Jonny Kaplan talks about new album “Sparkle and Shine” with the Lazy Stars

Jonny Kaplan is a singer/songwriter who together with his band the Lazy Stars have released a brand new full length album titled “Sparkle and Shine”. The group which has had their music featured on television series such as “House M.D.” and “Grimm” are releasing a new video in the coming weeks and Media Mikes had the chance to talk with Jonny recently about his work on the video and his long time collaboration with Wallflower/Foo Fighter keyboardist Rami Jaffie

Adam Lawton: What was it that made you decide to start performing music?
Jonny Kaplan: I was a huge rock and roll fan when I was growing up so it was something was my fantasy. I grew up in Philadelphia listen to FM rock radio. I was all about bands like Kiss, Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones. My first concert ever was the Rolling Stones on the “Tattoo You” tour.

AL: What can you tell us about your new album “Sparkle and Shine”?
JK: This is my forth album and there has been a lot of time between this record and the last because everything has been pretty much independently. For this new one there was definitely some divine inspiration as a lot of things have happened the last few years. I was in a motorcycle accident along with a bunch of other stuff. Fortunately or unfortunately it’s sort of the bain of existence for songs writers as shitty things make great songs. When I was writing this batch of songs there was a certain amount of vindication as they are pretty deep. After putting out three records prior to this one and touring Europe for the last 7 or 8 years as there were opportunities to play there I decided to shift my focus back to home and get this album out properly an set the playing field for myself here in the States.

AL: How much of an effect did your motorcycle accident have on the creation of this record?
JK: As far as the songwriting goes I was pretty much hold up in a hospital bed for two weeks with 20 broken bones. I have healed up remarkably but at the time I was a mess. I had a lot of time to sit around and I was in a bit of a dark place because I couldn’t do anything. That sort of forced me to write these songs. I think because of the shock of what was happening and not knowing what the future would hold that sort of opened up the flood gates. When it comes to songwriting you can sit down and try and write a song but the good songs sort of write themselves.

AL: Where do you generally start when writing a song, Lyrics or music first?
JK: It all depends. Sometimes there might be a guitar riff that I have been playing with for awhile that turns in to something but for the most part it’s almost like you hear something in your head and that eventually spills out. Some of songs are written in three minutes. Those tend to be the best ones and are always my favorites. You just hear something in your head, you grab a guitar and figure out the chords and there it is. It’s something that I never force.

AL: How do you first get connected with Rami Jaffie?
JK: Years ago I had a country rock band called Hummingbird. We used to play with the Wallflowers all the time so he and I became friends. He and I are like brothers. Rami has played on all of my records and was someone that was very instrumental in getting me to start this new record. He gave me the shove I needed to get going again. Even though he is always busy with the Wallflowers and the Foo Fighters we are roommates so we still have a lot of time to work on songs.

AL: Can you tell us about the video you shot for “When You’re Down” and what made you choose that song?
JK: At the time we were working on a video for Darryl Hannah. A lot of people don’t recognize her as a singer because of her career in acting. While we were getting ready to start work on her video for she had listened to some of the new material I had been working on. The night before we were set to shoot Daryl’s video she called me and said that she wanted to shoot a video for me as well. We ended up out on this crazy horse with our faces painted and we made this video which will be out in the next month or so. The video is low budget and indie to the core but it really turned out great. As for how this song was chosen Daryl actually picked it. It was by accident that this all happened. She really liked that song and I think it is definitely one of the strongest off the album. The vibe was great and things just worked well.

AL: Are there any plans in the works for a tour to support the release?
JK: Well as we speak Rami Jaffie has just informed me that we will be playing South By South West this year. That is amazing! Essentially there has been just so much going on with getting the album released that we haven’t been able to focus on getting a tour rolling just yet. We do have some shows booked like we will be in New York for the CBGB Festival and from there I will be heading to Buenos Aries with Brad Smith from Blind Melon to play for the first time. Things will be starting to unfold here very soon. Myself and the band are chomping at the bit to be out there playing as that is something we want to be doing every night.

Film Review “Sparkle”

Starring: Jordin Sparks, Carmen Ejogo and Whitney Houston
Directed by: Salim Akil
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hr 56 mins
Tri Star

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

In 1968 Detroit, if you wanted to make it big as a singer you tried your luck at the Discovery Club. A place that gives you the chance to make your dreams come true. But what price would you pay to make those dreams come true?

A remake of the 1976 film of the same name (best known for introducing Irene Cara and “Miami Vice’s” Rico Tubbs), “Sparkle” is a film that shines when the music is playing and is dull as a butter knife when it’s not. The story follows the paths of the three daughters of Ms. Emma (Houston, in her final film role). The oldest, Tammy (Ejogo) – who everyone calls “Sister”- has just moved back into her mother’s house after trying unsuccessfully as a singer in New York. Middle sister Dolores (Tika Sumpter) – “Dee” – is currently applying to medical schools. At age 19, Sparkle (Sparks) is a budding songwriter who wants to sing but is afraid she’s not as good as her sisters. The three sing in the church choir and, when Ms. Emma falls asleep, sneak out to play local clubs. But as their popularity grows so do the pitfalls that come with it.

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room – the late Whitney Houston. Like Heath Ledger she has left us with a fine performance. Her face weathered from her hard living younger years (both in the film and in real life), Houston’s Ms. Emma is a God-fearing woman whose love and over protectiveness for her daughters becomes smothering. When things go wrong for Tammy, Ms. Emma fills the church with a shaky yet strong rendition of “His Eye Is On the Sparrow.” There is irony in many of her lines, including one where she warns her girls about a life of show business, asking “Is my life not a cautionary tale?” Along with Houston, the rest of the cast give strong performances, including former “American Idol” winner Sparks. She is following in “Idol” alumni Jennifer Hudson’s Hollywood footsteps (“Dreamgirls” is a very similarly themed film) though I don’t look for her to win an Oscar here. Male characters come and go, most notably comic Mike Epps in a rare dramatic turn and Derek Luke, who plays the groups manager and Sparkle’s possible love interest. And Curtis Armstrong has a nice role as a music executive who may or may not want to sign the group (Armstrong also played another famous music executive, Ahmet Ertegun, in “Ray”).

On the downside, when the story leaves the stage, or church, the film loses its ability to entertain. The audience is really given no timeline…the film starts in 1968 but by the end it could be 1970 or 1990! Characters, most notably Omari Hardwick’s Levi, come and go, often for huge chunks of time, with no real explanation of where they were or what they were doing. Which is a shame because there are characters here that you’d like to know more about.