State In The Real – Penn State Music Scene

Category - Outsource Interview

Weekly Outsource with Brandon Linn

Brandon Linn is a song-writer and producer, haling from Allentown PA. For the past few years, Brandon Linn had been gallivanting around the Syracuse University area as the producer (known as Master Rogers) of the dynamic hip-hop duo, Mouths Cradle. With Brandon making beats reminiscent of gangster-rap spliced with a video game sound-track, and Kevin Hegadus’s offbeat but addictive rhymes, group currently has 3 mix-tapes released, and one full album, The Next Big Thing, which has passed through well over 50,000 hands. Less than a week ago Brandon released a solo album, and when it more than measured up to the high expectations set by his usual musical endeavors, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to quiz him on it.

For any fans of Passion Pit, Phoenix, John Mayer, or anyone who might like to see what they’d sound like all mashed together, you do not want to miss this.

SITR:Your main project, Mouths Cradle has a huge following of dedicated fans. What can MC fans (and everyone else) expect from your new solo album?

Brandon:MC fans can certainly expect my brand of electronic-pop production. I wasn’t really focused so much on hip-hop as much on my solo release. It should be known that throughout high school I was a huge John Mayer fan and still am. My heart also hears beauty in alternative, singer-songwriter type compositions. This project I feel brings together all of my loves be it RnB, Soul, Electro, and Indie type singer-songwriting vibes.

SITR:Before your collaboration with Kevin Hegadus (known notoriously as MC Mouf), you released your first solo EP. How has collaborating with a rapper for the past few years changed your music? Did it have an effect on the new album?

Brandon:I’d say that it definitely opened up my eyes to new rhythms and sounds. “Demon” from our group MC really has that same kind of stomp clap feel you’ll find in my song “September” while the vibe of each are completely different.

SITR:How did you go about creating these songs? Were they built from ideas that you had and thought didn’t fit with MC, or were they all written specifically for this album?

Brandon:I wrote all of these ideas specifically for my own project. My process was unique in that I had nothing written down beforehand for any of these songs. Each one at a time I started with a clean, blank Ableton session and filled in melodies and words as I went along. I wrote the song “Medicine” in 2009 while living in Hollywood, CA about a naive boy in a rich neighborhood. “Mrs. Mystery,” “Nightdriving,” and parts of “Rebuild” were written and recorded in Cleveland, OH while the rest was written and recorded in Allentown, PA.

SITR:You’ve obviously performed live with MC (most notably opening up for Lupe Fiasco). Do you plan to perform live with this project?

Brandon:I actually haven’t thought a bit about performing these live though if enough people demanded it I may step up to the plate.

SITR:What would you say (music or otherwise) inspired you to write such a unique style of music.

Brandon:My three inspirations to be perfectly honest for this album in no order were: Miike Snow, Phoenix, and Discovery. But what’s great is that people have told me they’ve heard everything from Justin Timberlake, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Dirty Projectors, to Owl City, John Legend, Passion Pit and more.

SITR:As a former student/musician from Syracuse University, what did you think of the schools music scene?

Brandon: I think Syracuse had a very underground music scene in the sense that we were literally hiding from the horrible snow and cold weather. You have to find a basement party with tons of people crowding together in thick coats to hear some really heartfelt music. However a venue called Funk n Waffles brought out live music and good food to a storefront and that place is the bee’s knees.

SITR:What suggestions do you have for fellow musicians/students?

Brandon:Music students and musicians can take my advice- start finding beauty in EVERYTHING. I recently worked a job in radio and forced myself to listen to country music. Though comical, I can sense that some of these songs have nice story-lines and some have pretty melodies despite my non-connection with the topic. Also do not set your self up for letdowns and set unrealistic expectations. Artists are sensitive, I will attest. Get excited about your music and promotion but don’t expect that if you send 1000 emails that even 5 bloggers will get back to you, or 2 record labels, or even that your 1500 “friends” on facebook will blast your music out to everyone they know (let alone fall in love with it). Make music that is free from criticism, input, suggestions, until you release a product that you are completely happy with by yourself or with your band. Then no matter what happens, you will know that you are happy with the music you’ve made.

SITR:What does the next year have in store for you, your solo project, and Mouths Cradle?

Brandon: The next year for me is up in the air but look out for a new mix tape from Mouth’s Cradle in the next coming months as we are recording right now.

Check out the whole album, Night Driving Here

And if you haven’t listened to Mouths Cradle, do yourself a HUGE favor.. Mouths Cradle

Weekly Outsource with Chris Akinyemi

Chris Akinyemi

Currently in his senior year at Monteclair State University, Chris Akinyemi is making it his business to show the world that hip-hop music can get recognition without sounding like every other song that gets placed in the radio top 10. With a his first video already in rotation on Mtv U, and an EP being released in the near future, Chris believes that he was “born to keep the music alive”.

