Jon McLaughlin w/ Xenia
Speaking from his home in the Midwest on a beautiful spring day, singer-songwriter Jon McLaughlin would strike you as a pretty relaxed guy. As he recounts his numerous accomplishments without any bravado, it would be understandable for McLaughlin to feel like he could coast a little as he prepares to release his third album, Promising Promises (Razor & Tie). Case in point: An aptitude for piano discovered as a child, submersion in all school related music programs, college to continue his study of music, cultivating a big online following in the early days of social media, scoring a label deal at age 21, inking big song placements on television and movies, a performance at the Academy Awards, selling 170k albums, debuting at #1 on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter chart - pretty heady stuff for a guy from Indiana who just wanted to be able to play like Billy Joel someday.
Jon released his 2007 debut album, Indiana on Island, followed by his sophomore effort, OK Now in 2008. Both were successful, with Jon sharing the stage with the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Adele, Colbie Caillat, Sara Bareilles, Duffy, One Republic, Johnny Lang, Paolo Nutini, and Matt Wertz among many others. The albums yielded placements on Scrubs and movies like Georgia Rule and Bridge to Terabithia. In the meantime, Jon’s manager got a call about an Alan Menken/Stephen Schwartz song for an upcoming Disney film called Enchanted starring Patrick Dempsey and Amy Adams. Immediately interested, Jon flew toLong Island to record the track. A week later, the film’s producers asked Jon, by then newly married, if he’d like to perform the song in the film. He and his wife flew back to New York, where he spent a week filming the pivotal ballroom scene in Brooklyn. A year and a half later, the film was released to outstanding reviews and Jon was later asked to perform “So Close” at the Academy Awards in 2008.
As Jon began work on his third album, he realized things were changing at his label. “There were a lot of people there I loved, but it started to not feel like my home anymore. I’d been encouraged to co-write on my first two albums, with half the songs being written with other people. I also had to use musicians the producers had wanted, not my band mates, who I’ve literally known, and been playing with, since high school and college.” The recording of this album was different: “I took a long time to write Promising Promises. I knew how I wanted to record these songs, so I got more involved with producing and engineering.” McLaughlin not only wrote all the songs on the album but he also produced it. He understood this was not the album his major label wanted him to make. While Jon accepted their decision, he was not going to change the musical course that finally felt so right to him.
The result is his most authentic album yet. Promising Promises reflects Jon’s confidence and maturity as a songwriter. Releasing the record on independent label Razor & Tie is also an inspired choice for Jon, who says, “It's so refreshing to find a group of people who have so much experience in the music business and are still so passionate about music."
The thirteen piano driven pop tracks include first single “Summer is Over” featuring old friend Sara Bareilles, and other stand-out tracks include title track “Promising Promises,” “MaybeIt’s Over” featuring Xenia Martinez, a Season One finalist from The Voice, and “If Only I,” a song about unrequited love that is delivered both poignantly and passionately.
Promising Promises, in stores now, is the record Jon’s always wanted to make.
Music has always been a part of Xenia's life.
As a result, the 16-year-old Southern California native delivers honest and soulful pop songs with palpable vitality. That energy landed her in the Top 8 on NBC's hit television show, The Voice, as the youngest finalist. It's apparent in her recent duet with Jon McLaughlin, "Maybe It's Over". Most importantly, it courses through the fabric of her forthcoming digital EP for Universal Republic Records, Sing You Home, due out in December 2011.
Coming from what she describes as a "musical family", she began learning guitar at six-years-old. Xenia played the instrument off and on throughout elementary school, but it wasn't until she heard McLaughlin's "Indiana" that she decided to try singing.
While listening to the likes of Billy Joel and Johnny Cash, she'd sing around the house quietly and despite her mother's urging, the shy and soft-spoken girl tried to initially hide her gift. While in her first year of high school, Xenia reluctantly entered a local singing contest and won.
"I'd listen to music and dream about it," she reveals. "I didn't know that I wanted to pursue it as a career until that contest. I tried to keep it a secret."
The secret was out, and she began to chase that dream actively. She found out about The Voice auditions in Los Angeles on Twitter, merely two weeks after starting an account. Her parents brought her to the audition, and she nailed it. The NBC show became a massive hit, garnering incredible ratings and soon adding a second season. For Xenia, it was a monumental event. She cultivated a fervent fan base and grew immensely in the process as a result of being on the show.
"It really changed my life," she exclaims. "Everything was different, and I learned so much about myself, music, and everything really."
While on the show, her performances of The Script's "Breakeven" and "The Man Who Can't Be" and Jessie J's "Price Tag" enamored not only the judges but audiences everywhere. Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton both vied to work as her vocal coach with Xenia choosing the latter.
"Blake really believes in me, and he's become very important to my life," she declares. "The Voice helped me break out of my shell. For a long time, I was insecure about singing. I hadn't even told anyone that I wanted to sing for a long time. Being on the show opened me up a lot and motivated me. I realized I don't have to be scared to do something I love."
Now, her confidence shines through brightly on Sing You Home's four songs. Her lilting acoustic guitar and soothing delivery carries "Light Years" while the title track begins with Xenia emanating a jazzy swagger while playing a propulsive piano line. About "Sing You Home", she goes on, "Singing always makes me feel good. The song is about music chasing you down. You can't really escape it. Music is everywhere, and it means a lot to people—especially me."
Across the landscape of the EP, Xenia paints unforgettable pictures that are elegant and eloquent beyond her years. She says, "The purpose of music is to tell a story, and anyone can take those stories and relate to them."
For Xenia, the story starts with Sing You Home, and it's got countless chapters to come. Everyone's welcome to be a part of this tale too. Xenia concludes, "I want to make people feel the way I do when I listen to songs I love. I hope people can relate to these songs and feel them. I want them to be a part of it."