Taylor Swift

Your Essential Grammy Awards Playlist

February 5, 2013 at 1:31 pm , by

We looked at 81 different Grammy categories—and multiple songs within every category—to pick our 15 favorite songs you need to hear before music’s biggest night. Take a listen, and even if you don’t know your Fun. from your Frank Ocean, you’ll be an expert by Sunday!

Taylor Swift and Fun. (Larry Busacca/WireImage.com)

1. “We Are Young” – Fun. Featuring Janelle Monáe

record of the year, song of the year, album of the year, best new artist, best pop duo/group performance, best pop vocal album

2. “Thinkin Bout You” – Frank Ocean

record of the year, album of the year, best new artist, best urban contemporary album

3. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” – Taylor Swift

record of the year

4. “I Will Wait” – Mumford and Sons

album of the year, best rock performance, best rock song, best Americana album

5. “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” – Kelly Clarkson

record of the year, song of the year, best pop solo performance, best pop vocal album

6. “Lonely Boy” – The Black Keys

record of the year, album of the year, best rock performance, best rock song, best rock album

7. “Somebody That I Used To Know” – Gotye Featuring Kimbra

record of the year, best pop duo/group performance, best alternative music album

8. “Payphone” – Maroon 5 and Wiz Khalifa

best pop duo/group performance, best pop vocal album

9. “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” – Eli Young Band

best country duo/group performance, best country song

10. “Madness” – Muse

best rock song, best rock album

11. “Wide Awake” – Katy Perry

best pop solo performance

12. “Love On Top” – Beyoncé

best traditional R&B performance

13. “Wanted” – Hunter Hayes

best new artist, best country solo performance, best country album

14. “The Motto” – Drake

best rap song, best rap album

15. “We Take Care Of Our Own” – Bruce Springsteen

best rock performance, best rock song, best rock album


The Reader Interview: Taylor Swift

November 19, 2012 at 9:00 am , by

Every month an LHJ reader will get the chance to interview one of their favorite celebrities. This month, Gigi Kidary of Winter Park, Florida quizzes the singer-songwriter about her new CD, the most influential person in her life, and more.

Why is your new album called Red?
Most of the songs on this album are about fast-paced, out-of-control love. And the title track, “Red” is about a love that’s so intense, you can’t forget it. To me, intense emotion is red. This album documents my experiences with those types of relationships, from beginning to end.

Do you write better songs when you’re happy or sad?
I write songs about both the good and bad parts of love, so it’s hard to say which is the better inspiration. Sometimes sadness can be so overwhelming, it stifles you. I’d much rather be happy, so I choose that as my preferred inspiration.

You’ve collaborated with a lot of great artists. Is there someone you haven’t worked with yet that you would like to?
All of the artists I wanted to work with more than anything are on this album. ;)

How long does it usually take you to write a song?
It varies. I could get a lightning bolt of inspiration and write a song in 20 minutes, or I could labor over one for four months and put it down, then go back to it. That’s what I love about songwriting. You never know how or when it’s going to happen.

When you find time to read, what kind of books do you read?
I love The Hunger Games series and I was so honored to get to write music for the movie. Those books suck you in and keep you engaged like nothing I’ve read before.

Who is the most influential person in your life?
My mom. I’ve never gone a day without talking to her, and she gives me the wisest advice. But most of all, she’s put her kids first since we were born. Growing up, she was always there for me when I needed a friend. That’s why she’s still one of my closest friends now.


Will You Stand Up 2 Cancer on Friday?

September 5, 2012 at 1:00 pm , by

Dozens of your favorite celebrities are teaming up against cancer this Friday, September 7, 2012 for the third annual Stand Up 2 Cancer telecast. Will you be joining them?

A-listers Gwyneth Paltrow (who is the executive producer this year), Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, Matt Damon, Michael Douglas, Samuel L. Jackson, Emma Stone and more are set to appear during the commercial-free show, which starts at 8 p.m. on multiple networks. Taylor Swift, Coldplay, Alicia Keys and Tim McGraw will also be performing.

And if that’s not enough to grab your interest: stars will be manning the phones themselves.