Check out his most popular video, “Radio” at
And listen to his new song, Time Wasn’t On My Side at Time Wasn’t On My Side

SITR: You started your college music career playing talent shows at Penn State, and doing interviews on RCN public TV stations. Now you’re about to release a professional quality Album, and have a music video playing on MTV U! When did the pace really start to pick up with your music?

Chris A: The motivation that I’m getting from the people around me, fans and the people that I’m working with motivates me to work harder with my music and try to take it to the next level.

SITR: Like the song ‘Radio’ suggests, is it ever tempting for you to write music that you think will have mass appeal instead of music that you think that is well composed?

Chris A: Well I always want to make music that will have mass appeal, but I also want to make sure that it’s well done. I just don’t want to be a ringtone, single artist. I want to make quality music that will keep me around for a long time.

SITR: What can people expect from your upcoming album ‘Autumn’? Will it have any surprises on it or will it mostly surround the vibes of your recent singles?

Chris A: Autumn will pretty much feature some chill, laid back records, and some up-tempo rhythmic songs. It won’t necessarily be similar to my recent singles, but it’s the same approach that will be alike. Honest songwriting, melodic and no frills.

SITR: What else is planned for this year? Any specific shows or collaborations?

Chris A: Right now I’m working on getting a record deal, I’m currently working on some new music and some upcoming collaborations. I’m also doing a charity show in NYC on December 7th, you can follow me on twitter and my website to find out more as the details unfold.

SITR: What are some of your favorite and least favorite things about being a college musician?

Chris A: I love being a college musician because you get to meet a lot of people; it’s beneficial to a musicians career. It feels great when you can meet and get to know people that appreciate your music. The least favorite thing would have to be being stereotyped as a typical college kid, but besides that I love it!

SITR: How is the music scene at Montclair? Has it helped or hindered your music career?

Chris A: The music scene at MSU is awesome, kids out here show a lot of support and I really appreciate that. They keep me grounded and motivated.

SITR: Is there anything you miss about PSU?

Chris A: Yes of course, I miss the culture, I miss the people, I miss jamming out with my buddy Topher Stephenson, but I’ll be back around that area hopefully soon.

SITR: What advice do you have for other musicians trying to juggle music and school?

Chris A: Stay in school!!! Being in college has done a lot for me as far as meeting people and fans that appreciate your music. Music isn’t going anywhere, take your time and be patient and when it’s your turn it’ll definitely happen for you.

Follow Chris at the following websites:


Weekly Outsource with Tim Harakal

tim harakal

Tim Harakal is a prominent singer-song writer hailing from the Lehigh Valley. Tim and his producer, Jules Gavin, have been tickling the ear drums of PA music fans for years, and now with a brand new LP under his belt, his music is spreading throughout the east coast. With a unique brand of song-writing, and a live performance that demands attention from anyone within ear-shot, Tim Harakal is climbing his way to the top. If you have any appreciation for acoustic tunes, you can’t miss out on this guys music.

Check out the video for his new single, Save Me

AND, go grab his new LP, “Big Things” on iTunes, and check out his website to hear some delicious tunes

SITR: When did you first start writing you own music?  What drove you to pursue it as a full time career?

Tim: I started writing originals my Sophmore year at Kutztown University, and I recorded them shortly after in my dorm. After I had enough songs recorded I threw them on what was the cool new thing…Myspace. To my surprise I started receiving emails asking if I had a CD for sale. I didn’t want to say no so I made a CD and started sending it out. I had my music playing in Tokyo, Australia, Germany, and all over the US…which ultimately led to me dropping out of college with the idea of playing music for money. That was what started it all…Myspace.

SITR: You and Jules Gavin put on an incredible show, and have put together an amazingly unique album, “Big Things”..How did you guys meet/decide to collaborate your efforts?

Tim: I dated Jules sister for a while.. he hated it, but since I was around so much and us both were musicians, we were bound to jam. One day after a metal jam session in Jules basement I hesitantly approached him with my acoustic CD… I’m sure you know, being a musician yourself, that when you first present your music, especially originals, to somebody you expect the worst.. But he was best drummer I knew so it was worth a try. Despite my reservations, he actually dug the music and soon after bought a Djembe (hand drum). We have been rocking harder since.

SITR: After writing over 40 original songs, how did you decide which ones to put on your first official LP?

Tim: Unfortunately music at its roots and marketing don’t always go hand and hand. What I mean is that I play music because it makes me feel good and I have certain songs I like to play and listen to more than others, but being marketable is about playing music that makes others feel good… Which in turn makes me feel good, but in a different way. We took note of what songs were received best at the shows, talked to the fans and listened to the radio. Then we just put the songs that met that criteria on the album…Bam.. Big Things!

