NKD Mag - Issue #60 (June 2016)

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JUN. actors:


the real world, to the acting world

24 KARA ROYSTER rosewood’s newest little liar



from idol to the big machine

20 JOSH KELLEY back at it on his own terms


letting you in to his poetic mind

on the path to success



an opening act to come back for



conquering the web with just her piano

on music, farming and the simple life


double threats:

singer/songwriter/ rockstar

34 EMILY OSMENT still young and still hungry






mike c. manning Words by RILEY STENHEJEM Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

Actor and producer Mike C. Manning was born in Florida, but moved to the mountains of Colorado during elementary school. Growing up there, he spent a lot of his time on the slopes, but also became involved with the local acting community. “I did high school and community theater,” he says. “Denver actually has a pretty big theater scene.” He never imagined making acting a career for himself, though. “I never knew any actors, like someone who was a professional actor and made their living that way. It just wasn’t in my universe. My theater teacher was really encouraging, but still, when it came time to go to college, my dad convinced me to go to college for business,” he says. While attending school, he found himself needing something more; he took an internship working as Buzz Lightyear at Disney World for a semester, and spent some time in Mexico, but nothing quite fit what he was looking for. “I was just going through the motions,” he says. “I went back to Colorado for my senior year, and I was like, man something’s not right.” His best friend invited him along to an open casting call for a reality show – just to act as a 4

wingman – and ended up getting cast on the show. Mike starred in MTV’s Real World: DC for a season, his first break into the professional world of acting. “It’s sort of never been the same since,” he remarks. Living in DC, Mike found another passion in politics. “I got to lobby members of congress and senators while I was there, and I thought for a minute about going into politics — which I’m still involved in, but not as a career choice,” he says. Even after his time on the show, Mike wasn’t planning to jump into a career in Hollywood. He went home to Colorado, where his dad, a business executive, took him to the office one day. Mike recalls, “We were walking around his office at Quizno’s, and he’s like, ‘Mike, this is marketing, this is finance, this is that, what do you want to do?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know, but I can’t do this.’” Luckily, his parents understood. “My dad’s grew up as a musician, so I think he understands that, the artistic itch,” Mike says. Soon after, a manager from Hollywood contacted Mike. “He said, ‘I think you should move out to L.A. and give it six months, and I said okay,” Mike says. “I packed up my car, I drove out to LA, and that was

almost six years ago.” His talent caught the manager’s eye, but starting out as an actor wasn’t easy. “I kind of wish I could have taken myself by the hand six years ago, and been like, ‘Come here, Mike. It’s going to be so much harder than that,’” he says. Unsteady work can be discouraging, but Mike’s happy to be where he is nonetheless. “It’s kind of frustrating sometimes, but everyday you’re fighting for something that you want and everyday you wake up with a purpose. Everyday you are in charge of your own life,” he remarks. “It could be easy to go somewhere and have a job that I was happy with — not completely satisfied, but I’d be happy. You better believe that I’ve thought about that, but there’s something about being able to wake up and say, ‘today I’m exactly where I want to be, doing what I want to do.’” After making the move to Los Angeles, Mike auditioned for Power Rangers – making a full circle from the past, as he originally auditioned to be a Power Ranger for his job at Disneyland. Unfortunately, it seems like Mike just isn’t meant to play one of the rangers; he made it through round after round of au-

ditions, and was even about to sign a contract, but at the last minute, they chose Mike’s competition. “I go to my manager, and I’m like, this acting thing is easy! And then I didn’t get it,” he recalls. He kept auditioning for a few months, and was just about to call it quits. “When I started seriously making plans to go back home I booked a student film, which isn’t huge, but it’s great. Then I booked another indie film, and another indie film,” he says. “Luckily every project since then has been bigger and bigger, and it’s been fantastic.” Mike’s “big break”, as he calls it, was a horror film called Gingerdead Man 3. “A friend of mine was a producer on [the] film, and somebody dropped out. He called me and was like, ‘Mike, I need you on this film tomorrow,’ and I said okay. He said just show up, and you’ll be fine,” Mike explains. Believe it or not, it’s the third in a four film series about a killer gingerbread man voiced by Gary Busey “We’ll call it my breakout role. I’m nail gunned to death by a killer gingerbread cookie,” he says. “That was fun to be explain to my mom. ‘What did you do today sweetie?’ ‘Well, I got killed by a dessert.’” Luckily, he was able to check death-by-dessert off his bucket list. “I feel like one time in someone’s life they need to be killed by a dessert cookie,” he jokes. Mike’s most recent film, Folk Hero and Funny Guy, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival this past April. It tells the story of two friends, a folk musician and a comedian. “The folk singer is kind of on the incline and the comedian is on the decline. They have a road trip to figure their stuff out,” Mike explains. “Essentially it’s a film that explains the artist’s journey, and figuring out your own path, and taking responsibility as a human being for what happens to you.” The struggle of the pair is something easy for Mike and any other artist to relate to. He says, “It’s easy for us to make excuses and just sort of sit in a rut. It’s about taking ownership of your own destiny.” In the film, 6

Mike plays a punk stand-up comedian, alongside stars Wyatt Russell and Alex Karpovsky. He wasn’t just in the film – he produced it, too. About two years ago, Mike co-founded a production company, Chhibber Man Productions. Since then, he’s been balancing two full-time careers. He got into the production side of things through a documentary project, Kidnapped for Christ. “It’s about three American teenagers that were sent to a reform camp in the Dominican Republic for different reasons. The documentary exposes this ‘camp’ — I say that loosely — for the abuse that these kids go through, physically and mentally,” Mike explains. Through his connections, he was able to bring in two other producers: Lance Bass of ‘NYSNC and Tom DeSanto, executive producer of Transformers and X-Men. Mike’s production debut was on the same day his Disney Channel movie, Cloud 9, premiered. “Acting and producing were happening simultaneously. I’ve never stopped acting, and I like both for different reasons,” he remarks. “I know myself well enough that if I wasn’t this busy, I would be complaining about that.” This year, Mike has a slew of projects coming out. His biggest project at the moment comes in the form of a pitbull puppy named Brando. “[He’s] the most exciting addition to my life recently,” says Mike. Not only is he loving puppy parenthood, his activist side is coming to life. “I would encourage anybody who sort of thinks as pitbulls as bad dogs to rethink that, because they’re the most loving and genuine dogs,” he remarks. As for acting, a horror film called Delirium and a drama, Love is All You Need? are just a couple of them. Love is All You Need? is running the festival circuit right now; it recently premiered at the Newport Beach Film festival, as did one of the films Mike produced. “There’s a lot of really fun projects in the works, and I’m just going to say ‘yes’ to them, and see what happens,” he says. NKD



