The last five years have been a high-speed trip to the top for wild-child singer-songwriter Avril Lavigne. Signed to Arista Records at age 16, she captivated the pop world with her attitude-filled songwriting, gung-ho guitar playing, and confrontational vocals. In contrast to her squeaky-clean teen-pop peers, Avril projected a gritty, tough, don't-mess-with-me vibe with chart-topping hits like "Complicated" and "Sk8er Boi."
Steve Gadd is one of the most respected drummers of all time. Equally at home on stage or in the studio, comfortable in all styles from intricate jazz to the simplest pop, Gadd brings impeccable taste, feel, and musicianship to every project he graces. No wonder he's been the drummer of choice for Paul Simon, James Taylor, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, Barbra Streisand, Eric Clapton, Carly Simon, Chick Corea, Frank Sinatra, and countless other artists.
British singer/pianist Jamie Cullum is known for updated arrangements of jazz standards, unconventional cover tunes, and his own distinctive compositions. On his major-label debut, 2003's Twentysomething, and 2005's Catching Tales, Cullum combines a crooner's sensibility with a smart, sometimes acerbic lyric sense, moving effortlessly from neo-retro mood music to smart-guy pop.
Longtime Elton John keyboardist Guy Babylon recently saw the culmination of three years' hard work on the musical Lestat, for which he was musical supervisor. Lestat, a new Broadway production that opened in April 2006, is based on Anne Rice's best-selling novel Interview with the Vampire, with songs by Sir Elton himself.
A decade with rap-rock ruffians Limp Bizkit made Wes Borland one of the most visible guitarists of his generation. But Borland's on/off partnership with Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst now seems to be permanently off. "We recently had another falling out," sighs Wes. "We've decided we just can't work together anymore."
What do you do after you've reached the top of your profession? If you're bassist-turned-music director Rickey Minor, you find the next hill to climb.
Minor toured the world as Whitney Houston's musical director and produced her Superbowl national anthem performance. He's received Emmy nominations for overseeing such shows as 2004's Genius: A Night For Ray Charles. He's helped assemble bands for artists like Usher, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, and Mary J. Blige. And starting last season, he took on a new challenge: music director for the smash American Idol series.
In just a decade, film composer Harry Gregson-Williams has risen from an associate in Hans Zimmer's studio to become one of Hollywood's preeminent film composers. Gregson-Williams's credits include such recent blockbusters as The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Shrek 2, and director Ridley Scott's crusader epic, Kingdom of Heaven. We recently spoke with Gregson-Williams about the ins and outs of creating music for picture.
"I am obsessed with the piano," confesses singer-songwriter Judith Owen. "I can't put it any other way. I own five pianos. If I walk into someone's house and there's a piano, I immediately have to excuse myself and go over to see it, like it's a dog. I literally get goose-pimples when I'm around a piano."
Since the early 1990s, keyboardist Loren Gold has worked with one teen-pop phenomenon after another--initially as musical director for teenage sensation Tiffany, then as a session player on records by such artists as Mandy Moore and Mindi Abair. And for the past several years, he's been music director for singer/actress Hilary Duff, currently touring the world in support of her Still Most Wanted album.
Countless bands toil in obscurity for years, hoping for one big break. But for some, that break comes a lot more quickly.
Case in point: the Flipsyde, a hip-hop quartet that exploded out of Oakland, California, last year thanks to their We the People album and its powerful single, "Someday." Within three months of forming, multiple labels were courting the group. They ultimately signed with Interscope after auditioning in the office of label head Jimmy Iovine with a drum machine and acoustic guitars.
Veteran Nashville keyboardist Steve Peffer has played around the world and on dozens of national television shows with such artists as LeAnn Rimes, Sara Evans and Martina McBride. He's also a session player with his own studio, where he's recently begun producing other artists.
Drummer Greg Hutchinson rose to fame in the '90s as part of a new generation of jazz musicians with old-school sensibilities. Like his sometime collaborators, trumpeter Roy Hargrove and saxophonist Joshua Redman, Hutchinson blended youthful fire with a well-informed perspective on classic jazz.
Not long after the Arizona Diamondbacks joined major-league baseball in 1998, the team began a meteoric rise through the National League ranks, culminating in a stunning win over the New York Yankees at the 2001 World Series. And from the start, the D-Backs' "musical mascot," keyboardist Bobby Freeman, has been there to cheer the team on.