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BEYOND the stage

BEYOND THE STAGE

STAFF

ADDIE WHELAN

EDITOR IN CHIEF

GINA SCARPINO MANAGING EDITOR

CHELSEA GRESH PHOTO EDITOR

LAUREN KLONOWSKI

DEPUTY EDITOR

JOE HERNANDEZ

DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGER

MARISSA SANDOVAL PROJECT MANAGER

BERNADETTE CASTILLO PROJECT MANAGER

Beyond The Stage is a digital music magazine based in the United States. You can read Beyond The Stage online for free or visit our website to buy a hard copy. Previous issues are always available to read online or order in print.

WRITERS

Buy a print copy of ANY issue at: https://btsmag.co/PrintBTS

Addie Whelan Audrey Battis Gina Scarpino Lauren Klonowski Nicolita Bradley Samantha Aneed

PHOTOGRAPHERS

Revisit our previous issues at: https://btsmag.co/Issues Alyssa Buzzello Audrey Battis Blake Charles Chelsea Gresh Dana Jacobs Gina Scarpino Joe Hernandez Lewis Roberts Marlowe Teichman Quinn Beaupre

For Feature & Show Inquiries: awhelan@beyondthestagemagazine.com For advertising inquiries: ads@beyondthestagemagazine.com

Read the latest news at: 2 WWW.BEYONDTHESTAGEMAGAZINE.COM

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@BTSMAG


TABLE OF

CONTENTS ON THE COVER

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AJ MITCHELL

GALLERIES

FEATURES

06 Tate McRae 14 Chelsea Cutler 38 Christian French

30 Elle Winter 34 Get To Know: RLUMR 46 PUBLIC

04 Jonas Brothers 05 DREAMERS 10 Cautious Clay 11 Waterparks 12 Phantogram 13 100 gecs 18 Souly Had 19 Brittany Howard 20 Amber Liu 21 Poppy 28 The Lumineers 29 State Champs 36 scHoolboy Q 37 City of the Sun 42 JP Saxe 43 Mabel 44 Drake Bell 45 Illenium 50 Motion City Soundtrack 51 Jauz 52 Krept and Konan

AJ MITCHELL ON THE COVER

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JONAS BROTHERS

LEWIS ROBERTS - MANCHESTER, UK - FEBRUARY 2020

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DREAMERS

ALYSSA BUZZELLO - LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 2019

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TATE MCRAE PHOTOS BY GINA SCARPINO AND WORDS BY ADDIE WHELAN

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In 2020, it’s uncommon to hear of an artist who didn’t make themselves known on social media first. From artists like Shawn Mendes to Billie Eilish, some of our favorite artists grew up creating content online, attracting millions of fans before even landing a record deal. For Tate McRae, that’s exactly the case. The 16-yearold first started creating videos on YouTube, amassing more than 2 million subscribers in just two years. Originally from Calgary, Ontario, McRae grew up in Oman, traveled to Egypt, Vietnam, London, France and Germany, all before she could walk. At six years old, she moved back to Canada along with her parents. Emerged in music, McRae’s mother, a dance educator, taught her to dance and immersed the singer into music, teaching her how to feel music through movement to create emotional connections. We sat down with McRae earlier this year to ask how she got her start in music, what it’s like meeting her fans and what’s next for her in the rest of the year. “I started my YouTube channel and it was originally a dance YouTube channel. So I posted dance videos. One day, I didn’t have anything to post so I said I might as well write a song. Then, this song kind of blew up overnight. Two weeks later we flew out to New York and met with 11 labels and just started getting into the music industry and learning as much as we could about it. I’ve been posting original songs on my YouTube channel ever since,” she said. Now signed to RCA Records, the singer and online content creator has fully pushed herself into music, releasing an EP in January that’s built her a monthly listenership of more than 8 million. Titled “all the things I never said,” the EP is the first body of work that McRae has shared, but it’s been a long time coming. Inspired by Post Malone, Khalid, Jeremy Zucker and Jessie Reyez, the EP’s alternative-pop tracks clearly resonate with her fans, who follow her across every social platform. With more than a million followers on Instagram, the singer shows her raw talent on the platform, where she shares videos of herself dancing, performing and being her true, authentic self. Along with her videos on Instagram, McRae has also shared details for her music and how she got her start. Although McRae is newer to the music scene, she still has a large catalog of songs that she chose from for the EP. BTS 7


On selecting the tracks for the EP, McRae shared that she has “about 35 songs, about 40 songs that I haven’t released. It’s crazy because most people have really only heard like six. So it’s super weird that I’ve had so many sessions and no one even knows about three-quarters of them.” Earlier this year, McRae nailed down those tracks into the six that sit on the EP, which has tracks that have landed on Spotify’s “Today’s Top Hits,” “Pop Rising” and other massively-followed editorial playlists. “This EP has songs on it that I wrote two years ago. It took a long time to release it, but it was a really big relief once it actually came out. I’ve been sitting on these songs for forever, so when you listen to them over and over and over again, you have so many critiques and things that you want to change and things you love about them. At a certain point, you

