**Good Morning Friends … I have submitted this piece to be a part of a bigger audience, next month. Please cross your fingers and toes, that I’m one of the lucky ones to be chosen to be featured with a Guest Submission on The Ink Owl’s Page … I’ve included the link to their page, so you can check them out, and or submit something of your own!**
The prompt, for the submission, from the page, is as follows:
” I would like submissions to contain an essence of fantasy as well as reflect this prompt”:
“Into the deep I plunge.”
I’ve included that, so my poem, makes more sense, as you read it. Enjoy! As always, constructive criticism, is more than welcome! ;o)
Into the deep I plunge …
The deepest, darkest place
I can find … in my brain,
Yet … nowhere to be found.
The light, the one that once shone
From within, is beckoning to be heard ….
To be seen … to be loved.
Into the deep I plunge,
Happily Ever After…
One step forward,
Two steps back.
I vowed FOREVER!
Is forever now?
The deeper I plunge,
The further I fall …
… into GRACE?! …
A space forgotten by me,
Forgotten by all!
Shame on them, shame on me!
Take me deep …
Keep falling … Hold Me!
Let Me GO! … Take my hand,
Fall with me …..
Into the deep I go …
Where? What? Why? …
… HOW?! …
How have I fallen…
This deep, without letting go?
Further … Slower … Clinching
Oh … I see now … REJOICING!
You never let go …
Into the deep I plunge …
It’s warm … welcoming,
Inviting … I like it here …
A little girl died. Twelve years young. I don’t know her. I don’t even know her family, yet my heart is crushed, overwhelmed with sadness for her. It is all I have been thinking about, since I learned of it last night. Maybe because I’m a mom, maybe because I have a step-son that just turned 12, maybe because I’m freaking human?!
She didn’t die because she was sick. She didn’t die because of an accident. She was bullied, and she chose to die. I can’t bear the thought of, “What if that was my kid?”. Hell … What if that was YOUR kid?
“It won’t happen to my kid!” … “Bully?! My kid?! NEVER!” … “I know my child, and he/she is fine.”
ARE THEY?! Do you KNOW if your child is okay? Better yet, do you know if your child is the bully? Have you checked through your child’s phone, tablet, etc., to SEE what they are getting in to? Do you regularly have conversations with your children about how THEIR day was? Do you have conversations about the “kid” that doesn’t have any friends?
“We’ve set our parental controls, they can’t get to that “stuff”.” … REALLY?! … They can’t?! Did you remember to set the parental controls at every single one of their friends’ homes, too?!
I remember when my, now almost 16 year old, daughter acquired her very first Instagram account. I was like a fly on shit checking in after her, setting controls, CONTROLLING who she followed, and who was allowed to follow her back. PHEW!! That’s a lot of work!! That’s a whole other job, within itself. These days, parents don’t have time to check, recheck, check again … Oh, and add on a sibling or two, or Lord help you … more, yes I fall into this category, as well, lol, who also have phones, tablets, etc., it’s exhausting to try and keep up. I also remember the ridicule I received from family members/friends regarding my daughter’s account, and how many followers she had, etc.
As the years have passed, I see family and friends children now on Instagram, at a younger age, than my daughter was. Which, I can go on for hours about that topic, however, my point is this: it’s easy to point fingers, when you haven’t “been there and done that”. Well, I’m here to tell you that I’ve been there AND done that! You can monitor everything you like, but it all comes down to one thing… Yup, you guessed it … PARENTING!! Now, I am NOT saying to never check their stuff, but the sneak attack is always the best approach, and Ohhhh SOOO much better <insert evil laugh>. If they suspect it’s coming, they will hide and/or delete all the shit they don’t want you to see. TRUST ME!
“Your child has a phone? Aren’t they in 2nd or 3rd grade? … Ohhhhh, you’re going to CLOSELY monitor them. Cool. Now THAT makes sense.”
NO IT DOESN’T!! Children don’t have filters. They say what they want, when they want. Until a young person has the ability to THINK about what they are going to say, they shouldn’t have any type of time, on any type of social ANYTHING! The end! You cannot erase words that are typed and sent. Plain and simple.
Let’s not forget the kids without phones, tablets, etc.. I know these days it’s all about “keeping up with the Jones”, I get it. However, there are little people in Pre-School, Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades. These little people, hopefully, don’t have access to freelybe on any type of device without the proper supervision. It’s during these years that parents and teachers are going above and beyond to raise Bully Awareness. It stops at a certain grade level for whatever reason. Maybe they feel the first 6 years or so of Bully Awareness, in public school, is enough? Well it’s not.
As the mother of two high school age children, one middle school, and one elementary, I’m here to tell you that it stops. I feel fortunate to live where I live. Our school systems really do go above and beyond to raise awareness for Bullying, along with our community.
As a matter of fact, I remember when a good friend of our family, Tommy Peterson, started this “little” Organization, along with the kicker from the Denver Broncos, Brandon McManus, 2016 Super Bowl Champ (Not to throw any names around or anything) called The Anti-Bully Squad. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not so little.
The Anti-Bully Squad (aka: ABS) has over 40,000 SQUAD MEMBERS from the United States, plus FOUR other countries! They give assemblies in NJ, PA, NY, CO & UT. Lee Rouson, a 2-time Super Bowl Champ with the NY Giants, wink wink, is their Vice President. They team up with the NY Jets, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, The NJ Devils, and the Sussex County Minor’s, for Bully Awareness. They are ahhhhh-mazing, and I’m proud to call Tommy, my friend. For more information on ABS, please check them out on their website, at: antibullysquad.org . They are always there, ready for new Squad Members!! It will truly benefit you to check them out!!
In closing, I’d like to leave you all with this ..
Kindness: noun. The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.
