Cleveland welcomes duo Tall Heights at Mahall’s

The vibe at Mahall’s 20 Lanes in Lakewood is the perfect location for musical duo Tall Heights to let loose. With an atmosphere akin to a 70’s vintage feel, the best known bowling alley in Cleveland welcomes friends and artists Tim Harrington and Paul Wright for their fifth show on their album release tour.

The alley itself is empty, lanes slightly glistening after being cleaned and prepped for the evening. Cleveland fans are filtering in from the chilly night air, hanging out in the lobby or grabbing a drink at the bar as they wait for the opening acts to begin.

Harrington and Wright sit next to each other at one of the bowling lanes after they finish their sound check, a bit tired and relaxed after practicing their set.

The duo is originally from Boston, starting off as street performers before relentlessly touring together to grow their experience and share their music with anyone who was willing to listen.

Now, they are currently on tour from Oct. 11 to Dec. 1 for their album release tour, sharing their newest music from “Pretty Colors For Your Actions,” that was released on Oct. 5.

Harrington and Wright came together and formed Tall Heights in 2009, after they both realized in high school that they had a shared dream of working on music. Both artists provide the vocals for their sound, all while Harrington focuses on guitar and Wright on the cello.

“It  comes with a lot of trust and perseverance,” Harrington said, regarding their evolution not just as musical partners but as friends. “We know each other very well and we’re really good friends to the point where he’s just another one of my brothers.”

Harrington mentions that their friendship is something that has helped them come together and form their sound, and after having worked together for as long as they have, they eventually found the sound that worked for them, describing it as morphing two voices into one. A kindred spirit is felt between the two artists and is shown through the work they put out into the world.

In the beginning stages of their partnership, they would each write songs about their own lives and experiences. However, now that they spend so much time together, their songs have evolved into shared experiences and information that they feel comfortable sharing with others.

Wright shifted in his seat, acknowledging that when they were younger, they would write about their romantic relationships with people, but wouldn’t dig into any deeper stuff too often.

“Now what is scary is having songs out there that have gotten attention and impacted people, and making a record that continues to speak to people,” Wright said, adding that they want to push themselves to continuously write better songs as time goes on, not sticking to the same vibe with each album that comes out.

Harrington also feels that there isn’t a need to label how their sound has evolved over time, because at the end of the day opening up about experiences and emotion is always scary.

“The strand through the whole thing is that when you’re songwriting, you’re opening up your heart and exposing your insecurities and fears and concerns,” Harrington said. “We don’t need to label what it was then versus what it is now because it’s always the same thing.”

When Tall Heights first started recording music, their sound was synonymous with how they sounded when street performing — two people, two instruments. When they released “Neptune,” they pushed their own envelope on what initially defined them and tried out a more ambient and electronic sound.

“That was scary at the time, we were worried that people wouldn’t like it and then we realized that the sound of our voices together is the true identifier for us, so realizing that gave us the freedom to write this new record,” Wright said. “[The freedom to] not worry about what people would think because that shared voice is continuous throughout our whole catalog.”

According to Harrington, when it comes to a production level, they are free because they have that consistent sound with their vocals, so adding in any type of instrument is acceptable because their voices and songs are still present. For “Pretty Colors,” they recorded the songs that they loved in a way that was honest and hardworking.

“We created a record that captures the pretty colors of who we are and now we’re offering them up to the world in exchange for their actions,” Harrington said.

The two artists have grown a lot over the years, going from street performing to traveling all around the globe opening up for some bands they have idolized for years. Wright said that a memorable moment for him was traveling with artist Ben Folds, who has worked closely with artists like Sara Bareilles and William Shatner.

For Harrington, one of his favorite moments so far has been when they finalized the “Pretty Colors” album. While they were on tour with Judah & the Lion and Colony House, they were also going back and forth through email with someone who was sending them mix ideas.

“I was the one typing this email, collecting the notes from Paul, my own notes and putting the last few tweaks on it. Then he sent us the final mix, we listened to it, he listened to it, we said it was good to go,” Harrington said. “I hit send on that email and it was a real emotional moment for me.”