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just have to let it be and let the songs say what they want to say. It was definitely hard but once it all came together, it was the best feeling.”’ As McRae has continued to explode onto the scene, she’s earned attention from Billie Eilish and brother Finneas O’Connell, who are listed as the writers for one of McRae’s first releases. “It came through RCA [Records], my label. [Billie and Finneas] basically sent the song over and I got it. [Billie and Finneas] said to put your own twist on it, so I went to the recording studio with Eric Palmquist, the producer on the song and recorded it. I did a video for it a few weeks later for it to really make it my own. It was really cool because I’m a big fan of theirs,” McRae said. Although McRae has centered herself around singing


and performing, there’s a large part of McRae that’s not as widely shared. As the second runner up on Season 13 of So You Think You Can Dance, which aired on FOX, McRae has also achieved the “The Best Dancer” honor three different times at the Dance Awards. Her dancing has landed her on the Teen Choice Awards, Ellen and more, all before the singer has turned 18. “I’m a really intense dancer, I still train 25 hours a week and I feel like people don’t know that because I post so much singing content. I train so much every week and it’s such a big part of who I am and I never want to lose that half of myself.” McRae still shares videos of herself dancing, making it a point to incorporate dance into her performances online. While McRae is currently on tour, she hasn’t incorporated dancing yet, due to the size of the venues and stages. Although her live performances are a bit subdued, she still loves the energy that her fans give while she’s performing. “It’s so cool to see my fans and actual faces. Normally it’s just numbers on a screen and it’s weird to put the pieces together and see them react to me speaking and singing, especially with the emotions in my songs. It’s super weird because you see how much it really affects them. You’ll see girls crying in the front row and it’s like the craziest feeling because I never thought that my songs had that much of an impact. The energy is amazing. I love [my fans], they have the coolest energy and they’re so nice and so sweet. They just have been so nice,” she said about her performances. Throughout the rest of the year, McRae has plans. Looking into the future, she has tour plans in April through the United States along with Gavin Haley, performing at venues like 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis, MN World Café Live in Philadelphia, PA and Stubbs BBQ in Austin, TX. Along with the tour, McRae’s plans include releasing a second EP, which will share more of the songs that she’s written from connecting with her emotions through music. Although the EP has no release date yet, expectations have been set high from notable music critiques and playlist curators. At just 16, there’s clearly time for McRae to continue to make a name for herself. There’s a promising future for McRae and we can’t wait to see what’s next.

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CAUTIOUS CLAY

QUINN BEAUPRE - MILWAUKEE, WI - DECEMBER 2019

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WATERPARKS

CHELSEA GRESH - CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 2019

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PHANTOGRAM

BLAKE CHARLES - PORTLAND, OR - DECEMBER 2019

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100 GECS

AUDREY BATTIS - ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 2019

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CHELSEA CUTLER BTS

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PHOTOS BY GINA SCARPINO AND WORDS BY SAMANTHA ANEED


From a young age, parents can usually pick up on what interests their kids and what doesn’t. Oftentimes, they’ll encourage you to find your voice, or find something you love and stick with it. That is exactly what Chelsea Cutler’s parents did for her. Chelsea Cutler grew up learning music from a young age. Like most, her talent was natural from the start. She says, “My parents had me in piano and guitar lessons super young, and they always encouraged our creative inclinations, so I got started pretty young.” Just like anyone growing up, you tend to find your own passions and things you enjoy as time goes on. For Cutler, music was always there, but she also enjoyed playing soccer too. While attending college, she started to take music more seriously and work on becoming a singer, songwriter and producer. In 2017 she signed with Ultra Records, she then left school for her first tour supporting Quinn XCII in his national tour. Her music is very unique and different. “I think it has a lot of organic indie elements and a lot of pop elements to it too. Lyrically, it’s pretty honest and representative of my life,” she says. Writing music that is as honest as hers takes a lot of courage because, in a way, you are opening up and letting everyone who listens get a glimpse of that almost hidden part of your life. Her lyrism and the way she manipulates words to be able to flow together perfectly takes talent and she does it flawlessly. When it comes to being so honest and creating music with very open and genuine lyrics, Cutler has to prepare herself for the initial response from the people in her life. Writing such vulnerable music can be hard but also easy at the same time. There is always a small fear of how people will react. “The easiest part is that I am writing from experience, so it comes quickly and naturally. The hardest part is sharing that vulnerability with people. I definitely get scared for my loved ones and my friends to hear my lyrics,” Cutler says. Songwriting is easiest when you can write based on your own life and things you go through and that is how Cutler creates her music. “It [songwriting] definitely all comes from my own personal experiences.” If you take a moment to listen to any of the music she has released, you’re able to clearly tell she

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puts every emotion she has felt into all her music and that is what makes her songs real and true to who she is. 2017 was a big year for Cutler, she released her first single titled, “Your Shirt” The track has since reached more than 50 million streams on Spotify and also earned a high place on SoundCloud’s Pop Chart. The same year, she released her debut EP “Snow in October”. 2017 was really the year Cutler kicked off her career in the industry. Following an epic first year, came 2018 where she released a collection of self-produced work, her independent mixtape called “Sleeping With Roses”. Soon after its release, she announced her first headlining tour which included 18 major cities across the U.S. and sold out within the first week of tickets going on sale. In May of 2019, she got together with singer-songwriter Jeremy Zucker and together they put out an EP titled, “Brent (Live in New York)”. The five-track EP includes a standout single, “You Were Good To Me”. As far as collaborations go, Cutler noted that this is her favorite so far. “My favorite collaboration so far has to be the “Brent” EP I did with Jeremy Zucker.” As far as who she’d like to work with in the future, she says, her dream collab is the country duo, Dan + Shay. Flash forward to 2020, Chelsea released her first debut album, How to Be Human which landed at number 23 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart. The 15-track record is full of songs that tell one big story. “I probably wrote 25 or so [songs for How to Be Human]. I think I only really even presented 18-20 of those to my management and label. I just chose the songs that felt the most powerful to me and the ones that best told a cohesive story.” Creating a record as beautiful as How to Be Human

