Monday, April 15, 2013

Pheaturing Phile Alum Justin Levinson

Hello, and welcome to the Phile, it's tax day, kids. So, how was your morning? I had a doctor's appointment this morning for a full physical. Not a half a physical, or a third of a physical, a whole physical. Everything is good, except for a dodgy arm, a kidney stone and screwed up cholesterol. Alright, enough about me.  The other night President Obama hosted Republican senators for dinner at the White House. The president said he had to do without salt, pepper, and butter... because as you know, the Republicans refuse to pass anything.  North Korean officials reportedly are planning a cyber attack on the U.S. in an effort to bring our economy to a halt. Nice try guys. You’re five years too late. Wait,a  cyber attack. Do you think they'll take out the Phile? Shit. I haven't been saying nice things about North Korea. I heard it's a great place to visit. Check out this advertising poster.

According to a new poll, 50 percent of Americans would vote for Ronald Reagan for president right now over Barack Obama. In fact, in the last election 58 percent of the people in Florida DID vote for Ronald Reagan.  A long list of celebrities and musicians have signed a letter to President Obama asking him to ease the nation's drug enforcement policy. Hollywood celebrities and musicians want the president to ease our drug laws... it's always the people you least expect.  Here's some good news...  Donald Trump is going to be a grandfather. It’s true. That thing on his head is pregnant. Trump’s daughter is pregnant. The thing on his head just lays eggs.  There are rumors that Fox may cancel "Glee" even though it still consistently does well in its time slot. This can mean only one thing: Fox is now run by NBC.  The Iranian government is claiming their scientists have developed a time machine. Maybe they're saying they figured out how to make a clock.  Teachers at nine universities are using a new technology that can tell if students are actually reading their textbooks. Let me save you some time. They're not. The digital books create something called an engagement index that shows how often they open their book, which pages they read, and whether or not they skipped pages. That’s a great way to get kids to like books. Program the books to tattle on them. We had a pretty effective way of getting kids to read books when I was a kid. It's called a quiz.  The South Korean pop star Psy of "Gangnam Style” fame just released a new song. As soon as they heard, North Korea said, “Now they’re really asking for it.”  Who watched The MTV Movie Awards last night? Not me. Brad Pitt was there to present the award for movie of the year. Brad says he couldn't wait to look into a sea of young people and ask them to wish daddy good luck at the show.  I just saw that the Playboy Bunny house, which is across the street from Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion, is on the market for $11 million. You can tell it’s the Playboy Bunny house because it looks nice but there's nothing going on upstairs.  New York City is considering a law to ban people from wearing costumes in Times Square after a man dressed as the Cookie Monster shoved a little boy. In his defense, Cookie Monster said, “Boy not give up cookie.”  Man, North Korea is getting some bad press... but not from the Phile or from me, as long as they are threatening a cyber attack. I am so glad that they released an inspirational poster. Check it out.

Hey, they released it, not me.  Did you hear this? Tami Erin, the former Pippi Longstocking star was busted for alleged assault. I have never seen any Pippi Longstocking films, but when I saw this screen shot, I thought to myself, it might not be a bad movie, and I think her troubles started when she was young.

Which one is Pippi? LOL. Just kidding, I know. I have top show you this, a Phile reader sent me this photo...

They asked me if they thought the owner's of this car were Foghat fans. I don't know, but they are Steelers fans. I am sure they are Foghat fans.  So, last week Disney's Hollywood Studios... God, this is so stupid. I don't really want to go on with this running joke. I will, but this is the last one, I promise. Disney's Hollywood Studios ended their Countdown to Fun parade. Yep, no more parade in that park. I was thinking though, maybe there is a parade that could replace it. Oh, screw it. I'm not doing it. I don't have the patience. Moving on, here is another...

You need to look closely. If you find it, email me at Alright, so, tomorrow the Democrats want you to make a pledge and call your Senator. I don't really know why, or what, but they do. So, they sent Lindsay Siler, the National Director of Issue Campaigns to the Phile to explain to you what's going on. Lindsay is cute, so I said whatever. So, please welcome to the Phile... Lindsay Siler.

Me: Hello, Lindsay, welcome to the Phile. So, you want my readers to make a pledge? A pledge about what?

Lindsay: Well, did you hear about last week?

Me: Um... I heard a lot of things last week. What are you referring to?

Lindsay: Last week, we celebrated major progress.

Me: With what?

Lindsay: With bipartisan support, the Senate defeated a filibuster and moved forward on gun violence prevention legislation.

Me: That's cool I guess. Did a lot of people speak out?

Lindsay: More than a quarter-million OFA supporters across the country have made their voices heard in this fight, and now, it's time we ramp things up a notch.

Me: Okay, so, how?

Lindsay: The Senate is getting ready to vote on this bill... they could act as early as this week.

Me: That's why something is happening tomorrow, right, Lindsay?

