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ISSUE #83 - MAY 2018

by Catherine Powell

CASEY COTT


MAY 2018 06 BRYCE VINE

16 LUKE BENWARD

36 CASEY COTT

on how his upbringing led to a music career

on working with comedy legends on life of the party

on becoming famous overnight + what to expect on riverdale

08 AMY FORSYTH

22 SAVANNAH CONLEY

46 LAUREN SANDERSON

on growing up a theatre kid + the impact of rise

on finding her voice + opening for brent cobb

on turning her public speaking career into a musical one

12 JORDAN DAVIS

26 LINDSAY ELL

48 THE SHADOWBOXERS

on his wide variety of influences + his debut album, home state

on the success of the project + breaknig the glass ceiling

on growing as a group + their biggest fan, justin timberlake

32 APARNA BRIELLE

on her hit comedy, a.p. bio + embracing her quirks

CATHERINE POWELL

publisher, editor, photographer, designer, writer

CARLY BUSH writer

ELIZABETH FORREST writer

IAN HAYS writer

RACHEL HILL writer

MARISSA JOHNSON writer

NICOLE MOOREFIELD writer

LEXI SHANNON writer

OLIVIA SINGH writer


Pants by DIM MAK COLLECTION


bryce vine Words by MARISSA JOHNSON Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

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Music’s newest superstar Bryce Vine is climbing the charts and turning heads with his unique blend of influences, honest lyricism, and intense devotion to his fans. Born in his mother’s New York City apartment and raised in Los Angeles, Bryce Vine was introduced to the entertainment business at a young age, growing up around sets and learning about the film industry during his mother’s 11-year run as an actress on the soap opera Passions. His father, a restauranteur, instilled in him a sense of community that has shaped how he interacts with everyone he meets. “He was always super inviting. Everyone was welcome, and he always treated people like family so I just grew up with that vibe, that’s what I created with music,” Bryce says. Bryce began using music as a form of “self-therapy” early on. “There was always a song for what you’re going through,” he says. Bryce realized that he wanted to make music a career after seeing a comedian on television performing his own music and getting excited about the possibilities that music presented. “You could just make your own music and do it however you want, I was sold from there,” he says. At the age of 13, he picked up a guitar and taught himself how to play and write songs in his garage. In high school, Bryce formed a punk band with his friends and developed a sound that still influences his music today. “My influences are different from a lot of people, I liked ska music and went to Warped Tour, but I also like Tupac and Tony Toni Toné,” he says, “Rock music just had this raw energy to it that I couldn’t get out of my system.” During this time he worked tirelessly to get his

music noticed and to cultivate his unique style. “The town I grew up in outside of Los Angeles wasn’t just full of up and coming stars, it was just I loved to make music so I just kept working towards the next step,” he says. After high school, he took his passion for music to Berklee College of Music in Boston where he made an effort to fully immerse himself in every style of music he possibly could in order to create his own sound, including joining an elite gospel ensemble. “When I got to Berklee I went into the gospel ensemble just to try that out. It was humbling for sure because it was the best voices in the country. I think the teacher only let me in because he knew I wanted to learn,” he laughs. It wasn’t until later in college that he began writing pop music when he heard someone making pop beats and knocked on his door. From then on he used this new “sexier pop vibe” intertwined with his already developed punk sound and gospel influence to create his songs. During his time at Berklee he also met his DJ and Producer, Sir Nolan. Together, Nolan and Bryce created the group Crush Club and started uploading music to MySpace. Their song “Love-Aholic” was picked up by DJ Carnage and then remixed by G-Eazy, with whom Bryce later collaborated with on the song “Coming Home”. After college, Bryce began working on his debut EP, Lazy Fair, and started touring with artists like Kyle and Hoodie Allen. This past summer, he embarked on the Travelogue Tour, a headlining run that sold out at almost every date, and the momentum is only building from there. Now, Bryce is keeping busy on the road again, opening for Timeflies

and working on his first full length album. Despite having little time to write new music while on tour, Bryce plans to use his experiences from the road to inspire his writing at home. “Now that I’m signed there’s so much more for me to do, but when I go back home this is all I’m going to be talking about, it’s the best job ever,” he says. Of his time on tour, he says that his favorite part of each show is making the live music something communal. “On this tour I’ll throw someone the mic if I can tell on stage that they know the words and that they’ve been having fun,” he says, “A kid in Columbus I’d recognized from other shows, Calloway, I knew he was a big fan, I threw him the mic and this dude takes the mic and turns around to the rest of the crowd and sang all the words, jumps up on the barricade and owns the moment like I’ve never seen before. This guy felt completely comfortable in a room full of people he doesn’t know, and that’s exactly the kind of environment that I wanted to create when I got into this.” One of the most important aspects of Bryce’s music is the sense of community, he wants every song and live show to “be a relief, it should feel like you’re driving around in the car with your friends.” As for the future, Bryce is planning to tour this summer and will release his debut album, Carnival, this fall, an album that he says is “exactly what a carnival is: a lot of things happening at once”. “It’s a bunch of my personality all condensed into an album,” he says. Two singles, “Lalaland” and “On The Ball”, will be released before the start of summer. Bryce will also be releasing a new song with MAX in anticipation of their fall tour together. NKD NKDMAG.COM

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amy forsyth Words by LEXI SHANNON Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

Imagine growing up loving something, only for it to become your full-time job right out of high school. For Ontario born actress Amy Forsyth, her dreams became a reality. The multi-talented actress and singer, who most notably portrays Gwen Strickland in NBC’s Rise, saw her start as a professional actress right out of Year 12 – after years of loving theatre and the arts. “I started ballet when I was 4, piano sometime after that, and before I started musical theatre, which was at age 8,” she recalls. “I went to an arts high school when I was going into Grade 7, and that was pretty monumental because that was when I really knew that this [theatre] is what I was going to do and there was no other option for me.” Amidst staring in shows during her teenage years, both in school and out, Amy was picked up by an agent. “I met my agent at the end of Grade 12 and I’ve been auditioning ever since.” For the young woman, theatre had been with her since day one. She notes growing up doing theatre throughout her community, as many aspiring actors and actresses do. From plays to musicals, Amy was a

jack of all trades on the stage. Prior to booking the gig on Rise, Amy starred on Hulu’s The Path. From the beginning, she was able to grow from independent Canadian films, to Canadian television shows, then onto Canada-filmed American shows. After a year working day and night in Toronto, Amy made the move across the border to the states to continue pursuing her dreams. Amy got into acting for television and movies when she signed with her agent. “She [my agent] was a film and television agent in Toronto, and so I signed with her knowing that I could transition to television and film.” She took a break from theatre to focus on television and landed the best of both worlds – Rise. The story follows a group of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, high school students as they prepare for their spring performance of critically-acclaimed Spring Awakening – a show Amy, like many musical theatre students, grew up loving. “I remember driving around and coming home from theatre rehearsal with all my theatre nerd friends. We were home, we could’ve gone to bed, but instead we drove around

