EXCLUSIVE Interview with THE NEXT STAR Finale Performers ECHOSMITH

By: Alexandria McLean | @itbalexandria 

EchoSmith_Performance 0227You probably have had the song Cool Kids stuck in your head at one point or another this summer. The people behind this catchy song are Echosmith. Made up of siblings Sydney, Jamie, Noah and Graham Sierota, Echosmith is an alternative pop band from California.

Echosmith travelled to Canada for the first time to perform at the finale of YTV’s The Next Star.

The Magazine got the chance to sit down with Sydney, Jamie, Graham, and Noah to discuss what qualities they think make up The Next Star and the response they have been receiving for their song Cool Kids.

The Magazine: This is your first Canadian TV performance, how did you go about preparing for it?

Sydney: We are eating lots of Ketchup chips, because that is what you would naturally do in Canada apparently. We are really excited because this is our first time doing something like this. We have done live TV before, but you know when you go to different countries it’s a new experience every time no matter what. It’s really exciting and we are kind of just prepping mentally I guess. It is just like a normal show, you only have one chance. Even though it is live and everyone gets freaked out, you only have one chance when you are doing a concert performance anyways. You know what I mean? We just see it as a normal show, and treat the fans as if it were a normal interaction rather than just some TV show.

The Magazine: What qualities do you think make up The Next Star?

Noah: A good voice, usually that would help normally.

Sydney: Yes, talent is a thing.

Noah: A good song helps as well.

Jamie: Authenticity. Being yourself.

Sydney: Yeah, being yourself even if you are on a TV show and there are a lot of opinions on you. It is important to still have your own look, and sound the way you want to sound. It is okay to figure it out, and try things out, but you still want to stay true to who you are as an artist. Otherwise, you will get lost in the shuffle of the millions of artists in the world. 

The Magazine: How would you describe your sound? 

Sydney: Right now we would say alternative pop. You can even just look at our influences and get the idea of our sound, which are The Smiths, and Joy Division, and The Killers, and Coldplay and U2, and lots of others. Even if you look at those and you can kind of hear a little bit of that in the music.

The Magazine: You are a fairly new band in the mainstream scene, so can you introduce one another?

Sydney: Graham, he is the drummer. Girls love him. He plays drums. He has a fantastic memory. If we forget what time something is at, or where we are going, he will remember everything. He is our calendar when we don’t have a phone.

Jamie: Sydney is our singer. She is very talkative. Her favourite movie is Anchorman 2.

Sydney: Okay Noah. Noah is our bass player. He is very tall. He is obsessed with H-Chews, the candy; apple flavour only.  Jamie, he plays guitar. He usually consistently has a beard, a little bit of a beard. He can figure out basically anything if he wants to. He knows how to make leather bags now. Who knows how to do that? Nobody.

The Magazine: Cool Kids was featured on the Billboard Hot 100. How has the response for the song been?

Sydney: It’s been amazing. I mean, we put out that song over a year ago. It is amazing to see the traction that it has gotten even just recently. I think that the reason why this song is really working is because we wrote this song not with the intention of it being a hit. It was because we related to it. Everybody does at some point. Everybody has that longing to fit in or to be like somebody else at some point, whether you are a kid or not. We wrote that song because we have felt that way at different times. Other people are relating to it to. When you are real with your songs it’s more likely people will connect with it on a real level. The response has been amazing, and people are really connecting to it on a deeper level then oh you know “I like singing this song” or things like that. It is really helping people out as they go through their days and things like that. It has been amazing to see what has happened with that song.

The Magazine: Have you received any celebrity response that has left you starstruck?

Noah: There have been a few! What’s his name? Riff Raff, the rapper who is on the Katy Perry song, he did a Vine of him in the car holding his phone and singing along to Cool Kids. It is the greatest.

Sydney: He did that and he had something like pink dreads. I met Taylor Swift and she already knew our song and she told me she relates to it. That was awesome. There have been a few other people. I think Katy Perry was number one.

The Magazine: You are obviously all siblings, but how did you decide to come together as a band?

