February 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm , by Ron Kelly
This month’s installment of Margaret Durante’s Nashville Diaries finds the up-and-coming country star answering our reader submitted questions from one of her previous guest blog installments. Watch our fun video chat with Margaret (and get a quick tour of her recording studio in Nashville) to find out everything from her thoughts on those who shoot to instant stardom on American Idol to her varied musical influences, her love affair with the snooze button and her most recent healthy snack obsession, hummus, which she claims she would eat with a spoon if it were socially acceptable.*
Margaret is gearing up for her next single, “I Ain’t Your Mama,” to hit radio next month. The playful and sassy number is the first release off of her forthcoming full-length CD, tentatively titled Better Now, which is being produced by James Stroud (Tim McGraw, Chris Young, Toby Keith). So while we all wait for those musical goodies, go grab yourself an edible goodie (hummus, anyone?) and continue on after the jump to watch our video Q&A with Margaret.
Note: I checked with LHJ food and entertaining director Tara Bench, and we both say acceptable or not, we’d be right there with Durante eating the stuff by the spoonful. Bench’s creative but less fanatical serving suggestions include whisking a spoonful into a lemon vinaigrette to make a creamy dressing for salad or grilled chicken, or spicing it up with some hot sauce and spreading it on an egg sandwich for breakfast.
December 22, 2011 at 3:07 pm , by Ron Kelly
I’ve been writing the Nashville Diaries blog for five months now and things are getting pretty serious between us, wouldn’t you say? I guess that means I can share a secret with you then: I cried when I watched Taylor Swift’s 60 Minutes special over Thanksgiving. I bawled like a little baby, wondering what had overcome me. I guess what overwhelmed me was the way she answered her questions with such poise, all the clips of young girls crying and screaming for her at her concerts, and ultimately my desire to someday affect people the same way she does.
Still, when I saw her at a Christmas party the other day I couldn’t bring myself to tell her how much she had inspired me, let alone even just introduce myself. I’m still wondering why I hesitated—and it’s not that I’m too cool for school (which, by the way, is overrated and dumb). I think it was just that I was afraid of bothering someone who probably hears praise like that all the time yet, when I think about it, that makes no sense at all. True, the saying goes, “If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all,” but I think there should also be a saying that goes, “If you have something nice to say, then by all means, say it!” Well, at least I’ve confessed my sob session to you all and I’ve put it out there in the universe. In the future, though, I’ll try to remember that it’s never inappropriate to pay someone a heartfelt compliment, and that applies to all times of the year, not just when spreading Christmas cheer! (Rhyming is cool.)
Truth be told, emotions always run a little high for me around the holidays. The music business winds down for a bit this time of year and I’m, of course, excited about the holidays but I’m also anxious to tie up various loose ends before everyone takes a break. Don’t even get me started on my tendency to procrastinate when it comes to Christmas shopping. Luckily I have two very proactive sisters who have helped me quickly and painlessly get the shopping done for my family.
So much has happened in the past months that it seems like Christmas has totally snuck up on me. I’m getting ready to put a single out in March (I can’t wait for you all to hear it!) and a full album shortly after, so I’ve been in the studio working on getting everything just right. I also recently opened for Jason Aldean during CMA week in downtown Nashville right by the Riverfront, which was … AWESOME! I’m a big Jason Aldean fan so it was so much fun to share the stage with him. We were promoting an AMC show called Hell on Wheels, which has some very ruggedly handsome men and a post Civil War revenge plot—juicy stuff! I attended the CMA awards the next day, which was fun and surreal. I also spent a day giving interviews to all the radio stations that had traveled to Nashville to broadcast from Music City during CMA week. And then, last but not least, the LHJ Nashville Diaries Sweepstakes winners—Angie and her 10-year-old nephew, Jake—visited me. We got to hang out in the studio and Jake laid down some smooth vocals on one of my new songs!
October 28, 2011 at 9:49 am , by Ron Kelly
In this month’s installment of her Nashville Diaries, Margaret finds herself so close to releasing her first full-length CD that she can taste it, which leads her to reflect on the musical and personal changes she’s gone through over the past four years. Be sure to read on after the jump to find out how you can ask Margaret a question and maybe have her answer it (complete with a shout-out!) in our next video entry of the Diaries! Plus, you’ll get a fun sneak-peak video of the upcoming album, too.
It was November 20, 2007, when I met Tommy Mottola for the first time. I had my hair styled and my outfit picked out waaaay in advance of the meeting, and I felt confident in the one original song (titled titled “One Way Love”) that I’d submitted to him. As soon as I set foot in his office I started to tremble but I was determined not to blow my big shot. Seeing all the platinum records hanging on the wall and the album covers of music legends that were displayed everywhere, I felt like I could someday be one of those artists. Tommy was very hospitable but, come on, the guy is one of the subjects of a book titled Hit Men and he’d been married to Mariah Carey. My “Spidey senses”—what my dad calls it when you’re on high alert—were in full gear. I was determined to nail the performance, and I did! After I finished my song, Tommy complimented my voice and sense of melody, then followed the praise with this: “I think you’ve got what it takes to make it in this industry, but in order to do so you have to jump into the pool.” I dove in headfirst and almost four years later exactly, I’m still working on getting a platinum record of my own up in Mr. Mottola’s office.
