's what music has grown, and thrived off of for so many years. It deserves to have its name replenished with true genuine talent. I wish to remain independent until the right opportunity is laid on the table.

7. What are your pet peeves?

I don't have too many pet peeves but three. If you begin to tell me something, but then cut it off with a "no no never mind". That gets me every time. FINISH YOUR SENTENCE! Don't ask my opinion for something and then completely disregard it. Why did you ask me in the first place?? Lastly, don't be a liar. I'm an individual that is straight up. Please don't beat around the bush, and show me the same respect I show you.

8. Name your top five desserts?

1. Tiramisu

2. Ben and Jerry's Chunky Munky

3. Carmel Cheesecake

4. Classic Root Beer Float

5. Snicker-doodle Cookies

Thank you so much for that amazing interview. If you want to connect with Marcus

Figueroa, friend/fan him at the following sites...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Indie Ville TV #24 Front Man Travis Woods

Written by Lillian Rhine

I got a chance to talk with Travis Woods of Tennessee via Huntington, WV is a vocalist/front man on the Deathcore (a hybrid mixture of hardcore and death metal) with his vocal talents being heavily influenced by a group called Napalm Death. He’s a pretty awesome guy.

  • How did you get into the industry of music? Who were your inspirations?

When I started high school, I was listening to Creed, but I always had an interest in music. At the end of my freshman year, I went to a park in Ashland City and saw a local band named Solmer play.  I said well these guys are local people…and I didn’t know how the music industry worked…so I said if these guys can do it then I can do it. Then I started my first band and we used to do covers like Three Doors Down. After that we started writing originals that kind of like new metal. Throughout the years I’ve played with bands that have done well like Bishop. We were on a indie label called Spat Records.

  • What is your advice or tips for indie artists on booking shows?

Having somebody from outside of your band…even if it’s somebody who’s loosely associated with your band who you can trust…who can put their name [as a representative], it gives it more professionalism than the artist doing it themselves. Booking agents are kind of turned off by that.

  • What is your advice on building and keeping a strong fan base?

Having good materials. Playing solid sets. And don’t burn your crowd out. If you’re hitting the same venue over and over again with no breaks in between, you’re going to burn your fan base out and they’re not going to want to come out and pay you five and ten dollars a show to hear the same material. You have to fight those urges, but balance it out with staying relevant. Staying humble is huge. If someone comes up to you and want to shake your hand or talk to you give them that time.

  • What was your best show/performance? What was your worst?

My best show I’ve played recently had to been the Saliva show that we did December 13th at the Warehouse. We were kind of apprehensive walking into because we were heavy compared to some of the other bands being more alternative. The crowd was pumped up. They were nuts when we played. We were well received. Some fans thought we were one of the better bands of the show.

Our worst show was August of last year. The show kind of got canned. There weren’t a lot of people that showed up. There was supposed to be a benefit that was attached to it, but there was some weird stuff going on with that. It was one of those things where someone said they were sick and could we do a show, but they ended up not being sick and we were stuck with show. Yet, we ended up doing it and the venue donated the money to the American Cancer Society.

  • What is your advice to indie artists who are just starting out on the independent scene?

Take your time. I know it’s hard to fight that urge to get out there and play. In the past, I’ve had to fight the urge to jump the gun. Just fight it until it gets uncomfortable. Make sure your music is tight and honed. There are so many talented bands out there that will wipe the floor with you. Then [when you’re ready] take that step to play live.

  • What are some of your pet peeves?

I do not like the lack of brotherhood. There are so many bands out there to cut each other’s throats. I’m not a fan of “hometown rockstar syndrome”. They think they are big and bad. Give me a break, y’all are a small fish in a big pond.

I don’t like when venues try to dictate a band’s sound. You can literally screw up your entire night by having a disagreement with a sound guy. There’s another tip for new bands, try to avoid making sound guys mad.

  • Do you have any odd habits?

Probably dipping [snuff] is a bad one. I’m a country boy, so when I’m not playing music, I work on monster trucks for a team based out of Virginia.

Generally, even though I’m such a metal guy, you’ll probably find me listening to Jason Aldean or Keith Whitley or some type of country.

  • Pick one of the following subjects and do a top 5:  foods, cities, bands.

