The Oklahoma City Zoo marked Leap Day today by opening a new frog exhibit.
The exhibit at Island Treasures in Island Life will feature seven new frogs not previously exhibited at the zoo, including the strawberry dart frog, Asian climbing toads and the cinnamon tree frog, reports my fine colleague Matt Patterson.
Several of the frogs on display are endangered. The brown mantella is native to Madagascar. The Puerto Rican crescent toad also is endangered. One reason is habitat loss: Frog reproduction is often more complicated than with other animals.
For more information, go to www.okczoo.com.
Marvel has unveiled a new trailer for its eagerly awaited superhero mashup movie “The Avengers,” coming to theaters May 4.
Directed by Joss Whedon, “The Avengers” stars Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk, Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Tom Hiddleston as Loki.
Brooklyn, N.Y.-based band School of Seven Bells, which includes Lawton-born guitarist/producer Benjamin Curtis and vocalist Alejandra Deheza, has released its third album, “Ghostory.”
It’s the first album for SVIIB to release as a duo; Deheza’s sister Claudia left the group in 2010. “Ghostory” is billed as boasting the influences of ’80s pop, shoegaze and ambient electronic sounds. It also comes with a story in mind: the tale of a young girl named Lafaye and the ghosts that surround her life.
In this Wednesday Video Spotlight, check out the video for the track “Lafaye.”
Wednesday Video Spotlight: Kristin Chenoweth, star of new TV series “GCB,” performs on “Good Morning America”
Broken Arrow Kristin Chenoweth appeared on “Good Morning America” this morning to talk about her soap new TV series “GCB” (AKA “Good Christian Belles”), which is debuting at 9 p.m. Sunday on ABC.
In addition, the Emmy- and Tony-winning singer/actress performed “I Was Here” today on “Good Morning America.”
Chenoweth also chatted a bit about her first-ever concert tour, which is launching May 9 in Seattle and will travel to Los Angeles, Denver, Detroit, Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas, Toronto, New York, Nashville and Atlanta, among other cities.
She will end the 19-city concert tour with a June 24 show at the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center. The main 1,500-seat stage at her hometown PAC will be renamed in her honor.
To read more about her concert tour, click here.
Emmy- and Tony-winning actress/singer Kristin Chenoweth will play a hometown show in Broken Arrow on her upcoming spring tour.
The Oklahoma City University graduated announced today the dates and places for the tour, whic is her first concert tour of her career. The North American tour is set to begin May 9 in Seattle and will travel to Los Angeles, Denver, Detroit, Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas, Toronto, New York, Nashville and Atlanta, among other cities.
“I’ve sung all over the place but I’ve never committed to a tour because of my schedule,” Chenoweth told the Associated Press. “So now I’m finally doing it.”
She will end the 19-city concert tour with a June 24 show at the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center. The main 1,500-seat stage at her hometown PAC will be renamed in her honor, according to the AP.
“For me, it will be very emotional,” she told the AP.
Mark Frie, the arts center’s executive director, told the AP Broken Arrow has been looking for a way to honor Chenoweth since the facility opened its doors three years ago. “We’re excited to welcome her home,” he said.
On tour, Chenoweth, 43, will perform songs from her latest country-inspired album “Some Lessons Learned,” as well tunes from the TV show “Glee” and ones from her Broadway shows like “Popular” from “Wicked.”
“If I don’t do `Popular,’ I will go out on a stretcher. I know that,” she told the AP, laughing. “I’ve accepted it, and you know what? I’m thankful for it. I’m glad that I have songs that I’m known for.”
While she wants to keep the set list flexible, other tunes likely to make the cut include “Glitter and Be Gay,” “The Girl in 14G” and “Taylor the Latte Boy.” But Chenoweth also will sing opera and offer audiences a few surprises, too.
“I’ll do a little of everything that I’m known for and also stuff I’m not,” she told the AP.
From that description, it sounds like Chenoweth’s Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame induction performance last fall in Muskogee was a good warm-up for her tour dates.
