New Yorkers are known for appreciating a weekend away to a serene place, whether it be alone or in company with friends and family. Something about leaving on Friday and returning on a Sunday that just screams “I’m here to release“. [Read more…] about Travel Idea- YOTEL Has Expanded To The Seaport District in Boston
With 2016 in full swing now, many of us are trying to keep our ever so present New Year’s Resolution in trying to maintain a healthier you. Even when it comes to making or ordering craft cocktails, you can still find ways to make them healthy yet tasty and satisfying all at the same time. Natural ingredients such as aloe, ginger, matcha tea and pomegranate are all great examples of what you can put into your drinks that can help the body yet retain the flavor. So the next time you are hosting your own cocktail happy hour with the help of on-demand cocktail delivery service Instapour, you should try making these recipes to impress, digest, and enjoy. Check them out.
Something I happen to love is when an artist goes outside the grain and makes something of quality that gets people thinking. That is what Mike “MRF” Flanagan has done with his latest video “Trying“, which details the high’s and ultimate lows in a relationship. MRF, who is an openly gay musician based out of Boston, is someone that I met a couple of months ago at the one and only Bear Week In Provincetown, Mass. After hearing the beautiful music that he made on both his freshman and sophomore albums, I knew I wanted to interview him as he was someone I saw on the rise. You can check out that full interview here.
As for “Trying” which is off of his phenomenal sophomore album “Mob Music”, the song and video both are beautiful in its lyricism, sound and portrait of the end of a relationship. Only being out for 3 days, yes 3 days, the video itself has received 20,000 views and counting and has amassed quite the positive feedback from the LGBT community and outside of it as well. I got to sit down with MRF again to discuss the video at hand, the concept in making it and what is next for the chart topping piano player. Take a look.
Hey MRF! The “Trying” video is simply beautiful! Tell me about the concept behind it.
The concept is about not being able to find resolution in your most significant relationship ending. The good was everything you’ve ever wanted, but ultimately that person is never going to allow the two of you to be together. And therefore, it’s about being in position where grieving that loss is not possible and you’re haunted by the memories of all you shared with that person. I left the ending ambiguous for a reason. I wanted people to relate to it in their own way and plug in their on experience as to how and why their own personal relationship ended.
How did you go about casting your hunky costar to play the man you are in a relationship with?
I’ve known Mladen for about 5 years now. He’s an absolutely stunning man and a good friend. I knew his look would be amazing on camera and I also thought the chemistry between us in this narrative would work really well. His look and demeanor is so masculine, I felt it important to represent masculine men in a narrative that was loving and normal and sensual and not just hyper-sexual.
Where was the video shot and how long did it take to put everything together? Were you a part of the creative process as well?
The video was shot in Boston. We did three days of shooting and about two weeks of editing. We shot at a rehearsal space in Boston, at a friend’s place and partly at my place. I wrote and directed the scenes and Steve Osemwenkae shot the video and co-directed.
The song “Trying” alone is stunning. Can you tell my readers what you think the ultimate message of the song is?
The main message is that despite you and that person having it all together, there is something in the way and her or she will not allow the relationship to be. I think the most potent lyric in the entire song is “When will you believe in us” and that really sums up the entire message.
You recently stated that this is your most personal song to date. Why is that?
I wrote this song about my last relationship. I was a total wreck as it was nearing the end and both the lyrics and melody came to me simultaneously. I sat with Lisa and sang the reference for her and within a few minutes, she was singing it in the booth as though she wrote it. I had Justin do 2 harmonies with her melody and the harmonies absolutely transformed the song. It’s my most personal but also favorite song to date.
When it comes to LGBT music videos, we usually don’t see ones like this that show two men in such an intimate, physical embrace. What are your thoughts on that?
One of the best parts about making this video is the overwhelming amount of messages I’ve received from people from all over saying that they cried and finally felt represented. I think giving that visibility to the diverse stories within the massive umbrella that is the LGBT community at large, is important and tells people that their story is worth telling.
Now that the video is released and is trending high on YouTube, what are you hoping that people come away with it upon watching?
I of course want the video to speak to people but I’m really hoping this turns a lot more people onto my/our music and the chemistry/magic that we ‘mob music’ have together. And follow me and us on our journey as we create more for you.
Spotify: Follow MRF
What is next for you?
I have already started mapping out the next album which will probably surface in mid 2015. In the meantime, we’re considering doing a video for another song off of the Mob Music album called “This Love”.