longer because we were listening to Spring Awakening,” Amy mentioned, looking back on her humble beginnings as an actress. “It’s always been a part of my childhood. I always wanted to do the show, and it’s so fun to get to be those characters and sing those songs.” Rise shows the ups and downs of high school as a theatre geek, from the long rehearsals to the awkward love triangles. The first season culminates with opening night of Spring Awakening. With a mostly younger cast, Amy gets to work alongside actresses as Auli’i Cravalho and Marley Shelton. Despite not knowing the other cast members initially, Amy discusses the importance of working with a wide variety of other actors and actresses from which you can learn from, whether they be seasoned veterans or up-andcoming newbies. “I think as a young person, most of the time you end up working with people that are your senior and I think it’s a great way to learn. You get to meet amazing people that set amazing examples. There’s an added component when you have other people your age,” Amy emphasized. “When it NKDMAG.COM 09


came down to it and it was a challenging work day, there were other people that were experiencing exactly what you were, so it was really a great bonding experience to be there with other young people.” Right from her first read of the script, Amy knew she wanted to be a part of Rise. The show’s producer and writer, Jason Katims (who previously created Friday Night Lights and Parenthood), had been a longtime idol of hers. “I love Jason, I think he’s a genius and he’s great to work with and for. Secondly, reading a script about a high school theatre department hit very close to home. I was lucky enough to be in a school with the arts and I know the importance of the arts and how it effects education, especially at that age,” she says. For Amy, she matched her role of Gwen Strickland perfectly. Gwen, the confident young actress, spent her entire high school drama career as the lead role in her school’s shows. But when a new theatre director steps in and she’s placed in an ensemble role, her determination to become the best grows stronger. As someone who grew up portraying the “girl-next-door” in shows, Amy find portraying Gwen fun. “It’s fun to play somebody so sure of themselves in some ways, especially at that age,” Amy says. “I totally feel like I was Gwen in high school. For better or for worse, I think we’re very similar,” she mentions. 10

“I would sort of float around from group to group, but ultimately when it came down to it I was a drama kid. I was, you know, fortunate enough to play some leading roles but also play some of the most fun roles I ever played were ensemble roles.” The show has become a hit with fans all over, earning roughly 2 million views per episode premiere. Featuring people from all walks of life, Rise even inspired one fan’s mom to begin outreach in her community to provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ kids to find out where they belong. Nearly bringing Amy to tears at the thought of something being that moving. “To hear that there is a real impact that is potentially changing lives for people – I mean, art is supposed to make you feel something. And if art can not only make you feel something but help you change and grow as a person, we’ve done our jobs ten times over. That’s even more incredible that people are feeling that outreach,” she says. As the show moves forward towards the end of season one, fans can expect high school drama to continue, as Gwen and Gordy continue to grow their relationship and show night grows closer. For Amy, her future past Gwen is uncertain. Living in New York, she hopes to immerse herself in the local theatre scene, attending shows, making friends, and anxiously awaiting her newest works to be released with the world. NKD


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jordan davis Words by IAN HAYS Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

Country music is in its renaissance. The old guards have lost their grip and the rising songwriters are showing new and varied influences can only expand the territory that claims “country music”. Jordan Davis is one of those artists showing how seemingly varied musical influences impact the trajectory of a modern country artist’s music. A Shreveport, Louisiana native, Jordan had a life filled with music from birth. Shreveport has a rich history of music and sits as a sort of crossroads. Influences are drawn from New Orleans, Texas, and Mississippi. “I embraced it, man,” Jordan says, “I dove into the history of Shreveport; like the first time Elvis came through, and Hank Williams.” This enthusiasm and yearning for diversity of music is something that Jordan has carried within him throughout his artistic endeavors. While he had musicians in his family (his brother is a songwriter), music remained just a fun pastime. And while this openness form the beginning would lead Jordan to discovering and drawing influence from various genre, he still started with country music staples. John Prine, Jim Croce, Kris Kristofferson - these trailblazing singer-songwriters were the bedrock of Jordan’s music education growing up in Shreveport. “I started at the songwriter level listening to my dad’s Prine records or Kristofferson’s ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’. So I mean, if you’re going to have a base for music, start at the song;

start at the writing of it. And as you get older, you can start mixing in the other genres and those other influences which I did,” he says. At 30-years-old, Jordan is part of the generation of musicians who grew up with an iPod/ MP3 player. He could listen to a song at any place at any time. His access to a catalogue of songs and albums one could only dream of - and it was all in the palm of his hands. This development put music in the hands of aspiring artists who otherwise may not have ever listened to that music due to ease of access/ cost. Streaming today has only increased that. Synthesizing genres is no longer seen as experimental, but necessary. This, coupled with the strong base of country songwriters, is what shaped the way Jordan writes and approaches songs. “Around 11 or 12 I picked up the guitar. I started writing song, or, writing half a song. I was watching my dad play and my brother play early on. But, it wasn’t until probably my junior year of college that I really noticed I was a talented songwriter,” Jordan recalls, “And a lot of that was feedback from friends. And that’s when I started looking at it as a profession.” Jordan majored in resource conservation from LSU. And while he eventually landed an entry level position at an environmental company, his desire to pursue music only made itself more known. And while he worked to balance these two passions, Jordan is grateful for his college experience

and credits it with helping shape his approach to music. It allowed him to meet new people, have fresh experiences, and grow up a little in the process. While many musicians grow up in front of an audience, Jordan has been able to take all those past lives and present them as his current, learned self. And a lot of that breaks down to feeling joy with what you do. “Being happy is a major key to life. The path I was on, doing what I was doing with my environmental science degree, might not have given me the same happiness as writing songs,” he admits, “Music eventually ran me down and said, ‘Hey, you have to do this’, rather than the other way around.” His mind set, Jordan moved to Nashville to pursue work as a songwriter. His brother had been living and working in town as a songwriter as well. For all the nerves that come with a move and initiation of a dream, Jordan appreciates having family and friends already in town, ready to welcome him on the journey. His brother, Jacob, already had a publishing deal amd was the perfect soundboard and networking partner for Jordan’s own music dreams. Initially, that dream was to be the behind-the-scenes songwriter, not the singer/artist on stage. “I wasn’t going after some record deal. It was all about helping somebody record my songs. But, I never wrote songs with anybody else in mind, other than myself,” he says, “So, I’ve always NKDMAG.COM

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wrote songs and sang ‘em the way I would sing ‘em.” Part of this also stemmed from Jordan not realizing there was a path to become an artist, not just a songwriter. When he first moved to Nashville, people were asking if he was trying to become an artist and he didn’t understand what they meant. In his mind, it was just about him writing songs. “It was almost four years in town until I got a publishing deal. And I am grateful for that. I think I wrote better songs because of that. I don’t think I would’ve written as good of songs if I was trying to write as someone else,” he says. The shift from songwriter to full blown artist came at the request of Jordan’s publisher. They told him that he should be the one singing and performing these songs – and not just for the demos. His publisher wanted him to pitch his songs to a record label. Jordan’s humble nature, while allowing him to be open to various influences, also cast a shadow on his view of his own potential. But the assurance of his publisher, friends, and family that his voice was the one meant for those songs was enough to take that next step. Jordan was eventually signed and his debut album, Home State, dropped March 23rd. The album was produced by Paul DiGiovanni – former guitarist of Boys Like Girls. Fifteen years ago, this may have seemed like an odd pairing: a pop-punk guitarist producing the album of a Louisiana-born country singer. But the world has matured and art is art. Paul had worked with other country artist in the past (most notably writing the Dan + Shay hit “How Not To”) and Jordan grew up with a variety of musical influences, so the pairing allowed for a balance between a seasoned writer and producer, and one hearing 14