Chenoweth’s tour will have backup singers, dancers and choreography, according to the AP. The tour is being directed by Richard Jay-Alexander, who has staged concerts by Bernadette Peters, Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler. Tickets go on sale March 9.
When Chenoweth gets to Broken Arrow, it will mark the first time she’s been back since her parents moved away when she was 19. Chenoweth is already thinking of the things she wants to do when she arrives, she told the AP.
“I’m sure I’m going to want to drive by my high school. I’m sure I’ll go by the house I grew up in,” she told the AP. “Hopefully I’ll get to see some people that were dear to me in high school. And maybe some who weren’t so dear. That could be interesting.”
It also sounds a bit like her soapy return to series television “GCB,” which stands for “Good Christian Belles.” Chenoweth, who won an Emmy for her work on the late, great show “Pushing Daisies,” co-stars in the series with Leslie Bibb, Annie Potts and David James Elliott. “GCB” debuts at 9 p.m. Sunday on ABC.
Back in November at her Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame induction, Chenoweth said she will be staying busy after her spring tour.
“I will go on tour in the spring, and then in the fall I will probably do another season of the show that you have not seen yet. And then on my next hiatus, I will revive ‘On the 20th Century’ on Broadway, which was originated by one of my favorites, Madeline Kahn, and hasn’t been revived since maybe before I was born. So I’m excited to get to go back to Broadway; whenever they’ll have me, I’m ready to go. So yeah, I have dates through about 2013 and ’14,” she said.
“I’ll sleep when I dead.”
Trisha Yearwood, Paul Simon and Josh Groban to perform April 2 at “A Celebration of Paul Newman’s Dream” at Lincoln Center
On April 2, at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center, musical artists and stars will come together to show their support for a special evening billed as “A Celebration of Paul Newman’s Dream,” to benefit Paul Newman’s Association of Hole in the Wall Camps.
The event will feature performances by world-renowned performing artists, the campers themselves and a special announcement about the association’s global network of camps.
Performances will include Grammy-winning and Grammy-nominated musicians: Owasso resident Trisha Yearwood, Josh Groban and Paul Simon, as well as additional surprise musical performances throughout the evening and appearances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Jimmy Fallon, with more to be announced. Ticket sales from the evening – which is supported by Newman’s Own Foundation and hosted by Joanne Woodward, produced by Kevin Duncan and directed by Josh Rhodes – will benefit Paul Newman’s family of camps and programs supporting children facing serious illnesses from around the world.
“This is the legacy of my husband, Paul, and he considered it to be his most important one,” said Woodward in the event announcement. “It is for that very reason that I find this delicate way, in my best manners, to ask friends and supporters to come together to help raise money – it’s about helping the children who need it.”
The 2010 Celebration of Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Camps raised more than $3 million in support of the Association of Hole in the Wall Camps thanks to the participation and performances from Renee Zellweger, Bette Midler, Bill Cosby, Stevie Wonder, John Mellencamp, Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett and many more.
The Association of Hole in the Wall Camps is a growing global community of innovative camps and programs for children with serious illnesses and their families. Today, there are 14 member camps worldwide, including eight in the United States, five in Europe and one in Israel, as well as 10 programs in Africa, Asia and South America. Since 1988, more than 350,000 children and families have been served from 50 countries. The Association of Hole in the Wall Camps is an independent not-for-profit organization dependent upon private funding to serve all children free of charge.
The major supporter of the event, Newman’s Own Foundation, carries on Paul Newman’s philanthropic legacy and commitment to helping make the world a better place by turning all net royalties and profits from the sale of Newman’s Own products into charitable donations. To date, Paul Newman and Newman’s Own Foundation have given more than $340 million to thousands of charities around the world.
Show-only tickets begin at $35 and are on sale through the Lincoln Center Box Office. Benefit tickets including a post-performance supper begin at $1,500 and are on sale through the benefit office at (212) 245-6570 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the Association of Hole in the Wall Camps, go to www.holeinthewallcamps.org. For more information about Newman’s Own Foundation, go to www.newmansownfoundation.org.
