Thursday, December 19, 2013

Erica Rivera Contributes To Star Tribune Critics Tally

Erica Rivera was honored to be asked by Star Tribune music critic Chris Riemenschneider to contribute to the Twin Cities Critics Tally 2013. Rivera was one of 27 local music professionals whom provided the Strib with their Top 10 lists. Ladies came out on top in this year's awards. Read where the artists ranked here. Read Rivera's personal Best Of list here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Mayor R.T. Rybak

Q&A: R.T. Rybak

Minneapolis will soon bid farewell to its mayor of the past 12 years, R.T. Rybak. After leaving office, Rybak will become the new executive director of Generation Next, an organization that aims to eliminate the achievement gap in education. He will also teach a “Mayor 101” course at the University of Minnesota.

To commemorate the end of his unconventional tenure, Rybak, 58, is throwing an “Unauguration Party” on Wednesday at First Avenue (6:30 p.m., 18-plus, $7) with music from Dave Simonett, Chastity Brown, DJ Shannon Blowtorch and more. Proceeds will benefit the STEP-UP Achieve summer-job program. The coolest politico in the state granted an interview to discuss the party, his accomplishments and the TV show “Portlandia.”

 How do you feel about being deemed a “hipster mayor”?

A: [Laughs] At my age, you take when you can get. I’m thrilled.

Q: To what do you attribute your popularity with the 20- to 35-year-old demographic?

A: [Laughs] Because I never matured.

Q: Over the past 12 years, what do you consider highlights of the Twin Cities arts and music scene?

A: What’s different with art and culture in Minneapolis and St. Paul is that it’s woven into our daily life. People here have art and culture in their face everywhere you turn. This is a place that’s always on the cutting edge. That makes it a fun place but also a great place to attract and keep talent.

Q: What would you like to be remembered for as a mayor, other than crowd-surfing?

A: Putting 18,000 kids in summer jobs through STEP-UP.

Q: How did the idea for the Unauguration Party come up?

 We wanted to do something to celebrate but didn’t want some stuffy event, and of course it should be at First Avenue.

Q: Any surprises up your sleeve?

A: I imagine I will dance. Who knows what else I’ll do. The motto of it is “Party like you can’t be impeached” and I plan to take it very literally, slightly short of the [Toronto mayor] Rob Ford level.

Q: Kyle MacLachlan’s portrayal of the mayor of Portland on “Portlandia” seems awfully similar to real life. How would you feel about being impersonated on the TV show?

 How would I feel? There were a lot of people, including my own children, who thought I was the role model for the mayor in “Portlandia.” It’s funny.

Originally published on in Dec. 2013.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Jillian Rae

Q&A: Jillian Rae

“Wholesome” isn’t a word often associated with musicians these days. In the case of Jillian Rae, a 28-year-old violinist, singer and songwriter, the adjective applies. Rae, who grew up in the Iron Range, became immersed in music at age 6. After amassing more than two decades’ worth of experience playing violin in “a bajillion bands,” Rae released her debut LP “Heartbeat” on Dec. 10. A rollicking mix of folk, rock, and bluegrass, Rae delves deep into romantic themes with her soulful voice and spirited energy. While Rae does have a day job, it’s also her passion project: she co-owns and teaches at The Music Lab in South Minneapolis.

Rae granted her first solo interview in anticipation of her album release show at the Cedar Cultural Center on Dec. 14.

Q: Your bio says you grew up in a music-loving household. What sorts of sounds were you exposed to and how do they impact the music you make today?

A: I grew up with divorced parents, so it was kind of like I listened to two totally different kinds of music. My dad is a big ‘60s and ‘70s rock listener—Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan. He introduced me to that power rock music. The first time I saw “Spinal Tap” was over at his house. My mom is a more eclectic music listener. She used to sing back in the day—classic ‘50s and ‘60s music. Then she kind of got into Aerosmith and Fleetwood Mac and Michael Jackson. It was always hard for me to pick a favorite band. I genre-hopped a lot on “Heartbeat.”

Q: You’re a multi-instrumentalist. What does each instrument mean to you and how do you use each one in your music?

A: My first love in life was the violin. At first it was classical and folk music but then I realized, “I can play other stuff on my violin and not just the things that are in my music book.” That’s when I started to play rock ‘n’ roll guitar lead lines on my violin. The violin is the easiest instrument to play. It’s like an appendage of my body at this point. I just picked up a banjo a couple months ago. Trying out new instruments for me is kind of funny because it’s not so comfortable. If I’m going to write a song using the guitar, I have to put a lot more thought into it and sometimes I’ll come up with things I just couldn’t come up with using my violin.

Q: A lot of the songs on “Heartbeat” speak to the theme of love. What experiences inspired the album?

A: Oh, man. We could be on the phone for the rest of the day! I feel like I’ve lived a few lives by now. It was two lifetimes ago I had the “love of my life” situation. So I had gone through falling totally head-over-heels in love and then being totally heartbroken and then kind of regaining my own individuality and falling in and out of love again after that. When I was trying to make a collection of songs to put on this record, that was the common theme. It’s so relatable. I’m an old-fashioned romantic. I’m a fan of love. Whether you’re going through an awesome time or a horrible time, you’re getting something out of life that’s more than a stagnant, straight line.

Q: How did The Music Lab come to be and why is that an important part of your career as a musician?