ruth b


It started with a six-second Vine, and now she has a record deal. Ruth Berhe, professionally known as Ruth B, has been pretty stoked on life. Raised in Edmonton, Alberta with familial roots in Ethiopia, she is the oldest daughter in a family of four. She began taking piano lessons when she was 8 and continued to do so for five years. She grew up listening to Avril Lavigne, Lauryn Hill, The Beatles, and more recently, Ed Sheeran -- all of whom painted stories in her mind. But it wasn’t until last year that she began to write music on her own. “I can’t remember a time I wasn’t fascinated with melodies or words,” Ruth says. “Or how you could place certain words together and build a story.” Music was always part of the plan, but once her hit-single “Lost Boy” began garnering the eyes and ears of fans and music executives alike, she decided there was nothing else she’d rather pursue. Vine, the world’s six-second video phenomenon, has been a 8

platform for many young Hollywood faces and musicians. When the app first surfaced in 2013, Ruth was about to graduate high school. She downloaded Vine shortly after, hoping to be distracted from thinking about the future. She only started singing on Vine a year later purely by accident. “I sang six seconds of a Drake song and people kept pushing me to continue singing on there which seemed bizarre,” Ruth says. “How do you sing a song in six seconds?” With time, she began understanding the app and focused on posting creative content that stood out from the millions of other young talents. “I tried to make my videos as original as possible,” Ruth says. “I tried to twist melodies of popular songs or change the beats. I wanted to stamp my Vines with something different.” The timing was seamless. In November of 2014, Ruth posted a Vine video of her singing a line inspired by the popular ABC series, Once Upon A Time, and the plot line of Peter Pan. After raking

in over 84,000 views on Vine that week, Ruth decided to develop that line further. “Writing it came naturally to me,” Ruth says. “Now I’m addicted to the process.” Listeners were hooked — and the snippet was only six seconds long. “People would tell me how much they connected to it, and I think that’s what pushed me to write the full song and share it,” she continues. “Lost Boy” was posted to YouTube on January 2015 and released on iTunes a month later. The smoky ballad has since cracked the Top 50 of Billboard’s Hot 100, making it her first chart entry. “I was caught off guard when music executives began reaching out to me,” Ruth says. “But overall, I was just excited.” Every morning she’d wake up having acquired a fresh capstone, or a new executive reaching out. But, like most teenagers, it took a while to explain the situation to her parents. Ruth’s mother and father — who couldn’t comprehend the concept of Vine — found it much easier to under-

stand a streaming video. “When I uploaded ‘Lost Boy’ to YouTube, I took my laptop to my dad and asked him what he thought,” she says. “He was like, ‘You wrote this? That’s it. This is what you’re going to do with your life.’” She signed to Columbia Records in July 2015. Above all else, Ruth takes pride in the overall positive reaction. “I love people telling me it makes them feel understood and that’s always been the main goal,” she says. “To give people a friend in my songs.” Her first four song EP, The Intro, was released in November of 2015. Since then, Ruth has been on Cloud Nine. The feedback has been overwhelming and validating for her, and she hopes to continue writing more for herself and not for anyone else’s pleasure. “I don’t like writing about what people like and don’t like,” Ruth says. “That’s when it starts becoming a job.” She finds solace in writing songs from an authentic, honest place, and for the most part, that’s what listeners seem the enjoy the most. Ruth’s performances are limited to her and a piano. For someone so accustomed to performing in front of a phone screen, the experience was new, to say the least. “I’m singing songs that come from my heart and exposing my true colors,” she says. “Making that connection with an audience is so fulfilling.” Ruth’s first live performance wasn’t promoted whatsoever. The audience was filled with her friends, family, her manager, and random folks from Edmonton. For the first time, she had performed all nine songs she wrote at the time. “It felt good to know that I could just perform these songs and do it,” she says. Ruth hopes to release her first full-length album this year, if not the next. She hasn’t set up session with other songwriters just yet, as she prefers writing alone for now. “I want to show my album to my kids in 20 years and tell them that this was me at 20 years old,” she says. “This was me, totally unfiltered.” NKD 10



anna rose Words by TANYA TRANER Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

When you think Anna Rose, you think artist, because she’s never been, nor will she ever be anything but. “I grew up playing music. I still play music. I’ll die playing music,” she says. The singer-songwriter, turned rock ‘n’ roll act was born in New York City in Hell’s Kitchen. She was raised in upstate New York and says she started playing guitar and writing songs around age five. “They were probably shit back then,” she jokes. Things could have gone completely differently for her, however. “I was a dancer before I was a musician,” she says. Her mother was a dancer, and she was thrown into that world. “I told myself ‘I’m going to do dance for now. It’s my discipline and then music will be that freedom for me,’” she says. She knew that she would eventually grow past dance – music wasn’t really a choice for her. “It’s just what I do,” she says. Anna made the trek across the states to move to Los Angeles when she was just 18. During this time, she enrolled in a liberal arts college. “I knew that eventually I was going to make the transition, but I kept sort of having this desire to be normal. You know, go to college just in case. Have a degree, just in case – I never got a degree,” she says, laughing. “I started playing any shows I could get my hands on,” She started playing so many shows she had to make excuses with all of her professors every time she couldn’t make class or finish a project. After returning to school from a year long hiatus in which she recorded an album, Anna realized the back and forth between school and music wasn’t working anymore, so she called her parents. “I remember being really upset and saying ‘This isn’t for me anymore. I want to do music full time.’ They were like ‘Yeah it’s about time you realized that,’” she says. “On some level I struggle with not being normal in that way.” 12

For Anna, this just is her normal. It isn’t like she’s strayed from the path - there just hasn’t been another path for her. It wasn’t sad or strange for her as a child; she says she felt really encouraged by her oddity, her father being a musician as well, and with her mother’s dancing. “They wanted that creativity,” she says. But when she grew up, she wanted to try to branch out and be different. She specifically didn’t apply to music school, something she sort of regrets now, in pursuit of this goal. She says once she made the decision to leave school, her number one goal was to play shows. At the time, the music industry was beginning to change and she notes that while she still had big dreams of platinum records, she knows that’s not as attainable in today’s over-saturated streaming market. But she still wanted to play shows, no matter what. “A day that I was playing a live show is a day that I was working,” Anna says. “It was a sense of accomplishment to make a record, but there is something about playing a show every day and connecting with people that always felt really good to me.” The move back to New York City, where she now lives in the East Village, began about four or five years before she actually packed up and physically moved. Between 19 and 20, she recorded an album in New York with the late Phil Ramone. “When I went back to L.A. and I spent four or five more years [there,] I always had one foot in New York,” she says. “I was kind of straddling the line. I loved living in LA, but I felt like I was working better in New York.” She says she’s always felt fairly nomadic, and will probably never truly feel comfortable staying in any one place. Moving back to New York does have its challenges however. Being one of the only places left in the U.S. with a true local music scene, always having a show

to watch or a show to play, Anna says she was terrified until very recently of “being in the scene.” She says she was always on the peripheral, partly because of her switching back and forth across the country. “And I think part of it is because it’s drilled into us as women to kind of feel competitive with each other,” she says. “There are only so many spots. There’s only so many women who are going to get to the top of the charts. A couple of years ago it just clicked with me. It really can’t be that way. Artistry was never meant to be that way.” She knows now that artists are meant to embrace one another and build each other up. “I think I kind of dropped the ego,” she says. “It was more important for me to be supportive of the people around me, and to really be inspired by those people.” Anna mentions one of her favorite places to be inspired by artists is Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. She says that she loves this venue because not only have they been incredibly good to her, but they really care about good music being played on their stages, not just about whether or not their patrons are spending money. “Rockwood wasn’t really the club that raised me,” she says, noting that the majority of her early playing took place in L.A. “Rockwood kind of got me when I was ready to fly.” Currently, Anna is working on a new EP that will be out this summer, “Strays in the Cut,” comprised of six songs she feels to be the best of a plethora she wrote over the last few years. “I think it’s a nice little package. I’m really proud of it.” She’s released multiple singles, a cover song, and will continue touring throughout most of the summer, including the Off the Record Music Festival in Atlantic City. She plans to tour more in the fall, as well. “What can I say, I like being on stage,” she laughs. NKD

nick fradiani Words by MERISSA BLITZ Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