Jamie: We all grew up playing music and just kind of grew up in a musical family where instruments we all over the place. We all just got drawn naturally to the instruments that we play and we never thought of starting a band or doing that thing. We had all the pieces and all of our personalities go with what we play. Seven years ago we had the opportunity to play together, and we tried it out. We had everything there and we have been doing it since.

The Magazine: Cool Kids is about a boy or girl who doesn’t quite fit in. It is National Bullying Awareness Month in November. Do you have any advice for the boys and girls who may feel as if they don’t fit in or are experiencing bullying? 

Sydney: Yeah, I mean, in general whether you are getting bullied or not it is really easy to find yourself comparing yourself to other people. Whether people telling you you are not good enough, or it’s yourself telling yourself that. You have to remember that we are in control of our thoughts and you have to choose to accept yourself and be okay with who you are. There are a lot of things that you have to accept about yourself and that will never change. Seriously, you just need to make a conscious decision to accept yourself before you get in that cycle of comparing yourself. You know, I have to make that decision everyday and it’s so easy, there are six billion people in the world, you are bound to compare yourself with somebody. With bullying and all that, I think the response is love rather than hurting yourself and hurting them. You need to love yourself and love them once you are bullied or anything like that. Even though it’s hard, the bully is going to be surprised and it will turn things around in a really special way.

The Magazine: What’s up for Echosmith?

Sydney: Lots of touring and lots of going to different places internationally. We will be coming back here eventually. I am not sure exactly when but lots of touring and everything is announced on our website. Everything is there.

The Magazine: Any message for your Canadian fans?

Sydney:  We just want to say thank you and it’s really cool because we don’t get to come here too much. But, it is awesome to come here and meet the fans that we have. It is cool to go to new places and places you have never been before and have people care about you so much. I really appreciate everyone over here and we cannot wait to come back and perform a real show.

Thanks Echosmith!

Make to purchase Echosmith’s debut album Talking Dreams which features their hit Cool Kids.


EXCLUSIVE Interview with SHAWN MENDES, THE NEXT STAR Finale Performer

By: Alexandria McLean | @itbalexandria 

Mendes_Performance 0299This was a summer to remember for Shawn Mendes. After releasing his first EP, The Shawn Mendes EP, it secured the number one spot on the iTunes’ Top Album chart within thirty-seven minutes! To top things off, Shawn’s first single “Life Of The Party” made Shawn the youngest artist to debut in the Top 25 of the Billboard Top 100 Chart.

With over three million followers on Vine alone, Shawn Mendes has fans all around the world. However, this Canadian boy came back to Canada to perform at The Next Star Finale.

The Magazine got the chance to sit down with Shawn to discuss preshow rituals, his advice for the winner, and getting scared by Ellen!

The Magazine: How did you go about preparing for tonight’s performance?

Shawn: Usually when I have big things like this to happen, it’s a weird thing, but I try not to think about it as much as I can. The more relaxed I am coming into it, the better job I will do. So I don’t really sing the song over a million of times. Well, I was also on tour all summer so I was practicing the song everyday for months so I was practicing all the time. I just try to stay very relaxed and try not to stress out about it.

The Magazine: What advice do you have for the winner of The Next Star?

Shawn: I think it just, the biggest thing is to stay true to yourself and stay humble. Never forget the people who helped you become who you are and get you where you are because that is the biggest thing.

The Magazine: How did you get into performing on stage after you started posting covers on Vine? 

Shawn: It kind of just came out of nowhere. I started doing these little things called Magcon where I would do little two songs on a stage every once and a while, and we would do these meet and greets. As the months passed on, I started to do more and more performances and it just got crazier and crazier and crazier.

The Magazine: You have an EP that came out this summer. You wrote three of the songs off the album, is there a certain song that you connect with the most?

Shawn: Show You, I really love that song. The meaning behind it is basically to tell people that there is always going to be someone who tells you, you cannot do this. A lot of people told me I wouldn’t be able to handle the stress because I am so young for whatever. Or you can’t be the captain of your soccer team because you are too heavy, or not fast enough, whatever the reason is that people say you cannot do something, show them you can do it. It is a very empowering song and it makes me feel super uplifted and proud when I sing it. It’s cool.