A: Without naming names, my friend Josie Just and I used to teach at a local chain-like music store with studios. We found that both of us had dreams of opening up our own music school someday. How things were run at the place we were at prompted us to go for it a little sooner than I had anticipated. We started out just the two of us teaching. We now have between 10 and 15 different teachers teaching with us. Every teacher we have is a performing, gigging musician in town and we’re all masters of our instruments. We provide as many performing opportunities as possible. Even when the work load gets to be overwhelming, it’s such a good thing to be doing for other people. You forget that it’s work.

Q: If you won a Grammy, who would you thank in your acceptance speech?

A: Oh my God! [Laughs] This is definitely something I’ve never thought about—not that I wouldn’t love to win a Grammy, but I just feel so disconnected from that industry. The first person I would have to thank is Eric (Martin), he’s my husband and lead guitar player. I’m lucky that I’m not alone in this whole band endeavor. Creatively, I’m good to go, but with all of the behind-the-scenes promotional marketing busywork, he’s my right-hand man. We’ve been married about three years now. He really is the perfect life partner for me. There are so many husband-wife duos or husbands and wives in bands; it’s not something I noticed until I got married, but I’m thinking, “Ah-ha! That makes a lot of sense.” Because it’s a life thing.

Originally published on in Dec. 2013.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Diego Garcia

Q&A: Diego Garcia

When indie rock band Elefant broke up in 2010, frontman Diego Garcia didn’t just go his own way—he did a 180. The Argentine-American who was once declared by New York Magazine as the “Sexiest Lead Singer” released his first solo album, “Laura”, in 2011. The critically acclaimed—and deeply confessional—recording mourned the loss of a relationship that Garcia had with a classmate from Brown University. The couple later reunited, married, and now have two children.

The sonic landscape on Garcia’s recently released sophomore effort reflects this fairytale turn of events. “Paradise” is an indulgent mix of romantic lyricism and tropical rhythm with audible influences from Latin crooners like Julio Iglesias and legendary songwriters like Leonard Cohen.

Garcia was born in Detroit, raised in Florida, and began writing songs at the age of 14. Now 34, the bilingual Garcia spoke to in anticipation of his show at the 7th Street Entry on Dec. 7.

Erica Rivera: I’ve always wanted to ask a musician if songs could win a woman back. It sounds like that might be the case with your album “Laura”?

Diego Garcia: Oh, man, that’s the Hollywood ending. I think that’s a lot more than just songs, but if you want to think it’s the songs, go ahead! I spent five years writing that album, so I think it was time that I grew up a little bit. It prepared me to be in a relationship and then it just happened that she became available. She liked the songs, so that helped. I remember saying, “I’m not going to let her go this time” and I put a lot of work into it.

ER: So now you’ve released “Paradise”. What is paradise to you?

DG: Paradise for me is these eleven songs. What I like to think is that my music can create an escape for you, an escape from the day-to-day, from the things that knock you down, or an escape for you to celebrate something. That was my goal in making this album.

ER: There’s seems to be a myth in the music world that pain is more inspirational than happiness. Has that been true for you or does your emotional state not dictate what you write?

DG: Art doesn’t care if you’re happy or sad. It could care less about how you feel about things. Personal comfort has nothing to do with the music. You have no control over that. I believe that if you’re really a good artist or a good writer, a good song is going to happen, regardless of your state of mind. I could be having a good day and write a miserable song. I could be down in the dumps and I could write “Sunnier Days”. It really has no impact. But I can tell you that there’s no pain involved in writing. There’s no pain involved in performing. I get asked if singing these songs I wrote years ago makes me sad and no, not at all. It’s a physical thing, full of life.

ER: Talk about the transition from being in Elefant to embarking on your solo career. What was that like for you artistically?

DG: The constant is still the same: I write all the songs on the guitar. The big difference is that in a band, you just press “record” and that’s what you get. Your sound is sort of defined before you get in the studio by the personalities playing the instruments. And when it works, it’s beautiful. When I went solo, I spent five years experimenting with different styles and sounds until I felt comfortable that I’d captured something that was a true and honest extension of who I am. As a solo artist, you can get lost in a studio because there’s a million different ways to dress up the songs.

ER: Do you have any advice for men who want to be more romantic?

DG:  [Laughs] Yeah: tequila, porno—I don’t know. What does that mean? If you want to make a relationship work, you need to make the woman your priority. And then… [Laughs] A lot of cunnilingus! I laugh because you can be romantic and still be dirty. What do you want to hear? “Flowers and love letters”? No! I think you just gotta make her feel like she’s the most important thing in the world at all times. And, obviously, try to eat well, don’t get too fat, work out, I don’t know, shave?

ER: Those are all good things.

DG: I’m not Dr. Phil. Every day it’s hard. It’s a job. Make sure you’re in love with the person before you…get in there. That’s important, too. Hey—my wife Laura is driving in the same car. It’s been really awesome talking to you about this with her next to me. Do you want to say “hi”, ask her a question?

ER: Absolutely!

Laura Garcia: I can’t listen to my husband tell you about how to be romantic. He’s very romantic. He’s playing it down.

DG: How am I romantic?

LG: He writes songs for me.

ER: Has he ever written a song for you that you didn’t like?

LG: No.

DG: Aww!

ER: How do you feel, Laura, about being the subject of your husband’s art?

DG: My muse!

LG: I’m flattered. I hope that it’s a good thing and that it doesn’t mean I drive him crazy sometimes.

Originally published on in Dec. 2013.