“This could be the last night of our lives, gonna chase down our every desire,” croons Nick Fradiani, his voice bouncing around the brick walls surrounding the terrace of the Aloft Hotel in New York City. The crowd of about 100 people are swimming in his words and the atmosphere is full of love for the Season 14 winner of American Idol. Nick grew up in East Haven, Connecticut, moving a few towns over to Guilford with his family when he was 14. His mom is a teacher and his dad is a musician. “My dad introduced me to really good music at a young age, but he never really pushed music on me,” Nick explains. “He kind of pushed me more in [sports] than he did music, which I think was actually a good thing because I think music was more of something I just enjoyed rather than something that was stressful.” For a long time, Nick was a big sports guy and music was more of a side project for him. While attending Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, he played basketball. That and his history major took up most of his time until an injury ended his basketball career. Nick sprained his ankle and tore his Achilles tendon forcing him to stop playing basketball. “I just really started playing the guitar a lot more,” says Nick. “My dad was always playing gigs and he was like, ‘I can book you at these little bars around Connecticut.’” Nick learned and started practicing about 50-60 songs to cover gigs in New England. He eventually started writing his own songs and started a band called 14

Beach Avenue. In 2014, Beach Avenue auditioned for the ninth season of America’s Got Talent. “We used to do YouTube covers online, and they started to catch on a little bit,” Nick says. “We’d get some decent amount of views and somebody must have saw it, a scout for America’s Got talent, and they put us on.”. Though they ended up getting cut in the second round, Beach Avenue still made a name for themselves while they were on the show “We were in TV for a while and played original music, and our socials blew up and our songs did really well and I was like, ‘Oh shit, this is crazy, this is going to be it,’” Nick remembers. They ended up not taking off as much as Nick initially thought they would. He vowed to never do a reality show again… That is, until he auditioned for Idol not even a year later. “I actually had a much better experience on Idol, and I’m not saying that just because I did better, I just thought it was way more about the music,” Nick says. Prior to going on Idol, Nick heard horror stories about the show making the singers perform certain songs but he found that wasn’t the case. Sometimes there were guidelines such as American Top 40 or Motown week, and the band and producers always gave them advice, but, according to Nick, the contestants were never forced to perform songs that they didn’t want to. “I just felt like I was more comfortable on Idol, but both were very interesting experiences to say the least,” Nick says.

After winning Idol, Nick signed Big Machine Records, which shot him into the limelight. From the time he won Idol in May 2015 until that July, Nick was promoting his song “Beautiful Life,” around the country. He then went on the American Idol tour for two straight months. As busy as this time was for him, he wouldn’t have it any other way. “You’ll complain about being overworked but when you have no work you don’t know what to do,” Nick explains. “I can’t not be working.” He proved that to be true when he went straight into writing his album after he finished the tour. Because he wanted this record to truly represent himself as an artist, Nick and his team took their time perfecting every little detail. “We have taken longer than any Idol winner has taken by far in terms of how long it took,” Nick says. At first, Nick was frustrated with how long it was taking – he just wanted to show his fans everything he had been working so hard on – but after realizing that he was already lucky enough to not only have one, but two songs get frequent radio play, he knew he was in a good place. “My label is doing such a good job at getting me to all these different markets and meeting some great radio program directors,” Nick says. “I’ve really built relationships with all these different people throughout the country that could really make a difference in my career so I think that’s the most important thing.” Nick’s album, Hurricane, due out August 5, will serve as his debut. He wrote




the entire album, along with some help from renowned writers and musicians including Kevin Kadish. Jordan Schmidt, Jaden Michaels, and the person Nick was most excited about working with, Jason Mraz. “[Jason] is a genius, like the lyrics and everything, he writes like a book, literally,” Nick says. “He’d just sit there and just write for like two minutes, more than that, like five minutes and he’s coming up with all these crazy ideas.” Nick and his guitar player would go into a writing session with Jason and someone would start singing a melody, the other would start playing some chords, and it just all came together naturally and sounded like a mixture of both musicians incredible sounds. “I didn’t want it to be like, ‘Oh, that sounds like Jason Mraz.’ I wanted it to be both of us and it came out just like that. It doesn’t sound like a Jason Mraz song,” Nick says. The hardest part for Nick when putting together this album was creating the right vibe with it. “That was probably what took the longest was trying to figure out what I wanted it to be like,” Nick says. “I came from a band that sounded like one thing and I wanted this to be kind of a new me and new type of music, and I think we did a good job.” Some songs he went back to his roots and created a similar vibe that he had with his band and other songs he went completely out of his comfort zone and tried something new. “When we finally made our final picks I was like, ‘This all makes sense, it sounds cool together, I love it,’” Nick says. “I just wanted to make really catchy songs that I believed in.” Nick’s favorite part about being a musician is being able to get up on stage and perform his new music in front of people. For the next few months, that’s what he’ll be doing as he’s touring around and promoting his new music. “I’m at a place now where it’s not like even my fans have a lot, they have two [songs] and some nights I’m playing for an hour and a half, so it’s really vulnerable to put yourself out there playing new music but it’s going over really well so that makes me kind of confident in putting out everything,” Nick says. NKD 18



josh kelley Words by NAUREEN NASHID Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

“This guy is not a star,” were some of the first words that Josh Kelley heard when he went to Hollywood Records in L.A. at the ripe age of 20 for a record deal. He was still in college with a complete “frat boy look”, but ended up being one of the first artists signed through Napster. But Josh had to prove himself before all this was possible. His introduction to music happened accidentally. When Josh was younger, his older brother, who was visiting from college, left his guitar back home by accident. Josh picked it up and by the time his brother came back for it, Josh had already taught himself how to play a few chords. Seeing this, their mother bought Josh and his younger brother (Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum) a guitar and drum set, which led to the two of them playing and writing music together. By the age of 16, one of Josh’s songs made it onto the local radio, which helped him gain a lot of confidence with not just music, but also girls. By age 16, Josh learned how to engineer and produce his own music as well. While doing music, Josh was also passionate about art and golf: two things he still does to this day. He went to college on a golf scholarship and 20