In addition to memorable moments showing their growth as artists, Tall Heights also has some funny stories from the road as well. One that they mentioned was while they were on tour with Judah & the Lion, driving from Chicago to St. Louis in 50 degree weather.

While on the road, they hit the worst storm that their tour bus driver had ever seen, who had been driving busses for over 30 years at that time.

“We sat there in [our van], the 60 mph winds were rocking us from side to side, we had a little bit of gas left, a couple of donuts, just sitting there watching the snow pile up,” Wright said, laughing lightly at the memory. “We got there 30 minutes before our set versus 6 hours before our set and threw everything on stage. Given everything we went through, it was like we had no choice but to give it [our] all and put everything [we had] into it. It was a really special show, the end of the tour and a great feeling of accomplishment.”

Wright added that after talking to people at the end of their shows and hearing what the songs mean to people makes everything they deal with getting from one gig to the next so worthwhile.

The track “House on Fire” is one that both Wright and Harrington are excited for fans to hear, especially live. The song was one of the last they wrote and Wright shared that it is exciting to see it come to life onstage and see people react to it.

For the album as a whole, they just want fans to listen to it from start to finish and take with it what they will, according to Wright.

“What we’re offering is just paint on canvas, it’s just emotion. We hope it inspires peoples little moments in life,” Wright said.

Going deeper into that, Wright and Harrington just want fans to have an emotional experience at their shows in one way or another.

“We want them to receive something that we spent a lot of care and time and effort into creating, something that we care alot about and we want them to receive it like that,” Harrington said. “It obviously doesn’t need to be some highbrow experience but just a shared appreciation of each other. At the end of the day, playing live shows is about sharing the songs that we create and offering them up in a way that feels authentic to that song and part of that is this openness to experience and emotion.”

 

Originally published with The Cauldron.

PLAIN WHITE T’S RETURNS WITH “PARALLEL UNIVERSE” AFTER 13 YEARS

Co-written by KC Longley and Ashley Mott

After 13 years in the dark, Plain White T’s returned to Fearless Records with the debut of their new sound, which is featured in their new album “Parallel Universe,” an effort released on Aug. 24 of this year.

Plain White T’s independently released their own album in 2015, titled “American Nights,” but after realizing that they weren’t getting as much traction as they have in the past, they made a return to Fearless Records after their departure from them 13 years ago. However, their return to the label did not mean a return to their original sound.

Wanting to break out of their musical typecast, Plain White T’s opted to make their new album something that they could be proud of, rather than working off a bottom-line that the label wanted to present to fans.

Lead singer and frontman Tom Higgenson said that he felt their band had so many sounds going on that they could never truly stick to one thing.

“Rather than just making music that was awesome and inspiring, it got to the point where [we were] just this one thing,” Higgenson said, speaking on how many styles of music they tried out over the years. “There were five different identities of the band.”

As Plain White T’s reintroduces themselves to the world with this new album, they showcase the sound they’ve finally landed on after all these years. “Parallel Universe” is a combination of raw and vulnerable emotion, blended together with upbeat tracks to form a dark tale with a happy twist.

From songs like “Sick of Love” and “Bury Me,” to “Light Up the Room” and “No Imitations,” it can be clearly seen that there is something for everyone to relate to.

“I think everybody goes through the same things,” Higgenson said. “I’m sure 99 percent of everybody has gone through [similar experiences].”

In addition to being excited to show the world their new sound, Higgenson said that they are most excited to be playing these songs live on tour.

“Every song feels so good and so exciting,” Higgenson said.

On their tour, they are making their way to the House of Blues in Cleveland,  a venue that they are all very familiar with and enjoy returning to when given the chance.

“[It’s] one of the coolest House of Blues in the country,” Higgenson said.

Ready to rock the socks off Clevelanders everywhere, Plain White T’s will be playing in Cleveland, on Oct. 17. The excitement for the tour can be felt as Higgenson talked about his music and traveling to and from venues on the tour bus.