The word KIND, always comes to mind, in these situations. BE KIND! It’s not that hard. It’s so stinking simple. Our children emulate us. They follow OUR footsteps, from the moment they are aware. When YOU are kind, THEY are kind. Communicate … Always talk to your kids. Be involved. Be Gentle. Be Aware. Be Considerate. Be Friendly. Be Generous. Be Tender. Be Gracious. Be anything … but MEAN. Please, just be kind.
I got excited today. For the first time in a long time I feel pure EXCITEMENT … I feel meaning, purpose … like this is where I’ve needed to be for a long time, and finally got the courage to try and make my dreams, a reality. For what, you ask? JuSteph.4.All. Get it? JuSteph (like Justice) 4 All! Or a play on words with the infamous Sean Hayes, as Jack on Will & Grace, when he would say “Just Jack”!!
The “name” for my blog page came to me rather quickly, once I sat and thought about it for longer than 5 seconds. Yup, I googled. I researched. Clickity click (=me typing) … ways to name a blog … Clickity click … ways to name an effective blog, clickity click … ways to name a catchy blog … clickity clack … ways I’ll go cray cray trying to name my first ever, want it to be PERFECT blog … clickity click clackity clook … ways to tell my family their lives are about to forever change, because I’m going to write about THEM, probably on the regs … clickity click … ways to kiss a toady frog, lol now THAT one was just for CLICKS and giggles … clickity click … 😉
In all seriousness, I don’t know what I’m going to write about, well, I have an idea, obviously, but it’s just about life, basically. I, personally, don’t specialize in one thing, but I have a lot of experience in almost everything … That being said, Hi, my name is Stephanie, I am currently 41, and I’m about to enter “The Blog Zone” .. muahhh hahaha! … dum dum dummmmm!!!
My love for writing started at a very young age. I have always had a vivid imagination, and would sometimes use it to get out of trouble … whoops! Regardless, I have a hard time conveying my thoughts and feelings on the fly … which is why I love to write … These are my words … My thoughts … My feelings. No one can tell me that I am wrong, and I can always go back, re-read, edit, post. No one can “boss” my words around, and I’m here to tell you that writing for my own pleasure, has been a dream of mine forever. Potentially making a career out of what I love to do, is my ultimate goal. Be constructive of my writing … I’m learning as I go. I can take criticism … constructively. 😉 I have no time, and no need for negative nellies … You can all kiss my arse … with that being said … I will swear and I will cuss, but it will never be in a negatively, mean manner … I have a mouth like a trucker, and in my own American opinion, the more you swear, the more honest you are!! If you don’t have patience for a potty mouth … Move the fuck on … and I say that in the most loving way possible. I mean no harm … I am who I am … JuSteph4All has just been born … ENJOY!
Take more pictures
This is your vow
Don’t wait until tomorrow
Start taking them now!
Tomorrow’s not promised,
We take advantage of mother time
Uncork more bottles,
Start “cheering” the wine.
Spend more time reading,
Than running around.
Take time to relax; or
You’re gonna fall down.
You need to be strong,
On her life, she now depends,
For you to be the one, Who repairs all of her mends.
You know you got this,
We’ve been here before …
The faith that comes
Is banging on your door.
I recently sat with a young lady named Victoria Skie. She is an up and comer in the music industry, and quite frankly, a breath of fresh air. Having teenagers of my own, I know how snarky they can be … I also know how wonderful they can be. That being said, Victoria is someone I could have spoken with for HOURS, but our time was limited, and it had to end somewhere … sigh.
It was a Tuesday afternoon, in Montclair, NJ. We met at a Starbucks, near her manager’s office, on Church Street. Her manager is Hakim Bell, you may remember him from a previous blog of mine, and if not, do yourself a favor and Meet Hakim. The weather was perfect, not too hot, not too cold. Trying to find parking in Montclair, is challenging, but once I found a spot, I could already see Victoria sitting at a table, outside of Starbucks, as we discussed. I had already seen her many videos on youtube, so I knew what she looked like, yet I was completely taken aback at her natural beauty … stunning actually, with very little makeup on. Like I said … A breath of fresh air.
After our introductions were made, we sat and began our lovely conversation. I gave Victoria some background information about myself. I always feel it necessary, for the person I’m interviewing, to know a little about me. It seems to make the other person feel more comfy, and I have found that the conversation just flows easier, when you feel like you’re old friends. :o)
Victoria Skie, whose full name is, Victoria Marchlewski, shared a little background, as well. She is 18, and just graduated from high school, this past school year … Class of 2017!! Both of her parents are from Poland, so she is 100% polish, which she takes SO much pride in.
“My dad played in a wedding band, in Poland, when he was a teenager, and my mom has always been a singer. She loves singing, and always wanted to be a pop singer, but my grandfather was very traditional. Not that he didn’t have appreciation for pop music, he was just more of an “opera” man. When he grew up, he became an Impresario of Poland, and he would bring shows over to America. He had a lavish lifestyle, and he would like to go to Opera’s, and what not. He set my mom up for opera voice lessons, and she just hasn’t been able to switch it off, from all of the classical training. ((SIDE NOTE: Once you train in classical style, it IS very hard to turn this switch off)). She has always had that want to sing popular music in Poland, so I feel like that’s why she is so supportive of me. I have taken a year, or two, off from school, to help pursue my career in music, and she is here with me, always. My father is so supportive, as well. They both had “the dream”, and so I feel like we are all working on it together, so it’s really exciting!”
For me, it’s so refreshing to see the beam in Victoria’s eyes when she spoke of her parents. I was lucky enough to meet her mother, right before our interview, and she is, indeed, a lovely lady. After you peruse my interview, it will be easy to see that the apple probably didn’t fall far from the tree, in my opinion. This is one up and comer, that I hope and pray, finds her way to the “big stage” … she is simply ahhh-mazing!