did music on the side. It was then that he got on Napster, which led to his discovery. Every day, he would upload his songs onto his computer and convert them to MP3 before posting them on Napster in the local library. He would then message 100 users anonymously everyday and tell them to check out his music. The message would be something along the lines of, “If you like James Taylor, I just found this kid Josh Josh. He’s awesome.” After doing that for about two months and having his music go viral on Napster, an A&R representative from Hollywood Records reached out to Josh. “Somebody had messaged back, which had never really happened,” Josh says. “And they were, like, ‘Hey, I love this! Who is this guy?’ And I had to tell him it was actually me and I was promoting myself. And then he goes, ‘Well, I’m an A&R guy for Hollywood Records in L.A. Can I call you tomorrow?’” It was an exciting time for Josh. “I had this blind faith that this was legit and that things would work out,” he says. The record label was hesitant about signing him, though. “I think they were a little weirded out because I dressed like a frat boy then,” Josh laughs. “I went into the record label wearing, like, flip flops, shorts and a

golf shirt. And moppy hair.” So, Josh tried proving himself by convincing them to give him a demo deal of three songs. The songs were written as bluegrass song that the label turned into soulful pop music, which wasn’t Josh’s style, but he went along with anyway. Even then, they weren’t sure of signing him, so with the help of the A&R rep, they went straight to the CEO of the label. They finally decided to take a chance on Josh. The record had a much more pop sound than Josh would usually do since it was produced by someone who also worked with John Mayer and Jason Mraz. Josh came from a more James Brown background and enjoyed making soul-oriented music. Despite all that, with 20 years of experience in music, Josh has since made eight albums. Funny enough, Josh’s family didn’t believe that he had a record deal until they heard his song on the radio. Hailing from Augusta, Georgia, it was a bit of a shock for all of them. With his bright future in music, Josh moved to L.A., but eventually moved to the mountains in Utah with his wife, actress Katherine Heigl and their two kids, Nancy and Adalaide. “I love L.A., and I love New York, but there’s enough chaos in my head, so adding

a chaotic city would be too much,” he says. Utah is where his studio is, too, and he does almost everything on his own. He learned how to play 15 different instruments and his music is not produced digitally, which he knows makes him a bit of an old soul. His new album, New Lane Road, is his first record in five years. The reason for the delay was that he was having a hard time getting out of an old record deal, but he kept himself busy. He did a score for a movie called Home Sweet Hell, that took over a year, as well as the theme song for the hit televsion show, Mike and Molly. He also worked with The Golf Channel to keep a foot in that field as well. Since he was running low on funds, keeping busy like that helped. Then, sometime last year when he covered Bruce Hornsby’s “Mandolin Rain” and uploaded it online, it went to Top 5 on iTunes and sold over 100,000 copies without any promotion. This put Josh back on the map. Once he released his song, “It’s Your Move,” he signed a new record deal and got to work on New Lane Road. “It’s a damn diary of the last three years and I’m super proud of it,” he says. This album was written with no boundaries, according to Josh. He wrote whatever he felt was most right and picked a sound and message that worked for him. The songs on New Lane Road are about his marriage, his kids, and how grateful he is. In fact, his wife directed and starred in his latest music video for “It’s Your Move”, a song Josh wrote for Katherine. “If other people tell me what to do, I’m uncomofortable. If she tells me to do it, then I’m like ‘Okay!’” he says of the experience. With the new record out, Josh is keeping busy with promo, tour, and mixing and writing a lot of records for other artists. He has offers coming in to score for new movies, which he wants to try again, but with more people on board to ease his stress. With music, he can never stop learning, and he’s not afraid to try new things. “It’s all a learning curve. You can never stop learning,” he says, “Every time I think I know everything about anything, I find out that I know nothing.” NKD 22



kara royster Words by IAN HAYS Photos by CATHERINE POWELL


Kara Royster is ready to conquer Hollywood. If you’re a fan of Pretty Little Liars or K.C. Undercover, you probably already know who she is. And with plenty of projects that have either just wrapped up or are finishing in post-production, rest assured, she will be a face gracing your screen much more in the near future. Her journey began years ago, before she was ever in front of a camera. The daughter of a baseball player, Kara was born in Colorado. But, the minute she could be put on a plane, her family moved to West Palm Beach, Flo.: a sunny place that matches her sunny disposition. And it was there she was bit by the acting bug. She went to arts middle schools and eventually found herself at the prestigious Dreyfoos School of the Arts. But even before then she knew she wanted to act. Kara’s older sister was already involved in acting, and like countless younger siblings before her, a shared passion soon emerged. Kara’s “a-ha” moment came when her sister was rehearsing her audition monologue for Dreyfoos. “My sister propped me up like a stuffed animal and I got to watch her do it so many different ways,” Kara says, “It was in that moment that I realized that was also what I wanted to do.” That kicked Kara into high gear. Any chance she got she would attend plays and performances and soak up everything she saw. She applied this determination and drive to her work which eventually landed her at Dreyfoos as well. Kara’s first play was Rapunzel, and she was the narrator. She still remembers how dramatically she performed her role. Years later she even watched footage of it and couldn’t help but laugh at how far she has come. Eventually, she took the next step: Hollywood. She followed in the footsteps of her sister and took a flight out to Los Angeles without looking back. She had transferred to the Los Angeles County High School of the Arts. In her mind, she was always going to be a stage actress, but plans eventually changed. In Los Angeles, it’s all about television and film. And while she knew she would probably dabble in some of that, she didn’t realize just how far that would take her. Attending LACHSA propelled her into the world of acting in front of a camera. “My biggest thing is I just keep reading the script over and over and over again. I like always connecting it to maybe someone I know or an experience I’ve had. One of the

coolest things about acting is to be relatable to people,” Kara says. The desire to take a character from a caricature to a real person who just happens to be on your screen is no easy task. And it was with this ability that Kara landed her first major recurring role as Yvonne on Pretty Little Liars. There is no denying how committed Pretty Little Liars’ fans are. For Kara, her own obsession reached the pinnacle when she found out she was going to be on the show. She was devoted since the pilot and watched it religiously. This allowed her to fully prepare for the audition process. When they were explaining to her the set-up, she was already correcting them in her head about what season and event they were talking about. “It was very funny because in the audition process of it, they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, this is in reference to- ’” Kara laughs. And being able to be a part of this major series was humbling for her. The fans know every detail and are constantly looking for more clues in even the slightest glances from characters. So, bringing her A-game to the role of Yvonne and feeling that acceptance from fans was one of her most rewarding experiences. “Just being part of that fandom is huge. They are so committed. They know every little detail, every little Easter egg in there. So I think its cool being a part of something like that,” she says. Next up was Disney Channel’s K.C. Undercover, where she plays Zendaya’s (K.C.’s) cousin, Abby. “Over there, they’re like a real family and they were so open to me and so much fun,” she says. They were open and inviting which led to palpable dynamics on screen. Working with Zendaya was one of the biggest perks and seeing how producing and really coming into her own in the spot light still hasn’t jaded her struck a chord with Kara. “To watch her work was insane. She’s just the nicest person. We got to hang out, we went to Hollywood Horror Nights over there. She’s just the best,” she says. Outside the realms of television, Kara recently finished up with the Netflix comedy, Mono, out July 8th. She is also in a Lifetime Movie entitled, Before You Say I Do, coming out in the near future. Broadway may also be in her future, but not the immediate. According to Kara, she sounds like Beyoncé in the shower and that suddenly changes when she is elsewhere. But acting on the stage is something much more plausible, and she would like to get back to her roots. NKD 26



kris allen Words by MARY BARNES Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