Believe me, it’s easy to get discouraged in this business but I try to remind myself that success is not the result of one big opportunity seized. Remembering that helps me stay patient and it also reminds me that my work is never finished. Having the chance to meet Tommy Mottola is something that I’m so grateful for and, trust me, I wasn’t expecting him to sprinkle some magic dust on my head and make me an instant country music star. That’s not what I wanted as an artist, either. Our meeting, though, did lead to an introduction to James Stroud, my producer and label head. Through James, I’ve been given even more opportunities, and so on. Had I released an album in the projected amount of time—6 months after moving to Nashville—I probably would have set myself back as an artist. There are only so many first impressions one can make, and I’m not sure I was prepared to step out with my first album three and half years ago. In hindsight, I’m lucky to have had the time to grow and to find exactly what it is I want to say through my music. The album I’m about to release this year will be entirely different than the album I would’ve released just a year ago, and even more different than the one I will release in another few years because I’m constantly evolving.
September 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm , by Ron Kelly
One week to go! You have through September 30 to enter to win a trip to Nashville, including tickets to the Grand Ole Opry and a visit (plus lunch!) with Margaret in the studio. Watch the video for more details and click here to enter. After the video, read on to find out about Margaret’s continuing work on her upcoming album, all while she planned some downtime on a frantic yet fabulous European family vacation.
When I was a kid, I was convinced that time sped up during the month of August. The threat of a new school year would loom over me and I would lust after the month of June, where there were an infinite number of days to play outside and go to the beach. Now I think it’s downright funny that I used to dread the devastation that is (gasp!) the end of the summer because I love the fall. It’s my favorite of the seasons, for so many reasons. (Uhm, no, that rhyme was not intentional by the way.) Autumn is so full of anticipation and everyone is rejuvenated by their summer that they’re ready to tackle all the big goals they’ve set for themselves. And let’s face it, the clothes and the shoes are so much more exciting in the fall … and it’s not so dang hot outside.
Last I left you all, I was telling you about being in the studio and finishing up the vocals on 5 new songs we’d tracked for my upcoming album. The next steps in the whole process would be the selection of our favorite vocals; an overdub session (where the musicians come back to the studio and add new parts or change existing ones); a background vocals session; a mixing session; most likely another mixing session; and possibly even another one to redo the previous ones, depending on how fickle we are. Ha! As you can see, we weren’t nearly as finished with this project as I’d originally thought in my last post. Complicating things was the fact that I had long-standing plans to go on a big family vacation and the trip was landing smack dab in the middle of all this studio work. It all made me feel a bit anxious but, in hindsight, it was silly for me to worry. The recording process cannot and should not be rushed. My producer and label head, James Stroud, is as down-to-earth as it gets and he understands that while I have my musical family in Nashville, my family back home is very important to me, too. And besides—I was about to be heading off on my very own European vacation!
August 22, 2011 at 4:59 pm , by Ron Kelly
Find out how to enter at the end of Margaret’s latest diary entry …
It’s only been a month, but I feel like I have so much to catch you up on! I’ve played shows on both coasts, appeared as a guest on GAC’s Top 20 Countdown, tracked 5 new songs in the studio for my new album and even witnessed my older sister’s engagement! I wish I could list “cleaned my apartment” among those things, but there’s always next month … maybe. I try to remind myself to live fully in each moment but, truthfully, it’s been hard to get a grip on everything that’s gone down in the past 30 days. Luckily, though, I have the chance to reflect on everything now and share it with you!
Let’s start with my visit to the GAC studios to chat with Nan Kelley, host of their Top 20 Country Countdown. I was thrilled to be invited on the show, having watched it so many times in the past wondering if and when I’d ever get to be the guest artist. I had the #1 video the week prior to my visit and had no idea where I’d land the week I appeared on the show. I’d watched my video debut at #1, then go to number … nothing, then to #7 and back to #1 again, so I was ready for anything. Nan couldn’t have been nicer and she was so easy to talk to. At the end of the segment, she asked me to read from the teleprompter to introduce my video for that week. (Good sign, I thought. I at least made the countdown!) Then I read the words on the screen in disbelief: “Here’s my video ‘Maybe Tonight,’ at the #1 spot!” At that point, I’d pretty much lost any composure I had during the interview. I was just in awe of my fans who had taken me to the top once again. (Side note: The video went #1 the following week also, so to any of you voting, thank you!)
