Marie Hines Bio

Supporting HeartCrash

By Emily J Ramey

Written for Marie Hines

Marie Hines

Marie Hines is a creator. She cooks dinner, she bakes cupcakes, she’s an avid DIY-er, and true to her Southern charm, she’s not afraid to get down in the dirt if it means cultivating something colorful and fragrant. Drawing inspiration from nature, HeartCrash boasts music that mimics the fine lightness of a summer breeze and the rolling current of a cool autumn stream. By broadening her scope and expanding her thematic obsessions, Marie has fallen right into place between Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles, an artist as spirited and smart as she is talented.

Those familiar with Marie’s debut, Worth the Fight, or her live follow-up EP, The Living Room Sessions, will recognize her characteristic feminine grace, billowing piano melodies, and incandescent strings, but there’s something new and exciting in this collection of songs. On HeartCrash, Marie’s brush strokes are broader, more confident. Like a bright-eyed bride lifting her gauzy veil for the first time, letting the sun dazzle her and the wind brush her skin, the young Nashville singer/songwriter is stepping out and making strides. “With HeartCrash, I wanted to do something that wasn’t safe. I wanted genuine and natural and raw. These songs embody where I am now, I think.”

“Hammer,” written from the perspective of a character in a book, opens the album with the leaden lines, “You never think your lover’s words could kill you, and you can’t foresee the blow that is your last,” and continues to unfold into an rolling instrumental landscape that explores the windswept valleys of slighted love. The unshakable title track was a new experience for Marie; “it didn’t come out of love or lack of love; it came out of anger,” she claims. A song about “a collision of two souls, the realization of clashing opinions and irreconcilable differences,” “HeartCrash” stomps out a driving beat, sullying forth with words like “I won’t stay, stay around for you to take, take me down, down, down.”

“Mending” is far and away the most complex song on HeartCrash, piano rivulets spilling into swirling ocean depths, dissonant strings surging and eddying into a roaring cascade. “The song has a steady 4/4 rhythm, then a 3/4 rhythm enters in the bridge. The different rhythms layer together perfectly,” Marie reveals, “and to me, it feels like two people falling in love.” The single “Perfect Kiss” is a playful acoustic refrain, silvery and gleaming in its idyllic innocence. “It’s a very personal song,” she says. “It’s a snapshot of the moment I realized I was blissfully happy in my relationship, and that I had found the person I want to be with for the rest of my life.” And “Poison in the Well” is a potent, pleading struggle to let go of the past, an emotion that elicits the strongest vocals on the record.

Marie’s debut album saw critical success with a feature in WalMart’s Valentine’s Day in-store promotional campaign in 2010 and 2011 and the top prize in both the Intel Superstars Competition and the Avon Songwriting Competition. Following the release of Worth the Fight, Marie embarked on a national tour, playing venues like LA’s famous Hotel Café on the West Coast, Nashville’s Bluebird Café, New York’s The Living Room on the East Coast, and cafés, house concerts, and coffeeshops all along the way.

More recently, Marie’s songs have provided background music for dozens of wedding videos, iTunes, Hallmark, Delta Airlines, Spotify, and Forever 21 have showcased tracks in various capacities, and the “Perfect Kiss” music video is in regular rotation on CMT Pure.

Marie Hines’ new release is available on February 28, 2012. For more information about Marie and HeartCrash, go to http://www.mariehines.com.

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Merry Ellen Kirk Bio

Supporting Firefly Garden

By Emily J Ramey

Written for Merry Ellen Kirk

Merry Ellen Kirk

Merry Ellen Kirk is a poet. Perhaps “songwriter” is a more commonly used term, but it’s also too commonplace for Merry Ellen’s glittering narratives, songs that spring up wildly from her subconscious and bloom into vibrant, lilting melodies. Her sparkling piano refrains sweep and spill into fresh, sweet rivulets of notes; her lyrics weave bright, halcyon tales of dream sequences, the light and dark polarities of the human experience, and beauty in its many forms. “I write about light and dark a lot… good and evil, dreams and reality, the darker and lighter parts of the human soul,” she explains.