From a shy viola player in Arkansas, to a rock star strumming his guitar on the American Idol stage, Kris Allen never stopped wowing his audiences throughout his musical career. With five albums under his belt, Kris’s music has grown with him as he continues on his journey through life and fame. “I didn’t know how good I was, but I knew that I could sing,” Kris says, recalling the childhood years he spent singing by himself in his room and secretly teaching himself to play guitar. He grew up surrounded by music, so it’s no surprise he took a liking to the art. “My dad was a musician on the side,” he says. “I think [my parents] saw an affinity for that in me and they were always supporting that.” Kris began studying music in fourth grade, playing the viola. “I really kind of took to it and I just kept going with it.” Learning the viola honed Kris’s musical abilities and lead to his interest in playing guitar. “I would stay home by myself and play the guitar without anyone knowing because I was incredibly shy,” he recalls of the summer when he was 13. While his younger brother went out to play, Kris would stay in and “eat Twinkies and play guitar.” As summer neared an end, Kris showed his parents what he had taught himself. The following Christmas, his parents bought him his first guitar. “Actually, I just found [that guitar] the other day,” he says. “It’s really dirty but it still sounds good. Viola took a backseat to guitar, much to the disapproval of his high school music teacher. “He knew that I was playing more guitar,” Kris says. “He was like ‘I think you’re 28

really good and I don’t want you to screw up your life.’” He continued to play guitar and viola during school, but was very private about that part of his life. “I was really incredibly shy. It wasn’t anything that I wanted to put out to the world.” His mother urged him to perform at his school’s talent shows, but Kris had no interest in performing just yet. “None of my friend’s knew that I could play or sing,” Kris recalls. He started singing with his church choir during elementary school. “It was always what I wanted to do but growing up in Arkansas it felt like this far-fetched thing to make music for a living,” he says. Feeling that his dream was unattainable, Kris went to college on an academic scholarship where he started performing publicly. He played at different fraternity parties around campus and at local bars. “In the middle of college, I was just floating through college,” Kris recalls. “I was making friends, having a good time, but not moving forward into anything that was a substantial goal.” It was then that he decided to drop out of school and pursue music as his career. He put together a small band and started production on their first indie record, Brand New Shoes. “I wanted to learn how to make music,” he says. “It wasn’t like a super natural thing for me to start writing music. Those first songs were really bad, but I recorded them anyway.” The album sold seventy copies at it’s release party, and Kris continued to perform at local bars and clubs. “I played random acoustic nights and random things for the college I used to go to,” he says. “I played for cheese dip once. Literally, they paid us

in cheese dip.” But things began to change in 2008, when he took a road trip with his brother. “My brother came to my house and said ‘Hey I’m going to Louisville to try out for American Idol. Do you want to come?’” The next day, Kris, his brother and a friend drove out to wait in line for Idol registration. “They have closed registration,” he recalls. “You were apparently supposed to register the day before.” The brothers managed to talk the show’s officials into allowing them to register, while also conning their way inside the venue to escape the sweltering heat. They waited thirteen hours for their auditions, and sat in the venue meeting the various characters that always audition for the show. “We would strike up conversations with people because we were just there to have fun.” The waiting paid off and the brothers made it to Hollywood. Kris made it through to the top twelve and moved out to Los Angeles for six months during the live tapings of the show. “It was crazy and fun and really fast paced and just insane, but I loved every minute of it,” he says. After months of competition, Kris was crowned the winner of the eight season and went on to sign a record deal with Jive Records. “I wish I could remember that time more,” he says. “I feel like it was so cool and so much fun.” The next few months were busy for Kris, who toured the United States with American Idol while writing, recording and producing his self-titled debut album. After the album release in November of 2009, Kris went on the road doing radio shows, followed by touring with some big artists such as Lifehouse,

Keith Urban and Maroon 5. “We were on the road for like two and a half years,” he says. “It was fun opening up for those people and getting the crowd ready.” Kris got a thrill of watching the audience come around to his music. “It’s so much fun to reel people in from the first song,” he says. Having been in such a rush to release the first album, Kris took his time creating his second one, Thank You Camellia. “I think it took like two and a half or three years.” The album did not have the success he had hoped for due to the bad timing of the release. “I moved over to RCA for the second record. I was leaving my management company. It was just all of these wrong timing kind of things,” he says. A tour was scheduled for January of 2013, but just a few days before the first show, Kris and his wife were in a car crash, leaving him with a severely injured hand. “In that moment, I saw my hand and I was like ‘holy crap, maybe I’ll never play again.” He went for hand surgery four days before the tour started and continued with the tour, playing shows when he was in a cast. “I wouldn’t call it the smartest decision, but I did it,” he says. “I think the fans respected that.” He spent his time on tour doing hand therapy and have more surgery after the tour. He went back on tour afterwards, teaching himself how to play guitar with his fingers, given his limited motion in his hand. “I remember learning how to play different,” Kris says. “I always played, but I [learned] a different way to voice things. Having to relearn how to play allowed for an improvement in the quality of his music. “It just made me rethink everything. I put way more time into what I was doing after that.” That same year, Kris’s wife gave birth to their first child. “The whole year was tough, but it puts everything into perspective. It [changed] the music I was doing, who I was doing it for, the quality of it,” he says. Kris went on to release his third album, Horizons in 2014 and his current album, Letting You In in 2016. “This record feels like a culmination of all of [my albums]. There’s some poppy-ness to it, but there’s a substance as well. It feels really personal.” Kris is continuing on his path to musical greatness and won’t let any obstacles stand in his way. “Don’t tell me that I can’t do something, because I will prove you wrong,” he laughs. NKD 30



thirdstory Words by BRITTANY LANDAU Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

With a quick search on Youtube, you can find hundreds, if not thousands, of covers of pretty much any song ever written. But you’ve definitely never heard a sound like Thirdstory’s. With their perfectly composed harmonies, rich vocals and dynamic background beats, it’s no wonder that Thirdstory found themselves going from creating covers on YouTube to opening for Tori Kelly’s Unbreakable Tour in a little under a year. The threesome is composed of Elliot Skinner, Richard Saunders and Ben Lusher, who met doing exactly what they do now: making music. “Elliot and I met when we were performing the same night at a venue on the lower East side,” Richard reminisces. “We started talking and then I had already known Ben from a couple years prior and kept in touch, and it all kind of came together. We got into a practice room, started harmonizing together, and it was just a cool feeling.” “We started performing about six months after we started singing together and hanging out. Our first show was at The Cutting Room on 33rd St. We put a bunch of covers together, hired some friends who were in New York, and sang some stuff together,” Elliot says. The boys haven’t stopped working since. Since growing a sizable fan base thanks to their YouTube channel, the boys decided it was time to work on an album of their own. “We’ve all been writing a lot ourselves, but I think around March last year, we started really digging into writing with each other and now we’re really excited because the album is almost completely songs that the three of us wrote together,” Richard explains. 32