Top five local bands that have been absolutely killing the scene:

  1. This is a band in Murfreesboro called The Hope of Slaughter
  2. These guys from High Twos from Clarksville.
  3. A band from Humphrey, Kentucky called Consulting the Arbiter.
  4. A band from Dickson called Kneel Before None.
  5. Irukandji because they’re always trying to unite the Nashville area. They embody that community spirit that so many bands are lacking right now. Which is very important.

  • Is Travis Woods…the artist, the music, the fans…all a dream, a career, or a side gig?

In all honesty, when you’re putting so much heart into it, it’s definitely not a side gig. I’m a husband and a father before being in a band, but they fully support me on what I do. I think that anybody that does what we do and say they don’t want to make it a career is probably lying. Because who doesn’t want to get out and see the world and travel? It’s a balancing at between pushing forward and keeping things in perspective.

If you want to find Travis Woods and his band, check out the following page and give them a like…

Indie Ville TV #23 The Magnificent Riff Rath

Written by Lillian Rhine

Today, I got a chance to interview with Mark Shenkel of the local, iconic band, Riff Rath’, that was known for rocking out clubs in the early 1980s and are still hitting the scene today.

  • How did you get into the industry of music?

I started playing saxophone in the 4th grade.  I later joined every band in my high school, then quit all those and started playing gigs in 10th grade.  In 1983 I entered the Recording Industry program at MTSU (Murfreesboro, TN) and started working in record stores in 1984, which was my first industry job.  I later worked in video distribution, sound reinforcement, and artist relations and marketing for Gibson Guitars.  Now I'm back to just making music with Riff Rath' and other bands - no industry jobs.

  • I see that your genre is considered Indie/Alternative/Schizo Rock. What exactly is “schizo” rock?

I use the term because we play so many kinds of rock.  In a way, our repertoire has multiple personalities.  My philosophy for Riff Rath' was to try to make nearly every song a different sub-genre of rock.  I figured a three piece is going to sound sonically consistent, so why not vary the compositions.  I'm also a fan of all musical genres.  I would have been bored doing the same style over and over again. 

  • You’ve been around since the 1980s. How was the independent music scene back then? Is Riff Rath’ going anywhere or will the band live on like legends?

I went to Murfreesboro in 1983 expecting to find all kinds of alternative/college rock bands doing original material, but couldn't find any, so I started one myself.  By the mid-80s bands were coming out of the woodwork.  We all supported each other, played in each other's bands, attended each other's shows.  It was a great scene.  Most of us were having a blast and simply trying to make great music and entertain each other and our friends.  Few were looking for a "deal" or to "get signed."  That scene and spirit seems to diminished these days.  I never expected Riff Rath' to live beyond our college years, but people have remembered.  Last year, we were asked to reunite and play a gig with another band from the era.  It went so well we decided to carry on and have played several shows now.  Next are new recordings.  No idea what the future may hold, but we're going to go for a ride and see what happens.

An interesting note about the new line-up is that the bassist, Garry Todd, was the first bass player back in 1984 and the drummer, Sammy Baker, was the last drummer at the end of the 80s.  Even though they are both original members from the original band 25-30 years ago, they never played together before until the 2014 reunion (I'm the only one who has been in every version of the band).  So, the current line up is not only original and authentic, it is also brand new!

  • Since you have performed for so long, how is your personal support systems? Are they supportive? Do they think that you guys are just living a dream working in a band for this long?

Everyone who knows us knows we all have to make a living and have full and varied lives outside this band.  We all play in other bands, too.  I break even with music. Maybe one day I'll make a living, but I don't seem to be willing to compromise for the money. Bottom line:  I love to play.  We all do.

  • At one point, you were named Riff Raff…why the change to Riff Rath’?

The name Riff Raff had its problems.  I wanted to change the name without losing our identity, so I searched for terms with a similar meaning and settled on “Hoi Polloi.”  After announcing the name change to a full house at Mainstreet Music Emporium, a friend came up after the show, pulled a worn slip of paper from the recesses of his wallet, and presented the logo he intended to use for the band he was forming:  Hoi Polloi (this Hoi Polloi never materialized, but a Christian rock band from New Zealand moved to Tennessee and used the name in the mid-90s. Coincidentally, I was their contact at Gibson Guitars when I worked there in Artist Relations). Back to square one, I thought about using “Riff Wrath” but decided it would make us sound more like a metal band than our current name.  After poring through my 1947 dictionary, I discovered a nearly forgotten word which meant “quick, eager and speedy.”  The word was “rathe” and replacing the “e” with an apostrophe gave us “Riff Rath’.”  This choice proved to cause punctuation, spelling and pronunciation confusion, but we went with it anyway.  What the hell, we were just trying to have fun and weren’t all that concerned about marketing or other aspects of the music business.  In fact, we never made any attempt to garner label interest or secure a manager or booking agent.  We were working students, with little time to spare.