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took a lot of patience, effort and time. “It took about a year and a half to do the album,” she remembers. While creating this work of art, Cutler was clearly able to highlight the struggles that every 20-something faces whether it be romantically, socially or just with finding themselves. Title track “How to be Human” really highlights how most young adults think they would have everything figured out by a certain age. In Cutler’s case, she uses the lyric, “Thought I’d know it all by 21 / but I still don’t know How to be Human” and most listeners can completely relate to that idea. Each track tells a different story by itself, but the record as a whole tells one big story and everything flows together so easily. All the songs on the album are self-written by Cutler and all come from a very personal moment in her life. She really opened up and let us feel everything she was going through alongside her. “None of them were particularly hard; if a song isn’t coming naturally, I usually give up on it pretty fast. ‘I Was In Heaven’ or ‘nj’ were the hardest emotionally.” Writing relatable music isn’t something an artist does on purpose, sometimes it just happens that way. “Honestly I don’t think too much about an overall message or overall image; I just make music that feels right and hopefully it resonates with people,” she says. Following the release of her debut album, Cutler announced the How to be Human tour. Notable cities include New York, Detroit, Chicago and San Francisco. Watching her progress as a performer has been something spectacular. “It just takes experience, like anything else. I used to get such bad stage fright, but the more I watched others and learned from them, and the more I practiced and consciously worked on my performing, the better it got.”


Her stage presence has only gotten better as she gets further into her career. She went from being sort of shy to a complete ball of energy, running from one side of the stage to the next. “Performing is such an adrenaline rush. It’s just a really great wholesome way to have fun, honestly. I love feeling like I’m connecting with everybody at the show.” She creates such an immersive show and every fan that has attended a show can tell you the energy that radiates off her, goes directly into the crowd; everybody is dancing the entire set. Her 22-song setlist included tracks like “Sad Tonight,” “You are Losing Me” and “I Was In Heaven.” She also did an iconic cover of “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers. Each song she performs gives off a different vibe, whether she is playing guitar or piano, each song sounds so beautiful live. The energy she gives out during each performance is unlike any other. When asked what her favorite songs to perform live are, Cutler says, “‘Are You Listening’ is really fun. ‘nj’ is also such a big moment.” Cutler is taking the music industry by storm and making her mark in a huge way. From her unique production, down to her emotional and raw lyrics, she is an artist unlike any other. She truly is the definition of “one of a kind”. It has been a pleasure watching her grow as a person and an artist. We are so excited to see what she has in store for the future as far as her career, new music and of course, seeing her bring her production live on stage.

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SOULY HAD

JOE HERNANDEZ - PORTLAND, OR - DECEMBER 2019

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BRITTANY HOWARD ALYSSA BUZZELLO - LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 2020

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AMBER LIU

DANA JACOBS - SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 2020

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POPPY

CHELSEA GRESH - DETROIT, MI - FEBRUARY 2020

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AJ MITCHELL

PHOTOS BY MARLOWE TEICHMAN WORDS BY SAMANTHA ANEED BTS

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YouTube. Instagram. Twitter. Those apps are crucial for a young aspiring artist in the music industry today. Having the power of social media is important when branding yourself as an artist. It is a massive help with promoting music and getting your name out there. There are many outlets that allow artists to share their music with everyone. These outlets play a big part in the success of many up-and-coming artists. Take 18-year-old Aaron Fredrick Mitchell Jr., known by everyone as AJ Mitchell; he came from a small town in Illinois and has been involved in music since he was young. “I first started to fall in love with music and songwriting when I was four or five years old.” He proceeded to gain a huge following in 2017 when he started posting clips of himself singing on YouTube and Instagram. At the young age of 13, he wrote his first independent single, “Used to Be” which was released in 2017 and that got well over 60 million streams. He signed his first major record deal in February 2018. Since then, he has had nothing but phenomenal success. In 2018, Mitchell released his first EP titled Hopeful which included single “Girls” which charted at 39 on the US Mediabase Pop Radio chart. Following that release, he released his second EP Slow Dance. Title track “Slow Dance” featured past Beyond the Stage cover star, Ava Max and did amazing on the charts as well. It landed at number BTS

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28 on Billboard’s Mainstream Top 40 chart. In 2019, he was also named one of Billboard’s and Vevo’s Artist to Watch. Inspired by artists like Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake and Lil Wayne, Mitchell has no limits when it comes to the type of music he likes to create. “I love to challenge myself and make all kinds of music, but I would say that my music is mostly a mix of pop and R&B.” To be a young artist in this industry, it is crucial to have some inspirations both inside and outside the industry. “I have so many inspirations but I would definitely say my BTS

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Dad, Coldplay, and of course The Beatles for musical influences.” Whether it be in a recording studio or his own apartment, songwriting is something Mitchell thoroughly enjoys and takes the process very seriously. He puts no time limit on how long a song should take. “Some days a song can come together in an hour from start to finish and others I’ve gone back to for months.” Sometimes the best songs are the ones you start one day but finish months later. Songwriting is very complex and whether you write from personal experience or personal emotions or


not there is still a formula for creating and writing the perfect song. “A lot of the times when I’m writing alone, I like to write at the piano. When I’m in the studio with other writers, we usually start the day by just talking about what’s going on in our lives and connect on a personal level until we come up with a concept or idea based on what we’re going through at the time.” Even though he isn’t always home, that doesn’t mean the writing stops. Sometimes the best tracks are created in a new environment away from the usual writing space. “I’ve been on the road a lot lately so I’ve been writing mostly on my phone or laptop. But when I’m back home you can usually find me in some sweats writing on my piano in my apartment.” After writing song after song, Mitchell has the tough job of deciding which songs make the cut for an album or EP. Mitchell is set to release his debut full-length album,