Victoria, Who do you look up to musically? “I have a lot of answers for this. So, I look up to Ariana Grande’s production team, because I feel like every song they put out, is a hit, even if the lyrics are questionable. I just feel like the background music, the beats, the bass lines, are always so catchy. So, I’m definitely inspired by her production team. I also look up to Ed Sheeran, because he’s just so chill, and low-key, and just like it’s no big deal, ‘Gonna play MSG tonight’, and I find that so awe-inspiring, just because he’s able to connect with so many people, and NOT be taken over by the industry side. Oh, and Tori Kelly … she’s built her brand from the beginning by herself, and I’ve read a few articles on her, with her business side of things, and how her parents have been a part of it, and that’s huge for me. I want my parents to be a part of everything, because I feel like they have been so instrumental in allowing me to do it, they have given up a lot to support me, and it’s important to me, that they are there with me, every step of the way.”
SEE … refreshing … If only every teenager out there, could appreciate, and respect everything their parents do for them. It doesn’t matter WHAT situation you are in, if you have parents that give a $hit … RESPECT THEM! Otherwise, you’re going to regret how you’ve treated them, one day.
What’s your motto, or message that you want to convey to your young(er) listeners/fans … You know, to the young people, who are now looking up to you?
“This is actually something my old choir teacher taught me … I love choir music, by the way … I love all types of music, but I have been doing state choirs, and regional choirs throughout high school, so I’ve really developed a love for dissonance and different harmonies, and stuff. So, I was fortunate enough to have Stevie Rawlings, as my choir teacher. She had spent a crazy amount of time in show business, before coming to our school, as the choir teacher. So, I played her one of the very first songs I had ever written for my project, ((which means, recording and presenting her original music to executives in hopes of a record deal)), and she sat me down and said, “You should really pursue this”, and then followed up with, “What you have to do in life is, whatever you’re first thinking of in the morning, and the last thing you’re thinking of at night before you go to sleep”, and so ever since then, that’s been my biggest piece of advice. I know kids are pushed by parents, and societal pressures to pick jobs where they make the “most money”, or job stability, but really, even if your job is stable and you’re making a lot of money, when you’re 50 years old, and you’ve always wanted to be singer or a writer, and you’ve never done it, then you’re going to regret it one day. So, to me, it’s better to not have regrets, than to always be “safe”.”
She’s right … you will regret it! Which is why, at 41, I have decided to pursue my writing career. If you don’t ever try, you will NEVER know. This is a very good lesson to learn at such a young age. She is wise beyond her years. Very well spoken, which lead me to this question, because there is no such thing as a perfect teenager … or is there?! ;o)What’s the most trouble you have ever gotten into? A little giggle ensues, followed with … “So, I asked my mom, for my 13th birthday, for Justin Bieber tickets, and I wanted the meet and greet SO BAD ((like every other Belieber out there!)) .. so of course, the meet and greet sold out immediately … so then I accidentally, set us up for a “bid” for tickets .. and I SWEAR, it was an accident ((and she swore up and down that it was an accident)) … so we ended up winning, ummm, for A LOT of money, umm ((almost hiding her face)) TENTH ROW tickets, and my mom had just found it on her credit card statement the next month .. and was like, “Well, I guess we’re going to a Justin Bieber concert!” … and she was SO ANGRY at me, and I was still like, I swear I didn’t know … but then we ended up going, and at the time, it was THE BEST CONCERT EVER, but I did get in a lot of trouble, but so worth it!”
It’s refreshing to know that THIS is the biggest trouble a young, beautiful, aspiring artist has gotten herself into … Lord knows, there are way worse things out there … However, inquiring minds do want to know …
Just how much WERE those Bieber tickets? “OMG … Like $900.00 for both!!! I still feel SO BAD!”
LOL Well, Victoria, it’s my opinion, that one day, you’ll be able to pay them back for those tickets … and then some! :o)
Why is it important to you, as an artist, to be a good role model?
“This is like a BIG thing for me, because not that it upsets me, because I know that every artist has their own audience, and their own image they’re trying to portray, but I feel like there’s too many. The majority of artists that are my age, and female, are so like, over exposed on stage, and they sing about provocative things, and not that that is bad … Look, Rhianna can do it well, Beyoncé can do it well, also, they are in their 20’s ((or older)) … When you’re 17, and your audience are 12/13 year olds, and you’re using curse words in your songs, or using sexual ((innuendos)), it’s just not good. Everyone keeps complaining that generations are getting worse and worse, but what are we giving out to these generations?! Stuff that’s worse and worse!! Seventeen year olds are talking about drinking and smoking in their songs, and kids are listening to it, saying … Well, “this person” who’s really famous, and has a lot of people who like them, are doing these things, so maybe if I do these same things, then people will like me too … and I think that there’s a niche that’s open now, like I feel like there’s a need, in the music industry, for artists that are around my age, that are not gonna do that ((promote smoking, drinking, violence, drugs)).”
It is in my opinion, as a mother, that THESE are the kids that need to be headlining these shows, with their message of positivity, dressing so they’re comfortable, not the way “society” thinks they should dress … just giving a different message, other than sex, violence and drugs.
How old were you when you started to write/play? “I’ve been writing short stories and stuff since I was little, little. Let’s just say my first couple songs, and when I say couple, I mean like FIFTY, they were HORRENDOUS. I remember I wrote a song in like 3rd grade, called ‘We Came Here To Party’, because my influences at that time, were Shakira, Britney Spears, etc .. So, I was like yeah … let me write a good pop song, and it was just terrible, I mean horrendous. LOL BUT, they started to get better around 10, and I remember my first real “good” song, was called, ‘Help The World’, and I remember I sat down at the piano, which I took lessons for 6 or 7 years ((she learned piano before guitar, but feels more comfy on guitar)), and the chorus was, “Won’t matter your color, your shape, size or dollar, the clothes that you wear, or the country you are from, we’ll live as one”. ((I KNOW! RIGHT?!)) So my mom came home, she heard it, and was like WHAT?! So, the next day I showed my music teacher, Mr. Nalesnik, and he was like WHAT? And when the head of the music department, Ms. Vartanian, heard the song, she asked me to sing it at a library opening that they had, and they had a little peace park made, and she said the song fits perfectly. She was also such a great support throughout my school career. So, that was my first “big” performance, and I have been writing ever since. When I got my guitar, that’s when the songs started shooting out, cause now I had a way of creating background music, and so it just poured out.”