While everyone used to bring books and movies on past tours, now their must-have item is a smartphone, for when they want to go online or FaceTime friends and family back home.

“Where were we without smartphones?” Higgenson asked, commenting on the change in dynamic from being on tour now versus over 13 years ago.

Although band members plan excursions into the city, phone calls home and to enjoy some down time, none of it seems feasible as they gear up to practice for the shows.

“No matter what you bring, it’s like you never have time to do any of that stuff,” Higgenson said.

Despite their busy schedule, the band takes time to make sure they are all in one room prior to a show for at least  half an hour to bond before going on stage.

Outside of the tour, Plain White T’s has another exciting opportunity in the works. Twelve years after its release, the iconic single that couples everywhere claimed as their own, “Hey There Delilah,” has the chance to get some screen time.

Higgenson was approached about the idea of basing a TV series off of the hit song after he sang for “The Spongebob Musical,” which made its Broadway debut in 2017.

According to Higgenson, the series is still in its pitch mode as they wait for a producer to pick up the idea and bring it to life. That being said, a TV series is something that Higgenson hopes fans everywhere will fall in love with, just like they did with the original song.

Speaking on TV series, there was a question that was begging to be asked, “What was it like to be on iCarly?” Higgenson was more than happy to answer this question.

What started out as another promotional event, scheduled by the label to promote the band and its music, became a phenomenon that young adults everywhere are still talking about in 2018.

According to Higgenson, the show hadn’t even made it on air when they were asked to guest star, but the band was excited to shoot with “School of Rock” actress Miranda Cosgrove. Known to most of the world for her role in the iconic show “Drake and Josh,” Cosgrove was known only to the band as Summer Hathaway, the over achiever on “School of Rock.”

“I’m glad we did [it], that was just one of those random things that ended up being way cooler than any of us ever knew it could be,” Higgenson said, commenting on the fact that fans still mention that episode 11 years after it aired.

Another serendipitous moment that Higgenson recalled was a moment during their promotional period where they performed for a Music Choice On Demand channel.  After their performance, another artist was brought up to sing. Without knowing who she would become, Higgenson remembers a girl by the name of Rihanna.

Several years later, she has released multiple No. 1 singles and has become a household name.

“We could have easily bro-ed with her,” Higgenson said. “Goddamn it, we should have hung out with Rihanna.”

Looking back on moments like these causes the band to reflect on high school memories from when they first started out, from practicing in the garage to choosing their name.

Inspired by the classic looks from people like James Dean and characters from “Grease,” the band members aspired to achieve the cool crisp look that came from a plain white tee.

 

Senior-entrepreneur opens store in Southpark Mall

Starting in November, senior and entrepreneur Tyler Hobel will have his own space in Southpark Mall dedicated to his business, Bloom Clothing Company, after winning retail space rent-free for six months.

A fourth year student majoring in Organizational Leadership, Hobel has owned Bloom for a little over a year. Opening a business while in college wasn’t the plan for the soon-to-be spring graduate, but Hobel isn’t one to turn down a challenge.

“When I was driving home from one of those pain in the butt days, I saw a ‘Save the Bees’ sticker,” Hobel said.

When he looked up the meaning of the sticker, he found the Honeybee Conservancy, a non-profit organization that works to sustain the honeybee population, and he was instantly hooked.

The next morning, on July 25, Hobel came up with the concept of a clothing company where proceeds went back to the Honeybee Conservancy. Every minute of the next two days consisted of planning the company he would create. While at home in the evenings, Hobel contacted people for help and arranged who he could work with to make it happen. Two days later, Bloom officially launched.

“I knew I wanted to symbolize flowers coming up and a rebirth of bees, but in a relating to flowers way, because I really like floral patterns,” Hobel said, explaining how he chose the business name.

In those 48 hours, Hobel spent about $2,000 on his initial investment and under $200 on the business license. Starting simple, the first product was a t-shirt with the brand logo, offered in three colors from sizes small to extra-large.