Skyview later this year. “The album is called Skyview, which is named after the drive-in movie theatre in my hometown. My parents and even grandparents went there so it has always had a close place in my heart. There wasn’t much to do in our small town so Skyview was an escape for me and helped me realize there was more out there.” Naming an album, and deciding which songs are perfect for it can be tough. It takes a lot of time and effort when deciding which artwork to choose, the order of the songs and of course, which songs will be released as singles. Once you have all those items in order, then you can finally work towards a release date. Mitchell shared with BTS that he does have a favorite off the album and is able to tell us a little about it. “The intro to the album, called “Never with You” is a really personal song I wrote a long time ago and I’ve always wanted to release it, so I’d say it’s my favorite right now.”

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When it came to the entire process of making the album, Mitchell shared that some of the songs are going to be unlike any of his previously released music. “I had such a blast making this album. There are some songs on there that are very personal to me and others that I just had fun making. This album has been 2+ years in the making. I don’t really like to stick to just one genre so people are going to hear sides to me that they’ve maybe never heard before.”

and from an artist’s perspective its hearing those songs being screamed back to them by all their fans. That’s what makes live shows so special. Everyone has a favorite part, Mitchell’s being the connection he makes with fans. “Feeling the energy and connection from my fans. There’s no better feeling than that.” Fans of Mitchell will be happy to know that you could be seeing him, soon. Mitchell shared with us that there could be a Skyview tour for 2020 in the works, which is super exciting!

After taking the time to construct all these songs, Mitchell has the luxury of performing them live while touring the country. In May 2019, Mitchell went on his own headlining tour, stopping in major cities like Detroit, Chicago and New York. In December of 2019, he performed at Jingle Ball for Wild 94.9 in Florida and then made his way to snowy Illinois to perform at the B96 Jingle Bash. He performed for arenas full of people this past December. With that being said, his energy level on stage has to be high. There is a special type of chemistry with an artist and their fans at live shows, and it is something truly magical. From the perspective of a fan, seeing their favorite artist sing all their favorite songs

In his 18 years, AJ Mitchell has accomplished things most musicians can only dream of. Playing sold-out arena shows, making his debut on Billboard’s Top 40 chart and working towards putting out his first debut album. Within the next five years, his success can only go up. We asked Mitchell where he hopes to see himself within these next five years and just like any young artist, he wants to continue to put out good music. “I’d like to release a few more albums, go on a world tour, and get recognized for not only my songwriting but also my production.” There is no doubt in our minds that he will accomplish all these things and more with his strong talent and ambition. We are so excited to be a part of this journey with him.

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THE LUMINEERS

AUDREY BATTIS - ST. LOUIS, MO - FEBRUARY 2020

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STATE CHAMPS

CHELSEA GRESH - CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 2019

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ELLE WINTER

PHOTOS BY GINA SCARPINO AND WORDS BY LAUREN KLONOWSKI BTS

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This day in age, getting discovered by the music industry mostly happens online. Whether it’s YouTube, Instagram or another site, many of today’s stars get their big break thanks to these sites. For Elle Winter, her journey into music started a bit differently. Growing up in New York, she watched the pop stars of her time shine and knew that she wanted the same path for herself. She says, “I honestly was always singing and I would watch and study videos of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and all those females that were so popular at the time when I was growing up and living in New York. I had so many opportunities to kind of express myself, so I signed up for vocal lessons when I was four years old and then I took an acting course in New York at the age of seven. The acting course really drove me to work hard in pursuing singing and acting because we would have showcases at the end of the semester at school and agents and managers would come, which really motivated me.” On top of these pop powerhouses, Winter also looks to artists like Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran and Beyonce. “I love Bruno Mars. He’s one of the best performers. I love his music. I love that he stays true to himself. Just by what’s going on in the industry, he always just puts out what’s true to him. I also adore Ed Sheeran as a songwriter, he just takes me to a special place. I love Beyonce too. I just watch her videos all day. I love studying artists like that cause I find that their drive and discipline are so inspiring, you know?”

She took all these personal inspirations and started crafting her own sound when she was just nine years old. “I have videos where I would just sing into the PhotoBooth camera on my computer when I was really really young. I used to diary, and just write a lot in different forms. I really love writing stories. But I used to take fictional stories about love and all that and turn them into songs. I would kind of take songs that already existed and write my own lyrics to them. I really fell in love with writing. I started going to piano lessons, but instead of learning piano, my teacher and I used to just write songs together. He took me to my first studio in New York at nine and that’s when I really started putting out music that told my stories. I think my first song was called ‘Awkward’ and it was about a boy I had a crush on in fourth grade.” Her sound has grown up a bit since her childhood days, and now she says her music is “pop with a little bit of a rhythmic aspect to it. I do love to add in some EDM influences, so my songs have a bit of that feel to it. So it’s a really nice blend of those and all of the influences I grew up listening to.” When it comes to writing these pop-meets-EDM songs, she says the process is different every time. “It really depends on the session. Sometimes, I’ll go into the session and I’ll be with producers and writers and they’ll be like, ‘What do you guys want to talk about today?’ And I’ll talk them through a note on my phone