Despite the undeniable tension in her thematic obsessions, Merry Ellen Kirk explores her dichotomies with grace. She writes songs with the cool effortlessness of youth, sings with the jaunty simplicity and breezy flair of a practiced performer, and plays with fleet fingers and subtle polish. In cultivating her own sound, Merry Ellen has employed a few key elements from her predecessors: the classical prowess of Tori Amos, the natural poise of Sarah McLachlan, the quiet pensiveness of A Fine Frenzy, and the bold whimsy of Regina Spektor.

Growing up a missionaries’ daughter in Mongolia has had its effect on Merry Ellen’s music, creating a refreshingly broad perspective from so young a person. “I think it mostly comes out in my approach to life. I feel like more of my songs are about the world and making the world a better place. My music is about seeing the world and being better for it.”

Of her unconventional childhood musical inclinations Merry Ellen reveals, “In Mongolia, they don’t have pianos, but I knew it was always something that I wanted to do – play piano. So when we moved back, I started taking lessons.” They were the tiny seeds of something greater, a glowing catalyst dawning on Merry Ellen’s path. “It was definitely a huge risk to just put myself out there and start doing this full time when I was seventeen. I had only written a couple of songs, but I knew that it was what I wanted to do.”

A true Nashville singer/songwriter, Merry Ellen works best under pressure, dividing her artistic talents among multiple projects – like serving as half of burgeoning folk duo The Shakespeares and developing a pop venture with fellow songwriter Rachel Pearl – all the while tending her own flowering repertoire. “I’m inspired by other artists, and sometimes things in nature, too, because God’s the artist there. I write songs from those moments.”

On her sophomore album, Firefly Garden, 21-year-old Merry Ellen spins a gossamer web of silvery tunes that glints and glistens with morning dew and lightly stroked piano keys. “Every week for ten weeks I recorded a song, and it was really therapeutic for me. It was freeing,” she says. “I think that’s what the album is about: all this crazy stuff is happening around you, but it’s important to find your inspiration and your beautiful place in life.”

The record, produced by Shakespeares counterpart Aaron Krause, is an enchanted glimpse into Merry Ellen’s sun-dappled mind, a veritable Eden of lush emerald canopies and richly tinted florets in which her music becomes the soundtrack to a verdant dream like delicate chimes floating on the billows of perfumed zephyrs. Among the high points of Firefly Garden lie the colorful, saccharine lyrics of “Candy,” which are a cleverly draped disguise for a faintly melancholy word on chimeras and the hope and sorrow they arouse; the muted, jazzy, rhythmic tune “Do You?” that channels a Pieces-of-You-era Jewel or even a dusky Corinne Bailey Rae; the exquisite “Masquerade,” an intricate, tortured tribute to Romeo and Juliet that features a rolling, minor piano and a heavy, fragile despair; and “Clair de Lune,” a lovely, diaphanous interpretation of Debussy’s famous melody complete with Merry Ellen’s own lyrics, that swells and ebbs like salty tides breaking lazily on gleaming white sand, a performance both deeply felt and lavishly played.

“I feel like everything that happens in your life kind of goes into your songs. It’s something that becomes part of your music. Who you are is your music.” Becoming so helplessly entwined with one’s music is a silent commitment to see the world through different eyes, an unalterable promise to commit one’s life to the glorious immortal verse. That poetry is what sight would be to the blind, speech to the dumb, walking to the crippled, and life to the condemned, but Merry Ellen Kirk sees, speaks, walks, lives, and she has poetry.

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Robert Schwartzman Article

Robert Schwartzman

“The Music Man”

By Emily J Ramey

Written for BMI: MusicWorld

Robert Schwartzman is a man refreshingly fanatical about the art of making music. Despite, or perhaps as a result of, having seen rapid success with his California retro rock band Rooney, the 28-year-old singer/songwriter is absolutely bursting with new ideas, projects, and overall zeal for the industry, which is more than evident in the way he talks about his songwriting process: “I get excited by chords; I get excited by melody; I get excited by lyrics… something has to spark excitement, and you just run with it. It’s a domino effect either way, but the process is specific to whatever’s occurring in that moment.”

