Volume 2-2012



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Learning from Jimmy Iovine

Interscope Records CEO Jimmy Iovine was featured in a recent piece in Rolling Stone, and it was one of those rare celebrity interviews that actually yield insight and useful information for people interested in music production and engineering. READ MORE...

On Selling Songs Through TAXI

Occasionally, as an amateur songwriter, I will open the account I have with TAXI, the Web-based Artists & Repertoire service, check out the listings, usually for those calling for Film & TV soundtrack music, and if I have something that seems like a possible match I will upload an MP3 mix and submit it for consideration. I never get anywhere with this past-time... READ MORE...



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New Releases on RARadio: "Last Call" by Jay; "Darkness" by Leonard Cohen; "Sweetbread" by Simian Mobile Disco and "Keep You" from Actress off the Chronicle movie soundtrack; "Goodbye to Love" from October Dawn; Trouble in Mind 2011 label sampler; Black Box Revelation Live on Minnesota Public Radio; Apteka "Striking Violet"; Mikal Cronin's "Apathy" and "Get Along"; Dana deChaby's progressive rock




"The Musical Meccas of the World"









Original Musical Compositions and Select Covers

Fiction and Non-Fiction

Special Projects







This edition we spotlight Broadway musical theater actress turned L.A. singer/songwriter MALEA MCGUINNESS. 

My initial interest in Malea had to do with a recent foray this site has taken into New York City's theater world. Malea's credentials there are golden. A former student of opera at the prestigious Tanglewood Summer Music program, Malea did two years of study at Oberlin Conservatory, received a music scholarship to Overland in Ohio (a "hippie school"), and completed her operatic studies at the Manhattan School of Music. In New York, Malea pursued a parallel track in acting, studying at the William Esper Studio For Acting and with Ron Stetson of the Neighborhood Playhouse. 

"I remember when I first came to New York, I didn't even have money for a subway token," she told 411 Music Interview writer  Tony Farinella earlier this year. She was occasionally finding work doing modeling and TV commercials.  "I was walking 50 blocks back and forth, and I was living with two dancers from The Joffrey Ballet. And we were all in this one room. It was always ups and downs. Sometimes I would have more money, but most of the time I just waitressed and did all kinds of things. I barely made it financially, but I think when you really want something and you feel like you're supposed to be doing this and that you really love it, then I think that's what really keeps you going."

Then in 1996 she landed a role on Broadway in The King and I, as one of the wives of King Mongkut of Siam, played admirably by another "crossover artist," Lou Diamond Phillips, who was a Tony Award nominee for "Best Actor" and winner of Outer Critics Circle and Theater World awards for his work in the role. The King and I won the 1996 Tony for Best Revival. Though she stayed in the production for over a year, it proved to be a turning point in her life. "I just felt my personality wasn't the perfect fit for the Broadway people I was working and hanging out with," she told a writer for Interviews of Recording "I liked to perform, but it ultimately wasn't my thing and I didn't think I could live that kind of life. Looking back now, I realize I made the right decision to pursue my dream of making music in Los Angeles." And so she moved to the west coast and began devoting herself to songwriting, supporting herself with another string of odd jobs and the occasional film and TV work. She played "Asian Girl at Gym" in episodes of "Spin City" and "These Shoes Were Made for Cheatin'"  (1999), an "Asian Woman" in episodes of the TV series "Special Unit 2" (2001) and "The Wraps" (2001),  "Screaming Nurse" in the movie Imposter (2002), and "Kim" in the film Three Picture Deal (2002). But none of this was really taking her where she wanted to go.

Malea's focus is on being a singer/songwriter, or maybe a songwriter/singer, and it has been working out well since the release this year (2007) of her True Believer LP, produced by Scott Hackwith (The Ramones, Pete Townshend, Iggy Pop), which has been doing well on XM Satellite Radio and AAA stations. "Deeper," the first single from the album went to  #16 on FMQB's AC40 Chart. The second single release, "Sweet Light," debuted at #27 and was the most added song to the chart in its first week, ahead of Lifehouse, Bon Jovi and Celine Dion. Her video for "Sweet Light" may be seen on VH1, Fuse, YouTube and other outlets. Malea won Female Vocalist Of The Year at the All Access Magazine Music Awards.