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from a few weeks before that detailed a concept I had for a song. I just go through everything I’ve written in my phone because I’m always writing. I find myself really inspired on flights, for some reason, I love writing a ton of different songs on planes. But once I get to the session, I’ll bring those to the session, or the producer will start writing or making a beat and that’ll totally change the direction [of the song].” In addition to her musical inspirations, travel is a big source of songwriting inspiration. Winter says, “I actually was just in Sweden for two weeks to work on music in January. I found it so inspiring just to get out of my routine and meet new people and try new foods. Even little things like that-- anything that makes you feel anything I just find so inspiring.” Winter just dropped her debut EP “Yeah, No” earlier this year. She talks about what that song means to her. The main theme is about telling people who you are instead of letting them make their own assumptions. “This is me, telling everyone who I am and setting the narrative straight. It’s like, you think you know me? Like yeah, but no, like this is, this is who I am,” she says. She goes on to talk about the rest of the EP, saying, “[The] songs really each tell a different story of an experience of mine and they all really do have different influences from my [life] growing up and blend all those sounds together.” Since she mentioned that the writing and recording process is usually different for every song she creates, she gave some insight into what the specific process was like for recording the track “Yeah, No”. Winter says, “I wrote it in Nashville and it was one of my favorite sessions ever. I just had so much fun. It went so quickly and the song really stood out to us. We wrote it on guitar and that was basically the only track and it just had a little bit of a beat but it was very raw. Eventually, we reproduced it and realized that the song still carried the same power that it did before. But from day one, we all knew it was special when we were creating it, so I just knew it was the perfect song and title for the EP.” “Yeah, No” turned into a hit and received over 60 thousand views on YouTube in its first week. Winter talks about how exciting the filming process was. “I’m really proud of this video. I worked on it in BTS

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LA with this amazing director Bobby Hannah. I told him what the song meant to me, and how the song is about the end of a relationship and how people will keep calling to check-in and make sure I was okay.” She continues, “The song talks about how I’m fine on my own. It’s like, I don’t need you to support me through a breakup. I wanted the song to reflect the strength that I felt. Where I’m like, Hey, this is who I am. I don’t need you, I don’t need anyone. I told the director the vision and he captured it with this really cool warehouse. We shot with these really beautiful badass female dancers and we just all stood our ground and created the vibe to the song and it’s super empowering.” Besides recording and filming successful videos, Winter loves performing her infectious tracks and seeing her fans. “Writing songs about my experiences and seeing fans connect to them and sing along with me is truly crazy, I can’t even describe it; it’s so special. Social media and streaming are so great, you can reach people and have an effect, but to actually physically see them and look them in the eye and see how people connect to your songs is just out of this world.” So, what’s next on Winter’s 2020 agenda? “I’ll hopefully be touring and then releasing an album in the fall. Yeah, that’s serious. We’re working on the whole new project and I just moved to LA now too. Since I moved, I have to learn how to drive too. Those are the main things on my radar right now!” That’s quite a booked year if you ask us. We look forward to seeing Winter accomplish and excel at each of these projects. 2020 is set to be her year.

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GET TO KNOW: R.LUM.R PHOTOS AND WORDS BY GINA SCARPINO

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Reggie Williams, known by his stage name R.LUM.R, is a R&B artist that is currently based out of Nashville, TN. His genre-bending music has caught the attention of many, with his smooth vocals, vulnerable lyrics, and electro-R&B melodies there isn’t another artist out there like him. His highly anticipated debut album Surfacing was released on November 1st via Island Records, and we had the opportunity to sit down with him ahead of its release to discuss the process he went through while making the album. BTS: How did you get started with making music? R.LUM.R: I got started back in my grandmother’s church. I was just singing in the choir from when I was 9 to when I was 14-ish. If I could go back, I probably would of continued doing it, but at the time I hated it because I was 9 and I just wanted to play my PlayStation I didn’t want to be at church at 5:30 in the morning four days a week. That was formative when it came to me just making noises. My mother always played jazz around the house, so I remember trying to mimic those sounds and vibes. We listened to a lot of Jazz, a lot of Gospel, a lot of Anita Baker – stuff like that. Then fast forward to high school, I learned classical guitar in school so I still play with my fingernails and not a pick. When I started, I just happened to be good at it and my teacher encouraged me to keep playing and buy a guitar if I could. So I saved up my money and eventually got a Yamaha CG-101 for $212. But at the time, I was also listening to a lot of nu-metal and grungy Linkin Park-esque music. It really resonated with me at the time because I was mad emo. So I started writing

songs about all the stuff I was feeling at the time – girls that didn’t like me back and such. BTS: Describe your sound for someone who hasn’t heard it before? R.LUM.R: I just tell them to listen to it. I don’t like describing the music to be honest. I don’t really believe it’s my place to do so. Just listen to it. BTS: You’re releasing your debut album tomorrow – how does it feel to finally be releasing it? R.LUM.R: I feel strongly ambivalent about it. I feel very zen. I feel like people often use that simile of releasing an album being like giving birth, and to me it’s more accurate to say that the thing was born a couple years ago. But the process of completing it is like raising it and releasing it is like sending it off to college. I know how I feel about it – I feel like it’s important. But, I have no idea how people are going to react to a lot of the things that I’ve said, because so much of what I talk about is important to me. What people say is out of my control, but I feel really excited to see what people react to and what they gravitate to. I think excited is the wrong word – maybe more morbidly curious. BTS: So have you been sitting on some of these songs for a long time then? R.LUM.R: Oh yeah. I write a lot of notes for song ideas on my phone, and I learned the other day that there’s a way for you to see the date that you started a note