Sometimes in the most unconventional of settings you will meet some really great people and the further you get to know them and their passion makes you understand just how awesome they truly are. This can be said of jazz musician Mike Flanagan, who goes under the stage name MRF. I conveniently met him through some mutual friends at this year’s Bear Week in Provincetown, Massachusetts. On top of being a brutally handsome, charismatic and an all around great guy, I got to know him a little deeper and found out what a successful artist he has become in the jazz world.
In a short couple of years, MRF has accomplished things that many artists wouldn’t even dream about doing. He has independently released two albums, the most recent called “Mob Music”, which both have had a considerable amount of success since each of their inceptions. In a short twenty hour time frame, “Mob Music” became the highest-selling jazz album in the country on iTunes, sharing in the same company as jazz legends Miles Davis and Harry Connick Jr. Some of the singles off of that album, including “Trying” have remained in massive rotations on stations in and outside the US from Germany to Spain to name a few. On top of all of this, MRF has been able to work throughout the world with Grammy winners and nominees Esperanza Spaulding, Issa Pointer of The Pointer Sisters and Surefire Music Group. The Berklee College Of Music Graduate has also received rave reviews for his LGBT anthem “Be Strong (LGBT Youth)” as it was selected for the Flag Raising Anthem for Boston Pride last year. Quite a lot of accomplishments for a guy in such a short period of time.
The day before his big performance at Bear Week, I sat down with MRF to discuss his meteoric rise in the music industry, what and who inspires him, and what his music has meant to his fans and in particular the LGBT youth. Take a look.
So tell me how you got started in the music industry.
I graduated from the Berklee College of Music, and I wasn’t really sure which direction musically I wanted to go in. I had been playing a lot of jazz in and out of school, but I came out in my last year and it changed gears with what I was doing. I started writing my own stuff and collaborated with a singer who lives in New York, which is ultimately how my first album “Elevator Music” came to be. Once I started recording that, I ended up developing my own sound and own approach and knew exactly the direction I wanted to go in.
Jazz is such a unique part of the industry right now, so who would you say are your biggest inspirations?
I would say my number ones are D’Angelo and Lauryn Hill. That is the kind of stuff that I grew up on and it’s in me. Also, Meshell Ndegeocello is a good example. There are a whole bunch of jazz musicians and even country artists that I draw inspiration from in terms of their approach as well.
Many of my readers are unfamiliar with your work, so how would you describe your sound to them?
Its kind of a hybrid of R&B and Jazz. It also has a pop aesthetic to it as well because of the lyrics and forms of the songs. The music leaves a lot of room for my vocalists to interpret it in their own way, and for myself to stretch out on my instruments (saxophone, piano, etc) as well. The objective of my sophomore album, Mob Music, was to capture and document the magic of what we do on stage.
You are here enjoying Provincetown’s Bear Week, just as I am. Is this your first Bear Week?
This is my seventh actually!
Oh wow! This is my first time experiencing Bear Week in all of its glory, what would you say to convince people who are consistently on the fence about going to actually get them to go?
I really think it’s most important to figure out what Provincetown means to you, because it has so much to offer. It’s actually a great music town, and you can meet incredible people here. You can definitely go outside of the routine bear events that are going on and find something unique and different. So I would definitely recommend coming to “Bear Week” as there is plenty to love about the experience.
You have a song called “Be Strong (LGBT Youth)” which is a very empowering LGBT anthem. There isn’t a lot out there now that are like that, so tell me about the processing in recording this amazing song.
In 2010, when Asher Brown took his own life, and the epidemic of LGBT youth suicides made the media around that time, it made me insane. I started thinking about the work I was doing in my classroom by myself and how there are far too many kids without someone to turn to. Far too many kids that do not have an adult telling them that they are normal, and beautiful, and that they should love who they are. I felt I had to create something through music that could hopefully and potentially reach far beyond the classroom of students I was helping in my small corner of Boston. Originally, I wanted to name the song ‘Asher Brown’ but I was unsuccessful in getting in touch with his family to assure that was okay. So, “Be Strong”it was. That’s where the inspiration of the song came about.
Being an out musician yourself, do you find it to be a hindrance or a blessing to be so in the music industry?