The Magazine: The unique thing about you is it is just you and your guitar on stage. As you continue to grow as an artist, do you hope to continue this?

Shawn: One hundred percent. I would love to have a band in the future but I feel like that stripped down version of just me and the guitar feels really awesome all the time, very real. 

The Magazine: You have a Life On The Road series on YouTube, what can fans expect from that? 

Shawn: It is really cool because you really get to see the backstage footage. We are not just always hanging around, we are working our butts off all the time. It’s really nice to have my fans be able to see what I have actually been doing behind the stage. It’s really cool.

The Magazine: You were recently on Ellen, how was that experience? 

Shawn: Oh wow, one of my dreams was to be on Ellen from before I even started singing, or even see Ellen! She is such an inspiration for me and I look up to her so much. So actually getting to meet her and actually getting to be on the show was just one of the biggest things that has ever happened to me in my career so it was really truly incredible.

The Magazine: Ellen also did her famous scaring prank on you. What was it like getting scared by Ellen?

Shawn: They said, “Hey can you come out? We are just going to make a quick Vine telling everyone you are going to be on Ellen tomorrow.” I said sure but they had this big camera. I was a little suspicious because they had her big camera. They told me they just take it off the camera because it looks better so I just said okay. So they were just setting me up and said I can go whenever, but there were people behind the camera and they were making noise in the middle of me talking so I thought should I stop. It was super confusing because she jumps out when I was trying to speak to people, and it looks like it was planned because I stopped talking. But she really scared me! She really scared me!

The Magazine: Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Shawn: Every show since the beginning of the tour I rub my tour manager’s head. I make fun of him because he is going bald so I rub his head for good luck.

The Magazine: You have over 3 million followers on Vine, so you must be doing something right! What goes into making a great Vine?

Shawn: Be yourself on Vine. I despise when people act like different people. Don’t act like something you are not. If you are truly funny and you just post videos of what you think is funny, people are going to connect with you. If you are talented and you post videos of what you like to sing, people are going to connect with you. When you have the reality in your videos, it makes a big difference. Be yourself, it’s the best way to do it.

The Magazine: Earlier in the summer you were on tour with Austin Mahone. We were there  at the Toronto show, and we can honestly say that the fans went crazy! What was that experience like? 

Shawn: It was surreal. Every time I walked on the stage it was a totally surreal feeling that I cannot even explain. It’s hard to explain.

The Magazine: What’s next for you? 

Shawn: The album! I am working on the album all week next week, so hopefully we have a full LP coming soon. It is going to be very similar to the EP, but we also have some very, really sort of big boom songs. Something big is definitely coming your way.

The Magazine: Message for you Canadian fans?

Shawn: I love you! Thank you guys for all your support!

Thanks Shawn!

Shawn will be going on this first headline tour this year! Catch Shawn at his only Canadian stop in Toronto on November 30th at The Danforth Music Hall in Toronto. Tickets go on sale this Saturday. The first fifty fans will win an exclusive free meet and greet with Shawn.

For more information about how you can get tickets, click here.

EXCLUSIVE Interview with THE NEXT STAR Season Seven Winner JORY ZECHNER

By: Alexandria McLean | @itbalexandria

Sunday September 21st marked the finale of The Next Star! Wrapping up another great season, the finale featured performances by the Top 6, performances by recording artists Shawn Mendes and Echosmith, and of course the crowning the winner of The Next Star Season 7!

Over the season, Canada got the chance to watch Ryland, Jory, Nissita, Kaleia, Michaelah, and Shon grow as artists and release their first singles (within the show) and music videos, but in the end only one would earn the title of The Next Star.

After watching each of the Top 6 lay it all out on The Next Star stage, it was Jory who Canada voted as The Next Star. Fifteen-year-old Jory from Nipigon, Ontario, used her smooth and powerful sound to win Canadians over.

The Magazine got the chance to talk to Jory about her The Next Star experience, and how she celebrated winning.

Jory_Performance 0280

The Magazine: Congratulations on winning The Next Star! How are you feeling right now?

Jory: I am feeling so energized and so overwhelmed and amazing. This is such an amazing feeling!

The Magazine: What did you do after the show last night?