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on your phone, so for example, I started the note for “Making a Choice” which is the first song on the album, on August 30th, 2018 at 4:59 AM. So I’ve been sitting on that song for over a year. “Middle of the Night” was probably the first song I wrote out of them all though – I wrote that in the winter of 2017. It was on the tail end of a long writing trip and I’m not very close with my family, so I don’t go home for the holidays usually. Everyone I was working with was on winter break essentially, so I was really in my feelings and was feeling very alone. That song and “Surfacing” kind of became the nucleus for what everything else kind of vibrated around over the course of writing this album. BTS: What was the writing and recording process like for this album? R.LUM.R: Overall, it was very good and formative. I was lucky to be able to work with these dudes in The Gifted, I think there’s six songs on the record that I did with them— “Surfacing, “Making a Choice,” “How This Feels,” “Middle of the Night,” and one more I’m forgetting. I was lucky to of found a space where I could say these things that I needed to get out and not feel weird. It was so nice to be able to have a safe space where I could dig as deep as I needed to about mental health, suicidal thoughts, anger, masculinity, and all these things I address on the record. That was my favorite part of it, to have a center and grounding element. I’m a Capricorn, I need grounding. To use the same metaphor from before, that was a huge part of the nucleus of creating this album. BTS: How many songs did you write for the album? R.LUM.R: Oh man. 80 maybe? Chris, who’s my manager and who’s been my best friend for 17 years, he sent me a folder earlier this year and at that point in time it was at least 80 songs. BTS: That’s a lot of songs though. R.LUM.R: Yeah, I don’t totally remember at this point though. I don’t think it’s productive for me to be bean counting. I should just be thinking about which ones stick out and which ones are the most important. I will scan them and be like “Did I forget anything?” But I feel like I pulled out everything that was the most important with no fluff songs or anything. BTS: Why did you decide to title the album Surfacing? BTS

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R.LUM.R: The album was just the process of “surfacing.” From the start with “Making a Choice,” which is kind of like a prologue, it’s a narrating voice that’s presenting the two sides of yourself that you explore throughout the rest of the record. It’s the journey of going through all of those internal processes of letting people in, trying to figure things out, starting to except what or who that is. Then you get to “Surfacing” where one of the lyrics is literally “I spent so long underwater / Forgot how it feels to breathe / I used to be autonomic but something came over me / Maybe a tidal wave or the moon ant its gravity / Whatever it doesn’t matter I feel like I’m surfacing”. I just put all that shit aside and come up. The ending track is the last single that came out, “Lonely,” which is where you start to externalize. You’ve done all this internal work, now you can start to express everything you’ve processed externally. Surfacing just feels like a verb, because it is in a literal sense, but that action and the process of just listening to the record feels like that to me. BTS: What was the most challenging part of recording this album? R.LUM.R: It was probably figuring out what songs to pick and figuring out which pieces were necessary to complete the puzzle but not overload it. I remember buying records when I was 13 or 14 for $15 at F.Y.E. or Hot Topic or whatever and getting a


record that I liked the singles from and everything else on the record was trash. It always mad me so mad because $15 for me at 14 was a lot of money. I really didn’t want to have any filler. It was more about thinking about what each song was saying and thinking about what I need and what the record needs – which is ultimately what made the decision. I’m very utilitarian with putting records together. I know it’s not the sexy, artist-y “Oh I just wait for the songs to call me or fall into place.” BTS: That’s great though, there’s a method that works for everyone. Everyone is looking to do something different with their music, so it’s more about what works for you and not everyone else. R.LUM.R: Yes absolutely. It’s more important to me for it to be like putting a puzzle together rather then waiting for something to speak to me. BTS: A lot of the visuals that you pair with your music (like your album cover) are really stunning – are visuals important to you as an artist? R.LUM.R: I’m a big fan of animation and anime. I visual arts like that because you’re not bound to limits. That’s why I love video games so much, I don’t have to say no. I feel like visual story telling can be the same way for me because I’ve been taking in so much of that media and so much of that style like the editing. I was a video editor in college for a

little while, I lived many lives in college as I feel like most people do, especially in the arts. But it was something I got really into, specially through Satoshi Kon, who only put out three feature films in his life time he died far too young. He was a big inspiration for me to leave the physical plain sometimes. But, I do like telling really human stories too. “Lonely” was a big accomplishment for me, that was my first co-directed video as well. BTS: What can fans expect from you in 2020? R.LUM.R: We are very excited to get this record out, just as a team. Kind of like I said before, I feel very ambivalent and zen about releasing it to the world, but as a team I feel very excited. There are a lot of people that have worked on this release and that it effects, and seeing that external excitement is invigorating for me. It helps me focus and understand that I’m a part of the thing and that it’s not just the Reggie Williams show. I have discrete input and output periods, I finished the output period for this cycle when I finished the record. I am certainly looking forward to going through another input period and finding some more inspiration. I’m excited to go to some museums, visit some cities that I’ve been to but haven’t had the opportunity to explore. I just want to take some time to live my life a little bit and kind of digest everything. I also need to find a new apartment in Nashville, maybe I’ll finally get a cat too.