Lindsay: Yes. That's why tomorrow we're organizing a National Call Day, asking anyone who cares about reducing gun violence to call their senators and say, "Pass this bill now."

Me: Okay, so, what do you want my readers to do? How can we help?

Lindsay: Right now, pledge to call your senators anytime during the day on Tuesday. Then, we'll follow up with their contact info and everything you need to make the call.

Me: Can you tell us what is your goal tomorrow?

Lindsay: Our goal on Tuesday is to flood our senators' phone lines in support of this bipartisan legislation, which will require background checks for all commercial gun sales, make our schools safer, and tamp down on illegal gun trafficking.

Me: Man, that's cruel to the Senators.

Lindsay: Jason, wouldn't it be amazing if a senator was told, while on the Senate floor, that their phone is ringing off the hook with support for this bill?!

Me: Do you think enough people will do it?

Lindsay: What makes us powerful is that with 250,000 people already in this fight, and with millions more OFA supporters out there, we can do it.

Me: So, you want my readers to pledge to call, am I right?

Lindsay: All you have to do is pledge to take a few minutes on Tuesday to call... and we'll send you all the info you need. We're on the cusp of a vote that could move forward the broadest legislation to reduce gun violence in decades, Jason. Pledge today to call your senator on Tuesday.

Me: Where can people go to pledge? Is there a website?

Lindsay: Yes,

Me: Alright, people, Lindsay told you. Thanks, Lindsay.

Lindsay: Thanks, and get ready.

Me: Lindsay Siler, National Director of Issue Campaigns Organizing for Action, people. Anything else?

Lindsay: A movement of millions elected President Obama. Let's keep fighting for change.

Me: Good job. Thanks for being here.

Okay, the 29th artist to be pheatured in the Phile's Art Gallery is Ellen Reid, who also happens to be a member of the Canadian band Crash Test Dummies. Here's one of her pieces...

Yes, that is a Leif Garrett tea cozy. Anyway, Ellen will be a guest on the Phile a week from today. It should be good.

Okay, today's pheatured guest was supposed to be Phile Alum Alexis Babini but he couldn't make it, so I have another Phile Alum on the Phile today. He has a new EP out called "Take My Time" and he'll be appearing next at Pianos in New York City on April 20th. Please welcome to the Phile... Justin Levinson.

Me: Hello, Justin, welcome back to the Phile. How have you been?

Justin: I've been terrific. Keeping busy.

Me: It's a small world, I have to tell you. A friend, or someone I think you know, was supposed to be on the Phile today. I am talking about Alexis Babini. You know him, right?

Justin: Oh yeah. Alexis is a good guy. We went to college together and have kept in touch on in off throughout the years. Currently we share the same representation. Actually met up with him at my NYC show at Gramercy theatre two weeks ago.

Me: He did a few shows with Aaron Carter and you also opened and played with Aaron, am I right? 

Justin: Yeah, shows were a lot of fun. I think the thing Alexis, Aaron and I all have in common is good hook and melody writing. In the end we are all very different, but that's what makes us cohesive on The After Party tour.

Me: How was Aaron, Justin? You play your own instruments and have a lot more talent. Was he cool to be around with though?

Justin: Yeah, Aaron was really good to me. A few times on tour during soundcheck he'd ask me if he could play my keys and guitar. Gotta be honest, the guy can crush it on both instruments. Also have to tip my hat to a celebrity who actually asks before playing your instruments. It might be a little thing, but I found that impressive. Can't tell you how many times people just pick things up without asking. I'd say it's one of my biggest peeves.

Me: I have a picture of the both of you here.

Me: I met him once briefly when I was working at a press event at Disney and he said to me, "I love doing cartwheels." I told him, "That's great." And he did one. Crazy. Anyway, of there is one person you could open for, Justin, who would that be?

Justin: That's funny. He's also a phenomenal athlete to perform all of those dance moves flawlessly every night. I honestly didn't grow up with Aaron's style of music but I walked away with a tremendousrespect for his talent. I would say right now if I could open for anyone if would be the band called FUN. Really love the unique quality of Nate Ruess's voice. I think they are doing the top 40 thing with a lot of integrity. Hope the trend sticks.

Me: You're from Vermont, am I right, but live in Boston now, or the other way around. Do you like living there?

Justin: I lived in Boston for a long time, but I'm currently located in Vergennes, Vermont. I truly love it here. Though it may not be the best suited home for an indie/pop songwriter it has some of the most authentic/real/progressive people in country. I'm blessed that I have made contacts in major cities so I can live in paradise until my phone rings with a tour opportunity.

Me: Last time you were here it was to promote your great CD "This Side Of Me, This Side Of You". Since then you released a three song EP called "Take My Time". Were these songs originally recorded for your last CD?

Justin: No, they were tracked pretty much as a wrote them a few months after "This Side Of Me, This Side Of You."

Me: Your band is The Valcours, do they play on the new release?