I think everyone needs to come out. I hope everyone does. Sam Smith for example, love him. He is an incredible artist. He is in a position now where he can make a change, not saying he has to or wants to. He got rave reviews recently for his rendition of Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” but one thing that stood out to me was that he changed the pronoun“he”to “you”and instead of “there’s a boy I know”he says, “oh it’s you I know”to make the song entirely gender-neutral. I think most people didn’t think about that, however when I was doing my first album, I made a lot of my music gender-neutral in fear that there would backlash. It felt like I was regressing after working so hard to be who I am. I realized how important it was that I not do that on Mob Music. So, thought it may seem small, it’s a big step that fosters much needed change.
I love Joan Osbourne’s “What If God Was One Of Us”, so why did you choose to remake that on your latest album, “Mob Music”?
I started working with Lisa, Justin and Sheree in Boston, shortly after my first album was released. The first was singer Lisa Bello. Our styles have so much chemistry and when we come together, it really makes some incredible magic. We were raised similarly, share influences, and the way we approach music is similar as well. We started performing weekly in Boston at a place called “Club Cafe”every Thursday night. They were like, “What do you want to call the night?” and I was like, “Well, we are both Italian, so let’s call it Mob Music”. We loved it, and Mob Music just grew and grew. After our first month, singer Justin Waithe started coming on Thursdays and harmonized with Lisa. Then Sheree Dunwell filled in for Lisa while she was in LA and we she got back, the whole package of “Mob Music” was truly formed.
We would do popular songs and treat them like jazz standards, elevating them to the point where we took the audience on a journey every week! One of the songs we did was “One Of Us”and I knew that had to be the one cover on the ‘Mob Music’album.
On the “Mob Music” album, my favorite track is one called “This Love”. What is your favorite on this album?
I love that song, but I would say that my favorite is “Trying”. “Trying” is the smooth jazz radio single on the record, and it is the most personal for me. I wrote that about a guy I was with, and that relationship ended right before I went into the studio to finish this record. We had two singles done at that point, and were heading in to track the rest of it. “Trying” was written right as that relationship was ending, and to this day remains my favorite.
OK, let’s do some fun questions so that my readers can see a different side of you. If you had a dream concert, with two artists (dead or alive) that would never be on the same bill for ONE night only, who would it be?
The two on the same bill. Hmmm. I’m going to say D’Angelo and The Dixie Chicks. I’m a huge Dixie Chicks fan. I saw both live within a year’s time, and both were incredible. D’Angelo’s show had such an energy to. Knowing his entire catalog, I was dancing my ass off the entire time. When I saw The Dixie Chicks, my friends and I were lucky enough to stand right under Natalie Maines, and she was winking and smiling at us the whole time. Just great experiences for both.
Got it! So you are stuck on an island with a CD player but it only has one song in it. What do you want that song to be?
“Who Knew” by P!nk. It is my favorite song of all time. Everything about it, from her voice to the lyrics to the melody. The song is somewhat ambiguous, and even though it is a song about her losing a friend to an overdose I believe, it’s able to be interpreted in a lot of different ways. After my first relationship ended, I would come down here to Ptown and it was playing everywhere. So the song itself, my love for her, and the connection to PTown and gay life sort of culminates in why this truly is my favorite song.
You go to a 90’s dance party. Which phase do you hope they play?
I’ll pick the Aaliyah, Brandy, Monica phase. I want them, I want Ginuwine, Jagged Edge, Toni Braxton, etc. Love 90’s R&B.
What do you have going on for the future?
So, I already have a third album planned. I want to continue to make music with the group I have right now. I’m hoping to go back into the studio in September in Orleans here in Mass. It will be similar to the second album however this one will be more saxophone driven. A challenge for me is the human voice. It’s something I love on others but hate my own. I’ve heard Me’Shell and Lenny Kravitz are like that too. I am tempted to get over that fear I guess and use it and see if I can come up with something that I am okay with releasing. I don’t know if it will be on this album, but sometime in the future it is something I definitely want to accomplish.
I know you usually come to me for the who’s dating who in the celebrity world but today I want to take some time & just express my love for Boston! I know that it may be difficult for so many of you to believe in humanity after all that has been happening recently but please try to remember that good always wins, always. They will find those responsible, you have to believe & trust that. Just keep everyone in your hearts & send kind thought their way in this time of need. Keep your head held high & know… This won’t stop that city, nothing can stop that city.