Victoria, since you are an up & comer, I know you sing a lot of covers ((very well, might I add)), but could you please explain your sound to my readers, in your own words? “THIS, is the hardest question ever. So pop has always been a part of my life. I have loved it since I was little, and as I grew up, I started to get more in to acoustic music, or acoustic versions of pop songs, and saw that people who cover songs, can make them their own, and I love urban influences, as well, like Lauryn Hill, or India Arie . My sister introduced me to that type of music when I was younger, and I love the beats and the vibe to it, and at the same time … I love sad music. I love to listen to sad music, I mean, who DOESN’T love a good sad song, and cry?! ((side note: if you just said YOU, you’re a big, fat liar liar, pants on fire! Continue on .. lol)) I just love to cry and then write sad songs, ((a little giggle ensues)) but honestly, it’s the best … it’s so therapeutic!! So, to answer your question, my sound, I would say is Pop, R&B, with a heavy acoustic underlay …”
What’s on your playlist? What do you like to listen to when you aren’t working on your own music? “OMG … EVERYTHING!! When I plug my phone into my friends cars, omg, they laugh at me and are like … WHAT?! Cause one “side” of my playlist is like ridiculous HIP HOP, crazy, loud, funky hip hop songs, and then you listen to the “other side”, which is all classical/choral pieces, and my friends are like, huh? … :o) Then I like Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande, and I LOVE The Civil Wars, who is my all time favorite ever, and I listen to them every night before I go to sleep. I really respect their songwriting, and their ability to capture feelings in three minutes, and I really hope to have that ability one day, and am striving to do that. Who else is on my playlist? Oh, of course, Lauryn Hill, I listen to her when I’m getting ready … ((opens phone to look at playlist)) Ohhh, Pentatonix … I ran the Accapella group in my high school, and I’d arrange pieces for them, so I listened to Pentatonix, A LOT … I also have Josh Groban, cause his voice is just heavenly ((agreed, 1,000%)), I also have Chris Brown, Bruno Mars, Future … I also have a lot of throwback songs, I LOVE listening to the music I used to listen to in like 6th and 7th grades, cause it just brings me back to the good times we had, the dances at school … but yeah, my music is all over the place, ((which is good, it means she has an open mind, and can appreciate all genres of music)) and I feel like it helps someone like me, a songwriter, because you can take influence from other genres and make it your own.”
What is your favorite “go to” song, to belt out in the shower, your car … karaoke? “Whoa, that’s a hard one … Hmmm … Okay, I know, I know … “And I Am Telling You… by: Jennifer Hudson, from Dream Girls … All of my friends love show tunes, and Dream Girls is the one I love the most … So whenever we are doing karaoke, or whatever, it’s the go to song for me! I love it so much!”
Where do you draw inspiration from, when you’re writing your music, and what’s your favorite part of the process? “I love this question, because I feel like it’s unrealistic to say I only draw from personal experiences, that have only happened to me in real life. I feel like everything you do is a personal experience … you read a book or watch a show … it’s a personal experience, because you have personal emotions and reactions to EVERYTHING in life. So, I hate when people say, well you can’t write about love, if you’ve never been in a relationship, but I’ve read books, and seen movies where people have been in loving relationships, and you develop little relationships with characters, and what not, and you can FEEL that love, and like when people say that it’s not genuine, well, yes it is … I mean, when my favorite duo, The Civil Wars broke up, that hurt … I felt that BIG TIME … It was like a break up for me … I was crying, wondering how life would be without their music anymore?! So, I have “felt” that hurt, and that pain, one way or another, and I definitely know what LOVE is … I love my family, my friends, and I feel like it’s unrealistic to say, that you can’t write a song about something you haven’t gone through, when you can definitely relate, in other ways. So, I draw inspiration from everywhere … Life is definitely one of them, but from things I’ve read, movies I’ve seen, experiences friends have had .. I think it just opens up a lot more opportunities, to be open about where inspiration is drawn from.”
What skills or attributes are most important to being successful in this industry? “I think being confident in yourself, and what you produce, is important. I mean, I know I’m not going to please everyone! I know a lot of people are not going to like my music, people are gonna say I stink, and I get all the time, that I write too mature for my age, and I just take that as, thanks … that means that my audience is wider then … I don’t see a problem with writing more mature for your age, especially when there are 17/18 year olds, singing about stuff WAY more mature than I am, and their songs are on the radio. So, I think be confident in what you produce, and in yourself, and don’t take no for an answer. Also, me being a girl, something about the industry that I don’t like, and this is just in general, not everyone, but sometimes, if you’re a male in the industry, and you know what you want, you’re a visionary, or an inspiration to others. However, if you’re a girl and you know what you want, you’re hard to work with. I find that super annoying, because I AM a perfectionist when it comes to my music, I can go without cleaning my room for 6 months, but if my music is not correct, then I am angry, because I put too much time into it, and too much thought, for it to be wrong. So, I always want to be a part of everything, from songwriting, to production, to final tweaks and mixings, and stuff. I just want everything to be perfect, the way I want it, because it’s MY music.“
It’s also a true sign of great work ethic and discipline. I swear … This young lady, is seriously going places, and I’m honored to be a tiny part of the process!