  • What was your best show/performance? What was your worst?

I'm sure our worst was sometime in the 80s and nothing - even if I could remember that decade clearly - sticks out as being particularly horrible (I could cite some stinkers with some other bands besides Riff Rath', though).  We have had an absolute blast since re-forming in 2014, and as far as I'm concerned, all these gigs have been the best we've ever done.  We should be better after all this time, (laughs)!

  • What is your advice to indie artists who are just starting out? How can they keep the longevity that Riff Rath’ has?

Love what you do, appreciate your fans, and keep creating.  If you think you should be a star, you've already failed.

  • What are some of your pet peeves?

Don't get me started!  Just kidding, I really don't pay much attention to stuff like that. Life's too short.

  • Pick one of the following subjects and do a top 5:  foods, cities, bands.

Neil Young
The Residents
Weather Report
Taj Mahal
John Lennon

These are personal favorites of mine, off the top of my head, but Sammy and Garry also appreciate these and other wildly diverse musicians.

  • Is Riff Rath’…the band, the music, the fans…is all a dream, a career, or a side gig?

All these things and more!

Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Riff Rath’. If you want to follow the band and their music, check them out…

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Indie Ville TV #22 Coming into his own Elz

Written by Lillian Rhine

Elz is a hip-hop artist in Nashville,TN by way of Gary, IN who breeds conscious lyrics with dope beats. I had a chance to sit down with him today and chat about life as a new solo artist. He’s been doing well and toping the reverbnation charts.
    •    How long have you been a hip-hop artist? I take it you were in a group since you are newly solo. Why the decision to go solo?
I’ve been in the hip-hop scene since I was twelve. I decided to go solo, because I wanted to pursue my own career at my own terms. I wanted to truly be independent.
    •    Have you ever wanted to try out any other genres of music?
I’ve always loved all types of music. As far as my writing goes, I’ve written a few country, R&B, pop as well as hip-hop songs, so my versatility is pretty high.
    •    In my research, I found that you’re affiliated with a group, BSS. What exactly is BSS?
BSS is the Black Sheeps’ Society. A entertainment group and unified front…a movement. It’s like a band of brothers/sisters might feel like outcasts but with their art they can come as one.
    •    What is the hardest and best thing about being an independent artist?
The hardest part is the investment. The money and the time it takes to put into a project that you’re not sure will be well-received is the most difficult investment to make. The best part is the freedom of being able to produce my own art.
    •    If you could perform with any new-age hip-hop artist/group who would it be? Same question for the old-school.
I would love to perform or do a song with Cee-Lo Green, OutKast, and recently, Big KRIT. As far as old-school, I would have to say A Tribe Called Quest.
    •    Do you think there is a difference between being a rapper, an urban/hip-hop entertainer, or a hip-hop artist?
The entertainer is doing [music] to entertain his/her fans but keeping true to being a performer. A hip-hop artist is the truest form to the hip-hop culture. They breathe, eat, sleep, and embody the lifestyle. I am a hip-hop artist. A rapper is doing it for a check and the fame. They all have their purpose.
    •    What is your process when it comes to producing your music?
First, I like to choose the hook, because the hook is the like the arrow. The hook is the most important part. It makes the song. The hook, in my opinion, is the first thing listeners connect to. The next step would be to find the perfect beat that goes with the hook. And the beat is my bow. Once those two things align then I start writing my verses and I go in and record. After it’s all done then I shoot my arrow off into the world and then reload.
    •    If you could do anything other than be a hip-hop artist, what would it be?
I would continue to write music. I would probably be a writer for either a major record label or an indie label in any genre.
    •    What is some advice for those new artist that want to get out there in the world and start performing professionally?
That’s just it—professionalism. Professionalism is key. You have to show up on time, before time. You have to be able to communicate in a professional manner with all entities involved in your career. And have a great, strong network of people around you that include legal advice, support systems, and representation whether it be management or a publicist.
    •    Can you tell us one of your craziest experiences performing?
My last group that I was in did a show in Nashville and toward the end of the performance, the music cut. There must’ve been some technical issue with the DJs equipment or the sound system, but it didn’t stop us as performers. We kept going—acapella. The crowd was so into it that they started reciting the hook with us. And this is all part of being professional. You can’t get made or angry or even stop when something goes wrong…keep going. The crowd doesn’t know you’ve messed up until you tell them you’ve messed, so keep going.
    •    That concludes the hard part of my questioning, but I do have a few fun pieces for you. What is your biggest pet peeve?
Laziness and excuses. Interestingly enough, I’m the biggest culprit in my mind of this especially when it comes to my career. I’m quick to put off the inevitable. Most tell me I’m meant for greatness, but am I ready is the question. Is the world ready?
    •    Choose one of the three topics: top five foods, cities, bands.
Top five foods are:
    •     Fried Catfish
    •    Grilled Chicken of Any Kind
    •    Enchiladas
    •    Stromboli
    •    Gyros – Chicago Style