Jory: All the Top 6 and our families got together and ate pizza. We hung out, and said our goodbyes.

The Magazine: What was going through your mind last night just before they announced the winner?

Jory: I was literally just thinking about everybody else and thinking about how amazing it would be if any of us had won. Honestly, every single person was so talented and deserved it just as much.

The Magazine: How did you prepare for the performance last night?

Jory: I was practicing as much as I could even process. I was practicing a lot because I wanted it to be good because it was my last performance on The Next Star stage. It had to be on point. We were working together on our group song, so we were rehearsing in the hotel. We were all working together and were really supportive of each other.

The Magazine: How do you feel you have grown since your audition?

Jory: My stage presence has got a lot better. I used to be really stiff. I feel like now that I have been on stage so much and I have been in front of all these people, I feel like I have loosened up a bit and have got a whole lot more comfortable on stage. It has been easier for me and less nerve-racking.

The Magazine: Do you have any advice for the youth thinking about auditioning for The Next Star?

Jory: Yeah, definitely to practice your song before you get in there. That’s the judges and everyone’s first impression of you so it should leave a lasting impression and be perfect. Also, have fun. The whole point of The Next Star is to have fun and learn from the experience.

The Magazine: What was it like recording your single and music video for the show?

Jory: It was really the most overwhelming amazing thing that you can ever experience. Recording that single with Rob Wells who was my producer was so amazing. He is such an amazing producer and he did so well. Doing my music video with Evan Winter was so amazing. I have never been the star of a music video. It was new for me but he just made me feel so comfortable.

Jory_Performance 0300

The Magazine: You had some amazing stars on the show this season! Was there anyone who got a little starstruck over?

Jory: I was definitely starstruck over Shawn just because he is so young, and so talented. All of the stars were great. Also, Echosmith. I have been a fan of their music for so long. Also being around people who are in the industry was a prize in itself to be able to spend time with them.

The Magazine: How was it sharing the stage with Shawn Mendes and Echosmith?

Jory: It was very overwhelming and at the same time it helped because they are here performing at my show, and I am not here performing at their show. You know? It was kind of one of those feelings like they are here for me and the Top 6. These people are so big and they are here to perform for our show. It was just an amazing feeling to know that.

The Magazine: You and the Top 6 seemed very close! How was it spending time throughout this journey with them?

Jory: It was the most amazing time I have ever had. We are all best friends. They are the best friends I ever had. Seeing them go was sad but we know we are going to see each other again. We are planning visits already and it hasn’t been a day. We just all love each other and its so amazing being on this journey with people you love.

The Magazine: Demi Lovato is one of your inspirations; she is a very strong believer in being yourself and has gone through some hard times. It is almost National Bullying Awareness Month, do you have any advice for people who may be experiencing bullying?

Jory: Definitely. I have experienced this as well. The best advice I have for people going through this is tell an adult. It’s one of those things that you shouldn’t have to go through alone. It is heart breaking to know that people have to go through that so I really think you should tell somebody you trust.

The Magazine: What was it like being in Toronto during your time at The Next Star?

Jory: I absolutely love Toronto. I would move here if I could. It was so amazing to spend time in a big city instead of a small town and it was so new for me. I really loved being in Toronto and being surrounded by all these people who have been in the business and have lived here.

The Magazine: What has been the best piece of advice you have been given while on the show?

Jory: The best piece of advice was just to break out of your shell and not be afraid to be yourself. Don’t hold back anything because you are here because you should be and because you deserve it.

Jory_Performance 0309

The Magazine: How was it hearing after your performance, Dan saying even though he was hard on you this season, he was so proud and amazed by your performance?

Jory: It was so amazing to hear that from somebody who has been in the business and who was worked with Justin Bieber and people like that. Just to know he believed in me was just the most amazing feeling.

The Magazine: Anything you want to say to your supporters?

Jory: I love you and I thank you for voting for me. You are the most amazing people.

Thank Jory!

Congratulations again to Jory, and all of the Top 6! It was a another great season of YTV’s The Next Star.

Make sure to check out Jory’s and all the rest of the finale performances on The Next Star’s Youtube Channel.