July 15, 2011 at 9:36 am , by Ron Kelly
Who hasn’t dreamed of rolling the dice and taking a shot at becoming a music superstar? It’s a fantasy most of us have probably entertained at one time or another—even if (like me) you couldn’t carry a tune if somebody wrapped it up and put it in a shopping bag with reinforced handles. That’s why we’ve talked singer-songwriter Margaret Durante into being LHJ’s lady on the inside. Margaret is one of Nashville’s freshest new talents and she’s currently living the dream. She’s also getting a taste of the heady highs and lonely lows that come along with living far away from home while she tries to get a high-profile music career off the ground. In a series of guest blogs exclusively for our Ladies’ Lounge readers, Margaret will allow us all to live vicariously through her whirlwind experiences, both onstage and off. Get to know Margaret in her introduction, below, then welcome her to the LHJ family, post a show of support and be sure to check back for further installments of her wild ride.
Hey, readers! My name is Margaret Durante and I’m thrilled that Ladies’ Home Journal is giving me the opportunity to offer you all a behind-the-scenes peek into my adventures down in Nashville. I’m just your average 23-year-old daughter/sister/granddaughter/niece/best friend who also happens to be chasing down my dream of living in Music City and making a name for myself in the crazy music industry. I currently have a single on the radio called “Maybe Tonight” and I’m finishing my first album after living here for four years.
There are four women in my family of five, so an issue of LHJ was never hard to come by in my house as I was growing up. Having the chance now to take you all along on the ups and downs of my musical journey is surreal, and it all started when I teamed up with the folks at LHJ this past June. I joined them at an event they cohosted with CMT One Country on the eve of the 40th Annual CMA Festival, during which 10,000 country music fans descend upon Nashville to attend concerts, meet-and-greets, fan luncheons and a ton of other crazy events that celebrate everything country. That week was a huge deal to me as I’m still fairly new to the scene. It was so great to kick off the week working alongside other artists at this incredible LHJ/CMT event, preparing backpacks of food at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee for hungry children who might not have the means to eat over the weekend or summer vacation. It was a wonderful way for us artists to remind ourselves that we are part of a community that can use our collective voices to call attention to helpful programs like this. (Click here if you want to help!)
Continue reading Margaret’s first installment after the jump …
Categories: Do Good, Entertainment, Family, Fun, Ladies' Lounge, Relationships | Tags: CMT, country music, Feeding America, GAC, Margaret Durante, Maybe Tonight, Nashville, Second Harvest, Tennessee | 6 Comments
June 16, 2011 at 9:15 am , by Ron Kelly
For the second year in a row, Ladies’ Home Journal kicked off CMA Music Festival week by hosting a volunteer afternoon at Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. This year, though, the afternoon also served as a kickoff for our brand spankin’ new partnership with CMT One Country. Click here to read about how our partnership’s Do Good Rewards program can lead to you winning a trip to the CMT Music Awards in Nashville next year!)
We had some amazing musical talent lending us their muscles and elbow grease for the afternoon, including Steel Magnolia, Jimmy Wayne, Crystal Bowersox, Carter’s Chord, Margaret Durante and Coldwater Jane. Along with reps from both LHJ and CMT, these artists donated some of the very little free time they had during their frenetic week to sweat alongside us prepping supplies for Feeding America‘s BackPack program, which was designed to meet the needs of hungry kids at times when other resources aren’t available (such as weekends and school vacations). By the afternoon’s end, our volunteers had prepped 2,107 bags of food for the program! At the CMT Awards the next night, other musical acts signed some symbolic bags to be auctioned off to raise more funds for the program, to which CMT makes a generous donation in lieu of those pricey artist gift bags other awards shows usually give out.
To keep the spirit of our volunteer afternoon alive, LHJ and CMT are now partnering up for a Do Good Summer Virtual Food Drive. If you’re able, we’d love it if you could contribute to it, which will then in turn provide much needed food to programs such as the BackPack effort. Any amount is greatly appreciated. Of course, if you’d like to volunteer at a Feeding America food bank, that’s another great way to do good and make a difference. As you can see from the slideshow below (with Carter’s Chord’s “Love a Little Bigger” as a musical background), our volunteer afternoon was a lot of hard work but also a lot of fun. Click here to find the nearest food bank in your area. Be sure to let us know how it goes!
For more pictures from our volunteer event, additional info on the BackPack program and stats from Second Harvest, read on after the jump.
All photos by John Russell.
Categories: Do Good, Entertainment, Food, Fun, Ladies' Lounge | Tags: Carter's Chord, CMA, CMT, Coldwater Jane, country music, Crystal Bowersox, Do Good, Feeding America, Jimmy Wayne, Margaret Durante, Nashville, Second Harvest, Steel Magnolia | 5 Comments