Checotah native and country music superstar Carrie Underwood’s new single, “Good Girl,” debuts at No. 1 on Billboard’s Digital Country Songs chart today with sales of 108,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan. After releasing the song early Friday morning it took fans only three short days to make “Good Girl” the top-selling song, according to a news release.
“Good Girl,” the lead single from Underwood’s forthcoming album, also was the most added song this week on the country airplay charts. Written by Underwood, Chris DeStefano and Ashley Gorley and produced by Mark Bright, the song is currently available at all digital providers.
The single is the first from Underwood’s fourth CD, which is due out May 1. To hear a clip of “Good Girl,” click here.
Since releasing her debut album “Some Hearts” in 2005, Underwood has sold more than 14 million albums with “Some Hearts,” 2007’s “Carnival Ride” and 2009’s “Play On.” She’s amassed 14 No. 1 singles, six of which she co-wrote, and became the first country artist in history and the only “American Idol” winner ever to achieve 10 No. 1 singles from their first two albums.
Underwood is a five-time Grammy Award winner, a two-time Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year, a three-time Country Music Association and ACM Female Vocalist winner and a proud member of the Grand Ole Opry.
In-depth interview: The “Chief” of country music – Eric Church is taking chances in risk-averse Nashville
This in-depth feature is the cover story of the most recent edition of LookatOKC. A different version of the story will run Friday here on BAM’s Blog, on NewsOK and in the Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
On the edge of normal
Eric Church has fun with surprise success following chart-topping breakout success.
In the past six months, Eric Church has learned time and again that success is a lot more fun when it comes as a surprise.
And the surprises have just kept coming since his third album, “Chief,” shocked everyone — including Church himself — when it not only bowed at the top of the Billboard Top Country Albums chart but also in the No. 1 spot on the cross-genre Billboard 200 list.
In January, Church embarked on his first headlining trek, “The Blood, Sweat & Beers Tour,” and the rapidly rising superstar again was taken aback when he started selling out arenas. The tour, featuring special guest Brantley Gilbert, is coming to Chesapeake Energy Arena Thursday, March 8; limited tickets were available earlier this week.
“There were no expectations, and the great thing about that is you’re always gonna exceed them. I had more low expectations. I mean, I was generally nervous. Keep in mind, a lot of these cities that we’re gonna play on this tour, we were in clubs or theaters the last time we played there. You know, that’s a big jump in a year’s time, 18 month’s time. So the last history I have coming through some of these markets is a thousand, 1,500 people,” said Church, who played at Thackerville’s WinStar World Casino on his last trip to Oklahoma back in December.
“It’s been a long time coming for us. I mean, we’ve been doing this awhile, and we’ve not always been an artist that was played on radio. We kind of had to go out and somewhat make our own path. And I think in doing that — you know, in going out and making our path when we really couldn’t get anybody to pay attention to us, when we couldn’t really get anybody to turn our way and look at what we were doing — we went off and played bars and played clubs and really not only found ourselves but really found our fan base and found the kind of music we wanted to make.”
On the edge of normal
When the North Carolina native’s “Chief” debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart, he became the first core country artist to have a No. 1 album on the list without having scored a No. 1 on the radio airplay-powered Hot Country Songs chart since back in 1994. The last time it happened, Tim McGraw’s “Not a Moment Too Soon” album hit No. 1 a week before the single “Don’t Take the Girl” became a country chart-topper.
Church, 34, hadn’t even notched a top five hit when he dropped “Chief” and rose to the pinnacle of the music world. He didn’t get his first No. 1 until January, when the upbeat party anthem “Drink in My Hand,” his second single from “Chief” and 10th overall, hit the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs.
“Luckily, we just kept beating that door down ’til finally radio came around, and not only radio came around, but I think the whole genre came a little bit more to our side of things,” he said by phone last week from Battle Creek, Mich., where he was getting ready to play a show.