    •    Last but not least, is Elz, the hip-hop artist and writer, is it all a dream, a career, or a side gig?
Right now, it’s still a dream, but soon it will be a career.
Thank you Elz for talking with us today. If you want to check his music or friend him, refer to the links below:

Indie Ville TV #21 The Fabulous Melissa Jo

Written by Lillian Rhine

Indie Ville TV caught up with Melissa Jo from Huntingdon, TN. She’s a model that loves to make people smile. Here’s what she had to say.
    •    What type of modeling do you do?
My favorite thing to do is lingerie. Nothing overly sexual or nude, but I love boudoir modeling. However, I like to keep things PG-13. I don’t want to cross that line. If I was taller, my goal would be to become a Victoria Secret model. I’m about five inches short.
    •    Are you a signed model or are you independent?
I’m freelance. I got into [modeling] kind of late compared to most women. I got into it on accident. I was nineteen almost twenty years old and I thought I was hot stuff and I wanted somebody to document it. I found a photographer and he said to bring whatever I wanted and we could do a shoot. So, I said “okay.” I went and did my shoot and I got my pictures back and I was so excited. And he asked when did I want to shoot again. And I said, “I get to do this again?” I shot with him a bunch of times and he talked me into making a Model Mayhem page. Other photographers started to contact me and when I moved to Murfreesboro, TN, things really started to take off.
    •    What is the hardest part about being freelance?
The hardest part is getting paid. The there’s two sides to this. The photographer is doing the shoot and they want to get paid. The model wants to be paid because they’re modeling for the photographer. It’s really hard unless you want to pose nude, because a lot of models don’t want to do it—then you can get paid. And I just don’t do nude modeling. I’m just very uncomfortable doing it—it shows in my face. I mean, my body can be perfect, but my face looks uncomfortable. And that ruins the whole shot.
    •    What’s the easiest part? What brings you joy every time you model?
The feedback that you get from people. When you post a picture and everyone’s like “oh my god…oh my god!” When I posted my ‘Batman’ picture on the Delicious Dolls Facebook Page, I got over two thousand likes and I was flipping out. I said, “People love me.” It’s kind of that way with a lot of things. You can think you’re good at things, but when you get that feedback and people reassuring you that you are that good then it’s just a total different feeling.
    •    If you could be doing anything else other than modeling, what would be your dream job?
I would love to be a Go-Go dancer. I love dancing so much as long as it’s not naked. There used to be a bar in Jackson and the dance floor was square. In each corner [of the dance floor] you had a cage. They actually hired Go-Go dancers that would come down from Chicago and I would get mistaken for one of them all the time.
    •    What would be your advice to give to a young aspiring model?
Always do your research on your photographers. If someone contacts you and they want to shoot you—if they’re not super well-known and you’ve never seen someone that you know that has shot with them—always check for references. Because it is very, very scary. All models have had that one time where they’ve had that one shoot where it wasn’t what they thought it was going to be or [the photographer] has been very inappropriate. No one wants to go through a situation like that. And it can be a lot worse than someone being inappropriate.
    •    What is one of your odd habits?
I have an odd habit of picking up change off the ground. I don’t care if it’s a penny or a quarter. I will stop traffic to pick up a penny. The other day, I was at a stop light and I looked over and saw a penny in the lane next to me. I wondered how long the red light was going to last. I didn’t do it, but I thought about it. I really didn’t want to get run over, but I thought about it.
    •    Choose one of the three: top five foods, cities, bands.
    •    Marinara sauce. I will eat pizza. I will eat breadsticks. I will dip my cinnamon rolls. It is ridiculous. I will eat all of it. It is unreal.
    •    It’s really close to my number one—ketchup. I go through a bottle of ketchup a week. I even have ‘ketchup’ t-shirts that show my love for ketchup.
    •    Tacos. I don’t care if it’s Taco Bell…Taco Johns…homemade tacos…I’m all into tacos. But no lettuce. When you put meat and cheese in a tortilla—it’s a taco.
    •    Milkshakes. My favorite one is cookies ‘n’ crème at Sonics. They grind up the Oreos enough that you can get them through the straw. It’s just great.
    •    Sandwiches. My favorite sandwich is the Wicked from WichWich. They put five meats and three cheeses. It’s got ham, turkey, pepperoni, bacon, and roast beef with provolone, swiss, and cheddar. I’m not into raw vegetables. Do have the option to ‘skinny’ your sandwich. You go to these ‘sub’ shops and these sandwiches have a lot bread. I mean it’s some thick bread. Well they will cut out the thickness and that will make the bread thinner. It really works well for that sandwich because you get more meat and cheese flavor and less…bread. It’s a science. I eat a lot of sandwiches.