Is there anything else you don’t like about this business, or is there something you feel could just be better, about the industry? “Definitely. I think it’s so money driven, but so is every industry, so that’s understandable. I mean, no one wants to invest money into something ((or someone)) that won’t produce. I think that’s a downfall in the industry, because it allows for loopholes. For instance, if you have a lot of money, you may “make it” faster than someone who doesn’t have a lot of money, and has been working hard their entire life, just to be noticed by someone. I think that 40/50 years ago, the music industry was a lot more genuine, and I think that’s partially the fault of the internet and technology, because now you don’t make money on your music, because people can illegally download it. It’s all about merch ((merchandise)), and ticket sales. So, if you are not able to build that brand, and have a huge following on your social media platforms, because they are such a huge part of everyday life, then you’re not gonna get the same chances, as someone who has 3 million followers on Instagram ((or other social media outlets)).”
If you could open for any artist or band, on tour now or the recent past, who would it be, and why? “I think it’s important to be with someone who is similar to my genre or sound, just to be exposed to an audience who may be more receptive of my music. I also think it’s so important for people to listen to music from every generation … because there are geniuses in every generation, you just have to find them, listen to them, appreciate them, and learn from them … emulate them, not copy them. Definitely challenge yourself, and broaden your horizons. So, to answer your question, hmmm, maybe Tori Kelly … she’s another one of my big inspirations, so maybe for her, or like Ed Sheeran, that would be INSANE, because he plays big stadiums …” ((I interjected with a question, because I think Ed Sheeran is freaking AMAZING, yet I’m always reading about the haters out there, to the point where I’ve already started to collect information, for a blog that I intend to write regarding this exact topic … I mean, do people even know just how amazing he is??))
So, I asked Victoria, why do you think Ed Sheeran gets such a “bad rap”? “I think that people just aren’t used to someone, of celebrity status, being so “normal”. I feel like when you’re thatfamous, you’re supposed to be snobby, you’re supposed to wear thousand dollar t-shirts, and he just doesn’t. He just sings. So, for every person that doesn’t like him, there’s like 16 that do, so he’s doing it right … living the dream!”
AMEN!! I love Ed Sheeran, and I’m not afraid to say it!!!
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not writing or making music? “Well, since I grew up in Jersey, I’m such a “joisey girl” … I love going “down the shore”, I love the boardwalk and the beach, but I also love sleeping. I never sleep. I write my best songs at 4 a.m., so I’m always up, writing, trying to edit vocals, etc … I also like to hang out with my friends, because I’m always so super busy with my music, and I also have a part-time job, because I love to shop, and buy new outfits for my performances, etc … So when I do have a day off, I like to go to the beach with my friends, or shopping … I love shopping … retail therapy is a real thing! Lol So yeah, that’s about it!”
If you could sing a duet with anyone, who would it be? ((Without ANY hesitation…)) ” John Paul White, from The Civil Wars, because I love the way his voice blends. I saw him live in Brooklyn, at this beautiful venue, called National Sawdust, where they constructed the room, to give the most amazing sound experience to the audience … only like a hundred people in the audience, standing room. It was a life changing show for me. Everything was insane. I think his songwriting is great. Also, I’ve written a bunch of “sad songs”, that I feel would sound amazing as a duet with him. He’s able to capture that desperate, my heart is breaking feeling/sound in his voice, so well, and it would be my dream, to sing with him.”
Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years? ((I dislike this question with someone who is seasoned, and has been in the industry for YEARS … I think it’s a great question for a young, aspiring artist in the industry)) “I’m hoping in the next 5 years, that I have a major label backing me, because as much as I respect the independent artist way, and I think a lot of people can do it successfully, I just find that in order to reach huge audiences, you need that “push” from the label, and that’s another dream of mine … While I love making music, and staying intimate with my audience, my number one bucket list item, is to play a show at Madison Square Garden, and as an independent artist, yes, some can grow their audiences to be that big, but it’s harder without that “push” from the label. Also in the next 5 years, I hope to have my first solo album out … I’ve written 20 – 30 songs for this project, and I love writing songs, and poems and stuff, so I’m hoping that I have one out, even if it’s not backed by a big label.”
Victoria, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the opportunity to speak with you. I’m in your corner, and wish you nothing but great success in your future. You’re the type of “kid” that this country NEEDS, especially in the times we live!! Our nation is divided, but it’s young people like you, that give me GREAT HOPE, to bring everyone back together! I know that when you do make it, you will use your platform to speak about positivity, empowerment, etc … And, right now, YOU are what our youth needs to look up to! You are a great inspiration to me, and I’m honored to have had the pleasure to interview you for my blog.
You can find Victoria singing at BB Kings in the city. She also sings at Montclair Center Stage for different events. On July 27th, she will be singing the National Anthem at Skyland’s Stadium, while also doing a 30 minute set, right before the game. In September, she has some things in the works in the Washington DC area. Follow this young lady:
Happy 16th Birthday! Since you were born, I couldn’t wait for this day! There’s just something special for a girl, when she turns Sweet 16. I’m not really sure why … even as an adult, I am trying to figure out what’s so “sweet” about being 16. :o) I mean, you’re still in high school (oh what a drag … HA!), your parents still rule the roost, you think you’re an adult, yet, you’re still a child. LOL Ohhhh, I don’t know.
What I DO KNOW, is 16 Reasons Why I Love YOU, being my daughter!
1. You are the kindest person I know, and that’s not an easy feat. I surround myself with kind people, always, yet, you still come out number ONE.
2. You make me so happy, just for being YOU! Don’t ever change.
3. In my opinion, you’re so brave, for being SO honest. It took me a long time to not “sugar coat” things, to not hurt someone’s feelings. You have a way, with your honesty, that I truly admire.
4. I respect you, and your opinion … ALWAYS. Even if I don’t agree, I still hear you.
5. I love that you still like to spend time with me. (Don’t ever stop, even though I may go, go, go … I always have time for you.)
6. You teach me something new, almost daily. (And all these years, you thought I was teaching you!) ;o)
7. You crack me up. I love your sense of humor. Keep laughing, it’s good for the soul. It’s so much easier to be happy, than miserable. Remember, misery loves company, keep steering clear of misery. You’ll be so much happier.