I subjected Malea to the usual RARWRITER torture of responding to written questions and learned in the process that Malea, who is of a private nature, is more inclined to verbosity in a live exchange. In fact, that is in evidence in the urgency and intimacy of her performances. She has been playing all over L.A. this fall, including shows at The Viper Room, The Roxy, The Mint, The Knitting Factory, and she premiered another video at The Key Club this last week. Her songs are pleas for healing, but why so sensitive? That's what I was trying to discover, with varying degrees of success. - RAR







by RAR



My reading of your bio seems to indicate that you grew up in a loving family, but it was a family wherein, from age 6, it was your grandparents who represented your “parental” figures. 

Malea had told Tony Farinella " was my grandpa who always drove me everywhere. I went to the Manhattan Prep School of Music and did all these things, and he always drove me everywhere. He was always very supportive. He was very important. Everyone needs one person who believes in them in their life."

This is not unusual these days when a lot of grandparents find themselves having to help their struggling offspring by raising their grandkids, but what was going on with your parents that you were sent to New York to live?

       Check out the song “No Man’s land.”  I was taken away from my Mother by Social Services for child abuse. I was going to be put in a foster home but my Grandparents agreed to take me and my little sister in to live with them.  

Malea was born in Ft. Hood, Texas to a Korean mother and an Irish father. (She says "I’m 50% Korean, 50% Irish with a splash of Scotch!!"). She was born an "Army Brat" (a background she shared with Lou Diamond Phillips, mentioned above). Her father is a Green Beret who has seen duty in Iraq. Malea's grandfather had fought at Iwo Jima in World War II, and these dedications of service have clearly influenced her work on True Believer. She has been quoted as saying of her song "Sweet Light" -  "It’s like a prayer that they somehow all can come home safely. Overall, True Believer is about believing that we all have a purpose, even if there are times when we don’t know just what that is.”

I read where you broke down in rehearsal once during a first performance of “No Man’s Land.” What role does emotion play in the thing that drives you to be who you are and produce the material you produce? 

It’s everything in my music. 

Your bio reads like that of a typically struggling actress, and yet you come across as a pretty stable person. Do I read you correctly? Or is there a hidden, less serene side of you the rest of us don’t see?

I’m a work in progress;)

You have attended some prestigious schools and received some special music education. Is there any period there, in those formative years, that you look back on as the touchstone for all that would follow for you along your professional path?  

Yes, my high school music teacher really encouraged me to sing and made me audition for a music program in NYC on Saturdays.  That opened up a whole new world for me.  I had never been exposed to opera or classical music before that.

What is your timeline? When did you finish up in “The King and I” and come to Los Angeles? How long were you in “The King and I?”

I was in the King and I for a little over a year.

It seems like you could pursue your singer-songwriter career anywhere. Why the move from New York to L.A.?

I really wanted a change and felt I needed to see different things.

Are you single? Married? Have a family?

I’m “spoken for.”  No children but one day!

I have read that you went from starring on Broadway to becoming a bartender. Depending upon how much you love bartending, that change in occupation seems pretty dramatic. Was that tough for you? How did you handle that? 

It was a dramatic change. I needed to support myself while I transitioned from Broadway to doing my own music. I had never bartended before I moved to LA!  I don’t know any creative person, unless they come from money, who hasn’t had to waitress, bartend, ect anything to keep going while doing their art.  It is a very unstable business financially and usually I had a couple of jobs.  

Where are you at with the pursuit of TV and film work now? Do you enjoy the process? What has been the most instructive thing about it?

I’m solely pursuing music and am open to any film, TV, etc. I can put my music in!