Stand Up 2 Cancer has raised more than $180 million for cancer research since movie producer Laura Ziskin launched the organization in 2008. (That’s her, above, with Paltrow at the 2010 event.) Ziskin, who produced the Spider-Man movies, lived with breast cancer for seven years before it tragically took her life in June 2011.

Besides tuning in, here are more ways you can get involved and help make a difference:

Launch A Star
Unfortunately, we all know someone who’s been affected by cancer. You can launch a star in a loved one’s honor to The Constellation for a $1 donation or more.

Get Social
Keep in touch with the organization on Facebook and Twitter. And check out the SU2C blog for research updates, patient stories and more.

Start Your Own Group
Inspired yet? Stand Up 2 Cancer isn’t just a telecast—it’s a movement! The goal is to fund collaborative research among top scientists to speed up the discovery of lifesaving treatments, and that takes year-round fund-raising. If you’d like to host your own events to raise money for Stand Up 2 Cancer, check out this grassroots toolkit and learn more about the “dream teams” the organization is currently funding.

 


Country Spotlight: David Nail: Let Him Reign

January 11, 2012 at 3:20 pm , by

Photo: David McClister.

After occupying the country radio charts for a marathon 48-week stint, David Nail has finally been rewarded with his first, well-deserved number-one song: “Let It Rain,” the first single off of his The Sound of a Million Dreams CD. Now that he’s top of the heap, though, don’t expect him to lose the perspective he’s been given on his rise to that position. “There have been a lot of times over the course of my career that it didn’t look like I’d be able to make a record, much less have two out and get to travel the country and tour with people,” the Missouri native told me on a recent visit to the Journal. “My short-term and long-term goals are always one in the same. I hope to do something today that allows me a tomorrow. I hope to do something this year that allows me another year. I do not take things for granted.”

Case in point was his reaction to his Grammy nod last year for his vocals on “Turning Home,” off of 2009’s I’m About to Come Alive. “I can’t remember anything in my life being more unexpected,” Nail says of the moment he got the call about his nomination in the Best Male Country Vocal category. “It was just a whirlwind. I remember literally dropping to my knees and just being overcome with surprise and emotion. I kind of teared up a little bit, went and hugged my wife and said, ‘Baby, I’ve spent a long time trying to get people to like what I do. And evidently the people in this town like what I do.’ ”

Hear Nail sing three stripped-down songs for the LHJ staff after the jump.

His fans across the country aren’t complaining much, either. If you follow him on Twitter you’ll see that he not only talks the talk, he (excuse the word and phrase play) twalks the twalk of gratitude by maintaining one of the most engaging and appreciative conversations with his supporters—the Nail Nation—of any artist through that medium. Entertaining proof of this came when someone recently pondered about whether Nail himself actually signs the promo CDs that go out. Nail, in turn, tweeted back a photo of the stacks he was signing at that very moment as he watched TV, no doubt doubly endearing himself to anyone who might have been having the same doubts. (The bonus, by the way, of following Nail on Twitter is that you’ll get such in-depth college and pro sports analysis that by sheer osmosis you’ll be qualified for most on-air positions at ESPN.)

So, with a killer voice, his first number-one under his belt, a nation of loyal fans and a second album chock full of high-charting potential, Nail seems poised to make Nashville’s all-star team in 2012. That turns to speculation over what the follow-up single to “Let It Rain” will be, so in an homage to Nail’s athletic leanings (and, well, because I’m a dork) I couldn’t help but create my own next-single sports bracket for what I’m thinking/hoping for in terms of his second release. Check my brackets out after the jump and let me know if you agree. You’ll also find the video of Nail’s in-office LHJ performance after the jump, as well as to his takes on everything from where he fits into the current Nashville music scene and what charitable effort he’s passionate about, to why Taylor Swift reminds him of Garth Brooks, and more.

Read more


Country Spotlight: Margaret Durante’s Nashville Diaries

December 22, 2011 at 3:07 pm , by

It was so much fun getting to share a stage with Jason Aldean!

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!