    •    Is Melissa Jo—the model—is it all a dream, a career, or a side gig?
It’s all three. It is a dream, it is a side gig, and it’s a hope-to-be career at some point. I feel like everybody deserves a career that makes them happy. Nobody needs to wake up hating their job. Nobody needs to live life like that. It is a dream to make this my career and stop making this my side gig.
Thank you, Melissa Jo….be sure to follow her on the below pages:
Personal Facebook:
Model Facebook page:
Model Mayhem page:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Indie Ville TV #20 Day and Life with VARNA

Written by Lillian Rhine

Day in and day out, bands from all around are striving for the music industry to take notice of them. Not every day does a band come along that has the professionalism and determination like no other. Female fronted hard rock/pop group, VARNA is that band. 

Formed in Los Angeles in early 2010 as Living Eulogy, band members consist of Tiana Woods (vocals), Rossen Pinkas (guitar) and Rob Shin (drums). With a variety of influences from Mariah Carey to Slayer, they came together after Rossen (an electrician by day) met Tiana while installing a fan in her apartment. Rob joined the line-up after answering an ad at Musician's Institute. 

Their band name was taken from the street that their rehearsal studio was located on. They would take refuge there after working full time at their mundane day jobs. "VARNA symbolizes to us, the place and time where you get to live out your dreams.”

In late 2012, they recorded their debut release, ‘This Time, It’s Personal’ EP with rock producer Erik Ron (Panic at the Disco, Saosin, I the Mighty) including songs “Down”, “My Heart” and “Running Away". A mix of commercial pop vocals accompanied by hard rock guitars, their songs emotional lyrics deal with the ups and downs of life, making sure that the end result is always uplifting. Within 2 weeks of releasing their first single, 'Down', VARNA had been added to Internet radio stations all across the US 
and the UK, charting in the company of major artists including Linkin Park and Three Days Grace.

VARNA are a 100% “do-it yourself” independent band who are known for their close relationship with their fanbase. "Our fans are everything to us." says Tiana "We treat our fans like they are the ROCKSTARS."

In 2013, they received international acclaim through press reviews and interviews reaching countries as England, Bulgaria, Australia, Latin America and The Philippines. After a successful residency at The Good Hurt in 2013, their energetic live shows have brought them to various iconic LA venues which include The Viper Room and House of Blues.

2014 proved to be an even bigger year for Varna. With their debut video for 'My Heart' premiering on, a 'Success Story' from Musician's Institute, a clean sweep feature on Los Angeles' KLOS FM 'Stay or Go' with Heidi & Frank plus multiple media press lead to a sponsorship deal with ColdCock Whiskey and their loyal fanbase securing a spot for them on 2014's VANS Warped Tour. This fall, they are in the studio gearing up for their second release with Erik Ron once again.