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SCHOOLBOY Q

LEWIS ROBERTS - MANCHESTER, UK - JANUARY 2020

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CITY OF THE SUN

CHELSEA GRESH - CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 2019

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CHRISTIAN FRENCH BTS

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PHOTOS BY ALYSSA BUZZELLO AND WORDS BY NICOLITA BRADLEY


23-year-old singer-songwriter, Christian French is sitting on a couch in the living room of his house in Hollywood Hills. There is a little corner of vinyl in the room and you can hear his manager, JohnPaul, cooking in the kitchen. Immediately, you feel at home. The house is shared among friends who are all in the industry and equally passionate about music. French says, “We are so close with each other. We pick each other up when we need to.� Living in LA can be extremely lonely, but French has been careful to pick his friends wisely. Looking at his life up to this point, you see how much support French is constantly surrounded by that helps him follow his true passion in life. However, as much as French is surrounded by talented musicians now, that was not always the case. In fact, while growing up in Fishers, Indiana, French was enamored with playing hockey music was not even on his radar. His dream was to become a professional player in the NHL. He was so enveloped by this goal that he went the extra step and joined a traveling hockey team. However, French attended a private school that required all students to be in band or choir. This introduction to music is where his passion first began to spark.

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He started tinkering around with instruments in his off time and realized how much he enjoyed it. French started making music while he was still deeply invested in hockey. “Music was what calmed me down when I was really stressed about school and hockey. It was never something I thought would develop into this.” ‘This’ being a two-part headlining tour across the United States. Dropping out of college with only 13 credits left isn’t the most ideal, but when French was offered the opportunity to go on tour opening up for Chelsea Cutler he knew that was exactly what he had to do. He tells us, “My parents and friends supported it, so it was [a] really easy [decision].” French admits he was a “stiff noodle” while performing on stage during that first round of touring. Another opportunity to tour came around right after. He ended up hopping on a tour to open up for Quinn XCII. French soaked up as much knowledge as he could from the two seasoned artists. He took mental notes on how they transitioned between songs and the way they would interact with the crowd. Learning from Cutler and Quinn XCII was just the start. Pushing himself further, French started taking dance lessons revealing, “I have grown into

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my body and built a lot more confidence. It’s much more fun [to perform on stage] now.” Watching this progression from start to present has been quite enjoyable. You can see how comfortable he is while performing and feel boldness when he speaks. It is an evolution that is sure to only keep on getting better and better. French has never shied away from talking about his struggles with anxiety. He describes the overwhelming emotions and says it starts to, “feel like nothing is ever going to be alright.” French has found a way to channel those low feelings by writing music. He says, “Those are the times where I have to be alone with myself at a piano. Writing music about how I’m feeling is the only way to get out of my head.” His first experiences writing to get over those emotions were on his earlier songs “Dying Alive” and “Heavy Snow”. French notes that writing songs like those happen, “when I need to be saved by music.” Being vulnerable within his music has enabled a connection between fans that transcends distance. French takes it further by helping fans whenever he can across his social platforms. Those moments deepen the bond between himself and those who


relate to his experiences. Sharing those intensely personal and isolating feelings creates a circle of support, not only for himself but for those who are also willing to open up. Knowing you do not have to face the anxiety alone can be a source of calm reassurance. While his earlier instances of writing music stemmed from sitting down and writing, French’s process is much different now. What used to consist of being by himself on a piano, figuring out chords and lyrics, has evolved into a collaborative process. The convenience of living in a house full of proficient and artistic people makes that even easier to do. Sometimes French will find himself making music with his fellow housemate, Pinkslip, who is a producer. After some trial and error, French has found producers and writers that he really enjoys working with. Creating a safe, fun atmosphere can make or break the creation of a song. Building off the energy in the room is exactly how he wrote “Bright Side of the Moon” and “Time of Our Lives”. He notes, “It has definitely grown as a more collaborative effort now. I still have songs where I sit at the piano and figure it all out there though.” After a successful first round of headlining shows, French is already itching to head out on tour again. Joining him on the road is this leg is the talented artist, Rence. French gushes, “The last tour was the craziest feeling ever. It’s awesome to tour the country with your best friends. I’m so ready to do it again.” Having that support system, especially on the road, is vital. French is also excited about performing new music on this leg of the tour. Everything happening now is leading up to a new forthcoming EP that will be released this June. Fans will be thrilled to know that he will be dropping music every month ahead of the release to tide them over until the EP drops. One thing is certain, Christian French has a bright future ahead in the music industry. He is surrounded by people who genuinely love and support his every move. With that, success is sure to follow. BTS

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JP SAXE

GINA SCARPINO - BROOKLYN, NY - JANUARY 2020


MABEL

LEWIS ROBERTS - MANCHESTER, UK - FEBRUARY 2020

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DRAKE BELL

JOE HERNANDEZ - PORTLAND, OR - FEBRUARY 2020

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ILLENIUM

BLAKE CHARLES - PORTLAND, OR - DECEMBER 2019

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PUBLIC

PHOTOS AND WORDS BY AUDREY BATTIS When someone introduces themselves as a ‘band from Ohio,’ what do you think of? Probably not a small rock band from Cincinnati, formally known as PUBLIC. However, PUBLIC is here to encourage you to change your mind about that. Band members John Vaughan, Matt Alvarado and Ben Lapps formed PUBLIC while still in high school. This began the journey to where they are now, signed to Island Records with viral TikTok hit, “Make You Mine.” With a tight-knit, dedicated fan group from the very beginning, PUBLIC’s music brings a new level of authenticity to their indie-pop infused rock songs. The road where they are now, was not an easy overnight success story, however. Especially with how accessible music is today, reaching people BTS