8. I think you’re very good at picking clothes, that YOUR body feels comfortable wearing. These days, it’s easy to get caught up in short shorts, (ridiculous looking) crop tops .. It’s in these moments, that I’m so proud of you, and happy that you listened to me (way back when) when it comes to respecting YOUR body. So damn proud.
HALF WAY THERE!!
9. I LOVE how you love animals. It shows that one day (in the VERY far future), you’ll be a wonderful mother.
10. I love your work ethic. It’s so refreshing to see you (and your brother), working so hard this summer, and saving more than you’re spending. I know that you can now value the worth of a dollar, and how hard you have to work to get the things you want (not need). It’s only going to make you better, as an adult. You will see.
11. ANYBODY, would be lucky to be your friend. You’re thoughtful, caring, loving and MOST importantly, KIND.
12. You have a heart of GOLD, and it radiates through that gorgeous face of yours.
13. You have great instinct. I couldn’t have picked a better boyfriend for you, if I tried.
14. I think you’re meant for BIG THINGS, and by BIG, I just mean … Whatever makes you the happiest to jump out of bed each day, and reach for the stars …
15. Persistence. Maybe something you’ve learned from your step-father, but I do admire it. You are relentless, when it comes to either something you want, or something you’re passionate about, you don’t stop until you’re pleased. It’s an awesome quality to have.
Annnnnnnnnd Drum Rollllllll Please …….
16. I trust you. This trust isn’t just given, it’s earned. You have proven to us that you can be trusted, and that’s MORE than I could have ever hoped for in any of my children, and it’s refreshing to know, that HEY, maybe I (we) have done something right.
Well, it’s not just a maybe … You are proof that good humans still exist, and will exist in the future!! You are an amazing daughter, sister, role model, friend … HUMAN!
Happy Sweet 16, to our very, VERY sweet girl. WE LOVE YOU!
Have you ever felt like you’re in the presence of a musical genius? Does music bring you to another level of “feeling”? Do you remember the first concert you ever went to? What’s that one song you always turn on, when either you’re feeling blue, or happy as hell? These are some things that people tend to never forget, and I recently had an interview, with someone I’ll surely never forget, and his name is Hakim Bell.
Now, I’m sure you have all heard about this “little” band from the 70’s/80’s, through today really, called Kool & The Gang. Celebrate good times, c’mon!!! Yeahhhh, you know who I mean!! Well, I had the honor, of meeting the son of Kool, from the band. His name is Hakim Bell, some may know him as DJ Prince Hakim, as he’s known for spinnin’ in the clubs, parties, events … you name it!!
When I finally found my parking spot on Church Street, in Montclair, I breathed in a big breath, and I said to myself, “You got this!”. I’m not gonna lie, I was nervous. Once I found Hakim’s office, I really felt the jitter bugs, which is a good sign, because it meant that I was really excited with what was about to transpire! Here. Goes. Nothing … (knock knock)
Hakim immediately made me feel comfortable. I could tell that he knew I was very new at this, and his patience and kindness will honestly, never be forgotten. We took our respective seats, in his conference room. We sat across from each other, me with my notes, recording device, and he with his computer, and phone not too far away (always working). He was so chill, so cool, so ready to delve in, and just do it. The sign of a true professional, yet so easy to speak with.
So Hakim, growing up, who was your biggest inspiration, other than your father, of course? “Oh, well RUN DMC, of course. Then, I mean, it changes. As a teenager, it was Run DMC, LL (Cool J), New Edition. I could go on and on.”
If you could eternally be stuck in one year musically, or decade, let’s say, which one? “The seventies, the eighties were good too, but to be stuck, definitely the 70’s. The music is so amazing. The songs, the instruments … everything.”
What is one subgenre that, in your opinion, doesn’t get the attention it deserves? “Oh. That’s an interesting question. Umm, I’d say Indie, that’s a good one. The acoustic, the sound … A band called Haim, they are 3 sisters … They’re Indie and have a cool sound, they’re dope, actually.”
What is your opinion regarding old school DJ’ing, where you were spinning on real vinyl, versus today, where technology plays a HUGE part? “There’s nothing like touching that piece of vinyl, and looking at the grooves, or the scratches in the record, that you make… when you play a record over and over, and you get those grooves… It’s like this … When you first buy a record, it’s nice, it’s shiny, it’s clean, but after you play on it for a year, you know what I mean, those things get nice and grooved. Then looking at the artwork on the cover, flipping it over, and reading who produced it, etc.. Man, there’s just nothing like vinyl! As a matter of fact, I’m giving DJ lessons, out of our Montclair office, on Church Street … Get in contact with me, if you want to learn how to rock the party!! All ages are welcome!!” (Information will be provided below)
Do you think it has hurt the exclusivity for DJ’s having a certain sound, by not using old school vinyl to scratch and tear it up on, versus the use of technology today? “Ummm, not really, I know what you mean, but not really, because it’s really about what records you’re using in the mix, not the record, itself. So it still comes down to your own vibe, and how you blend your song choice and how you scratch and mix these records in. So you still find your song on iTunes. I think your sound can evolve even more now, because you have access to every song out there, when back then, you had to find the song you wanted, go buy it, etc.. So, I think your sound can evolve, for sure.”
What is one song, that never gets old, no matter how many times you’ve heard it? “Ohhhh man … ummmm … Jungle Boogie. Yeah, Jungle Boogie NEVER gets old. Master Jammin’ by Stevie Wonder, Off the Wall by Michael Jackson … MAN, we can go on forever. Hall & Oates, I Can’t Go For That. So many, so many.”