“Learning by ear inspired me to start writing music, taking feelings and stories from my life and turning them into a song,” he explains of his early penchant for songwriting. “It was the thrill of having something in my hands that didn’t exist before.”

As for influences, Robert cites “oldies but goodies” as his inspiration, then and now. “You know late fifties, early sixties, cruising with your friends with the top down and milkshakes,” he says. “I’ve always thought – and still do – that that music is really simple and so… right; the innocence of that music has always inspired me.”

These threads are discernible in Rooney’s distinctive flashy guitars, chunky rhythms, and summery melodies, but Schwartzman, ever the opportunist, is on the verge of expanding his repertoire with a solo venture as well. “The band has been a big part of my life and it’s important to me, but there’s still a need to be able to take chances and try other things. I played all the instruments, they’re all my songs; on every level, it’s my record.”

Schwartzman’s debut will be released this fall, with plans for a tour following closely behind. After all, the live show is what it’s all about, Robert claims. “I like the feeling of playing music to people. Playing a live show sort of helped me understand how people are affected by music. When you perform something, you feel it in a different way; you feel like you’re putting it all on the line.”

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Katie Costello’s “Lamplight” Review

Album Cover

Katie Costello

“Lamplight”

February 2011; Tiny Tiny Records

By Emily J Ramey

Click Here to See the Published Version on American Music Channel

Katie Costello is an outrageously cute blonde girl, who just happens to also be a wellspring of blithe melodies and incredibly profound motifs. At the young age of fifteen Katie began to pursue her passion for music and started work on her debut. She self-released Kaleidoscope Machine at just seventeen, and even then, her original sound and old-timey vibe won her songs placements on shows like 90210, One Tree Hill, and Private Practice. When I read a press release comparing Katie’s music to that of A Fine Frenzy, Adele, and Regina Spektor, three of my all-time favorites, I knew I had to get my hands on her newest effort, Lamplight.

What I’ve discovered about the 20-year-old singer/songwriter is that she writes with the wit and phrasing of someone much older, more experienced, but her interpretation is that of youth, playful and rosy. On Lamplight, Costello addresses thematic elements that any teenage girl might be preoccupied with. In her quirky and insightful way, Katie sings about relationships with friends and boyfriends as well as the world around her and the people that populate it, exploring bigger pictures in order to better understand the nature of humanity. Fundamentally, Katie’s songs document the lovely foundations of a young poet’s reflection.

A sophomore album without true low points, Lamplight arcs finely over the course of about 48 minutes. The vibrant, sprightly “Cassette Tape” is an ebullient, roaming autobiography, a buoyant opener. “Ashes Ashes” hovers and wafts gently, wispy harmonies draping the tune like morning dew. Jaunty, electric “No Shelter” struts boldly, sporting the occasional vintage guitar riff and a dynamic beat.

Cool duet “Out Of Our Minds” features Greg Holden, enchanting piano accompaniment, a few sparse and breezy strings, and the bright-eyed words of a dreamer. “Old Owl” is a sleepy ode to the burden of wisdom, reminiscent of an early Ingrid Michaelson tune. “People: A Theory” is another lively melody laden with eccentricities and golden whimsy, a charming brand of songwriting perfected by British singer/songwriter Kate Nash. And “Stranger” feels like a great sigh, quietly closing the album with beauty and contentment, the way Sara Bareilles’ “Gravity” swirls and glides into silence.

Katie Costello is an oh-so-refreshing new perspective on the female folk pop scene, and her delicate collection of light, glittering melodies is not to be missed. Lamplight provides an ideal soundtrack as winter frosts melt in the warmth of the sun and spring blossoms push through to the surface at last.