They knew that to keep the fans of their covers hooked, they had to bring over some of the elements that really made them stand out on the social platform. “All of the original songs are stuff that we’ve written and they’re really singing and harmony based with guitar, but there’s also a lot surrounding it. It’s kind of figuring out the organic natural aspect that we put into our covers and putting that into original music,” says Elliot. “The songs that we picked to cover, we were always listening for great lyrics and great melodies. Those are things that really important to us as songwriters,” Ben adds. “We always looked at these covers as a taste that we imagined for ourselves, so we’re excited to show people the full Thirdstory vision,” Richard laughs. Even though their new EP, Searching, is available now, fans were begging for the songs to be officially released from the second they were performed live. “We’ve been performing them for a while, but this is our first time incorporating the production from the album into the live show. It’s been cool seeing people reacting well to that,” Ben explains. “It’s been a great experience of toying with how they sound because for the past year, there weren’t any tracks or anything,” Elliot adds In fact, while being on tour with Tori Kelly, they’ve been able to play around with their sound in a way that appeals to both their fans and Tori’s. “I’ve learned that people have very low expectations for openers,” Ben laughs. “I think they see it as something they just have to sit through until Tori gets on, so I think they’re pleasantly surprised when we can

actually sing. Our show is really dynamic, it’s loud, and there’s a lot of energy. I think people are taken back by openers who are giving a lot.” “Tori’s whole brand is, ‘I’m a singer.’ I think that’s a huge part of our brand because even though the original music sounds much different than the covers, it’s still vocal based,” Elliot adds. With the addition of the new fans they’re gaining on the run with Tori, the trio feels both the nerves and excitement of releasing music to new and old fans alike. “Hopefully, the YouTube fans who love us for that organic-ness will hear that in the new music, because it is much

different, and we’re hopefully going to attract a much different audience from our originals than the YouTube people,” Elliot says. “I think what a lot of people appreciate about the covers is that we would take songs and interpret them completely differently and I think people will find our original music is just as original and inventive, at least we hope,” Richard adds with a chuckle. The good news is that anyone who has listened to their covers knows that they mostly steer towards songs about love and loss of love, something they’ve found an unintentional pattern of in

their original songwriting. “About a year ago, someone was like, ‘Oh, you write love songs.’ I was like, ‘Oh, I guess we do,’” Elliot says. “Lyrics that mean something are a huge part of our writing. All of our songs have a big harmony element and hard-hitting drums. Each song has it’s own identity.” They draw inspiration for their elemental harmonies and commanding instrumentals from artists such as John Legend and Miguel, both of whom also depend on raw vocals to draw in a crowd. “In a certain way, we kind of exist between those two. I think musically, as singers, we look up to John Legend and

have been into his music for ten years. Miguel, also, he brings a lot of electric guitar into his music - sort of a bit more hard-hitting. So, I think we exist in a happy place between the two,” Ben notes. With such accomplished inspirations to look up to and the same producer by their side that worked with the likes of Frank Ocean and Zayn, there will surely be a lot more people hearing of the triad very soon. They just wrapped up the Unbreakable Tour, but they’ll be hitting the road in September to headline their very own tour. “It’ll be fun to get back on the road again and show people some new music,” Elliot says. NKD NKDMAG.COM



The back streets of the Radford lot in Studio City are a ghost town. Most of the network shows have wrapped production until July, and the stars are enjoying what is casually referred to as “hiatus season”. But, tucked away among the silence, the ¬Young & Hungry stage is still fully active and leading lady Emily Osment is across the street in her dressing room. While shooting for the day has wrapped, Emily doesn’t seem to mind being here after hours. It’s fair to say she’s used to it – she has spent most of her life on sets. The Glendale, Cali. native was born with acting in her blood – her father is an actor, as well. But Emily was never forced into it, and it wasn’t until she was 6-years-old and discovered at a Big Lots that she began working – a story not dissimilar to her brother, Haley Joel Osment’s discovery, which eventually lead to 34

his starring role as Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense. “Every step of the way my dad would ask me, ‘Do you like this? Are you having a good time?’” she says. Years of hard work eventually led to a life-changing role on Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana – a show she would spend a large chunk of her teen years committed to. “It was strange because those years perfectly coincided with high school,” she says, “I started Hannah Montana when I was 14 and we wrapped the night of my prom.” She attended a very prestigious, very academic-driven private high school, and spent her time bouncing back and forth between there and set. “My professors understood what I was doing, but a lot of them just didn’t care,” she says, “I was taking midterms after rehearsals.” She was able to switch over to online school for her senior year, but that didn’t



shorten her course load – just her drives. Looking back, she realizes she spent those years feeling completely exhausted, and knew she needed a break. Following her time on Disney Channel, which in addition to Hannah Montana included the Disney Channel Original Movie, Dadnapped, Emily chose to take a year off from both school and acting and travel the world with her father. Germany, Brazil, Spain and England are just a few of the countries on the long list she recites to me. “I’m very glad I took that year to figure out me, or whatever you want to call that,” she laughs. Traveling opened her eyes to a plethora of different things, but what was extremely important to her was the time she got to spend with her dad. “We had this amazing talk. I remember being in Brazil and walking down the beach in Rio de Janeiro about my life and where I was going, and how thankful we were for each other,” she recalls, “It was the coolest talk of my life and he’s a very important person in my life.” Following her time abroad, Emily enrolled in Occidental College in Los Angeles and spent a few semesters there before feeling like she had gotten enough out of it and stopped splitting her time because class and set. “I really enjoyed going to school, and I really enjoy learning, and I’m really happy that I took that time,” she says. It was quickly reinforced during her time at school how important her family’s support is to her. “I didn’t really have that ‘Oh I’m away at college, I’m away

from my family,’ because I still lived so close to my family, so I never really felt like ‘Oh, I’m abandoned, I’m a ship in the ocean and I can do whatever I want,’” she says, “I don’t know if I’ll ever feel that way and I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.” Throughout her time at college, Emily was still focused on acting and filmed an independent movie during her first year. Her brother Haley chose a different route and did five straight years at New York University and didn’t take any acting gigs. “I think we both sort of ended up at the same point, which

with a lot of time to pursue other interests. When the show is filming, she’s committed, but during her hiatus she is able to step away from acting for a moment if she wants to. During the spring semester of her sophomore year of college, Emily was juggling midterms with pilot season – which meant she was going on roughly seven auditions a day. It was during this time that she started to feel like college was not where she needed to be at the moment and was consistently putting her career first. It was during this pilot season that she ended up in the audition room for Young & Hungry and reading the script for the first time in the audition room. “I think I was just so loopy and out of my mind when I went in there, that I was just so open and ready for anything,” she laughs. She knew almost nothing about the project or who was involved, and was a little taken aback to see Ashley Tisdale, former Disney Channel actress and current executive producer of Young & Hungry, in the room. “I was so loopy that they were like ‘Oh my God, this girl’s a train wreck! This is perfect!’” she jokes. It was Emily’s exhaustion-fueled demeanor that served as the backbone for her character, Gabi Diamond, who is a bit all over the place. Now on their fourth season, the show’s cast is closer than ever, and the bond that they have is something Emily felt was a natural development. “I don’t make friendships like that in my real life, anyway,” she says, “You can’t

