Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Erica Rivera Profiles 75F

Erica Rivera interviewed Deepinder Singh, the founder of 75F, a high-tech HVAC system company. Read more in the February 2015 issue of Minnesota Business magazine.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Erica Rivera Reports on Interior Design Trends

Erica Rivera spoke to designers from Grace Hill Design and Lilu Interiors to find out which trends reigned in 2014 and which ones will stick around in 2015. Read the article in the Star Tribune Home section or online here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Erica Rivera Interviews Zola Jesus

Q&A: Zola Jesus

Nika Roza Danilova is the mastermind behind the experimental pop persona Zola Jesus. The Wisconsin-bred Danilova began studying opera at age 8 but gave it up ten years later to pursue more free-form expression. Initially an underground artist while pursuing studies in Philosophy and French at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the 25-year-old now boasts five studio albums of her big, bumping, darkly-themed brand of tunes. Her latest effort is 2014’s “Taiga,” named after the Russian word for “forest” and the biggest biome in the world. The intense collection of eleven songs is a result of nine months of immersion in the wilds of the Vashon Island in Puget Sound. Danilova now lives in Seattle with her entomologist husband.

Q: Where did the name Zola Jesus come from?

A: Oh, man. I was 14 years old and I came up with it completely randomly. I was reading [French author Émile] Zola at the time and liked the idea of Zola Jesus. I made people call me that at school and it just stuck.

Q: Initially, you were studying opera. What made you switch genres?

A: I became a little disillusioned with opera because of the heavy tradition and all of the rules, the fact that you can be good or bad or right or wrong. As a child, that became too much for me, so I used Zola Jesus as a means to explore music that didn’t necessarily have to be a boring tradition; it could be whatever I wanted to do.

Q: How have you seen your music evolve over the years?

A: Everything’s completely experimental. Every time I make a new song, I’m trying something new or exploring territory that I’ve never tried before. In that sense, it’s very impulsive, but it definitely evolves throughout the years, naturally.

Q: Do you tend to start with lyrics or instrumentation?

A: It totally depends on the song.

Q: Tell me about your relationship with nature and how it influenced your latest album.

A: I grew up around it. I grew up in Northern Wisconsin and nature was just part of my life. I didn’t think about it, but my family lived in the woods and relied on that a lot for living. I moved away from them and I started to miss it a lot, so I moved back to the woods in a sense and it felt like home again. I was able to create music in a much different way than I’d done before.

Q: You told “Interview” that “Everything I do is a reflection of the duality within me.” What dualities do you grapple with on a daily basis?

A: Everything. Black and white, right and wrong, things like that. There are shades on a spectrum, but for some reason, I can only oscillate between the extremes, especially in music, you know? Pop versus experimental, accessible versus inaccessible.

Q: What are your favorite fashion pieces at the moment?

A: Black turtleneck and black pants. I’ve been wearing that for four or five months straight now. I get into obsessions about clothing. Right now, I have a very uniform look where you wear one thing and you wear it every day and don’t have to think about it.

Q: What about hair and makeup?

A: Pretty minimal. I don’t wear very much makeup and my hair is long right now. It’s pretty wild, but I usually style it.

Q: How did you end up in Seattle?

A: Randomly. I visited on tour and fell in love with the city and the coast. I wanted to move out of Los Angeles and I picked here.

Q: What do you miss most about the Midwest?

A: I miss my family. The culture of Northern Wisconsin is pretty unique. The Pacific Northwest reminds me of the Midwest in a way.

Q: What are you looking forward to in 2015?

A: Touring and trying new things.

Originally published on in Jan. 2015.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Erica Rivera Interviews Alingon Mitra

Q&A: Alingon Mitra

Comedian Alingon Mitra is living proof that the “nice guys finish last” maxim is wrong. The 27-year-old from Worcester, Massachusetts not only won the 2013 Boston Comedy Festival Contest, he divided his $10,000 prize between One Fund Boston and 95 other contest competitors. Mitra is a veteran of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” where he triumphed in the Comic Comeback contest, and has appeared on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Mitra initially caught the comedy bug while watching Comedy Central in middle school; he later went on to graduate from Harvard University, where he wrote for the Harvard Lampoon.

Q: At what point did comedy become your full-time job?

A: After performing on Last Comic Standing, there was enough in the pipeline to make it work.

Q: Do you feel that comedy is a craft or an inborn talent?

A: Probably like in music or sports, people have an inborn talent that leads them to have a certain proficiency with it, but like anything else, you have to build on what talents you have to make sure you have all the tools in your belt when you’re performing.

Q: How did you pick up the tools you use?

A: Whenever I’m watching stand-up, I try to find the stand-ups that are doing well or that I appreciate and try to decipher what elements they are using to generate laughs. If there’s some way to learn those skills, I try to do that. At that point, it becomes a trial-and-error process.

Q: What is your favorite thing happening in popular culture right now?

A: I’m not really big into pop culture; when things strike me, that’s when they turn into material. I guess the big thing going on right now is the North Korea leaks and “The Interview.”

Q: What are your thoughts on censorship in comedy?

A: If there are pre-determined rules when you’re going into a show, as a professional, you should abide by them, but what normally dictates what you should say as a comedian is: Are you getting laughs from what you’re saying? As long as you’re getting laughs and they aren’t coming from a place of malice, you shouldn’t be prevented from saying those things.

Q: Tell me about a time that a joke bombed.

A: I try to forget the jokes that I bombed. I’m sure if I go through my joke book, I’ll find one, I just can’t remember one off the top of my head.

Q: How do you use social media in your comedy?

A: I wasn’t big on it for a while. I felt it was important to develop the material before trying to get a fan base, but on “Last Comic Standing” two semi-finalists who weren’t chosen to be in the finals were picked to be in an online contest where people were voting on Twitter. That’s how I started making use of Twitter. You could see online who was voting for you. I tried to connect with everybody who voted for me by thanking them. Since then, I’ve tried to make a little bit of a presence on the Twitter.

Q: Have you had any blowback on Twitter?

A: Not really. I’m not saying anything that generates hate. I joke about, like, Disney movies, so it’s hard for people to come after me on that. For the most part, I just try to connect with the people who are positive and ignore the negativity.

Q: Do you ever get hecklers at your shows?

A: My style isn’t really that abrasive or confrontational. Normally, I’m not dealing with hecklers in the ways other comics deal with it. I don’t get people talking trash, I just get drunk people who, if you say something that connects with them and they have something to add and they’re too drunk to realize that’s not what you’re supposed to do in that setting, start talking about it with you and you have to explain that we’re not here for a conversation.

Q: What are your resolutions for 2015?

A: The usual stuff. Eat fruits and vegetables. Not eat cookies for breakfast. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Erica Rivera Authored Most-Read Minnesota Business Magazine Article of 2014

Erica Rivera's article on creative agency Zeus Jones nabbed the top spot in Minnesota Business magazine's top 10 articles of 2014. The profile was featured in the April 2014 issue of the magazine.