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James Blunt’s “Some Kind of Trouble” Review

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James Blunt

“Some Kind of Trouble”

January 2011; Atlantic Records

By Emily J Ramey

Click Here to See the Published Version on American Music Channel

Upon first listen of British singer/songwriter/heartthrob James Blunt’s third album, Some Kind of Trouble, I must admit to a little disappointment. I remember rocking out to his debut; I couldn’t figure out why he would have changed anything after such resounding success. Then I realized that Back to Bedlam came out in 2005, and I was… ah… in high school. And there it is: I am the one who’s changed. James Blunt is still singing his acoustic-tinged pop with his telltale falsetto and will probably be thrilling a whole new group high school girls (I mean, just look at that mug) with his most recent collection of delicate ballads and summery anthems.

The leadoff single “Stay The Night” opens with a buoyant rhythm reminiscent of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” a bright, cheery tune seemingly made for a spring break road trip to the beach. Album highpoint “Dangerous” maintains the upbeat tempo with catchy 80s rock instrumentation and well-polished harmonies. The gauzy, piano-driven “Best Laid Plans” is this album’s “You’re Beautiful,” its melancholy motif evident in Blunt’s desolate delivery and the occasionally yowling electric guitar.

“No Tears” is another sweeping ballad but with compelling stand-out lines like, “I thank my father/His absence has made me strong/And I love my mother/But she had troubles with God.” “Superstar” is a second peak on Some Kind of Trouble, channeling Fleetwood Mac (a reference that’ll go right over those high school girls’ heads) and featuring a pretty epic instrumental section (for a pop record, at least). The clap-laden “I’ll Be Your Man” grooves easily, colorfully, settling into a slightly funky and irresistibly likable beat. Country-tinged “If Time is All I Have” is an interesting sidestep, a steady, lamenting melody, and the raucous “Turn Me On” closes the album on a high note with blues rock bass and grungy guitar.

As a result of further inspection, I feel the need to retract my previously mentioned sense of disappointment. James Blunt has maintained the core of his aesthetic while gently progressing into an area of greater creative freedom as well. What more can you ask than for an artist to be himself and cultivate his craft? Those that did not enjoy his earlier albums probably won’t change their minds unfortunately, but those that loved them will find new tunes to love here.

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Marie Hines’ “Worth the Fight” Review

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Marie Hines

“Worth the Fight”

December 2010; Independent

By Emily J Ramey

Click Here to See the Published Version on American Music Channel

It’s an extraordinary occurrence when you think about it – finding words that say what you truly feel, melodies that express the very ebb of your thoughts. These sorts of discoveries are more than important in the world of music; they are vital, dynamic.

As a woman myself, I’m a huge advocate for the female singer/songwriter. Show me the folk rock poignancy of Ingrid Michaelson or Lisa Hannigan or eloquent piano pop perfected by Regina Spektor or Sara Bareilles, and I will show you my own heart spilled over into the words of a song. I love realizing girl talent, finding a new voice. There’s something about delving into their lyrics and figuring out their notes that is empowering, delicately victorious, and rare, which is why Nashville’s newest songwriter Marie Hines is such a remarkable discovery: she is a charming combination of all of the above.

Marie Hines is breezy and bright, but with something of an old soul. Her fondness for strings and silky piano keys is enough to grab my attention, and her gentle vocals and silver-tongued lyrics make her my new favorite. Marie’s debut album, Worth the Fight, is a passionate and shimmering collection of melodies that span a poetic horizon, exploring the rosy depths of a young girl’s heart with the expressiveness of a worldly, elegant hand.

The album begins with the title track, cool and energizing – with lines like, “There’s bigger pictures to paint/More horizons to chase/Something better in searching, reaching/Burning, bleeding black and white” – and warms up quickly with the sugary single “Wrapped Up in Love,” a buoyant tune of idyllic, lighthearted affection: “Slurring sonnets like love drunk poets/Take a sip, pass the glass around/Til we fall out of time, lost in a rhyme/It’s so easy being me when I’m with you.”

Other highlights of Worth the Fight include the magnetic, brisk-tempoed “Better” and the lithe “LoveStung,” with its melancholy strings and honest lyrics: “We’re lovestung, so lovestung/We’re scared to death but we’re learning the thrill of the fall.” The refreshing bleakness of “Long Way to Letting Go” is both moving and memorable, and ardent, lustrous “Over You” stands out as both haunting and beautiful, closing the album with tender lines and striking emotion, the music swelling richly, resonantly before fading out with the quiet undulations of a cleansing rain.