When did you go from DJ’ing to Producing/Managing? “So, while DJing, we were PLAYING the beats that other artists and rappers made. So you start DJ’ing, and now, we want to MAKE the beats, you know, it’s just second nature. Now I want to make these beats, that I’ve been spinnin’, so alright, leave these turntables alone, for a little while, and start producing for the next 10-15 years. And that’s pretty much how I got into that. You know my uncle, co-founder of Kool & The Gang, Ronald Bell, he wrote Jungle Boogie & Celebration, he’s a producer. So, I used to be at his house, as a kid, you know with my cousins, and I would watch him produce. I grew up in the studio.”
Is it fair to say that producing and managing go hand in hand?
“No. Management … man, I got into management, and I only manage one artist, Victoria Skie. I usually sign an artist, in the past, to my production company, meaning … I would take them, find their sound, produce their demo, at my own expense. I would do artist development, meaning, teach them how to walk, how to sing, how to conduct an interview, you know, all that stuff, and put together their sound, identify their sound, put together a demo, all at my expense, that’s what a production company does. So, I left that alone, because we would get so close to getting these artists deals, and then something … either an attitude problem, or they decide not to do it anymore, or they just didn’t cut it for a record label. You know, there was just something they were missing. So, you know, that’s a lot of time and money, so I kinda fell back from doing that, I kinda left messin’ with other artists alone.”
(And then there was Victoria, who in my own opinion, has the voice of an angel.)
Is Victoria your only client, and how did you find her?
“So, I was here, in my office, and I got a call from Joann Smalls, who is the head of Montclair Center Stage, she said, “Hakim, you have to come hear this girl sing”, and I was like “Ohhhhhh, c’mon, what, why”, and she was like, “You HAVE to come hear her!” You know, you hear it allll the time, this trash, lol. So she finally convinced me.. I’m walking down the street, right here on Church Street, and I’m hearing this girl sing, and I get up there and I sat there the whole time (in awe), like WOW! This girl’s got something. So from there, I talked to her parents, and I said, “We need to meet NOW!” So, Joanne told them who I was, and we had a meeting, THAT DAY, and the rest is history … you know, we made a deal, and now I manage her, and of course, it’s based on a couple things, cause I don’t like to promise anybody, anything. I know people think I’m crazy, but I’ll put together a deal, where, look, I’ll say, let’s put together an agreement, XYZ, and it doesn’t go into full effect, unless I deliver on my goal, but I want a certain amount of time to do that. I mean, I’m getting her some major things right now, an interview with you, she sings at BB King’s, I have her booked at the State Fair, etc … So I am doing a lot of managerial stuff, but we’re not makin’ a lot of money, YET!! 🙂 Let’s keep it real, surrounding her with the best team, getting a record deal, and yes, making money … that’s the bottom line. For me personally, it’s to be a part of an artist’s’ career that can be a major star in the world and influence culture, and I believe she can. So, yeah, that’s why I got into the management side of it. You know, I’m not looking to manage a bunch of artists. I’ll be fine with just Victoria, and myself, for now.”
What does it take, to make it in today’s industry? How do you KNOW, when someone has that “IT” factor? “I just know. I just know. Well, I think I know. You can just tell. It’s good to have a great sounding demo, you know, a great sounding recording, but if you’re talented, a seasoned manager or executive, should be able to recognize great talent, just from a voice recording of you singing your songs. A seasoned executive will recognize that talent right away, and then take that talent, and put it where it needs to be. So, there’s really no excuse. If you’ve got talent, and you’re taking the time to upload your stuff, persistently, they’ll find you, as long as you keep marketing yourself.”
Other than being “sellable or marketable”, meaning the way the artist just looks on the outside, what do you feel are other elements an artist needs, in order to be successful? “Great body language, great songs, catchy commercial songs … I think you need to be a great songwriter, it’s very important to me, AND it’s YOU, you should want to tell your story. So like the fabulous “Rhianna’s”, or the amazing “Beyonce’s” out there, they may not write their songs, now they may co-write, but they might not fully write them. I think for a true artist, you know, someone like Lady Gaga, or even Victoria, you want to tell your story. Like if something happened to Lady Gaga last night, she’ll write about it today, get on her piano, and write a song about it. Now that’s dope.”
Hakim, your stage name is DJ Prince Hakim, where can we find you? “I’m gonna start MC’ing … hosting events, and stuff. For right now, it’s DJ’ing, and I also tour with my dad. I used to do about 40 shows with them a year, ‘cause they do about 80, but now I do about 5 – 10 with them.”
I still can’t believe that, after all these years, they are doing 80 shows per year!! “Yeah, man … you should see their list, and you know, they have guys that have been with them since the 70’s, they have some new guys with them, as well, they have good talent, and you know, my dad is just sitting there on bass, chillin’ in the pocket, he’s not out front spinning and dancing. Sometimes people think that he’s the singer, but ‘Kool’ is actually the bass player, and my uncle, is the original horn player. So, yeah, but even at that, with the planes, and the travel, it’s a lot, but they still look great, and they’re still kickin’ it, man.” 🙂
As a person, who just started my journey in the blog world at 41 years young, THIS motivates me more than ANYTHING, to never stop believing in myself, or my dreams. I hope this is just as motivating for you all. Anything can happen! Anything.
Tell me what else you have going on… “So, some things I’m excited about this summer are: Booking more shows for Victoria, and putting the finishing touches on her record. Finding the right company to partner up with for her EP. I’ll also be DJ’ing on the 4th of July at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. I’ll also be making my Hampton debut, DJ’ing at the Surf Lodge, and I’ll be making my return Dj’ing at the popular speakeasy, called La Esquina in Soho. Of course, I also offer the DJ lessons, as well.”
Well, Hakim, I think you’re dope! I greatly appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to sit, and have a wonderful conversation with me. I’m a huge fan of the arts, music especially… and opportunities that are being presented to me, are like a dream come true. I joke a lot about my “age”, and being “old”, but at the end of the day, there is no age to inspiration. I have been inspired beyond words, after this conversation. I am on cloud 9, pursuing my dream, my passion … there’s just nothing more “dope”, if you will!! 😉
Please do yourself a favor, and check out DJ Prince Hakim this summer. Whether it be at a Kool & The Gang Show, in the clubs, or taking some DJ lessons, you won’t be disappointed, that’s for damn sure!!