“It was way more conservative when we started this thing as far as what they would play that were on the fringes or maybe a little just on the edge of normal. And I think for us we’ve benefited from some of that change.”
Church has always tried to make his music unique, back to his 2006 debut album “Sinners Like Me.”
“For me, it’s just trying to take things that have never been done and giving it a try. You know, it doesn’t always work. We tried ‘Two Pink Lines’; our second single was a song about teen pregnancy and it was ahead of its time. And it didn’t work,” he said with a laugh.
“So it doesn’t always go down. You don’t always have No. 1 songs. But I think it’s worth the chance. I think it’s our time to do stuff like that. It’s our time to try those things and not just make the same frickin’ song over and over and run it up and down the chart. I’m just not interested in that. That’s boring to me. So for me at least it’s just trying to keep the music exciting and … when people hear stuff they go, ‘Wow, what is that?’ and they’ll turn it up — love it or hate it.”
With his sophomore album, 2009’s “Carolina,” Church cracked the top 10 with a pair of ballads, “Love Your Love the Most” and “Hell on the Heart.” But the third single, “Smoke A Little Smoke,” a foot-stomping rocker with lyrics that need no explanation, fueled “Carolina” toward gold certification and lit a fire on Church’s career.
“‘Smoke a Little Smoke’ was the thing that really changed everything for us, and we sold most of our 500,000 records on ‘Carolina’ on ‘Smoke a Little Smoke.’ It was very unconventional. The label told me I was nuts and ‘you can’t release this song,’ and it became a pretty big hit,” he said.
When the time came to work on his third album, Church holed up in a cabin in North Carolina and pondered the lessons he saw in the “Smoke.”
“What I decided when we were at the cabin was really ‘Where do we go from here? What is next? Because we’ve tried this career one way and we’ve somewhat been spinning our wheels.’ I always felt like with the stuff that went to radio early on, at times … we began to look at the easiest route up the radio chart. And I think a lot of times those are the most passive routes to the fan base. And with ‘Smoke a Little Smoke,’ it was not an easy route, and I knew that going in. But it was the most reactive song we had,” he said.
“So when I was at that cabin it was a remove-the-harnesses, no-holds-barred moment for me, and I just decided that this next record, it may be the end of us, but I am absolutely going to the wall with it. And I’m not thinking about what a label thinks, what radio thinks, I’m not thinking about what the fans think. I’m gonna follow the creative flame, wherever creativity leads, as wacky as it sounds, and we’re not gonna be afraid to go there and do it. And that’s really where ‘Chief’ came from, and there’s some wacky stuff on this record.”
Known for his hard-charging live show and tireless touring, Church gave the album his road nickname. And he released the soulful word-playing country-rocker “Homeboy” as the introductory single.
“‘Homeboy’ was a very strange-sounding song. I mean, it had instrumentation sonically that country music had never had on the radio before ever; you know, we’d never had a harp or pizzicato strings or a hip-hop beat. I mean, the whole thing was just bizarre,” he said.
“It was the moment where I think we had set ourselves up enough that we’re not just an artist that runs songs up and down the chart, we’re an artist that puts out stuff not thinking about it going to No. 1. We’re putting out stuff that we think needs to be said. I mean, ‘Homeboy’ was that kind of song; I knew it would be a tough fight. I knew it was an interesting subject matter, and I loved that. I loved that it was meaty. It was not something that you could just listen to; you had to attach to it as a listener.”
A dedicated road-dog, Church had built a fan base willing to support such sonic experimentation, and “Homeboy” reached the top 15 on the charts.
“Many times we were almost ran out of the business. I mean, we had a couple of real doldrums there, and if it wasn’t for the fans …,” he said, trailing off, then continuing:
“I believe when you make music that’s different … you create more passion with your fan base because you give ‘em something to either stand up for or stand up against. But you’re giving ‘em something. And we have a ton of people that hate what we do, but on the other side, we have people that just absolutely would die for what we do. And I think it’s that passion, that’s the hardest thing to find in music and the most special thing to find. You know, because when you find that, you’ve got people that’ll carry the flag for you.”