SITR: What artists do you find inspire you the most? How do they help you shape your unique sound?

Tim: I really enjoy listening to Jason Mraz. I think I get the willingness to experiment lyrically from him. He seems to have a lot of fun when he writes… Its simple, but thought provoking. On the flip side I listen to tons of metal. Meshuggah, Metallica, Lamb of God, and Pantera just to name a few of the bands that have influenced me from that genre. I think metal gave me the precision and the unique rhythm quality some say they can hear in my music, but on the other hand I have always been a meticulous kind of guy for whatever reason. Hmm, there are way too many people that have influenced me musically. I don’t mean to get too philosophical or change the question and no I am not “high”, but lets say living and interacting with people is an art in itself… That would make everybody an artist, and would make anybody I interact with qualify as an answer to this question. Lets go with my artist Mother, and the delicious food she makes.. That influences my music the most.

SITR: Where would you say is your favorite place to perform in the Lehigh Valley? Also, what are some pros and cons of being a musician in the area?

Tim: I’d have to say the Blue Mountain Winery. It’s a very intimate and scenic venue. It also challenges my performing abilities…A very cool place. My favorite thing about playing in the valley is the tight knit artist community. Most people are willing to help you out and are very supportive. My least favorite thing about playing in the valley is that apart from the tight knit artist community, there is not too much available. I wish there were more and better venues. Playing in bars gets old fast…Especially when covers are all anybody wants to hear.

SITR: Now that you have a CD out, what is next on your to do list? Anything specific planned for 2012?

Tim: We are working on getting in front of more people. So, touring to expanding my fan base is the main focus for this coming.

SITR: You’ve been in the shoes of a college musician before, what advice can you give to PSU students who are trying to juggle music and school?

Tim: Never force music. When a song wants to be written you need to drop everything, dive in and let that song be born, but forcing it usually stunts the creative process. The moment you get out of your own way is when the good stuff starts to happen…know what I mean jellybean?

Weekly Outsource with The Crooked Oaks

SITR decided to do an interview with a band of the folk-rock genre that features one of our very own, a fellow Penn State student, Brian Kilkelly. We can even call this our weekly in/outsource to some extent.

Latest tracks by The Crooked Oaks

The Crooked Oaks: We are a rock n roll band from Hanover, Pennsylvania, located on the outskirts of Gettysburg. Our sound draws influence from a wide variety of music, from late 60s folk rock to the modern day sounds of alt-country. As a group, the four of us try to keep the emphasis on the song, stressing melody, harmony, and musicianship. Our songs are written, not by one of us, but by all of us. We are hoping to share these songs with a wider audience. Ben plays the drums, harmonica, and sings harmonies. Brian plays the guitar, bass, and sings lead vocals. Charlie plays the bass, guitar, and sings harmonies. Tom plays lead guitar, and sings harmonies.

SITR: What is the meaning of the your band name and how did it start?

We struggled to find a band name for the longest time. It simply became a question of not hating the name. One day Tom (guitarist), came in and proposed ‘The Crooked Oaks.’ I have an affinity for bands with ‘The’ in their name, so I liked it. Charlie (bass & guitar) liked the ‘crooked,’ part, and Ben (drummer) loves nature and liked the oaks part of the name so it stuck.

SITR: Do you have any exciting news, goals, and/or accomplishments?

We recorded a 5 song EP in August. You can listen to the songs on Facebook, Soundcloud, and Reverbnation. We are getting the songs available for digital download soon. We love to play live and we have played some shows in our area of PA, Gettysburg and Hanover. We also went to Vermont for a gig in early September.

SITR: What has been the biggest inspiration for your band?

Our family and friends are the biggest influence. Well, them and Neil Young.

SITR: What would you say is the craziest thing you’ve seen on the road?

We played in Vermont right after Irene hit. Vermont actually suffered a lot of flooding due to the rainfall the storm brought, and as we were driving through we saw washed out bridges and roads, it was wild. Then on the way to the venue, we were following these directions we were given, and we ended up on a road that wasn’t a road at all, just rocks and stuff, so that was an adventure.

SITR: If you had any real advice for any amateur musician what would it be?

I don’t know if we’re in any position to give advice, but we try to stay positive, to keep writing songs, and remember that playing music is supposed to be fun.

SITR: What lies in the future for your band?

We are trying to record again soon, and play more shows both in our hometown and in the different place in PA were we all go to school, (York, Philly, Lancaster, and State College). We would love to play other places on the East Coast as well and then see where it goes. It would be incredible to play music for a living.

SITR: Is there anything else you guys would like to say or make a shout-out about?