Marie Hines is going to be an exciting artist to watch in 2011. Worth the Fight is brimming with potential and promises to be merely a springboard into bigger and better things. I can’t wait to see and hear more, but for now, I’m going to cozy up and just listen.

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Marie Hines Bio

Supporting Worth the Fight

By Emily J Ramey

Written for Marie Hines

Marie Hines

Marie Hines is a dazzling blend of old and new. She writes with the scope and eloquence that comes with age and the purity and hopefulness of youth. Marie’s rosy piano melodies accompanied by her telltale string quartet glow with grand turns of phrase and idyllic themes of love gained and love lost. “I write about things I’ve experienced because that’s what people can relate to. I want to be a part of people’s lives. That’s the reason I make music,” she says.

With her debut album Worth the Fight, Marie Hines is growing up, discovering what she wants to accomplish as an artist and flowering into who she wants to be as a person. Marie’s southern charm, gentle femininity, and enchanting affection for cupcakes and ballet flats attest to her cheery warmth as a person, but Marie’s songwriting goes beyond poise and passion to exude a quiet elegance, luminous and ornate. “A lot of my lyrics come straight from the pages of my diary,” she admits. “I’ve written songs when I have been in the absolute depths of heartbreak, and for me, it’s a release because I’m able to channel that emotion and energy into that song.”

Marie nurtured her musical abilities early while growing up in small-town South Carolina: “I started taking classical piano when I was about six. Music was kind of something I developed on my own. I started writing at the age of twelve, and it was awful.” But something struck with a chord with Marie, who moved to Nashville in 2005 to attend Belmont University. “I came to ‘Music City’ to surround myself with people that were better than me.  I knew I needed that constant challenge in order to become a greater musician.”  Marie found inspiration among fellow songwriters as well as larger acts like Norah Jones and John Mayer, all the while developing her own niche somewhere between the honest lyricism of Regina Spektor and the graceful instrumentation of Sara Bareilles.

The first glimmering notes of Worth the Fight feel like waking up in the morning; the realization and enlightenment in the title track are both delicate and spirited: “There’s bigger pictures to paint/More horizons to chase/Something better in searching, reaching/Burning, bleeding black and white.” The album’s first single, “Wrapped Up in Love,” is a blushing tune that radiates silvery bliss with lyrics like, “Slurring sonnets like love drunk poets/Take a sip, pass the glass around/Til we fall out of time, lost in a rhyme/It’s so easy being me when I’m with you.” The two songs establish a strong presence and expressive foundation for the rest of the album, and they’ve already received national attention for it: “Wrapped Up in Love” was featured in WalMart’s Valentine’s Day in-store promotional campaign in 2009, and more recently, “Worth the Fight” won 1st place in the Intel Superstars Competition, Singer/Songwriter Division.

Other gems of the record, produced by Eric Kinny, include the resonant lilting “LoveStung,” which stands out as an ode to the fine complexities of valiant love, rich with willowy strings and striking lines, the most memorable being, “We’re scared to death but we’re learning the thrill of the fall;” and sprightly “Paper Heart,” a brisk, quirky autobiography. Of the track, Marie reveals, “I set out to write a song that was completely honest about who I am – both the good parts and the bad parts.” “Beauty” is a rolling, piano-laden tune of empowerment, with words like, “Flowers don’t choose their shades/And butterflies don’t paint their wings/Don’t change me, no/Don’t save me, I’m just fine;” and the smoldering “Over You” closes the album with the melancholy waves of a cleansing rain, the strings swelling with sincerity, the vocals heavy with grief. “I think it’s important for people to experience heartbreak, and I think it’s also important for people to experience what it feels like to break someone’s heart,” says Marie. “People have to experience the good parts of life, and also the bad parts, because together, they bring you to a place where you really understand what it feels like to live.”

Marie Hines releases her debut album on December 14th, 2010. For more information about Marie and Worth the Fight, go to http://www.mariehines.com.

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