You have experienced rare highs in some of the most competitive fields of performance. Have you “settled” on your current focus on songwriting as the thing that most defines you, or is there still room for acting and musical theater. What is most important to you right now?

Music is everything to me.  But always open to trying new things that might come along!

Any form of writing can be a solitary pursuit, maybe lonely to some. Are you a person who enjoys solitude? Or do you work best in company, with a collaborator?

I do like to write with other people and do so all the time.   I am a person, though, who needs  a lot of solitude and I enjoy writing by myself too.

You have negotiated New York City, possibly the world’s toughest test of survivability, courage and stamina. For a girl who cries when she sings her songs, you must have a tough inner core. Is that right?

Yes, I wouldn’t have made it here without one.

Can you compare your life in New York to your life in L.A.?  Is there anything you miss about New York that you don’t find in L.A., or anything you love about L.A. that you didn’t find in New York? Or are you “bi-coastal” and living in the best of both worlds?

I  love both cities.  I mostly live in Los Angeles and love the weather. I also feel much more in touch with nature.  I hike all the time, or I can go see the dolphins down in the ocean  fifteen minutes away.  I could never do that in NYC.  On the other hand,  NYC has so much culture and sophistication.  People are very educated and value the arts.  The museums, the food, the fashion are just the best.

Do you have a lot of friends? Are you a “girl’s girl?” (by which I mean one who is fun for other women to hang around with) or a “guy’s girl? (i.e., able to adapt to the lifestyle of guys and enjoy the types of things they enjoy, like sports.)

Either/ or is fine with me.  I like to spend time with friends one on one-I’ve never been a big clique kind of person.

What do you want to represent to people? Who should your music make us understand Malea McGuiness to be?

I would like to touch as many people as possible with my music.

I’m sure you would like your music to achieve universal appeal, but at a demographic level, can you describe the audience to whom your music is “pitched,” i.e., age group, playlist genre.

I  think it reaches every age.

The whole “marketing” aspect of music – defining your audience and targeting them effectively – is tricky business. Doesn’t the narrow niche nature of the commercial market require that you commit to a certain type of music?

I  feel that I am making my own audience and don’t have to try to fit into a certain category.

You are often described as having a sound associated with ‘70s smooth folk-rock. Are you comfortable with that? Or can you imaging changing your musical focus with each new album? Would it be smart to constantly reinvent yourself?

I don’t think that you can do anything but change, and since music is a reflection of yourself and what’s going on around you it has to change.  Reinventing yourself for the sake of doing that is not very fulfilling.

When did the songwriting bug hit you? 

Started writing a few years ago.

Are you a natural performer? And if so, how did this first manifest itself?

I love to perform but have dealt with stage fright a lot.

When did songwriting become a passion? Is that the right word?

Yes!  I’m very passionate about it that’s why I love it.

What moves you about music? Do you think of yourself as a “lyric” person or a “music” person?     


I read a review of your live show where the writer generally liked your music, but said it “has the air of one of those feel good shows - highly professional, beautifully sung, with some good melodies and plenty of heartfelt emotion - but not suitable for anyone who likes a challenge.” Not that you have to defend the perceptions of others, but are you thrown at all by the reactions you get? Can you understand what that reviewer was getting at?

Everyone’s entitled to an opinion.

How important is aligning yourself with a good producer to making the music you want to make? Do you work with a dedicated producer or creative team?

It’s wonderful to have a great producer who hopefully complements you and expands and understands your vision.

Do you buy music CDs? What are you listening to these days?

Yes. My most recent purchases were Rilo Kiley’s new album, Aretha Franklin’s “Amazing Grace” live album and the best of Seals and Crofts.

Who was the last person you saw perform live? 

Annie Lennox-she was absolutely incredible!

What has been the highlight of your life so far? 

Personal relationships.

What is your highest aspiration for your life and your career? 

That I reach lots and lots of people with my music, and that I have lots of happy relationships in my life.  



Learn more about Malea McGuiness by visiting her MySpace site.




©Rick Alan Rice (RAR), May, 2012