While touching on recent events, it’s only appropriate to also mention the devastating explosion that took place in the early hours of today, in West, Texas. A fertilizer plant exploded, killing as many as 15 people & injuring more than 160 others plus destroying at least 75 houses & multiple businesses. In such a small town, this will certainly hit most, if not all the people of West in some shape or form. Coming from a small town myself, I also know that the community will pull together & have each others backs & they will be better & stronger because that’s what communities do, they pull together.
The 2013 MTV Movie Awards were last night at the fashion never fails to intrigue me. The MTV Movie Awards bring out all walks of the celebrity life. From movie stars to musicians to your favorite reality stars. There were a few great ensembles on the red carpet last night and, true to Movie Awards tradition, there were some outlandish fashion train wrecks!
Actress Crystal Reed looked classy and trendy in her coral and nude lace overlay dress. The bottom was pumped up with a tulle and looked like a beautiful tutu. And the nude pumps made her legs looking miles long!
Bridesmaids’ Melissa McCarthy rocked all black with gold accessories. I think the was a great pick for Melissa the funny girl looks slim and glowing!
Model Karlie Kloss’ all white skirt and crop top was sexy! The shoes were by far my favorite part of the outfit! I am obsessed with ankle straps right now! So chic.
My best dressed male goes to my secret crush … The legendary Taylor Hanson! He is so handsome and well dressed. This MMMbop boy surely grew into one handsome man.
And now for the worst of the worst … drum roll please !
What is this chick thinking? I think she is so talented and beautiful and yet she insists on looking like a hobo.
You would never believe this girl had hit songs almost every other month. Apparently hippies have gone goth, which is not a good look! I don’t know what the worst part of this look is … the hat … no the fringe vest … nope definitely the pants … This outfit is just all wrong!
This next one is really hard for me to do … I am absolutely head over heels with musician Macklemore. I think his style and look are perfection, most of the time. I love his swag and his ginger features! But his outfit last night was really disappointing. The royal blue did look cool but the cape was such a let down. I would have rathered a big fur jacket and a onesie.
Don’t worry though I still love you!
There’s always one who has to be a statement maker, and expecting it to be Lady Gaga again, I was surprised to see a burnt cigarette butt hat on Pitch Perfect’s Hana Mae Lee. Lee was one of my favorite characters in Pitch Perfect and her one liners were the most laughable moments in the movie. My favorite line “I ate my twin in the womb.” Befitting to her character’s, shall we say, uniqueness, Mae Lee rocks a interesting hat at the Movie Awards.
Last night’s MTV Movie Award fashion definitely had some note worthy looks. But the overall trend for the awards had to be the pointy toe pump. I have to say I was a little worried about this trend coming back but the new style of pointed toe pumps has a shorter point and is something I am actually excited to try out.
Kim Kardashian really was the first celebrity to rock this look when she stepped out in her neon green Loubitan’s. Last night she showed off her baby bump in a sleek black dress and black satin pointed toe stiletto’s.
Carrie actress Chloe Moretz kept it casual in a denim romper by Louis Vuitton and stunning t-strap pointed toe pumps. The shoes were the focal point in this outfit, beautiful!
Kim K in training younger sister Kylie Jenner looked fabulous in her nude pencil skirt and white crop top. The nude pointed toe heels were to die for! I am absolutely passionate about these pumps. I must go buy a pair now!!
I have to say, I am totally into trying out this re imagined trend. The only issue I have is after I take my shoes off at the end of the night they usually get thrown in a pile of my collection of shoes and then they get all smushed. After they are flattened enough you can never get your toe in right and if someone steps on it, forget it, a little heel dent can ruin a pair of pointed toe heels. Luckily in my never ending online shopping habit, I found the answer! http://www.tiptopshoesaver.com/ sells all different tools to keep your hoes in new condition. Their product, conveniently titled, The Tip Toe Shoe Saver, is a triangular piece that you insert into the toe area of a pointed toe shoe to keep the shape. I ordered a pair and can’t wait to use them in my new heels.
So all in all, I think the fashion at the MTV Movie Awards last night was interesting, but slightly disappointing. The one’s that got it right last night definitely brought in the Spring 2013 trends. White was big and nudes, as well. For accessories, I was happy to see the ankle stap and pointed toe heels were back and modern.
*Just on a side-note, I’d like to send my prayers out to the families involved in the tragic terrorist bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon today. This is a sad and frightening event and if there is anyway I can help I will and hope my fellow Americans will do the same.