Not much other than to shamelessly plug our web presence, you can check us out on Facebook, and get in touch with us through the email listed on that site. We are always open to places to play, and other opportunities. Thanks to all our families, friends, and fans. And finally, we would like to say thanks to everyone at State in the Real, you all do great work. Thanks!

Weekly Outsource with Jon Markson

time crisis

We at State In The Real strive to bring you the most up to date goings on the revolving the PSU music scene. However we also think its important to take a look at what musicians from other campuses are doing at their schools to improve their music scene and check out their tunes. Fresh ideas never hurt anyone right?

The first outsource of the week goes to school at Connecticut College, and is quite the multi-tasker. Jon Markson, a senior and active member of the music scene at Conn College, is a creative force behind the hip-hop group known as Time Crisis, as well the indie-rock band; Shake The Baron from Boston (correct, he is in a band from Boston while going to school in Connecticut). Did I mention he also records and produces the music for both of these projects? Now in an attempt to start a solo act, Jon has been releasing one solo EP per month since June under the moniker “Community of Living Things,” and plans to keep doing so until may.

For fans of The Decemberists, American Football, Pedro the Lion, Death Cab For Cutie, or just indie rock in general.. Please check out the song Sirens from Jon’s album “August.” And check out the rest of “Community of Living Things” here

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SITR: You’ve been in numerous music projects before now and you’ve been featured in many albums, what made you decide to finally do a solo project?

Markson: I’ve been so accustomed to working with other people, which is the core of being in a band. Both of my other projects, Time Crisis and Shake the Baron, are very much collaborative entities. At the beginning of this past summer I holed up in my Brooklyn apartment, guitar and cassette machine in hand, and decided that I was going to write “songs” for the first time. I’ve been writing and composing in bands for years but hardly had a repertoire of material I could play by myself! I figured that it was about time I did.

SITR: What is the reason behind writing, recording and releasing an EP every month?

Markson: At first the idea was just so I could consistently write new material and release it and force myself to do it by imposing a monthly deadline, but it quickly became much more than that. I really love the process of putting together a release. I’m super obsessed with thematic and artistic continuity, so I’ve been putting in a lot of effort to make each EP stand on its own as well each one exhibiting my own personal aesthetic. For instance, June was essentially just acoustic guitar and voice. July was all ‘full band’ instrumental. August was acoustic guitar, electronic drums, bass, and (generally) soft singing. Etc… I think they all distinctly sound like “my” music though.

SITR: Do you intend to play live with this project? Do you have any upcoming shows in the works?

Markson: I actually just played my first show as “Community of Living Things” a few weeks ago at “Goodbye Blue Monday” in Brooklyn. I’ll be playing a few shows around New England and New York during the semester and hopefully a bit of touring during winter break. I just need to make sure I give myself enough time to write, record, mix, master, and release each EP!

SITR: How is your schools music scene? Has it helped or hurt your efforts in getting your music noticed?

Markson: Connecticut College’s music scene is awesome, even though we are a school of only 2,000 kids. We are super lucky because we have an organization known as M.O.B.R.O.C (Musicians Organized For Bands’ Rights On Campus) of which I am the president this year. We have a huge practice and storage space for bands known as The Barn, which is actually just an old dilapidated squash court, where bands and musicians can freely practice and create. We also book shows all over campus and in New London, where the school is located, in order to further the music scene. The student body is very supportive here.

SITR: Is there any significance behind the name?

Markson: At the beginning of the summer a friend gave me this really cool old book from the 50’s called “The Community of Living Things: Forest and Woodland”. Its from a series of educational books for children about animals and plants in their natural habitats. The title of the book struck a chord with me, and most of my songs in this project thus far have dealt with life, death, and the various human conditions such as fear, hope, love, etc..

SITR: What do you foresee happening for Community of Living Things? Will you call it quits after the 12th EP?

Markson: When I’m done with “May”, which will be the 12th EP in the series, I’m going to be releasing a limited edition run of all the EP’s on CD, cassette, and T-shirt w/ free digital download packed with a ton of extras and b-sides that got put on the back burner over the course of the year. After that I’m going to be begin work on a “Community of Living Things” full length.

SITR: What advice do you have for other musicians attempting to break into the scene as well as maintain a solid academic career.

Markson: It’s really hard to juggle music, academics, and a social life. The best advice I could give is to keep writing music and putting yourself out there through shows and social media. Make yourself known for working your ass off on your craft. I’m lucky in the fact that a lot of my social life revolves around the music and art scene, the more you can make those two worlds intersect the better! I guess keeping up with your classes is pretty important too.

As a musician I’ve had over 15 people come to me saying they want to get a band together but can’t find a space to practice, and even more who specifically just need a place to house a drumset.
All in favor of petitioning for an old dilapidated squash court, say I Aye.
~Topher Out