Indie Ville TV will sit down to have a chat with Tiana of VARNA today. We at Indie Ville TV will like to congratulate Tiana for winning the 2014 Barebones Entertainment Award for Female Vocalist of the Year and the band for winning Music Video of the Year for ‘My Heart’.
    •    Thank you for taking a moment to sit down and speak with me regarding the band VARNA. I’ve included a detailed bio of the band in this interview, but can you breakdown VARNA in your own words?
VARNA is a hard-rock, pop trio based in Los Angeles, CA. We started in January 2010 with this month being our fifth anniversary. Basically, the music of VARNA is hard-rock guitars with pop-commercial melodies.
    •    When I did my pre-interview research on the band, I pulled up a lot of great things—one being the video ‘My Heart’. Can you detail what the song meant to you?
When you’re in a band, the songs that you write can take on a completely different meaning as the band grows. When I wrote ‘My Heart’, I was going through a rough time in my life. [The song] meant giving your heart to the wrong person. It’s during that confusing time when you see it coming, but it still hurts. [My Heart] is about that emotion. Usually when people write songs about love, they write about after-the-fact or being in love. No one really writes about the in-between.
Now, it’s taken on a completely different meaning for the band. When you see things in your life that are going on, to make that decision and have the courage to move on regardless of how scared you might be.
    •    I love the video and the concept. Your voice stands out in the video. It’s very strong and strong voices tend to come with time and practice. How long have you been singing?
I’ve actually been singing since I was two years old. Many people have asked if I’ve had vocal lessons. The funny thing is the only time I’ve had vocal lessons is when I ended up on Judge Judy at age thirteen. My mom sued my singing teacher. The show of course made it into this big drama for television, but basically my teacher stopped giving me lessons and wrote my mother a letter saying I would never be a professional singer, that I had 'no talent, drive or confidence'.  In regards to that particular experience, you should believe in yourself no matter what anyone else says.
Other than that, everything was self-taught for me. Singing lessons are very expensive and I grew up in a single-parent household. So basically, what I know is from singing so much and making sure my voice is in top condition.
    •    How long have you been performing with an actual band?
I’ve been in so many bands. I think the first band I was in was when I was sixteen.
    •    Have you always done the alternative/rock genre?
When you’re a little girl and you love to sing, you tend to sing what’s popular at that time. I’ve done pop demos, rnb demos, and my first band, when I was sixteen, was a blues-rock band. And I really loved it. I still love blues rock and it’s what gives us that edge in VARNA. I have a very pop-commercial voice, but I try to incorporate that soul and that passion that comes from blues music. But, I love all genres of music.
    •    So VARNA is an all-inclusive, independent group. How has being independent been for you? Can you tell me some of the best and worst experiences in being independent?
It all depends on the person and their perception of [being independent]. Some independent people will tell you that this is frustrating and all I want to do is get signed. Other people say that this is the greatest freedom that we’ve ever had. I prefer to look at it as a great freedom. If you’re going to have your own product and being your own brand, you have to have the first say on how you’re presented to other people. Being an independent band is a struggle…I’m not going to lie. However, no one is going to care about your music like you are. One of the biggest struggles as far as the industry goes, in my personal opinion, is usually when people see you’re an independent band, they won’t give you the same courtesy as they would a major label [artist].
However, since the independent bands and labels are coming up so hard and so fast, they’re even coming bigger than the major labels now. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for [independent artists] any longer.
    •    What would be your advice for an artist who is pondering whether to pursue being signed by a major record label, stay independent, or just give up?
I would ask them a question first. Is there anything else that you would rather be than a musician? And if they would say “no”, then I would say go for it. The next thing I would say is how long are you willing to give it? Are you willing to put everything you have behind it? And if so, then start doing it independently. Even bands on major labels are doing things independently, they just don’t realize it. A lot of bands do everything themselves (booking, promoting, etc) before they get signed and I am seeing a lot of bands on major labels branch out from music to make income from writing books, painting or other creative endeavors. That's all an independent mind set. Everybody’s favorite band was a local, unsigned band when they first started out. No one’s doing anything different. It’s just how far you want to take it and then if you’re willing to hold out for a really good deal.