“I NEVER REALLY FELT LIKE ‘OH, I’M ABANDONED, I’M A SHIP IN THE OCEAN AND I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT.’ I DON’T KNOW IF I’LL EVER FEEL THAT WAY AND I DON’T THINK THAT’S SUCH A BAD THING.” I think was okay because I always felt so guilty about not finishing school,” she says, “But I feel okay about that now because I know I can always go back if I want to.” Despite the fact that’s she’s been in the business for 18 years, Emily still feels like she could step away at any time – though she has no interest in doing so. “I think that’s because I have a life that doesn’t center around my career, and it’s hard to do that no matter what your career is,” she says. Her current role on Young & Hungry leaves Emily

throw me in a room with a bunch of people and ‘Oh, we’re all going to be best friends!’” When the show started, everyone was at a different point in their life; Jonathan Sadowski and Aimee Carrero were both engaged when production started, Kym Whitley was juggling multiple gigs, and Emily – who is the youngest cast member – immediately “buddied up” with Rex Lee. “It took maybe two seasons for us to really lock in,” she says, noting that all five of them had gotten together just a few days before. Throughout the course of three seasons, Emily’s character Gabi has had an on-again/off-again relationship with Josh Kaminski (Jonathan Sadowski) that was started after the two slept together


in the first episode after Gabi was hired as Josh’s personal chef. For three years, viewers have watched them go back and forth about their feelings for each other, and get together and break up more times than anyone can count. The “will they, won’t they” storyline is a key element of the show, but fans are getting frustrated – and so is Emily. “Jonathan and I, every time we get a script we’re like, ‘Please have us come to some sort of agreement!’” she laughs. By the end of Season 4, which premieres June 1st, Emily is confident that some sort of resolution will be made between Gabi and Josh. Having been playing Gabi for almost four years now, Emily feels that parts of herself and her dialect

have made their way into Gabi, though. “You play any character long enough, the character sort of becomes a version of you, which is cool and you don’t really get that opportunity in film,” she says. Because of this, on days where Emily doesn’t have much time to read the script before a shooting day, she knows it’ll be fine because at this point she knows Gabi “like the back of [her] hand”. “That happened this morning,” she laughs. There were a lot of roads Emily could have taken following Hannah Montana – one of them being shifting her focus back to her music. She signed with Wind-Up Records when she was 16, which she feels was way to early for her to know what she wanted her sound to

be like. “I wasn’t writing by myself, I was writing with a bunch of people, and I had a manager who just threw me in the room with 60 different writers and it didn’t really feel as organic as the music I was listening to, like Incubus and Modest Mouse,” she reflects, “It was an interesting process.” The writers were directing her to write about things she didn’t necessarily relate to or want to write about, and as a strong believer that writing is the best therapy, Emily wasn’t getting as much out of the sessions as she would have liked. Emily hasn’t put out music since her debut album Fight or Flight in 2010, but has been consistently writing for years. “I have a bunch of music that I’m just sitting on, and I’m kind of just taking my time because the first time around I went way too fast and I hate all of those songs now,” she admits, “But it was a part of me and that was what I was like at that age.” Moving forward, she isn’t opposed to working with a record label again, but also doesn’t feel that she necessarily needs one to get her music out there – like she did when she was 16. “My thing is I just want to play live – that’s all I care about,” she says. Emily played with a threepiece folk band in college and had a blast, and is eager to get back on stage. When this season of Young & Hungry wraps production, Emily hopes to focus more on music and ideally releasing something herself in the near future. “Radiohead just released their album and it took them six years!” she exclaims, “Not that I’m anywhere near Radiohead, but I’m okay with taking my time.” In terms of other acting projects, she has nothing set in stone at the moment but is consistently going on auditions. She thinks it may be time to take a vacation. “I’m okay passing on things if I’m not incredibly excited about it,” she admits. Throughout our conversation one thing Emily made clear is that at this point in her life she’s happy – and to her, that’s all that matters. NKD NKDMAG.COM



max ehrich Words by SHELBY CHARGIN Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

Growing up in Malboro, New Jersey Max Erich spent much of his life being his own person and paving his own way. Transferring to a performing arts school in New York after being badly bullied for two years at his normal high school, Max finally found himself in a place he felt at home. After delving into the remains of his high school years, Max quickly found himself faced with a choice. “I had to make a decision if I wanted to go to the NYU musical theater program, or move out here and keep pursuing TV and flim,” he says. It was a role on Ugly Betty and the Lifetime movie The Pregnancy Pact that secured his fate and helped him leave the cold streets of New York for the sunny beaches of Los Angeles. “I just kind of kept working, I’ve been doing The Young and the Restless for the past four years. It was awesome, I got four Emmy nominations from that, and that was like super cool. I never expected that to come from that,” he says. The constant work, including Under The Dome for two seasons, and his new role on Aaron Paul’s Hulu series The Path have made Max pretty resilient in the line of TV work. It’s Max’s easy going demeanor that seems to constantly set the tone around him for his roles. While most people would see the relaxed attitude as a way to get into comedy, it’s harder for Max to truly connect with comedic characters the same way he attacks dramatic ones. In his time on 100 Things To Do Before High School, Max learned very quickly that comedy was more difficult for him. “I think comedy is funny when you play it like a drama, if you commit to it and aren’t looking for the laugh,” he explains. “Doing the Nickelodeon show was actually a challenge for me. It was one of my hardest jobs I’d ever had because

I’m just not that. My acting is very subtle and behind the eyes, and less extroverted and more introverted.” He’s pretty sure he secured the role because he chugged a Red Bull before meeting with the creator, which he hardly drinks. “I actually find it easier to do the more complex, darker roles than doing something like that,” he says. He believes he can dive more into characters with drama, but is truly jealous of those who can so easily do and understand comedy. His views on this are not a surprise as his background so greatly comes from his role on The Young and The Restless. “I don’t think many people know how hard it is to shoot a soap opera. You do a scene in one take. You do an episode in one day. It’s pretty much doing live theater that’s taped, and I don’t think many people know that,” Max explains. It’s a pressure filled world that gave him a real insight to what acting really is. “That actually was such a great like - I don’t want to say training, but kind of like a master class on acting,” he states. “Every single day I was given like these crazy story lines where I’m like on drugs, killing someone, pushing someone off a roof. Like crazy things all the time, and then having to like get there in one take and having to memorize like 40 pages in one day,” Max chuckles. The stakes felt so high throughout shooting for The Young and The Restless that primetime felt a lot less pressure filled. Max felt he has time to “find the flow of it, while you’re doing it,” while being on shows like Under The Dome and The Path. “I loved working on Under the Dome so much, I really loved my character,” he says. While he loved his role, he wasn’t completely tech savvy so it was a lot of work and learning to pronounce words throughout his time on the show. This NKDMAG.COM