his voice as the artist he is for the first time. “You know, it was cool because we grew up listening to the same stuff. I mean, I grew up listening to his band. I feel like we’re in the iPod generation. I burnt CDs with Otis Redding, Jim Croce, Usher, Nelly, and the Allman Brothers on the same CD,” Jordan reflects, “I think Home State turned out the way it did because Paul and I were on the same page. We both had those influences to pull from to complete the vison for this first record.” In Jordan’s mind, no one else but Paul could have allowed the record to develop into what it became. There was an understanding for the beginning about the direction not just the album would go, but the individual songs. Jordan had the raw materials and Paul had machinery and know-how to bring it to life. The idea that genre is not as relevant as it used to be has garnered mainstream acceptance. While there are those who will always be a part of the old guard, Jordan believes most people are just looking for a song to connect to, it doesn’t matter the genre. “If you make great music, you’re alright in my book; it doesn’t matter if the root of the song is country, pop, or R&B influenced. The genres are more open now than they have ever been. And in my opinion, country music is healthier than it’s ever been,” Jordan says, “You have people who make music like I do and people who make music like John Prine. The door to accepting other influences is open. And I’m proud to be a part of this and the genre.” And with the album released and tour under way, Jordan has been more than thrilled with getting to play the songs live and see the fan reactions. His first experiences with playing for a live audience were songwriting rounds; it

was just him and other songwriters in a room working on music. This is now performing for people who already know the music and can’t wait to hear it live. Touring has also given Jordan a chance to see what songs fans connect with most and it has surprised him. For instance, ‘Sundowners’. Jordan wasn’t really sure how fans would react to that song, but it has consistently been a crowd favorite. And while of course he likes the song, he wasn’t expecting such a dedicated and swift attachment fans had for the song. With Jordan’s success leading up to and now following the release of Home State, his favorite part over the past few years has been seeing his peers start to find and build upon success as well. While lusty eyes will always focus on the individual, art is nothing without community. Seeing those he cares about most succeed at the same time he is gives hope for the future and continued growth of country music as a whole. It’s just the beginning for Jordan Davis. Years of continual dying and rising through his initial work as a songwriter paved the way to the success he has seen so far. Stardom was never a passing thought; it was and always has been about the music. Transitioning from songwriter to full-fledged performer was about making sure the music was taken to the best it could be. And while this all feels like the blink of an eye now, Jordan knows that this process has been a long time coming. “You’re going to get opportunities, but don’t ever think they’re going to be the only opportunities. Never get too high or too low,” he says, “If you get an opportunity and it doesn’t work out the way you thought it was supposed to, it’s not the end of the world. Take after every chance you get and give it your best shot, and wait for the next one.” NKD


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luke benward Words by OLIVIA SINGH Photos by CATHERINE POWELL


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When Luke Benward last appeared in NKD Mag in 2014, he was 18-years-old and had an impressive resume filled with starring roles in Disney Channel movies and other TV films, plus guest starring roles. Four years later, he’s now starring alongside Melissa McCarthy in the upcoming comedy, Life of the Party. Luke was born in Franklin, Tennessee and landed his first role in 2002 in the film We Were Soldiers. Since then, he’s accumulated plenty of knowledge and learned more acting techniques – and his involvement in Life of the Party has been one of the most positive experiences of his career thus far. Life of the Party stars Melissa McCarthy as Deanna, a woman who gets divorced after 23 years of marriage and goes back to college to earn her degree. When she goes to a frat party with her college-aged daughter and her friends, she encounters Luke’s character, Jack. “We meet and I really fall for her, she really falls for me, so we have a little fling for a couple of weeks,” Luke explains. “It’s funny until she kind of thinks, ‘I’m way too old for you. This is weird.’” Luke says that there were two main factors that drove him to want to be part of the movie – the fact that Life of the Party is a major studio production and that “Melissa’s an icon.” “She’s someone who’s really

hot right now, extremely respected, and just on a streak where everything she touches turns to gold, so that was obviously very enticing for me,” Luke says. As a person who isn’t wellversed in comedic acting, Luke approached the film with a willingness to learn and take advice from his co-stars (like Melissa). “I went into it, I feel like, with eyes and ears wide open just because I’m not extensively trained in improv and sketch comedy,” Luke says. “I’m nowhere close to anyone in the cast, really. So I went in as a receptacle, wanting to just be honest and play with them and I was just amazed by her [Melissa’s] brilliance. It’s truly amazing what she just comes up with on the fly and then is able to pull from again and recreate.” In addition to starring in the film, Melissa co-wrote Life of the Party with husband Ben Falcone (who directed). According to Luke, one of the aspects that made filming the movie was the sense of community that was created on and off screen. When filming, Luke said that Melissa and Ben never discounted his efforts or scrapped ideas. Instead, they encouraged exploring other options and experimenting, which led to “a very creative” and “freeing” environment. “I didn’t feel like I was thinking really hard about saying the right thing,” he says. “They were very much about

letting it flow, in the moment, which I thought was really cool. Most of the time, when you stick to the script, it’s very much more structured. This allowed for the moment to really go haywire, which was amazing.” “It’s without a doubt, one of my favorite sets I’ve ever been on,” Luke adds. “One, because of the leadership. Two, because of the camaraderie. Everyone was definitely led by Ben in the way of being safe and loving and we’re all here to create something awesome, and everyone accepted that and accepted each other. It was really amazing.” On the opposite end of the spectrum, Luke stars in an independent film titled Measure of a Man that is coincidentally scheduled for release on the same day as Life of the Party. The coming-of-age film stars Luke, Blake Cooper, Donald Sutherland, Luke Wilson, and Judy Greer. Unlike the big-budget production that Life of the Party was, Measure of a Man forced Luke to focus on basic necessities. “You learn what you truly need and don’t need and what you’re taking for granted,” Luke says. Whereas the set of Life of the Party allowed the cast and crew to get vitamin B12 shots on set, Measure of a Man didn’t have trailers for the cast members. “It was kind of like where you’re down to the nitty gritty, you figure it out and try to fit your process into what we can NKDMAG.COM

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afford and what we can’t,” he adds. The movie was shot at least a year before Life of the Party was even a possibility, and Luke was busy filming backto-back indie movies at the time. “It was definitely an interesting time,” he says. “I learned a lot, was just all by myself for four or five months, and it was really nitty gritty. “I’d kind of grown up doing Disney or studio, and they had a lot of money, so it was my first time recently doing those low-budget. It was a learning experience for sure.” Even though he filmed several indie movies, Luke says that it wasn’t an intentional move in order to branch out from Disney projects and establish himself as a grown actor. “I just feel like I kind of took it as it came and it was a season where that was just what came across my plate,” Luke explains. “There were things that I kind of enjoyed and I was like, ‘Sure, why not? I’m not doing anything else.’” “Bottom line, I guess I just love to act, so whatever gets thrown my way, I like to just throw myself back at it,” he adds. “It just kind of worked that that was the season I went through and then Life of the Party came through and it did kind of work into a metamorphosis of sorts. I would say that I was more at the mercy of fate.” Luke also has another indie film that will hopefully be 22

released later this year, titled Dumplin’. The comedy stars Jennifer Aniston and Danielle Macdonald (who recently starred in Patti Cake$). “It’s basically a coming-ofage story for Danielle, who plays Jen’s daughter,” Luke explains. “She’s a girl who is naturally big and her mom is naturally the pageant mom, and so it’s the rub between that, the acceptance between that, and really the main point is body shaming and how it really ... I mean, it really is who you are. It’s not a detriment to your character. It shouldn’t be a detriment to how people view you.” “It’s a comedy, it’s very light-hearted and sweet, with some really gritty and dark and honest moments,” he adds. “I’m really excited for it. I think it’s going be a good one. I saw it for the first time a week and a half or two weeks ago and I was really impressed.” Luke is currently immersed in several films, but he isn’t opposed to returning to TV at some point. “I definitely think my heart’s in film,” he admits. “It has always been the thing that’s given me work the most. There were pilots here and there that have fallen through and some guest stars. But I’m always open to television, for sure.” After Luke films a movie in Houston, he’s open to any project that comes his way, whether it’s a role in a TV show or movie, writing, producing, or directing. NKD


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savannah conley Words by CARLLY BUSH Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

You may know Savannah Conley by her smoky southern accent or her distinctive ‘70s style, but this young Nashville singer-songwriter is one of the rare diamonds in the rough who is committed to living her truth and maintaining authenticity in the modern music industry. Music has been in Savannah’s blood since an early age. Now 20, she was born and raised just outside of Nashville in a musically inclined family. “My mom is a background singer and my dad is a guitar player,” she explains. Her extended family, including several aunts, uncles, and cousins, are also creatives. “I have 27 people in my family,” Savannah says, “And all of them do art.” The encouragement, she remembers, was “unspoken”, but her family also actively encouraged her to pursue her artistic talents in whichever way she felt in-clined. She recalls childhood summers spent on her grandparents’ farm in Arkan-sas, where the cornerstone of her later musical career was laid. “As far as doing it as a job, I’d always seen it as an attainable goal, since my dad did it my whole life,” 22

Savannah recalls. So strong was the prominence of art in Savannah’s family dynamic that, while “most kids pursue music as a rebel-lion”, she recalls making an active choice not to take that path. By the time she was in her late teens, she had made up her mind: she would go to college and obtain an education degree. “There was a time period where I was going to be a teacher, and that was, you know, my silent rebellion,” she re-members. Music remained at the forefront of her mind nonetheless, and the compul-sion to keep writing never left her throughout her rigorous academic career. There was no lightbulb moment, but eventually, “I kind of knew I had to do it,” she says. After a period of consideration and debate, she dropped out of college as a first-semester junior. Having started early, she was only 18 at the time, and the world seemed full of possibility: “I started making an EP, and signed a record deal a year later.” Savannah is known for her vulnerable, somber diary-entry style of lyrics. Though her niche has always been timeless whiskey-tinged songs of heartbreak and loneliness,

she feared the earnestness on her latest EP, Twenty-Twenty, might be a little too much. She wondered if perhaps it would be alienating to her audi-ence. “There’s not really a release,” she muses, from the sorrow that tinges every bridge and chorus on the three-song EP. Despite her initial concerns, Twenty-Twenty has taken off. Since the April 17 release of the “All I Wanted” video, the alt-country and indie folk scenes alike have responded with an outpouring of positivity. “The reception has been great,” Savannah says with gratitude. “It’s been good. It’s been a good cross-genre recep-tion, which has been nice.” With music that sounds how a worn-in vintage jacket feels, it’s no surprise that millennials are finding solace in Savannah’s authenticity. What is it about the simplicity of the past that is so alluring to young people? “We always want what we can’t have,” she says without hesitation. “The grass is always greener, and our generation doesn’t really have anything that’s our own—except technology. Everyone always rebels against their generation, against


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whatever the norm is. And our norm is technology. Our norm is synthesizers and ProTools. And so, I think, people started craving what we didn’t have, and what we didn’t have was organic music, real people making music.” She is quick to clarify that she isn’t opposed to the use of computers in the creation of music and is, in fact, proud to state that her tastes and influences are “all over the map.” She’s a fan of ‘80s synth and listens to Kendrick Lamar. But her own personal story? She hopes to tell that as honestly and simply as possible. “We started craving, you know, acoustic guitars. We started craving things that we built our history on, so we said, ‘All right. Let’s do it.’” On tour with Brent Cobb, Savannah has begun to establish herself as a ris-ing star. Yet her humility and kindness is what stands out, and as she sings about her own lack of perspective on the intimate track “Same Old Eyes,” one can’t help but feel that she is speaking from a place of wisdom far beyond her years. What’s more, in an industry teeming with ruthless competition, Savannah has managed to stay true to her unique vision. What makes an artist authentic in her eyes? “What makes them authentic,” she states simply, “I think, is authenticity. I think people in general can smell inauthentic people a mile away. Authenticity is just you [doing] what is true to you. If it’s not something that is truly you, don’t do it. If somebody else is telling you what to do or you are doing something for the sake of being cool, people are going know, and I think, really, you can see someone’s truth when it’s real. That’s what makes an artist a real artist: being au-thentically real.”

Even if artists are writing from a perspective foreign to them, or writing about “fictional people”, Savannah thinks that they can tell those stories with be-lievability if they remain grounded in their own truth. “They believe it. They’re there. They’re in it. And that’s what really makes people come across and really makes people listen.” The anxiety that might arise from baring your soul before an audience ready for a night of country rock was lessened a few shows into the Brent Cobb tour, when she realized that his admittedly “very country” audience was open to hearing her, too. “Brent can get pretty rockin’. He’s a lot of fun. His shows are super fun. So I was worried that I’d be, like, this downer opener. But it really hasn’t been that way. The audiences have been really receptive.” She may have perfected the art of the sad song by now, but Savannah’s af-finity for penning them didn’t take hold right away. Her first EP was a collection of songs written throughout her teen years, which she admits were miles away from the moody retro-inspired tracks she is known for her today. Young and star-ryeyed, she wrote what she knew. “I don’t think anyone’s ever liked anything they did when they were 14 or 15. I think that’s a general rule,” she laughs. “I didn’t really have any problems. All my stuff was pretty poppy, lighthearted. Then I started, you know, seeing the world and having experiences of my own.” It wasn’t until she was older and faced challenges that she began to grow more introspective. Her realization that the world was not “sunshine and rain-bows” turned her songwriting style in a wildly different direction.

Another reality of young adulthood is that we start to appreciate the music we were raised on, and that definitely happened for Savannah, who grew up in a house full of classic rock and country. “I started, you know, experiencing things, developing my tastes—and I gravitated towards more somber things.” Her appreciation of old and new music intersected in a familiar and com-forting place for many millennials: indie rock, which now boasts a massive scene in Music City. More and more artists who fall into the indie rock category are making Nashville their home, and a city once known solely for mandolins and moonshine is allowing more experimental artists to thrive. Savannah found sanctuary in the dynamic world of modern indie rock while also casting an eye on the past. She began diving into her parents’ collection of Emmylou Harris records and became empowered by hearing “powerhouse folk women.” “I guess my sound cultivated in those times,” she reminisces, “When I was discovering what I liked. But it didn’t really come about until about a year ago. That’s when I really settled into myself. I don’t really know what to call it, genre-wise!” With the Brent Cobb tour wrapping this summer, what’s next? According to Savannah, “a lot of touring.” Now that she’s signed to Low Country Sound, her team is hard at work planning “a lot of stuff over the next few months.” “I’ll be out [on tour] a lot,” she says, before going on to hint at an exciting new step forward in her career: a debut full-length album, which they will start recording in June in anticipation for an early 2019 release. NKD NKDMAG.COM

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lindsay ell Words by RACHEL HILL Photos by CATHERINE POWELL


To many, this guitar-shredding, glass ceiling-smasher of a star’s success comes as no surprise. Lindsay Ell is a true triple threat: a songwriter, musician and singer whose talents and gritty determination paved the way for the success she is only beginning to experience. Lindsay was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and grew up in a musical household. Her mother passed down her piano skills and introduced Lindsay to the keys when she was 6. At age 8, she started playing around with Shania Twain songs on the guitar and you’d be pressed to not find her messing around on one since. She dipped her toes in the water of performing by singing with her dad in a youth group at church. “It was probably the most forgiving audience that you could ever play in front of because you could pretty much do anything and get a huge round of applause,” Lindsay admits. It was evident she was quite committed to performing and music as a whole when she purchased a 15-passenger band van to tote her equipment around to cover band shows she would play many nights. The van even happened to be her first car, “I’d drive it to high school. I’d drive it to the grocery store. I was pretty much the coolest, slash not coolest, kid in high school,” Lindsay jokes. Here she learned firsthand what to do when amps die, monitor speakers blow up and the general ins and outs of entertaining an audience for 28

hours on end. One day Randy Bachman of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive contacted 15-year-old Lindsay hoping to write a song together. He quickly took her under his wing and has served as a guiding force and teacher in many aspects of the business. “He was really the one that made me fall in love with the blues and jazz world, and rock of course, and guitar playing,” she explains, “I think that’s what helped me discover my true love for guitar and helped give me another vocabulary on top of my country songwriting that I started from.” A few years down the road and many learning experiences later, legendary blues guitarist Buddy Guy, who influenced the style of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Keith Richards, invited 18-year-old Lindsay out on tour. She treated this experience as a master class— a chance to learn from an electric performer who has had such longevity in his career. It was after she spent a six-month writing stint in L.A. when a friend asked if she had ever been to Nashville. One thing led to the next and Lindsay found herself on a plane to Music City with a friend of a friend’s name on a piece of paper, no other connections, her guitar on her back, and a deep pit of determination. As many do, she quickly fell in love with the vibe of the city. “There’s a realness to Nashville and a community to the musicians and songwriters that just

made me feel at home from the beginning,” Lindsay reveals. Upon arrival, Lindsay dove head first into booking triples — industry lingo for three collaborative writing sessions a day. It’s typical to meet with your first group from 10AM2PM, the second from 3-6, and the third at 7. “I was still working a waitressing job back home in Calgary. I was going to school at the time and I was playing shows on the weekend,” she says, “I’d work for two weeks then I’d make enough money to buy a plane ticket to come down to Nashville for two weeks.” After a year and a half of juggling reality and desire, Lindsay settled in Nashville full-time. Fast-forward to current day, she’s a six-year label veteran and released her debut album, The Project, last fall with the guidance of her producer, Sugarland’s Kristian Bush. It took Lindsay a while to clarify exactly what she wanted to project and say with her music. Kristian was instrumental in helping to determine her artistic question. “I finally feel like I’m at the spot where I can be real with fans and I can write from the spot that feels authentic in my heart,” she adds, “Nashville is full of so many talented people that if you aren’t fully clear about exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it, you can be pulled in a lot of different directions, that aren’t wrong or bad, but are different than the places you need to be going.” The Project debuted at No. 1


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on Nielsen’s US Current Country Albums chart and Billboard named it the No. 1 Country Album of 2017. Last month, her single Criminals hit No. 1 on the Canadian country radio charts. The craziest part? Lindsay is the first female in a decade to do so. “I’m so humbled and grateful to be a part of the movement and to break that glass ceiling that needed to be broken,” she says. And she’s no stranger to showing her support of the much needed women’s empowerment movement surging throughout the world, often posting encouraging messages on social media followed by #GRLPWR. A self-described social media fanatic, Lindsay tries to foster a community environment online in which everyone supports one another. Her fans are encouraged to reach out to her and should know it is only her voice they are talking to. Watching fans respond to her music at shows has been a rewarding part of the process of transferring these works of art from studio conceptions to performances in front of a live audience. “It’s been a lot of fun for my band and I to take these songs in the album and bring them to life on the stage and just watch fans react to them,” Lindsay says. She feels like she “hit the nail on the head” in terms of the feel of her album’s composition and the fact that no performance has yet to feel lackluster in magic. A huge factor in the dynamic atmosphere is the sight of the crowd seemingly identifying with the

personal lyrics from songs off The Project and singing them back to her. “A lot of people don’t even know who I am yet and I go play shows and people are singing every word to every song. It’s so incredible to me and I’m so thankful,” she says. Lindsay has just wrapped up supporting Brad Paisley on the Weekend Warrior Tour in April and heads out to join Sugarland this summer beginning July 19 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the fall, she hops on Keith Urban’s Graffiti U Tour, supporting him across Canada and select U.S. dates. Having the opportunity to share the stage with some of her musical heros has been a remarkable experience to flourish as a performer. “Keith and Brad are both my guitar idols. Specifically Keith I just feel really plays in this style of guitar playing that is one of my favorites.” Lindsay is also featured on Keith’s track Horses, on his new album Graffiti U, which hit shelves April 27. When asked about what mark she wants to leave on this world, Lindsay pauses and takes a moment to collect her thoughts, indicating she understands the depth of the question, and the position she holds for that matter. She answers, “I want fans to be able to listen to my music and relate to it and feel inspired from the words that I write and sing and the solos that I play and feel like I have touched them in a certain way and feel like in their lives, listening to my music, they get something from it.” NKD NKDMAG.COM

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APARNA BRIELLE Words by NICOLE MOOREFIELD Photos by CATHERINE POWELL Glam by ALIY SMALL

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With a background in dance and theater and a successful television career as Sarika on NBC’s A.P. Bio, Aparna Brielle is a modern-day renaissance woman. Born Aparna Rajagopal just outside of Portland, Oregon, she began learning seven different dance forms at age 6, and by 9 was the youngest Indian classical dance graduate. Dancing was Aparna’s first taste of storytelling, and she was instantly hooked. Even before she knew what it meant to be an actor, Aparna was enthralled with the craft. As a kid, she aspired to be a character inside the television, imagining that “you just get transformed through some kind of magical machine,” she recalls. Growing up in Portland, she wasn’t exposed to professional acting, but at 14 discovered Hollywood and made it her goal. She joined a local theater and in high school added film and television classes to the mix. A marketing major, Aparna only took one term of acting in college, “But I was studying at a studio in Portland in the Meisner method,” she shares. Her trek from school to the acting studio was three hours both ways. “But because I knew that’s what I wanted to do, I was willing to make that drive twice a week,” she says. After a few minor parts, Aparna’s breakout audition came in the height of pilot season. While sifting through roles, she came across a script that stood out. “It was very funny and it was very edgy for a network comedy,” she recollects. The role was Sarika Sarkar. “I remember reading this part, and she was kind of a blank canvas,” Aparna recalls. Her interpretation of Sarika as “Reese Witherspoon in

Election combined with a hint of Hermione Granger” was risky, but it got her a callback. A few weeks after, Aparna got a call saying that the producers had liked “what someone did in the room” — now they wanted to see a character like Reese Witherspoon in Election. “I remember going, ‘That was me, so I guess I’ll just bring that back’,” she laughs. After Aparna’s network test, the universe fell silent. Even her Bed Bath & Beyond email wasn’t coming in, and she remembers throwing her phone across the room in defeat minutes before receiving the good news call. Aparna describes the show as “a very sweet world where a very cynical man gets dropped”, and with its unique color palette and score, Whitlock High seems like The Good Place, but is more of a reverse-Glee, she notes. A.P. Bio follows ex-Harvard philosophy professor Jack Griffin (Glenn Howerton), who is assigned a high school biology class. Frustrated with his life, Jack refuses to teach and instead uses the students to terrorize his enemies. Underneath his cynical exterior, however, Jack cares about his students, and Aparna loves the saccharine interruptions in an otherwise dark program. It’s been amazing seeing fans connect with the characters, Aparna says. Aside from the number of repurposed It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fans, she was most surprised by the outpouring of love for Sarika. “I adore her,” she quickly qualifies, “But I also know she’s quite punchable.” Through watching the show as it airs, Aparna has begun to see Sarika as the fans do, who like her “take charge, take-no-shit mentality.”

The show, created by Seth Meyers, Mike O’Brien, and Lorne Michaels, draws talented names in improv. Aparna had only been on set for a few weeks when Taran Killam (of Saturday Night Live fame) cameoed. He shot six versions of the same scene, including a spontaneous rap battle with Glenn. “I didn’t even know how to respond to it,” Aparna laughs. “I wish I recorded it.” Along with impressive guest stars, the show sports talented regulars like Patton Oswalt, who plays Principal Durbin. “He would come in and just start riffing and we couldn’t actually tell the difference between him and what was scripted,” Aparna adds. With such remarkable actors and showrunners, “every day is an adventure”, from shooting a noir interrogation to watching Glenn calmly drown animatronic babies. Outside of A.P. Bio, Aparna aspires to grace the silver screen in an action movie, but would rather play an anti-hero or villain than a superhero. She loves period pieces, but “the only question is finding something I could do,” she jokes. Her dream is to play Merle Oberon, an Indian actress forced to mask her ethnicity for the sake of her career. “I think her life is so fascinating. She really was one of the Old Hollywood queens,” but was forgotten in favor of Marilyn and Audrey. Although she is currently focused on television and film, Aparna would love to take up theater again. “There’s something so exhilarating and incredible about being on stage,” she reflects, because the live audience comes with both increased responsibility and renewed energy. Aparna’s love for storytelling has yet to fade. “I love being able to explore all these incredible imaginary NKDMAG.COM

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spaces and worlds,” she explains. As an actor, she is able to step outside of herself while still looking inward. “People have this misconception that you’re playing somebody else, and to an extent you are,” she remarks, but to build a character, “you’re really finding elements of yourself and putting them in that place.” In understanding Sarika, Aparna discovered more similarities than she expected, including ambition and leadership, but they have many differences. “She’s a lot more manipulative than I am,” Aparna points out. While Sarika is very academically driven, “there were definitely classes that I didn’t really care about at all,” Aparna admits, as she prioritized acting over schoolwork. “But I will say I did well in Honors Bio, so at least I had that in common with her,” she laughs. Aparna’s high school experience was somewhat unusual, as she transferred from Catholic school to art school her junior year. As a dreamer pursuing an artistic career, Aparna always stood out from her peers, which helped inform Sarika. “She’s a different kind of weird than I was,” Aparna shares, “But I still remember very much what it felt like to be a part of a group, yet so different from everyone in school.” The locker-lined A.P. Bio set comes with nostalgia. Stepping into a classroom full of new faces with unique personalities felt like returning to high school, but in the best way. “Everyone’s differences and weird little quirks, we really embraced those a lot,” Aparna adds, and she can be herself and “own all the things that make me weird and different and unique and be accepted and loved as part of this group.” NKD 34


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Words by ELIZABETH FORREST Photos by CATHERINE POWELL Grooming by FAYE LAUREN Styling by ALLISON KOEHLER Location: GOLDBAR NYC

Suit by KRAMMER AND STOUD Shoes by HOUSE OF FUTURE

CASEY COTT


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really wanted us all three to be in it, so she paid me $50 to audition,” Casey remembers fondly. He was cast as Dancing Cowboy #7 and quickly fell in love with what he had once been so reluctant to try. The next year, he auditioned for the school’s musical of his own volition and was cast as the lead in Guys and Dolls. From there, it only took a few more roles for Casey to realize that he wanted to study acting in college. His big, professional break came during the second semester of his senior year at Carnegie Mellon University: the Warner Brothers casting directors attended one of Casey’s New York showcases. “I auditioned for Kevin the next day,

literally got it that day and flew to Vancouver and started shooting,” he recounts. There were only 28 hours between Casey’s audition and the birth of Riverdale’s Kevin Keller. Although he was so excited that he struggled to sleep during those few hours, it left no time for him to process what a huge life change was coming his way. Casey’s quick transition from anonymity to fame was made navigable by his Riverdale peers. Most of the cast was thrust into the spotlight at the same time and at a similar age, so the show came with a built-in support system. “In the moments when it’s really confusing and weird, we can reach out to each other and say, ‘Have

Jacket by MAVI Shirt by YOU AS

“There’s no class in college like, ‘Becoming famous overnight,’” says Casey Cott. If there were, the actor would have been the first person to sign up; it only took 28 hours for his life to change forever. In high school, Casey never would have envisioned he would one day play a series regular on one of the most widely-loved shows on The CW. In fact, Casey was initially resistant to acting altogether. His brother his sister were both involved in their high school’s drama department, but Casey had no interest. That all changed during Casey’s sophomore year when his brother, Corey, was a shoe-in for the lead in their high school’s production of Oklahoma. “My mom


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you dealt with this?’ or ‘Have you felt this?’ and we can all laugh about it together,” Casey says. There is nothing a person can do to prepare for having their picture taken while sitting down at a restaurant, but he appreciates that the show has such supportive and enthusiastic supporters. And as long as he’s not eating or otherwise preoccupied, he’s more than happy to pose for a shared selfie with a fan. In addition to swapping advice, Casey promises that the Riverdale cast is just as close off-screen as their characters are on-screen. They have so much fun behind the scenes that Casey actually gets sad when everyone else is on set while he’s absent. “You kind of have to be there to see it,” Casey insists, “I feel like we have our own language at this point.” Between takes, Casey describes it as “complete madness”, with lots of laughter and many shenanigans. But above all, everyone understands that their job is to make the best show possible and they take it seriously. Casey has believed in Riverdale and Kevin as a character since the very beginning. During Casey’s audition, he acted out the first two scenes in which viewers meet Kevin in the show’s pilot: while discussing Archie with Betty in her bedroom and during Veronica’s welcome tour in the hallway. “Those scenes are some of my favor-

ite. They’re so quick witted, they’re so smart. He’s such a quick to speak, loyal young guy and that creates such a humor-filled character,” Casey says. He loves to try to make people laugh, so he was immediately drawn to the character. Reluctantly, Casey admits that he was not a comic book fan before becoming a part of the show. “Cole is a big comic book guy, so he told me about all the stores here in New York and L.A. Now I’m getting more into that world and it’s pretty amazing,” he says. Even without reading the comics beforehand, Casey could recognize that Riverdale was special and current. Each character and relationship is realistic and the show’s underlying themes are relevant to the world today. With such a small number of LGBT+ characters on television, playing an openly gay teenager on a major platform television show comes with responsibility. When asked about his approach to Kevin in this regard, Casey remains humble. “The beautiful thing about Riverdale is that our writers really take the lead. They scope and work the show, and my job is purely to carry out their vision,” he says. He credits Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and the Riverdale writing team and directors with having a strong vision from the very beginning and Casey considers it a privilege to work with them all. As Riverdale nears the

end of its second season, the show’s tensions and conflict have gotten more intense. The contrast between Casey’s own high school experience and Kevin’s experience is drastic. Casey remembers himself as a “floater” that had a lot of great friends. Although he wasn’t an athlete, he was friends with many of them. He was a part of student council and joined the pop acapella choir. Other than mouthing off a few times, Casey remembers high school being a great experience with “a lot less drama than Riverdale”. Darkness recently descended back upon the town during the show’s first musical episode, titled “A Night to Remember”. In the episode, Kevin directs the school’s production of Carrie: The Musical that ended in tragedy. The Black Hood returned to town and murdered Midge, the musical’s lead, before leaving her body to be found on stage. “This episode really set the tone for the rest of the season,” Casey explains. He hints that season two will fittingly end “in a really crazy way”, but believes people will love it. And though the musical episode ended in terror, Casey remembers it as the most fun he’s ever had on set. And as a self-identified theater nerd, it was also a “dream come true”. Not only did he get to sing, but it showcased everyone’s talents that he hadn’t even known existed. NKDMAG.COM

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Casey is quick to give insight into Kevin’s dating life and hints at what fans can expect in the coming few episodes. “Kevin’s really striking out with all of his relationships this season and last season,” Casey says. “I think it’s time that he just has someone kind pursue him, show him love and treat him with kindness. And hopefully they don’t end up being a possible convicted felon.” Fans have strong opinions about who deserves to date Kevin, but Casey confirms that the show’s writers do not take fan opinion into account during their planning since it is done so far ahead of time. But by the season finale, Casey promises that Kevin’s love interest will be clear. In coming episodes, Casey hopes to see more scenes between Cheryl and Kevin; he finds their relationship to be one of the most interesting in the whole show. “They’re always kind of spatting with each other, but I think they’re secretly obsessed with each other,” he explains. He and Madelaine Petsch, who plays Cheryl, are both on the same page. Since shooting began, they have brainstormed possibilities for wacky scenes they could shoot together. Thankfully, there will be ample opportunity for their relationship to grow. Riverdale was picked up for a third season, and though it is too early to know much about what to expect, Casey knows it will be a good one. “Our 42

show is more of a marathon than a sprint and opens the door for so many characters that have a great story,” he says. One such character was Veronica’s father, Hiram Lodge. This season, he was Casey’s favorite character. Hiram’s presence added a new dimension to the town and, while he plays a nefarious role, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what he’s thinking. “He’s added this new kind of spite to that family and storyline, and I think in doing so, it kind of completed a puzzle as to who this guy is and how evil can he be,” Casey says. Hiram is a complex role, and Casey has only wonderful things to say about Mark Consuelos, the actor who portrayed him. Casey considers him both a good friend and a skilled actor. “He killed it,” Casey concludes simply. With a large fanbase in the digital sphere, Casey does his best to keep connected. Instagram is the platform he uses the most, though he admits he isn’t huge on social media. One of his favorite aspects of staying connected online is to view the positive reaction to Riverdale in real time. “A lot of fans say they want to have a friend like Kevin, and that always makes me smile,” he says. In addition to the good, he can also see the bad. Sometimes fans play a game in which they post a photo with nine Riverdale characters and vote for


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Jacket by OAK Shirt by SELECTED HOMME


one to die or be eliminated. Fans tag the actors from the show on social media, even after they’ve been eliminated. “I’m like, why are you tagging me in this elimination game? This is kind of savage. This is straight up savage,” Casey laughs. This summer, Casey will shoot The Mascot, a film set to be released in 2019. “I’ve never read a script that I’ve identified more with,” Casey explains with excitement. Matt Perkins, the film’s writer and director, came to Vancouver to pitch the idea to Casey personally. Casey will play the lead role: a star high school football player who, after making a few stupid mistakes, becomes the University of Georgia’s mascot rather than their quarterback. Casey promises it will be a fun, coming of age film. Although Casey loves performing in all capacities, he admits that switching to a new medium and beginning a new project makes him nervous. “There is that wobbly nervousness that always comes, but that’s kind of the thrill of it. That’s the joy of it. If you don’t have any sort of nerves, then you probably don’t care about the project,” he says. To him, the best way to combat his nerves is with preparation, but he also credits working with good people who he trusts as helping to ease the transition. Movies are not the only new medium Casey has delved into. On April 23rd,

Casey and his older brother Corey, now a Broadway actor, performed at composer Stephen Schwartz’s 70th birthday celebration. Together, they sang “What is this Feeling” from the Broadway musical Wicked. “Schwartz is a genius, and those characters come to life so easily, you just kind of say what’s on the page,” Casey claims. The lineup was intimidating: he performed alongside huge names like Ben Platt, Darren Criss and Justin Paul. “If you look at the lineup, I don’t know how I’m in there,” he jokes. But if Casey has his way, the performance wasn’t a one-time occurrence; it is a dream of his to one day perform on Broadway. Until that day comes, Casey is not picky about the type of work he gets. Above all, he likes to play “wacky” characters and is impartial to playing a lead role versus supporting role. He gets a thrill when taking audiences on a journey. “I think there’s this moment where you know you’re one with whoever you’re acting with and everyone that you’re working with, and you just kind of get in the driver’s seat and go. You’ve done all the work and the prep, and you just have fun in the moment. That’s what I try to strive for,” Casey says of his ideal role. With his upcoming film The Mascot and the third season of Riverdale on the way, Casey is looking forward to what’s next to come. NKD NKDMAG.COM

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SANDERSON

Words & Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

LAUREN


For Lauren Sanderson, every move is part of the long-term plan. Born in Indiana, Lauren grew up in two separate households all her life after her parents divorced when she was 2. Her Mom’s home was filled with music – ranging from country to rap, whereas her Dad’s house was a bit stricter, but Lauren credits her entrepreneurship to her father. She wrote poetry as a kid and to this day still has “piles of journals of emotions and feelings” from when she was 8 onwards. As she grew into adolescence, Lauren accepted that she was a bit of an outcast and embraced it. “I taught myself that was like a rockstar, not weird,” she says. All throughout high school she was planning to go to college to become a therapist, but by her senior year she had built a solid following on YouTube for her motivational videos and opted to chase that fire instead. She traveled to Indiana’s neighboring states to meet people she was interacting with online and started to hone in on the community she was building. Lauren signed up for a TED Talk in Indiana and gave a speech aimed at parents on how to understand and accept their kids. “The main thesis statement of the talk was, ‘You are you and that’s enough’,” she says. Following the talk, she started speaking at schools but quickly got burnt out on the rigidness of those engagements. It was then that she decided to start turning her speeches into songs to bring more life into them and get her point across in a more expressive way. Since that revelation, Lauren has released two EPs independently: Center of Expression and Spaces.

After Spaces shot to the top of the iTunes charts without any marketing push, labels started calling and Lauren eventually settled on Epic Records because she “could tell they got the vision”. But even on her flight out to California to meet with them, Lauren wasn’t convinced she was going to leave with a deal. Even after the initial meeting it took a month of persuasion before Lauren finally agreed to sign. “I saw they were much different than the other labels I’d met with,” she says. Following signing her record deal, Lauren made the move from Indiana to Los Angeles to hit the ground running on her next release. Her first single as a signed artist, “Written In The Stars”, was released in March and features PnB Rock. After recording all her previous releases in her bedroom, getting into the studio with established writers and producers was a new – but welcome – experience for Lauren. While living in Indiana, Lauren would get beats sent to her and write over them. Now, she gets to be involved with the entire process of creating her songs. She’s in writing sessions nearly every day and is able to be more creative than ever before with her songwriting process. “I think this is good to get to the next step. I need to be a part of the instruments and building the beats,” she says. Now that she has a full team behind her, Lauren is still keen on keeping the DIY mentality that she’s had for her career since its inception. She may not be booking her own tours anymore, but she’s still heavily involved in every decision being made about her and her music. “I think it’s just a

genuine part of me. I think I have such a distinct vision that the label will suggest things that I don’t think are organic enough for me, or authentic to me,” she says, “So I think what’s going to keep that [DIY vibe] is my ability to say ‘no’ to thing.” Lauren is also heavily aware that taking shortcuts to instant success can come off as “selling out” in the long run, and she would rather take her time building herself as an artist so she can stay authentic to herself for her entire career. “I see such a long career ahead that nothing is short term for me,” she says, “So everything I do I’m thinking of the long way and the genuine connection.” Looking forward at the immediate future, Lauren will be releasing her Epic Records debut in the form of an EP sometime this summer. She describes Center of Expression as a “heartbreak project”, and Spaces as the aftermath of that heartbreak. With her next release, Lauren has fully recovered and feels this collection of songs will be the most her she’s ever put out. “Every song comes from the heart. It’s just me,” she says. For Lauren, the best part about signing a record deal is that she can now solely focus on the creative elements of her career. There are people around her who handle the booking and business side of things, which has left Lauren with an enormous amount of free time to work on new songs – which she’s fully been taking advantage of. “I can just be in the studio. I don’t have to be calling and emailing people,” she says, “I’ve never felt more stress free. It’s a crazy thing to just be entirely an artist.” NKD NKDMAG.COM

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the shadowboxers

Words & Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

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After years of building up an audience from their live shows, The Shadowboxers have a tangible product out in the world: their debut EP Apollo. While to many they may still be a new act, to them this milestone was a long time coming. Comprised of Adam Hoffman, Matt Lipkins and Scott Tyler, The Shadowboxers come from a wide variety of influences. The three met during their freshman year of college and by the beginning of their sophomore year they teamed up for the first inception of The Shadowboxers – though their first songs are drastically different than the sound fans have come to expect from them. “It took years, even though we bonded immediately over music similarities, it took a lot longer for those influences to bleed into one another as a writing unit,” Scott says, “In a lot of the early music you can tell who wrote what and where the influences were coming from.” They weren’t exactly sure what their sound was going to be yet, so they tried everything – eventually

honing in on the sound prevalent in Apollo. “Some of our earliest songs, like ‘When Can I Be Your Man?’, for example, if we gave it production now it could fit on this EP, maybe, but since we wrote all kinds of songs, that song didn’t have any context to support it and tell a bigger story. That’s what we’re doing now,” Adam says. “Runaway” served as the first song to usher in this era of The Shadowboxers. The realization came naturally after the trio had spent an extended amount of time writing and demoing together, slowly developing their sound throughout the way. There was never a conversation about what their sound would be – it just happened. “’Runaway’ was kind of the first song that opened the door to what our identity could be,” Scott says. The song came about following some advice from their longtime mentor and recent tour mate, Justin Timberlake. They had asked him how he wrote “Pusher Love Girl” (off The 20/20 Experience)

and he said he wrote it as if he was writing a song for somebody else, just to get out of his head. The Shadowboxers took that mentality and applied it to their next session, with HAIM being the artist they were pretending to write for. And so “Runaway” was born. The Shadowboxers spent the last three years catering their songs to a live show, but now that they are actively releasing music, they are able to focus on songwriting more than ever. That being said, nearly every song off of Apollo was tested with a live audience first. And while concert attendees may know a large chunk of The Shadowboxers’ material by now, most of their songs have gone through countless changes before a final version was decided on and released. “Runaway” took eight tries to get right, whereas “Wolves”, another track on Apollo, has existed in some form or another for three years. To finally have music out for listeners to consume is an exhilarating feeling for the band. “We’ve

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been a band for almost a decade and haven’t been able to have the connection with fans where we sing a song and they’re able to sing it back to us. And it’s one of our songs,” Matt laughs. The best part of Apollo, for them, is that there were no compromises made. “It’s the best representation of who we are and what we want to say, and it’s distilled from 150 songs and

they wrote it four years ago, and “Wolves” was always a crowd favorite. Even before the EP was released, fans had strong reactions to the track list alone – since many of them have been waiting for their favorite songs to be released for years. “Road testing things is a little bit of a thing in the past, so it’s cool,” Adam says. Before heading out on tour

and warm them up for the headliner. “Opening for Timberlake is right in our dream wheelhouse, and it feels to me like we’ve been preparing for this gig for four years,” Matt says. As a co-producer of Apollo and longtime fan of the band, Justin has been extremely vocal about The Shadowboxers, to the point that his crowds on the current

“Opening for Timberlake is right in our dream wheelhouse, and it feels to me like we’ve been preparing for this gig for four years.” demos that we did,” Scott says, “We recorded it exactly how we wanted to and I don’t think we’ve ever felt more confident to stand behind anything we’ve released.” Most of the songs on Apollo were “severely road tested” and the crowd reactions definitely came into play when picking the final track list. “Runaway” has been being played since

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with Justin Timberlake earlier this spring, The Shadowboxers opened for select dates on Tim McGraw & Faith Hill’s joint tour last year. But despite the different audiences, the band doesn’t alter their set at all except for the cover they opt to play. But the common denominator among both crowds is that they aren’t there for them, and they need to both win them over

Man of the Woods tour are aware of and excited to see The Shadowboxers take the stage – not an easy feat for an opening act on a massive tour. “But there’s a lot of new discovery being made, as well,” Adam says. Following the tour (which wraps in early June), the band will be working towards releasing additional new music and head back on the road. NKD


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NKD Mag - Issue #83 (May 2018)  
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