I’m not saying that major labels are evil and should be done away with. I’m saying, you work hard and get the farthest you can then people will notice and the major labels will come to you with a fantastic deal and make it worth your while to sign with them.
    •    If there was anything else out there you could do—if music was gone—what would you rather do?
I’d be gone too. It’s funny because I’m educated. I graduated in Music Business at Musician's Institute when I was 17. I said if I’m going to be a woman doing this thing in the music business, I need to know what I’m talking about. I’ve been doing everything myself forever, so this [business] isn’t anything new to me.
I’ve always wanted to be a singer my entire life. I had no plan B. Of course, that’s terrifying for parents, but it never entered my mind that it wasn’t going to happen. When you go to elementary school, teachers say it’s great that you want to be a singer, but what will you go to college for. I would say, I’m going to college for music. They didn’t like that very much, but I was seventeen in Music Business class—the only girl getting straight A’s with the boys—then people started taking me seriously. So, I wouldn’t want to be anything else besides a singer and a songwriter.
    •    Who were your inspirations growing up?
My inspirations growing up were Mariah Carey and Daniel Johns of Silverchair, an Australian hard rock band. I actually got to go to New York [in December] after waiting twenty-five years to see [Mariah Carey]. I got to see her, front row, at the Beacon Theatre. It was amazing. She continues to inspire me, the same way she did when I was four years old. When I heard her [when I was a child], I said I’m going to be a singer. Whatever she does is gold. When she came out no one sounded like her.
    •    What was VARNA’s best performance?
My personal favorite was when we did VANS Warped Tour. Our personal fans voted and we got VANS Warped Tour. It was amazing. We got put in front a crowd of people that would’ve never known us otherwise. When we finished performing, there was a line of people coming to meet us at our merchandise table. It was so genuine and so beautiful. We had such a good time. We gave one of our best performances.
    •    What was VARNA’s worst performance?
Our worst performance was the first show we ever did. Before we were VARNA we were called Living Eulogy and our very first performance was horrible. We thought we sounded awesome until we saw the video. We didn’t sound great; we sounded horrible.
    •    VARNA has an amazing fan base. Fans fuel the independent world. What is some advice that you can give to other independent artists to sustain and grow a healthy fan base?
Number one, don’t kid yourself. Every band sounds a little bit like someone else. Go and find bands on social media that sound similar to your band and start adding their fans. Tell them to check out your music—give them a link right away, so they don’t have to go and find you. They’ll eventually start adding you to their lists. Once you start finding those fans, make sure you stay in contact with them.
We’re in an era of social media, so it’s not always about “hey, go buy my music.” Sometimes it’s about “this is what I did today” or “this is the music that I’m listening to…what are you listening to?” Keep up the conversation. VARNA can honestly say that we have a personal relationship with all of our fans. If we go to a show and a fan approaches us and says that they are on our twitter, we know exactly who they are and we thank them for being loyal fans and we keep up the relationship.
    •    That covers the detailed part of the interview. Get the hard stuff out of the way first. Now for the fun questions. These questions can be applied to you or VARNA. What is your pet peeve in life?
My pet peeve is unprofessionalism. I grew up and live in LA and I can’t deal with people who are unprofessional and people who are fake.
    •    What are some of your odd habits?
And odd habit? I have so many odd habits. I’m such a weird person. I’ll randomly break out in song. If someone says something and there’s a song to go with it, I’ll break out in song. I don’t even notice that I’m doing it half the time, so it’s really not my fault.
    •    You can pick one of these three topics: top five foods, cities, or bands?
Top five bands. Let’s see, oh my gosh, how much time do you have? Silverchair, Incubus…people are going to disagree with me on this...Nickelback…Foo Fighters, and let’s pick a female band…Evanescence.
    •    …Nickelback is questionable…
Hey those guys know how to put on a show.
    •    Final question. Is VARNA—the shows, the music, the radio spots, the interviews—a dream, a career, or a side gig?
Oh, definitely a career. It’s too much trouble to be a side gig or a dream. You go big or go home.
Indie Ville TV thanks Tiana Woods of the hard-rock band VARNA for doing this interview. If you want to check the band out please friend, like, follow them on social media or through their website at the following links: