Thursday, June 30, 2016

Phillip Phillips Talks Springsteen, Fans and New Music

Photo by Nick Walker
With the Olympics approaching, it’s likely any memories of 2012’s summer games are dancing through your head to Phillip Phillips' bright anthem “Home.” The five-time platinum debut single from the now-25-year-old American Idol winner became the unofficial theme song for the games when it was played during key Olympic moments such as the "Fab Five" Women’s Gymnastics Team’s gold medal wins. But Phillips is far more than “Home,” he’s charted three other songs on the Billboard Hot 100, released two albums and has shared the stage with legends such as Bruce Springsteen. The down-to-earth Albany, Georgia, resident checks in with us before his July 6 show at the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park with singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson and “Say Something” hitmakers A Great Big World. 

ON POST-IDOL LIFE: I got older, got a little uglier [laughs], got married. Yeah, so a lot has happened, another couple albums have come out. It seems like a short amount of time but also it's been a long time too. It's a lot touring for it, you know, you get paid to keep doing this, something I love. As far as making the songs, it's been good. The songs I've written have this very classic sound to it; it's timeless. Not many people would try to make these type of songs. My big goal is writing these songs. I think these songs are definitely my best lyrically and musically. They're pretty special.

ON FAVORITE CAREER MOMENT: I think the biggest moment was probably when I toured with John Mayer and Bruce Springsteen, in South America, Rock in Rio. It was just unbelievable to see 90,000 people looking out there onstage. It was me, doing like an hour set or something, and then Mayer came on after me, and Bruce closed the night out. That was definitely one of the best nights of my life.

ON THIS TOUR: [Matt Nathanson] is an awesome dude. He's hilarious. He's just making me laugh. The tour's been amazing. I like to change the set up every night. I try to keep it different for each show and special for that crowd. I'll just be in town, walking around, seeing what the vibe is going to be like, trying to pick the songs I want to play. I've been starting to introduce some covers. You never know what you're going to get.

ON COOLEST FAN MOMENT ON TOUR: It was like past midnight, and they were waiting up on the pavement. They didn't even say hello or anything, they just ran to me and just hugged me. It was very, very sweet.

ON THIRD ALBUM SET TO BE OUT LATER THIS YEAR: I've worked with some awesome people, just really good writers, and they can help push me. Some of it's about imagination, it's about realizing and being able to live life. Definitely some of it's about using my voice, and what I see in a lot of songs. The music, and writing songs, all of it's amazing, some of my best material.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Three Things to Know About Human Trafficking

Photo Courtesy of FBI

Masses of people are flooding in and out Cleveland this summer with the NBA championship and the Republic National Convention. The flocks of people bring excitement but also the concern that there could be human sex traffickers and victims amidst the bustle. To raise awareness, the Cleveland VAMC Social Work Professional Development Committee held Not For Sale: Probing the Depths of Human Trafficking symposium June 24. Amongst the speakers were Brian Vigneaux, former FBI agent and senior investigator with Cuyahoga Country Prosecutor's Office, and Theresa Flores, a local human trafficking survivor and founder of Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution (S.O.A.P.).  Here are three things you should know about human trafficking.

1. Human trafficking takes places everywhere — even suburban neighborhoods and schools.
“I was trafficked out of my own suburban home for years,” Flores recalls. After being raped by a classmate and manipulated by his older brothers, she was forced into sex trafficking every night. After her parents fell asleep, the traffickers would take her from her relatively safe neighborhood and return her in the morning. “If my parents would have checked my bed at night, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she explains.  The traffickers began taking her out of school during the day but no one noticed the warning signs. “I was exhausted from sleeping two hours each night and my grades dropped to C’s, D’s and F’s,” she remembers. All she needed was an adult to see the red flags, but no one did.

2. Traffickers do not have to be strangers.
Often times disguised as boyfriends, traffickers lure in victims through romantic connections and flattery.  Flores was conned into human trafficking by her freshman-year crush. “All it took was three words from him, ‘I like you,’ ” Flores states. The prevalence of social media in younger generations today has made it increasingly easier for traffickers to target young girls today by flirting with them online. “Kids have so many friends on social media, they assume, ‘Oh, I must know him,” she explains.

3. Most prostitutes are victims.
On, local prostitutes post daily advertisements to offer their services, but these girls are often the victims of human sex trafficking. “Pimps want to give the impression that the girls are acting independently, but I personally have never seen a case where a girl is just earning her way through college,” Vigneaux says. In reality, these young women, most of whom are underage, are compelled by traffickers to use prostitution to avoid abuse, protect their family or feed a drug addiction. “It’s a constant manipulation, and they never get the money” Vigneaux adds.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Cavs Fan Guide: 5 Cavs Championship T-Shirts We Love

With the Cavs victory in Game 7 of the NBA Finals June 19, Believeland devotees are finally able to splurge on championship gear for the first time since Dec. 27, 1964. We've all seen the coveted locker room T-shirt, but these championship shirts will help you stand out from the rest of the 216.

Seeing the King’s emotional celebration as he held the trophy following the Cavs win against the Golden State Warriors was a rush. Commemorate the moment with this cartoon version of LeBron James on the Ilthy Trophy T-Shirt. $32 in white or gold,

If you love official gear, you’ll want to check out this Fanatics Nike champions T-shirt with the image of King James’ hand holding the championship ring. $34.99,

Clevelanders always knew the Cavaliers were destined to become champions, but now that it’s official, it's time to proclaim our status to the rest of the world with the help of Fresh Brewed Tees Champions of the World shirt. $26.99,

Cleveland Clothing Co. plays off our wine and gold team colors with this clever Won & Golden championship T-shirt. $20.16, 324 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, 216-736-8879; 11435 Euclid Ave., 216-465-9595;

After 52 years of the Cleveland sports curse, this Where I’m From The Champion City T-shirt serves as a reminder that CLE is now officially #winning. $28,

Monday, June 20, 2016

Melissa Etheridge brings heart and soul to Cain Park

Photo by Paul Castro
By choosing one of her own songs for her wedding vows, Melissa Etheridge paid tribute to the two most important things in her life – family and music.

When Etheridge married partner, Linda Wallem, in 2014, she sang the heartfelt “Who Are You Waiting For” as part of the couple’s intimate outdoor ceremony held in Montecito, California. “She knew I would be singing something, but she had never heard the song until the wedding,” says 54-year-old Etheridge. “It was about getting through my last relationship and truly finding the love of my life.”

Etheridge, the Grammy and Academy award winner who visits Cain Park’s Evans Amphitheater June 24, talks with us about her latest album, her LGBT activism and her approach to wellness.

Q: Your 2014 album This is M.E. is the first record you’ve put out on your own MLE Music label. How did the process change from your previous albums?
It was an interesting decision. My record company [Island] was happy to have me on the label, but I said thank you very much and did my own record [company], which I now own. The biggest difference was that it allowed me to work with more producers ... people like Jerry Wonda [Fugees] and Jon Levine [Selena Gomez]. I’m so very critical of myself, and the beautiful thing is they helped me not to edit myself.

Q: You have been at the forefront of the LGBT movement. How have things changed for members of the LGBT community in the past few years?
My song “Monster” is about one of my favorite things – self-empowerment. It’s about not being afraid of your own differences. One of the great institutions of our land, the U.S. Supreme Court, said, Yeah, this is about equality. Once you get to that point, the burden is on those who want to limit those rights.

Q: You are a breast cancer survivor. How did that experience change your life?
I am cancer-free for 12 years now. I think people are finally realizing that you can’t do whatever you want with your body and just take a pill when you get sick. We need to find out about what makes our bodies strong and what breaks them down. Even something like drinking water instead of soda can make a difference.

By Barry Goodrich

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cavs Fan Guide: Ilthy's Glen Infante Wants You To Believe in the WIne and Gold

As soon as the Golden State Warriors had completed their miraculous comeback against the Oklahoma City Thunder to assure a rematch of the NBA Finals, they were the favorites. Vegas said so, as did the talking heads constantly cluttering ESPN’s airwaves. No one believed in LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Unless you talked to people in Cleveland. To commemorate the city’s faith in the Wine and Gold, Nike launched the Believe marketing campaign. The crown jewel of the marketing strategy came via local artist and Ilthy clothing company owner Glen Infante, who live painted a mural of 12 players above a bold, wine-colored “Believe” outside Quicken Loans Arena. We caught up with Infante and got the story on how it all came about. 

We were approached by Game Seven Marketing, a marketing firm that works for Nike. They wanted to get in touch with a local artist to help create this campaign, Believe. I was referred to them by DJ Steph Floss. He gave me a call and said I have this huge opportunity for you. Nike had seen my work and they said they really liked my portrait style and wondering if I could do it at on a large scale. It was after Game 2 was over, and the Cavs were coming back home. That’s when they hit me up. There was two days before Game 3, so I had to work really fast. It was very spontaneous. I had to drop everything I was doing to work on this.

I started the design process and came up with that mural. They loved it pretty much instantly. It only has players that have shoe deals with Nike, so Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova aren’t on it.

I did the priming before, so it was painted gold. But the whole stenciling and outlining, that was done on site before the Fan Fest of Game 3. I started around 1 p.m., and the Fan Fest started at 5 p.m. Everyone was chanting “Let’s Go Cavs” while we were painting. It it was impossible to paint 12 giant heads so we ended up painting through the Fan Fest and into the game, but people kept us posted on what was happening.

I do think the campaign has been working. If Game 5 didn’t solidify belief and put a stamp on our campaign, then I don’t think fans had any belief from the beginning. Yeah, they’re not the perfect team, but when they’re clicking they look pretty unbeatable. You have to believe in LeBron, especially with Kyrie by his side. I think we’re going to win tonight. — as to told Kevin Stankiewicz

Cavs Fan Guide: "Believeland" author Wright Thompson Pulling for a Cavs Win

Wright Thompson photo by Joe Faraoni, ESPN
Wright Thompson, the globe-trotting senior editor of ESPN Magazine, is calling from Turkey, but his mind is drifting back to Cleveland hours before Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

“I’m literally on the edge of civilization,” says the 39-year-old Thompson, who is covering the Euro Cup soccer tournament. “And my translator is a Golden State fan.”

Thompson’s superb 2010 ESPN Magazine piece “Believeland,” written after the departure of LeBron James, is considered by many the definitive take on Cleveland’s culture of sports failures. He came up with the headline after seeing a T-shirt with the slogan during an eight-day stay that took him from Nighttown in Cleveland Heights to the Venture Inn in Garfield Heights.

“I was pleased that it [story] played well in Cleveland, otherwise people would have known it was bullshit,” says Thompson, who talks about tonight’s game and the player he once called “a 6-8 steel mill.”

ON GAME 6 // The universe has just allowed this to happen. To win two games in a row against this team [Golden State] is virtually impossible. But I’ll say they’ll win tonight.

ON LEBRON // You can’t ask more from a modern American celebrity than what LeBron James has done. He has managed to be the thing that people wanted him to be. And, other than the Decision, he has done it with grace and dignity.

ON A CAVS’ CHAMPIONSHIP // It would end all this waiting, which has become its own thing. I’m a lifelong Saints fan, and I cried when they won the Super Bowl. For a thousand different reasons it should happen, and I’m really hoping it does.

ON CLEVELAND // I feel Cleveland is a lot like New Orleans – if you’re not from there you’ll never be from there. I always thought Dennis Kucinich was a nut until I spent a couple hours with him. The guy is brilliant. We drove through his old neighborhood talking about quantum physics. I dream about Slyman's sometimes. I love that jazz club [Nighttown], and the Lithuanian Club is the coolest place in the world.

By Barry Goodrich

Cleveland Museum of Art's Latest Acquisition: Seed Pods

Seed Pods by Sopheap Pich courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art

We got a sneak-peek at one of the Cleveland Museum of Art's most recent acquisitions during a tour of the institution's conservation lab for "Art & Mind," our June 2016 profile of director William Griswold.

Seed Pods, by contemporary Cambodian artist Sopheap Pich, is made with bamboo and rattan shaped using heat and then tied together with steel wire. Close inspection of the sculptures shows singe marks on the strips of bamboo.

Griswold saw Seed Pods while visiting Pich's studio outside Phnom Pen, the country's capital city. He was there with Indian and Southeast Asian art curator Sonya Quintanilla and museum trustees in February.

"We went to his studio and fell in love with this piece," Griswold says. "As we were driving away from his studio [in a bus], I got on the phone with his dealer in New York and said, 'We’ll take it.'"

Griswold — who's fond of Asian art — spoke about the work and the artist, whose work he was introduced to a few years ago at Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition, with reverence.

"He’s really an interesting guy," Griswold says. "I think it’s a wonderfully lyrical, incredibly accomplished piece. The actual technique and materials are related to materials that are used in Cambodia for fishing traps. And so these are materials which a Cambodian is intimately familiar. The materials are familiar, but their use in art is altogether new, and it’s really him."