Singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles struck sonic gold with her 2007 major-label debut, Little Voice. The initial single, "Love Song," was first selected as an iTunes free single of the week, and then featured in a commercial for online music service Rhapsody.com. Before long, the newly minted star was opening for James Blunt and Maroon 5, and appearing on programs like The Today Show and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Some musicians pour their hearts out onstage. But when singer-songwriter Beth Hart opens her mouth, she pours out her guts and her soul too. With a huge rock voice that's simultaneously ragged and intimate, Hart has won fans around the world through her powerful live shows and studio albums--including her most recent European release, 2007's 37 Days, which captures the excitement and spontaneity of her live performances.
Guitarist Joe Bonamassa was a child prodigy. By age eight, the Utica, New York, native was B.B. King's opening act. He co-formed the band Bloodlines while still a teen, then kick-started his solo career in 2000 with A Brand New Yesterday, a fiery blues-rock outing overseen by legendary producer Tom Dowd. Bonamassa's six subsequent releases have topped the blues charts as predictably as Joe's name dominates the guitar magazine reader polls.
As musical director and keyboardist for Jay-Z, Omar Edwards is every bit the seasoned professional. But he's far from jaded: "Last night I had a show with Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige at the Hollywood Bowl," he says. "It was my first time there. It was amazing to be on that stage, and look up that far, and just see people!"
Hilary McRae is the first "developing" artist signed to Starbucks' Hear Music label, but the singer/songwriter makes compelling music whose maturity belies her 21 years. McRae's recently released album, Through These Walls, showcases her supple voice, sharp writing, and soulful keyboard chops.
Keyboardist and producer Jeff Lorber helped define the sound of instrumental jazz with the Jeff Lorber Fusion in the mid-'70s. Since then, he's continued to make musical waves with his own records as well as collaborations with some of the genre's best-known players--including the young Kenny G, who got his first big break in Lorber's group.
After seven years drumming with the Yellowjackets, Marcus Baylor is still the group's newcomer. But he makes no apologies for not being a founding member of the long-running smooth jazz combo. "I think I was three years old when they started in 1979," he observes.
When keyboard player and multi-instrumentalist Zach Gill first met singer-songwriter Jack Johnson, both were students at UC Santa Barbara. They quickly found common ground: "Jack was the only other person I knew who wrote songs," Zach remembers. "We would show each other our songs, and help each other a little bit with them. For a while we had sort-of rival bands, and then we all became friends and played music together all the time."