Justin: Just my drummer Simon Plumpton and Producer Colin McCaffrey play all the instruments.

Me: What made you decide to release an EP? It's cool you did, there's three great songs on it.

Justin: I made the EP because I really needed an outlet for the songs I wrote on guitar. I also have had a lot of play on The Coffeehouse Station on Sirius in the past and I wanted to get them some fresh stuff.

Me: Are you always writing, Justin?

Justin: I've only been writing off and on. I'm actually really focused on making a polished show and improving my stage performance skills. Going on these bigger tours I'm learning a lot and getting more comfortable with talking to large crowds. I want to take a few years away from recording and do something really larger than life.

Me: You play piano and guitar, right? Which one came first and which one do you like better?

Justin: I started with piano when I was six. It will always be my favorite instrument. I just pick a little on the side but it's great to have the diversity with my writing.

Me: Your music is on the verge of country. Do you think that's true?

Justin: Eh... I'm honestly not a big country fan. Some alt-country like Wilco, Ryan Adams, Conor Oberst and Josh Ritter can grab me, other than that It's not my thing. Maybe my music says otherwise though. I just like fusing lots of different styles together. I get really bored if I'm not reinventing the wheel. I think that's the reason why I'm such Beatle freak. Those guys evolved in each an every album. By no means would I compare myself to The Beatles, but the concept of not making the same album twice is quite intriguing to me this day an age.

Me: I know you are a Ben Folds fan, and have been compared to him, but who else do you listen to? 

Justin: Death Cab For Cutie, Bright Eyes, Ben Kweller, The Kinks, Elton John, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, The Shins, Bon Iver, Sean Lennon, Phoenix, Queen, XTC, Badfinger and FUN have been getting a lot of spins as of late.

Me: I see you opening and playing with Brad Paisley or Keith Urban, Justin... but, you don't like country music. Oh, well.

Justin: Not a fan but tremendous respect for those guys. Would I turn down the tour support slot? No way in hell!

Me: I have to mention something that we didn't get into the last time you were here. And correct me if I screw this up, but you run an advocacy television show? Advocacy for what?

Justin: I run an advocacy television show in Vermont where folks with developmental disabilities interview local celebrities. It's a great thing for our community and sends a strong message to our law makers in Montpelier that making cuts to our most vulnerable Vermonters is the wrong thing to do. It wasn't long ago when these folks were thrown into institutions and never able to reach their potential. I believe that the right to community is a human right. I'm sure we can find ways to close tax loop holes, make intelligent cuts and raise revenues without sending these folks back into isolation. There... my political speech is over... ha.

Me: What's the name of the show and where can a Phile reader see it?

Justin: Sadly it's only on in Vermont but if you happen to be here it's on Thursdays 10pm on VCAM channel 15. It's called "The Advocacy Show".

Me: I am guessing this is a big passion for you. What do you prefer, your music or the TV show?

Justin: I would say it's a tie.

Me: How long have you been working on the show?

Justin: It's been about four years now.

Me: You're very talented so I can see you definitely spreading your wings doing a lot of different things, Justin. Is there something you really want to do? Any goals?

Justin: I'd like to really push the touring the next five years or so. In the end I'm going to get into writing musicals and get out of the public eye. Maybe I'll find a pretty girl and settle down, coach little league and softball... who knows. I reckon I gotta couple good years left in the tank.

Me: Are you going to be releasing any new music again soon?

Justin: In a 2 to 3 years I'll put out something. It's gonna be huge when I'm ready. The musical inspired themes will definitely be prevalent. Looking to collaborate with some arrangers/producers and get into a big time studio.

Me: So, this year on the Phile I am asking random questions from a box of cards called Tabletopics. Here we go... would you like to be proudest of your accomplishments or your character? Man, that question is deep. I wouldn't know how to answer it.

Justin: Oh, hands down character. You can have a plethora of accomplishments and really suck as a person. I'm trying to not suck as a person... haha. Someone who has all kinds of accolades doesn't necessarily have happiness either. I think everyone needs to be validated from time to time but I don't need it to keep making music or doing what I love. It's what I think of me, not what others think of me right? Well... at least that's how I define myself.

Me: Justin, thanks for being back on the Phile. Go ahead and mention your website and stuff, and please come back again soon. Take care.

Justin: Thanks again! is the place to go! Back on The After Party Tour with Aaron Carter in June.

Me: Thanks, Justin. Tell Aaron hello, and if you see Alexis, tell him he's in trouble. LOL.

There you go, another entry of the Phile done. Thanks to my guests Lindsay Siler and Justin Levinson. The Phile will be back next Sunday with Nick Beaudoing from The Doc Marshalls, and on Monday Ellen Reid from Crash Test Dummies. Next Saturday is Record Store Day, so please go to your local independent record store and support them. I will be doing that. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye. Strawberry Blondes Forever!

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