“I dropped half of my savings on the clothing. I dropped money on the business license, trademarking the name in Ohio and then in the country,” Hobel said.

Now, a year later, Bloom offers not only multiple clothing options but products like bath bombs, lotions, bracelets and stickers as well. His latest products are a cropped hoodie and a floral long sleeve shirt.

The growth of his business inspired Hobel to apply for the Battle of the Pop-Up, a contest to give local entrepreneurs the chance to showcase their business rent-free for six months from Nov. 1 through April 30 of 2019 at a booth in the Southpark Mall. Hobel decided to give it a shot and applied on a whim.

In early July, Hobel found out he was in the running and would need to come in for an interview.

When Hobel finally got his chance to pitch his business, he was met with a panel of individuals sitting in massive office chairs, which Hobel described as “intimidating.”

The interview proceeded “Shark Tank” style with Hobel showcasing his products with wooden crates — the way he does when he does pop-up shops throughout Cleveland.

Hobel passed his product around and explained what each item meant and the work that went into it. He told them what was unique about his product and what would separate him from other businesses in the mall.

As the interview progressed, they asked Hobel if he would be interested in a storefront instead of a booth. Like any good businessman, without knowing if he could make that happen, Hobel said yes, making up reasons why it would work out. Unfortunately, due to other competitive bids, Hobel was not offered a storefront, but in the end won what he originally applied for.

About a week later, Hobel got the call informing him that he was a winner and would be receiving a 9×6 booth in Southpark Mall. In addition to the booth, Hobel was paired with two designers to help him prepare for opening in November.

After his first day of business on Nov. 1, the grand opening of Bloom in Southpark Mall will be Friday, Nov. 2 through Sunday,  Nov. 4.

“I am going to try and get it as packed as possible,” Hobel said, sharing that his grand opening will have many sales and giveaways.

After a year of hard work, Hobel is hitting goals he didn’t expect to hit until at least 2019, including the ability to handle international orders due to the high volume of requests. He can now ship to 240 countries, including the U.S. and territories. Before this month, Hobel could only ship to 48 states within the U.S.

“You’re stopping your own success if you don’t do it,” Hobel said.

Hobel gets just as excited when someone orders one shirt as opposed to multiple. Hobel mentioned that at one of his pop-up shops, a little boy got excited over a Bloom sticker.

“Someone got excited about something that was created out of my head, and that’s the exciting part,” Hobel said.

Whether it is selling small stickers for $2, being able to handle international orders, or seeing a picture of a random stranger from miles away wearing one of his products, Hobel finds joy in any form of growth in his business.

Bloom has excelled farther than Hobel thought it would by this point. However, that doesn’t mean Hobel has lost the spark of determination he had at the beginning of this journey.

“Everyone can say they’re passionate about something, but the word is kind of saturated, and it’s lost its meaning. I’m passionate about Bloom, but there is something different—I have a need for it,” Hobel said. “I don’t see it happening any other way. This is something that has bloomed, and I need it to take off.”

 

Originally published with The Cauldron.

Out-of-state student on why Cleveland isn’t all that bad

Californian student moves to Cleveland to finish education

Cleveland, Ohio. It’s not somewhere that people generally think about when they decide to move across the country. It isn’t a top destination city that is bursting at the seams with tourists life San Diego or New York City.

However, it was for me. Cleveland was, and still is, a way to escape the life I left behind in California. It is a life I miss daily and always enjoy visiting, but factors back home were ultimately what drove me away.

Being a transplant in the city of Cleveland seems, from personal experience, to give me an unbiased view of this urban setting.

Cleveland is a city that is booming with potential from every angle. From the strong, unbreakable bond residents of Cleveland have with their sports teams to the ever-growing nightlife, there is something for everyone.

When I first moved here, I was overwhelmed with the idea of exploring the city beyond the perimeter of Cleveland State University, which is ironic seeing as I am from San Diego, which has a population of 1.4 million according to the U.S. Census.