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through all the other noise can be a process. PUBLIC, however, is in it for the long haul. Being a band from Ohio has also been a fundamental part of the formation of PUBLIC. While some might resent being so far removed from the major music hubs like Nashville or LA, PUBLIC mentions that once they started to view being from Cincinnati as a positive instead of a negative, that’s when things began to shift for them. Lead singer John shares: “I think I kind of resented that for a while when we were younger because I was like, ‘Oh there’s nothing here, we don’t have an industry hub here in Cincinnati.’ But now, I’m actually really glad that we started in Ohio. There just wasn’t as much going on there, so we were forced to become unique and it didn’t feel like an area that was too oversaturated to be a band, which I think can


happen with places like Nashville or LA. That’s what is nice about Ohio, it gave us room to build who we are.” Alvarado, the bassist, also adds: “Yeah, without knowing what other areas are like, being from Ohio a lot of the bands stick together in the same scene, with some of the most die-hard fans I’ve ever seen. We were also super fortunate to come up at the same time as WALK THE MOON and twenty one pilots to kind of pave the way for a rock band to come into existence.” PUBLIC has more to attribute their success to than just die-hard Ohio fans, however. From the small streets of Cincinnati to touring the country both as an opener and headliner, PUBLIC always puts on a live show worth remembering. It serves as a simple reminder that music is often about the process, not just the end result. Vaughan cites one of his favorite shows was the Chicago House of Blues while on tour with Jesse McCartney. “I remember that show felt really, really cool. The audience was awesome, the venue was beautiful, and my family was there. There was stuff on either side of the stage to climb, that was the tour where that became my thing, I tried to end our set on top of something. That one scared me because I had to actually climb it and I could touch the balcony up there, and it’s just kinda stuck in my mind since. I loved that show.” Lapps, the drummer, says, “I really liked the first time we went to the Fillmore in San Francisco because it’s a historic venue and looking at all the posters on the wall of legends who have been there and the venue is still there today.” Vaughan adds to that: “There are so many venues we see with examples of what band sold this out or what person sold this out and it just gives us a lot more drive to BTS

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be one of those people that get to out up our name on the wall at the end of the day.” In the process of cementing their sound, and coming to be as a band in Ohio was beginning to create music that was unique and pulling from various genres of their background. From influences like Muse to Maroon 5 to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the band’s genrebending hits are irresistibly upbeat and catchy. Alvarado says that one of their songs, “‘On my Mind’ is a cool track that showcases the funky disco aspect of us, but is also still kind of pop-y. It’s not necessarily one our fans gravitate towards the most, but I don’t know, I like that track a lot.” After “Make You Mine” became a viral TikTok sensation, the song began to do numbers, and PUBLIC found themselves with a whole new audience. PUBLIC speaks about how crazy it all is to them, and how the song came to be. Vaughan says, “At the time, it was just my first serious relationship, so that’s where the lyrical content came from, and that’s kinda what inspired it. It’s just about learning how it feels to be vulnerable with somebody for the first time and learning what it means to be in a relationship. And also just how when you are getting vulnerable with somebody and you’re like, ‘I like you, you like me,’ it’s very exciting and sometimes just that bliss, in general, is enough. It’s very much about young love.” With 52 million Spotify streams, and 14 million views on the music video for “Make You Mine,” clearly people are ready to listen to what PUBLIC has to say. With a sequel video to “Make You Mine” with the same cast and crew now released, PUBLIC is ready to move onto to bigger and better things in 2020, from new music, and maybe even more touring. After signing to Island Records after “Make You Mine’s” success, we see PUBLIC’s big plans begin to fall into BTS

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place. With their tour with American Authors and Magic Giant ending, PUBLIC talks about the road ahead of them and how excited they are for what is next. Alvarado says, “It’s crazy because ‘Make You Mine’ has given us this new audience so it’s gonna be really interesting and exciting to show them something that’s not


‘Make You Mine’.” From booking writing sessions in New York City to looking into more touring in 2020, PUBLIC is ready for everyone to hear what they are working on in the same way “Make You Mine” was received. Clearly, PUBLIC has no intention of being

a one-hit-wonder. Vaughan adds, “We have a lot of music ready to go that we’re just really itching to get out there.” PUBLIC is ready for the world to hear them, so it’s time to start listening because their music isn’t something to be missed. BTS

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MOTION CITY SOUNDTRACK ALYSSA BUZZELLO - LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 2020

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JAUZ

BLAKE CHARLES - EUGENE, OR - JANUARY 2020

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KREPT & KONAN

LEWIS ROBERTS - MANCHESTER, UK - JANUARY 2020


PLAYLIST 1. You Are Losing Me - Chelsea Cutler 2. Falling For Boys - Julia Michaels 3. Demons - Alec Benjamin 4. Maybe - Jack Harlow 5. Just Sayin - Eden 6. Dirty Af1s - Alexander 23 7. What we Had - SODY 8. Slow Dance - AJ Mitchell 9. Love That - Seaforth 10. If we never met - John K 11. Unspoken - Aaron Smith 12. Babygirl - Bryce Vine 13. 4Get - Voila 14. This Bar - Morgan Wallen 15. Falling - Harry Styles

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JONAS BROTHERS | PHOTO BY LEWIS ROBERTS


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