Old-school rock show
Church is following his chart-topper “Drink in My Hand” with the nostalgic “Springsteen,” which has become the fast-rising single of his career, reaching No. 28 after just three weeks.
The singer-songwriter got to watch Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band play live at the 54th Grammy Awards, where Church was nominated for best country album. It was his first nomination and first time to attend Music’s Biggest Night.
The country album prize went to superstar trio Lady Antebellum, whom traditionalists have criticized as sounding too pop. Church, on the other hand, has been called too rock by some country fans, but he makes no apologies for his aggressive sound.
“I take a lot of heat from a lot of the traditionalists out there, especially (since) I don’t have a fiddle, I don’t have steel guitar, our sound’s pretty rock ‘n’ roll, our sound’s pretty edgy. But I always explain that’s what I grew up on,” he said.
“I can do you every Haggard song, every Waylon (Jennings) song you ever heard, just give me an acoustic guitar. However, when we were riding around in cars and trucks, we were listening to AC/DC and Metallica and Tom Petty and Springsteen. … This whole generation, that’s what our influences were, that’s what we grew up on. So when that stuff starts making its way into the format, I don’t have a problem with it because people are just being true to what their influences are and they’re just making music. The same way I believe that Merle Haggard tried to sound like Lefty Frizzell and George Jones tried to sound like Hank Williams Sr. or Ernest Tubb: That’s what they listened to growing up.”
For his arena shows, Church has promised a little fire, a little ice and an old-school rock ‘n’ roll show.
“We’re not afraid to blow stuff up … but I’m not a fan of — and may never be a fan of — video screens and all that stuff because I feel like you really miss what’s happening on the stage because you’re focused (on the screen). It’s almost like you’re watching TV,” he said.
“So we decided not to do it. We’re doing this really cool thing with backdrops — we actually stole it from Iron Maiden — where we rotate backdrops in and out and it’s almost like old-school video before there was video. So that became a little bit of a challenge because if you’re farther away, I have to work harder to entertain you.”
Household on the road
Not all the milestones Church has experienced in the past six months have been musical. On Oct. 3, he and his wife Katherine welcomed their first child, a son they named Boone McCoy Church.
Since he didn’t intend to miss out on his child’s infancy, the singer-songwriter packed up the entire household, even the dog, and took them all on the road with him.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “I bought a 16-foot Airstream to pull behind the bus, and we basically just took his nursery at home and simulated it … so he doesn’t really miss home. You know, he’s got swings and everything he needs. So we’ve just been traveling up and down the road like a band of gypsies.”
It’s a life he embraces, as long as he’s still “Chief.”
Special guest: Brantley Gilbert.
When: 7:30 p.m. March 8 Thursday.
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, 100 W Reno.
Information: (800) 745-3000 or www.chesapeakearena.com.
A version of this story appears in Wednesday’s Life section of The Oklahoman.
Kyle Park does “Whatever It Takes”
The rising Texas country star not only sings, plays guitar and writes songs, he also produced his latest album, “Make or Break Me,” on his own label
Besides providing an ideal opportunity for an amorous two-step, the song effectively sums up the Texas country singer/songwriter/guitarist’s philosophy as an independent musician.
“The more I can do the better. Honestly, that’s the key about being an independent musician and not being part of a big machine. You know, it’s a lot of my decisions and a lot of my ideas and … I have to support them with the effort as well,” the 26-year-old rising regional star said in an interview last week from the road somewhere near Wichita Falls, Texas.
“I recall being in Lubbock a long time ago — well, this was probably four or five years ago — and I drove from Austin to Lubbock, made enough money to pay the band, paid my gas, paid the hotel and I even made some money on the side, and I thought, ‘Well, playing music live is so much fun, I’d rather just do this and make enough money to get by the rest of my life than go force myself to have a job when I’m not happy but making money.’ You know, it’s good to do what you love.”