As time went on, I started to go downtown, getting food and checking out what was going on E. 4th Street and beyond. The glimmering lights on Tower City were the first thing that I saw when I arrived in Cleveland for the first time. I welcome that warm feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I return to the city I now call home.

Attending Cleveland State changed my life in more ways than one. I had many colleges to choose from back in California and almost ended up attending college in Northern California. However, after being introduced to Cleveland State, I couldn’t stop looking into it. Something just felt right, which is the exact same sentiment fellow out-of-state students I’ve met have had as well.

The department I am in has graced me with many opportunities and resources, not to mention the people I have met along the way. I am confident that these friends and colleagues I surround myself with every day will be in my life for quite a long time.

They are some of the most determined and driven people I have ever met. They take leaps of faith, apply to any job and internship they can. They travel across the world to live out their wildest dreams. This city cultivates dreamers, people who can imagine their future and are itching to get it started.

There are many people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting who have never left the confines of Ohio. Some of them can’t wait to leave and others never plan to move out of Cleveland, let alone Ohio. After falling in love with the city the way I have, I understand the feeling of never wanting to leave.

I hope someday more students from other states decide to take a chance and move to Cleveland for college. Hopefully they’ll be able to welcome that warm feeling in the pit of their stomachs as well, every time they enter the city of Cleveland.

Spending mornings with the Lord

I have been attending church since I was seven years old. Since then, I can’t even keep track of the amount of times I’ve heard my pastors tell me to start my day with God.

I always understood why they were saying that. It makes sense, to start your morning off with prayer or reading your bible. It seems logical. But that’s all I thought. I didn’t really do much more regarding it. At least not then.

As I’ve grown up and recognized how integral God’s role is in my life, I’ve seen how important starting my day off with him really is.

It gives me the security to go about my day, knowing that a real, true, and meaningful conversation with God marked the beginning of my day.

These conversations are never the same. I used to think that they had to be, that I didn’t know the script that everyone else used to pray. How was I supposed to do this correctly if I didn’t know what was right?

But as you grow up and keep up your walk with the Lord, you learn what is right for YOU. Nothing is ever the same, and I know that from experience. Sometimes the talks I have with God are shorter, more like check-ins, where I share what I am feeling, what I am thankful for. Other times they are a lot longer, where I am asking for guidance or help, when I am feeling a little bit more alone.

No matter how you’re feeling when you sit down to pray, no matter what you decide to share, one thing is always certain.

He knows what you are feeling, what you need and what he has in store for you. Even if you take a bit longer to share something out loud with Him, he knows what you need.

He has a path outlined for you. So start your mornings with God and soon you will see how your conversations with Him grow over time.

Letting God come & transform you

It’s no secret that when you let God come into your life, some changes will most likely be made. The struggle is being open enough to let that happen.

But once you open up your heart to Him, you will start to notice some changes as each day goes by! That’s a good thing, even if at the time you might be wondering, “wait, why can’t this be a thing anymore?” or “Since when did I stop doing this or that?”

These changes can be small, like suddenly you notice you don’t cuss nearly as much as you used to. Or they can be more significant, like you feel as if the direction your life was going in has changed completely.

No matter which way it happens, the shifts in your life are all God’s doing. He knows what He has planned for you and you just have to trust that as long as you are receptive of these changes, they are meant to be.

It can be scary at first, when you notice these changes and don’t know what to do. When suddenly you feel driven to do something else in life, be someone else, lead a life differently then what you initially planned. But it can be exciting too, knowing that the path that lays ahead of you is filled with the compassion and love that God holds for you.

He would never let anything bad ever happen to you. Even when things get hard or you start to struggle, you have to have faith that He would never give you too many burdens to carry. He knows what you can handle and He also knows when it is a good time to test your boundaries.

Be open to Him and the way He can transform you and your life. You never know where it will lead you, and you most likely will prefer it over what you planned on your own. Because He knows what you need in life more than you do.

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