Read more


Country Spotlight: Randy Montana

July 26, 2011 at 11:33 am , by

resizedmontanaIt’s rare when a new artist’s debut CD leaves you immediately counting down the days to his next. That being said, Randy Montana’s self-titled first album already has me staring down my calendar. You can pick out bits of his childhood influences (Tom Petty, Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen) throughout his music, which definitely leans toward the rockier side of country. But it’s his sharper than average songwriting skills that really draw you in from the first track to the last. Take his methodically paced ode to the working class in “Assembly Line,” written by Montana and Natalie Hemby:

“All day long in steel-toed boots / vacation days that I’ll never use / there’s a rumor going round that’s got nothing to do with me / Charlie swears he’s gonna quit / put his two weeks in and that’s it / he’s been talking that way since the summer of ’93.”

The footwear might differ from your own, but the workplace politics and the emotional drain of a daily routine make this song universal. On the equally powerful “Last Horse,” on which he’s joined by Emmylou Harris, Montana exposes the fears of a man sizing up a relationship that’s headed south. He cowrote the song with Rodney Clawson and his father, Billy Montana, an accomplished songwriter himself (Jo Dee Messina’s “Bring on the Rain”, Garth Brooks’ “More Than a Memory”), and it’s definitely a standout number.

Born in Albany, New York, but raised in Nashville, music was as much a staple in Montana’s house as dinner on the table and he’s been feeding his musical hunger since the age of 10. Fifteen years later, his debut CD is hitting stores today. I chatted with Montana a few weeks ago about the album, what female country icon he recently blasted in his car, what he’s learned from former tour mate Taylor Swift, and his approach to songwriting and the music industry itself.

Your dad, Billy Montana, is an accomplished songwriter. In the nature vs. nurture argument, do you feel you were born with an ability to write great songs, or is it a skill you learned from studying him and other songwriters in the field?
I definitely feel it is passed down. And I’ve always felt like you either got it or you don’t, in a sense. But you never start off writing good songs. Somebody told me you gotta write 100 bad ones before you can write a good one, and I truly believe that. [laughs] So that goes against the whole genetic passing thing. I just grew up around it. [My dad] was always playing new songs, new demos. There was music around my house all the time and when you grow up like that, you take it for granted because it’s always there. It’s just your way of life.

What’s your favorite song of his?
He wrote one about our family called “House of a Thousand Dreams” [recorded by Martina McBride]. Yeah, that’s my favorite song of his that he’s ever written. It’s really about us and what’s cool about it is that each verse is from a different perspective. The first verse is from the perspective of the man. He’s like, “I’m just a man. I work with my hands, and lately no work has been around. I wish I could put more on the table and provide the life I’m sure my family dreams about.” And then he just starts describing the house and he’s like, “There’s cracks on all the walls and all the windows, and the flies they find their way in through the screen. But I’ll keep praying, hope will go on living, in this house of a thousand dreams.” And then it goes to the wife and she kind of has that same outlook. She looks at her husband and she’s saying, you know, he works hard and I know it’s tough, so I’m gonna do what I can. And then it comes to the kid, and the kid says he loves the way the wind blows through the screens. He loves it and he sees nothing wrong with it. And it’s just kind of how I grew up.

Read more


Help Soles4Souls on the Daily Grommet

December 22, 2010 at 4:17 pm , by

PicklerBy now you’ve probably done all of your online holiday shopping and, if you’re like us, you found yourself constantly turning to the Daily Grommet and its amazing selection of cool and unique and gift ideas for inspiration. Even though time’s a bit tight to still be ordering stuff for Christmas, there is still time for a little more inspiration. Be sure to pop on over to the site tomorrow as they spotlight a favorite charity of ours here at LHJ: Soles4Souls. (That’s us collecting shoes with Kellie Pickler outside one of her concerts with Taylor Swift last year as part of a company-wide shoe drive we organized.)

Soles founder Wayne Elsey will be liveblogging for the day on Grommet and he’ll be happy to chat with you and answer any questions you might have about his Nashville-based group, which gets footwear to people in need all over the world. To date, they’ve distributed more than 12 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes in more than 125 countries.

Hmmm, we’re thinking that making a donation right before Christmas is a great way to sneak our way onto Santa’s “nice” list in just the jolly old Saint Nick of time. Who else is in?