The industrious Austin native plays about 150 shows a year, and since January, he has teamed with fellow Texas country-rocker Cody Johnson for their “Dancin’ and Drinkin’ at Johnson Park Tour.” The 20-plus city tour is wrapping up on the north side of the Red River, with dates Friday at the Tumbleweed Dancehall in Stillwater and Saturday at the Wormy Dog Saloon in Bricktown.
“We couldn’t just keep it in Texas. We had to come see ya,” Park said with a laugh. “Every time we come there, it’s better and better. I love Texas so much and I don’t think I’ll ever leave as far as where I’ll live, but I don’t want to only play in Texas.”
Johnson and Park are close friends and devised the tour so they would have more chances to play together. They already have co-written a new song, “No Woman of Mine,” that they’ve started playing together.
“It’s been a blast because … he’s full of energy and I’m full of energy and both our bands are as well,” Park said. “At the end, we’ve been getting together Cody and I for an acoustic set, so the end really isn’t even an encore. It’s an actual third set to the show.”
For Park, the tour is supporting his third full-length album, “Make or Break Me,” which he released in September. The album includes six new songs, along with four cuts from his “Spring 2010” EP and five from “Fall 2010” EP. Both EPs reached the Billboard country charts, and the LP’s title track zipped to No. 3 on the Texas Music Chart.
“We have a new single out called ‘Leavin’ Stephenville,’ which is tracking faster than ‘Make or Break Me’ did previously, which is exciting. The more stuff we have on the radio, obviously the better,” said Park, who is now based in San Marcos but in the process of moving back to Austin.
The success of his new album is particularly exciting considering the stake Park has in it. He not only wrote or co-wrote all 15 tracks, he also produced the album on his own label, with distribution through Fort Worth-based Winding Road Music.
As he sings, “Whatever It Takes.”
“I plan to be an independent musician for a long time and own my own stuff and be my own boss; then again, in the future, I might decide to hire some high-price producer. I just didn’t know. So “I thought that if there was ever a time for me to be a producer it’d be now,” he said.
“I mean, I’m writing my own songs, a lot of these songs I go over with the band and we work ‘em up and I have ideas for them. And that was a big part of the EP process was to only be producing four and five songs at a time, compared to producing 12 songs my first time at it. I probably would’ve been overwhelmed.”
He already is planning to produce his next album, and has been writing practically nonstop while on the road, even using his cell phone’s voice recorder to make notes about song ideas when he is driving.
“The plan is hopefully to put out a new record this year. I don’t know when it would be at all, but I’ve already been writing a lot of songs. Hopefully, I can get into the studio in a couple of months and then have something out by the end of this year,” he said. “It’s a mixture of strike while the iron is hot and always wanting to do new things.”
His desire to keep trying something can be heard in the music. His album ranges from Western swing numbers like “Leavin’ Stephenville” to rock tracks like “Prove It to You” to country waltzes like “Any Day or Night.”
“I have influences all across the board, from pop to jazz to Western swing and rock ‘n’ roll and traditional country as well. I would never want to pigeonhole myself and just record one type of song over and over and over. That’d just be one long song,” he said.
Fans can hear his adventuresome love of variety in his live shows, too.
“We’ve been known to cover some crazy stuff every once in awhile that the crowd wouldn’t think that we’d do,” he said. “A time or two (we’ve) even covered like Muse songs. I mean, they’re anything but the music that we play, but just the fact that we learned it and tried it one day was fun.”
“Dancin’ and Drinkin’ at Johnson Park Tour”
Featuring: Kyle Park and Cody Johnson.
When: 11 p.m. Friday. Doors open at 8 p.m.
Where: Tumbleweed Dance Hall, Lakeview and Country Club roads, Stillwater.
When: 11 p.m. Saturday. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Where: Wormy Dog Saloon, 311 E Sheridan.
Happy Leap Day! Today’s featured event:
Hear Chandler singer Lauren Nichols at 10 tonight at the Wormy Dog Saloon, 311 E Sheridan. Doors open at 6 p.m.
For more information, go to www.wormydog.com.
For more events, go to www.wimgo.com.