You can find more information on his website at www.djprincehakim.com, and in the words of Hakim, himself, “DON’T FORGET TO CELEBRATE LIFE!” Peace.
For me, it’s writing. This is my passion. Spreading inspiration, creating imagery with words, taking your head to another place, even if for a little while … THAT’S my passion, with four kids, a husband, 6 chickens, 2 bunnies, a dog and a cat … That’s about as passionate as I get, these days … wink wink!!
Recently, I sat with Rocco Costanza, who is a 24-year-old ROCK STAR … well, at least locally, he is, but I promise you, please remember his name, because his talents are certainly going to pay off … maybe sooner than expected. Rocco walked into my house, very confident with his dark Ray Ban Aviators on, his very cool, very stylish ripped jeans, hat on backwards, guitar in hand … ready to sit down and chit-chat. I couldn’t help but to wonder … Was I that confident at 24?!
Immediately, I admired him. Was it the confidence I admired? Yes, but that’s not all. He was polite, respectful, talked to my youngest child as if he knew her forever … a rock star, but better!!
In an earlier blog, I mentioned The Anti-Bully Squad, which was started by a friend of mine and my husband, Tom Peterson, along side Brandon McManus, from the Denver Broncos. Well, Tommy also started another campaign back in 2000, along with an old buddy of his, Kyle Poyer, (small world) who is also from the area, but now resides in Anderson, IN. Together, they have formed something called Rock For Character, and I’m on a mission, to be their voice, so they are heard!!
This campaign is AHHHMAZING! I’m a lover of writing first, but music is a very, very close second place! For me, it’s my get-a-way from LIFE. If I’m in a bad mood, I’m cranking up the tunes, because I know, that at some point while listening, my mood will change. It’s magical. Why is it magical? WHO CARES WHY?! It just is, and that’s all that should matter, because I know that I’m not the only person this happens to.
Me: “What was your favorite elective in elementary school?”
Rocco: “It was music, and gym.”
For me, it was music. I love to sing. I’m a freaking rock star every day in my shower. It’s an AMAZING show, too bad my family are the only ones to have the privilege of listening to SUCH awesomeness! wink wink!
Me: “Why is it important to keep music in schools?”
Rocco: “If music wasn’t in school when I was younger, I wouldn’t have had the desire to sing, and make music.”
He also went on to say that it was his MUSIC TEACHER, who taught him how to play the piano … in school … for free. Did you hear me?! FOR FREE!! Yet, another, rather PHENOMENAL reason, to PLEASE keep music in the schools!
What does this organization do?
They go into the schools. All schools. Elementary through college, and any event you can think of in between. They deliver a VERY clear message, by using music, and singing, to get the attention of the students, and staff. Everyone loves music, or at the very least, they can appreciate good music. Rock For Character, takes a young artist, guitarist, drummer, etc., and they start off by singing an inspirational song, more than likely a cover of a popular song, they already know … so this automatically engages the students. When that song is done, the artist reaches out to the students, and speaks to them in a language they understand. I watched a video of this program. I was instantly inspired. They go on to sing another song, maybe a little riff on the guitar. They inspire some more, by speaking their language. I was so inspired personally, that I have offered to help in ANY way I can, to “relay” this message, the best that I can. So, I’m starting with this blog …
I’m sad to learn that it’s hard to get this program into OUR NJ Schools … I’m actually not sad, I’m freaking mad! Rock For Character (RFC), has no problem booking schools in PA, OH, CT, parts of NY State, and IN. I’m not understanding what the problem is in OUR NJ Schools?! To me, this is a no brainer!!! RFC, has a motto, Keep your character in tune, one string at a time. They also incorporate this six letter acronym (like a guitar has six strings) into their message, P.A.R.T.T.Y., however, not in the way you may think!
Rocco said, “It starts with you, and ends with you.” It starts with your passion, your want and desire to do whatever you want, be whoever you want. They speak about attitude, respect, trust, all things that are very self explanatory. Here’s where they tie in the Anti-Bully Squad, through THOUGHTFULNESS. It makes sense, right? Again, I’m echoing my sentiments in my previous blog, but bullying is getting out of hand, and it seems these children are getting younger and younger, and parents are fighting with schools for help with their depressed kid, and NO ONE IS DOING ANYTHING!!!WTF?!
PLEASE!! Let this organization into our schools! It could save a life. Not only has it been proven that this type of campaign can help to stop bullying, it can also help reach a kid who is thinking about dropping out, smoking tobacco, alcohol and drug abuse, teen pregnancy, violence, and other destructive behaviors or decisions.
Me: “Rocco, what message is it that you, personally, want to convey to the younger audience?”
Rocco: “Be respectful .. be loving .. be happy.”
Hmmm .. Sounds a little familiar to me. Again, echoing the sentiments of my previous blog, be anything, but MEAN!
You can all have the pleasure of seeing Rocco perform, this FRIDAY, JUNE 23rd, at a fundraising event, that a FIFTEEN YEAR OLD freshman, has put together for a classmate, whose family lost their house to a fire last month. It’s being held at Horseshoe Lake, in Roxbury. You can find more info here. Please make sure to also stop by the Rock for Character website to check them out, along with the Anti-Bully Squad.
Everyone here is just trying to do the right thing, and spread the message. Thank you to Tommy Peterson, and Rocco Costanza for swinging by, and having this conversation with me! I appreciate everything you guys are doing!
Me: “Rocco, how important is it to be an honest, thoughtful person?”
Rocco: “HONESTY is huge … from the fans, from the critics … It’s great to be honest, you don’t have to be mean.”