type of dedication only shows how far Max has come and completely explains why he booked The Path. “I remember reading the script and I saw that [Aaron Paul] was attached and I was just like ‘This project is amazing.’ I knew that it was groundbreaking and that is was so relevant, and I wanted to be part of it so I was so happy that I was able to,” he says. It’s a part for Max that is not only groundbreaking career-wise, but also introduced him to a cast of people who were all so down to earth, that he felt at home. “Aaron Paul, like the first day I had, I wasn’t even in a scene with him and he went out of his way to just come up to me and and just start talking to me about how cool my character is and stuff and I was just like ‘Holy shit Aaron Paul is talking to me!’” Max recalls. It’s an artistically shot show that allows him to really respect not only the other actors he works with, but the crew. Max fell in love with the entirety of The Path, a show that’s reflective and reminiscent of the BBC Sherlock Holmes series. Each episode follows a bigger story line, but is part of it’s own individual story, and has a darkness to it that’s addicting for any viewer. The recognition of his ability to work with such great actors has kept Max humble and fun to be around. During his rare free time, Max’s hobbies include watching ever popular 2000’s teen drama, The O.C. “I love The O.C., I’m obsessed with The O.C.!” he exclaimed. Max started watching it because of the intensity of working on a show as heavy as The Path gave him a lot of time at night to reflect and he needed a break to wind down. Although informed that since he hasn’t gotten to the third season where things get intense, he says he’ll still probably finish the show, as all Seth Cohen fans do. Between his multiple roles, Emmy nominations - which were a huge surprise to him every time - Max is also working on his music. “I’m a singer-songwriter, also, I’ve been playing piano since I was five years old, and I’m working with the people who’ve been working with Skrillex and Flo Rida’s people,” he says. After hearing a couple song previews, it’s clear that Max won’t just be on your screens in the future – he’ll also be in your headphones. NKD 46




They always say freedom can be found in the music, and as of late that has never been more true for singer/ songwriter Lissie as she explores a new phase of her life and career; a chunk of which is covered on her newest album, My Wild West, which was released in February. For the Rock Island, Illinois native, singing and performing have been her calling from a very young age, tracing all the way back to playing Annie at age 9. She did musical and dinner theatre for a few years, which she credits for solidifying her love for performing, but eventually stopped as the singing was the only aspect she felt was her strong suit. As a teenager she taught herself guitar and began crafting her songwriting and persona as a performer. “My teen years, writing songs and guitar was my saving grace because I was super emotional, as most teens are,” Lissie says. “I worked at a coffee shop my junior year of high school and they would have an open mic, so that’s when I started performing my own songs. By the time I was 18 and went to college I could play the main chords and transition between them well enough that I would open for bands that came through town. It was pretty proficient in that I could get up and play a show.” Lissie grew up the youngest of four siblings in a somewhat musical family (her grandfather was a Barber Shop Quartet champion) but was the only one to actively pursue music as a career path. And while she might have picked a more unconventional path than her other three siblings (one is a doctor, another a therapist) she acknowledges growing up around hard workers rubbed off in 48

helping her have the drive to make her music career a success. “We’re all very different but we’re all very passionate about our individual interests, so I think it was good to have grown up with older siblings that worked hard and were very focused and driven,” she says. “I floundered a little bit in school, but with my music I always practiced and would be coming up with plans and working on and booking shows. So I always took it pretty seriously.” After realizing that music would be her career, everything else became somewhat trivial, even admitting that she, to an extent, went to college to appease her parents. “I knew that was what I was going to do. And it was made clear just by going and being a freshman in college but not going to class because I had gone around to every live music venue and introduced myself and wiggled my way into an opening,” Lissie says. And booking gigs and having people respond positively to her only reinforced that this was the path she was meant to take. A chance meeting with a DJ in Boulder, Col. really set a lot of things in motion for her when a song she sang on his album that was used in high profile movies and shows like House and The O.C. “Here I am 19 or 20 and I got a check for like $24,000 and I was like whoa, you can make money doing this! It’s not a pipe-dream!” she says. This gave her the push she needed to move to Los Angeles to fully pursue her art. Unlike most who spend years in L.A. trying to break through, Lissie was lucky in that she was discovered within her first year while playing a gig at Genghis

Cohen, which led to her first record deal. While the record deal eventually fell through, she shortly after met her manger, Peter, who she’s been with for over 10 years now. “He took me to London and that’s when I got my record deal with Sony/Columbia. Prior to that I opened for Lenny Kravitz, did some tours, put out an independent EP, so I had some things going, but very small. But once I was signed to Columbia out of the U.K. I had this massive thing behind me,” she says. She released her first record with Columbia, Catching A Tiger in June of 2010, working with Jacquire King who has worked with such hit acts like Kings Of Lean and Of Monsters and Men. The record did substantially well, entering the U.K. Top 20 and leading to appearances at high profile events like the Glastonbury Festival. She also started accumulating fan bases in places such as Germany and Norway because of being with Sony, but maintained a somewhat independent aura in the U.S. leading to a more grassroots approach. “I’ve sort of maintained the same-ish level for all these years but I feel like more and more people seem to know who I am now, just cause’ I’ve been around the block and back!” For years she built a substantial career with Sony and Columbia, but as time went on always felt like she was in perpetual battle over every idea she had. She credits the lack of creativity and freedom she was able to have on her second album, 2013’s Back To Forever, as the reason for it’s lackluster sales and reception. “Anything I said I wanted to do on my second [album] was challenged. It

was like ‘I like this picture’ ‘well we like this picture’, ‘I like this song’ ‘We’re going to go with this song’ to the point where I just stopped saying anything kind of just hoping they’d drop me, and they did,” she says. After parting ways with her label in early 2014 she had all but given up on a music career, in the traditional sense. She regaled herself to creating and releasing music how and when she wanted. Maybe that meant a new album, maybe it didn’t. At this time she had also been living in Ojai, Cali. and decided it was time for a major change, so she packed her bags and bought a 10 acre farm in Iowa. “I have this vision of myself like planting trees and having a garden and actually getting chickens. Doing watercolors and watching less TV, but I’ll probably just continue to watch too much TV,” she laughs. My Wild West, her most critically acclaimed album yet, was the album she didn’t even know she was making. It came together from mid 2014 through the middle of 2015 and was inspired by her move from California and the life she’s knew for many years to a new life back in the Midwest. “I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to do some songs, but no one’s ever going to hear them,’ but I had sort of subconsciously been making this body of work about saying goodbye to California, and it was very therapeutic and personal. It was less about boys and more about what I wanted my life to look like. ‘Ojai’ I wrote right before I went to look at my farm, like the day before I flew to Iowa. It was all very natural. I didn’t have to force anything. I think by telling myself no one was ever going to hear it, it made me feel free and uncensored to make what I wanted,” she says, “Once I kind of stopped caring was when things really started to work.” It is her first record to be released on her own label, Lionboy and through Thirty Tigers, a company that releases albums for artists that want to keep complete control over their music and career. My Wild West is a record about finding yourself again. Leaving everything you know and risking it all to find the ultimate happiness we all seek. And as Lissie has proved time and time again, sometimes the path not usually taken can be the best and most rewarding path to be on. NKD 50




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